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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
November 1, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Russia Seeks Return of Syria Cargo from Turkey (AFP)
    Russia is in contact with Turkey to recover a cargo confiscated by Ankara from a Moscow-Damascus passenger plane, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official said Wednesday.
    Russia's Kommersant daily said the cargo was 12 crates containing parts for radar used in missile defense systems.
    It said the source of the leak that prompted Turkey to intercept the plane was most likely from the Syrian side.

U.S.: No to Kurdish Independence - Shirzad Shikhani (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The U.S. has informed Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani that the U.S. and Turkey will not support any efforts on his part to announce an independent Kurdish state, a Kurdish leader told Asharq Al-Awsat.
    "Two weeks ago the U.S. administration informed Barzani not to rely on American and Turkish support in his quest to secede from Iraq or take steps towards the formation of an independent Kurdish state," he said.
    "America supports reconciliation and normalization efforts, and Kurdish participation in the political process in Iraq."

Syrian Rebels Arm Palestinians Against Assad - Mariam Karouny (Reuters)
    Syrian rebels said on Wednesday they had begun arming sympathetic Palestinians to fight the pro-Assad Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) in the Yarmouk enclave in southern Damascus.
    Syrian rebels accuse the PFLP-GC of harassing and attacking them to support Assad.

Syrians Claim Iran Behind Hurricane Sandy - Saad Abedine (CNN)
    "Sources confirmed to us that Hurricane Sandy that is slamming the U.S. was set off by highly advanced technologies developed by the heroic Iranian regime that supports the resistance, with coordination of our resistive Syrian regime," the pro-government group News Network of the Syrian Armed Forces said in a Facebook posting.
    "This is the punishment for whoever dares to attack Syria's (Bashar) al-Assad and threaten peace and stability."

Egypt's President Orders Investigation after Spike in Sexual Harassment During Muslim Holiday (AP-Washington Post)
    Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Tuesday ordered his interior minister to investigate a rash of 735 police complaints about sexual harassment over the four-day Eid al-Adha holiday, which ended Monday.
    The holiday features celebrations, crowded public squares - and widespread harassment of women by men.
    Earlier this month, around 200 activists gathered outside the presidential palace to press for a law to criminalize harassment.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • French President Warns Iran after Meeting Israeli PM - Delphine Matthieussent
    French President Francois Hollande on Wednesday said he wanted "concrete acts" from Iran to prove it was not pursuing a nuclear arms drive after his first face-to-face meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hollande warned that Paris would back "other sanctions" if Tehran failed to convince on its contested nuclear program.
        "This is a threat which cannot be accepted by France," Hollande said. "We have voted for many sanctions and are ready to vote for others as long as necessary," he said, demanding "proof that Iran has abandoned this drive." Netanyahu hailed the "extremely important position" taken by Hollande. (AFP)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Meets with French President Hollande (Prime Minister's Office)
  • EU Sanctions Strangle Iranian LPG Exports to Asia - Julia Payne and Meeyoung Cho
    EU sanctions on Iran's natural gas have unintentionally also brought its exports of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to a near halt, industry sources say. Shippers and insurers are steering clear of Iranian supplies due to uncertainty over the scope of the new EU sanctions.
        The International Energy Agency estimated Iran's crude oil exports at 860,000 bpd in September, down from 2.2 million bpd at the end of 2011. (Reuters)
        See also Japan's September Iranian Crude Imports Drop 38 Percent
    Japan's crude oil imports from Iran fell 38% in September from a year earlier, data from the Ministry of Finance showed on Tuesday. (Reuters)
  • Supreme Court Denies Appeal of Holy Land Foundation Convictions
    The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied an appeal of four Holy Land Foundation organizers who were convicted in 2008 on charges of conspiring to send money to Hamas. The four appellants were Shukri Abu Baker, sentenced to 65 years in prison; Ghassan Elashi, sentenced to 65 years; Mufid Abdulqader, sentenced to 20 years; Abdulrahman Odeh, sentenced to 15 years. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PLO Leader Calls for "Return" of West Bank to Jordan - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Farouk Kaddoumi, a veteran PLO official based in Tunisia, called on Wednesday for "returning" the West Bank to Jordan. Kaddoumi told Al-Quds Al-Arabi that he supported the idea of a federation or confederation between the West Bank and Jordan.
        He also scoffed at Abbas' renewed statehood bid at the UN, saying the PLO had obtained membership in 1974. In addition, he noted that the UN had recognized the Palestinian state declared by Yasser Arafat in 1988. "By going back to the UN, Abbas is falsely creating the impression that he is making achievements that were already achieved," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egypt Interrogates Terror Cell Members
    Egypt's State Security on Wednesday began questioning suspects accused of planning terrorist attacks in Egypt. Adel Shahtu, a leading member of Al-Gamaa Al-Jihadiyah, has been charged with founding a "terrorist cell" in Cairo's Nasr City district which stands accused of planning terrorist attacks throughout the country. Shahtu, one of Egypt's most prominent jihadists, spent 20 years in prison and was only released last April. (Al Ahram-Egypt)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Syria War Puts the Anti-American Alliance in the Middle East on the Defensive - Bassem Mroue
    When the Hamas rulers of Gaza recently gave a hero's welcome to the ruler of Qatar, an arch foe of the Syrian regime, it sent a strong message reverberating across the capitals in Tehran, Damascus and Beirut. The powerful, anti-American alliance of Iran, Syria and militant groups Hizbullah and Hamas, once dubbed the "Axis of Resistance," is fraying.
        Iran's economy is showing signs of distress from nuclear sanctions, Syria's president is fighting for his survival and Hizbullah in Lebanon is under fire for the assassination of an anti-Syrian intelligence official. Hamas - the Palestinian arm - has bolted.
        "We're seeing basically the resistance axis becoming much more vulnerable and under duress. So even if it survives, it's really under tremendous pressure," said Fawaz Gerges, director of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics. "The Hamas shift to the Saudi-Qatari-Turkish orbit represents a major nail in the coffin of the resistance axis." "The question is not whether it (the alliance) will survive or not. The question is will it have the capacity to act offensively," said Gerges. "It is on the defensive."  (AP)
  • Muslim Brotherhood: Sharia Must Be Base of New Egyptian Constitution - Maggie Michael
    Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said Wednesday it is committed to enshrining Islamic Sharia law as the main source of the new constitution. The previous constitution said "the principles of Sharia" are the basis of law in Egypt, meaning legislation can meet the broad ideas of Islam.
        Ultraconservatives known as Salafis want that changed to "the rulings of Sharia," implying Egypt's laws would have to abide by the strict letter of what clerics say is meant in Islamic law. Salafis and the Brotherhood together dominate the 100-member assembly writing the new constitution. Many Egyptians fear the implementation of an Islamic penal code as they watch neighboring Saudi Arabia punishing people with execution, usually with a sword, cutting off limbs or stoning to death. (AP)
        See also Minorities Fear End of Secularism in Egypt - Daniel Steinvorth and Volkhard Windfuhr (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • The Secret of Islamist Success - Dalibor Rohac
    What is driving the ascent of Islamic politics in Arab countries? Available data suggest that the statistical link between personal religiosity and actual voting for religious candidates is quite weak. Rather, the key to the success of Islamic parties lies in their organizational structure. Many Islamic political groups in the Arab world are part of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization founded in 1928 in Egypt. Involved in politics, proselytizing, and the provision of social services, Egypt's Brotherhood has become a model of Islamic political organization.
        Of all the legally registered NGOs and associations in Egypt, an estimated 20% are run by the Brotherhood. In 2006, the Brotherhood was running 22 hospitals and schools in every governorate of the country. In Jordan, the Brotherhood operates the huge Islamic Hospital in Amman and the al-Afaf Charitable Society, providing collective weddings and matchmaking services.
        Politicians in transitional environments are either new, with no political history or reputation, or old, in which case they were probably active under the previous authoritarian regime. In either case, it is not clear whether they can be trusted. The advantage of Islamic parties, including the Brotherhood, lies precisely in the fact that they are able to make credible promises about the provision of public goods. The writer is an economist at the Legatum Institute in London. (Foreign Policy)

Gale Force Winds in the Middle East - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)

  • America seems to be front and center (again) in the Arab story. There is an enormous reservoir of anti-American sentiment in the Arab world, and it has been brewing for years. A disturbingly large minority of conservative, militant Muslims don't like anything about us - particularly our culture's openness, tolerance, permissiveness and high bar on protected speech.
  • We are perceived among many as modern day colonialists throwing our weight around, not taking Arab and Muslim sensitivities seriously, supporting Israel, invading Iraq and Afghanistan, methodically whacking Muslims with Predator drones, bucking up Arab oil sheikhs, interceding in the Arab world when it suits our interests (see Libya) and allowing the Arabs to fend for themselves when it doesn't (see Syria). This anger has been loosed by the Arab Spring as public opinion is now freer to shape the political climate in the region.
  • The "Arab Spring" is really an Islamist Spring. That doesn't mean that militant Muslims are taking over the world - the Islamists are divided and constrained by their newfound responsibilities of governance, and in Egypt's case dependence on the West for economic support. But it does mean that when fair and free elections are held, Islamist parties do very well.
  • We should give up our illusions that we can significantly influence the Arabs' political future or that we're in for anything other than a wild ride in a stormy, turbulent, and churning Arab world.

    The writer is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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