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January 25, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Mumbai Terrorist Attack Scout Gets 35-Year Prison Term in U.S. - Andrew Harris (Bloomberg)
    David Coleman Headley, 52, a U.S. citizen who served as an advance scout for the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks that killed more than 160 people, including six Jews at the local Habad house, was sentenced to 35 years in prison Thursday by U.S. District Judge Harry D. Leinenweber in Chicago.
    Headley admitted he'd helped identify targets and a water-landing site for the attackers.
    Former Chicago U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald told the court Headley "fully admitted to his role" in the Mumbai attacks within 30 minutes of his arrest.
    Over the ensuing weeks, Headley told authorities of other terrorist plots.
    Headley was born as Daood Gilani, the son of an American woman and a Pakistani man.
    See also Woman in David Headley's Office Helped Investigators - Vijay V Singh (Times of India)
    An Indian intelligence agency source said they were able to unravel the activities of Pakistani-American and Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Headley in Mumbai mainly because of a woman he employed at his Tardeo office.
    "His female office employee's help was invaluable. She was admirable. She worked as an office assistant for him. She was most aware of Headley's movements and the people who visited him at his office."
    As a cover for his terror-related surveillance in the city, Headley had opened a liaison office of the Chicago-based Immigrant Law Center to help Indians get visas for the U.S. and Canada.

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Iran, Syria and North Korea Developing Biological Weapons - Jill Bellamy van Aalst, Clare Lopez and Reza Kahlili (Washington Times)
    Dangerous biological weapons are being developed by the nexus of Iran, Syria and North Korea.
    Among the more than 16 biological agents that Iran reportedly is developing are anthrax, Ebola, encephalitis, biological toxins, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), cholera, smallpox and plague.
    Worse yet, Iran, with North Korea's help, has genetically altered the smallpox virus in ways that may make current vaccinations ineffective.

Islamists Torch More Sufi Shrines in Tunisia (AFP)
    The Sidi Ali Ben Salem mausoleum in Gabes was totally destroyed by fire, and in Douz, the Sidi Ahmed al-Ghout mausoleum was also set on fire on Thursday, Tunisian police said.
    Sufi officials in Tunisia put the blame on Salafists, accusing them of a systematic campaign to destroy Sufi sanctuaries.
    "The people behind all the attacks are Wahhabis," a Salafist branch of Islam rooted in Saudi Arabia, said Mazen Sherif, the deputy head of a Sufi group.

Report: Saudi Arabia Sent Death Row Inmates to Fight in Syria (Assyrian International News Agency)
    Saudi Arabia sent death-row inmates to Syria to wage Jihad against the Syrian government in exchange for commuting their sentences.
    According to a secret memo dated April 17, 2012, the Saudi Kingdom negotiated with 1,239 inmates, offering them a full pardon and a monthly salary for their families in exchange for "their training in order to send them to Jihad in Syria."

Iran Nuclear Power Plant Stokes Worries Closer to Home - Yeganeh Torbati (Reuters)
    For villagers living next to Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, as well as Arab capitals nearby, the plant poses a potential danger: the risk of contamination.
    "According to international standards, the distance between a nuclear power plant and the nearest residence must be at least one kilometer...but the distance between the village of Heleylah and this power plant is just six meters!" said local residents.

Tu B'Shvat, the Jewish New Year for Trees, Is Celebrated on Saturday - Lenny Ben-David (Israel Daily Picture)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry: U.S. Policy "Is Not Containment, It Is Prevention" of Iran Nukes - Joe Sterling
    Sen. John Kerry, the president's nominee for secretary of state, put America's anxiety over Iran front and center during his confirmation hearing, saying the "questions surrounding Iran's nuclear program" must be resolved. Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, "We will do what we must do to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and I repeat here today, our policy is not containment. It is prevention, and the clock is ticking on our efforts to secure responsible compliance."  (CNN)
        See also Kissinger Says Iran Nuclear Crisis Close
    Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, 89, told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, "For 15 years, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have declared that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable, but it has been approaching....In a few years, people will have to come to a determination of how to react, or the consequences of non-reaction. I believe this point will be reached in a very foreseeable future."
        Kissinger called for "serious" negotiations on both sides to look for solutions. "Unilateral intervention by Israel would be a desperate last resort, but the Iranians have to understand that if they keep using the negotiations to gain time to complete a nuclear program then the situation will become extremely dangerous."  (BBC)
  • Israel's Barak: Syria Serves as Warning that Countries Can't Always Count on Outside Help
    Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that global inaction on the bloodbath in Syria is a warning to many countries that they cannot count on outsiders' help - no matter how dire the circumstances. He suggested that this applied to Israel itself.
        "Many of our best friends are telling us...'Don't worry, if worst comes to worst the world will inevitably (help)....It cannot be taken for granted," he told the World Economic Forum in Davos. "It's on the screens all around the world," tens of thousands of people "slaughtered by their own leader and the world doesn't move."
        On the threat of Iran's nuclear program, Barak said that Israel believed there "should be a readiness and capability to launch a surgical operation" if diplomacy and sanctions fail. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Loyalists to Dominate Jordan's New Parliament - Kareem Fahim
    Members of previous rubber-stamp parliaments and tribal figures who run patronage networks aided by their ties to Jordan's authorities were among the parliamentary winners announced Thursday by Jordan's election commission. While other seats went to leftist and Islamist opposition figures, the elections - part of a package of changes offered by King Abdullah II - seemed unlikely to quell the simmering discontent that has posed a challenge to his rule. (New York Times)
        See also In Jordan, the Brotherhood Loses - Amir Taheri
    The Jordanian election on Wednesday was for a 150-seat parliament that, for the first time, will have a say in appointing a prime minister and cabinet - ending the king's exclusive hold on the executive branch of government. At least 10% of the seats were reserved for women, but early results indicate they may win twice as many.
        But the big surprise is that the election marks a major setback for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic Action Front, the Brotherhood's Jordanian branch, boycotted the voting after King Abdullah II refused its demands for major reductions in his powers before elections were held. By excluding itself from the new political process, the Jordanian Brotherhood set itself against the spectrum of political opinion in the kingdom - including several more moderate Islamist groups and scores of politicians with strong local roots. (New York Post)
  • German Soldiers Attacked in Turkey
    The Turkish government demanded the assistance of NATO allies to defend itself against potential rocket attacks from Syria. Yet barely had German soldiers set foot on Turkish soil when they were met by protests and physical attacks by Turkish citizens. For weeks now, groups of nationalists, communists and Islamists have been protesting against the installation of Patriot missiles in Turkey. The attack on German soldiers in Iskenderun this week was the culmination of those demonstrations. The protests have made it clear that the German army has stepped into a storm of aggressive, widespread anti-Americanism. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Military Academy to Prepare Children to Liberate Palestine - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh announced on Thursday a plan to establish a military academy in Gaza to train and educate schoolchildren in preparation for the "phase of liberating Palestine...from the river to the sea" (referring to the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, i.e., all of Israel). Haniyeh made the announcement during a ceremony attended by more than 10,000 schoolchildren. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Thousands of Gaza Teens Graduate from Hamas High School Military Program
    More than 3,000 Palestinian teenagers on Thursday graduated from Hamas' first high school military training program in Gaza, displaying mock weapons, crawling commando-style on the ground and taking up fighting positions for thousands of cheering supporters. During a one-hour session each week, students were taught to climb down buildings on ropes, jump through obstacle courses and crawl under barbed wire. The oldest students are trained to use light weapons, while younger ones train with wooden rifles. Each participant is assigned to a security officer who oversees their training. (AP-Washington Post)
  • No Israelis Killed by West Bank Terror in 2012, First Time since 1973 - Gili Cohen
    For the first time since 1973, no Israelis were killed in terror attacks in the West Bank in 2012, according to a report published Thursday by the Israel Security Agency. However, in 2012 there were 578 terror attacks in the West Bank as opposed to 320 incidents in 2011.
        10 Israelis were killed during security-related incidents in other parts of the country: 6 by rocket attacks, 2 by shooting, and 2 from terrorist attacks near the Israel-Egypt border. 2,327 rockets and 230 mortar shells were fired from Gaza in 2012. Also, 8 rockets were fired at Israel from Sinai. There were 11 attempts to fire anti-aircraft weaponry at IDF planes, compared to 1 such attempt in 2011. (Ha'aretz)
  • Who Will Make Up Israel's 19th Knesset? - Jonathan Lis
    While in a typical election cycle, Israel can expect about one-third of its 120 Knesset members to be replaced, this time 53 MKs will be new faces. It will feature more journalists, more women, more religiously observant MKs, and more graduates of the social-justice protest movement. The incoming parliament will also have five former generals, including two chiefs of staff. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Parliament Gets New Look - Jeffrey Heller
    The new Israeli parliament's freshman class includes two youth protest leaders, an Ethiopian immigrant, a high tech millionaire and more women than ever. They include Shimon Solomon, who came to Israel as a child in the covert Operation Moses airlift that brought thousands of Ethiopian Jews from refugee camps in Sudan. He became a major in Israel's paratroops and a social worker. Another is Rabbi Dov Lipman, who immigrated from the U.S. in 2004 and became a deputy mayor in Beit Shemesh. Naftali Bennett is a high-tech millionaire, while Orit Struk, mother of 11, is a settler leader in Hebron. (Reuters)
        See also Meet the New MKs (Israel Hayom)
        See also 2013 Knesset Election - Final Results - Aaron Kalman (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel's Top Two Parties Are Close on Security Issues - Michael J. Koplow
    The grouping of Yesh Atid, the second largest vote-getter in the Israeli elections, under a center-left banner is analytically lazy. Party leader Yair Lapid has stated that Jerusalem cannot be divided under any circumstances and insists that standing firm on this issue will force the Palestinians to recant their demand that east Jerusalem serve as the capital of a future Palestinian state.
        During the campaign, Lapid chose Ariel in the West Bank for a major campaign speech calling for negotiations with the Palestinians, and declined to endorse a settlement freeze. In fact, Lapid's views on security issues are close to those that Netanyahu has publicly staked out. (Foreign Affairs)
  • Reading Israel's Election - Jennifer Rubin
    There is, and was during this election, no viable peace party in Israel that wants to double down on the Oslo accords. After Lebanon, Gaza and the Arab Spring, the public at large has largely reached a consensus that a "two-state solution" isn't happening any time soon and the formula of land for peace did not bring peace. So none of the top vote-getting parties put forth a foreign policy that was distinct from, let alone contrary to, the ruling Likud party's approach to both Iran and the Palestinians. (Washington Post)
  • A Weapons of Mass Destruction-Free Middle East - Emily B. Landau
    While creating a Weapons of Mass Destruction-free zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East is a worthy goal, regional conditions are not conducive to its creation, nor currently even to serious discussion of the idea. Egypt has been the strongest advocate of the WMDFZ idea since its inception in 1990 (by President Hosni Mubarak), and is the party that almost single-handedly forced it onto the international agenda. The writer is the director of the Arms Control and Regional Security program at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs)
  • Disrupting the Ecosystem of Extremism - Ron Prosor
    Terrorism is rooted in hate, watered with instability and state support, and then planted in the next generation. Every roadside bombing, every suicide attack, and every act of terrorism begins with words and thoughts of hate. It begins with al-Qaeda websites that turn suicide bombers into jihadi celebrities. It begins with Hizbullah summer camps that use arts and crafts to glorify martyrdom and teach bombmaking skills to children.
        True counterterrorism must begin to disrupt the ecosystem of extremism in which terror thrives. It means advancing education that teaches peace, not hate, and mutual understanding, not martyrdom. It means speaking out against incitement and all forms of terrorism, even when it is politically inconvenient. The writer is Israel's ambassador to the UN. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Reports of Al-Qaeda's Death Greatly Exaggerated - Clifford D. May
    The evidence that al-Qaeda is alive and lethal is abundant. To cite just a few examples: the French ground war in Mali against AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), the hostage-taking in Algeria by jihadists closely linked to al-Qaeda, the surge of al-Qaeda-connected fighters in Syria, and the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. Serious analysts are acutely aware that no strategic mistake is more dangerous than telling yourself you are winning when you are not.
        Within the administration it is forbidden to speak or write openly about the ideology of those fighting us. American officials can kill our enemies (mostly with drones). They just can't analyze, criticize, or challenge the beliefs that motivate them. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Review)

Netanyahu's Back - Aaron David Miller (Foreign Policy)

  • Before the Israeli elections in 1996, I quipped to my colleague Dennis Ross: There's no way Benjamin Netanyahu can win. 17 years later, Netanyahu has now served longer as Israeli prime minister than anyone other than David Ben-Gurion, and is about to begin coalition negotiations toward an unprecedented third term.
  • The security issue is omnipresent. Take a look around. In Syria, Bashar al-Assad murders his own people; in Gaza, Hamas talks of pushing the Jews into the sea; in Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood espouse the worst kind of anti-Semitic tropes; and in Iran, the mullahs can't seem to open their mouths these days without muttering something about the evil Zionists.
  • Most likely, the kind of peace process that will emerge over the next year is one that Netanyahu can support - a bottom-up approach with little focus on the identity issues such as Jerusalem and refugees. I'm also betting that the Obama team, bogged down with so many other issues, won't get terribly creative on the peace process and will play to Netanyahu's strengths - an interim, incremental process that steers clear of high-profile initiatives. Even if Obama decides to roll the dice, he needs an Arab or Palestinian partner to help him. And those are in very short supply.
  • Cooperation on Iran between Washington and Jerusalem will be required if an agreement on the nuclear issue is to be reached or successful military action undertaken. Iran isn't Palestine, some localized shepherd's war even with regional resonance. The Iranian nuclear issue could have grave economic, military, financial, and political consequences for the entire Middle East and international community. The stakes are simply too high to accommodate huge policy differences or public rifts, let alone a breakdown in cooperation that compels the Israelis to take unilateral military action.

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