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February 9, 2010

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Yemen al-Qaeda Wants to Block Red Sea to Israeli Shipping (Reuters)
    The Yemen-based wing of al-Qaeda has called for a regional Muslim holy war and a blockade of the Red Sea to Israeli shipping.
    "The Christians, the Jews, and the treacherous apostate rulers have pounced on have no other way out from this plight other than to wage jihad," said the group's deputy leader, Saeed al-Shehri, a former Guantanamo inmate from Saudi Arabia, in an audio tape.
    Shehri called on Somalia's Islamist al Shabaab to help block the narrow strait at the mouth of the Red Sea that separates Yemen from the Horn of Africa.
    "At such a time the Bab (al Mandab) will be closed and that will tighten the noose on the Jews (Israel), because through it America supports them by the Red Sea," Shehri said.

Poll: 90 Percent of Middle East Views Jews Unfavorably - Amir Mizroch (Jerusalem Post)
    The Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes survey conducted last year found that in the predominantly Muslim nations surveyed, views of Jews were overwhelmingly unfavorable: 97% in Jordan, 97% in the Palestinian territories, and 95% in Egypt held an unfavorable view.
    Similarly, 98% of Lebanese expressed an unfavorable opinion of Jews, including 98% among both Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, as well as 97% of Lebanese Christians.
    By contrast, only 35% of Israeli Arabs expressed a negative opinion of Jews, while 56% voiced a favorable opinion.
    Read the Full Report (Pew Global Attitudes Project)

Italian Energy Company ENI to Pull Out of Iran (Trend News-Azerbaijan)
    ENI chief executive Paolo Scaroni said Thursday that the Italian energy company will pull out of Iran after current contracts to develop two gas fields there run out, AP reported.

Significant Reduction of Trade Between Iran and Germany (Persia House)
    In the first six months of 2009, trade between Iran and the EU was $6 billion less than during the same period in 2008, the Iranian news outlet Asr-e Iran reports.
    Due in part to Germany's pressure on its companies doing business with Iran, German exports to Iran declined by 22% in the first three months of 2009.

Burka-Wearing Gunmen Raid French Bank - Henry Samuel (Telegraph-UK)
    Two burka-wearing bank robbers have pulled off a heist near Paris using a handgun concealed beneath their full Islamic veil.
    Employees let the pair through the security double doors of the banking branch, believing them to be Muslim women.
    France is looking into ways of restricting - or banning - the use of the head-to-toe Islamic veil.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Iran Moves Closer to Having Material for Bomb - Glenn Kessler
    Iran's formal notification Monday to a UN nuclear watchdog that it will begin producing higher-grade enriched uranium marks a new and potentially dangerous turn in Tehran's confrontation with the West over its nuclear ambitions. Iran's announcement means that it will be a significant step closer to possessing the raw material needed to build a nuclear bomb.
        While Iran does not have the expertise to build the specialized fuel rods needed for its research reactor, the main consequence of its decision appears to be moving up the enrichment ladder, according to David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington. Albright said 70% of the work toward reaching weapons-grade uranium took place when Iran enriched uranium gas to 3.5%. Enriching it further to the 19.75% needed for the reactor is an additional "15 to 20% of the way there."
        The uranium would need to be enriched further, to 60% and then to 90%, before it could be used for a weapon. "The last two steps are not that big a deal," Albright said. They could be accomplished, he said, at a relatively small facility within months. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Nuclear Plans Start New Calls for Sanctions - Alan Cowell and Thom Shanker
    Iran's announcement that it would begin enriching its stockpile of uranium prompted officials from the U.S., France and Russia to call for stronger sanctions against Tehran. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Obama administration and its allies had done all they could to entice Iran to negotiate. "All of these initiatives have been rejected," he said. While "we must still try and find a peaceful way to resolve this issue, the only path that is left to us at this point, it seems to me, is that pressure track." Even in Russia, Konstantin I. Kosachyov, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian Parliament, urged the international community to prepare "serious measures."  (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Wants UN Sanctions Resolution on Iran within Weeks - Adam Entous
    The U.S. wants the UN Security Council to approve a sanctions resolution within "weeks, not months," the Pentagon said Tuesday. (Reuters)
        See also Iran Faces New Sanctions over Uranium Program - Damien McElroy
    World leaders finally ran out of patience when President Ahmadinejad ordered a massive expansion in uranium processing. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, said, "This is real blackmail....The only thing that we can do, alas, is apply sanctions, given that negotiations are not possible." The British Foreign Office said that Iran's latest step represented a breach of five Security Council resolutions.
        Danny Ayalon, Israel's deputy foreign minister, predicted the Security Council would be asked to vote on sanctions by the end of March. "The cost of stopping Iran now is nothing compared to what it would take to stop them if they become nuclear powered," he said. "We don't see ourselves in direct conflict with Iran. We are members of the international community and our interests are aligned. We trust the international community and (the Security Council) to do the right thing."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • Clinton Sees Islamist Terror as No. 1 Threat
    The biggest threats to America's national security come from trans-national non-state actors, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday. "Most of us believe the greater threats are the trans-national non-state networks, primarily the extremists - the fundamentalist Islamic extremists who are connected to al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula," Clinton said. "Or al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan." "They continue to try to increase the sophistication of their capacity....The attacks that they're going to make and the...biggest nightmare that any of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction."  (CNN)
  • 11 Arrested for Disrupting Israeli Ambassador's Talk at UC Irvine
    Eleven students were arrested Monday for interrupting a lecture at University of California, Irvine, where Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren spoke about U.S.-Israel relations. (AP/Los Angeles Times)
        See also Arab Students Disrupt Speech by Israeli Envoy to U.S. - Yitzhak Benhorin
    Irvine has the second largest concentration of Arabs in the U.S. after Dearborn in Michigan, and the local university is the most problematic regarding Israel. Several months ago an event was held at the university with the participation of British MP George Galloway, a prominent pro-Palestinian activist, in which donations were collected for Hamas. The local Muslim students union is under federal investigation on suspicion of gathering funds for terror activity. (Ynet News)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Foreign Nationals Working to Disrupt IDF Operations - Yaakov Katz
    Approximately 50 foreign nationals are currently residing in the West Bank and working with Palestinian groups to disrupt and interfere with IDF operations, military sources said on Monday. Israel's High Court of Justice on Monday released two women from Spain and Australia who had been arrested in Ramallah for involvement in the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
        The IDF has noted a growing presence of foreign nationals at the weekly demonstrations in Bil'in, Ni'lin and near the settlement of Neveh Tzuf. The IDF is concerned that a new wave of violence could flare up into a new conflict and undermine diplomatic efforts to restart negotiations. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Child Sings about Victory over Israel and the U.S. - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    In the latest episode of the weekly children's program "Tomorrow's Pioneers" on Hamas TV, a Palestinian boy sings: "Daddy gave me a present, a machine gun and a rifle. When I am a big boy, I will join the Liberation Army. The army of [Izz Al-Din] Al-Qassam (Hamas)....We [are] victorious, victorious over America and Israel."  (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Peeling Syria Away from Iran Seen Unlikely - Lachlan Carmichael
    The Obama team will find it hard, if not impossible, to peel Syria way from hardline ally Iran, analysts say. Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker last week, disclosed that the Syrian secret services have already resumed cooperation with the CIA and Britain's MI6. Aaron David Miller, who was a Middle East adviser in past U.S. administrations, said Washington can achieve modest objectives, such as intelligence sharing, but he set expectations low.
        Syria is a hard nut to crack, he said, because President Bashar al-Assad, from the minority Alawite sect, focuses foremost on ensuring his regime's survival - and that means having strategic ties with non-Arab and Shiite Iran. Its needs flow from its stakeholding in Lebanon via Hizbullah, which Iran has also backed. "As long as the Hizbullah-Iranian relationship is as close as it is, the Syrians, I think, will only alienate the Iranians at their own peril," Miller said. He said Assad's Syria, which has a majority Sunni Muslim population, sees Iran as a hedge against a Sunni-led Arab world that it mistrusts, while it also looks to energy-rich Tehran for economic support. (AFP)
  • Al-Qaeda a Wounded But Dangerous Enemy - Joby Warrick and Peter Finn
    Top U.S. counterterrorism officials say al-Qaeda's ability to wage mass-casualty terrorism has been undercut by relentless U.S. attacks on the network's leadership, finances and training camps. But even in its weakened state, the group has shifted tactics to focus on small-scale operations that are far harder to detect and disrupt, analysts say.
        "Al-Qaeda's leadership is accelerating efforts that were probably in place anyway," said Andy Johnson, former staff director of the Senate intelligence committee. In the past year, the "good guys have been scoring the points," killing key al-Qaeda leaders and disrupting multiple plots. But pressure on al-Qaeda in Iraq and Pakistan has forced terrorist operatives to flee to new havens, such as Yemen, and step up the search for weaknesses in Western defenses. (Washington Post)
  • Observations:

    Will Tehran Choose the Tiananmen Solution? - Amir Taheri (Times-UK)

    • Over the past eight months, the political dispute inside Iran has moved beyond the issue of a stolen election as a fully-fledged pro-democracy movement has emerged that rejects the Khomeinist regime. Even some former regime grandees such as former President Khatami and former Prime Minister Mousavi now publicly admit that the Khomeinist revolution has failed and that theocracy always leads to despotism.
    • Suddenly Ahmadinejad and Khamenei appear to have become irrelevant as millions of people in insurrectional mood are pitted against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, which must decide whether to abandon the regime or drown its opponents in a bloodbath.
    • On Feb. 11, the anniversary of the Khomeinist seizure of power, two rival marches will be held to mark the anniversary and we will learn how much blood the regime is willing to spill on Iran's streets. The more radical elements within the Revolutionary Guard have publicly argued for a "Chinese solution" - a bloodbath modeled on the Tiananmen massacre of students in Beijing in 1989. Yet during the past few weeks, more than a dozen top ayatollahs, including some close to the regime, have publicly broken with it, warning against any bloody repression.
        See also Endgame for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran? - Con Coughlin (Telegraph-UK)
    • Iranian President Ahmadinejad has publicly warned that he will mark the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution on Thursday by delivering a "telling blow" to the world's leading powers, a message that hardly serves to reassure Western concerns about Iran's future intentions. But before Western governments become too alarmed by Tehran's provocative stance, the regime's recent announcements need to be examined within the context of the country's deepening political turmoil, which many predict will surface again on Thursday.
    • Today's opposition movement has a far broader base than its predecessors, backed not only by students but also by Iran's prosperous middle classes who are as much outraged by Ahmadinejad's woeful mismanagement of the Iranian economy as they are critical of his uncompromising political agenda. It will be the Iranian people, not the West, who will ultimately decide the country's fate.

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