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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
December 6, 2011

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Saudis May Seek Nuclear Weapons (Gulf Daily News-Bahrain)
    Saudi Arabia may consider acquiring nuclear weapons, its former intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal said Monday.
    "It is our duty towards our nation and people to consider all possible options, including the possession of these [nuclear] weapons," Prince Turki told a security forum in Riyadh.
    Abdul Ghani Malibari, coordinator at the Saudi civil nuclear agency, said in June that Riyadh plans to build 16 civilian nuclear reactors in the next two decades at a cost of $80 billion.

Argentina Flirts with Iran as West Watches Nervously - Louis Charbonneau (Reuters)
    Argentina is quietly reaching out to Iran, UN diplomats say. Argentine exports to Iran soared more than 70% last year to $1.5 billion, and Iran is the biggest buyer of Argentine corn.
    "As the rest of us work to pressure Iran to end its nuclear weapons program and stop supporting terrorism, Argentina's government has been considering moving in the opposite direction," a European envoy said.
    "We see a 'Third Worldism' in Argentina's foreign policy - asserting independence from the big powers, seeking out new relations with countries like Iran," said an Israeli official in Jerusalem.
    See also Iran Tries to Gain Sway in Latin America - Martin Arostegui (Wall Street Journal)
    In Venezuela, Iran says it has signed 70 joint venture deals valued at up to $17 billion in industries like energy, construction and fisheries, and including a factory to assemble cars and tractors.
    Iran has announced an additional $1 billion in joint venture deals with Bolivia, though to date, Iran's total investment in Bolivia is less than $10 million, according to Bolivian government sources.
    Iran has almost doubled its number of diplomatic missions in Latin America to 11 in recent years by opening up embassies in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Nicaragua and Uruguay, says the State Department.
    Iran has tried to attract Latin American engineers to work in its nuclear projects through a scholarship program offered to students in Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela, say people who have participated in the program.

The Missile Threat from Gaza: From Nuisance to Strategic Threat - Uzi Rubin (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
    The Gaza rocket offensive against Israel has continued for ten years.
    In November 2009, Hamas first tested a rocket with a range that could reach Tel Aviv. The two rounds of escalation in April and August 2011 affected close to one million people.
    It is probable that Hamas rockets could soon attack civilian and military targets in central Israel, including Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion Airport and air force bases in the south.
    What began as a mere nuisance has now turned into a major strategic threat.
    From now on, any war in the periphery has the potential to quickly blow up into a war of attrition against the entire territory of Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Clinton Warns Islamist Winners in Egypt Vote
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that election gains by Islamist parties must not set back Egypt's push toward democracy. She acknowledged the success of Islamist parties in Egyptian parliamentary voting that the U.S. has praised as fair. But many of the winners are not friendly to the U.S. or its ally Israel, and some secular political activists in Egypt are worried that their revolution is being hijacked.
        "Transitions require fair and inclusive elections, but they also demand the embrace of democratic norms and rules," she said. "We expect all democratic actors to uphold universal human rights, including women's rights, to allow free religious practice."  (AP-Washington Post)
  • Hamas Quietly Scales Back Its Presence in Syria - Nidal al-Mughrabi
    Dozens of Hamas operatives have quietly returned to Gaza from Damascus as Hamas scales back its presence in Syria, diplomats said on Sunday. The Hamas delegation in Damascus, which once numbered hundreds of Palestinian officials and their relatives, has shrunk to a few dozen. Dozens of Hamas operatives and their families, who had lived in Syria since the 1990s, and others who moved there in recent years have returned to Gaza via Egypt in recent weeks.
        Hamas has refused to hold rallies in Palestinian refugee camps in support of the Assad government, angering Syria. (Reuters)
        See also Iran Threatening to Cut Hamas Funds, Arms If It Leaves Syria - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel
    Iran has threatened to cut off funds, stop supplying Hamas with arms, and suspend training if it leaves Damascus, Palestinian sources told Ha'aretz. Ha'aretz has learned that Hamas has made a decision to abandon Damascus without letting the Syrian authorities know. (Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Fayyad: Politics Not Ripe for Palestinian Statehood Bid - Taylor Luck
    Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the current political conditions within Israel, the Palestinian territories and across the world are not favorable to lead to concrete steps towards a Palestinian state, speaking at the Amman-based Columbia University Middle East Research Center on Thursday. With the EU preoccupied with the Eurozone crisis, the U.S. nearing presidential elections, and the Arab Spring bringing sweeping change throughout the region, the Palestinian cause has been pushed to the background of policy makers' concerns.
        While the PA's push has resulted in paved roads, strengthened institutions and improved services and investment climate, after two years, the political elements of an independent Palestinian state remain elusive. (Jordan Times)
  • PA Ambassador: Palestinians Reject Israel's Right to Exist - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    Adli Sadeq, the Palestinian Authority Ambassador to India, told the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida on Nov. 26, 2011: "[The Israelis] have a common mistake, or misconception by which they fool themselves, assuming that Fatah accepts them and recognizes the right of their state to exist, and that it is Hamas alone that loathes them and does not recognize the right of this state to exist. They ignore the fact that this state, based on a fabricated [Zionist] enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist."
        "Hamas, Fatah and the others are not waging war against Israel right now for reasons related to balance of power. There are no two Palestinians who disagree over the fact that Israel exists, and recognition of it is restating the obvious, but recognition of its right to exist is something else, different from recognition of its [physical] existence."  (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Two Children Die and Others Endangered Due to PA Health Ministry Policy
    The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns the decision by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to decrease transfers of patients with serious health conditions to Israeli hospitals. This decision has stopped the transfer of dozens of patients, 90% of them cancer patients, whose treatment is not available in Gaza. Two children died as they urgently needed advanced medical treatment, but the Ministry of Health transferred them to hospitals that cannot treat their diseases. (Palestinian Center for Human Rights)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Mysterious Explosions in Iran - Walter Russell Mead
    Following a series of mysterious and extremely damaging explosions at Iran's most sensitive nuclear and ballistic missile sites, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has been placed on a war footing and strategic materials are being dispersed to secure sites around the country. The Supreme Leader apparently believes that the various mishaps are an orchestrated Israeli or American-led campaign intended to soften Iran up for the final strike.
        To the degree that the U.S. is involved in these events, the ayatollah is almost surely barking up the wrong tree. This president genuinely does not want a war in Iran. As for the Israelis, it seems unlikely that anyone planning massive military strikes against Iran would begin by smaller, ground-based attacks calculated to set the country on edge and to put its defenders on high alert. (American Interest)
        See also Mysterious Blasts, Slayings Suggest Covert Efforts in Iran - Ken Dilanian (Los Angeles Times)
  • Islamists' Election Victory in Egypt Leaves Western Predictions in Shambles - Tony Blankley
    Just a few months ago leading experts were overwhelmingly predicting that all those great secular, liberal, college-educated kids with their iPhones in Tahrir Square represented the new Egypt and would bring all their wonderful values to the revolution. It was primarily those who have been writing about radical Islamic politics (and, of course, the Israelis, who can't afford to get it wrong on Muslim political habits) who warned that this was all going to end in the rise in Egypt of radical Islamist, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-American, anti-Western governance.
        In the first round of elections, the grand total for all the parties that are considered part of the liberal-secular bloc - the makers of the glorious Arab Spring democracy - was 13%.  (Washington Times)
        See also Israel on the Islamist Surge in Egypt: Told You So - Karl Vick (TIME)
  • Islamist Gains May Not Spell Real Change in Egypt - Zvi Bar'el
    Even though the Muslim Brotherhood won 40% of the vote in the first round of elections, this only guarantees them 44 of the 498 parliamentary seats that are up for grabs. It is likely that while internal policy, education and other civil issues will depend on compromise between the political parties, foreign policy and defense issues will continue to be dictated by the army.
        The Muslim Brotherhood will have to reach an understanding with the army, in order to guarantee its support. This means that relations with the U.S., Israel, Iran or Syria, considered an inseparable part of Egypt's strategic and military approach, are likely be influenced to a relatively small extent by the recent political changes. (Ha'aretz)
  • An Islamic Front in North Africa? - Zvi Mazel
    The next heads of government in Tunisia and Morocco as well as in Egypt are likely to belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. In Libya and Algeria Islamist forces are also gaining prominence. This will create a new reality throughout North Africa, a region of enormous strategic importance facing Europe's southern coast and more specifically France, which enjoys a special relationship with its former colonies - Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
        Libyan oil and Algerian natural gas are a main source of energy for Europe, and particularly for France and Italy. Trade between Europe and North Africa is considerable. It is expected that the new Islamic regimes will want to renegotiate most of the issues at stake with Europe from a position of strength. Europe will find itself opposite a coalition of regimes grounded in a common religious extremism and determined to promote a new type of relationship with the former colonial powers. The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden. (Jerusalem Post)

Egypt: The Brotherhood's Predicament - Tariq Alhomayed (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

  • Politically, the Muslim Brotherhood will soon find themselves face to face with the Camp David Accords. The Muslim Brotherhood has built their legitimacy upon opposing these accords. This means that today, the Muslim Brotherhood must say - in actions, not words - whether they want to abolish the treaty.
  • This would mean declaring war on Israel, and it is well known that the Egyptian economy cannot bear any more demonstrations, let alone wars; so will the Muslim Brotherhood, in fact, accept this treaty when they come to power? The many statements coming out of America about the ongoing communication between the U.S. and the Brotherhood suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt will not dare touch the Camp David Accords.
  • The economic situation has become a real disaster. Egypt is not an oil-producing state like Libya, which means that whoever rules Egypt - or is the strongest party there - must depend on tourism, Egypt's lifeblood. Attracting tourists requires security, and this goes against any potential violation of the Camp David Accords. Tourism also requires greater openness and freedoms.
  • If the Brotherhood manages to overcome the two aforementioned predicaments, then this will inevitably put them on course for a sharp collision with the Salafists. Yet if the Muslim Brotherhood applies the ideas they have long promoted, this means that they will lead Egypt towards wars and bankruptcy.

    The writer is editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.

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