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September 12, 2011

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Ten Years after 9/11 Tony Blair Says Iran Is a Greater Enemy to the Civilized World than Al-Qaeda - Richard Hartley-Parkinson (Daily Mail-UK)
    Tony Blair has said that he believes regime change in Iran is necessary and there needs to be military intervention if it acquires nuclear weapons capability.
    While al-Qaeda poses a significant threat to people across the world, he believes the bigger evil is Iran which "support groups that are engaged with terrorism and the forces of reaction."
    Speaking ahead of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the former prime minister said that for the sake of international security, President Ahmadinejad must be ousted from power. "If Iran were to acquire nuclear weapons capability, it would destabilize the region very, very badly."
    Mr. Blair, who is now peace envoy for the Middle East, blames Iran for the lengths of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts - wars that he led the UK into alongside America.

Was Iran Behind 9/11? - Ronen Bergman (Ynet News)
    In U.S. National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade are tens of thousands of conversation records pertaining to ties between Iran's intelligence service and al-Qaeda from the 1990s to the eve of the 9/11 attacks, including 75 intelligence documents characterized as critical to understanding the relationship between Tehran and al-Qaeda.
    Ellen Saracini is the widow of pilot Victor Saracini, the captain of the Boeing jet that took off from Boston aboard United Flight 175, which was crashed into the southern twin tower. She approached attorney Thomas Mellon, who specializes in lawsuits against large corporations.
    They drafted a huge lawsuit, recently submitted to the Manhattan District Court, that charges that the responsibility for the 9/11 attacks lies not only with al-Qaeda, but also with Iran and Hizbullah.
    In the 1990s, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian jihadist who became al-Qaeda's chief strategist, Bin Laden's deputy and successor, sent many of his men to train in Iranian camps, mostly under the guidance of Lebanese Hizbullah members led by Imad Mughniyah.
    The current trial includes testimony by then-FBI Director Louis Freeh, who asserts that the attack was an Iranian initiative carried out by Hizbullah in conjunction with al-Qaeda. Senior CIA officials said that the NSA possesses intercepted Bin Laden conversations that prove a direct link to the attack.
    The material gathered for the trial includes testimonies by three Iranian intelligence establishment defectors. Witness X testifies about Iran's advance knowledge of the plan to crash passenger airliners into strategic targets in Washington and New York. He testifies that he was present at training facilities for Sunni terrorists in Iran.
    Witness Y testifies about Imad Mughniyah's personal involvement in training the September 11 hijackers and the shelter granted by Iran to al-Qaeda's men after the attacks.
    Witness Z says he was present in meetings in Tehran involving senior al-Qaeda men, local intelligence officials and Mughniyah's men in the months before the 9/11 attacks.

Shots Fired from Egypt toward IDF Vehicle on Israel Border - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    Shots were fired from Egypt across the border with Israel on Sunday at an Israel Defense Forces vehicle near the site of last month's terror attack in which eight Israelis were killed.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Requests U.S. Help after Protesters Attack Embassy in Cairo - Michael Birnbaum and Ingy Hassieb
    Israel airlifted its ambassador home and sought U.S. intervention with Egypt to help secure its embassy in Cairo on Saturday, hours after thousands of Egyptian protesters besieged the building. They knocked down a 12-foot concrete wall that had been built last week to protect the embassy, which is near the top floor of a 21-story residential building.
        Israeli officials described tense hours Friday night during which Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke by phone with President Obama to seek help in protecting the embassy and extricating six Israeli security guards trapped inside when a mob broke through an outer door into the public reception and consular affairs area. Netanyahu was also in contact with the Egyptian chief of intelligence, Gen. Murad Muwafi, a member of the ruling military council. "The rioters were literally a door away" from the security guards, said one Israeli official. "There was very real concern for their safety and their lives."
        After tear gas was used to disperse the protesters, the Israeli guards were eventually extricated by Egyptian commandos and escorted to the airport, where they flew back to Israel on an Israeli air force plane. An Israeli official said "we know" that American intervention with the Egyptian authorities helped "stabilize the situation and get our people out." Diplomats in Cairo voiced concern, wondering whether their own embassies were secure. (Washington Post)
        See also Photos: Israeli Embassy under Attack in Cairo (Guardian-UK)
        See also Angry Crowd Turns on Journalists Reporting Embassy Attack in Egypt - Ivan Watson (CNN)
        See also Muslim Brotherhood Justifies Assault on Israeli Embassy - Steven Emerson (Investigative Project on Terrorism)
        See also Iran Praises Raid on Israel's Embassy - Najmeh Bozorgmehr
    The Islamic regime in Tehran has welcomed the ransacking of the Israeli embassy in Cairo, comparing it to Iran's takeover of the U.S. embassy more than 30 years ago. Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iran's supreme leader on international affairs, called the Israeli embassy in Cairo "the den of espionage."  (Financial Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Pledges Allegiance to Treaty with Egypt - Herb Keinon
    Israel will continue to adhere to the peace treaty with Egypt, which serves the interest of both countries, Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Saturday. Netanyahu said President Obama "said he would do everything he could" to extricate the six security guards trapped inside Israel's Cairo embassy, "and did." "He used all the means and influence of the U.S., which are significant, and I think we owe him a special thank you."
        He also gave credit to the plainclothes Egyptian commandos who went into the building as part of the mob, who rescued the six security guards. "Their intervention prevented a tragedy," Netanyahu said. He also voiced appreciation to the Egyptian information minister who condemned the attack and pledged that Israel would continue to preserve the peace with Egypt. He also said that in light of what was happening in the region, many more people "understand much better our justified determination to safeguard Israel's security needs in any future agreement."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Statement by PM Netanyahu Following the Events in Cairo (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Egyptian Leaders Did Not Respond to Israel at Start of Crisis - Attila Somfalvi
    During the attack on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to reach the head of the ruling Supreme Military Council Mohammed Tantawi by phone, but the Egyptians said they were "unable to locate him."  (Ynet News)
        See also Embassy under Siege
    Several hours into the protest in Cairo, the mob succeeded in breaking two of the three doors that led to the security room at the embassy. When the mob reached the final door, the guards could hear loud bangs on the door. At a certain point as the rioters moved closer, the guards fired warning shots. This apparently caused the mob to move elsewhere. The Israeli guards were eventually rescued by Egyptian commandos who instructed them to wear Arab keffiyehs and Muslim garments as camouflage. (Ynet News)
  • Egypt Arrests 111 over Israel Embassy Riots - Roee Nahmias
    The Egyptian military police on Sunday arrested 92 additional people suspected of involvement in the riots at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo, bringing the number of detainees up to 111. Senior political sources in Israel said the events "were a test for the Higher Military Council in Egypt. They don't want to confront the rioters, but they cannot ignore the chaos they created." "Reinstating the emergency laws are a sign that they know they must gain control over the chaos. Israel is maintaining the defense establishment's dialogue with Egypt on various levels, on recent events and on other security-related issues, like the situation in Sinai."  (Ynet News)
        See also Some Egyptian Reformers Reject Cairo Violence - Roee Nahmias
    One of the symbols of Egypt's revolution, Wael Ghonim, in charge of marketing for Google in the Middle East and Africa, came out on Saturday against the mob that stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo. "What we are witnessing now is contrary to what I dreamt of. We need to wake up quickly and mend our ways in order to achieve the revolution's dream," he wrote in his Twitter account on Saturday.
        In a poll on a Facebook page affiliated with the Egyptian opposition movement, nearly 63,000 of 75,000 respondents said they oppose the violence around the embassy. (Ynet News)
        See also Egyptians Distance Themselves from Embassy Attack (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • A Shameful Day for Egypt - Zvi Mazel
    The whole world saw that Egypt could not protect the safety and integrity of a foreign embassy and respect the treaties to which it is a signatory. This is not something to inspire confidence or to encourage tourists to visit at a time when Egypt needs the support of the international community for its failing economy.
        The Muslim Brothers and the ultra-nationalist movements, long repressed by the previous regime, are controlling the street and dictating their will to the army, with each fighting to shape the country their way. The naive and fearless youngsters who took to the street on Jan. 25 to demand change and better conditions have lost. Hatred towards Israel is the only common ground for the deeply divided forces battling for control in Egypt. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why Do They Hate Us? - Tomer Velmer
    According to Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a senior research fellow at the Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, "The peace between Israel and Egypt was illegitimate to begin with in the eyes of the Egyptian people. It was an agreement with the Zionists, and the majority of the Egyptian population is religious, and does not believe the State of Israel has the right to exist." "Anwar Sadat, who was a dictator, decided to act against the will of his people when he signed the peace treaty, and was assassinated as a result," Kedar said.
        "Since Mubarak was deposed, unemployment has doubled, and so has the frustration among Egyptians, who are desperately looking for a the Egyptian public turns its anger toward Israel."
        Despite the hatred toward Israel, Prof. Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University doesn't foresee a military clash with Egypt, even if public pressure continues to grow. "The Egyptian army is too preoccupied with instilling order, and has no time or willingness to prepare for war."  (Ynet News)
  • Arab Spring Increases Uncertainty for Israel - Joshua Mitnick
    Israeli leaders are struggling to navigate a Middle East in which its strategic pillar of the last few decades - a three-way axis with U.S.-allied Muslim powers - has crumbled, a day after rescuing its embassy staff from a mob in Cairo. The regional crisis reignited a debate in Israel over whether a peace push with the Palestinians would ease Israel's problems. But the prevailing opinion in the U.S. government seems to view Israel as more vulnerable and unable to influence the region.
        "The main effect of what used to be called the Arab Spring is to introduce a much higher degree of uncertainty in how Israel looks at the region,'' said Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the UN under Netanyahu. "Can anyone guarantee to Israel that most of the regimes surrounding it will be there in five years time?''  (Wall Street Journal)

The Palestinian Bid for UN Membership - David Makovsky (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • On Dec. 15, 1988, 104 UN member states - a two-thirds majority at the time - voted in favor of General Assembly Resolution 43/177, which "acknowledged" the Palestinian declaration of statehood made the previous month. The U.S. and Israel voted against it, and 36 members abstained. The resolution stipulated that the Palestine Liberation Organization observer would henceforth be referred to as "Palestine."
  • Abbas' motivations for pursuing the current UN initiative cannot be divorced from this year's Arab upheavals, which seem to have pushed him toward the UN as a means of avoiding a popular rebellion. Moreover, Palestinians recognize that they cannot afford to rely exclusively on Arab support and initiatives at the moment because neighboring regimes are preoccupied with their own survival.
  • Israel views the UN track as inherently contradictory to the negotiations track. It also views the UN bid as a breach of the Oslo Accords, which stipulated that neither side would endeavor to change the status of the West Bank. Israel views the Palestinian move as an attempt to short-circuit peacemaking and gain the prize of an independent state without making the difficult concessions that a peace agreement would require. In fact, the Israeli government suspects that Abbas is incapable of making such concessions.
  • In July, 407 of the 435 members of the House of Representatives voted to suspend congressional aid to the PA should it proceed with the UN plan. At the same time, 87 of 100 members of the Senate passed a similar resolution. Because the U.S. is the PA's largest individual donor, a suspension of congressional aid would drastically impair its functioning.
  • Washington should make clear to the PA that any General Assembly resolution must include certain key elements if it is to avoid harming U.S.-Palestinian relations:
    • The Palestinians will gain the powers of statehood only after mutually satisfactory bilateral negotiations with Israel.
    • There will be no option allowing the Palestinians to go to the International Criminal Court as a vehicle for redressing their political grievances.
    • The demarcation of borders should occur at the negotiating table and as part of a broader peace package, not within a unilateral statehood resolution.

    The writer is director of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at The Washington Institute.

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