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January 13, 2010

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In-Depth Issues:

Israel to Send Rescue Team to Earthquake-Struck Haiti - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    The Israel Foreign Ministry on Wednesday planned to dispatch a rescue team to disaster-stricken Haiti, which was hit Tuesday by the worst earthquake the area has known in the last 200 years.
    IsraAID also planned to send a 12-man search-and-rescue team, which includes emergency medical staff.

Arab Satellites Drop Iran TV Channel (Gulf Blog)
    Two of the Arab world's biggest satellite broadcasting companies, Nilesat and Arabsat, have taken the Iranian channel Alaam off the air.

Bomb Hurts Three in South Lebanon Hizbullah Stronghold - Bassem Mroue (AP/Washington Post)
    A bomb blast on Wednesday in the village of Kfar Fila in southern Lebanon, a Hizbullah stronghold, wounded at least three students who were waiting for a school bus, military and security officials said.

Israel Developing the AirMule UAV - Stuart Fox (Popular Science)
    The Israeli aerospace company Urban Aeronautics is developing the AirMule UAV for the Israeli army, who want to use it to transport supplies into, and wounded personnel out of, dangerous urban areas.
    VTOL engines allow the AirMule to navigate in and out of compact areas, while the shielded rotor blades make the AirMule tougher than a regular helicopter.
    Plus, by removing the pilot, the AirMule can enter situations too risky for regular helicopters.
    See also Israeli Robo Sky-Jeep in Hover Trials - Lewis Page (Register-UK)

Al-Qaeda's Shadowland - Edmund J. Hull (New York Times)
    Americans are scrambling to understand Yemen, where al-Qaeda has recently surged and the Christmas Day plot was hatched.
    The Houthi rebellion in the north is often described as Shiite resistance against a Sunni establishment. In fact, both the Houthis and President Saleh are followers of the Zaidi sect of Shiite Islam.
    In any case, one's sect matters far less in Yemen than in countries like Lebanon or Iraq.

Jihadists Groom Children under 10 in UK - Marie Woolf (Times-UK)
    Up to 10 primary school pupils, aged between seven and 10, have been placed on a British government outreach program for individuals considered at risk of being radicalized and turning to violence.
    One child was referred to the program by his teacher after writing on a school book: "I want to be a suicide bomber."
    At least 228 people, mostly teenagers and young men aged 15-24, have been referred to the anti-terrorism Channel project after being singled out as "potentially vulnerable to violent extremism."
    "For people to be identified there have to be distinct changes in behavior and warning signs," said Craig Denholm, deputy chief constable of Surrey police who oversees the program.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iranian Nuclear Scientist Was in Regional Project that Included Israelis - Thomas Erdbrink and William Branigin
    Massoud Ali-Mohammadi, 50, a physics professor at Tehran University who was killed by a bomb on Tuesday, represented Iran on an unusual regional project in which its archenemy, Israel, also participates. The project is called Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East, or SESAME. It is based in Jordan and operates under UN auspices. An Israeli representative, Eliezer Rabinovici, director of the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said he talked to Ali-Mohammadi during an informal group meeting. "We did not discuss politics or nuclear issues, as our project is not connected to nuclear physics," Rabinovici said. (Washington Post)
        See also Iranian Regime Behind Professor's Murder - Michael Ledeen
    Despite a torrent of disinformation from the regime, Ali-Mohammadi was not involved in the secret nuclear weapons project, and he was certainly not a regime loyalist. Indeed, he was among many university professors who supported Green leader Mir Hossein Mousavi during last spring's heated electoral campaign. Why was he killed now? Because he was planning to leave the country for Stockholm, where he'd been offered a one-year fellowship. The attack was a vicious assault by the regime against one of its critics.
        I am told that the assassination is the first such act on Iranian soil by the Revolutionary Guard's "foreign legion," highly trained killers from Lebanese Hizbullah. That the supreme leader turned to Lebanese Arabs, not to Iranians, to kill the dissident physicist bespeaks a certain lack of confidence in the Revolutionary Guards and local security forces. I have learned that the Deputy Commander of the Guards in the greater Tehran area, Brig.-Gen. Azizollah Rajabzadeh, is in intensive care following an axe attack by one of his troops. This follows the shooting of Gen. Ahmad Reza Radan by one of his men. (Pajamas Media)
        See also Iranian Scientist Killed by Bomb Had Opposition Links - Richard Spencer (Telegraph-UK)
  • ADL Rips Chicago Islamic Summit - Julia Duin
    The Anti-Defamation League accused several Muslim groups on Monday of using an Islamic summit in Chicago as a platform for extremist and anti-Semitic invective instead of its stated purpose to combat the increasing radicalization of Muslim-American youths. Based on transcripts from a Dec. 23-27 convocation of the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), the ADL said the gathering "served as a forum for religious scholars and political activists to rail against Jews, call for the eradication of the State of Israel, and accuse the United States government of waging a war against Muslims at home and abroad." "It is shocking that this conference...was a sham and nothing more than a cover for the dissemination of hateful anti-American and anti-Israel views and anti-Semitism," said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director. (Washington Times)
  • Mideast Peacemakers Mull Aid to Palestinians - Slobodan Lekic
    U.S. envoy George Mitchell urged European and other international donors on Tuesday to help the Palestinian Authority finance its institution-building program as it prepares to set up a Palestinian state. The meeting in Brussels came as the Obama administration gears up to try to relaunch stalled Israeli-Palestinian talks. The EU is the largest donor to the PA, contributing more than one billion euros last year to help cover its budget and finance economic development. Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said, "We feel confident that donors will again rally to the challenge and stand up to support a Palestinian state living side by side by Israel." Western-backed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has announced plans to build institutions regardless of progress in peace talks, aiming to be ready for statehood in two years. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • 72.5 Percent of Israelis Support Negotiations toward Peace - Haviv Rettig Gur
    Israelis support peace talks with the Palestinian Authority by a large majority, according to the latest Tel Aviv University "War and Peace Index" survey. Fully 72.5% of Israelis support negotiations toward peace. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Abbas Spurns U.S. Effort to Revive Mideast Talks
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday spurned a new U.S. effort to revive Mideast peace talks, saying he will not resume negotiations unless Israel freezes settlement construction. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has agreed to a 10-month moratorium on new construction in the West Bank, while continuing to build in Jerusalem. Aides to Netanyahu have said he will not agree to divide Jerusalem. (AP/Ynet News)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Blaming Israel First - Peter Berkowitz
    No military in the history of warfare has made greater efforts in the face of grave national security threats to avoid the use of force or has tried harder, when obliged to fight, to protect noncombatants than the Israel Defense Forces. No military has investigated itself as rigorously as the IDF. No courts have done more to hold their military accountable than Israel's. It is therefore a bitter irony that no country's military, judiciary, and democracy have been the target of greater vilification for alleged human rights violations, war crimes, and crimes against humanity than Israel's. By pervasively insinuating that Israel is no better than, and in some respects worse than, the terrorists it battles, the Goldstone Report hands Islamic extremists another propaganda victory. The writer is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. (Weekly Standard)
  • Pro-Hamas Media Bias and Gaza Activists Block Peace - Ray Hanania
    When Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas complained recently in Qatar that the media there was pro-Hamas, and that its bias was threatening the ability to achieve peace, he struck a chord that many Palestinians know is true. Hamas opposes genuine peace with Israel, and used the most pernicious form of violence - suicide bombings - throughout the 1990s to destroy the peace process and prevent compromise. Its mission is to pursue the impossible dream - more a nightmare for everyday Palestinians - of destroying Israel and returning Palestine to what it was in 1917, before it came under British colonialism. That Hamas desire is shared by secular fanatics based in Western countries who also oppose peace based on compromise.
        The purpose of many of the Free Gaza protesters is to strengthen Hamas. Rather than help the people of Gaza achieve freedom and build the first steps of a secular Palestinian state, the protesters have helped to encase the Palestinians there in continued suffering, closing their eyes to the oppression and brutality that is the true Hamas. More importantly, this bizarre alliance between religious fanatics and secular extremists is silent on the campaign of terror that Hamas continues to wage against secular Palestinians. Hamas has made it easy for some to oppose Palestinian statehood, and is the main obstacle standing in the way of peace. The writer is a Palestinian American columnist. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Pressure Hamas Terrorists, Not Israel - Editorial
    As Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu travels to Egypt to discuss resumption of peace talks with what passes for Palestinian leadership, the Obama administration steps up pressure on Israel to make concessions. Rocket and mortar attacks on Israel are back with a vengeance. According to Netanyahu, more than 20 rockets and mortar shells were launched from Gaza in the last week.
        There are two sides in this conflict. One wants to live in peace with its neighbors; the other wants its neighbor to go to hell. Unless and until we put more pressure on the terrorists than on the democratically elected leaders of Israel, the road to peace will run smack into a brick wall. (New York Daily News)
  • Observations:

    Salafi-Jihadi Groups in the Palestinian Arena - Yoram Cohen and Matthew Levitt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • The Palestinian conflict's prominence in al-Qaeda propaganda contrasts strongly with its lack of a role in actual al-Qaeda operations: al-Qaeda has neither established a local affiliate in the Levant nor accepted within its fold any of the locally radicalized, globally inclined jihadists in the region. While several Palestinian groups, mostly in Gaza, claim to be affiliated with al-Qaeda, none has more than tangential links to bin Laden's global jihadist movement.
    • It is indisputable, however, that the Salafi-Jihadi and global jihadist narrative propagated by al-Qaeda is increasingly accepted by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. In the words of a European observer living among Palestinians, Palestinian society has experienced "an accelerated process of broad society Islamization and radicalization."
    • A variety of Palestinian groups in the West Bank and Gaza support al-Qaeda's ideology and claim some affiliation with it. Each of these Salafi-Jihadi groups can boast no more than a few dozen militants, sometimes reinforced by foreign fighters, most notably Egyptians, who significantly enhance the groups' capabilities. Some of the foreigners are believed to be experienced fighters who have come to provide training. Membership in Gaza's Salafi-Jihadi groups is estimated to be in the low hundreds.
    • Nevertheless, the threat to Israel of Salafi-Jihadi attacks from Gaza remains serious. Al-Qaeda-inspired groups in Gaza are regularly plotting large-scale attacks, such as infiltrating Israel with booby-trapped trucks. Hamas finds it difficult to exert control over these groups, which often draw former Hamas members to their ranks.
    • In the words of a senior Jaljalat member, "So far al-Qaeda has not sponsored our work. We are waiting to carry out a big jihadist operation dedicated to Sheikh Osama bin Laden. However, our course and doctrine are similar to those of al-Qaeda. If al-Qaeda asks us to pledge allegiance to it, we are completely ready for it."

      Yoram Cohen served until recently as deputy director of the Israel Security Agency. Matthew Levitt, former deputy assistant treasury secretary for intelligence and analysis (2005-2007), is a senior fellow and director of the Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute.

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