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Panic in Egypt over Muslim Brotherhood's Call for Islamic Rule - Mohammed Hassan Shabaan (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Statements by the Muslim Brotherhood's Deputy General Guide Dr. Mahmoud Izzat about the implementation of Islamic Sharia and punishments in Egypt has aroused strong fears among the liberal and left-wing political powers.
They consider this to be a dissent from the national unanimity and a violation by the Muslim Brotherhood of its public stance and a wriggling out of the commitment to the civil state.
See also Muslim Brotherhood Leader: Amputate Hands for Theft - Sarah El Deeb (AP)
Terror Warning: Hizbullah to Attack Israelis Abroad - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
Hizbullah is planning a terrorist attack against Israelis abroad within days, Israeli security sources warned on Thursday.
Sources named Hizbullah operative Talal Hamia as the commander of the overseas unit tasked with carrying out the attack.
Hizbullah has been seeking to avenge the assassination of its field commander, Imad Mughniyeh, in Damascus in 2008.
Hizbullah has tried to carry out revenge attacks several times - in Azerbaijan, Thailand and Sinai in 2008, and in Turkey in 2009, according to foreign reports.
See also Israel and Hizbullah Prepare for War - Asaf Romirowsky and Avi Jorisch (National Interest)
Since its 2006 hostilities with Israel, Hizbullah has amassed more than 40,000 rockets, spread out over one thousand facilities in civilian areas across southern Lebanon.
Court in Egypt Orders Mubarak's Name and Picture Removed - Mona El-Naggar (New York Times)
An Egyptian court on Thursday ordered the removal of former President Hosni Mubarak's name and likeness from all public institutions.
See also Undercurrent of Discomfort with How Mubarak Has Been Treated - Michael Slackman (New York Times)
Israel Seeks 6th German Sub to Boost Navy (UPI)
Israel is pressing Germany to sell it a sixth Dolphin-class submarine at a hefty discount to boost the strategic reach - think Iran - of its navy.
The Germans, less inclined to help the Israelis than they were in the years following the Holocaust, have been reluctant to underwrite the proposal.
There are two schools of thought within Israel's defense establishment about the shape and role of the navy in coming decades.
One argues that Israel, which gets nearly all its imports including oil and raw materials by sea, will need large, long-range surface ships to keep shipping lanes open, counter Arab navies in the Mediterranean and Red seas, and mount sea blockades of Lebanon or Gaza.
The other school favors giving the navy a powerful strategic reach through a stronger submarine force, supposedly with second-strike capabilities against Iran using nuclear-tipped cruise missiles.
Man Confesses to "Jihad Operation" Murder in Nashville - Camille Mann (CBS News)
Abdullhakim Muhammad, a Tennessee State University student on trial for killing one Army soldier and wounding another outside a military recruiting station in Arkansas in 2009, claims he killed a different man in East Nashville in 2006 as part of a "jihad operation."
Israeli Scientists Training Mice for Airport Security (Telegraph-UK)
Israeli scientists have created a detector, similar looking to a full-body scanner but with three concealed cartridges each containing eight specially trained mice.
According to the New Scientist, the mice are more accurate than using dogs and x-ray machines.
When the mice sense traces of drugs, they run to a side chamber where they trigger an alarm, the magazine said.
Eran Lumbroso, the inventor, said: "It is as if they are smelling a cat and escaping. We detect the escape."
The device was tested last year on 1,000 shoppers in a Tel Aviv shopping mall when the mice successfully picked out 22 people carrying mock explosives.
High-Tech Warfare (Economist-UK)
In the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq's armed forces used American-made color photocopiers to produce their battle plans. That was a mistake. The circuitry in some of them contained concealed transmitters that revealed their position to American electronic-warfare aircraft, making bomb and missile strikes more precise.
The operation, described by David Lindahl, a specialist at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, a government think-tank, highlights a secret front in high-tech warfare: turning enemy assets into liabilities.
The Internet and the growing complexity of electronic circuitry have made it much easier to install what are known as "kill switches" and "back doors," which may disable, betray or blow up the devices in which they are installed.
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- Loyal, Secretive Security Forces Keep Syria Leader in Power - Borzou Daragahi
Unable to stem a growing popular uprising with promises of reform, ceaseless propaganda and restrictions on the news media, Syria's government still retains one powerful weapon: the solid support of a secretive web of security forces that so far show no signs of abandoning President Bashar Assad. Unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, there have been few defections in the Syrian armed forces despite a burgeoning protest movement.
"The president is chief of the armed forces just as he's president of the people," said a Lebanese army officer who has worked extensively in Syria.
"He takes part in military exercises and inspects the army. It's not like Ben Ali and Mubarak, who only had political authority." The relationship between the government and armed forces in Syria more resembles that of Libya.
As with Iran's 2009 protests, the Syrian government has also relied on mobs assigned to break up demonstrations with force.
"It is the shabiha, gangs, many of them related to the Assad family," said Yassin Haj Saleh, a prominent writer in Damascus. "They're lawless and protected in a way. They will not be arrested, not be brought to court."
Syria's 300,000-man, largely conscription army generally shares the values and political aspirations of the people. Only the 4th Armored Division, led by the president's brother Maher Assad, has been regularly deployed around the country to quell the unrest.
Hafez Assad, a member of Syria's Alawite community, recruited senior officers from the country's minority Alawite, Druze, Ismaili and Christian faiths, positioning them in a life-or-death struggle with the large Sunni Muslim majority. "The minority networks dominate the command structure," said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "They see it as an us-versus-them situation. It galvanizes them against the kind of splitting that you saw in Egypt or Tunisia."
(Los Angeles Times)
- Syria's Unrest Led by Islamists? - Dina Al-Shibeeb
The Brotherhood in Syria was formed in 1945, and was banned since the socialist Baath party took power in 1963.
According to Faysal Itani of London-based risk assessment group Exclusive Analysis, the Brotherhood is still a political force enjoying a popular base and concentrating in major Sunni urban areas such as Hama, Aleppo and Homs.
He warned that the group could gain muscle if it were provided weapons and training by Sunnis in neighboring Iraq, or disaffected soldiers and officers from the largely Sunni military in Syria.
See also Syria Seizes Weapons at Iraq Border - Nicholas Blanford
On Sunday, a refrigerator truck filled with automatic weapons, grenade launchers, sniper rifles, night-vision goggles and ammunition was seized by Syrian customs on crossing into Syria from Iraq, according to Syria's SANA news agency.
- Obama Authorizes Drone Strikes in Libya - Greg Jaffe and Edward Cody
President Obama has authorized the use of armed drones in Libya, deepening U.S. involvement in the conflict and once again putting U.S. assets into a strike role against loyalist ground forces.
- Southern Egypt Demonstrators Demand Islamic Law - Sarah El Deeb
Protesters led by hardline Islamists in Qena in southern Egypt said Monday they won't end their campaign of civil disobedience until the government removes a newly appointed Coptic Christian governor, insisting the new governor won't properly implement Islamic law, even though his predecessor was a Christian.
Since the Feb. 11 ousting of President Mubarak in popular protests, Islamist groups have been flexing their muscles and are vowing to take a more active political role. The prominent role of these ultraconservative Islamic movements, which were once politically quiescent, has worried many, including the secular activists and youth groups that were the driving force behind the uprising. (AP)
See also Dispute Over Speed Bump in Southern Egypt Turns into Deadly Muslim-Christian Clash (AP-Washington Post)
- Christians Pilgrims Fill Jerusalem's Old City for Good Friday Ceremonies
Jerusalem's walled Old City was crowded Friday with adherents of different churches and faiths as Christian pilgrims filled the cobblestone alleyways to mark Good Friday, commemorating Jesus' crucifixion in the city two millennia ago.
Thousands of international visitors and local Christians retraced Jesus' last steps down the Via Dolorosa to the ancient Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Abbas: PA Will Seek UN Security Council Recognition along '67 Lines - Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday that the PA has decided to ask the UN Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state on the 1967 lines, because the peace talks with Israel are stalled.
"We have more than 130 countries that have recognized a Palestinian state on the basis of the 1967 borders," he pointed out. "We are going to the UN because there are currently no talks with Israel."
See also Abbas Discusses International Recognition, Resistance to Israel - Marc Perelman
PA President Mahmoud Abbas told France 24 in an interview in Paris on Thursday:
"We can't say that certain organizations or countries promised to recognize a Palestinian state. But all the signs they are sending show that they are awaiting the right moment to do so. You notice that a certain number of European countries have recently sent additional delegations and official representatives to the Palestinian territories. From our side, we are already treating them like ambassadors."
Asked about resistance to Israel, Abbas said:
"A third intifada is not my preference, it's not our plan. As president of the Palestinian Authority, I've committed myself to not letting that happen. But peaceful resistance is allowed." (France 24)
See also France Weighing Recognition of Palestinian State
The French Ambassador to the UN Gerard Araud told the UN Security Council debate on the Middle East on Thursday:
"Recognition of the state of Palestine is one of the options which France is considering, with its European partners, with a view to creating a political horizon for relaunching the peace process."
- Palestinians: Right of Return Non-Negotiable - Elior Levy
Palestinian leaders stressed Thursday that they will not waive the right of return in peace negotiations with Israel following reports suggesting the White House is working on an outline for a Middle East peace plan which includes a Palestinian state without the right of return. "We oppose any U.S. peace plan which wants us to waive one of our most basic rights and that is the right of return for refugees," Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Shaath said. (Ynet News)
See also The Palestinian Refugees on the Day After "Independence" - Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Three UN Workers Injured by Gaza Mortar - Hanan Greenberg
Three UN workers were hurt near the Karni crossing Friday morning by a mortar shell fired by Palestinians in Gaza.
- Israel: New Gaza Flotilla Has Ties to Hamas, Terrorist Organizations - Shlomo Shamir
Israel warned the UN Security Council on Thursday not to allow a new flotilla to sail to Gaza, saying the flotilla organizers had "ties to Hamas and other terrorist organizations."
Israel's UN Ambassador Meron Reuben said, "Numerous participants engaged in the planning of this flotilla have made very troubling statements expressing their willingness to become martyrs in this effort." Flotilla organizers aim at "political provocation and not to advance any humanitarian goal."
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice supported Reuben's statement, saying, "There are distinct mechanisms to deliver goods to Gaza and there are no justifications to sail directly to Gaza." Germany's Ambassador Peter Witting warned that the flotilla has the potential for escalating tensions and said,
"We call on the organizations involved to find other ways to deliver aid to the people of Gaza." (Ha'aretz)
See also Turkey, the Global Muslim Brotherhood, and the Gaza Flotilla - Steven G. Merley (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Ban: Hizbullah Arms Undermine Lebanese Freedom - Jordana Horn
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued his annual report on Lebanon, denouncing the continued presence of militias threatening the country's security.
The report focuses on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1559, adopted in 2004, which calls for "the disbanding and disarmament" of all factions in Lebanon. "Armed groups defying the control of the state are incompatible with the objective of strengthening Lebanon's sovereignty and political independence," the report said. (Jerusalem Post)
See also Hizbullah Condemns Ban Ki-moon Report on Militias (iloubnan-Lebanon)
- Red Cross: No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza - Rotem Caro Weizman
"There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza," explains Mathilde Redmatn, deputy director of the Red Cross in Gaza. "If you go to the supermarket, there are products. There are restaurants and a nice beach. The problem is mainly in maintenance of infrastructure."
(Israel Defense Forces)
- Three Arabs in Nazareth Indicted for Planning Terror Attacks
Three Nazareth residents - Ahmed Ghanem, Moataz Shatawi, and Nour el-Din Shahade - were indicted Sunday for conspiring to carry out terror attacks against Israeli soldiers, civilians, and policemen. (Jerusalem Post)
- Mideast Peace Plans Imminent? Please. - Massimo Calabresi
There has been much talk of how the likely UN General Assembly recognition of a Palestinian state in September is forcing the Israelis and the Americans, who oppose the recognition, to come up with preemptive peace plans. It is easy to get the impression that serious plans that would move both sides toward peace might be in the offing. They're not. These plans are not designed to get real movement toward a peace deal and there's no real expectation that they would. They're designed to blunt the effects of September's Palestinian statehood vote.
At a time when the Arab world is being completely reoriented and support for Palestinian concessions to Israel is politically dangerous for Arab leaders, the peace plan talk "reflects a realization on the side of most that now is not the time to do something dramatic," says Rob Malley, a former NSC Middle East staffer now with the International Crisis Group.
- Quiet in the Palestinian Arena: The Eye of the Storm - Shlomo Brom
Attempts to foment protests in the PA using Internet social media
networks have not
Several reasons can explain this non-activism. First, despite the claims
that the PA is undemocratic and uses its security apparatus as a means of oppression,
the atmosphere in the West Bank is still more open than in most of the Arab world.
Second, the political storm in the Arab world is partly the result of difficult
socioeconomic conditions, with no sense of
improvement on the horizon. By
contrast, the PA has recently witnessed significant improvements in its economic
situation, and these extend to wider segments of the population.
Third, under the direction of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the level of corruption has decreased dramatically, there is more
transparency, and there is a greater sense that the government is serving the citizens,
not just the interests of the ruling elite.
In addition, anarchy in the streets has given way to law
and order. After many long years of the Second
Intifada, in which it was impossible to live a normal life, the Palestinians have lost much of their appetite for
violence, anarchy, and grinding poverty.
(Strategic Assessment-Institute for National Security Studies)
- The Death of Vittorio Arrigoni - Michael Ledeen
Vittorio Arrigoni was totally committed to the Palestinian cause. He spent most of the last three years in Gaza hailing its Hamas rulers and its citizens while tirelessly condemning everything and everyone Israeli. But in the end, he was murdered by his Palestinian comrades.
He is not the first Italian radical to fall into hostile Arab hands. A correspondent, Giuliana Sgrena, was kidnapped in Baghdad in 2005. Angelo Frammartino went to Israel in the summer of 2006 to work with Israeli Arabs, one of whom stabbed him to death at the gates of the Old City of Jerusalem. For their captors or killers, the Italians were simply targets of opportunity. The notion that they were allies or supporters, let alone friends, was totally alien to them.
See also A Pacifist? He Hated Israel - Fiamma Nirenstein (Hudson Institute-New York)
- Iran's Continuing Power Struggles - Mehdi Khalaji
The contest between Iran's two conservative factions will worsen as the June 2012 parliamentary elections approach. The usual pattern has been for the president's power to decline in his second term. If this trend continues, the most likely outcome for the 2012 elections will be defeat for those associated with Ahmadinejad. Moreover, the president is constitutionally ineligible to run for another term in 2013, and his faction would have seemingly little chance of winning that election under a different candidate. All of which suggests that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei may once again be well placed to expand his power even further. The writer is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Iran Marches Forward - Benny Morris
Against the backdrop of popular uprisings sweeping many Arab capitals, little attention is being given to the relentless, steady progress being made in Iran's massive effort to produce nuclear weaponry. International economic sanctions, spearheaded by the U.S. (and neutralized by the behavior of the Russians, Chinese, Indians and various Muslim countries, including Turkey), and covert Israeli operations have so far failed to halt the onward march of the Iranian bomb.
There are those who believe that Iran will make do with achieving a nuclear weapons production capability but will stop short of actually producing them, but this runs against the logic of Iranian policy and thinking. Iran's leaders wish to fend off Western power and influence, to dominate the Middle East and to destroy Israel - and for all these, brandishing real, fearful nuclear weapons will be much more effective than merely announcing a "capability." And once they have the Bomb, Americans and Europeans will think twice and three times about any step they take in the region.
Israel's leaders and populace will, thereafter, live in perpetual fear of Iranian nuclear assault, whether out of the blue or as the endgame in some future crisis (an Israeli retaliation against Hamas or Hizbullah, etc.). The religiously fanatical Iranian leadership may well prove undeterred by thoughts of mutually assured destruction: Maybe they believe that destroying Israel or the Jews, as desired by Allah, is worth the candle; maybe, that Allah will protect them.
- After Bashar al-Assad, the Deluge? - Robert D. Kaplan
The current unrest in Syria is far more important than unrest we have seen anywhere in the Middle East.
"Syria" was the 19th-century Ottoman-era term for a region that includes present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, western Iraq, and southern Turkey. At the end of World War I, Greater Syria was carved into a half-dozen states, while the rump French mandate of "Syria" that came into existence contained every warring sect and regional and tribal interest. Syria's self-styled "steadfast" hatred of Israel was a way for Syrians to escape their own internal contradictions - with Sunni Arabs, Shiite-trending Alawites, Druze, Kurds, Christian Arabs, Armenians, and Circassians.
Between 1947 and 1954, Syria held three national elections that all broke down more or less according to sectarian lines. After 21 changes of government in 24 years and a failed attempt to unify with Egypt, the Alawite air force officer Hafez al-Assad took power in a 1970 coup. By ruling with utter ruthlessness, he kept the peace in Syria for three decades. The writer is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. (Foreign Policy)
See also Escalating Protests in Syria Put Obama Administration in a Bind - Karen DeYoung and Scott Wilson (Washington Post)
- What Happened to the Arab Spring? - Roger Hardy
Back in January and February, it seemed that Arab dictators were falling like dominos, compared with the bloody stalemate that characterizes the region today.
In Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and Libya, the dictators are hanging on through the violent suppression of protest.
Three lessons stand out. One, all politics is local. The expression of grievances plays out differently in each country and in no two cases is the balance of forces identical.
Two, Islam is part of the picture.
In origin, the Arab uprisings were nationalistic, but religion has not suddenly disappeared.
The Islamists realize they have a unique opportunity to enter the political arena.
Western powers, not least the Obama administration in Washington, are reacting to events, not driving them. But in city after city, the barrier of fear has been breached and there can be no going back.
The writer is a visiting fellow at the Centre for International Studies at the London School of Economics.
Egypt after the Revolution - Dina Guirguis (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
The religious forces now appearing on the Egyptian political scene are not monolithic. Eight distinct "Salafist" groups can be identified, with each appealing to a slightly different segment of the population.
- Of these, the relatively left-leaning Muslim Brotherhood, for example, will likely splinter into three separate political parties: Freedom and Justice, Nahda (under the leadership of "reformer" Abdel Moneim Aboul Fattouh), and possibly Shabab al-Ikhwan (Youth of the Muslim Brotherhood), which played a key role during the revolution by participating in the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution.
- The progressive discourse emerging from various Islamist forces is particularly noteworthy. Certain leaders now say that women and Copts are viable presidential candidates, a contrast to the Muslim Brotherhood platform released in 2006.
- Despite the strong presence of Islamist groups, liberal movements continue to wield influence on the streets and are working to channel this influence into official political parties.
- As parliamentary elections approach, liberal forces' lack of grassroots organizing experience places them at a disadvantage compared to their Islamist counterparts, who worked consistently during the Mubarak era to expand their grassroots base.
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