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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
February 3, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

WikiLeaks: Al-Qaeda on the Verge of Producing Radioactive Weapons - Heidi Blake and Christopher Hope (Telegraph-UK)
    Al-Qaeda is on the verge of producing radioactive weapons after sourcing nuclear material and recruiting rogue scientists to build "dirty" bombs, according to leaked diplomatic documents.
    A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a "nuclear 9/11."
    Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing "workable and efficient" biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.
    At a NATO meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaeda was plotting a program of "dirty radioactive IEDs," nuclear roadside bombs.
    The briefings also state that al-Qaeda documents found in Afghanistan in 2007 revealed that "greater advances" had been made in bioterrorism than was previously realized.

ElBaradei Critiques the U.S., Yet Nurtures Ties - Steve Stecklow, David Crawford and Matt Bradley (Wall Street Journal)
    Hitting the streets of Cairo with bullhorn in hand, Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei has been demanding the immediate resignation of President Hosni Mubarak, denouncing the diplomacy of the Obama administration, and defending the Muslim Brotherhood.
    See also Mohamed ElBaradei: On the Record (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    See also ElBaradei, an Improbable Revolutionary - Colum Lynch and Janine Zacharia (Washington Post)

The New Arab World Order - Robert Kaplan (Foreign Policy)
    The most telling aspect of the anti-regime demonstrations that have rocked the Arab world is what they are not about: They are not about the existential plight of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation; nor are they at least overtly anti-Western or even anti-American.
    The demonstrators have directed their ire against unemployment, tyranny, and the general lack of dignity and justice in their own societies. This constitutes a sea change in modern Middle Eastern history.
    Were demonstrations to spread in a big way to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, a catastrophe could be looming. Imagine all that weaponry the U.S. has sold the Saudis over the decades falling into the hands of Wahhabi radicals.

It's Never Been about Palestine - John Podhoretz (New York Post)
    Recent events in the Middle East reveal a truth that can no longer be denied: Israel is a sideshow, not the root cause of the region's tempestuousness.
    The problem for the overwhelming majority of countries in the Middle East has been an excess of stability - the result of sclerotic regimes of preposterously long duration.
    Mubarak has been in power since 1981, as part of a movement in charge of Egypt for nearly 60 years. The al-Saud family has run Saudi Arabia since 1903; the al-Sabahs have been Kuwait's poohbahs since 1913. The Jordanian royal family has held sway for eight decades; the Assads, father and son, have bossed Syria since 1970.
    There's little reason to feel optimistic that the new regimes will be friendlier toward Israel and good reason to fear their ideological predilections may pose a renewed threat.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Mubarak Supporters Strike Back - Will Englund and Leila Fadel
    Whipped up by state television and spoiling for a fight, thousands of supporters of President Hosni Mubarak flooded into the center of Egypt's capital Wednesday, sparking violent clashes that shifted the momentum in the political confrontation. The president's supporters fueled the showdown with a charge by men riding camels and horses, wielding whips and clubs. Both sides then went at it with rocks, sticks and firebombs. Hospitals reported that three people had been killed and more than 600 injured in Wednesday's clashes.
        The violence came after the army had urged pro-democracy demonstrators to go home, saying Mubarak's pledge the previous night to hand over power this fall showed that their voices had been heard. Mubarak's opponents said Wednesday they would not back down from their quest to force him from office. But Mubarak loyalists seemed to be pushing back with new vigor. Omar Suleiman, the new vice president, said there would be no dialogue with the opposition until the protests stopped. (Washington Post)
        See also Mubarak Still Has Support from Rich and Poor - Griff Witte
    There are many in Egypt who are deeply invested in the current system and will fight to preserve it - businessmen with rich government contracts, civil servants, security officers, ruling-party activists and poor Egyptians who fear instability. The country may be rich with revolutionary fervor, but Wednesday's events proved that the guardians of the existing order still wield tremendous clout. Many poor Egyptians, who constitute the majority, say they cannot afford the unrest, and they blame the protesters for sparking it. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Reexamining Its Relationship with Muslim Brotherhood - Craig Whitlock
    As it braces for the likelihood of a new ruler in Egypt, the U.S. government is rapidly reassessing its tenuous relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, an opposition movement whose fundamentalist ideology has long been a source of distrust in Washington. It marked a change from previous days, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other officials expressed concern that the uprising in Egypt could shift power to an Islamist government much like the one in Iran, where ayatollah-led factions elbowed aside other groups to seize control of the country in 1979. (Washington Post)
        See also A Diplomatic Scramble as an Ally Is Pushed to the Exit - Mark Landler, Helene Cooper and David D. Kirkpatrick
    During a meeting with more than a dozen foreign policy experts in Washington on Monday, White House staff members "made clear that they did not rule out engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood as part of an orderly process," according to one attendee. The Muslim group had been suppressed by Mubarak, and Bush administration officials believed it was involved in terrorist activities. It renounced violence years ago. (New York Times)
  • Sudden Split Recasts U.S. Foreign Policy - Helene Cooper, Mark Landler and Mark Mazzetti
    After days of delicate public and private diplomacy, the U.S. openly broke with its most stalwart ally in the Arab world on Wednesday, as the Obama administration strongly condemned violence by allies of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt against protesters and called on him to speed up his exit from power. Egypt's government hit back swiftly. The Foreign Ministry released a defiant statement saying the calls from "foreign parties" had been "rejected and aimed to incite the internal situation in Egypt."
        Separately, in an interview, a senior Egyptian government official took aim at President Obama's call on Tuesday for a political transition to begin "now" - a call that infuriated Cairo. But the White House was not backing down. "I want to be clear," said Robert Gibbs, the press secretary. "'Now' started yesterday." The open rupture between the U.S. and Egypt illustrates how swift and dramatic changes in Cairo are altering the calculus of the entire region and the administration's foreign policy agenda. (New York Times)
  • Key U.S. Military, Intelligence Assets Imperiled in Egypt - Rowan Scarborough
    U.S. military and intelligence agencies would lose vital air, land and sea assets if Egypt falls into the hands of radical Islamists, as Iran did in 1979, foreign policy analysts say. The U.S. armed forces are entwined with Egypt's military more than with any other Arab country. The U.S. Navy would not be able to use the Egyptian-run Suez Canal. The waterway sharply reduces sailing time for Atlantic-based carriers and other warships going from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf, and to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
        The Air Force likely would lose overflight rights into the Middle East, and the Army would lose a partner in building the M1A1 tank. Egypt receives more than $1 billion in U.S. military aid each year and uses it to buy tanks, F-16 fighters, Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and other weapons systems. A radicalized Egypt likely would stop hosting the scores of Egyptian officers who come to the U.S. to attend service schools such as the Army War College. The U.S. also has been working with Egyptian forces to stop the smuggling of arms to Hamas in Gaza.
        A Cairo run by Islamists likely would end such operations and develop close ties with Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group that calls for the destruction of Israel. The CIA, too, would lose a valuable partner. It operates a robust station at the U.S. Embassy as well as classified bases. (Washington Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Seeks UN Condemnation of Attacks from Gaza - Jordana Horn
    Israeli Ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben sent a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, president of the Security Council, on Tuesday to ask the Security Council, the secretary-general and the international community to "firmly condemn" continued terror attacks on Israel from Gaza. Three long-range rockets were launched from Gaza on Monday, and 15 rockets and 17 mortars have been launched into Israel in the past month.
        "Many of these rockets have exploded in the heart of civilian population centers, including numerous attacks on the city of Ashkelon - which is home to more than 100,000 people - and an attack on 8 January 2011 on Kibbutz Nahal Oz, which injured three agricultural workers," Reuben noted. "These attacks constitute a clear violation of international law and must be addressed with the utmost seriousness." "While Israel has taken a series of measures to improve life for the inhabitants of Gaza, terrorist organizations continue to operate in the area and attack Israeli civilians with impunity."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Vigilante Checkpoints Spread Throughout Cairo - Ben Hartman
    On the way into Cairo from the airport, vigilante checkpoints ran about every 100 meters on the main roads and blocked every side street. The barriers varied from cinder blocks to park benches and scorched trash dumpsters. Other than the occasional firearm, the weapons deployed by the vigilantes included machetes, swords, bed posts, chains, and spiked blunt objects. The vigilantes began to take to the streets after the Egyptian police disappeared, which coincided with spontaneous jailbreaks in prisons across the country. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • In the Middle East, Militaries Remain the Ultimate Power Brokers - Daniel Pipes
    Tunisia's experience bears close examination for a pattern that may be repeated elsewhere. The military leadership there apparently concluded that its strongman, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, had become too high-maintenance to maintain in power, so it ousted him. That done, nearly the entire remaining old guard remains in power, with the top military man, Chief of Staff Rachid Ammar, apparently having replaced Ben Ali as the country's power broker. The old guard hopes that tweaking the system, granting more civil and political rights, will suffice for it to hold on to power.
        This scenario could be repeated elsewhere, especially in Egypt, where soldiers have dominated the government since 1952 and intend to maintain their power against the Muslim Brotherhood they have suppressed since 1954. The writer is director of the Middle East Forum and a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution. He lived in Egypt for three years. (Washington Times)
  • Iran Views the Egyptian Revolution as the Direct Continuation of Khomeini's Revolution - IDF Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Iran perceives the Egyptian revolution as the direct continuation of the Islamist revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini. In Tehran's view, the events in Egypt validate Iran's political doctrine, according to which "true Islam" is the only alternative to the decades-long American hegemony in the Middle East. Iran will exploit the current changes to advance its Islamic agenda in order to deepen Israel's isolation in the region and will try to bring about the termination of the peace treaties with Israel. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Wheat Prices and Egyptian Instability - Spengler
    Egypt is the world's largest wheat importer, beholden to foreign providers for nearly half its total food consumption. Half of Egyptians live on less than $2 a day. Food comprises almost half the country's consumer price index, and much more than half of spending for the poorer half of the country. This will get worse, not better. 35% of all Egyptians, and 45% of Egyptian women, can't read. To expect Egypt to leap from the intimate violence of traditional society to the full rights of a modern democracy seems whimsical.
        Asian demand has priced food staples out of the Arab budget. As prosperous Asians consume more protein, global demand for grain increases sharply. Asians are rich enough to pay a much higher price for food whenever prices spike due to temporary supply disruptions. Egyptians, Jordanians, Tunisians and Yemenis are not. It turns out that China, not the U.S. or Israel, presents an existential threat to the Arab world, and through no fault of its own. (Asia Times-Hong Kong)

Netanyahu: We Expect Any Government of Egypt to Honor the Peace (Prime Minister's Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Knesset Wednesday:

  • "All those who cherish human liberty, including the people of Israel, are inspired by genuine calls for reform and by the possibility that it will take place. It is obvious that an Egypt that fully embraces the 21st century and that adopts these reforms would be a source of great hope for the entire world....If we have learned anything from modern history, it is that the stronger the foundations of democracy, the stronger the foundations of peace."
  • "Recent history shows us many cases in the Middle East when extreme Islamist elements abused the rules of the democratic game to gain power and impose anti-democratic regimes. It happened in Iran; it happened in Lebanon; and it happened when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip."
  • "Preserving the existing peace is vital for us. We expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace. Moreover, we expect the international community to expect any government of Egypt to honor the peace."
  • "I have said numerous times that we need real security arrangements, not only because they sustain peace, but also because they ensure our security in the event that peace unravels - and in the Middle East no one can guarantee the survival of any regime."
  • "That was and is the central issue that I discussed with President Abbas in our short conversation. Short, not because we didn't want to talk...but because he did not want to....I hope that President Abbas will regard the changes taking place in the region as an opportunity to sit down with us and discuss peace without preconditions."

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