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November 28, 2011

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Iran Threatens to Target Turkey's Missile Defenses - Ali Akbar Dareini (AP)
    Iran will target NATO's missile defense installations in Turkey if the U.S. or Israel attacks the Islamic Republic, Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards' aerospace division, said Saturday.
    "Should we be threatened, we will target NATO's missile defense shield in Turkey and then hit the next targets," he said.
    Another senior Guard commander, Yadollah Javani, threatened that Tehran will target Israel's nuclear facilities should the Jewish state attack Iran.

Syria Rebels: Assad Regime Recruiting Iranian, Hizbullah Mercenaries - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    The Syrian regime is beginning to lose control over its security forces and is thus forced to hire mercenaries from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, Free Syrian Army spokesman Ammar al-Wawi told Asharq Alawsat on Sunday.
    The mercenaries include members of Iraqi Shiite militias, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and Hizbullah, and are being deployed in military operations against rebel forces.
    See also Iraq's Muqtada al-Sadr Reported Sending Fighters to Prop Up Assad Regime - Anissa Haddadi (International Business Times-UK)
    See also Jordan Hosting 100 Syrian Deserters (AP)

Mass Rally in Lebanon Denounces Syria, Hizbullah - Omar Ibrahim (AFP)
    Tens of thousands of supporters of Lebanon's anti-Syrian opposition gathered in the Sunni stronghold of Tripoli on Sunday to denounce the regime in Damascus and its Shiite ally Hizbullah.
    The rally was organized by the Future Movement, the main opposition party headed by ex-premier Saad Hariri, to mark the 68th anniversary of Lebanon's independence.

IRGC Wins Large Tenders in Iran (MEMRI)
    Since the August 2011 appointment of former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) official Rustom Qasami to the post of Iranian oil minister, the IRGC has been awarded two large tenders, one for building a $500 million pipeline and one for a research project on underground storage of crude petroleum.
    The IRGC is also expected to win another $500 million tender connected to the oil industry.

Mysterious Explosions Pose Dilemma for Iranian Leaders - Thomas Erdbrink (Washington Post)
    A massive blast at a missile base operated by Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps nearly two weeks ago was the latest in a series of mysterious incidents involving explosions at natural gas transport facilities, oil refineries and military bases - blasts that have caused dozens of deaths and damage to key infrastructure in the past two years.
    Iranian officials said the Nov. 12 blast at the missile base was an "accident," and they ruled out any sabotage by the U.S. and its regional allies. But suspicions have been raised by a fivefold increase in explosions at refineries and gas pipelines since 2010.
    At least 17 gas pipeline explosions have been reported since last year. At the same time, nearly a dozen major explosions have damaged refineries since 2010. Four key gas pipelines exploded simultaneously in different locations in Qom Province in April.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Urges Egypt's Military to Yield Power - David D. Kirkpatrick
    The White House on Friday threw its weight behind Egypt's resurgent protest movement, urging for the first time the handover of power by the interim military rulers. "The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately," the White House said. The statement is a significant escalation of the international pressure on the generals because the United States is among the Egyptian military's closest allies. (New York Times)
        See also Islamists Strong Ahead of Egypt Poll, Unrest Seen an Asset - Tom Perry (Reuters)
        See also Muslim Brothers Victory All But Assured - Oren Kessler (Jerusalem Post)
  • Inside the Battle for Homs, Center of Resistance to Syria's Assad - Paul Wood
    A heavy machine gun was still clattering away in the pitch black as the five soldiers described how they had just deserted from the Syrian Army to join the revolution. A sixth had not made it. "We heard him screaming," said Mahmoud Ali, one of the defecting soldiers, "but we couldn't go back." They had fought their way out of their base, running under fire to reach the Bab Amr quarter of Homs. Now, people were coming out into the street to embrace them, the newest members of the Free Syrian Army.
        Earlier that day they were ordered to fire on unarmed protesters in the streets of Homs. "They gave us the order to shoot on the demonstrators," said Ahmed Daleti. "So we said 'No,' these people are peaceful. They just want freedom. We are all one people, one blood - we couldn't just shoot them."
        We had entered Syria from Lebanon with men running guns to what is a growing insurgency. Arriving in Bab Amr, we saw members of the Free Army on street corners with heavy machine guns and rocket propelled grenades. Lt. Waleed al Abdullah, one of the Free Army leaders in Homs, said that the regime would quickly crumble if there was a no-fly zone in Syria, just like the one NATO imposed over Libya. "70% of the army are ready to defect," he said. "Whole brigades with their officers; even the Special Forces."  (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Homs, Syria: Inside the City of Fear - James Harkin (Newsweek)
  • Arab League Approves Syria Sanctions
    The Arab League overwhelmingly approved sanctions Sunday against Syria to pressure Damascus to end its deadly crackdown on dissent. In Cairo, Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassim said 19 of the League's 22 member nations approved the sanctions, which include cutting off transactions with the Syrian central bank and halting Arab government funding for projects in Syria. (AP-Los Angeles Times)
        See also Syria's Neighbors May Soften Sanctions Blow - Dominic Evans and Suleiman Al-Khalidi (Reuters)
        See also Libya's New Rulers Offer Weapons to Syrian Rebels - Ruth Sherlock
    Syrian rebels held secret talks with Libya's new authorities on Friday in Istanbul, aiming to secure weapons and money for their insurgency against President Bashar al-Assad's regime. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Warns the U.S. Not to Weaken Egypt's Gen. Tantawi - Eli Bardanstein and Amit Cohen
    Diplomatic circles in Israel expressed criticism of the White House, which called on Friday for the Egyptian government to transfer the reigns of authority to a civilian government at the earliest possible time. "The U.S. is repeating the same mistake it made during the first revolution in Egypt, when it called on Mubarak to turn over the government." The Foreign Ministry is now operating through Israel's ambassadors in France, Germany, and Britain to pass a message that nothing should be done which shakes up the structure of government in Egypt and which could plunge it into a civil war. (Maariv-Hebrew-28Nov11)
  • Cairo Rally: One Day We'll Kill All Jews - Eldad Beck
    A Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo's most prominent mosque Friday turned into a venomous anti-Israel protest, with attendants vowing to "one day kill all Jews." Some 5,000 people joined the rally that coincided with the anniversary of the UN partition plan in 1947, which called for the establishment of a Jewish state. Throughout the event, Muslim Brotherhood activists chanted: "Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv, judgment day has come."  (Ynet News)
  • Israel to Rethink Defense Needs in Wake of Arab Spring - Herb Keinon
    Ill winds blowing through the Arab Spring will force Israel to rethink its overall security needs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indicated at the cabinet meeting on Sunday. "There was a lot of talk about where the Arab Spring was going," one government source said. "It appears now that it is not going in a good direction." Noted the source, who was in the cabinet meeting, "There were elections in Tunisia, and the Islamists won. There were elections in Morocco over the weekend, and the Islamists won. People here are very concerned about Egypt. It looks now as if the revolution is going in a certain direction. Wherever the Arabs vote, the Islamists are winning."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Delays Replacement of Jerusalem's Mughrabi Bridge after Egypt, Jordan Warnings - Barak Ravid and Akiva Eldar
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed the Jerusalem municipality and the Public Security Ministry on Friday to postpone for one week the demolition of the Mughrabi Bridge, which leads from the Western Wall Plaza to the Temple Mount, due to warnings from Egypt and Jordan of possible repercussions. The Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, called Thursday on Jordanian King Abdullah to dissuade Israel from replacing the ramp. (Ha'aretz)
        See also The Mughrabi Gate to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem: The Urgent Need for a Permanent Access Bridge - Nadav Shragai (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Saboteurs Blow Up Egypt Gas Pipeline to Jordan, Israel - Again
    Saboteurs blew up Egypt's gas pipeline to Jordan and Israel again on Monday for the eighth time this year. (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Farmers Launch Produce Export Season
    Gaza farmers began exporting hundreds of tons of produce to Europe on Sunday. Yousef Shaath of Gaza's Agricultural Development Association said 250 farmers hope to export 600 tons of strawberries, 350 tons of bell peppers, 160 tons of cherry tomatoes and 17 million carnations, for estimated revenues of $25 million - up dramatically from last year. (AP-Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Egypt: The Army Cannot Relinquish Power Because There Is No One to Take Over - Zvi Mazel
    The notions of dialogue and compromise are still foreign to an Egyptian society reeling after a very long period of living under a dictatorship. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has been conducting a dialogue with the Muslim Brothers from the day it took power in the hope that former and present-day officers could maintain their hold on at least a third of the Egyptian economy. Secular parties do not want the army to have a special status, but only the army can prevent the establishment of an Islamic state. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Egypt. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Continuing Chaos in Cairo Helps Extremists Who Call Themselves Al Qaeda in the Sinai Peninsula - Karl Vick
    Imagine the tribal areas of Pakistan wedged snug against, say, Belgium instead of against Afghanistan. Next imagine that Belgium, usually so good about these sorts of details, hadn't bothered to erect a border fence to at least try to keep the jihadis in their own yard. This is approximately the situation Israel suddenly faces with the Sinai Peninsula portion of Egypt, except that as a prime target of fundamentalist wrath Israel's situation actually is even more fraught. A professed affiliate of al-Qaeda, officially known as Takfir wal-Hijra or Excommunication and Exodus, has set up in the lawless expanses just west of the Israeli border. (TIME)
  • Jordan Is Boiling - Oded Eran
    Unrest has returned to the streets of Amman and the remote towns of Karak, Shoubak, and Ma'an. The south is the monarchy's base of strength, but severe problems of poverty and unemployment have driven demonstrators to violence and vandalism. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: The Victory of the Islamist Justice and Development Party in Morocco - Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The Justice and Development Party, which is identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, won the elections in Morocco held on November 26. The media's accounts of a "moderate" Justice and Development Party do not accurately reflect this party's ideology. The party's outlook, its leaders' statements, and the platform of its parent party point clearly to the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is hostile to the West and its culture and views Israel as a cardinal enemy.
  • Abdelilah Benkirane, head of the Justice and Development Party, visited Gaza in March 2009, where he said: "The inhabitants of Arab Morocco do not think there is only a duty to identify with the Palestinians, but want to wage a jihad struggle alongside them....The Moroccans see the Islamic resistance movement Hamas as the mother of resistance and steadfastness. The Moroccans very much love the Hamas movement."
  • Benkirane signed a manifesto which said: "We emphasize the right of the Muslim Palestinian people to struggle aggressively for its land...and we view this resistance as legally, Islamically mandated warfare....We regard every signature on agreements or treaties that renounce the right of struggle, or the right of return of the refugees, or the right of the Islamic identity of Al-Quds [Jerusalem] in particular and of Palestine in general, as an offense to the ummah, a deviation from its fundamental principles, and a sacrifice of its interests."
  • The party's victory in Morocco constitutes a further triumph for the Islamist movement, so soon after the victory of the Ennahda movement in the Tunisian elections. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is expected to make substantial gains in the three-stage elections that began on November 28. In Libya, the new government has undertaken to make Sharia law a primary source of legislation. In Yemen, the Islamist movements have played a central role in the revolt against the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. Earlier, in 2006, the Hamas movement - the branch of the Muslim Brotherhood - triumphed in the Palestinian Authority elections.
  • The domino effect that began with the revolt in Tunisia is coloring the Middle East green, as the Islamic revolution gradually alters the regional balance of power and, eventually, could well forge a new front to challenge the existing world order.

    Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

        See also Islamists Win Most Seats in Moroccan Vote - Souhail Karam (Reuters)

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