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January 4, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Chinese Evade U.S. Sanctions on Iran - Peter Fritsch (Wall Street Journal)
    Chinese companies banned from doing business in the U.S. for selling missile technology to Iran continue to do a brisk trade with American companies, according to an analysis of shipping records.
    A unit of state-owned China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp., for example, has made nearly 300 illegal shipments to U.S. firms since a ban was imposed on CPMIEC in mid-2006, according to an analysis by the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control.
    "We spend a lot of time convincing other countries that we need tighter sanctions on Iran when we need to better enforce our own laws already on the books," says Wisconsin Project director Gary Milhollin.

    See also CIA Releases Video of Iran Arms Deal (Jerusalem Post)
    Footage released by the CIA shows Amir Hussein Aldabili conducting a clandestine arms deal in a Tbilisi, Georgia hotel, procuring parts of weapons and other military systems for use in Iran.

Leading Egypt Clerics Back Gaza Tunnel Barrier (AFP)
    A council of leading Muslim clerics has supported the Egyptian government's construction of an underground barrier along the border with Gaza to impede tunneling by smugglers, the Al-Masri Al-Yawm newspaper reported on Friday.
    The Islamic Research Council of Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, said that the tunnels were used to smuggle drugs and threatened Egypt's security.
    "Those who oppose building this wall are violating the commands of Islamic law," the clerics said.

Jordan Emerges as Key CIA Counterterrorism Ally - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    One of the victims in last week's deadly attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan was a captain in the Jordanian intelligence service.
    Although rarely acknowledged publicly, Jordan is playing an increasing role in the fight against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, sometimes in countries far beyond the Middle East.

Inspiration for Suicide Bombers - Dan McDougall and Claire Newell (Times-UK)
    Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of trying to kill almost 300 people by blowing up a transatlantic passenger jet, attended lectures by the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki at the Iman University in Yemen in 2005.
    Awlaki's sermons provided inspiration to at least six terror cells in the UK, including two of the 7/7 bombers who killed 52 commuters in London in 2005.
    Awlaki was born in New Mexico in 1971 when his father, a former Yemeni minister, was studying for a college degree. As an imam in Denver, San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia, he came into contact with three of the 9/11 hijackers.
    He is also linked to Major Nidal Hasan and the Fort Hood killings last November.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Gives West One-Month "Ultimatum" to Accept Nuclear Counterproposal - Michael Slackman
    Iran's foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki warned the West on Saturday that it had one month to accept Iran's counterproposal to a deal brokered by the UN aimed at slowing the Iranian nuclear program, or else Iran would begin further enriching its nuclear fuel stockpile on its own. Tehran has already made it clear that it would not abide by the earlier tentative agreement with the West. The Obama administration has responded by indicating that it would seek to impose harsh financial sanctions on Iran. White House spokesman Mike Hammer said: "The Iranian government is standing in its own way."  (New York Times)
  • Assassin Shot in Danish Cartoonist's Home Has Links to Al-Qaeda - Tracy McVeigh
    Danish police admitted Saturday that a Somalian caught breaking into the home of cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, 74, was a would-be assassin with links to al-Qaeda. Westergaard's caricature of the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban was first published by Jyllands-Posten in 2005. The 28-year-old attacker had an axe and a knife when he was shot and wounded by police late Friday. He heard windows being broken and pressed a panic alarm at his house in Aarhus. Westergaard said he locked himself and his five-year-old granddaughter in the bathroom as the assailant shouted "revenge" and "blood" and tried to smash his way into the house.
        The attacker had "close ties to the Somali terror organization al-Shabaab as well as to al-Qaeda leaders in East Africa," the Danish security and intelligence service, PET, said in a statement. (Observer-UK)
        See also Did Danish Cartoonist Attacker Try to Target Hillary Clinton? - Matthew Clark
    The Danish newspaper Politiken is reporting that Denmark's security and intelligence agency, PET, knew that the Somali man who on Friday tried to kill a Danish cartoonist was held in Kenya in September for allegedly helping to plot an attack against U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Former Guantanamo Prisoners Moved to Yemen to Rejoin the Fight Against the West - Dan McDougall
    Al-Qaeda is now back in Yemen in significant numbers and the organization is flourishing. Said Ali al-Shihri, a Saudi national, spent six years as a prisoner at Guantanamo. In December 2007, he was released into the custody of the Saudi government's "deradicalization" program for terrorists. After his release in 2008, he crossed the border into Yemen and began putting into place the building blocks for Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which claimed responsibility for the botched suicide bomb attack on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day.
        By September 2008, al-Shihri had hooked up with two notorious terrorists who had escaped from Yemeni jails. Nasir al-Wahayshi was a former secretary to Osama Bin Laden, and Jamal Muhammad Ahmad al-Badawi was the convicted mastermind of the USS Cole bombing that killed 17 American sailors off Yemen in October 2000. Their ranks have been swelled by at least three other former Guantanamo detainees. Last week Pentagon sources admitted that 61 former prisoners at the camp have returned to the battlefield. Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, believes Yemen has now become the third-largest haven for al-Qaeda. (Times-UK)
        See also Iran and Al-Qaeda Source of Growing Terror in Yemen
    New evidence indicates that both Iran and al-Qaeda are exploiting Yemen as a base for increasing terror against the West and Saudi Arabia. Allegedly, hundreds of al-Qaeda terrorists are descending on Yemen from around the globe and the majority of the terrorist group's resources are now allocated there. (Realite-EU/Global Arab Network-UK)
        See also U.S., UK Shut Embassies in Yemen on Attack Fears - Elizabeth Williamson, Charles Levinson and Yochi Dreazen (Wall Street Journal)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Israel Wary of U.S.-Arab Arms Deals - Barak Ravid
    Israeli officials have expressed concern at the scope and content of recently signed major arms deals between the U.S. and Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. The advanced arms include anti-ship and antitank missiles as well as smart and bunker-busting bombs. No U.S. arms deals with Israel have taken place since President Obama took office. One deal troubling Israel is the sale to Egypt of four batteries of Harpoon Block II anti-ship cruise missiles. The Harpoon II is an advanced, accurate missile, capable of overcoming countermeasures and electronic warfare. (Ha'aretz)
  • To Conform to "International Standards" of Law, Israel Would Have to Lower Its Standards - David Benjamin
    Judge Goldstone says our investigations should be conducted in conformity with "international standards." We shouldn't have a problem with this, since it means, in effect, that we can drop our standards. Israel probably has the highest level of accountability of the military under the law in the world. The IDF is required to investigate every complaint into misconduct by its troops, from the severe to the trivial. The IDF will also launch investigations even when no complaint has been filed, such as when alleged misconduct is brought to light in the media. Furthermore, all decisions by the military and civil authorities in relation to investigations and prosecutions are ultimately reviewable by the highest court in the land, where Palestinian residents of Gaza and the West Bank have standing. The writer is a former senior legal adviser to the IDF. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • U.S. Sees an Opportunity to Press Iran on Nuclear Fuel - David E. Sanger and William J. Broad
    The Obama administration says that domestic unrest makes Iran's leaders particularly vulnerable to strong and immediate new sanctions. Although repeated rounds of sanctions over many years have not dissuaded Iran from pursuing nuclear technology, an administration official said the hope was that the current troubles "give us a window to impose the first sanctions that may make the Iranians think the nuclear program isn't worth the price tag." A senior Israeli diplomat in Washington said that in back-channel conversations "Obama has convinced us that it's worth trying the sanctions, at least for a few months."
        Obama's top advisers say they no longer believe the key finding of a much disputed National Intelligence Estimate about Iran, published a year before President George W. Bush left office, which said that Iranian scientists ended all work on designing a nuclear warhead in late 2003.
        By the recent count of inspectors for the International Atomic Energy Agency, there were 3,936 centrifuges running at Iran's enrichment plant at Natanz - down from a peak of 4,920 centrifuges in June. Experts say Iran is working with older centrifuge technology that keeps breaking down. Iran began producing almost all of its own centrifuge components after discovering that the U.S. and other Western countries had sabotaged some key imported parts, and they have made a series of manufacturing errors. (New York Times)
  • The War and Peace Index - Dan Ephron
    For more than 15 years now, two Tel Aviv University political scientists, working with pollsters, have been tracking Israeli opinion about the peace process that began with the 1993 Oslo accord. In recent years only about 40% of Israelis say they long for a rejuvenated peace process with the Palestinians. An even smaller number, about 20%, believe such talks would amount to anything - even though more Israelis than ever now say they're willing to live alongside an independent Palestinian state. What's changed is that more Israelis than ever also seem to feel little urgency about reaching that goal.
        While the absence of peace is exacting a very low price, Israeli attempts to forge a peace deal have exacted a very high one. Most Israelis, in this analysis, associate the Oslo accords not just with the historic handshake on the White House lawn but with the first suicide attacks by Palestinians. Ask Israelis what they got in return for their offer at Camp David nearly a decade ago to hand over most of the West Bank and they'll point to the second intifada. In Israeli minds, Palestinians should have been grateful for the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza - instead they fired rockets at Israel.
        As Tamar Hermann, one of the political scientists who run the War and Peace Index, told me recently, "Israelis are looking around and saying, 'We've achieved normalcy. We don't have bombings. The stock market's OK. Why should we launch another messy peace process that may rock the boat again?'"  (Newsweek)
        See also The Deadly Price of Pursuing Peace - Evelyn Gordon (Commentary)
  • Observations:

    The Expansion of Al-Qaeda-Affiliated Jihadi Groups in Gaza: Diplomatic Implications - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

    • In the West there is a growing trend to view Hamas as separate from al-Qaeda in order to open a political dialogue with Hamas, but is this view correct?
    • In its annual survey of terrorist threats to Israel during 2009, the Israel Security Agency noted the spread and buildup of "global jihadi" organizations in Gaza. In recent years a number of these jihadi groups have emerged that openly identify with al-Qaeda, such as Jaish al-Islam (the Army of Islam), Jaish al-Umma (the Army of the Nation), and Fatah al-Islam. 
    • Hamas was founded in 1987 as the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. Osama bin Laden was educated in Saudi Arabia by Muhammad Qutb of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and Abdullah Azzam of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, came out of the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood still defines its goal as "a world Islamic state."
    • In February 2004, the U.S. designated Sheikh Abd al-Majid Zindani, president of Iman University in Yemen, as a "loyalist to Osama bin Laden." On March 20, 2006, Zindani, who recruited volunteers for al-Qaeda, sponsored a major fundraising event for Hamas in Yemen. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian who tried to blow up Northwest Flight 253 to Detroit, went to hear lectures on radical Islam at Iman University.
    • The al-Qaeda affiliate Jaysh al-Islam joined Hamas in the 2006 kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. This proves that Hamas and al-Qaeda affiliates have been involved in joint operations. In 2007, the Egyptian press reported that one of the heads of al-Qaeda in Egypt had escaped and sought sanctuary in Gaza. In May 2009, Egypt charged that another al-Qaeda-linked group was using Gaza for training terrorists for attacks in Egypt.

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