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February 4, 2011

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Think Tank: Iran Could Make Nuclear Weapon in Two Years - Adrian Croft and Peter Apps (Reuters)
    Iran could make a nuclear weapon in two years if it wished, the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) said in a report Thursday.
    The report said Iran's current stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU) would, if further enriched, be enough for one or two nuclear weapons.
    If the 4,000 centrifuges working at Iran's Natanz enrichment plant were used for weapons purposes, and they continued to perform at their maximum output to date, "a little over a year and seven months would be required for the first bomb's worth of HEU (highly enriched uranium)," it said.
    At least six more months would be required to convert the HEU from gas form into metal and fashion it into a weapon, the report said.
    See also Iran's Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Capabilities - Mark Fitzpatrick (International Institute for Strategic Studies)

Egyptian Turmoil Could Threaten Gas Pipeline to Israel - Joshua Mitnick (Wall Street Journal)
    Turmoil in Egypt is fanning concern in Israel that a new government in Cairo might shut down the natural-gas pipeline that fuels as much as one-fourth of Israel's electricity network, based on a 20-year deal signed in 2005.
    Israel is shifting its electricity generation plants from coal to natural gas, which is cheaper and cleaner. Israel is expected to get 6 billion cubic meters, or half of its natural gas supplies, from Egypt this year.
    The other half comes from Israel's Yam Thetis offshore field, which is expected to run dry by 2014. That would leave Israel totally dependent on Egypt for gas unless infrastructure is prepared to tap the Israeli offshore field, Tamar, that was discovered in 2009.

The Mubarak Legend - Arnaud de Borchgrave (UPI)
    Hosni Mubarak was appointed vice president of Egypt by his friend and mentor President Anwar Sadat in 1975.
    As chief of staff of the Egyptian air force during the 1969-1971 War of Attrition, Mubarak's Soviet advisers informed him they had detected a gap in the Israeli radar screen around the Sinai Peninsula.
    They told him this was a golden opportunity to fly through the gap and drop a few bombs on Israeli-occupied Sharm el-Sheik. A skeptical Mubarak declined the invitation.
    Five Soviet pilots climbed into Egypt's MIG-21s and were ordered through the radar gap to bomb Sharm el-Sheik. Israeli fighters were waiting for them.
    Four of the Russian-piloted Egyptian aircraft were shot down and a Russian general was recalled to Moscow.

Hizbullah Cell Escaped in Egypt Prison Break (AFP)
    Members of a cell belonging to the Lebanese Shiite group Hizbullah and convicted of plotting attacks in Egypt were among the escapees in a weekend prison break, a security official said Thursday.
    The 22 cell members fled on Sunday along with members of the Palestinian group Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and thousands of other convicts during a mass breakout after guards abandoned their posts.

Peace Index: 68% Say Assad Not Sincere about Peace (Tel Aviv University and Israel Democracy Institute)
    A survey of the adult Jewish population of Israel conducted on Jan. 18-19 found 64.5% oppose an exchange with Syria of "the full Golan Heights for a full peace." 68% feel that President Assad is not sincere when declaring his desire for peace with Israel.
    While 71% affirm their support for negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, only 30% believe such talks will lead to peace in the foreseeable future.
    Finally, 73% are optimistic about their personal future and 62% are optimistic about the country's.

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Former CIA Director: Pollard Should Have Been Released 5 Years Ago - Gil Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    Former Central Intelligence Agency head R. James Woolsey called upon President Obama on Monday to commute the sentence of Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard.
    In an interview with Israel Television Channel 2, Woolsey said Obama should not ask for diplomatic concessions from Israel in return for Pollard.
    He said America regularly catches spies, but they don't serve 25 years in prison and that after examining the entire case and others like it, he believes Pollard should have left prison five years ago when he first called for his release.

Secular Turkish Opposition Blasts Crisis with Israel (Middle East Online-UK)
    Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of Turkey's main opposition party, said Wednesday Ankara should not have allowed the Mavi Marmara to sail to Gaza despite Israel's warnings that it would stop the vessel.
    The incident showed "how a problem can be knowingly pushed into a deadlock and relations fundamentally shaken," he said.
    "The incident, which resulted in the death of nine compatriots, started with the government issuing the permission.... The government holds responsibility," he said.
    "We do not say that what Israel did was right. Definitely, Israel should be condemned and it should apologize."

Muslim Cleric Arrested While Sneaking into U.S. - Richard Marosi (Los Angeles Times)
    U.S. border authorities have arrested controversial Muslim cleric Said Jaziri who was deported from Canada to Tunisia three years ago and was caught earlier this month trying to sneak into California in the trunk of a BMW.
    Jaziri had allegedly paid a Tijuana-based smuggling group $5,000 to get him across the border.
    The former imam of a Muslim congregation in Montreal, Jaziri backed Sharia law for Canadian Muslims and led protests over the publication of the Prophet Mohammed cartoons in a Danish newspaper in 2006.
    See also Iranian Book Celebrating Suicide Bombers Found in Arizona Desert - William La Jeunesse (Fox News)

WikiLeaks: Britain Refused to Shut Down Charity U.S. Claims Is Funding Hamas - Holly Watt (Telegraph-UK)
    According to WikiLeaks, British authorities refused to close down Interpal, the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, which is accused of aiding Hamas.
    The charity has been blacklisted in the U.S. since 2003.

Turkish Aid Ship Thriller Casts Israel as Enemy - Jonathan Head (BBC News)
    A new Turkish action movie based on last year's Israeli commando raid on a Gaza aid ship could further strain Ankara's already frosty relations with Israel. The film, "Valley of the Wolves: Palestine," has already stirred controversy for its simplistic portrayal of Israelis as brutal oppressors of the Palestinians.
    The production company, Pana Film, in 2006 made a film version of the hugely successful TV series "Valley of the Wolves" which showed the hero and his buddies exacting vengeance on a U.S. commander who had humiliated Turkish soldiers in Iraq.
    It played into the Turkish public's strong hostility to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. And it caricatured Turkey's enemies as evil, with scenes of U.S. troops sadistically torturing inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, and a Jewish-American doctor extracting human organs for sale.
    See also Critics Brand Turkish Action Movie Anti-Semitic (Deutsche Welle-Germany)

Sabeel: Anti-Zionist Agitation in Mainline Protestant Churches - Dexter Van Zile (Jewish Political Studies Review)
    Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, headquartered in Jerusalem, has been a persistent source of anti-Zionist agitation in mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. since its founding in 1994.
    The organization subjects Israel, Jews, and Judaism to intense scrutiny while remaining nearly silent about Arab and Muslim extremism in the Middle East. At Sabeel conferences, Israel is held up to a strict biblical standard of conduct while its adversaries are held to no standard at all.
    By giving its followers the sense that they are engaging in a showdown with the forces of evil embodied by Israel and its U.S supporters, Sabeel reenacts the church-synagogue rivalry documented in early Christian writings.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House, Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak's Exit - Helene Cooper and Mark Landler
    The Obama administration is discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government headed by Vice President Omar Suleiman with the support of the Egyptian military, administration officials and Arab diplomats said Thursday. Under the plan, Suleiman, backed by Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, chief of the Egyptian armed forces, and Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the defense minister, would immediately begin a process of constitutional reform.
        Mubarak himself remains determined to stay until the election in September. Yet administration officials made it clear that their preferred outcome would be for Suleiman to take power as a transitional figure. American officials have told their Egyptian counterparts that if they support another strongman to replace Mubarak - without a specific plan and timetable for moving toward democratic elections - Congress might react by freezing military aid to Egypt. (New York Times)
  • Muslim Brotherhood's Presence Grows Among Egyptian Protesters - Hamza Hendawi
    Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman on Thursday said he had invited the Muslim Brotherhood into negotiations over Egypt's future and the transition to democracy - a stunning concession to a group that the regime considers its worst enemy. The Brotherhood's strength was on display in the pitched battles on Wednesday and Thursday against government supporters who attacked the protesters' camp in Cairo's central Tahrir Square. Brothers - distinguishable by their close-cropped beards - dominated the front lines, often lining up to pray for "victory or martyrdom," before throwing themselves into the fray, hurling stones, sticks and firebombs at the attackers while shouting "God is great."
        The Brotherhood's presence among protesters has visibly grown. Their supporters were checking the ID of people coming into the square and searching them. Diaa Rashwan, a prominent Egyptian expert on Islamic groups, believes that the Brotherhood may be moving to top gear to take full advantage of the situation created by the protests. "They are a highly organized group and have been wanting to gain power for a long time," he said. "At this point in time, they have gone on a high alert and are mobilizing all their assets."  (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Muslim Brotherhood Seeks End to Israel Treaty - Eli Lake
    "After President Mubarak steps down and a provisional government is formed, there is a need to dissolve the peace treaty with Israel," Rashad al-Bayoumi, a deputy leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, said on Japanís NHTV on Thursday. (Washington Times)
  • Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman: Egypt Will Keep Peace Agreement with Israel - Christiane Amanpour
    Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman said in an interview that in a telephone call from Secretary of State Clinton, "she didn't ask that President Mubarak step down now. But I told her it was a process, and at the end of it, President Mubarak will leave."
        When asked if Egypt would uphold the peace agreement with Israel, he said: "Yes, we will have a peace agreement....We will keep it firmly and not violate it at all." Suleiman added that he would also not seek re-election as well. (ABC News)
        See also Video: Mubarak - "If I Resign Today There Will Be Chaos" - Christiane Amanpour (ABC News)
  • Turmoil Heartens U.S. Foes - Jay Solomon
    The so-called resistance bloc of nations and Islamist movements, led by Iran and Syria, believes it is increasingly on the ascent as unrest seethes in the Middle East. United in its opposition to the U.S. and Israel, this coalition is seeing many of its chief regional adversaries weakened - particularly Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II. "[The unrest] proved that the global arrogance's era of domination and control of the region has come to an end," Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said on Tehran's state television this week. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Jordan's King Meets with Muslim Brotherhood - Ethan Bronner
    Jordan's King Abdullah II, struggling to stave off growing public discontent, on Thursday met with the Muslim Brotherhood for the first time in nearly a decade, where he affirmed "that it is important for them to work together to press political reform that will increase the role of citizens in decision making," according to a statement from the royal court. The Muslim Brotherhood is estimated to have the support of 25 to 30% of Jordan's six million people. Abdullah, 49, has been paying surprise visits in recent days to poor areas and villages and ordering assistance to the families he has encountered. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. to Jewish Leaders: We Won't Recognize Muslim Brotherhood - Hilary Leila Krieger
    U.S. National Security Council adviser Dan Shapiro told Jewish leaders in a conference call on Wednesday that U.S. policy toward Egypt is not to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ties to Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization. Many in the pro-Israel community have been concerned that the waning position of Egyptian President Mubarak's regime will empower the Muslim Brotherhood and are fearful that the U.S. could contribute to its rise by viewing the Islamic group as a legitimate Egyptian political player. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza Providing Supplies to Sinai Residents - Herb Keinon
    The tunnels under the border between Gaza and Egypt are now an important lifeline of supplies for Sinai residents facing acute shortages because of the turmoil in Egypt, the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar reported Thursday. Traders in control of the tunnels have "been working for days" smuggling bread and food in the "opposite direction" because of "supply disruptions" from Cairo to Sinai. "Gaza's markets are no longer experiencing a shortage in most food" products since Israel eased the blockade of the region in June. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Battle of Tahrir Square - Melanie Lidman
    The vicious battle in Cairo's Tahrir Square that broke out on Wednesday between anti-Mubarak protesters and the supporters of the Egyptian president was a savage 16-hour melee that involved thousands of men lashing out with rocks, metal rods and their bare hands. "Everyone that stayed here last night was wounded in one way or another, so we're talking about thousands of injuries," said Alaa S., a Cairo doctor.
        Most of the side streets are cut off by giant barriers made from sheet metal stolen from a construction site and burned-out vehicles. As rumors swirled of possible breaks in the barricades on Thursday, again and again people would be encouraged to run toward the site of the break, grabbing stones from huge stockpiles of broken pavement as they ran. The mood in the square was no longer optimistic, but one of fatalism. Talk of martyrdom and heroism was rampant as the men revved up for another night of fighting. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Toward a Soft Landing in Egypt - Charles Krauthammer
    Who doesn't love a democratic revolution? Who is not moved by the renunciation of fear and the reclamation of dignity in the streets of Cairo? The Egyptian awakening carries promise and hope and of course merits our support. But only a child can believe that a democratic outcome is inevitable.
        We are told by sage Western analysts not to worry about the Muslim Brotherhood because it probably commands only about 30% of the vote. In a country where the secular democratic opposition is weak and fractured after decades of persecution, any Islamist party commanding a third of the vote rules the country. The primary U.S. objective is to guide a transition period that gives secular democrats a chance.
        Mohamed ElBaradei, who has lived abroad for decades, has allied himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. A man with no constituency allied with a highly organized and powerful political party is nothing but a mouthpiece and a figurehead, whom the Brotherhood will dispense with when it ceases to have need of a cosmopolitan frontman. (Washington Post)
  • Israel's Neighborhood Watch - Yossi Klein Halevi
    Until a decade ago, every Israeli government was committed to a security doctrine that precluded the establishment of potential bases of terrorism on Israel's borders. That doctrine has since unraveled. In May 2000, Israel's unilateral withdrawal from southern Lebanon led to the formation of a Hizbullah-dominated region on Israel's northern border. Then, in August 2005, Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza led to the rise of Hamas on Israel's southern border. As a result, two enclaves controlled by Islamist movements now possess the ability to launch missile attacks against any population center in Israel. And Iran, through its proxies, is now effectively pressing against Israel's borders.
        For Israel's policymakers, the nightmare scenario of the recent Egyptian upheaval is that Islamists will eventually assume control as the clerics did in Iran. Such a turn of events would bring to power an anti-Semitic movement that is committed to ending Egypt's peace treaty with the Jewish state. "This could be the beginning of a 1948 moment," a senior Israeli official told me, meaning that Israel could eventually face a multifront war against overwhelming odds.
        Even a relatively more benign outcome - such as the Turkish model - would mean the end of Israel's sense of security along its long southern border. And this will certainly adversely affect the Israeli public's willingness to relinquish the West Bank anytime soon. With peace with Egypt suddenly in doubt, Israelis are wondering about the wisdom of risking further withdrawals for agreements that could be abrogated with a change of regime. (Foreign Affairs)
  • How to Avoid an Iran-Like Tragedy in Egypt - Michael Rubin
    Few Egyptians will mourn Hosni Mubarak's downfall. As a guest observer at Mubarak's 2006 National Democratic Party convention, I watched as senior officials cut microphone power to party members who used their speeches to complain about economic issues. Even the army will not be sad to see Mubarak go, after he tried to force his son to be his successor against the wishes of the generals.
        A Muslim Brotherhood victory is not assured, however. Egyptians remained scarred by the Islamist violence the group encouraged in the 1990s. As tourism revenue plummeted, Egyptians felt the bite in their wallets. Likewise, while Egyptian animus toward Israel remains high, the Brotherhood's warning that "the people should be prepared for war against Israel" will turn off Egyptians who resent conscription and have no wish to see sons and husbands leave their jobs to fight at a new front. (American Enterprise Institute)
  • Hamas, the Brotherhood and Egypt - Editorial
    Hovering like a dark cloud over the demonstrations in Egypt is the memory of the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections. For critics of the Bush administration, those elections, in which Hamas scored an unanticipated win, were proof that the "freedom agenda" would only grease the way for anti-American, Islamist parties to come to power. Those who believe that a democratic Egypt is doomed to fall into the Muslim Brotherhood's hands frequently cite the 2006 elections as Exhibit A. But the lesson of those elections is that Hamas should not have been allowed to participate, not that elections should never have been held.
        If the Brotherhood wants to participate in elections, it should have to promise to play by democratic rules, respect religious and social pluralism, and honor Egypt's treaty commitments, especially to Israel. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A Quick Mubarak Exit Is Too Risky - Edward N. Luttwak
    The Obama administration, like much of the world, is not reacting to the situation in Egypt - a mostly rural country populated mainly by poor peasants. It is reacting to the media spectacle in the center of Cairo, in which huge but largely middle-class crowds have gathered to demand President Hosni Mubarak's removal. The few journalists who speak colloquial Egyptian Arabic report that among the poor majority of the population many still support Mubarak.
        Elite opinion in the West is almost unanimous that Mubarak must go now. Fears of an Islamist takeover are overblown, they argue. It is not often recalled that Hamas is simply the Gaza branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which won power by election - and now refuses to hold more elections.
        As for Israel, it is likely to lose an ally in Egypt but unlikely to face a military threat any time soon: The U.S.-equipped Egyptian armed forces could not fight a war without U.S. supplies - and it would take at least $20 billion and 10 years to re-equip them with non-U.S. weapons. The writer is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Wall Street Journal)
  • After Mubarak - Amir Taheri
    Conventional wisdom claims that only Arab despots can ensure Israel's security. In fact, all the wars against Israel were started by such despots. If Egypt becomes a democracy, it will be harder to deny the Iranian people's demand for self-determination. But if Egypt falls under Islamist domination, the mullahs still wind up losers: An Egypt governed by the Muslim Brotherhood would represent a clear and present Sunni threat to Iran's ambitions to dominate the region in the name of Shiite Islam. (New York Post)
  • Desert Storm - Yossi Melman
    For more than 30 years, Egypt has been Israel's best strategic ally in the region and part of a larger axis consisting of the U.S. and the so-called "pro-Western moderate regimes." Though Mubarak, a former commander of the air force who fought in the wars against Israel, was committed to the peace with Israel signed in 1979, he didn't allow the relationship between Egypt and Israel to prosper and be extended. Israel called it the "cold peace." But Mubarak's Egypt protected Israel's southern flank, enabling Israel to cut security budgets, enjoy economic prosperity, and divert its attention to the north, where enemies such as Hizbullah, Syria, and Iran posed much graver threats.
        More recently, secret intelligence cooperation was flourishing under the guidance of General Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief recently named vice president, who has frequently traveled to Israel for clandestine meetings with security officials. Israel and Egypt shared a mutual fear of a nuclear Iran, and a deep concern about the emergence of an Islamist entity led by Hamas in Gaza. The two regimes also saw eye-to-eye regarding efforts to uproot Sinai-based cells of al-Qaeda. (Tablet)
  • Get Ready for the Muslim Brotherhood - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    In 1985, as a teenager in Kenya, I was an adamant member of the Muslim Brotherhood. I believe it is highly likely but not inevitable that the Muslim Brotherhood will win the elections to be held in Egypt this coming September. What the secular groups fail to do is to come up with a message of opposition that says "yes" to Islam, but "no" to Shariah - in other words, a campaign that emphasizes a separation of religion from politics. The secular democrats' next challenge is the Brotherhood. They must persuade the Egyptian electorate why a Shariah-based government would be bad for them. Unlike the Iranians in 1979, the Egyptians have before them the example of a people who opted for Shariah - the Iranians - and have lived to regret it.
        The Obama administration can help the secular groups with the resources and the skills necessary to organize, campaign and to establish competing economic and civil institutions so that they can defeat the Muslim Brotherhood at the ballot box. Without effective organization, the secular, democratic forces that have swept one tyranny aside could easily succumb to another. The writer is a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. (New York Times)
  • ElBaradei's Role - Charles Levinson
    To the outside world, the leader of Egypt's anti-Mubarak revolt is a scholarly former UN official named Mohamed ElBaradei. But to the seasoned opposition leaders inside Egypt who have been at the center of the country's mass demonstrations, Mr. ElBaradei may be little more than a transitional figurehead.
        In the weeks leading up to the extraordinary uprising, a spectrum of opposition figures banded together to plan an alternative vision to the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. These people say they see Mr. ElBaradei as less of a future president than a fair and nonpartisan figurehead and an arbiter capable of refereeing their discussions. Because he has spent much of his life outside the gritty world of domestic politics, he is also seen as posing little threat to these parties should they begin the hardnosed business of vying in earnest for power. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Egyptian Military and the Fate of the Regime - Jeffrey White
    The Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF) is perhaps the key actor in the current crisis. Since the Egyptian revolution of 1952, the military has played a key role in domestic political life. Every president since the revolution has been a military man, and military officials, active or retired, have occupied key positions in the government throughout the country's modern history. The military is not immune to penetration by external political forces, especially radical Islamism. Several plots against the regime, including the assassination of President Anwar Sadat, have been based in the military and influenced by radical Islamist ideas. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel Faces Danger in Every Direction - David Horovitz
    Egypt's blink-of-an-eye descent into instability underlines afresh the uniqueness of Israel, that embattled sliver of enlightened land in a largely dictatorial region. Those who like to characterize it as the root of all the Middle East's problems look particularly foolish: the people on the streets aren't enraged by Israel, but because their countries are so unlike Israel, so lacking in the freedoms and economic opportunities that both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs take for granted.
        For a generation, Israel has been trying to widen the circle of normalization - to win acceptance as a state among states. We made peace with Egypt, then with Jordan. We built ties with Morocco and the Gulf. We have reached out to the Syrians and Palestinians. Now, for the first time in more than 30 years, we see that momentum reversing. We see that all our borders are now "in play" - that the Israel Defense Forces must overhaul their strategy to meet the possibility of dangers in every direction. The writer is editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post. (Telegraph-UK)

  • The Arab World

  • Arab World Protesters Are Proving Their Regimes Are Illegitimate - Raphael Israeli
    In the Arab world sovereignty rests with absolutist or semi-absolutist rulers - with military juntas who have seized power by force or presidents who were "elected" on single-candidate ballots. As they aged, some founded "republican monarchies" in which their illegitimate power is passed on to their sons, just as it is in monarchical regimes. So long as the ruler governs, the opposition sits in jail, not in parliament.
        All Arab leaders seek to justify their power, usually either by relying on Islamic law or by using anti-Israel and anti-Western ideology as a pretext to force unity against the outside world and confer political legitimacy. Thus the king of Saudi Arabia calls himself "the defender of Islam's two holy cities," while the King of Jordan, on whom Israel dubiously conferred the status of "the guardian of Al-Aqsa," uses this title to claim legitimacy and to repulse the Muslim Brotherhood, which threatens him. The author is a professor emeritus of Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
  • Exploding the Myth of Arab Exceptionalism - Elliott Abrams
    For decades, the Arab states have seemed exceptions to the laws of politics and human nature. While liberty expanded in many parts of the globe, these nations were left behind. In November 2003, President George W. Bush asked: "Are the peoples of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty? Are millions of men and women and children condemned by history or culture to live in despotism?" The demonstrations in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and Tunisia have affirmed that the answer is no. Arab nations, too, yearn to throw off the secret police, read an uncensored newspaper, and vote in free elections.
        Regimes that make moderate politics impossible make extremism far more likely. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. (Washington Post)
  • Arabs' Urge for Self-Government Shouldn't Be a Surprise - Michael Gerson
    In the name of weakening Islamism, Mubarak undermined all legitimate opposition, often forcing dissent into the radical mosque. If the alternatives to Mubarak's rule are poor, it is because he did his best to make it so. Governments that lack legitimacy - that are founded on a monopoly of heavy weapons - are inherently unstable. Dictatorships are inevitable until the moment fear lifts and they become incredible. (Washington Post)

  • Other Issues

  • Iran's Execution Binge - Irwin Cotler
    Human rights organizations report that in January 2011 alone, Iran has executed at least 65 people, while another 43 executions took place in the 10 days before the new year. This is a rate of about one person every eight hours Iran is engaged in a wholesale assault on the rights of its own people, including a state-orchestrated wave of arrests, detentions, beatings, torture, kidnappings, disappearances and executions. Initially, all of this was overlaid with Stalinist show trials and coerced confessions; but now, even that pretense has been discarded.
        Iran has imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the world; and now also leads the world in per capita executions, including the execution of children. All told, Iran's government's actions constitute crimes against humanity under international law. (National Post-Canada)
  • The Importance of Bahrain - Steven Sotloff
    The tiny island nation of Bahrain has always been a particularly appealing target for Iran. The Shia there account for about 70% of the population, but are ruled by a Sunni minority. The island was under Persian rule for most of the period between 1602 and 1783. An Iranian plot in 1981 was aimed at overthrowing the Bahraini regime. Iran dispatched operatives trained in explosives to the island, who were to disguise themselves as policemen, capture senior officials and take over the radio and TV stations in order to urge the Bahraini population to revolt. Though the plot failed, a number of Iranian politicians continue to harbor hopes of overthrowing the Sunni monarchy, claiming Bahrain is the country's fourteenth province. The writer is an adjunct fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (The Diplomat-Japan)
  • Breaking What Silence? A Critical Reading of Allegations from "Breaking the Silence"
    In Breaking the Silence's (BtS) compilation Occupation of the Territories-Israeli Soldier Testimonies 2000-2010, BtS makes sweeping accusations based on anecdotal, anonymous, and unverifiable accounts of low-level soldiers. Only 30 of 183 testimonies could potentially be independently verified based on the details provided. While responses to terror and legitimate security concerns are dismissed as pretenses to "punish, deter, or tighten control over the Palestinian population," the incidents do not relate to decision-making in the army's higher echelons, but rather refer entirely to allegations of low-level infractions. Many explicitly note that misconduct was opposed and punished by officers.
        Contrary to BtS' claim that accusations of abuse are not discussed in Israeli society, alleged instances of Israeli army misconduct are widely reported in the Israeli media. Most of the funding for BtS is provided by European governments. (NGO Monitor)

  • Weekend Features

  • Muslim Dignitaries Pay Their Respects at Auschwitz - Jamey Keaten
    In a bid to fight anti-Semitism and bridge cultural rifts, a large delegation of Muslim dignitaries visited Auschwitz on Tuesday to pay tribute to the millions of Jews and others who were systematically killed in the Holocaust. The group of some 150 people included representatives from Morocco, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, as well as rabbis, Holocaust survivors and Christian representatives. "Muslims have to stand up with Jewish friends because in Europe, anti-Semitism is rising - and where there is anti-Semitism, Islamophobia is not far away," said British Mufti Abduljalil Sajid.
        The trip was organized by UNESCO, Paris City Hall, and a new anti-racism group called the Aladdin Project. The Paris-based Aladdin Project was created two years ago to raise awareness about the Holocaust and to fight racism, Islamophobia and intolerance. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Antiquities Theft Leads Archaelogists to Discovery of Ancient Church and Tunnels - Asaf Shtull-Trauring
    A church dating to the sixth and seventh centuries CE with an impressive mosaic floor has been discovered in Adullam Park in the Judean Lowlands. Tunnels were uncovered under the church containing coins, stone tools, lamps and clay vessels from the first and second century CE. Based on the finds, Israel Antiquities Authority excavators believe the tunnels were used by residents of the large Jewish community that existed at the site during the Bar Kokhba Revolt (132-135 CE). The finds were unearthed in a salvage dig at ruins known as Horvat Midras, after an antiquities robbery at the site.
        Most of the church floor was covered with a complex mosaic, much of which has been well preserved. "This is one of the most beautiful mosaics discovered in Israel in recent years," said archaeologist Amir Ganor. The designs include geometric patterns, plants and animals, including a spotted leopard, a fox, a bear, a peacock, a lion devouring an ibex, a bull and fish. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Police Find 2nd Temple-Era Coins, Jugs During Arms Raid - Yaakov Lappin
    Israel Police officers stumbled on a large stash of jugs and coins dating back from the Second Temple era in the Galilee village of Mazara on Thursday. The archeological finds were kept in a yard belonging to family suspected by police of keeping arms. A representative of the Israel Antiquities Authority dated the finds. (Jerusalem Post)

The West Must Be Wary of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood - Benny Morris (Guardian-UK)

  • Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood is playing a canny political game - and its objective - let no one doubt this - is to take power. For now, the Brotherhood will be satisfied with toppling the hated Mubarak regime. But once the election campaigning gets underway, we will see the country awash with Muslim Brotherhood activists and placards, broadcasts and sermons; perhaps even a measure of intimidation and violence.
  • The Brotherhood's aim is to take over the state through the democratic process, and is likely, as one of its first acts, to annul Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
  • It is possible that the movement will follow the model of Turkey's Islamists and try to follow democratic norms, but it is more likely, given its own history, that the Brotherhood will follow the model of Iran and the Gaza Hamas. Both have employed extreme violence to crush their potential and real rivals to maintain power.
  • The Brotherhood is anything if not patient. It has looked to take over, and "purify," Egypt since the movement's foundation by Hassan al-Banna in 1928. Given the power of its enemies and the state's institutions, the movement's leadership has traditionally advocated a non-violent route to power.
  • But observers in the West should not delude themselves. This is not a movement for which democracy has any appeal, worth or value. Its leaders see democratic processes merely as means to an end, an end that includes an end to democracy.

        See also Beware the Islamists - Editorial
    Hamas' victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections illustrated the danger of a reckless rush toward hoped-for democratic representation without first building the necessary democratic institutions - a free press; a legislature with a healthy opposition standing a real chance of coming to power; an honest judicial system not dictated by religious or ideological prejudices; and strict, effective and fair law enforcement.
        Islamists have gradually assumed control over Egypt's major professional unions, including the lawyers' syndicate. Sharia law is increasingly being applied in the courts to prosecute secular intellectuals, writers, professors, artists and journalists for purely religious "crimes" such as blasphemy and apostasy. The Muslim Brotherhood has also taken over the Teachers Training College, producing educators who disseminate radical Islamic ideas in the classrooms. Just last month Islamists attacked a church in Alexandria, massacring 23 Coptic Christians.
        And what does the Brotherhood think of the democratic process? "We accept the concept of pluralism for the time being," Mustafa Mashur, former supreme guide of the Brotherhood, noted a few years ago. "However, when we will have Islamic rule we might then reject this concept or accept it."   (Jerusalem Post)
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