Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 9, 2005

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In-Depth Issues:

Islamic Jihad Leader Who Ordered Tel Aviv Bombing Taught at U.S. University - Uzi Mahnaimi and Christopher Lamb (Sunday Times-UK)
    Palestinian terrorist leader Ramadan Shallah, 47, the head of Islamic Jihad, is accused by Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, of ordering the bombing attack in Tel Aviv on Feb. 25, which killed five people.
    A transcript of his telephone call from Damascus is believed to have been given to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
    Shallah was a Ph.D student in Britain who spent 1985-90 at Durham, writing a thesis on Islamic banking in Jordan that called for the replacement of the Western-style banking system by one in accordance with Islamic law.
    Shallah moved to the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he taught Middle Eastern studies and headed the World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a think-tank affiliated to the university.

Syria's Weak Spot - Paul Michael Wihbey (National Review)
    Oil is the lynchpin of Syria's fragile economy. The Syrian regime currently produces slightly more than 500,000 barrels per day, of which half is exported, primarily to a select group of European consumers.
    The revenue generated accounts for 50% of Syria's total export revenues - some $4 billion in 2004.
    Prohibitions barring U.S.-based oil companies from operating in Syria would cripple the regime's principal economic engine.
    Working in concert with its allies abroad, the Bush administration must make clear to Damascus that it will no longer tolerate Syria's occupation of Lebanon, its support of anti-democratic insurgents in Iraq, or its collusion with terror organizations like Hizballah.

UK Targets Saudis for Arms Sales - David Leigh and Rob Evans (Guardian-UK)
    Almost a third (161 out of 600) of the staff of the British government's Defence Export Services Organisation (Deso), which sells British weapons round the world, is dedicated to selling to Saudi Arabia.
    A squad of 54 British officials is permanently based in Saudi Arabia - in Riyadh, a navy base at Jubail, and Saudi air bases at Dhahran, Khamis, and Tabuk.
    These figures do not include the significant number of RAF air crew who are seconded to the Saudis to fly the Tornados and Hawks which Britain has sold to Riyadh.
    The Deso officials supervise the training and technical support which keeps the Saudi air force flying.


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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hizballah Draws Vast Pro-Syrian Crowds in Beirut - Nadim Ladki
    Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving Lebanese flooded central Beirut Tuesday for a pro-Syrian rally called by Hizballah that dwarfed previous Lebanese protests demanding that Syrian troops quit Lebanon. Hizballah and Lebanese security sources said one million people attended the rally, which Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah called to thank Syria for its "sacrifices" in Lebanon and to oppose a UN resolution saying militias must disarm. (Reuters/ABC News)
  • Bush Presses Syria to Leave Lebanon Soon - Richard W. Stevenson
    President Bush stepped up American pressure on Syria on Tuesday to withdraw from Lebanon and warned authoritarian governments throughout the Middle East that they stand before a powerful, fast-moving wave of democracy. Bush said the U.S. would stand by the Lebanese people and all those who work to end tyranny. "By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future - it is the last gasp of a discredited past," he said. (New York Times)
        See also Text of the President's Speech (White House)
  • Experts: Syria Will Remain in Lebanon - Barbara Opall-Rome and Riad Kahwaji
    "Damascus has concluded that a pullout from Lebanon would considerably undermine the regime and thus decided not to fully withdraw its forces from Lebanon," said a Syrian-based source. Former Israeli deputy defense minister Ephraim Sneh said Lebanon "fuels 80% of the Syrian economy and is the major source of prestige for Bashar Assad....Those who crowned him would not consider him eligible to remain president if he relinquishes his control over Lebanon."
        "Arab leaders are concerned that the sight of thousands of Lebanese demonstrators broadcast daily on Arab satellite television stations could encourage opposition movements in their own countries to carry out similar protests to force political reforms demanded by most Arab masses almost everywhere," said Sami Faraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies. (Defense News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Agreement Reached on Jericho and Tulkarm Handover - Amos Harel and Arnon Regular
    Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz and PA Chairman Abbas met Tuesday and agreed that in the coming days security control of Jericho and Tulkarm will be handed over to the PA. Mofaz promised more freedom of movement "to enable more normal lives for the [Palestinian] population." (Ha'aretz)
  • PA Ties Security Reform to Political Progress - Arnon Regular
    PA Chairman Abbas told the Palestinian parliament Tuesday that the Palestinians would only carry out security reforms if there is progress toward establishing a Palestinian state. "The security effort required of us will be partial and ineffective without political progress and negotiations to carry out the road map and begin the talks on the final status settlement," he said. His statement deviated from his former position that the PA would effect the internal reforms regardless of the political process. (Ha'aretz)
  • Shin Bet Catches Another PA Cop Involved in 2000 Lynch
    The Shin Bet security service has arrested a Palestinian police officer who took part in the lynching of two IDF reserve soldiers at the hands of an angry mob in Ramallah in 2000, security officials said Tuesday. Mohammed Abu Eida, 28, told his interrogators he took part in the killing and was the officer who initially arrested the two soldiers. Abu Eida fled to Egypt shortly after the killings and was caught Jan. 31, when he tried to return. (AP/Ha'aretz)
  • PA to Review All Mosque Sermons - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The PA has decided to impose restrictions on preachers who deliver Friday sermons in West Bank and Gaza Strip mosques, a senior PA security official said Tuesday. "From now on, the preachers will be given speeches prepared in advance by the PA authorities," the official said. "Anyone who does not abide by the text will be fired." The move is seen as an attempt by the PA leadership to stop incitement against Israel and the U.S. in mosques. While the majority of mosque preachers receive salaries from the PA's Ministry of Islamic Wakf Affairs, some mosques in Gaza are controlled by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, making it impossible for the PA to supervise the content of Friday sermons. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Autocrats' Answer - Editorial
    The resistance of Arab dictators to the swelling popular movement for democratic change in the Middle East remains formidable. Both Syrian leader Bashar Assad and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hope their maneuvering will serve to deflect pressure from the outside world and their own people while preserving their tottering autocracies. Real change will require more pressure on them, both from inside and out. (Washington Post)
  • The Bud of a New Movement on Arab Streets - Youssef M. Ibrahim
    The recent protests in Cairo and Beirut have been organized with the chant of a new Arab movement, "kifaya," Arabic for "enough." The word is fast becoming a mantra for millions of Arabs wanting to seize their own destiny. Whether they like or hate American policies in this region, many Arabs catch themselves quietly approving, indeed enjoying, the pressure Washington is exerting on their governments to democratize and cleanse their act.
        Around the Arab world nowadays, many will tell you: look here, starting with a messy invasion in Iraq, the Americans have delivered a few things, including ridding Iraqis of a bestial dictatorship, giving them a first taste of free elections and significant freedom of speech. Then, they might say: whether the intentions of President George W. Bush were either good or bad, the result seems a significant advance of the human, legal, and constitutional rights for 27 million Iraqis. It may be early days for Arab liberation to blossom, but hopefully all Arabs will remain tuned to Lebanese, Egyptian, and Iraqi scenes of people's power unfolding before our eyes. (Gulf News-Dubai)
  • Can Hizballah Go Straight? - Michael Young
    Hizballah gains nothing by tarnishing its credibility with other Lebanese communities because of Syrian priorities. To defend its regional ambitions, Hizballah must preserve a Syrian-dominated Lebanese order, even if doing so alienates the clear majority of Lebanese who believe Syria must go; or it can side with that majority, which means abandoning Syria and its own regional objectives. The party can undeniably bring out many supporters, as it did Tuesday, but it has also discredited itself by so effectively defending Syrian hegemony over Lebanon. Hizballah must now decide whether to take its chances as a national party in a Lebanon free of Syrian domination, or risk losing all that it has built up by becoming Syria's unwelcome enforcer. The writer is the opinion editor of The Daily Star in Lebanon. (New York Times)
        See also Does Hizballah Get to Stay "Special"? - Ghassan Rubeiz
    Many Lebanese would argue that both Syria and Hizballah protected Lebanon at critical moments in the recent past. But they would hasten to add that the new political realities require the Lebanese state to assume the full responsibility of running the country and to resume a monopoly on the use of force. A civic transformation of Hizballah, integrating the militia into the Lebanese army, would be a positive development for this Shiite political party and a victory for Lebanese unity.
        The key to influencing Hizballah's future in Lebanon has now shifted from Syria to Iran. Syria is exhausted economically, morally and politically, while Iran is gaining political strength from Iraq's new Shiite power. (Christian Science Monitor)
        See also Shot at Liberty Begins with End of Hizballah - Richard Z. Chesnoff (New York Daily News)
  • Observations:

    What Can Go Wrong - Daniel Pipes (Jerusalem Post)

    • While I too welcome recent developments in the region, having been trained in Middle Eastern history makes me perhaps more aware of what can go wrong.
    • Yes, Mahmoud Abbas wishes to end the armed struggle against Israel, but his call for a greater jihad against the "Zionist enemy" points to his intending another form of war to destroy Israel.
    • The Iraqi elections are bringing Ibrahim Jaafari, a pro-Iranian Islamist, to power. Likewise, the Saudi elections proved a boon for the Islamist candidates.
    • Mubarak's promise is purely cosmetic; but should real presidential elections one day come to Egypt, Islamists will probably prevail there too.
    • Removing Syrian control in Lebanon could well lead to Hizballah, a terrorist group, becoming the dominant power there. Eliminating the hideous Assad dynasty could well bring in its wake an Islamist government in Damascus.
    • Note a pattern? Other than the Palestinian case, one main danger is that a too-quick removal of tyranny unleashes Islamist ideologues and opens their way to power.

      The writer is director of the Middle East Forum.

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