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February 6, 2009

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CIA Warns Israel of Al-Qaeda Attack in Turkey - Sedat Gunec (Today's Zaman-Turkey)
    The CIA warned Israel and Turkey three weeks ago about preparations by an al-Qaeda member who infiltrated Turkey from a Middle Eastern country to carry out a deadly attack against Israeli passengers at Turkish airports.
    In response, Israel decided to halt its flights to the Turkish resort city of Antalya.

Greece Holding Ship with Missile Components Bound for Iran - Barak Ravid and Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    The Greek paper Elefterotipia reported the detention of an Iran-bound ship, the Susanna, at a port near Athens on Dec. 10 due to suspicions that it was carrying components for ballistic missiles.
    A search of the ship found 80 tons of CK22 steel, which can be used to make warheads or fuel pods for surface-to-surface missiles.

German Sentenced by French Court in Tunisian Synagogue Attack - Verena Von Derschau (AP)
    A French court sentenced Christian Ganczarski, 42, a German convert to Islam, to 18 years in prison Thursday for his role in the bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia that killed 21 people in April 2002.
    Prosecutors said the attack was carried out on the orders of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who is being held at Guantanamo Bay for his role in the 9/11 attacks.
    The brother of one of the Tunisian suicide bombers, Walid Naouar, received a 12-year sentence for having provided material help for the attack.

Syria Getting Away with Murder? - Joshua Hammer (Atlantic Monthly)
    The investigation into the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is nearing its end and a trial in international court looms.
    Insiders say the trail of evidence leads, ultimately, to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But the investigators now fear that Western concerns about regional stability will prevent the naming of the biggest names.
    The bomb that killed Hariri killed 21 people and injured 220 more. It set dozens of cars on fire and knocked down several buildings.
    A report to the UN about the assassination revealed that three months before Hariri's death, his security detail had been mysteriously reduced from 40 to eight; that six anonymously purchased mobile phones were used on the day of the attack to keep the bomber informed of Hariri's movements and to provide intelligence on the three possible routes that Hariri could take from the parliament building to his home; that the suicide truck moved into position one minute and 49 seconds before Hariri's convoy passed by; and that the truck itself had been stolen in 2004 in Sagamihara City, Japan.
    The killers appeared to be sophisticated, politically connected, and well-funded: clearly this was not the work of a lone extremist or a fringe group.
    It bore the hallmarks of a government-sponsored assassination.

Israeli Tactics in the Gaza War - Tim McGirk and Aaron J. Klein (TIME)
    Several senior Israeli officers provided a detailed account of the recent military campaign in Gaza.
    "There was never a single incident in which a unit of Hamas confronted our soldiers," one Israel Defense Forces official says. "We kept waiting for them to use sophisticated anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles against us, but they never did."
    The Israeli military reported only four attempts by suicide bombers instead of the dozens they had feared.
    "Hamas and Hizbullah are worried that Israel has broken the DNA code of urban fighting," says reserve Brig. Gen. Shalom Harari.
    Officers say that Hamas had prepared a defensive wall using "hundreds of explosives, mines and booby-traps." But Israeli forces, avoiding the main roads, were able to go around it, then methodically dismantled Hamas' defenses.

The Evolution of Extremism: Muslim Organizations in Britain - Tal Pavel (Middle East Strategic Information)
    This study examines the evolution of the extreme Islamic movements in Britain that were established and led by Omar Bakri Muhammad, from Hizb ut-Tahrir to Islam for the UK.
    In conjunction with the evolution of these organizations, there is a parallel evolution of extremist behavior, from the call to unify all Muslim countries into one Islamic state, to the implementation of Islamic law in Britain, and the negation of its social fabric and the British "way of life."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Hamas Negotiators Stopped in Egypt with Suitcases of Cash - Sarah El Deeb
    Hamas negotiators left Egypt without a long-term cease-fire with Israel on Thursday - but not before members of the group's delegation were stopped at the Gaza border carrying millions in cash. Egyptian authorities at the Rafah border crossing found $7 million and 2 million euros ($2.5 million) in cash in their suitcases. (AP)
  • After U.S. Request, Israel Agrees to Let $43 Million into Gaza for Abbas
    Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed on Thursday to allow the transfer of $43 million to Gaza to enable Mahmoud Abbas' government to pay salaries there. Sources in Israel said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Olmert to press him to release the money, describing this as the first instance of U.S. pressure on Israel since President Obama took office. Israeli media reported that Clinton had telephoned Olmert to thank him for agreeing to release the funds. (Reuters)
  • UN Confirms: UNRWA School Not Hit By Israel
    The United Nations Thursday backed down from a claim that one of its schools in Gaza was hit by an Israel Defense Force mortar attack last month, correcting its earlier media statements that a massacre occurred within the UN education facility. The UN's latest field report reads, "The humanitarian coordinator would like to clarify that the shelling, and all of the fatalities, took place outside rather than inside the school." The revelation reinforces the Israeli assertions that Hamas had been attacking the Israeli forces from civilian locations, thus the high civilian casualties from Israeli retaliation. (RTTNews)
  • Russia to Start Iran Nuclear Plant in 2009 - Denis Dyomkin and Guy Faulconbridge
    Russia plans to start up a nuclear reactor at Iran's Bushehr plant by the end of the year, the head of Russia's state nuclear corporation, Sergei Kiriyenko, said on Thursday. Russia says the plant is purely civilian and cannot be used for any weapons program since all spent fuel rods will be returned to Russia. (Reuters/International Herald Tribune)
  • Syria Profits from Regional Diplomatic Upheaval after Gaza Conflict - Edward Yeranian
    Syria appears to be profiting from the recent Gaza conflict and is emerging from several years of diplomatic isolation to become a key player, again, in the Middle East's diplomatic arena. Syria's political and logistical support for Hamas, along with Lebanon's Hizbullah, has won kudos with the Arab public. At an emergency Arab summit in Qatar last month President Assad decried Israel's military operation in Gaza and called for revenge. He said, "Arabs are a people with a long memory and will be sure to remind our children of the 'massacre' in Gaza." Assad said Arabs will teach the Israelis about an "eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," and that what was taken by force can only be returned by force.
        Professor Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins' School for Advanced International Studies notes: "The Syrians, in a way, they are the perfect fence-sitters. They swing both ways. They can swing with Egypt and Saudi Arabia and be a status-quo player or they can swing the other way, and I think increasingly they have joined the opposition. I mean, they have joined the renegades, but they are very careful, because they are shrewd enough that they know that a ride with the renegade is very dangerous, so I think they are both brutal and smart." (VOA News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Hamas Truce Talks Continue - Brenda Gazzar and Yaakov Katz
    A Hamas delegation left Cairo on Thursday without an agreement on a long-term truce with Israel. The head of the Israel Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Security Bureau, Amos Gilad, flew to Cairo on Thursday to restate Israel's demands that the cease-fire be unlimited and that the border crossings would only be completely opened in exchange for developments in the negotiations for IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Gilad Shalit's release. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Issues Still to Be Resolved in Truce Talks - Amos Harel, Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
    A key issue in the negotiations is the opening of Rafah crossing, which Hamas is seeking to have opened completely, with Turkish troops monitoring its operation. Egypt is opposed to such a move, and is seeking to place a force loyal to Mahmoud Abbas at the crossing. Another outstanding issue is the Israeli request to create a half-kilometer buffer zone in the area known as the "security perimeter" on the Palestinian side of the border fence with Israel. Israel is seeking to prevent the entry of armed militants to the area to combat the placement of explosive devices or the digging of tunnels there. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Egypt: Hamas to Respond to Truce Proposals Saturday
    Hamas is expected to give Egypt its response on Saturday to proposals to reach a truce with Israel, Egypt's state-run Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported Thursday. (Reuters)
  • Palestinian Terrorist Killed near Gaza Border - Anshel Pfeffer
    Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Thursday killed a Palestinian terrorist who approached the Gaza-Israel border near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha carrying a grenade. The grenade exploded as a result of the soldiers' gunfire, killing the Palestinian. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinian Rocket Fire Continues - Shmulik Hadad
    Palestinians in Gaza fired two Kassam rockets at Israel Friday morning. (Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Embattled - Editorial
    Since Obama's election, Iran has undertaken a series of actions that appear calculated to sabotage any detente with the West. State media have poured scorn on promised change in Washington. Iran has stepped up its delivery of weapons to Hamas. Nuclear research has continued apace, as Western experts predict that Iran is on the verge of weapons capability. On Monday, Iran launched a domestically manufactured satellite with technology that could be adapted for nuclear warheads.
        In many ways the latest provocations are a welcome sign that the hardliners are on the defensive. With falling income and an unproductive oil industry crippled by Western sanctions, rising unemployment and economic stagnation, popular anger is rising. Iran's policies have antagonized other Muslim nations, including most Arab countries that see it as a long-term threat. (Times-UK)
  • Israel: The New Backbone of Sunni Resistance - Michael J. Totten
    When Israel retaliated against Hizbullah in July 2006, something strange and new and unexpected took place. Arab governments blamed Hizbullah for sparking the conflict and didn't complain about Israeli behavior until later. During the more recent war in Gaza we saw something similar. Most Arab governments blamed Hamas for starting the latest round, and Egypt worked openly with the Israelis to achieve a new ceasefire arrangement that left their mutual enemy in Gaza weakened. It's bizarre to think of Israel as the backbone of a Sunni Arab alliance against Iran and its proxies.
        "Egypt is cooperating to a great extent with Israel," says Asher Susser from Tel Aviv University, "as are Abbas and the Jordanians. There were more anti-Israel demonstrations in Dublin than there were in Ramallah." Most Arab governments, aside from Syria's and possibly Qatar's, are far more worried about Iranian regional dominance than they are about Israel. They know perfectly well that Israel is not going to undermine or overthrow them, while radical Iranian-sponsored Islamists just might. Bombastic anti-Zionist rhetoric to the contrary, they know Israel isn't really a threat.
        There is little or no affection for Israel in Arab capitals, and there probably won't be for a long time. Most just don't see the point in getting in Israel's way of striking the likes of Hamas and Hizbullah. Israelis should enjoy their tacit support while it lasts. (Commentary)
        See also U.S.-Allied Arab States Back Abbas
    Foreign ministers of U.S.-allied Arab states meeting in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday expressed support for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas who remains at odds with Hamas. Ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen also backed the Palestine Liberation Organization as the "sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," after Hamas called for it to be replaced by a body less dominated by allies of Abbas. (Reuters)
  • There May Be the Will But Not Necessarily the Way - Greg Sheridan
    Barack Obama will not end the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Israel cannot do a deal unless a credible Palestinian leadership can put an end to serious terrorism, especially cross-border rocket launches, and will accept that such a settlement is the end of Palestinian territorial claims, and unless the Arab world recognizes Israel and makes peace with it as a Jewish state. These conditions cannot be met.
        In Israel's recent operation in Gaza, the cost in innocent Palestinian lives was heavy and tragic, and the fault for this rests entirely with Hamas, the terrorist death cult that rules Gaza. I do not believe a single story of Israeli war crimes or atrocities in Gaza. There is no evidence of any such story beyond Palestinian eye-witness accounts and on countless previous occasions these accounts have been fabricated. Remember the reports of the so-called massacre in the West Bank town of Jenin in 2002, reports buttressed by eye-witness accounts? Did you know that it never took place, as later international investigations acknowledged? Even in this recent Gaza operation, remember the outrage at the Israeli rocket fire on the school in the Jabaliya refugee camp? Now it turns out no Israeli munition ever hit the school. The Israelis are among the most disciplined troops in the world and go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.
        Hamas has engaged in countless atrocities against Palestinians it doesn't like. It has murdered many Fatah men, but the media subjects this behavior to very little scrutiny. Hamas is somehow accepted as just a force of nature, not held morally responsible for its actions. (The Australian)
  • Roadmaps to Middle East Peace? - Victor Davis Hanson
    While the names of Palestinian terrorist organizations multiply over the years, the agenda of destroying Israel remains mostly unchanged. There has been no resolution to the last 40 years of fighting between Israel and the Palestinians because Israel after 1967 has decided not to return all of its battle-won territories in the West Bank until the Palestinians there accept Israel's right to exist. Israel has felt that if it gives all the territory back, too many Palestinians will see that not as magnanimity but as a sign of weakness, and we would be back to square one before 1967: Israel inside its 1948 borders - with yet another new generation of Palestinians promising to finish the job and push the Jews into the sea.
        Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton and the two Bushes tried to do the same so-called "land for peace" deal: Israel is supposed to go back to something approaching the pre-1967 borders, and the Palestinians, with their brand-new state on the West Bank, must promise that this time they will really let Israel be. Good luck. The writer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. (San Jose Mercury News)
  • Tough Love for Gaza: The Reconstruction of Hamastan Makes No Strategic Sense - Efraim Inbar
    Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007, most of the international community has argued that the best way to prop up the more moderate Palestinians was to ensure economic support for the West Bank. This would make it clear that Hamas is unable to bring prosperity, while the PA has continued to draw unprecedented economic support from the world. Theoretically, the recent Israeli military offensive against Hamas would seem to complement the international community's efforts to make the lives of the Palestinians under Abbas in the West Bank better than those of the Gazans.
        Yet, Western leaders seem to have decided that Gaza should speedily be rebuilt. This, of course, sends the wrong signal. It tells Palestinians that their leadership can make grave, deadly mistakes, and nevertheless Westerners will bail them out. It also signals to Hamas that it can continue shooting. There is no way to reconstruct Gaza without strengthening Hamas, and the reconstruction of Hamastan - an Iranian base that threatens Israel and many moderate Arab regimes - makes no strategic sense.
        Furthermore, all polls show staggering support among Gazans for violence against Israelis. Why should the international community and Israel help people that support Hamas - an organization intent on destroying the Jewish state? The writer is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Amman Suspends Its Hamas Flirtation - Rana Sabbagh-Gargour
    Jordan has stalled its brief "tactical" flirtation with Hamas, freezing talks begun this summer with Hamas and its Jordanian allies, the Muslim Brotherhood. This brief thaw was engineered by Gen. Mohammad Dahabi, the head of Jordan's General Intelligence Department, who was removed on Dec. 29. Israel's Gaza campaign showed the "Hamasization" of the Jordanian street, where Islamists organized hundreds of demonstrations urging the government to engage with Hamas and reverse the unpopular 1994 peace treaty with Israel. They also accused Mahmoud Abbas of collaborating with Israel. The writer is former chief editor of the Jordan Times. (bitterlemons-international)
  • How to Break Both Oil's Monopoly and OPEC's Cartel - R. James Woolsey and Anne Korin
    As the leading countries of OPEC, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the same Sunni and Shi'ite theocratic and dictatorial regimes that most strongly resist America's efforts to bring democracy and the rule of law to the Middle East, will increasingly sit in the driver's seat of the global economy. Should the world's biggest natural gas reserve holders - in order Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE - proceed with plans to create an OPEC-like natural gas cartel, we can expect a further consolidation of power among the world's primary energy producers.
        Oil's monopoly in the transportation sector is the reason oil is a strategic commodity. Ensuring that new cars sold in the U.S. are platforms on which fuels can compete will spark a competitive market in fuels made from a wide array of energy sources, thus breaking oil's transportation fuel monopoly and eventually stripping oil of its strategic status. For a cost of less than $100, automakers can make virtually any car a flex fuel vehicle, capable of running on any combination of gasoline and a variety of alcohols such as ethanol and methanol, and in the future butanol, made from a variety of feedstocks. R. James Woolsey is a former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Anne Korin is co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. (Innovations-MIT)
  • Observations:

    Eradicating the "Little Satan" - Ze'ev Maghen (Commentary)

    • The accession of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the presidency of the Islamic Republic of Iran has been accompanied by a sharp transformation in the Iranian attitude to, and depiction of, the State of Israel. This change includes a new conception of the Jewish polity as weak and unstable, an easy target for a united Muslim (or united Shiite) offensive.
    • Chanting "Death to America! Death to Israel!" has been the way Iranians applaud for over a quarter-century. When the soccer team from Isfahan scores a goal against the soccer team from Shiraz, its fans cheer wildly: "Death to America! Death to Israel!" Like the daily "Two-Minutes Hate" in George Orwell's 1984, this venom-spewing is the mantra upon which an entire generation of Iranians has been raised.
    • That Israel is the devil, the root of all evil, a criminal cancer that must be excised from the Muslim body politic - these propositions are not ephemeral feelings for most Iranian Muslims, but rather eternal truths. By casting an entire people as a parasitic infestation, by demonizing, delegitimizing, and dehumanizing them at home, in school, in the mosque, and in the media, the quarter-century-old routine of Israel-hatred, added to 1,400 years of traditional Islamic anti-Semitism, has prepared in the minds of Iranians and their neighboring coreligionists the moral ground for the eradication of the State of Israel.
    • At least some elements within today's Iranian leadership are indeed interested in a rapprochement with the West and especially with America. But Tehran in no way intends to lessen its enmity toward Israel in exchange. To the contrary: the Islamic Republic is offering to diminish its enmity toward the West in exchange for the latter's abandonment of Israel.
    • More and more Iranian Islamists today - together with their zealous coreligionists in other Muslim countries - believe that the erasure of the Jewish state from the map is a dream that can be realized in the here and now, whether in one fell swoop or through a relentless process of attrition and erosion.
    • No agenda is being pushed more energetically by today's Islamists worldwide than that, for the sake of Muslim-Christian rapprochement, and on pain of terrible consequences otherwise, America and Europe agree to offer up the Western imperialist enclave or outpost known as Israel on the altar of "accommodation."

      The writer is senior lecturer in Islamic history and Persian language and chair of the department of Middle East Studies at Bar-Ilan University.

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