Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 6, 2007

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In-Depth Issues:

Russian Navy to Operate from Syria - Aryeh Egozi and Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    For the first time since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Russia plans to operate the Russian Navy in the Mediterranean using Syrian ports as permanent bases.
    According to Western media reports, Syria plans to let the Russians use its ports as part of the large arms deal signed between the two countries in the past year after they resolved their financial differences.
    The Russians conceded more than 70% of Syria's $11 billion debt. The remaining debt will be returned by Syria partly through permanent port services to Russian Navy ships in Latakia and Tartus.
    Israeli officials estimated on Sunday that renewed bases in Syria will help the Russians carry out spy missions also against Israel, particularly electronic spying.

Hamas Forced Christian Professor in Gaza to Convert to Islam - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Fatah officials in Ramallah claimed over the weekend that Professor Sana al-Sayegh, the dean of the science and technology faculty at Palestine University in Gaza City and a member of the tiny Christian minority in Gaza, was kidnapped by Hamas militiamen who forced her to convert to Islam against her will.
    "She was kidnapped and held for two weeks during which time she was not allowed to contact her family," Fatah officials said.
    Two weeks later the family was summoned to a meeting with some of Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh's aides, who were accompanied by Sayegh.
    The family was told that she had converted to Islam and married a Muslim man.
    When her stunned mother asked her if this was true, she nodded her head, murmuring: "Yes, God has guided me through the right path."

CAIR Executive Director Attended Hamas Meeting - Steven Emerson (Investigative Project on Terrorism)
    The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Nihad Awad, participated in a three-day summit of U.S.-based Hamas members and supporters in 1993, FBI Special Agent Laura Burns testified in a Dallas courtroom Thursday.
    CAIR, which touts itself as America's premier Muslim civil rights organization, was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror support trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development and five of its officials.

Terror Alert for Israelis Traveling Abroad - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    The Prime Minister's Office's anti-terror department warned Israelis on Sunday not to travel to Egypt in general, and Sinai in particular, where the threat is classified as "concrete and particularly severe." Israelis currently visiting Sinai were told to return home immediately.
    In addition, the PMO warned of a "severe threat" that Hizbullah will try to kidnap Israelis traveling abroad.
    Israelis were warned to refuse invitations to go to remote or isolated areas, especially at night, and to avoid showing up for unplanned meetings alone.
    Countries with a "particularly high terror threat" included Arab states, as well as Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
    Israelis were urged to avoid traveling to Kenya, and to "postpone non-essential visits" to Bangladesh and Nigeria. Additional warnings related to Kashmir and Thailand.

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  • Al-Qaeda Cell May Be Loose in U.S., British Plot Hints - Eli Lake
    Intelligence gleaned from last month's British "doctors plot" of car bombers suggests that a Qaeda cell is on the loose in the American homeland. E-mail addresses for American individuals were found on the same password-protected e-mail chains used by the UK plotters to communicate with Qaeda handlers in Europe, a counterterrorism official said Sunday. "Because of the London and Glasgow plot, we now know communications have been made from al-Qaeda to operatives in the United States," the official said. "This plot helps to connect a lot of stuff."
        The commander for the U.S. Northern Command, Air Force General Victor Renuart, said in an interview on July 25: "I believe there are cells in the United States, or at least people who aspire to create cells in the United States." Two of the British plotters tried at one point to enter America using visas for medical workers. (New York Sun)
  • Iran-Backed Shiite Militiamen Now Greatest Threat to U.S. Troops - Kim Gamel
    The number of attacks launched by breakaway factions of the Shiite Mahdi Army militia has increased, said Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the U.S. second-in-command in Iraq. He said 73% of the attacks that wounded or killed U.S. troops last month in Baghdad were launched by Shiite militiamen, nearly double the figure six months earlier, and added that Iran has sharply increased its support for the fighters. "Because of the effect we've had on al-Qaeda in Iraq and the success against them and the Sunni insurgency, it's now shifted," he said. Dissident members of the Mahdi Army broke away from al-Sadr control and went to Iran for training and armaments, returning to Iraq to fight against U.S. and Iraqi troops. (AP/Washington Post)
        See also Iran Gives Taliban Hi-Tech Weapons to Fight British - Tim Albone
    British troops in Helmand province fighting the Taliban face a new danger as sophisticated Iranian weapons and explosives, such as armor-piercing roadside bombs, are being smuggled into Afghanistan. "It is clear to everyone that Iran is supporting the enemy of Afghanistan, the Taliban," said Col. Rahmatullah Safi, head of border police for western Afghanistan. (Times-UK)
  • UN Council Troubled Over Lebanon Arms - Edith M. Lederer
    The UN Security Council expressed "grave concern" Friday at reports of arms smuggling to Lebanon, but dropped a direct call to Syria and Iran to enforce a UN arms embargo. Instead, the presidential statement agreed upon by all 15 members underscored the obligation of all countries, "in particular in the region," to ensure that the arms embargo is not violated. The council also expressed concern at allegations that Lebanese and other militias are rearming, and voiced "deep concern" about recent statements by Hizbullah "that it retains the military capacity to strike all parts of Israel."  (AP/Guardian-UK)
        See also Lebanon's Pro-Syrian Opposition Wins Parliament Seat - Zeina Karam
    Lebanon's opposition captured one of two parliament seats up for election Sunday to replace assassinated ruling party lawmakers in a tense showdown between the U.S.-backed government and opponents supported by Syria and Iran. The government coalition retained the second seat virtually unopposed. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • PA Prime Minister: Not Ready to Assume Control of Security in West Bank Cities - Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    The PA is unable to assume security control of cities in the West Bank, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad told senior Israeli officials during recent meetings. Initially, Fayad had made the transfer of some West Bank cities to PA security control one of his prime requests of Israel. However, Palestinian security commanders admitted before the PA leadership that their forces are not currently capable of preventing terrorist attacks against Israel. (Ha'aretz)
  • Jerusalem Lowering Expectations over Peace Talks - Aluf Benn
    Seven years after the failed Camp David summit, and six and a half years after negotiations ended with the Taba talks, Israel has started talking with the Palestinians on a peace agreement again. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert meets with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Jericho on Monday to launch a dialogue on the future Palestinian state. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hopes the parties will reach an agreed-on diplomatic formula by November's Washington summit. During Rice's recent visit, behind closed doors, she was more interested in practical action like the rehabilitation of the Palestinian security forces and removing roadblocks, and talked less concretely about the stages that will bring about a Palestinian state. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: Syria Not Interested in War, Fatah-Hamas Clashes Likely in West Bank - Herb Keinon
    IDF Military Intelligence's head of research Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz told the Israeli cabinet on Sunday that increased Syrian military activity is defensive, not offensive, in nature and that the Syrians are not interested in a war with Israel. Baidatz also said the West Bank might soon see Fatah-Hamas clashes, and described violent episodes between the two sides that have taken place there in recent weeks. He said that while the Fatah-controlled PA security forces were attempting to reduce Hamas' influence in the West Bank, they were largely relying on the IDF to carry out this task. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Airstrike Foils Terror Attack
    A massive terror attack was foiled Saturday night when the Israel Air Force struck a vehicle near Rafah in Gaza carrying Islamic Jihad operatives and explosive devices including suicide bomb belts. Eyewitnesses said several blasts followed the attack. One Islamic Jihad operative was killed and three more were seriously wounded. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues
    Palestinians fired a Kassam rocket into Sderot from the northern Gaza Strip overnight Sunday. The rocket landed in an open area inside the city. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Just Carried Out the Largest Wave of Executions Since 1984 - Amir Taheri
    On Wednesday, seven young men were hanged in Mashad, Iran's second most populous city, where a crackdown against "anti-Islam hooligans" has been underway for weeks. The Mashad hangings, broadcast live on local television, are among a series of public executions ordered by President Ahmadinejad last month as part of a campaign to terrorize an increasingly restive population. Over the past six weeks, at least 118 people have been executed, including four who were stoned to death. According to Saeed Mortazavi, the chief Islamic prosecutor, at least 150 more people, including five women, are scheduled to be hanged or stoned to death in the coming weeks.
        According to Gen. Ismail Muqaddam, commander of the Islamic Police, almost a million men and women have been arrested in the enforcement of the new Islamic Dress Code, passed by parliament in May 2006. As of last week, 20,363 men and women were being held on charges related to violating the Dress Code. The head of the National Prisons Service, Ali-Akbar Yassaqi, appealed for a moratorium on arrests, saying Iran's prisons could not house more than 50,000 prisoners, while the actual number of prisoners was above 150,000. He also revealed that each year on average some 600,000 Iranians spend time in one of the 130 official prisons. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Saudi Alms for Jihad - Mark Steyn
    Last week, the Cambridge University Press agreed to recall all unsold copies of Alms for Jihad: Charity and Terrorism in the Islamic World, by J. Millard Burr, a former USAID relief coordinator, and the scholar Robert O. Collins - and pulp them. In addition, it has asked hundreds of libraries around the world to remove the volume from their shelves. This highly unusual action was accompanied by a letter to Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz, the personal banker to the Saudi royal family and head of the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, until he sold it to the Saudi government.
        The Mahfouz bank was wiring money to the principal Mahfouz charity, the Muwafaq (or "Blessed Relief") Foundation, which in turn transferred them to Osama bin Laden. In October 2001, the U.S. Treasury Department named Muwafaq as "an al-Qaeda front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen" and its chairman as a "specially designated global terrorist." As the Treasury concluded, "Saudi businessmen have been transferring millions of dollars to bin Laden through Blessed Relief." Indeed, this "charity" seems to have no other purpose than to fund jihad. (Orange County Register)
  • Observations:

    The Mideast Needs More Guns? - Editorial (Boston Globe)

    • The last thing the Middle East needs is a new round of arms sales.
    • The administration proposes to sell more than $20 billion of weaponry to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. Iran is a textbook case of how badly awry such arms deals can go in a volatile region like the Mideast. During the reign of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Tehran bought large stocks of U.S. weapons, only to have them fall into the hands of the ayatollahs after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah.
    • Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia's role in Iraq has been anything but helpful. It promotes a particularly militant form of Sunni fundamentalism, which has helped make Saudi Arabia the source of many suicide bombers in Iraq, as it was for most of the Sept. 11 terrorists.
    • Saudi Arabia has also failed to commit to joining the peace conference planned by the Bush administration for this fall to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To reward such uncooperative behavior by selling the Saudis billions of dollars worth of U.S. arms can only encourage other nations to follow their own agendas and ignore U.S. goals.

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