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December 29, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Abdulmutallab: More Bombers on the Way - Brian Ross and Richard Esposito (ABC News)
    Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, charged with the attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253, told FBI agents there were more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.
    In a tape released four days before the attempted destruction of the Detroit-bound plane, the leader of al-Qaeda in Yemen boasted: "We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God."
    Law enforcement authorities say tragedy was averted only because the bomb's detonator did not work.

    See also U.S. Widens Terror War to Yemen, a Qaeda Bastion - Eric Schmitt and Robert F. Worth (New York Times)
    In the midst of two unfinished major wars, the U.S. has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against al-Qaeda in Yemen.
    A year ago, the CIA sent several of its top field operatives to Yemen, while Special Operations commandos began training Yemeni security forces in counterterrorism tactics.

    See also Explosive in Detroit Terror Case Could Have Blown Hole in Plane - Carrie Johnson (Washington Post)
    Preliminary conclusions indicate that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab carried 80 grams of PETN - almost twice as much of the highly explosive material as used by convicted shoe bomber Richard C. Reid - and could have blown a hole in the side of his Detroit-bound aircraft if it had been detonated.
    See also Photo of Abdulmutallab's Underwear Bomb (ABC News)

U.S. Rejects Airbus Plane Sale to Syria (AP/Ynet News)
    The U.S. has rejected a bid by Airbus SAS to sell planes to Damascus, Syria's transportation minister said.
    The Syrian daily Tishrin reported Monday that Syria will buy Russian-made Tupolev passenger jets instead.
    The U.S. Commerce Department turned down a request by the France-based Airbus to lift the U.S. embargo on sales of planes to Syria.
    U.S. sanctions affect sales to Syria by a non-U.S. company if the planes use American components.

A Year After the Gaza War - Liat Collins (Jerusalem Post)
    A year after the war, life is back to normal in southern Israel. Friends in Sderot, Beersheba, Ashkelon and Ashdod report a rise in real estate prices.
    "Suddenly, everyone realizes that the whole country is in the same boat so it doesn't matter so much where you live," says Dr. Stephen Malnick. "And we've also learned that the shelters and reinforced rooms really work."
    Enrollment at both Sapir College, next to Sderot, and Beersheba's Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is up. And as in every previous war, the Gaza operation has been followed by a baby boom.
    While in 2008, more than 3,200 rockets and mortars were fired on Israel from Gaza, since the end of the Gaza operation that number has dropped to 242.
    That my friends say "only" 242 missiles is both shocking and sad: What other country thinks that is a reasonable number of rockets aimed at civilian targets in one year?

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • White House Opposes New Jerusalem-Area Construction - David Gollust
    The U.S. Monday expressed strong objections to Israel's plans to build some 700 housing units in three existing Jewish neighborhoods - Neve Yaakov, Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the U.S. opposes the latest Israeli action and that both sides should return to negotiations as soon as possible. (VOA News)
        See also Israeli Housing Plan Includes 2,000 Homes in Arab-Druze Sector - Hilary Leila Krieger, Herb Keinon and Abe Selig
    Israeli government spokesmen stressed that the approval of new housing in Jerusalem was part of a plan calling for the construction of some 6,500 units throughout the country, including 2,000 in Arab-Israeli and Druze areas. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also 500 Housing Units Okayed for Arabs in Jerusalem - Roni Sofer (Ynet News)
  • U.S. Seeks to Relaunch Mideast Peace Talks
    "U.S. special envoy George Mitchell will present two draft letters of guarantee, one for Israel and one to the Palestinian Authority, during his next visit to the region," an Arab diplomat told AFP. "The United States is hoping that the two letters will serve as a basis for the relaunch of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, but we don't know if they will satisfy the Palestinians," the diplomat said. (AFP)
  • Iranian Security Forces Crack Down on Dissidents - Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin
    Iranian security forces stormed opposition offices in a series of raids Monday and rounded up at least a dozen prominent dissidents in a new crackdown. Brig. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri of the Revolutionary Guard Corps accused the U.S. and Britain of organizing recent protests. In Tehran, relatives and opposition Web sites charged that the body of Ali Mousavi, a nephew of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, had disappeared from a local hospital, forcing the cancellation of a memorial service at which protesters had planned to gather. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Arrests 1,000 as Protests Strengthen - Iason Athanasiadis and Barbara Slavin (Washington Times)
  • U.S. to Seek New Iran Sanctions
    National Security Council chief of staff Denis McDonough said Monday the administration will revisit its options against Iran in the new year and is gauging the views of U.S. friends and allies about "the next step in the process," saying both unilateral or UN sanctions are options. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
  • Netanyahu: Israeli Forces Must Remain on Jordan Border to Prevent Arms Smuggling to PA
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that Israeli forces must remain along the eastern border of a future Palestinian state to prevent arms smuggling. "The problem of demilitarization [of a future Palestinian state] must be resolved effectively and this entails effectively blocking unauthorized entry, first and foremost from the east, wherever the border is defined," Netanyahu said. "I doubt whether anything except a real presence of the State of Israel, of Israeli forces, can accomplish that." Netanyahu said an "international arrangement" for the borders of a Palestinian state, similar to the deployment of a UN force in southern Lebanon, would not suffice. (Reuters)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Barghouti Could Bring Third Intifada - Amnon Meranda
    Israel Security Agency head Yuval Diskin told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that should former Fatah Secretary-General Marwan Barghouti succeed Mahmoud Abbas as PA leader, a third intifada may ensue. (Ynet News)
        See also Barghouti Started Second Intifada - Roni Sofer
    Diskin told a conference at the Foreign Ministry on Monday that Barghouti, the Tanzim leader who was sentenced to five life sentences in prison in Israel - and not Yasser Arafat - was behind the Palestinian armed uprising in 2001 known as the second intifada. (Ynet News)
  • The Kibbutz that Is Saving American Soldiers' Lives - Sarit Menahem and Yoram Gabison
    The Plasan company at Kibbutz Sasa has positioned itself as the world leader in armor protection technology for vehicles, signing contracts worth millions with major clients, first and foremost the U.S. military. Plasan was in the right place at the right time with the right line of products. America's invasion of Iraq six years ago drove up global demand for armor protection for vehicles. "No company, not even the American giants, had what Plasan could deliver: ready-made, effective and proven solutions," a senior Israeli defense industry executive said.
        The plant's corridors are decorated with thank-you letters blown up to poster size. "Brian," a U.S. army sergeant fighting in Afghanistan, writes that not a single shot penetrated his vehicle's armor protection, including one that would have hit him in the head had it gone through the door. "American soldiers come up to us at exhibitions and tell me that they won't get into any vehicle that has not been armor-protected by Plasan. To date, there has not been a single soldier killed by fire while in a vehicle that we armor-protected," said one Plasan employee. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Even Failed Terrorists Spell Serious Trouble - David Aaronovitch
    There are still sufficient numbers of jihadis who persist in trying to find a way to the next 9/11 in the West, and who continually experiment with ways of achieving that result. Real "grievance" is not a measuring-stick for a likelihood to attack. There are no undiscriminating suicide bombers among the world's many environmental activists, or among the Iranian opposition. Abdulmuttalab was well-educated and wealthier than almost all the British people with whom he mixed. He was, however, an Islamist extremist, believing in an ideology that will always provide the fanatic with a proximate cause. (Times-UK)
  • Iranian Demonstrators Put the Regime on the Defensive - Ulrike Putz
    The regime in Tehran has gone on the defensive following deadly riots on Sunday. The fact that security forces did not, during the clashes of recent days, observe the ceasefire that traditionally applies during important holidays has caused an uproar, even among conservative Iranians who have so far been loyal to the regime. Eyewitnesses reported that many Iranians who could be recognized by their clothing as devout Muslims could be seen among the protesters in Tehran on Sunday. Even conservative woman covered in the chador were chanting on Sunday for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei to stand down.
        The pictures and amateur videos coming out of Iran via the Internet this time showed demonstrators chasing, seizing and beating up the police. There were also pictures of uniformed men who had changed sides, being carried by demonstrators on their shoulders and waving the green ribbons that have come to symbolize the protest movement. As they marched through the streets of Tehran, thousands cried: "We will fight, we will die, we will reconquer our country."  (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Hamas-Ruled Gaza Suffers While West Bank Thrives - Editorial
    One year ago Sunday, Israel finally responded to a multiyear barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza on schools, homes and synagogues. That restrained act of self-defense has been repaid with howls that a sovereign nation protecting itself from terrorists has committed war crimes.
        The picture of what's happened to the Palestinian people on the ground is powerfully educational. A year on, unoccupied Gaza, where Hamas rules, is an isolated, toxic stew of Islamic radicalism and political repression. Contrast this with the West Bank, where Israel is technically an occupying force but the Palestinian Authority runs the show. The streets are quiet. The economy is growing. The city of Ramallah has film festivals, shopping centers and construction sites. Observers say conditions are the best they've seen since 1948. It is up to the Palestinians to choose their path: Embrace radicalism, feed terrorism and get poverty and a permanent state of war. Or co-exist with a neighbor and plant the seeds of peace and prosperity. (New York Daily News)
  • Observations:

    Israel Should Seek "Clarifications" from U.S. over PA-Aksa Martyrs Brigades Links - Dan Diker (Jerusalem Post)

    • Following the IDF's killing of three Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades terrorists in Nablus who were wanted for last week's murder of Rabbi Meir Chai, a father of seven, the U.S. requested clarification from Israeli National Security Adviser Uzi Arad, even though the IDF operation was no different than hundreds of other actions against Palestinian terror groups.
    • There are multiple security and intelligence channels between Israel and the U.S. that should have been used to handle these types of security queries. But in this extraordinary case, the U.S. demanded a public clarification on behalf of the PA.
    • It seems more appropriate that the U.S. issue clarifications to Israel. At least one of the Aksa Brigades terrorists - Annan Sabah, who was found with two M16 automatic rifles and two other firearms - had been part of the amnesty program for former Fatah-affiliated terrorists that was implemented in no small part at the behest of the U.S.
    • The American-trained and -funded Palestinian security forces under the command of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have either refused or been unable to uproot the terror infrastructure of the Fatah-associated Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Fayyad has even assigned some Aksa commanders to senior positions in the PA security forces.

      The writer is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs and a senior policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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