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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
January 31, 2012

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Ya'alon: Iran Seeks to Enrich Uranium to 90 Percent - Shlomo Cesana and Lior Yacoby (Israel Hayom)
    Iran has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to allow it to enrich uranium to 90%, Israeli Vice Prime Minister and Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya'alon said recently, and warned that "Iran's nuclear development is clearly intended for military purposes."
    90% enrichment is an indication of weapons-grade uranium.
    During a visit to Washington last week, Ya'alon learned that Turkey was secretly helping Iran avoid American and European sanctions. Turkish companies have been helping Tehran export oil financed by Turkish banks, Ya'alon said.

Al-Qaeda in Iran - Seth G. Jones (Foreign Affairs)
    Since late 2001, Iran has held some of al-Qaeda's most senior leaders.
    Several of these operatives, such as Yasin al-Suri, an al-Qaeda facilitator, have moved recruits and money from the Middle East to central al-Qaeda in Pakistan.
    Others, such as Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian that served as head of al-Qaeda's security committee, and Abu Muhammad al-Masri, one of the masterminds of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, have provided strategic and operational assistance to central al-Qaeda.
    The organization's presence in Iran means that al-Qaeda's demise is not imminent.
    U.S. policymakers should draw greater public attention to Iran's limited, but still unacceptable, cooperation with al-Qaeda.

Iranian Arms Smugglers Using European Ships (Reuters)
    Iranian traffickers are smuggling weapons on container ships owned by firms from countries such as Germany and France that imposed sanctions on Iran, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said on Monday.
    The owners of the vessels appear to have been unaware of the nature of the illicit cargo in sealed containers.
    See also Iran Renaming Ships to Circumvent Sanctions - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines has renamed 90 of its 123 ships since 2008 in efforts to dodge sanctions.

Did Syrian Rebels Stop Departure of Assad's Family? - Michael Weiss (Telegraph-UK)
    Did Bashar al-Assad's family try to escape Syria only to be stopped by an audacious attack on Damascus International Airport by Syrian rebels?
    It'd be nice to believe that that feverishly circulated rumor was true, but according to activists, it probably didn't happen.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • The Free Syrian Army Bleeds the Assad Regime - Jeffrey White
    The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is now engaged in combat in at least six of the country's fourteen governorates. Both its ranks and its popular support are growing, and its forces have the types of weapons they need for the kind of warfare they are conducting. The militia has at least temporarily forced government troops out of some areas, including near the capital.
        Regime security and military personnel continue to defect to the FSA, primarily in small groups of five to twenty men, though mass defections of a hundred or more soldiers have been reported as well. These incoming forces feed the strength of existing FSA battalions and spur the formation of new units. Most of the defectors are motivated by a desire to avoid killing civilians, fear of retribution for refusing to do so, and broader opposition to the regime itself. Certain units may simply be autonomous local defense groups operating under the FSA's name. The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Almost 100 Killed in Syrian Violence Monday
    At least 96 people were killed in Syria on Monday including 55 civilians and 25 soldiers, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday. On Sunday, 80 people were reportedly killed. (AFP)
  • In West Bank Meeting, Canadian Ministers Take Firm Line with Palestinians - Patrick Martin
    Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty journeyed to the West Bank on Monday where they sought to impress upon the Palestinian leadership that it should abandon its efforts to obtain UN recognition and return to the negotiating table with Israel "without preconditions." Baird added, "We have no interest in interacting with Hamas. It is a terrorist organization."
        Later, Baird explained why the Harper government "believes so passionately in Israel's right not only to exist, but to exist as a Jewish state and to live in peace and security." "Israel today is a country whose very existence is under attack, both literally and figuratively." "Whether it is rockets raining down on Israeli schools, or the constant barrage of rhetorical demonization, double standards and delegitimization, Israel is under attack." "The easy thing to do would be simply to go along with anti-Israeli sentiment to get along with other countries." "But Canada will not 'go along to get along,'" he said. (Globe and Mail-Canada)
        See also Canadian Foreign Minister: "Delegitimization of Israel Is New Anti-Semitism" - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Plans Red-Med Rail Link to Take Suez Overflow - Dan Williams
    Israel said on Sunday it plans to build a railway line linking its Red Sea and Mediterranean ports that could handle potential overflow from the Suez Canal on the freight route between Asia and Europe. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet the idea had stirred "great interest" from India and China. Oded Eran, a retired Israeli diplomat and senior research fellow at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, said, "Going through Suez costs a lot of money in demurrage," describing the time-consuming process of ships obtaining permission to enter the canal and transiting.
        Asked if the Israeli project might bite into Egyptian revenues from tariffs to sail the Suez, an Israeli official said: "We do not in any way intend to do anything of the sort." Samech Nabil, consul-general for the Egyptian embassy in Israel, said, "I think this is purely an internal issue."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Israeli Presence Necessary in Jordan Valley - Herb Keinon
    Israel will only sign an agreement with the Palestinians if it includes an Israeli security presence in the Jordan Valley, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. "We are acting responsibly and prudently and are seeing to the security of the State of Israel. This requires Israel to remain in the Jordan Valley."
        Netanyahu has said consistently that any agreement would necessitate an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, and he has emphasized that point repeatedly since the revolutions in the Arab world began last year, saying the regional uncertainty makes such a security presence even more necessary. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Air Force Commander: Israel's Aerial Superiority Is in Danger - Gili Cohen
    Israel Air Force chief Ido Nehushtan told the annual International Space Conference in Herzliya Sunday, "The increasing presence of advanced weaponry in the Middle East poses a challenge to Israel's aerial superiority." He also warned that "Syria is a country with a large army and the internal process that it is undergoing increases the danger of weapons ending up in the hands of terrorists."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Saving Syria Requires Russia's Cooperation - Editorial
    Arab and Western governments plan to mount a major diplomatic offensive on Syria at the UN on Tuesday, where Russia has been blocking action since the Syrian uprising began. The government of Vladimir Putin is insisting that it will not support the removal of a regime that has been its primary ally in the Middle East. Yet Moscow's intransigence is likely to precipitate a disaster, both for Syria and for itself.
        The assessment of most outside observers is that the Assad regime is doomed. If Russia continues to prop it up, it will not only damage its position with other Arab governments but will endanger its assets in Syria - including a naval base and weapons sales. The Obama administration should place Russian cooperation on Syria at the top of the bilateral agenda with Moscow. (Washington Post)
  • Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Its Record of Double Talk - David Pollock
    Those who say the Muslim Brotherhood is showing new signs of moderation should compare its message to outsiders, in English, with its message to Egyptians and other Arabs, in Arabic. Last February, for example, the Brotherhood published an English-language version of Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie's message to the Egyptian people, celebrating their revolution, in which he supposedly spoke mainly of democracy, tolerance, pluralism and coexistence between Egypt's Muslims and Christians. But the text of his statement, published simultaneously in Arabic, had a totally different tone.
        Of course, it would be a welcome surprise if the Brotherhood does change into a more truthful and trustworthy interlocutor. In the meantime, we should pay no attention to anything the Brotherhood says in English and little attention to any private "assurances" it offers. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Washington Post)
  • A Joyless Celebration in Tahrir Square - Zvi Mazel
    In Tahrir square, a year after the Egyptian uprising, division and mistrust were clearly visible: there were no less than seven so-called festive stages, each with supporters and slogans. There were brawls between Sixth of April bloggers and Muslim Brotherhood militants as well as between revolutionary youth and supporters of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Friends and families of the 850 victims of the revolution were demanding the death penalty for Mubarak; friends and families of the victims of the brutal repression by the army and the police after the fall of Mubarak demanded the immediate removal of the SCAF as well as the execution of its leader, Marshal Tantawi.
        The Egyptians are still coming to terms with the results of the first free elections in decades. With 72% of the seats - 47% for the Brotherhood, 25% for the Salafists - Islamist parties have a clear monopoly on the conduct of affairs; it is doubtful that this was what the people wanted. The Brotherhood and the Salafists are pledging to act with pragmatism, not dogmatism, and not to impose Islam on the country. Few believe them.
        The Brothers campaigned as an Islamist party with a radical platform; for the past 80 years they had been working towards their goal. Why should they suddenly change course? The Brotherhood supreme leader said it in so many words: we are close to achieving our objective, "a just and right government" in Egypt prior to restoring the Caliphate the world over. The writer, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden. (Jerusalem Post)

Muslim Brotherhood Stepping Out of the Shadows - Ruth Pollard (Sydney Morning Herald-Australia)

  • Despite renouncing violence decades ago after its early forays into assassination and bombing campaigns, the Muslim Brotherhood's importance as a ''springboard'' towards more radical Islamic movements for individuals such as al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is well known.
  • Six months ago, the Brotherhood formed the Freedom and Justice Party in Egypt. According to Nathan Brown, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University and a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, on the key question of Israel, there is a perceptible difference between the way the Muslim Brotherhood deals with the Camp David accords and Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and the way the Freedom and Justice Party tackles the issue. The party - faced with the enormity of the problems confronting Egypt - would rather talk of anything else but that treaty, Brown says.
  • Yet the movement's chief spokesman, Dr. Mahmoud Ghozlan, says, "We think this treaty is imposed on us by outside our country. And we think it is an unjust treaty. Because it removes our sovereignty in Sinai...we cannot built an airport there, we cannot send our troops inside the Sinai to protect our borders.'' "We think that the Israelis do not respect [the treaty] because they have [undertaken] many attacks against our soldiers, without any justification. We have to review it again, if the people want that, via the parliament."
  • Martin Indyk, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and vice-president of the Brookings Institution, wrote this week after a visit to Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood ''understand they have to make a choice between feeding the people and fighting Israel, and for the time being they have made a conscious choice of bread over bombs."

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