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October 14, 2011

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Missing Libya Missiles Find Their Way to Gaza Border - Lama Hasan (ABC News)
    Some of the thousands of surface-to-air missiles that have gone missing since the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in Libya have now turned up just miles from the Israeli border.
    U.S. officials say there were 20,000 Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles in Libya before the uprising, and thousands have disappeared in the looting of Gaddafi's arm caches.
    According to the Washington Post, many of those Russian-made anti-aircraft weapons are being sold in Egyptian black markets, and so many are available the price has dropped from $10,000 to $4,000.
    See also Egypt's Arrests of Smugglers Show Threat of Libya Arms - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
    Egyptian Interior Ministry officials acknowledged on Thursday that they had arrested five small groups of smugglers transporting weapons from Libya, including antiaircraft missile launchers, across Egypt toward its border with Israel, raising new concerns about security in the Sinai Peninsula.
    U.S. Launches Campaign to Track Down Libyan Missiles - Mary Beth Sheridan (Washington Post)
    The U.S. is planning to dispatch dozens of former military personnel to Libya to help track down and destroy surface-to-air missiles from Gaddafi's stockpiles that U.S. officials worry could be used by terrorists to take down passenger jets.
    The weapons experts are part of a rapidly expanding $30 million program to secure Libya's conventional weapons.
    An unknown number were carted off by Libyan rebel groups and civilians who swarmed into unguarded storage areas after Gaddafi's forces were defeated.

Gaddafi's Son Mo'tassim Caught in Libya - Ahmed Seif and Barry Malone (Reuters)
    Muammar Gaddafi's son Mo'tassim, formerly Libya's national security adviser, was captured in Sirte on Wednesday while trying to escape, said Col. Abdullah Naker, the head of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council.

Egypt Says Planes Patrolling Sinai without Israel Okay (AFP)
    Egyptian warplanes are patrolling the Sinai without Israeli consent, despite a 1979 peace treaty limiting Egypt's military presence in the peninsula, Egypt's air force chief said on Thursday.
    "Sinai is our land, and we do not need permission to increase our forces on our land," said General Reda Hafiz, according to the official MENA news agency.

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The Religious Roots of Iran's Rivalry with Saudi Arabia - Vali Nasr (Washington Post)
    The most important strategic divide in the Middle East today is between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
    At issue between them is not which is more religious and truer to the spirit of Islamic law, but rather whose Islam is the true faith - Shiism or Sunnism.
    The Washington plot shows that the fundamental divide at the heart of Islam continues to shape regional politics.
    The writer is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy of Tufts University.

U.S. and Iranian Strategic Competition - Anthony H. Cordesman, Bradley Bosserman, Jordan D'Amato, and Andrew C. Gagel (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
    It is increasingly doubtful that sanctions and negotiations will change Iran's behavior, that sanctions can be expanded to cripple Iran's energy sectors, or that arms control options will become anything other than an extension of diplomatic warfare.
    There are no political or diplomatic options that can force Iran to change.
    At the same time, one should not ignore the reality that Iran's internal politics offer real hope that a more moderate and pragmatic regime may eventually emerge.
    Patience, sanctions, and diplomacy do offer hope of buying time in allowing such change.

From Anti-Semite to Zionist - Kasim Hafeez (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    Until recently I was anti-Semitic and anti-Israel. Until recently, I was the one doing the hating.
    Growing up in a Muslim community in the UK, I was exposed to materials condemning Israel, painting Jews as usurpers and murderers.
    There was also constant, casual anti-Semitism around me. My father would boast of how Adolf Hitler was a hero, his only failing being that he didn't kill enough Jews.
    What changed? In Waterstones one day I found myself in the Israel and Palestine section where I picked up a copy of Alan Dershowitz's The Case for Israel.
    I decided to buy it, eagerly awaiting the chance to deconstruct it so I could show why Israel had no case.
    As I read Dershowitz's systematic deconstruction of the lies I had been told, I felt a real crisis of conscience. I couldn't disprove his arguments.
    I decided to visit Israel to find the truth. I was confronted by Jews and Arabs living together, by minorities playing huge parts in all areas of Israeli life.
    It was shocking and eye-opening. This wasn't the evil Zionist Israel that I had been told about.
    It is time to stem the tide of Israel bashing before it becomes even more mainstream and consumes even more people like me.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Says Facts Support Accusation of Iranian Plot - Helene Cooper
    President Obama vowed on Thursday to push for what he called the "toughest sanctions" against Iran, saying that the U.S. had strong evidence that Iranian officials were complicit in a plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Obama insisted that American officials "know that he [the alleged Iranian-American perpetrator] had direct links, was paid by, and directed by individuals in the Iranian government." "We would not be bringing forward a case unless we knew exactly how to support all the allegations that are contained in the indictment." Obama promised to "apply the toughest sanctions and continue to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and pays a price for this kind of behavior."  (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Talks Tough to Iran, But Holds Off on Harsher Moves - Mark Landler and Helene Cooper (New York Times)
  • Intelligence Links Iran to Saudi Diplomat's Murder - David Ignatius
    U.S. and Saudi officials believe Iranian operatives were behind the May 16 murder of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi, Pakistan - adding more evidence that Tehran has engaged in high-risk covert actions beyond the allegations of a Washington assassination plot made in a Justice Department indictment Tuesday. Hassan al-Qahtani, a Saudi security official working at their consulate in Karachi, was gunned down in July about 200 feet from his office by a man on a motorbike. A Saudi official said Thursday that his country and the U.S. agree that Iran's Quds Force was involved in the Karachi killing. The official said that Pakistani intelligence had identified the killer as a member of the Shiite dissident group known as Sapih Mohammed, which has connections with the Quds Force.
        The Saudi official also said that Gholam Shakuri, the Quds Force official named in Tuesday's indictment, was an important Quds Force case officer who had helped organize militant Shiite protesters in Bahrain. (Washington Post)
        See also Text of Indictment in Iranian Plot to Murder Saudi Ambassador (U.S. Department of Justice)
  • Militants Aided by Iran Fired at American Forces in Iraq - Michael S. Schmidt
    Militants trained and financed by Iran's Quds Force attacked U.S. forces in Iraq on Wednesday, American officials said. The militants fired rockets at American forces at Contingency Operating Station Garry Owen in the southern province of Maysan, which borders Iran. The military said three soldiers were wounded in the assault.
        The Quds Force has one goal, according to the officials and analysts: weakening Iraq so it is even more dependent on Iran. "The Quds Force is the Iranian government's arm that deals directly with Iraq," said Kenneth M. Pollack, an expert on national security issues at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Since 2006, all of Iran's relations and operations in Iraq have been in the Quds Force's portfolio."  (New York Times)
  • U.S. Accuses Syrian-Born Man of Spying on Anti-Assad Dissidents - Del Quentin Wilber
    Mohamad Anas Haitham Soueid, 47, has been accused of gathering information about people protesting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and passing it along to Syrian intelligence officials. The Syrian-born naturalized U.S. citizen sought to "undermine, silence, intimidate, and potentially harm" those protesting the Damascus regime, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed Wednesday. Soueid e-mailed about 20 audio and video recordings of anti-government protests and conversations with protesters in the U.S. to a Syrian intelligence official. (Washington Post)
        See also Indicting a Syrian American: Diplomatic Implications - David Schenker
    Soueid's indictment is a significant sign of progress in the FBI investigation of allegations that Syrian ambassador to Washington Imad Mustafa and his staff "threatened or harmed" Syrian Americans. It is all but assured that additional Americans and/or Syrian nationals will be charged. Syrian embassy personnel may find themselves implicated in the conspiracy. In fact, the indictment mentions at least one embassy "official" with whom Soueid had contact. It may be Mustafa himself. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • The Prisoner Exchange - Initial Report
    Information about the first 450 Palestinian terrorists to be freed in exchange for Gilad Shalit: 110 will be released to Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Half will be subject to security restrictions. Among them are 57 Hamas terrorist operatives. During negotiations the final number of terrorists released to Judea and Samaria was reduced from 200 to 110. Most of the 6 Israeli Arabs to return to their homes have already served long sentences or are no longer young.
        25 of the 27 women terrorists will be permitted to return to their homes. Two will be deported: Amna Muna, responsible for the seduction, abduction and murder of Israeli teenager Ofir Rahum, 16, whom she met on the Internet in 2001, and Ahlam Tamimi, who drove the suicide bomber who blew himself up at the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem in 2001 in an attack that killed 15 people. Among those to be released in the first stage are 279 prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment. (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
  • Hamas: Shalit Won't Be Last Soldier We Kidnap - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas has warned that Gilad Shalit will not be the last soldier that it will kidnap. Abu Obaida, spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas, Izzadin Kassam, said Wednesday that IDF soldier Gilad Shalit "will not be the last soldier kidnapped by Hamas as long as Israel keeps Palestinian prisoners detained." He said his forces were committed to all the prisoners that remain in Israeli prisons and their release will be Hamas' top priority. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    The Prisoner Exchange with Hamas

  • The Reasons for Hamas' "Flexibility" on Shalit Swap - Herb Keinon
    The framework deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit - 1,000 for one - is pretty much the same one the German mediator put on the table two years ago. What changed are some of the key names on the list, and where the Palestinian prisoners will go after their release. Once Hamas took some "mega-terrorists" off the list and agreed that 203 of the prisoners from the West Bank would not be returning home, but instead be deported either to Gaza or abroad, Netanyahu agreed that six Israeli Arabs would be included in the deal, and that all 27 women would be released.
        At Tuesday's cabinet meeting, the ministers were presented with three reasons for Hamas' "flexibility." The weakened position of Syria, where Hamas has its headquarters, means it needed to start worrying about where it can move. Finding another host country, according to assessments in Jerusalem, might be more complicated as long as it continued to hold Shalit. The cabinet was also told that the changes in Egypt have had a huge impact on Hamas, giving the Egyptians a degree of leverage over the organization that President Hosni Mubarak never had. Egypt pressed Hamas to moderate its position, and Hamas responded. Finally, the cabinet was told that Israel's recent stiffening of the prison conditions for security prisoners also had an impact. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Freeing Gilad Shalit: Everyone's Son - Yossi Klein Halevi
    I opposed the demand that the Israeli government release as many terrorists as it takes to bring Gilad Shalit home. If the deal went through, any potential terrorist would know it was just a matter of time before he'd be freed in the next deal for the next kidnapped Israeli. Even those who supported the campaign to free Gilad Shalit must be sobered by the erosion of Israeli deterrence.
        The Shalit dilemma set our parental responsibilities against our responsibilities as Israelis - one protective instinct against another. The prime minister's job is to resist emotional pressure and ensure the nation's security; a father's job is to try to save his son, regardless of the consequences.
        Hamas leaders are boasting of victory. If so, it is a victory of shame. Hamas is celebrating the release of symbols of "resistance," not of human beings. Hamas' victory is an expression of the Arab crisis. The Arab world's challenge is to shift from a culture that sanctifies honor to a culture that sanctifies dignity. Honor is about pride; dignity is about human value. Hamas may have upheld its honor; but Israel affirmed the dignity of a solitary human life. (Tablet)
  • It's Not about the Price - Hirsh Goodman
    There is undeniable logic that the price Israel had to pay, 1,000:1, ostensibly sends a message of weakness to Israel's enemies, and stokes fears that it could only encourage more kidnappings. There are serial killers among those being released, who in many other democracies would have lost their heads a long time ago, and who will now be technically free to plan more murders.
        That is all true. But this is not about the price. What it is about is that Israel never leaves a wounded soldier in the field, that its servicemen and women know that no effort will be spared to get them back. What stronger message of national strength and unity could Israel send? It is a fallacy to see the exchange as weakness.
        There also was no military option. It was not a question of intelligence. Even if Israel knew exactly where Shalit was being held (and one assumes Israel did, as Gaza is a very small place), according to someone who I guarantee knows these things, there was no chance of extricating Shalit alive and without Israel sustaining serious casualties in the effort. And Hamas could kidnap another Israeli soldier with or without Shalit incarcerated. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ya'alon: My Heart Said "Yes," My Head Said "No" - Gil Hoffman
    Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon released the speech he made to the cabinet Tuesday in which he explained his vote against the prisoner exchange with Hamas. "On the one hand, we have a responsibility for Gilad - the need to save his life and redeem a captive. But to bring about his release, we would have to free 1,000 terrorists. From experience, we know that the terrorists we release will lead to the murder of dozens and maybe hundreds of Israelis." He noted that the terrorists released in the 1985 prisoner exchange led the First Intifada and were directly responsible for the deaths of 178 Israelis and indirectly for many more. (Jerusalem Post)

  • The Iran Terror Plot

  • Assassination Plot Serves as a Warning about Tehran - Editorial
    The FBI's charging documents outline some substantial evidence, including the transfer of $100,000 to a bank account that Mansour Arbabsiar believed belonged to a Mexican cartel member. The FBI also recorded phone conversations between Arbabsiar and a man in Tehran he identified as an operative of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. What's more, the alleged plot is not a large leap from Tehran's past acts.
        The Obama administration can hardly be suspected of manufacturing this story to seek out a confrontation with Iran. In fact, its evident eagerness to curtail U.S. military operations abroad may have encouraged some in Tehran to believe that an attack on U.S. soil would not risk a serious response. (Washington Post)
  • When Tehran Attacks - Emanuele Ottolenghi
    The Pentagon clearly sees the Qods Force as an integral part of the Iranian regime. The Qods Force are no more independent in their actions than the Navy SEALs would be in theirs. To doubt the Iranian regime's responsibility in the thwarted attack is to misunderstand its nature, or to somehow fall prey to the delusion that when an Iranian connection appears behind a terror plot, its perpetrators have gone rogue or are acting on behalf of some dark faction to undermine a nonexistent "moderate" camp within the regime.
        Of course, the Qods Force is rogue, but no more so than the regime that directs its actions. Moreover, all members of the Iranian government are fundamentalists. The differences between them are tactical, and the only question about the thwarted plot in Washington is why the regime chose to escalate matters now - not whether the regime was behind it. Iranian agents couldn't have carried out such an operation unless core members of Iran's leadership, likely including Khamenei himself, had given them their blessing. The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the author of Pasdaran: Inside Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards' Corps (FDD Press, 2011). (Wall Street Journal)
  • Why Would the Iranians Undertake Such a Risky Operation? - David Ignatius
    If the Iranians planned to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, why would they delegate the job to Mansour Arbabsiar, an Iranian American former used-car dealer, and a hit team drawn from a Mexican drug cartel? But over months, officials at the White House and the Justice Department became convinced the plan was real, as the CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informant's allegations and showing that the plot had support from the top leadership of Iran's Quds Force. It was this intelligence collected in Iran - not tips from someone inside the Mexican drug mafia - that led the Treasury Department to impose sanctions Tuesday on four senior members of the Quds Force who were connected to the plot - Qassem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, and three deputies. (Washington Post)

  • Other Issues

  • What Will Iran Do If Assad Falls? - Dore Gold
    If the Iranians lose their Syrian bridgehead to the Arab world, do they have an alternative? There is a view that the Iranians are considering to make Jordan a new center of influence in the Arab world. The demography of Jordan has begun to change as a result of the 2003 Iraq War. Nearly a million Iraqi refugees have entered Jordan in the last eight years including several hundred thousand Iraqi Shiites. Most Iraqi Shiites are loyal to their own religious leaders, like Ayatollah Sistani, and not to those of Iran. But Tehran can be expected to seek to exploit this population and make it a target for its propaganda and influence.
        The Iranians often invest in Shiite shrines as a means of building positions of influence, especially those connected to the family of Ali, who was Muhammad's son-in law, and is regarded by Shiites as his rightful successor and as the first imam. In Damascus they built up the shrine of Ali's daughter, Zaynab, as a center for Shiite pilgrimage. These shrines are not only religious centers. According to U.S. court documents it was at the shrine of Zaynab where the head of Saudi Hizbullah, who came from the Saudi Shiite town of Qatif, recruited operatives for the Khobar Towers attack in 1996 that killed 19 U.S. Air Force personnel and wounded 372 other Americans.
        In Jordan, there is an Iranian-funded shrine for Ali's brother, Jafar, near Karak, about 150 km. south of Amman. Thousands of Iraqis and Iranians visit Shiite shrines that are in Jordan. They also revere and visit the tombs of the companions of Muhammad, who led Islam's earliest battles against the Byzantines. There have been reports that Iraqi Shiites have been purchasing properties near some of these shrines. In 2006, the radical Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr came to visit the Shiite shrines of Jordan. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Does Not Stand Alone - Michael Oren
    Is Israel really more isolated now than in the past? In fact, Israel is significantly less isolated than at many times in its history. Israel has peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan; excellent relations with the nations of Eastern Europe as well as Greece, India and China; and an unbreakable alliance with America. Many democracies, including Canada, Italy and the Czech Republic, stand staunchly with us. Israel has more legations abroad than ever before and recently joined the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which comprises the most globally integrated countries.
        Israel is not responsible for the upheavals in the Arab world or for the lack of freedom that triggered them. Israelis did not elect Turkey's Islamic-minded government or urge Syria's army to fire on its citizens. Conversely, no change in Israeli policies can alter the historic processes transforming the region. Still, some commentators claim that, by refusing to freeze settlement construction on the West Bank and insisting on defensible borders and security guarantees, Israel isolates itself. The settlements are not the core of the conflict. Arabs attacked us for 50 years before the first settlements were built. Netanyahu froze new construction in the settlements for an unprecedented 10 months, and still the Palestinians refused to negotiate. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (Washington Post)
  • Peace Is Not a Unilateral Decision - Ari Alexenberg
    UN Resolution 181 in 1947 recommended that British-mandated Palestine become two states, a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state." It called for an "Arab state," not a Palestinian state, because the notion of a Palestinian people didn't exist before 1948. Netanyahu, in his speech to the UN, explicitly stated he will accept a state for the Palestinian people alongside Israel. The Israelis have shown a remarkable willingness to compromise, agreeing to cede land that is the heart of Jewish civilization dating back thousands of years, for the sake of peace. Giving the Palestinians statehood without their acceptance of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people portends the continuation of the conflict, not the end. Peace is not a unilateral decision, it is a partnership. The writer is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New Hampshire. (Seacoast Media [NH])

The Trouble with Turkey - Michael Rubin (National Review)

  • American officials can no longer say that America's relationship with Turkey bolsters national security. Just one year ago, the Turkish air force held secret war games with its Chinese counterparts without first informing the Pentagon. Erdogan has also deferred final approval of a new NATO anti-missile warning system. Meanwhile, Hakan Fidan, Turkey's new intelligence chief, makes little secret of his preference for Tehran over Washington. Moreover, Erdogan's anti-Israel incitement has propelled Turkey to a leadership role within the Islamic bloc at the expense of the Middle East peace process.
  • Turkey's break from the West was the result of a deliberate and steady strategy initiated by Erdogan upon assuming the reins of government. In hindsight, Erdogan's true agenda should have been clear. As Istanbul's mayor, Erdogan declared in 1994, "I am a servant of sharia (Islamic law)." The following year he described himself as "the imam of Istanbul."
  • No sooner had Erdogan's AKP party taken office than statistics provided by Turkey's central bank showed an influx of more than $4 billion into Turkey. A retired Turkish budget official attributed that figure to funds brought into Turkey off-books from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf emirates. By 2006, Turkish economists estimated that this infusion of Islamist cash into the Turkish economy could be between $6 billion and $12 billion. Some Turkish intelligence officials privately suggest that Qatar is currently the source of most subsidies for the AKP and its projects.
  • Turkey has changed irreversibly and has become a danger and a liability to the U.S. As Erdogan has consolidated control of the media, his government has fed Turks a steady diet of anti-Americanism and religious incitement. As Erdogan approaches the end of his first decade of rule, the question for American and European policymakers should not be whether Turkey should join the EU, but whether it even belongs in NATO.

    The writer is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
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