Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
View this page at
Via Smartphone


February 16, 2010

Daily Alert Needs Your Support

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Hunts for English-Speaking Bombers - Eli Lake (Washington Times)
    U.S. and allied counterterrorism authorities have launched a global manhunt for English-speaking terrorists trained in Yemen who are planning attacks on the U.S., based on intelligence provided by the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day bombing.
    U.S. officials said Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab revealed to the FBI that he met with other English speakers at a terrorist training camp in Yemen.
    Said one official: "It's safe to say that Abdulmutallab is not the only bullet in the chamber for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula."
    Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen absorbed in 2008 the largely defeated branch of the group in Saudi Arabia.

Five Australian Muslims Jailed in Terror Plot - Mark McDonald (New York Times)
    An Australian court on Monday sentenced five Muslim men to prison terms of 23 to 28 years for conspiracy to commit acts of terror. The court ordered that the names of the men not be released.
    Prosecutors said they had stockpiled dangerous chemicals, firearms and ammunition as part of a plan to wage Islamist jihad against the Australian government.
    Justice Anthony Whealy of the Supreme Court of New South Wales said the men were driven by "intolerant, inflexible religious conviction."
    Police found bomb-making guides and radical Islamist literature that was said to endorse mass murder and martyrdom as part of jihad. One of the men had trained at a Lashkar-e-Taiba camp in Pakistan.
    See also Terrorists Smile as They're Jailed - James Madden (The Australian)
    Moments after the judge ordered the five terrorists to serve lengthy jail sentences, the men looked calmly around the courtroom and smirked, confirming that none had any remorse for plotting violent jihad on Australian soil.
    The judge said the men seemed to "wear their imprisonment like some kind of badge of honor," seeing it as "a test of their faith and a burden willingly borne as a duty arising from their fundamentalist religious conviction."

U.S. Envoy Appointed as Link to Muslims - Helene Cooper (New York Times)
    President Obama has appointed Rashad Hussain, a deputy White House counsel, to be his representative to the Muslim world, White House officials said Saturday.
    Hussain will become the special envoy to the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference, replacing Sada Cumber, who had been appointed to the post by President George W. Bush.
    Another U.S. representative to the Muslim world, Farah Pandith, became the State Department's special representative to Muslim communities last September.

Middle East Talks Charade - Editorial (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    In an attempt to break the logjam in negotiations, the Middle East peace participants are close to a novel approach - talking, yes, but from a distance. Mahmoud Abbas has reportedly agreed to start "indirect talks" with Israel by the end of February.
    What happened to face-to-face encounters? How does this particular method of doing business make for better negotiations?
    Such a strange style of negotiations would be a setback, given that Israel and the Palestinians have held countless meetings ever since the 1991 Madrid conference.

Key Links 
Media Contacts 
Back Issues 
Fair Use/Privacy 
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Encounters Limits of Iran Engagement Policy - Helene Cooper
    As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama declared himself open to dialogue even with intransigent states like Iran. But there is little diplomatic nicety to be seen these days, as the administration presses tough new sanctions aimed at the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Monday of a drift toward a military dictatorship in Iran. White House officials maintain that they have not abandoned Mr. Obama's pledge of engagement, but the administration is now coming to terms with the limits of its engagement policy, many foreign policy experts say.
        Ray Takeyh, a former Iran adviser to the Obama administration, said, "There was a thesis a year ago that the differences between the United States and Iran was subject to diplomatic mediation, that they could find areas of common experience, that we were ready to have a dialogue with each other," but "those anticipations discounted the extent of how the Iranian theocracy views engagement with the United States as a threat to its ideological identity."
        Administration officials say the biggest benefit of Mr. Obama's engagement policy now is a defusing of a worldwide view that the U.S. is part of the problem, and a demonstration that the problem is Tehran's intransigence. "What the president has achieved is that he has outed Iran," a senior administration official said Friday. He said Iran, by refusing to respond positively, had exposed itself as uninterested in a better relationship with the U.S. (New York Times)
        See also Clinton: Iran's Government Being Supplanted by Revolutionary Guards - Mark Landler (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Launches Diplomatic Offensive to Isolate Iran with New Sanctions - Tim Reid
    The Obama administration started an intense diplomatic push Sunday to achieve global isolation of Iran over its nuclear weapons program. The move was spearheaded by Hillary Clinton, who landed in the Middle East to confer with Arab allies. (Times-UK)
  • Muslim Firebrands Challenge Hamas Rule in Gaza - Karin Laub
    Jihadi Salafis, as they are known, have organized into small, shadowy armed groups that have clashed with Hamas forces in Gaza. Besides resuming rocket fire on Israel in recent weeks, they blew up the car of a Hamas chief outside his southern Gaza home. The violent Salafi groups are inspired by al-Qaeda but are not formally affiliated with it, according to a January study by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a U.S. think tank, co-authored by Yoram Cohen, a former Israel Security Agency official. It said al-Qaeda has not established an affiliate in the region nor accepted any of its "locally radicalized, globally inclined jihadists." The U.S. think tank, citing Israeli officials, estimated that 30 to 50 fighters from Yemen, Egypt, France and elsewhere have slipped into Gaza, either to train Salafi fighters or to wage holy war. (AP)
  • British Politician Sacked over Call for Inquiry into Israeli Organ-Trafficking in Haiti - David Batty
    Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Friday, "I have decided that Jenny Tonge will stand down as Liberal Democrat health spokesperson in the Lords following her unacceptable comments suggesting an inquiry into highly offensive allegations against the IDF humanitarian operation in Haiti....The comments were wrong, distasteful and provocative." In 2004, she was sacked as a spokeswoman on children's issues after she told a pro-Palestinian meeting she could consider becoming a suicide bomber. (Guardian-UK)
        See also Lady Tonge and a Blood Libel - Uri Dromi
    Just when we thought we heard everything, there comes Lady Tonge, the Liberal Democrat peer in the British House of Lords, calling for Israel to set up an inquiry to disprove allegations that its medical teams in Haiti "harvested" organs of earthquake victims for use in transplants. Attacking Israel's policies is one thing; insinuating that the army of the Jewish state is stealing organs is to repeat what anti-Semites were saying about the Jews in the darkest periods of history. A blood libel, in short. (Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Russia Tells Netanyahu It Will Hold Off on Iran Arms Deal - Barak Ravid
    Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday assured Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Russia would hold off on its contract to sell the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran. "On this issue Russia is taking into consideration the need for stability in the region," Netanyahu said. "What is needed now is very tough sanctions that can influence this [Iranian] regime and severe sanctions that will considerably and convincingly harm the import and export of oil."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Netanyahu Meets with Russian President Medvedev in Moscow (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • "PA Using Our Money to Smear Us" - Rebecca Anna Stoil
    Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Monday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the Palestinian Authority is sponsoring worldwide campaigns to delegitimize Israel, campaigns that were partially financed by "the funds that we transfer to the Palestinians." "The majority of claims against senior IDF officers worldwide are funded and initiated by the PA," he said.
        The Palestinians begin every conversation with international sources by saying they do not believe in the honesty of Israel's stated intentions, he said. "I do not honestly believe theirs in light of their initiatives for boycotts on Israeli goods, as well as the litigations. We need to check, as a society, whether we are willing to accept conditions such as these - that on one hand, they will hold negotiations with us, while on the other hand they devote a significant amount of their resources to opposing us....It cannot be that we cooperate with the Palestinians on security and economic issues, and they continue to file claims against us and to incite against us."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Adm. Mullen to IDF Haiti Delegation: Humanity Is Proud of You - Yaakov Lappin
    Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, met with members of the IDF's humanitarian delegation to Haiti on Monday, telling the soldiers, "the important work you did with your delegation will not be forgotten, not by us and not by the residents of Haiti." Mullen, who had requested the meeting during his three-day visit to Israel, said, "I want to express my admiration for you....You created hope and a future for those people, and humanity is proud of you."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Iran Celebrates the Anniversary of its Islamic Revolution - David Ignatius
    What did the world see as Iran celebrated the 31st anniversary of its Islamic revolution on Thursday? A hollowed-out regime that is better at repressing its own people than at governing. The Iranian regime's success in intimidating demonstrators was a show of strength, but only superficially. "It's the Enron of governments," says Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "If Iran were a stock, nobody would buy shares in it." It's a safe bet this regime will eventually break down, but the process could take years. If you want an example of how long a hollowed-out, repressive regime can last, just look at the Soviet Union.
        Compared with a year ago, Iran is far more divided internally; it has lost much of its legitimacy within the Muslim world, with the regional balance of power tipping the other way for the first time in years; and it is more isolated internationally, no longer able to count on Russia as a reliable patron. (Washington Post)
  • When the Enemy Does Not Adhere to the Laws of War - Gabriel Siboni
    Professor Asa Kasher suggested at a recent conference at the Institute for National Security Studies that there is a difference between "regular wars," in which the enemy accepts the burden of the laws of warfare, and "irregular wars," in which the enemy doesn't accept those obligations. During the Second Lebanon War and the Gaza operation, the enemy did not adhere to the laws of war.
        In a future confrontation with Hizbullah or Hamas, Israel can announce that because of the lack of reciprocity in accepting the laws of warfare, it will take into account the moral principles of the doctrine of just warfare, but will adopt measures necessitated by the lack of reciprocity. The writer heads the military research program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Ha'aretz)
        See also A Moral Evaluation of the Gaza War - Asa Kasher (ICA-Jerusalem Center)
  • Observations:

    Facing Insolvency, Ahmadinejad Will Cut Popular State Subsidies - Katie Engelhart (Macleans)

    • With his government facing insolvency, Ahmadinejad has proposed a radical overhaul of the system of massive state subsidies that have kept life tolerable for Iran's citizens.
    • Today, price supports are firmly entrenched and cover a broad range of goods, including gasoline, electricity, sugar, and water. BEDigest, published by a France-based energy consulting group, estimates that subsidies cost the government $100 billion a year, or about 30% of GDP.
    • The subsidy system has also created a perfect breeding ground for "smuggling opportunities," says Peter Wells, founder of a UK-based oil consulting firm. Gasoline bought cheaply in Iran is smuggled into Pakistan by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. By some estimates, up to 17% of gas purchased in Iran is smuggled out of the country.

          See also Iran Faces Economic Unrest - Mehdi Khalaji
      In addition to the political crisis, Ahmadinejad's economic policies seem to have generated discontent. Many factories have gone bankrupt and shut down, and many laborers have not been paid for months or were fired without benefits. Recently, laborers, drivers, and other workers in a variety of industries either went on strike or protested against their working conditions. Many of these workers were fired or arrested; Mansour Osanloo, head of the Tehran Bus Drivers Syndicate, is still in prison. The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    Unsubscribe from Daily Alert