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January 16, 2012

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In-Depth Issues:

Syrian General Deserts, Joins Opposition in Turkey (AGI-Italy)
    Syrian General Mostafa Ahmad Al-Sheikh has deserted the Syrian army and is in Turkey, where he has joined the opposition to Bashar al-Assad.
    See also Syrian Legislator Joins Opposition, Protests Human Rights Violations (AP-Washington Post)
    Imad Ghalioun, who represents the city of Homs in Syria's parliament, told Al-Arabiya TV he has left the country to join the opposition against President Assad, saying the Syrian people are suffering sweeping human rights violations.
    He added that there are many legislators who support the uprising but have not said so publicly.

U.S.: Iran Supplying Weapons to Syria Crackdown - Stephen Collinson (AFP)
    The U.S. believes Iran is supplying munitions to aid Syria's bloody protest crackdown in an initiative spearheaded by Tehran's Revolutionary Guards.
    Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, was in the Syrian capital this month, a senior U.S. official said Friday. "We think this relates to Iranian support for the Syrian government's attempts to suppress its people," the official said.
    "The U.S. government believes Iran has supplied Syria with munitions" for use in the military crackdown.
    Soleimani has been mentioned as a possible successor to Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

Iran Says CIA Behind Nuclear Scientist's Killing - Nasser Karimi (AP)
    Iran said Saturday that its foreign ministry had sent a diplomatic letter to the U.S. saying that it has "evidence and reliable information" that the CIA provided "guidance, support and planning" to assassins "directly involved" in the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan last week in Tehran.
    The U.S. has denied any role in the killing. Iran also delivered a letter to Britain accusing London of having an "obvious role" in the killing.
    See also Israeli Officials Reject Report Mossad Killed Iranian Scientist - Lior Yaakobi and Yoni Hersch (Israel Hayom)
    Israeli officials rejected on Sunday U.S. media reports indicating that Israel was behind the recent assassination of another Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran.
    "The reports in the newspapers and in the media are completely disconnected from reality," Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Ben-Israel told Army Radio on Sunday.

Israel: Report of Mossad Agents Posing as CIA Spies "Absolute Nonsense" - Amir Oren (Ha'aretz)
    A senior Israeli government official has called "absolute nonsense" a Friday report in Foreign Policy that Mossad agents posed as CIA officers in 2007-2008 in order to recruit members of a Pakistani terror group to carry out assassinations in Iran.
    See also Ex-Arafat Advisor Mark Perry and the "False Flag" Story (CAMERA)
    The Foreign Policy report was authored by Mark Perry, a former advisor to Yasser Arafat and an advocate of U.S. engagement with Hamas and Hizbullah.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Thai Police Probe Hizbullah Plot - James Hookway
    The U.S. Embassy in Thailand warned of possible terrorist attacks in Bangkok and Israel issued a travel warning, amid growing tensions with Iran following the assassination of a nuclear scientist in Tehran. Police in Bangkok were questioning a Lebanese man with alleged links to the Iranian-backed militant group Hizbullah on Friday after the U.S. warning was issued. Deputy Prime Minister Chalerm Yubamrung said, "At first we were told the Palestinians were behind it, but it turned out to be Hizbullah."  (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Hizbullah "Calls Off Attacks"
    Hizbullah cancelled its plan to attack targets in Thailand after one of its members was arrested in Bangkok and the authorities learned about the plot, National Police Chief Gen. Priewpan Damapong quoted the suspect as saying Saturday, adding that the police would still be on guard. Priewpan said a Lebanese man, Hussein Atris, 48, who was arrested for suspected links with Hizbullah, admitted the plot to police interrogators. (The Nation-Thailand)
        See also Lebanese Suspect Leads Thai Police to Explosive Materials in Bangkok Warehouse
    A Lebanese suspect with links to Hizbullah militants led police to a warehouse housing boxes of urea fertilizer and liquid ammonium nitrate on Monday. The man was traveling with two companions. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Bangkok Terrorist's Swedish Connection - Dudi Cohen
    The suspect detained in Bangkok on suspicion of planning to blow up Israeli targets in Thailand, Hussein Atris, holds a Swedish passport and married a Swedish woman in 1996. According to reports by Swedish media, one of his relatives, Muhammad Atris, a resident of Germany, was involved in the past in the Iranian assassination of four Kurdish opposition figures in 1992.
        Meanwhile, Thai police were looking for Atris' accomplice. Police in Bangkok published a composite portrait which bears great resemblance to Hizbullah operative Naim Haris, identified by the Shin Bet as in charge of recruiting Hizbullah agents worldwide. (Ynet News)
        See also Thailand's Chabad Taking Terror Threat Seriously - Gil Shefler (Jerusalem Post)
  • EU Commits in Principle to Iran Oil Embargo - Edward Cody
    European governments have decided in principle to impose an oil embargo on Iran but plan to delay its implementation for six months or more so that vulnerable countries can arrange for alternate supplies, according to European diplomats. The agreement, reached at a meeting of EU ambassadors Thursday in Brussels, has to be ratified by foreign ministers at a meeting scheduled for Jan. 23. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Warns Gulf Oil States Not to Increase Exports as Sanctions Mount - Farhad Pouladi
    Iran has starkly warned Gulf states not to make up for any shortfall in oil exports under new U.S. and EU sanctions. If they compensate for a looming EU ban on Iranian imports, "we would not consider these actions to be friendly," Iran's representative to OPEC, Mohammad Ali Khatibi, said Sunday. "They will be held responsible for what happens," he said, adding ominously: "One cannot predict the consequences."  (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Iran Sanctions Must Be Hardened - Moran Azulay
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: "The sanctions employed thus far [against Iran] are ineffective, they have no impact on the nuclear program. We need tough sanctions against the central bank and oil industry. These things are not happening yet and that is why it has no effect on the nuclear program."  (Ynet News)
        See also The Case on the Iranian Menace - Greg Sheridan
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu believes that international pressure is starting to bite. "For the first time I see Iran wobble," he declares, "under the sanctions that have been adopted and especially under the threat of strong sanctions on their central bank." "If these sanctions are coupled with a clear statement from the international community led by the U.S. to act militarily to stop Iran if the sanctions fail, Iran may consider not going through the pain....In any case, the Iranian economy is showing signs of strain."  (The Australian)
  • U.S., Israel Postpone Missile-Defense Exercise to Avoid Possible Escalation with Iran
    The U.S. and Israel have postponed what was to be the largest-ever joint missile-defense exercise by the two countries, involving thousands of U.S. soldiers. The drill was supposed to simulate missiles fired by Iran toward Israel. Israeli defense officials told Israel TV Channel 2 on Sunday that the drill is now scheduled to take place in the summer. According to an Israeli defense official, Washington wants to avoid an escalation of tensions with Iran. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel, Palestinians Spar over Quartet Deadline - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    Israel hopes the Palestinians are not looking for an excuse to leave direct negotiations just two weeks after they began, an Israeli government official said Sunday, after Al-Hayat asserted the Palestinians are considering ending the talks in Jordan. Israeli envoy Yitzhak Molcho and chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat met Saturday night at the headquarters of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department in Amman for the third round of Jordanian-sponsored talks since Jan. 3.
        The Palestinians say Jan. 26 is a deadline imposed by the Quartet on the two sides last September to present comprehensive proposals on border and security issues. Israel maintains Jan. 26 is not a deadline, and the Quartet said the two sides needed to present their proposals 90 days after direct talks began. "It is not logical to think that we could solve all these issues and present proposals 21 days after the talks began," one Israeli government official said. The official said Israel was more than willing to present its proposals after 90 days.
        A PA official in Ramallah said the U.S. and some EU governments were putting pressure on PA President Abbas to continue the talks after Jan. 26. He said they have told Abbas the Quartet deadline clock started only when the Israelis and Palestinians began their talks in Amman two weeks ago. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Leading Egyptian Presidential Candidate Does Not Foresee Cancellation of Peace Treaty with Israel - Interview with Amr Moussa
    According to a Nov. 2011 poll by the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, former Egyptian Foreign Minister (1991-2001) and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa is leading the Egyptian presidential race with 39% support.
        In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: With regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict, Egypt's policy "must be based on the Arab Initiative. As for Egyptian-Israeli relations, the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is in place, and I do not think there are any circumstances that will lead to its cancellation. I do not think this will happen, and I do not think it would be wise for this treaty to be cancelled. The treaty will continue so long as each party respects it."
        "As for the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula and the presence of Egyptian forces there, I believe that the security articles of the treaty should be reviewed in this regard." "As for the Palestinian cause, Egypt must not turn its back on this, for this is part of Egypt's national security. As Egyptians, we are the largest neighbor to Palestine and Israel, and so we must work to control the situation in this region."  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also ElBaradei Pulls Out of Presidential Race in Egypt - Leila Fadel and Ingy Hassieb (Washington Post)
  • An Iran with Nuclear Weapons Is the True Threat to the World Economy - Michael Makovsky and Lawrence Goldstein
    Consider first the potential consequences of a nuclear Iran. It could set off a proliferation cascade across the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia leading the way in acquiring nuclear capability. Iran would also be in a position to transfer nuclear materials to its terrorist allies. Further, Iran would seek to dominate the energy-rich Persian Gulf emirates and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), threaten Israel's existence, destabilize moderate Arab regimes, subvert U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, embolden radicals, violently oppose the Middle East peace process, and increase support for terrorism and proxy warfare across the region.
        All these potential consequences would heighten risks for the secure and sufficient supply of oil from the Persian Gulf, made worse by rising Iranian strength in OPEC and the need of major energy-importing countries, primarily in Asia, to deal delicately with Iran. The result would be a long-term rise in oil, gasoline, and heating fuel prices that would have serious negative implications for the fragile U.S. economy. Oil prices reflect many factors, including transit costs, current supply, projected future supply, and demand. Transit costs in turn include insurance premiums, which vary with the chance that vessels could be damaged or lost. The political risk to delivery is another factor; even without nuclear weapons Iran already has raised oil prices by threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz. (Weekly Standard)

Rise of Islamist Movements Casts Shadow over Egypt - Robert Wistrich (JTA)

  • Islamist parties in Egypt, as in Tunisia and Libya, have been the chief beneficiaries of the collapse of longstanding authoritarian repressive regimes across North Africa.
  • The Muslim Brotherhood has always been deeply anti-Western, viscerally hostile to Israel and openly anti-Semitic - points usually downplayed in Western commentary on the so-called Arab Spring. Indeed, the anti-Jewish conspiracy theories promoted by the Brotherhood and its affiliated preachers are in a class of their own.
  • At a Muslim Brotherhood rally in Cairo on Nov. 25, 2011, Islamic activists vowed to "one day kill all Jews." There were explicit calls for jihad and liberating all of Palestine as well as references to a well-known hadith concerning the future Muslim annihilation of the Jews.
  • Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the Arabic daily al-Hayat on Jan. 1, 2012, that Israel was a "criminal enemy" with whom Egypt should never have signed a peace treaty in the first place.
  • In the face of this mounting fundamentalist danger, Israel has no choice but to consolidate its deterrent capacity, close ranks and treat with the upmost skepticism any siren voices calling on it to take unreasonable "risks for peace."

    Prof. Wistrich is the director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of A Lethal Obsession: Antisemitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (2010).

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