WEEK OF JANUARY 30 THROUGH FEBRUARY 05
Israel’s Peace With Egypt Probably Over
(Former envoy to Egypt says new regime in Cairo would aim to harm peace with Israel. It doesn’t look good for us and for moderate Arab states. From now on, any development won’t be good for our peace with Egypt and for regional stability.)
Feb. 2….(YNET) The assumption at this time is that Mubarak’s regime is living on borrowed time of a few months, with a transition government to be established until new elections are held. Should these elections be held the way America wants, most chances are that the Muslim Brothers will win a majority and constitute the dominant element in the next regime. Hence, it is only a question of time, a short time, before our peace with Egypt pays the price. This is an extreme scenario, but a realistic one. The only people in Egypt committed to the peace treaty are members of Mubarak’s narrow camp, and should the next president not be a member of this camp, we can expect trouble. Even if the next president is Mohamed ElBaradei, it won’t be the same Egypt and it won’t be the same peace. The Muslim Brothers are watching the developments at this time and waiting for an opportunity. After they built themselves up for some 80 years in an admirable way, they have turned into the most powerful force in Egypt second only to the army. Just like Hezbollah and Hamas, the Muslim Brothers operated as a non-governmental organization and built their immense popularity by helping the poor and needy. They achieved their great popularity on the street because they always showed up before the government in helping the simple folk. With the exception of the Muslim Brothers, the Egyptian opposition is divided and lacks any power. At this time there is no person within it with status and charisma who is capable of uniting and leading all opposition fragments. Israel is not the target at this time. However, should a revolution take place and should the current regime go home, there is no doubt that the new regime will want to demonstratively harm the peace with Israel.
Israel Is Left All Alone
(In wake of Egyptian uprising, Jewish state has been left without Mideastern allies)
Feb. 2….(YNET) The uprising in Egypt reinforces Israel’s strategic distress in the Middle East: We’re alone, without any allies. It started about two years ago, in the wake of the collapse of our strategic alliance with Turkey. After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to power, he embraced President Hosni Mubarak and managed to form an alliance with him over the joint fear of Iranian penetration into the region. Netanyahu visited Egypt several times and brought along with him the leading expert on Egyptian affairs within Israel’s political establishment, Binyamin Ben-Eliezer. The PM managed to convince Mubarak that he has good intentions. Hence, even if he did not spare criticism, the Egyptian president gave Netanyahu a chance. Yet Mubarak’s decline now leaves Netanyahu without any Arab allies. Should Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman replace Mubarak, this will no doubt be good for the ties with Israel. However, in the near future Egypt will be preoccupied with its own affairs and won’t be involved in the peace process. Hence, on the east Israel has been left with the suspicious regime of King Abdullah, who blames Israel for the diplomatic impasse, warns of impending doom, and refuses to meet with Netanyahu. On the north, following the fall of the Saad Hariri government in Lebanon and the rise of a Hezbollah-controlled puppet regime, the moderate camp in the Middle East lost an important element. In the territories, Mahmoud Abbas is engaged in a rearguard battle against al-Jazeera, which exposed the far-reaching concessions he made in the negotiations with Israel, thereby presenting him as a sort of traitor to his people. Now, the riots in Egypt raise fears that the Palestinian people will also develop an appetite for destruction and hit the streets in the aims of toppling their corrupt government. And if all of that isn’t enough, the Middle East has been left with a weak American Administration that gives the impression that it has given up on the Middle East. Under this state of affairs, Netanyahu may have one or two outlets: Immediately sit down with Abbas and finalize a deal that would be very similar to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s proposal, or give up on the Palestinians and offer Damascus a real deal, withdrawal from the Golan Heights in exchange for Syrian disengagement from Iran and Hezbollah.
Mubarak Announces He'll Step Down in September
Feb. 2….(CNN) Bowing to eight days of protests, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak announced Tuesday night that he will hand over power to an elected successor "in a constitutional way" when his term ends in September. But the announcement rang flat in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where thousands of protesters erupted in chants of "Down with Mubarak" and "The people want the president to be judged" following his announcement. Mubarak has led Egypt for nearly 30 years since the 1981 assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, aided by an emergency decree that has allowed him to rule with an iron fist. But following demonstrations that have only grown in the past week, the 82-year-old former air force general told his people Tuesday night, "I have spent enough time serving Egypt." "My first responsibility now is to restore the stability and security of the homeland, to achieve a peaceful transition of power in an environment that will protect Egypt and Egyptians and which will allow for the responsibility to be given to whoever the people elect in the forthcoming elections," he said. He added, "I will pursue the transfer of power in an way that will fulfill the people's demands, and that this new government will fulfill the people's demands and their hopes for political, economic and social progress."
Throughout the demonstrations, the world watched as the Arab world's most populous nation, a bulwark of stability and a major US ally in the region, went through the throes of what increasingly appeared to be a revolution. In Washington, a US official involved in the Obama administration's deliberations on Egypt said Mubarak's decision would be "a significant step in the right direction." The official said the White House has made clear "at the highest levels" that it wanted Mubarak to state that neither he nor his son, Gamal, would be a presidential candidate in the next elections set for September. In Cairo, the US ambassador to Egypt, Margaret Scobey, met Tuesday with opposition leader and Nobel laureate Mohamed ElBaradei and will be speaking with leaders of other political movements, a senior State Department official said. The official cautioned that Scobey's talks with ElBaradei doesn't mean the United States favors him.
Mubarak's announcement comes less than three weeks after a wave of protests that forced Tunisia's longtime strongman to flee to Saudi Arabia in mid-January. As the Egyptian demonstrations grew, Mubarak sacked his cabinet and ordered newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman to hold talks on political reform with opposition leaders. But a coalition of six Egyptian parties issued a joint list of demands Tuesday. A joint statement issued Tuesday by a coalition of six political parties, including the banned opposition Muslim Brotherhood, laid out five demands for the government:
-- The resignation of Mubarak.
-- The formation of a transitional government to calm the unrest.
-- The establishment of a committee to draft a new constitution that "will guarantee the principle of equality and the circulation of power."
-- The dissolution of parliamentary councils in the wake of "forged" elections.
Jordan's King Abdullah Dismisses Government, Appoints new PM
Feb. 2….(CNN) The king of Jordan dismissed his government Tuesday and appointed a new prime minister with orders to implement political reform. The dismissal follows several protests calling for change in Jordan, protests that echo demonstrations that have swept across North Africa and the Middle East in the last few weeks. King Abdullah II asked Marouf Al Bakhit to form a government in Jordan that will implement "genuine political reform," the Royal Court said in a statement. The government will "take practical steps, quick and concrete, to launch a process of genuine political reform" and "comprehensive development," according to a letter from the king to Al Bakhit. It also will act to strengthen democracy, the letter said. Jordan has been deprived of "achievement opportunities" due to some leaders' resistance to change, the king wrote, and because they had sometimes put their own interests ahead of those of the public. The king asked Al Bakhit and the new government "to conduct a thorough evaluation process" and review laws regarding political affairs and civil freedoms to "address the mistakes of the past" and develop "a clear action plan that takes the march of reform forward." Will unrest spread to other countries? King Abdullah II also called on the new government to strengthen the institutional infrastructure and combat corruption, and prosecute those found to be involved in corruption.
Jawad Anani, a former Jordanian deputy prime minister, told CNN the changes had to be made and that the development comes amid a "deep outcry in the Arab world" seeking change and reform. He said the king wants Jordan to be more competitive, globalized, and influential, but the management he's been choosing "has not been very successful." In Jordan, police estimated that several thousand people gathered in the capital Friday to demand more significant economic and political reforms. Protesters included Islamists, leftists and union members who marched in downtown Amman, and there were protests in six other cities as well, authorities said. The Islamic Action Front, the political arm of the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is orchestrating the protests in Jordan.
Israel Shocked by Obama's "Betrayal" of Mubarak
Feb. 2….(Reuters) If Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak is toppled, Israel will lose one of its very few friends in a hostile neighborhood and President Barack Obama will bear a large share of the blame, Israeli pundits said on Monday. Political commentators expressed shock at how the United States as well as its major European allies appeared to be ready to dump a staunch strategic ally of three decades, simply to conform to the current ideology of political correctness. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers of the Jewish state to make no comment on the political cliffhanger in Cairo, to avoid inflaming an already explosive situation. But Israel's President Shimon Peres is not a minister. "We always have had and still have great respect for President Mubarak," he said on Monday. He then switched to the past tense. "I don't say everything that he did was right, but he did one thing which all of us are thankful to him for: he kept the peace in the Middle East." Newspaper columnists were far more blunt. One comment by Aviad Pohoryles in the daily Maariv was entitled "A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam." It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks. Who is advising them, he asked, "to fuel the mob raging in the streets of Egypt and to demand the head of the person who five minutes ago was the bold ally of the president, an almost lone voice of sanity in a Middle East?" "The politically correct diplomacy of American presidents throughout the generations is painfully naive." Obama on Sunday called for an "orderly transition" to democracy in Egypt, stopping short of calling on Mubarak to step down, but signaling that his days may be numbered. Netanyahu instructed Israeli ambassadors in a dozen key capitals over the weekend to impress on host governments that Egypt's stability is paramount, official sources said. "Jordan and Saudi Arabia see the reactions in the West, how everyone is abandoning Mubarak, and this will have very serious implications," Haaretz daily quoted one official as saying. Egypt, Israel's most powerful neighbor, was the first Arab country to make peace with the Jewish state, in 1979. Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who signed the treaty, was assassinated two years later by an Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood. It took another 13 years before King Hussein of Jordan broke Arab ranks to made a second peace with the Israelis. That treaty was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated one year later, in 1995, by an Israeli fanatic. There have been no peace treaties since. Lebanon and Syria are still technically at war with Israel. Conservative Gulf Arab regimes have failed to advance their peace ideas. A hostile Iran has greatly increased its influence in the Middle East conflict. "The question is, do we think Obama is reliable or not," said an Israeli official, who declined to be named. "Right now it doesn't look so. That is a question resonating across the region not just in Israel." Writing in Haaretz, Ari Shavit said Obama had betrayed "a moderate Egyptian president who remained loyal to the United States, promoted stability and encouraged moderation." To win popular Arab opinion, Obama is risking America's status as a superpower and reliable ally.
Israel Fears Egypt First Step Toward Radical Islamic Conquest of Middle East
Feb. 2….(Newsmax) Israeli leaders are voicing concern that radical Islamic groups will take advantage of popular protests in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world and try to seize government control, according to a Bloomberg report. Meanwhile, Iranian officials unabashedly proclaim hope that the mass anti-government protests in Egypt will lead to the emergence of a more Islamic Middle East that will stand up to its bitter enemies, Israel and the United States, according to a Reuters report. Furthermore, the Islamic Republic of Iran, locked in a standoff with the West over its nuclear program, sees gains for its own geopolitical influence in the region if Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, a key U.S. and Israeli ally, is swept aside. “The sources of the instability, the central source, does not stem from radical Islam, not in Tunisia or Egypt,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday in Jerusalem at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “But it is true that in a situation of chaos, an organized Islamist entity can take over a country. It’s happened in Iran and at other places as well.”
Israel has been watching protests in the Arab world in recent weeks, starting with Tunisia, where leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled on Jan. 14 following mass demonstrations. Yemen also has been the site of anti-government rallies. Israel’s shekel tumbled to a more than four-month low against the dollar during trading Monday as investors sought the relative safety of the dollar. The currency dropped as much as 1.4 percent to 3.7498 per dollar, the lowest level since Sept. 16, and traded 0.3 percent lower at 3.7080 per dollar as of 10:25 p.m. in Tel Aviv.
Egypt’s upheaval could have a “seismic” impact on the region, and no country will feel it more acutely than Israel, analysts say. Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel in 1979, has been cooperating with Israel to restrict arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Hamas Islamic militant group. Egypt and Israel share a 130-mile border and they also share a concern over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. “This is a big blow,” former Israeli trade minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Israeli Army radio on Jan. 30. Ben- Eliezer, the Israeli politician closest to Mubarak, spoke to the Egyptian leader during the weekend. Mubarak is “the only leader that I know who identifies himself, in a clear way, with the importance of the peace agreements with Israel,” the former minister said. On Saturday, Mubarak named intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as vice president, the first time in his 30-year rule that he has named a deputy, and former air force commander Ahmed Shafik as prime minister. Suleiman as Mubarak’s replacement “would be the positive scenario” for Israel, said Eli Shaked, the country’s ambassador to Cairo from 2003 to 2005. He’s “committed to peace with Israel, the special ties with the US, and the heritage of Sadat-Mubarak,” Shaked said. A likely scenario was that he would be a transitional figure, “paving the way for the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “We will be changing one dictator with another, one who will be very anti-American, anti-West,” Shaked said. Jonathan Alterman, director of the Middle East Center at the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington, said such a change in Egypt would mean “the way Israelis calculate their entire strategic position is going to change.” It “could be a seismic change on the size of the Iranian Revolution of 1979” that brought conservative religious leaders to power, said David Makovsky, director of the Washington Institute for Near East’s Policy Project on the Middle East.
Israel established an embassy in Cairo, its first in any Arab country, in 1980, according to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. About 50 normalization agreements have followed, largely economic and cultural, to enhance that peace, according to the Israeli ministry. Mubarak’s hostility to Iran was on full display in 2008 diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, in which he calls Iranians “big, fat liars” who “justify their lies because they believe it is for a higher purpose.” Israel and Egypt have cooperated to contain Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip and smuggles weapons into the territory through tunnels from Egypt. The US, EU and United Nations consider Hamas a terrorist group.
Israel and Egypt also are targets of the Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah. Egypt arrested 49 alleged Hezbollah militants in April for planning to obtain explosives, among other things. And Egypt has come under attack from al-Qaida, a branch of which attacked the resort town of Sharm El Sheikh in 2005. “They’ve seen the world more commonly than they’ve differed,” Makovsky said. “Israel has to be concerned about how Mubarak’s downfall could affect the situation in the Gaza Strip,” said Yoram Meital, director of Ben Gurion University’s Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy in Beersheba. If the Egyptian army halts cooperation with Israel, it could allow more heavy weapons, such as anti-tank missiles, to be smuggled into Gaza, Meital said. “That would make a difference in any future military action that Israel may take in the future,” he said. Continued stability is a likely outcome even in the event of Mubarak’s ouster, Makovsky said. “The issue isn’t the individuals, the issue is the pillars of the regime,” Makovsky said, identifying those pillars as the military, the government bureaucracy, and business community. “They’ve been there so long that those foundations are strong and that coalition will withstand countervailing winds.” In that event, the Egypt-Israel peace treaty probably would hold, said Steven Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “It’s easier to defend something you inherit and did not create,” he said.
Iran, the only country in the region with no diplomatic ties with Egypt, hopes that fall of the Egyptian government will lead to an Islamist takeover and boost its political power in the region, analysts say.
Muslim Brotherhood’s Message Same as Hamas: Kill Jews
Feb. 2….(Arutz) Many Western analysts agree that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are one and the same. One leading Brotherhood cleric has said: "Kill Jews, to the very last one.” A Brotherhood takeover of Egypt would strengthen Hamas in Gaza. Another Brotherhood leader told an Arab language newspaper Monday that Egyptians “should prepare for war against Israel." The Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are rooted in the same ideology. "If the Muslim Brotherhood groups gain a prominent place in the government, this would definitely help consolidate Hamas's hold on Gaza,'' Atiyeh Jawwabra, a political science professor at Jerusalem's Al Quds University, told The Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Mitnick. The journalist added, “Hamas, whose founder was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has rejected negotiations with Israel and refuses to foreswear military and terrorist attacks." “Under a different name (Hamas), the Muslim Brotherhood runs the Gaza Strip. Hamas's charter states unequivocally that it wants to eradicate Israel,” wrote Richard Cohen in the Washington Post this week.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology was made clear in the sermons of one of its leading preachers based in Qatar, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Two years ago, the Anti-Defamation League posted several of his teachings, one of them a call that Israel and Jews be dealt with by the Almighty who should "kill them, down to the very last one." In a sermon aired in January 2009 on Al Jazeera television, Qaradawi said, “I will shoot Allah’s enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus I will seal my life with martyrdom.” Two days later, Qaradawi gave another speech that also aired on Al-Jazeera, where he claimed that Adolf Hitler was sent by Allah to punish the Jews. The same month, he led a delegation of Muslim scholars who met with Arab terrorist groups, including Hamas, in Damascus "to discuss the ways to cope with a war of genocide against the people in…Gaza." On another occasion, he declared, "I support Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, and Hizbullah. I oppose the peace that Israel and America wish to dictate. This peace is an illusion. I support martyrdom operations." Several analysts view the Muslim Brotherhood as being a minority in Egypt, and the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, traditionally against Israeli nationalism, recently opined that “There is ultimately no alternative to freedom and self-government,” even if it means that a radical Muslim group will control Egypt. During the George W. Bush administration, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was shell-shocked when aides woke her up in the middle of the night to tell that Hamas won the Palestinian Authority's first and only legislative election that the United States sponsored, and even monitored, in the Palestinian Authority. CNN somewhat played down the prospect of an Egyptian government led by the Muslim Brotherhood, quoting Egyptian analyst Mustafa Abulhimal as saying, "The Muslim Brotherhood are a small minority among those who are out on the street," he said, and added that there is no comparison between Egypt today and Iran in 1979, when the Islamic Revolution overthrew the American-backed Shah. "The Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with the Iranian model, has nothing to do with extremism as we have seen it in Afghanistan and other places. The Muslim Brotherhood is a religiously conservative group. They are a minority in Egypt," he said.
Obama Tells Mubarak: Go now
Feb. 2….(DEBKAfile Special Report) In a speech to the nation Tuesday night, Feb. 1, President Hosni Mubarak defied the demands of President Barack Obama and his army generals to quit at once and leave Egypt and said he would serve out his term until September and not run again. He also swore to die in Egypt, meaning no exile for him. Mubarak said he would devote his remaining months to managing a peaceful transition of power and called on parliament to amend the constitution so as to open up the ballot to presidential candidates and limit the president's term in office. A cheer went up in Cairo's Tahrir Square where protesters watched the speech on a huge TV screen, when Mubarak said his role was finished, although some continued to chant demands for him to go right now. The big question is whether the army and people will let Mubarak have his last months in office.
In a final ultimatum, President Obama told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak bluntly that his time was up. You must quit now and leave Egypt without further delay. As four million protesters marched across Egypt in a relentless drive to be rid of him, Mubarak got the same message from the heads of the Egyptian army, who may or not have been acting in tune with Washington. Barack Obama's message reached Mubarak's desk by a special messenger, Ambassador Frank Wisner. He is expected to announce in a speech to the nation Tuesday night that he will not run for a fifth term as president but serve full term. This will be seen as more foot-dragging and further infuriate the people. Our Cairo sources report that the army chiefs were horrified to see hundreds of Cairo protesters taking part in the March of Millions Tuesday hoisting Mubarak effigies on a cardboard gallows or paraded in coffins over Tahrir Square, an unprecedentedly brutal expression of rage and hate. Army leaders have begun to fear that the protesters' next step may be to haul him out of Abdeen Palace and lynch him if he stands by his refusal to step down. The Egyptian army chiefs have made plans to fill Mubarak's shoes and rule the country of 85 million as soon as he is gone. Before them are three optional procedures for bridging the transitional period up until general and presidential elections.
1. A council of officers consisting of 3-5 generals will assume presidential powers and govern the country for the interim, or;
2. The new Vice President, the former Intelligence Minister Gen. Omar Suleiman, will be appointed president;
3. Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Enan will take his place in the presidential office.
It is not known if the generals have put their plan before the president or that he learned about from officers loyal to him. In parallel consultations at the US embassy in Cairo, the three options were put before Ambassador Margaret Scobey by Mohammed ElBaradei, the former International Atomic Energy Director who was chosen by opposition organizations for liaison missions. He was also in touch with the British ambassador in Cairo during the day. By undertaking these tasks, ElBaradei, who was hardly known in Egypt, has advanced his chances of a prominent role in the post-Mubarak government. Debkafile's Washington sources report that the Obama administration has in fact put a gun on Mubarak's desk and are willing to discuss nothing more than the conditions of his departure in the next couple of days. So far, the Egyptian president has not informed the Americans or the army what is plans are and no one can tell what turn the crisis will take next.
How Does The Egypt Uprising Fit With Bible Prophecy?
Feb. 1….(FOJ) Many people are suddenly wondering what the current situation in Egypt has to do with Bible prophecy. Egypt was a prominent player in the history of the Old Testament. Egypt is mentioned in the annals of Jewish history more than any other nation. Egypt is mentioned 200 times just in the books of Genesis and Exodus and another 450 times in the Old Testament. But Egypt is only mentioned 24 times in the New Testament, (4 relative to Jesus birth, and 19 with the stories of Joseph and Jacob) but only one verse deals with a prophetic linkage. (Revelation 11:8 And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.) This verse is of course a reference to the two witnesses of God that shall prophesy during the first half (1260 days) of the Tribulation era. But the usage of the word “Egypt” as utilized here is an obvious reference to the whoredom of Jerusalem in relation to their “covenant with the Antichrist.” So then, this verse is not relative to today’s events in Egypt.
Egypt is mentioned in ‘latter days” Bible prophecy in the book of Daniel. In that prophetic scenario, we find that Egypt finds itself in the ire of the Antichrist during the Tribulation. In this setting, the King of the South (probably the Saudi king) will be agitating the Antichrist over threats emanating from the north (Magog) and from the Kings of the east. (Daniel 11:40-44 And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over. He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon. He shall stretch forth his hand also upon the countries: and the land of Egypt shall not escape. But he shall have power over the treasures of gold and of silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt: and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many.)
*Given the geo-political alignment between Egypt and the West before this week, the prophesied scenario of Daniel eleven would have been impractical. Now, all of that is changed. Since Egypt is the primary partner with Israel and the West in the Middle East peace process, the burden of stability begs ever more for a Superman of Peace!
God has sentenced the enemy neighbors of old Testament nations to carry a burden, a burden that will climax in the “judgement of the nations.” Like Babylon, Damascus, Tyre, Sidon, Moab, and Arabia, Egypt carries a burdensome destiny. All of these nation-burdens will find their climax in the quagmire that is the burdensome stone of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 19:1-2 The burden of Egypt. Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it. And I will set the Egyptians against the Egyptians: and they shall fight every one against his brother, and every one against his neighbor; city against city, and kingdom against kingdom.)
Obama Egypt Strategy Could Place US at Risk
Feb. 1….(Ken Timmerman) The Obama administration continues to turn up the heat on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, after two years of quietly monitoring human rights abuses by his regime and doing nothing. The rapid response of the White House to the protests in Egypt contrasts starkly with the Obama administration’s total silence during the first two weeks of the Green Movement protests in Iran in June 2009, even though the Iranian protesters openly called for US support in their struggle to over-turn the re-election of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. At the time, Obama said the United States did not want to give the impression of interfering in Iran’s domestic politics. "It is up to Iranians to make decisions about who Iran's leaders will be,” Obama said after millions of Iranians defied the government for more than four days in massive street protests demanding that their votes be counted. “We respect Iranian sovereignty and want to avoid the United States being the issue inside of Iran.” The administration displayed no such restraint in responding to the massive street protests in Egypt this past week, and even seemed to time its statements in such a way as to spark additional protests. “I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform, political reform, economic reform, is absolutely critical to the long-term well-being of Egypt,” Obama said in a YouTube forum. “And you can see these pent-up frustrations that are being displayed on the streets.” The very next day, millions of Egyptians received their marching orders during Friday prayers at mosques in Cairo and other major cities, and poured out into the streets in massive demonstrations that have rocked the Egyptian regime.
On Saturday, Mubarak announced that he was promoting his long-time intelligence chief Gen. Omar Suleiman as his vice-president, a move that was coordinated between the White House and top Egyptian military officers who met with President Obama the day before in an effort to manage a peaceful hand-over of power. Just hours later, the State Department dismissed Mubarak’s efforts, undercutting the very officers who thought they had struck a deal with the White House. “The Egyptian government can’t reshuffle the deck and then stand pat,” State Department spokesman PJ Crowly said in a Twitter message. “President Mubarak’s words pledging reform must be followed by action.” The flurry of US government statements against Mubarak and in favor of the protesters in Egypt have been described by some commentators as a clever attempt to convince the Egyptian people that the United States supports their struggle for civil and political rights, easing the transition to a pro-Mubarak government while retaining Egypt as an ally. But even some of the administration’s strongest supporters have warned that Obama is playing with fire. The administration’s support for the protesters “is a slide toward the unknown,” former New York Times editor Leslie H. Gelb wrote in Newsweek on Sunday. “Senior officials have no idea of exactly who these street protesters are, whether the protesters are simply a mob force incapable of organized political action and rule, or if more sinister groups hover in the shadows, waiting to grab power and turn Egypt into an anti-Western, anti-Israeli bastion.” Most observers fear that the US efforts to encourage the protest movement will lead to a behind-the-scenes takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood, the long-outlawed Islamist movement responsible for the assassination of Mubarak’s predecessor, Anwar Sadat, and that spawned Ayman al-Zawahri, No. 2 of al-Qaida. Such a takeover in fact may be Obama’s intention, just as his intention during the post-election protests in Iran was to support the regime in place because he saw it as a potential partner in resolving the Iranian nuclear crisis.
The Obama administration has taken numerous steps over the past two years to convince the Muslim Brotherhood that this White House no longer views them as an enemy. Two months before Obama’s June 2009 speech in Cairo, where he offered a “new beginning” to Muslims in their relations to the United States, he welcomed two members of the Egyptian group to the White House for quiet political consultations, according to the Egyptian army newspaper, Al Masry al-Ayoum. He also lifted a ban on travel to the United States on Tariq Ramadan, a prominent Islamist scholar who is the grandson of the founder of the Brotherhood, and went out of his way to invite Muslim Brotherhood members of Egypt’s parliament to attend his Cairo speech. During the April 2009 White House meeting, the unnamed Muslim Brotherhood leaders reassured Obama that a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt would “abide by all agreements Egypt has signed with foreign countries,” according to the Egyptian newspaper account. They also said they favored democracy and would support the US-led war on terror. But similar statements by Muslim Brotherhood in the past have regularly been parsed to mean the exact opposite of what they appeared to mean on the surface. For example, the Muslim Brotherhood does not recognize Israel as a country, so their pledge to abide by Egypt’s agreements with “foreign countries” does not apply to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.
Similarly, the Muslim Brotherhood does not consider groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah to be terrorist organizations, and calls al-Qaida attacks on US servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan acts of legitimate resistance against a foreign occupier. Hadar had warnings for the Israeli Embassy: “If the Muslim Brotherhood takes over in Egypt, it means the end of the peace treaty with Israel, and the life expectancy of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo will be calculated in minutes."
Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, the former secretary general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, confirmed that he is working hand in glove with the Muslim Brotherhood on CNN’s “GPS” program with Fareed Zakaria on Sunday. “I have been reaching out to them, that we need to include them, that they are a part of Egyptian society,” ElBaradei said. ElBaradei tried to downplay the Brotherhood’s radical agenda, and dismissed any hint that Egypt would go the way of Iran in 1979, when the former shah’s regime was replaced by an Islamic dictatorship. Even if the Egyptian army agrees to allow ElBaradei to head some form of transition government, “he is likely at best to be an interim figure, putting a face acceptable to the West on a government he doesn’t control, until either the army or the Brotherhood takes over,” says Shoshana Bryen, senior director for security policy at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs in Washington, DC.
US Secretly Preparing for Post-Mubarak Era
Feb. 1….(JWR) Even as the Obama administration maintained its cautious approach to the crisis in Egypt, suggesting that President Hosni Mubarak might be able to remain in power if he acts quickly on reforms, a former senior administration official said the White House also is preparing for a post-Mubarak era. The Obama administration is trying to deliver a consistent public message on the fast-moving events in Egypt, dispatching Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for a round of Sunday talk show appearances. Clinton hewed to the administration's talking points, pleading for restraint by Egyptian authorities and the protesters, while prodding the Mubarak government. But although US officials have publicly encouraged "managed change" under the entrenched Egyptian leader, the former senior adviser said that as early as Wednesday the administration recognized it could not try to save the Mubarak regime at all costs. "They don't want to push Mubarak over the cliff, but they understand that the Mubarak era is over and that the only way Mubarak could be saved now is by a ruthless suppression of the population, which would probably set the stage for a much more radical revolution down the road," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity so he could be more candid on sensitive diplomatic matters. The former adviser said he had discussed the crisis with ex-colleagues still in the administration. "They recognized that change was coming and they needed to be on the right side of history and not trying to keep Mubarak in power against all odds."
Obama tried to push Egypt in a pro-democratic direction soon after coming to power in 2009. In a much-publicized speech in Cairo, a city now engulfed in protests, Obama proclaimed that governments must reflect "the will of the people." Having delivered such a speech, Obama is hard-pressed now to throw his support behind a repressive ruler at the expense of crowds clamoring for democratic rights. Yet how the United States handles Mubarak is a tricky calculation for the administration, as he has been helpful on a range of issues important to Washington, such as fighting terrorism, Arab-Israeli peace talks and containing Iran. Middle East allies are closely watching the American response to the crisis. If Obama summarily dumps an ally of three decades, other Middle East leaders might get antsy, wondering whether he would do the same to them should protests erupt on their streets, the former administration official said. "It's a very difficult balance to be struck. Mubarak is, after all, a friend of the United States for the last 30 years," he said. "A lot of our allies in the region, the Saudis, Jordanians and Kuwaitis, will be particularly nervous if it looks like the US is doing in one of their friends. The administration understands this. "But the most important thing they understand is that they have to get in front of this and not behind it." Obama administration officials have been careful not to abandon Mubarak in public statements, but they also have not aligned themselves with him, instead saying Egyptians should decide their own fate through competitive elections.
"The determination of Egypt will be done by the people of Egypt," White House chief of staff William Daley said on CBS' "Face the Nation." Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Clinton said, "I want the Egyptian people to have the chance to chart a new future. It needs to be an orderly, peaceful transition to real democracy, not faux democracy." But Obama administration officials also do not want to see Mubarak's power preserved through a crackdown by the Egyptian military, a message US military leaders reiterated to their Egyptian counterparts over the weekend.
Obama is keeping up with events through regular staff briefings and close consultation with allies in the region. On Saturday, he spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the White House said. In the course of those conversations, Obama urged "an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people," the White House said in a prepared statement. A current Obama administration official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said that one thing is certain: Mubarak can no longer preside over an authoritarian government. Even if Mubarak is able to withstand the protests, he can't continue the leadership style he had before the protests erupted, the official said. But powerful voices inside Egypt insist that Mubarak must go. Mohamed ElBaradei, the opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner who has joined the protesters, said in an interview Sunday that Mubarak can't be trusted to usher in new freedoms. "The American government cannot ask the Egyptian people to believe that a dictator who has been in power for 30 years would be the one to implement democracy," ElBaradei told "Face the Nation."
Is El Baradei a Stooge of Iran?
Feb. 1….(Israel Today) Egypt could soon go the way of Lebanon in becoming a satellite or close ally of Iran if the current street demonstrations succeed in toppling the government of President Hosni Mubarak. Until now, the week-long protests have lacked a clear leader, someone to take over should Mubarak fall. But Mohammed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is busy setting himself up as just such a leader. ElBaradei openly backed and took part in the demonstrations over the weekend, quickly earning him the support and admiration of most of the protestors. ElBaradei is a clean-cut diplomat with extensive ties to the international community. But Malcom Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of American Jewish Organizations warned everyone not to be fooled. In an interview with Yeshiva World News, Hoenlein accused ElBaradei of being a “stooge of Iran.” Hoenlein noted that during his years as head of the IAEA, ElBaradei worked tirelessly to oppose Western sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program. ElBaradei adopted and championed the Iranian line that its nuclear program was purely civilian in nature. His successors later acknowledged that ElBaradei’s reports were not accurate. The kind of leader ElBaradei would be was further revealed on Sunday when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the forerunner of the Palestinian Hamas, publicly endorsed him as the next president of Egypt. Meanwhile, Egyptian protestors on Monday began to express great frustration over the lack of an international response to their uprising, especially from the US. Many Egyptians noted that the Mubarak regime is deeply entrenched, and without the help of international pressure, they are unlikely to be able to dislodge it. They accused Washington of supporting a repressive dictator because doing so serves American interests in the region.
Hamas Moves to Seize Northern Sinai
Feb. 1….(DEBKA) Egyptian reinforcements reached northern Sinai Monday, Jan. 31 to hunt down Hamas gunmen from the Gaza Strip battling Egyptian forces for control of the territory. Two were captured. Debkafile's military sources report that the gunmen of Hamas's armed wing, Ezz e-Din al Qassam opened a second, Palestinian, front against the Mubarak regime on orders from Hamas' parent organization, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, confirmed by its bosses in Damascus. The Muslim Brotherhood is therefore more aggressively involved in the uprising than it would seem. Debkafile's military sources report that Sunday, Hamas gunmen attacked Egyptian Interior Ministry Special Forces (CFF) stationed in the southern Egyptian-controlled section of the border town of Rafah and the Sinai port of El Arish. Saturday, Bedouin tribesmen and local Palestinians exploited the mayhem in Cairo to clash with Egyptian forces at both northern Sinai key points, ransack their gun stores and free prisoners from the local jail. Officials in Gaza City confirmed Sunday, that Hamas's most notorious smuggling experts, including Muhammad Shaar, had broken out of the El Arish jail and reached Gaza City.
Sunday, Hamas terrorists aimed to start pushing Egyptian forces out of the northern and central regions of the peninsula and so bring Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip under Palestinian control. Hamas would then be able to break out of the Egyptian blockade of the enclave and restore its smuggling routes in full. The reinforcements from Cairo Monday were instructed to drive them back into the Gaza Strip. Early Sunday, they began moving east through the tunnels under the Suez. Our military sources further report that the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO), most of whose members are Americans and Canadians, are on maximum alert at their northern Sinai base, while they wait for US military transports to evacuate them to US bases in Europe. This force was deployed in Sinai in 1981 for peacekeeping responsibilities and the supervision of the security provisions of the 1979 Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel under which the peninsula was demilitarized except for Egyptian police. Ending the MFO's mission in Sinai after thirty years knocks down a key pillar propping up the relations of peace between Egypt and Israel. The Egyptian troop presence in Sinai, which violates the terms of the peace treaty, has not been mentioned by either of the peace partners. Our Jerusalem sources report the Netanyahu government may have tacitly approved it. Hamas' Gaza leaders do not seem to fear Israeli military action, or even an air attack to interfere with their incursion of Sinai and attempts to control the long Egyptian-Israeli border snaking south of the Gaza Strip along the Negev up to the Red Sea port of Eilat.
Obama Urges Mubarak to Transition Out
Jan. 31….(World Net Daily) The United States led an international push on Sunday to force President Hosni Mubarak to yield to Egyptians' demands for democracy. But there was little sign the army was about to end his 30-year rule, just yet. Egyptian diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, claiming a mandate from disparate opposition groups to negotiate a handover of power with the military, called on Washington to "cut off life support to the dictator." Six days of unrest has killed more than 100 people, rocked the Middle East and rattled global investors. But President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, along with European leaders, stopped short of urging the immediate departure of the 82-year-old Mubarak, who has made the most populous Arab state an ally of the West in its conflicts with Soviet communism and, now, with radical Islam.
For many, however, the writing is on the wall. "Mubarak's time has run out," an Obama adviser told the New York Times. On the streets of Cairo and other cities, thousands kept up the momentum for change, inspired by the overthrow of Tunisia's veteran strongman Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali two weeks ago. They shared food and jokes with soldiers in American-built tanks, who kept order and let protests run into the night despite a curfew. Mubarak, himself a former general who on Friday promised to listen to popular demands, met his military chiefs. They now seem to hold his future in their hands. Egypt's defense minister also spoke by phone to Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
The White House said Obama spoke to the British, Israeli, Turkish and Saudi leaders, allies in a US strategy for the oil-rich Middle East which has been plunged into uncertainty. It said: "The president reiterated his focus on opposing violence and calling for restraint; supporting universal rights, including the right to peaceful assembly, association, and speech; and supporting an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people." Making good on such a transformation would spell the end for Mubarak and, potentially, for the military establishment which has run post-colonial Egypt since the 1950s. Many now see it as just a matter of time before the president steps down. "The army is in a tight spot and they are deciding what to do about the president," said Exclusive Analysis's Faysal Itani. "The army may see Mubarak as a liability. But they won't want to see him flee with his tail between his legs like Ben Ali. I think they would like to see him go but in an orderly fashion." Hoping to appease pent-up fury over poverty and oppression, Mubarak named a new prime minister on Saturday. Few Egyptians were impressed. On Sunday, he told the premier to restore confidence in the economy, curb inflation and protect subsidies. More widely, international markets have reacted to fears of instability across the Middle East. Investors have pushed up the prices of oil and of "safe haven" assets like dollars and yen.
Baradei, the 67-year-old former head of the U.N. nuclear agency, told the crowd: "Change is coming in the next few days." "You have taken back your rights and what we have begun, cannot go back," he said. "We have one main demand, the end of the regime and the beginning of a new stage, a new Egypt." Baradei, claiming endorsement from opposition groups which range from Twitter-savvy students to the mass Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, said he had a mandate to speak to the army and organize a handover to a national unity coalition. But a desire for stability, among both Egypt's 80 million people and world powers, has helped keep Mubarak at the head of Egypt's ruling military establishment for decades. It may yet allow him to stall the pace of street protests.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made clear U.S. concern about an Iranian-style Islamist takeover, something the Muslim Brotherhood says it does not want: "We don't want to see some takeover that would lead not to democracy but to oppression and the end of the aspirations of the Egyptian people."
FOJ Note….Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as "the president who lost Iran," (and biggest anti-Israel president before Obama) which during his term went from being a major strategic ally of the United States to being the revolutionary Islamic Republic. Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who "lost" Turkey, Lebanon and now, perhaps, even Egypt, and during whose tenure America's alliances in the Middle East crumbled. Who will he let fall next, Jordan? Obama began his presidency with trips to Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and in speeches in Ankara and Cairo tried to forge new ties between the United States and the Muslim world. His message to Muslims was "I am one of you," and he backed it by quoting from the Koran. President Hosni Mubarak did not join him on that stage at Cairo University, and Obama did not even mention his host. Obama apologized to the Islamic world for our incitement that caused them to attack us at the WTC on 9-11. Now, by allowing another ally to fall, he is closing ranks with Islam and the emerging Global government to encircle Israel.
Israel Watches With Concern as Egypt Teeters on the Brink
Jan. 31….(Israel Today) While Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered his government to refrain from commenting publicly on the situation in Egypt, Israelis watched with concern as the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak appeared ready to collapse, and wondered what that will mean for the Jewish state. Over the weekend, a large number of Egyptian troops that were went into Cairo to quell the uprising actually ended up joining the protestors, even allowing them to ride on their tanks. The pictures in local Middle East newspapers gave the impression that Mubarak’s downfall was a foregone conclusion. Mubarak has already appointed his first ever vice president, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, in an effort to calm the waters and demonstrate that he is not trying to create a dynasty. Suleiman is well respected in Egypt, even by the opposition, and has kept himself largely clean of the corruption that has characterized Mubarak’s government. But Suleiman is also old at 74, and he has dealt roughly with Islamic extremists in the past, meaning that even if he did take over, it likely wouldn’t mean an end to the unrest. The other possibility that everyone is talking about is that the Muslim Brotherhood, the forerunner of the Palestinian Hamas, will take over. Experts have noted that he Brotherhood is the only large organized opposition force in Egypt, so if the Mubarak regime falls completely, the likelihood of a Brotherhood takeover is high. If that scenario plays out, there are many that fear Egypt will go the route of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The only thing that is currently missing is a charismatic Islamic figurehead. Iranian leaders on Saturday said they were pleased with how things are going in Egypt, and said they felt the revolution there had been inspired by their own. An Egypt controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood would suddenly become the greatest regional threat to Israel, and precipitate a major restructuring of the IDF operational policies and a beefing up of Israeli forces in the south of the country. If it gains control of Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood would be in command of the Arab world’s largest and most powerful military, built on a foundation of advanced American weaponry. It would mean Israel would have to seriously consider facing a major war on two fronts, something it has not had to do since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Netanyahu Says Peace With Egypt Must be Preserved
Jan. 31….(My Way) Israel's prime minister said Sunday that his government is "anxiously monitoring" the political unrest in Egypt, his first comment on the crisis threatening a regime that has been one of Israel's key allies for more than 30 years. Israeli officials have remained largely silent about the situation in Egypt, but have made clear that preserving the historic 1979 peace agreement is a paramount interest. The peace, cool but stable, turned Israel's most potent regional enemy into a crucial partner, provided security on one of its borders and allowed it to significantly reduce the size of its army and defense budget. "We are anxiously monitoring what is happening in Egypt and in our region," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before his Cabinet's weekly meeting.
"Israel and Egypt have been at peace for more than three decades and our objective is to ensure that these ties be preserved. At this time, we must display responsibility, restraint and utmost prudence." It was the first high-level comment from Israel on the Egypt protests, which began last week with disorganized crowds demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and have grown into the most significant challenge to Egypt's autocratic regime in recent memory. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak discussed the situation in Egypt with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Sunday, according to a statement from Barak's office. No details of the discussion were released. Over the weekend, Israel evacuated the families of its diplomats from Cairo and security officials began holding urgent consultations. Israel's primary concern is that the uprising could be commandeered by Egypt's strongest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and its allies, who would presumably move Egypt away from its alignment with the West and possibly cancel the peace agreement with Israel. "Israel has an interest in Egypt being democratic, but through a process that promises sustainability," said Dan Shueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at Haifa University. "If you have a process that starts with a desire for democracy but then sees radicals take over, then the result at the end of the process is worse than what you had at the beginning."
The benefits to Israel of peace with Egypt have been significant. In the three decades before the peace agreement, Israel and Egypt fought four major wars. Israel now spends 9 percent of its gross domestic product on defense, Shueftan said, compared with 23 percent in the 1970s, when a state of war with Egypt still existed. Where Israel once deployed thousands of soldiers along the Egyptian frontier, today there are several hundred. This reduction allowed the Israeli economy to begin flowering in the years after the peace deal, he said. Mubarak has also served as a mediator between Israel and the Palestinians.
If Egypt resumes its conflict with Israel, Israelis fear, it will put a powerful Western-armed military on the side of Israel's enemies while also weakening pro-Western states like Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Eli Shaked, a former Israeli ambassador to Cairo, offered a grim assessment Sunday in the daily Yediot Ahronot. "The assumption at present is that Mubarak's regime is living on borrowed time, and that a transition government will be formed for the next number of months until new general elections are held," he wrote. "If those elections are held in a way that the Americans want, the most likely result will be that the Muslim Brotherhood will win a majority and will be the dominant force in the next government. That is why it is only a question of a brief period of time before Israel's peace with Egypt pays the price," wrote Shaked.
Some in Israel have critically compared President Barack Obama's response to the crisis to that of President Jimmy Carter to the Iranian revolution in 1979. Obama has called on Mubarak to show restraint and pass unspecified reforms in Egypt. "Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as 'the president who lost Iran,' which during his term went from being a major strategic ally of the United States to being the revolutionary Islamic republic," wrote the analyst Aluf Benn in the daily Haaretz. "Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who 'lost' Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America's alliances in the Middle East crumbled." In the short term, Israel will face increased smuggling activities in the Sinai peninsula, where the authority of the Cairo government, never strong, has been further weakened by the unrest, said Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli general. Weapons, fuel and other goods enter the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which is subject to a partial Israeli and Egyptian blockade, through tunnels from the Sinai desert. "They will now try to get in everything they couldn't get in before," Amidror said. Israel captured Sinai in 1967 and then ceded it to Egypt in the 1979 peace deal. The area was demilitarized as part of the agreement.
Who are the Muslim Brothers?
(The movement wants to first prepare society, and then found a Koranic state)
Jan. 31….(Jerusalem Post) As the Egyptian popular uprising enters its seventh day on Monday, all eyes are on the Muslim Brothers, the country’s largest and best-organized opposition movement, to see how it will try to leverage the crisis to further its goal of rising to power. Founded by Hassan al- Banna in the smoky coffeehouses of Cairo in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood believes in the establishment of a fundamentalist state ruled according to the strictest interpretation of Shari’a (Islamic law). As the movement grew, it became the target of an anxious Egyptian establishment, and in December 1948, one of its members assassinated prime minister Mahmud Nokrashi. Soon afterwards, Egyptian security forces killed Banna in retaliation. In 1954, secular nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser banned the Brotherhood, and it has remained prohibited in Egypt ever since. Thousands of members were imprisoned and routinely tortured in the second half of the 20th century. The Brotherhood views secular Arab regimes as the foremost obstacle to setting up a state it believes has been ordained by the Koran. These ideas have been expressed most virulently by Islamist ideologue Sayyid Qutb, who was executed in Egypt in 1966.
The Brotherhood’s ideology has placed it on a collision path with the Egyptian state for more than 60 years, forcing it to come up with a pragmatic, slowmoving tactical road map, that seeks to work within the current political order in order to undermine it. The Muslim Brothers share the goal of Islamist sovereignty with the global jihadi movement, led by al-Qaida, but the Brothers scorn the tactics of the jihadis, which they view as counterproductive. As the Brotherhood evolved in Egypt and then spread to other Arab countries, and beyond, its ideologues came to believe that instant jihad was useless so long as the masses were not “properly” following Islam. There would be no point in establishing an Islamic state, they reasoned, if an Islamic nation following their ideology did not first exist to populate it.
The Muslim Brothers therefore dedicated themselves to spreading their ideology and interpretation of Islam throughout society, a process they call Da’wa, and have used charities, clinics and social aid networks to spread their ideas and prepare the public for the implementation of a Koranic state. Once an Islamic society was formed in Egypt, as well as in other Muslim states, they reasoned, an Islamic revolution would naturally erupt, or a government of their choosing would be elected without the need to fire a single bullet. Violent jihadis, on the other hand, believe that their desired state must first be created through armed revolution, and that Islamizing society is the secondary goal.
Today, the Muslim Brothers in Egypt are led by Muhammad Badi, elected as head of the organization in 2010, who is considered too meek and uncharismatic a character to gain the backing of the multitudes of Egyptians trying to force out their government. Should free elections ever be held in Egypt, the Brothers have a reasonable chance of winning, he said. “Clearly this is a possibility. This is the most organized opposition in Egypt. The rest of the opposition groups are are a rabble.” The Brotherhood has worked with liberal parties within Egypt in recent years, and likely views former IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, an opposition figure calling for democracy in Egypt, as “a tool that can serve them,” Podeh said. The movement is probably still biding its time to see whether the Mubarak regime will fall or not, and fears severe retaliation if it attempts a coup that fails, he said. In addition to representing a sea change within Egypt, a Muslim Brotherhood government would obviously spell bad news for relations with Israel. In 2009, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt published a draft charter on its website, in which it said that the peace treaty with Israel would be “reviewed” if it came to power.
Mubarak Announces He is not Leaving, Army Backs Him
Jan. 31….(DEBKA) The popular uprising against the Egyptian regime reached a standoff at the end of its sixth day, Sunday night, Jan. 30: President Hosni Mubarak made it clear to the armed forces chiefs whom he met at military headquarters during the day that he has no intention of bowing to the massive popular call to step down . It is from there that operations to quell the uprising against his regime are being conducted. Mubarak clearly had not intention of heeding the pressure from Washington and European capitals to listen to the people and their call for an orderly transition to "a democratic government responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people," reiterated by President Barack Obama Sunday. The generals then continued to pour divisions into Cairo and Egypt's main cities in an effort to assume control. However, this tactic is not working: The officers and men on the ground realize they and their tanks are extras in a show of strength to the cities without the power to exert it: they can't shoot the protesters or exercise any other form of violence. Debka’s Middle East sources report that the Egyptian crisis looks like being in for a protracted period of uncertainty unless the army, which holds the key to breaking the deadlock, decided to step in and pick a side, Mubarak or the people. The generals alone have the clout to force Mubarak to step down and get out, as happened in Tunisia, or smash the street demonstrations. This would mean a massacre, the army's identification with a repressive regime and the end of its historic acceptance as the people's army.
Iranian Leaders Hope for Islamic Republic in Egypt
Jan. 30….(YNET) Iranian leaders expressed satisfaction with the anti-government protests in Egypt, with one leader saying he believes the protesters were inspired by the revolution in his country in 1979. Anti-government protesters hit streets throughout Egypt for fifth consecutive day, attack police forces with rocks and firebombs just hours after Mubarak promises Cabinet will resign. So far 74 people have been killed, reports say. “Today, as a result of the gifts of the Islamic revolution in Iran, freedom-loving Islamic peoples such as the peoples of Tunisia, Egypt and nearby Arab countries are standing up to their oppressive governments,” the New York Times quoted Ayatollah Mohammad-Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi as saying. He congratulated the Egyptian people, saying their actions were "based on the principles" of the Islamic revolution. Western officials fear Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will be replaced by a hardline cleric similar to the ayatollahs in Iran, like the Muslim Brotherhood opposition party, which also gave rise to Hamas. Mohammad-Javad Larijani, secretary general of the Iranian High Council for Human Rights and a conservative leader, also voiced a positive opinion. "In my opinion, the Islamic Republic of Iran should see these events without exception in a positive light," he said. Larijani also expressed hope that the "anti-Islamic" Tunisian government led by the ousted Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali will be replaced by a "people's government". He was encouraged by the events in Egypt. "There, Muslims are more active in political agitation and, God willing, they will establish the regime that they want," he said. In 1979, after years of internal turmoil, the Western-backed Shah regime was toppled in Iran and an Islamic regime established instead.
Without Egypt, Israel will Have no Friends in Mideast
Jan. 30….(Ha Aretz) The fading power of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government leaves Israel in a state of strategic distress. Without Mubarak, Israel is left with almost no friends in the Middle East; last year, Israel saw its alliance with Turkey collapse. From now on, it will be hard for Israel to trust an Egyptian government torn apart by internal strife. Israel's increasing isolation in the region, coupled with a weakening United States, will force the government to court new potential allies. Israel's foreign policy has depended on regional alliances which have provided the country with strategic depth since the 1950s. The country's first partner was France, which at the time ruled over northern Africa and provided Israel with advanced weaponry and nuclear capabilities.
After Israel's war against Egypt in 1956, David Ben-Gurion attempted to establish alliances with non-Arab countries in the region, including Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia. The Shah of Iran became a significant ally of Israel, supplying the country with oil and money from weapons purchases. The countries' militaries and intelligence agencies worked on joint operations against Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's rule, which was seen as the main threat against Israel and pro-Western Arab governments. Israel's next alliances were forged with Jordan's King Hussein and Morocco's King Hassan. These ties were operated in secret, as well as ties with leaders in Lebanon's Christian community. The late 1970s saw the fall of the Shah of Iran, with an anti-Israel Islamic republic created in his stead. Around the same time, Egypt and Israel broke their cycle of conflict by signing a peace agreement. Egypt positioned itself on the side of Saudi Arabia, as head of the pro-American camp. Mubarak inherited the peace agreement after President Anwar Sadat's assassination. Mubarak was cold in his public relations with Israel, refusing to visit the country except for Yitzhak Rabin's funeral, which decelerated normalization between the countries. Relations between the Israel Defense Forces and the Egyptian army were conducted on a low level, with no joint exercises. Egyptian public opinion was openly hostile towards Israel and anti-Semitic terminology was common. Civil relations between the countries were carried out by a handful of government workers and businessmen.
Despite all of this, the "cold peace" with Egypt was the most important strategic alliance Israel had in the Middle East. The security provided by the alliance gave Israel the chance to concentrate its forces on the northern front and around the settlements. Starting in 1985, peace with Egypt allowed for Israel to cut its defense budget, which greatly benefited the economy. Mubarak became president while Israel was governed by Menachim Begin, and has worked with eight different Israeli leaders since then. He had close relations with Yitzhak Rabin and Benjamin Netanyahu. In the last two years, despite a stagnation in peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and worsening relations between Netanyahu and the Arab world, Mubarak has hosted the prime minister both in Cairo and in Sharm el-Sheikh.
The friendship between Mubarak and Netanyahu is based on a mutual fear over Iran's strengthening and the rising power of Islamists, as well as over the weakening and distancing of the US government with Barack Obama at its head. Now, with Mubarak struggling over the survival of his government, Israel is left with two strategic allies in the region: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. These two allies promise to strengthen Israel's Eastern battlefront and are also working to stop terror attacks and slow down Hamas. But Israel's relationship with these two allies is complicated. Joint security exercises are modest and the relationship between the leaders is poor. Jordan's King Abdullah refuses to meet Netanyahu, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is waging a diplomatic struggle against Israel's right-wing government. It's hard to tell how Jordan and the PA could fill the role that Egypt has played for Israel.
In this situation, Israel will be forced to seek out new allies. The natural candidates include Syria, which is striving to exploit Egypt's weakness to claim a place among the key nations in the region. The images from Cairo and Tunisia surely send chills down the backs of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his cronies, despite the achievement they achieved with the new Hezbollah-backed Lebanon government. As long as the Arab world is flooded with waves of angry anti-government protests, Assad and Netanyahu will be left to safeguard the old order of the Middle East.
Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Calls for Transfer of Power
Jan. 30….(HaAretz) The Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition movement in Egypt, has called for President Mubarak to relinquish power in a peaceful manner, AFP has reported, as tens of thousands of protesters demonstrated in the streets across the country. The Muslim Brotherhood is officially banned from running for elections for parliament, though some movement members candidate for parliament as independents. Al Jazeera news reported that Egyptian pro-democracy leader, Mohamed ElBaradei called on Mubarak to step down and set a framework for transition of power as the only way to end street unrests that have rocked Egypt. The former head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog told Al Jazeera in a phone interview that Mubarak's speech on Friday, in which he said he would form a new government, was "disappointing" for Egyptians. Egypt has been one of the United States' closest allies in the region since President Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979 after talks at Camp David. Mubarak kept that deal after Sadat's 1981 assassination and has been a close partner of every US president since Jimmy Carter, helping Washington exert its will on issues that range from suppressing Islamist violence to counterbalancing the rise of Iran's anti-American Shiite theocracy. Mubarak has not said yet whether he will stand for another six-year term as president in elections this year. He has never appointed a deputy and is thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him despite popular opposition.
Global Markets Tumble on Egypt Unrest, Oil Jumps
Jan. 30….(Reuters) Stock markets around the world slumped, crude oil prices surged and the dollar gained on Friday as images of escalating violence and chaos in Egypt gripped investors and raised concerns the protests will spread across the Middle East. Money managers, who in recent months had been accelerating moves into riskier assets, dumped stocks and piled into safe-haven investments like US Treasuries, the dollar and gold as non-stop media coverage of skirmishes between protesters and Egyptian police overwhelmed all other news. Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index suffered its biggest one-day loss in six months. Some said the sudden eruption of violence could spur a longer-term sell-off after a strong rally in riskier assets like stocks and emerging markets. "I think the next two to three weeks, the crisis in Egypt and potentially across the Middle East might be an excuse for a big sell-off of 5 percent to 10 percent," Keith Wirtz, president and chief investment officer at Fifth Third Asset Management in Cincinnati. Traders and investors fear the protests could spread across the oil-rich region and lead to disruptions to Middle East commerce. Global political pressure could also heat up because of the security threat posed to Israel by deepening instability to a key regional ally. The natural American tendency is to support individual freedoms, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and freedom of association, which constitute inalienable US assets and the essence of the American nation. However, democracy at home is one thing, while democracy abroad is an entirely different matter.
Obama & America’s Foreign Policy Dilemna
Jan. 30….(YNET) In order to preserve its global hegemony, the US over the years knew how to openly endorse democratic reforms in the Arab world and other regions, yet at the same time support tyrants such as Mubarak and the Saudi and Jordanian kings, as long as they were loyal to the US and to the West, of course. When former President George W. Bush attempted to push the Middle East to adopt democracy, in the wake of the Iraq takeover and the toppling of Saddam Hussein, he insisted on holding elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, contradictory to Israel’s and the Palestinian Authority’s position. Hamas ended up winning most seats in the subsequent vote. Meanwhile, Bush’s democratization ideas in Lebanon opened the door for Hezbollah’s integration into parliament and beyond. Obama appears to be more pragmatic than his predecessor on this front. He issued statements in favor of democracy, including in the famous Cairo speech, yet at the moment of truth he lowered his profile. The State of the Union Address Tuesday constituted an opportunity to speak about democracy, yet the word “Egypt” was not mentioned in the speech. Tunisia, however, was mentioned. The latest developments in the Arab world caught the American Administration in a helpless position as it desperately seeks the help of its diplomats, and mostly its intelligence arms, in making sense of where the wind is blowing.
Mubarak ignored US advice
The only thing which Washington can provide the Middle East with at this time is declarations, with officials in Egypt and across the Arab world closely monitoring any nuance uttered by America. Egypt is a strategic anchor of US policy and serves as the basis for supporting the peace process with Israel. The toppling of Mubarak would be far from guaranteeing democracy, yet officials in Washington are concerned that they are late in understanding what’s happening, and that the masses will not forgive the US for failing to stand by them at the moment of truth. Is this the reason why America has been changing its tone? Secretary of State Clinton and other Administration officials have been displaying their superb rhetorical tricks in recent days, endorsing Mubarak yet also urging him to allow the protests against him to go on. By Friday night, the White House was threatening to reduce foreign aid to Egypt depending on Cairo’s response to the protests. Earlier, Clinton made it clear that "We support the universal rights of the Egyptian people including the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and we urge the Egyptian authorities not to prevent peaceful protests or block communications, including on social media sites. We believe strongly that the Egyptian government has an important opportunity at this moment in time, to implement political, economic and social reforms to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people." Mubarak, by the way, did the exact opposite of the advice he received from his American friends and allies.
Israel Silently Watches Peace Partner Fall
Jan. 30….(DEBKAfile Exclusive) Egypt, one of the only two Arab states to sign peace with Israel, is wobbling dangerously on the brink of revolutionary change with potentially spreading fallout. This week, Israel was dismayed to find itself looking suddenly at three latently hostile fronts about to spring up around its borders: Lebanon, which has dropped into the Iranian orbit, followed by Egypt, which is heading for terra incognita, and the Gaza Strip, where the Palestinian Hamas, offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, has gained altitude as a Middle East player from the rise of its less radical parent. Indeed Gaza's rulers, who are close to Iran, are puffing themselves up as a bridge between the Shiite Revolution of Iran and the Sunni-led revolution of Egypt. In the five days of the Egyptian upheaval from Tuesday, Jan. 25, none of the Israeli Middle East experts and pundits interviewed in one broadcast after another pointed to the three most pertinent common factors of the regime changes overtaking Tunisia, Lebanon and Egypt, all in the space of days.
1. Not a single protester or slogan-bearer summoned up the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as a factor in the most revolutionary transformations to overtake the region's countries in half a century. The Palestinians issue was totally absent from street demonstrations and Iran's takeover of Lebanon, giving the lie to the decades-long claim by Western decision- and opinion-makers that the Israel-Palestinian conflict was the root-cause of instability in the Arab and Muslim worlds and if it were not settled, those worlds would turn against the West. The Palestinians were plainly far from the minds of this week's Arab demonstrators.
2. The force most energized by the popular uprising in Egypt week turns out to be the extremist Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also in Jordan. Its enhanced potency makes it a menace for Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the rival Fatah, and the Hashemite throne in Amman. Flexing his new muscles, Hammam Saeed, head of the Muslim Brotherhood of Jordan and a close ally of the Hamas's Damascus-based leader, Khaled Meshaal, said this in Amman Saturday, Jan. 29: "Egypt's unrest will spread across the Mideast and Arabs will topple leaders allied with the United States." Debkafile's Middle East experts predict that however the Egyptian uprising turns out, and in whichever direction it is pushed and pulled by the United States, it will end in a new parliamentary election and a new civilian government in which the Muslim Brotherhood will be substantially represented. That government will not abrogate the 1979 peace treaty binding Israel and Egypt for 33 years, no Cairo administration will risk losing the substantial aid package from America, but its format will change. The intimacy of day-to-day cooperation on common security and other matters may well be disappear and Israeli political, military and intelligence figures will not longer be welcome in Cairo for consultations on common concerns as they are today. The Palestinian leader Abbas may also find the welcome mat withdrawn, unless he is willing to succumb to Hamas and cede control of the West Bank to the Palestinian extremists. Both sets of visitors will be replaced by Hamas leaders from Damascus, Beirut and the Gaza Strip beating a path to the Egyptian capital.
3. Over the weekend, more than one high Iranian official was patting himself on the back over the way the Egyptian upheaval was turning out, especially the Al Qods Brigades commander, Qhassem Soleimani, whom Debkafile's exclusive sources disclose has just been promoted to Major General, the second highest rank in Iran's armed forces.
For 15 years as Al Qods chief, he has overseen all of Iran's clandestine, sabotage and subversive operations in neighboring Afghanistan and Iraq, managed Hizballah's terrorist and spy cells active in West and East Africa, built up Hizballah as the leading military force on home ground in Lebanon, and developed the military prowess of the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip. Soleimani feels triumphantly vindicated in his decision to build up Hamas as Hizballah No. 2 and furnish the Palestinian extremists in the Gaza Strip with the missiles and weapons systems required to make them a formidable military force. The Al Qods Brigades chief now takes credit for Hamas's readiness for the enhanced role it has gained from the popular uprising in Egypt. But Israel's strategic planners should be kicking themselves for failing to curb Iran's military expansion into Lebanon and the Gaza Strip before it developed. The consequence of their inaction is two new long potentially hostile borders to Israel's south.
WEEK OF JANUARY 23 THROUGH JANUARY 29
Protests Suddenly Erupt Jordan, Demand PM Resign
(In 3rd day of protests, opposition supporters took to the streets in Amman to express their anger at rising prices, inflation, unemployment.)
Jan. 29….(Jerusalem Post) Thousands of Jordanian opposition supporters took to the streets Friday in the country's capital demanding the prime minister step down and venting their anger at rising prices, inflation and unemployment. It was the third consecutive Friday of protests following Muslim prayers in Jordan, inspired by the unrest in Tunisia and rallies in Egypt demanding the downfall of the country's longtime president. About 3,500 opposition activists from Jordan's main Islamist opposition group, trade unions and leftist organizations gathered in Amman's downtown, waving colorful banners reading: "Send the corrupt guys to court." The crowd denounced Jordanian Prime Minister Samir Rifai's unpopular policies. Many shouted: "Rifai go away, prices are on fire and so are the Jordanians." Another 2,500 people also took to the streets in six other cities across the country after the noon prayers. Those protests also called for Rifai's ouster. King Abdullah II has promised some reforms, particularly on a controversial election law. But many believe it's unlikely he will bow to demands for popular election of the prime minister and Cabinet officials, traditionally appointed by the king. Rifai also announced a $550 million package of new subsidies in the last two weeks for fuel and staple products like rice, sugar, livestock and liquefied gas used for heating and cooking. It also includes a raise for civil servants and security personnel. Still, Jordan's economy struggles, weighed down by a record deficit of $2 billion this year. Inflation has also risen by 1.5 percent to 6.1 percent just last month, unemployment and poverty are rampant, estimated at 12 and 25 percent respectively. Members of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood and Jordan's largest opposition party, swelled the ranks of the demonstrators, massing outside the al-Husseini mosque in Amman and filling the downtown streets with their prayer lines. As they broke into a procession, the demonstrators chanted, "In the name of God, the government must change" and the Muslim holy book "Koran is our constitution, jihad is our path." Leftist university professor Ibrahim Alloush said it was not a question of changing faces or replacing one prime minister with another. "We're demanding changes on how the country is now run," he said. He accused the government of impoverishing the working class with regressive tax codes which forced the poor to pay a higher proportion of their income as tax. He also accused parliament as serving as a "rubber stamp" to the executive branch.
America's Secret Backing for Muslim Rebel Leaders behind Uprising
(The American government secretly backed leading figures behind the Egyptian uprising who have been planning “regime change” for the past three years, The Daily Telegraph has learned.) President Barack Obama has not even spoken to President Mubarak at any point in the crisis. US aid to Egypt will be reviewed in the light of unfolding events, depending on whether the Mubarak regime immediately addresses the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people by reforms and restrained the military and security forces from violence.) (As in Egypt, also in Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood has called out its followers for anti-government demonstrations.)
Jan. 29….(Telegraph) The American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident attend a US-sponsored summit for activists in New York, while working to keep his identity secret from Egyptian state police. On his return to Cairo in December 2008, the activist told US diplomats that an alliance of opposition groups had drawn up a plan to overthrow President Hosni Mubarak and install a democratic government in 2011.
He has already been arrested by Egyptian security in connection with the demonstrations and his identity is being protected by The Daily Telegraph. The crisis in Egypt follows the toppling of Tunisian president Zine al-Abedine Ben Ali, who fled the country after widespread protests forced him from office. The disclosures, contained in previously secret US diplomatic dispatches released by the WikiLeaks website, show American officials pressed the Egyptian government to release other dissidents who had been detained by the police. Mubarak, facing the biggest challenge to his authority in his 31 years in power, ordered the army on to the streets of Cairo yesterday as rioting erupted across Egypt. Mohamed ElBaradei, (and former UN Atomic weapons inspector) the pro-reform leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was placed under house arrest after returning to Egypt to join the dissidents. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, urged the Egyptian government to heed the “legitimate demands of protesters”. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said she was “deeply concerned about the use of force” to quell the protests. In an interview for the American news channel CNN, to be broadcast tomorrow, David Cameron said: “I think what we need is reform in Egypt. I mean, we support reform and progress in the greater strengthening of the democracy and civil rights and the rule of law.” The US government has previously been a supporter of Mubarak’s regime. But the leaked documents show the extent to which America was offering support to pro-democracy activists in Egypt while publicly praising Mubarak as an important ally in the Middle East.
In a secret diplomatic dispatch, sent on December 30 2008, Margaret Scobey, the US Ambassador to Cairo, recorded that opposition groups had allegedly drawn up secret plans for “regime change” to take place before elections, scheduled for September this year. The memo, which Ambassador Scobey sent to the US Secretary of State in Washington DC, was marked “confidential” and headed: “April 6 activist on his US visit and regime change in Egypt.” It said the activist claimed “several opposition forces” had “agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections”. The embassy’s source said the plan was “so sensitive it cannot be written down”. Ambassador Scobey questioned whether such an “unrealistic” plot could work, or ever even existed. However, the documents showed that the activist had been approached by US diplomats and received extensive support for his pro-democracy campaign from officials in Washington. The embassy helped the campaigner attend a “summit” for youth activists in New York, which was organized by the US State Department. Cairo embassy officials warned Washington that the activist’s identity must be kept secret because he could face “retribution” when he returned to Egypt. He had already allegedly been tortured for three days by Egyptian state security after he was arrested for taking part in a protest some years earlier. The protests in Egypt are being driven by the April 6 youth movement, a group on Facebook that has attracted mainly young and educated members opposed to Mubarak. The group has about 70,000 members and uses social networking sites to orchestrate protests and report on their activities. The documents released by WikiLeaks reveal US Embassy officials were in regular contact with the activist throughout 2008 and 2009, considering him one of their most reliable sources for information about human rights abuses.
Mideast Expert Phares: Egypt Could be Pushed It Into Jihadist Hands
Jan. 29….(Newsmax) The unrest in Egypt could lead to a Muslim Brotherhood takeover that would shift the US ally away from the Free World and into the arms of jihad, Mideast expert Walid Phares tells NewsmaxTV. The Obama administration has abandoned those representing the best hope for democracy, the author and terrorism expert says. “The main concern in the United States is that if the opposition wins, and the Muslim Brotherhood are the ones who take over, and that’s only an if, then we’re going to see Egypt shifting away from the relationship with the Free World and actually connecting with the forces of jihad in the region,” he said. The worst-case scenario would be toppling Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and bringing in the Muslim Brotherhood, said Phares, a Beirut native who now is a US citizen. “Egypt will shift completely and become an Islamist, jihadist state,” he said. Another troubling scenario would be a protracted struggle that would be felt not only in Egypt but also in Israel, Iran, and throughout the Mideast. “Iran is taking advantage of us withdrawing from the region and abandoning the democracy forces, ” said Phares, a senior fellow and director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington who is an adviser to Anti-Terrorism Caucus in the US House. “Under the Obama administration, unfortunately, we saw an abandonment of these youths, of these women, of these minorities, of these NGOs, of these cab drivers in Iran, in Lebanon, in Egypt, in Algeria and in many other places,” he said of those struggling for an end to oppression. “And the response today is that the youth is rising even without leaders, even without connections to the West, they are the ones pushing against the authoritarians but unfortunately those who may take advantage and intercept that revolution may be for a while the Islamists, the jihadists.”
Anti-American Al Jazeera TV Plays Unifying Role for Protesters
Jan. 29….(Newsmax) One big winner has emerged from the tear-gas-laced chaos erupting in Egypt and several other Middle East nations: Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based satellite channel that many US leaders view as anti-American. Al Jazeera, Egypt, protests, Mubarak, MideastBy providing news throughout the region, Al Jazeera has emerged as a major force uniting Arab sentiment throughout the oil-rich region. Even after the government of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yanked the plug on most of the nation’s Internet capability, and took all cell phone service off the air, Al Jazeera continued to fill the information vacuum via satellite TV. Al Jazeera “has helped galvanize insurgents across the Arab world this week even before Egypt’s planned ‘Day of Unrest,’ or ‘Day of Rage’ depending on how you translate it,” according to New York magazine. Observers say Al Jazeera’s reports, which are followed closely throughout the freedom-starved Middle East, contributed to the fall of former Tunisian President Ben Ali’s government. That revolution in turn inspired the uprising in Egypt. Indeed, Al Jazeera media coverage has been the common theme as the contagion of civil unrest has spread from nation to nation. One major factor propelling the rise of the satellite channel, according to New York magazine: Al Jazeera helped “shape a narrative of popular rage against oppressive American-backed Arab governments (and against Israel) ever since its founding 15 years ago.”
El Baradei: I Will Lead Protests in Egypt
Jan. 29….(Jerusalem Post) Egypt's ruling party said Thursday it was ready for a dialogue with the public but offered no concessions to address demands for a solution to rampant poverty and political change heard in the country's largest anti-government protests in years. At the same time, the grass roots protest movement was getting a double boost likely to energize the largest anti-government demonstrations Egypt has seen in years. Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel peace laureate and the country's top pro-democracy advocate, was returning to the country Thursday night and declared he was ready to lead the protests. The country's largest opposition group, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, also threw its support behind the demonstrations. Rioting and protests erupted for a third straight day and social networking sites were abuzz with talk that Friday's rallies could be some of the biggest so far calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak after 30-years in power. Millions gather at mosques across the city for Friday prayers, providing organizers with a huge number of people already out on the streets to tap into. Safwat El-Sherif, the secretary general of the National Democratic Party and a longtime confidant of Mubarak, was dismissive of the protesters at the first news conference by a senior ruling party figure since the protests began. "We are confident of our ability to listen. The NDP is ready for a dialogue with the public, youth and legal parties," he said. "But democracy has its rules and process. The minority does not force its will on the majority."
The 82-year-old Mubarak has not been seen in public or heard from since the protests began Tuesday. Mubarak has not said yet whether he will stand for another six-year term as president in elections this year. He has never appointed a deputy and is thought to be grooming his son Gamal to succeed him despite popular opposition. According to leaked US memos, hereditary succession also does not meet with the approval of the powerful military. Mubarak has seen to it that no viable alternative to him has been allowed to emerge. Constitutional amendments adopted in 2005 by the NDP-dominated parliament has made it virtually impossible for independents like ElBaradei to run for president. Mubarak's administration suffered another serious blow Thursday when the stock market crashed. The benchmark index fell more than 10 percent by close, its biggest drop in more two years on the back of a 6 percent fall a day earlier. The protesters have already achieved a major feat by sustaining their demonstrations for three days in the face of a brutal police crackdown.
ElBaradei, who has emerged as a prime challenger to Mubarak's rule, told reporters at the Vienna airport on his way back to Egypt that he was seeking regime change and ready to lead the opposition. "The regime has not been listening," ElBaradei said. "If people, in particular young people, if they want me to lead the transition, I will not let them down. My priority right now is to see a new regime and to see a new Egypt through peaceful transition." A spokesman for ElBaradei, Abdul-Rahman Samir, said the former head of the UN nuclear watchdog was expected to join protests planned for after the Friday prayers. ElBaradei urged authorities to exercise restraint with protesters expressing their "legitimate need" for an Egypt that is democratic and based on social justice. ElBaradei returned to Egypt last year after living abroad for decades and has created a wave of support from reformists. But he so far insisted he would not run in this year's presidential election unless restrictions on who is eligible to contest the vote are lifted and far reaching political reforms are introduced. His support base is primarily made up of youths.
Muslim Brotherhood expresses support for protests
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood also expressed support for the demonstrations, raising the prospect that members of Egypt's largest and best-organized opposition group could join Friday's demonstrations in mass. If they do, it could swell the numbers on the streets significantly. But the group has stopped short of an outright call for its backers to turn out. The Muslim Brotherhood called on its website for protests to remain peaceful. It also called for new parliamentary elections under judicial supervision, the introduction of far-reaching reforms and the lifting of emergency laws in force since 1981. The Brotherhood made a surprisingly strong showing in parliamentary elections in 2005, when it won 20 percent of seats and served as the main opposition bloc in the legislature. In the latest parliament elections held in November, the Brotherhood failed to win even a single seat. It decried widespread fraud by the ruling party and boycotted the runoffs. The vote gave the ruling party all but a small fraction of the chamber's 518 seats, an outcome that analysts say chipped away further at the regime's legitimacy and likely contributed to the discontent being vented on the streets this week. "The movement of the Egyptian people that began January 25 and has been peaceful, mature and civilized must continue against corruption, oppression and injustice until its legitimate demands for reform are met," said the statement. "We are not pushing this movement, but we are moving with it. We don't wish to lead it but we want to be part of it," said Mohammed Mursi, a senior Brotherhood leader.
Obama Administration Lacking Leadership as Mideast Flames Up
Jan. 28….(DEBKA) The Obama administration is drawing fire from foreign policy experts for its mixed messages regarding the historic wave of unrest sweeping across the Middle East and threatening to transform the oil-rich region and appearing to encourage pro-democracy movements that it now seems to be very reticent to embrace. The clash over human rights also appears to be on the verge of triggering a political clash in the United States: Republicans well remember the tepid White House response to the crack own of Iranian protesters following fraudulent elections there in 2009. Republicans complained the president’s response was too timid. The administration’s ambivalence stems from the region’s volatility. There is uncertainty over whether stable, Democratic regimes can prevail over the Islamic extremism that is so common in the nations now experiencing unrest. President Barack Obama weighed in on the uprising in Egypt Thursday during a YouTube interview. Hosni Mubarak, who has dominated Egypt for more than three decades, has been very helpful to the United States, Obama said. “My main hope right now is that violence is not the answer in solving these problems in Egypt. So the government has to be careful about not resorting to violence, and the people on the streets have to be careful about not resorting to violence. And I think it is very important that people have mechanisms, in order to express legitimate differences.”
Egypt is hovering on the precipice of a political upheaval, with massive demonstrations set for Friday. Egypt’s Mohamed ElBaradei, a national hero for his high-profile work as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has thrown his support behind the rebellion and is calling for a new government. ElBaradei announced that he will return to Cairo to participate in the huge rally. Foreign policy experts fear the extremist Muslim Brotherhood may take advantage of the crisis and seize power. In recent weeks, the governments of Tunisia, rocked by the Jasmine Revolution, and Lebanon have fallen. Lebanon now appears to be in the hands of the terrorist organization Hezbollah after a controversial report on a political assassination disrupted the government.
In the past, Obama appeared to stand firmly with pro-democracy forces. He stated unequivocally in his much-noted June 2009 Cairo speech: “No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation on any other, but I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. “These are not just American ideas; they are human rights. And that is why we will support them everywhere,” he said. Similarly, a recent speech in Doha, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that regimes in the middle East were in danger of “sinking into the sand” if they don’t enact reforms.
But in recent days, the administration has tread carefully, balancing its support for the right to civil protest with support for Middle East stability. And that equivocation has angered activists, including most notably in Egypt ElBaradei, whose work at the International Atomic Energy Agency to stop nuclear proliferation earned him a Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. ElBaradei said he was stunned when Secretary of State Clinton released a statement Tuesday describing the Egyptian government as “stable.” She urged restraint and said the Mubarak government was “looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people.” ElBaradei, an oft-mentioned possible alternative to the 82-year-old Mubarak, appeared to view Clinton’s statement as waffling on US support for the popular uprising. Mubarak has angered many Egyptians by appearing to prepare the way for his son to succeed him, thereby establishing a family dynasty.
Brookings Institution foreign policy scholar Robert Kagan told Politico the president may be running out of time to get on the right side of history. “My impression is that the administration has been basically closing its eyes and praying that it all works out, because anything else seems too hard and too risky,” he told Politico. “They can still swing to right side of this thing, but one thing I have been most struck by in meeting with at all levels over the past year is that as of yesterday, they have no plan in any direction” for how to deal with the anti-government movements sweeping through the Middle East,” said Kagan. One irony of the remarkable human rights movements rippling across the Middle East is that some observers are interpreting it as at least a partial vindication for the pro-Democracy policies of former President George W. Bush. “That’s an interesting debate. Democracy comes out of the development of societies, from economic growth, middle-class restlessness, and above all the political failures of dictators. It can be helped from abroad. But ultimately it is an organic process when it is successful. “But give George W. Bush his due. “He saw the problem, and he believed that Arabs were not genetically incapable of Democracy, and he put America’s moral might behind the great cause of Arab reform.” On a less optimistic note, however, observers noted the historic pattern in the Middle East is popular uprisings result in dictatorships rather than democracies. It is a pattern he says that dates back to the 1952 overthrow of the Egyptian monarchy by Abdel Nassar, who ruled Egypt with an iron hand until his death in 1970.
Muslim Brotherhood Joins Egyptian Protesters
Jan. 28….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) The Mubarak regime was badly shaken Thursday night, Jan. 27, when Egypt's most powerful opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, ordered its teeming membership to join the protest movement raging in Cairo and other cities since Tuesday after Friday prayers. Debkafile's Cairo sources report that the capital's poor districts, like Shubra which houses four million inhabitants, were bustling Thursday night with preparations for street action the next day. The question on all lips now is: Can the security forces control the many millions of protesters expected to suddenly pour into city streets across the land as of Friday and defend the regime against them. The police, almost a million security officers and units of the Interior Ministry's special units, have been on their feet for three days quelling outbreaks. They are exhausted and demoralized. They managed to keep the demonstrations from getting out of hand, but not to suppress them. Now that millions of Muslim Brotherhood loyalists have been told to throw in their lot with the protest movement, the beleaguered 82-year old President Hosni Mubarak can no longer avoid sending the army in to stem the unrest, which looks increasingly like turning into a popular revolution. The trouble is that no one can be sure of the army's total loyalty to the regime. The president cannot be sure that officers will agree to order their men to shoot demonstrators if need be, or whether the soldiers will obey such orders. Even after three days, sources report signs that the president and his immediate circle of advisers and ministers have not grasped the extent of their peril. For hours, security forces commanders begged the president to sign curfew decrees for the most troubled cities, but he refused. In the end, they clamped curfews down on their own initiative in Suez and Ismailia on the banks of the Suez Canal and across the canal in the northern Sinai town of El Arish close to the Israeli and Gaza borders. During the day, violent clashes between police and rioters occurred in all three towns, whose combined population is 1.7 million, eaving casualties whose numbers are unknown. Thursday night, their streets of the three towns were deserted except for heavy security patrols. No one was allowed to leave without a special permit. The ministry responsible for mosques and preachers Thursday night issued directives to the imams who are state employees to focus their sermons Friday on calls to keep the peace and not participate in the anti-government demonstrations. But those preachers, although their pay checks come from the public purse, are unlikely to go against the popular mood or dare defy the Muslim Brotherhood. Later Thursday, rumors were floating around Cairo that President Mubarak was about to sack the government and promise early parliamentary elections. Neither was confirmed. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has sent his defense minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to Washington with an urgent request for US backing for his embattled regime against the street protest movement which gained in violence on its second day, Wednesday, Jan. 26. Debkafile's Washington sources report that in secret meetings, the Egyptian defense minister put the situation before President Barack Obama and a row of top US political, military and intelligence officials. He warned them that by advocating a soft hand with the demonstrators and responsiveness to their demands, American officials were doing more harm than good. Without a crackdown, he said, the regime was doomed.
Tantawi also warned that the radical Muslim Brotherhood, which has stood aside from the opposition protests, was merely biding its time for the right moment to step in and take over. He asked the Obama administration for an urgent airlift of advanced riot control equipment. The American response to the case presented by Tantawi is not known. Disclosure of his trip to Washington might well add fuel to the fires of disaffection burning in cities across Egypt. The protests are spearheaded by a youth opposition coalition whose members are proud of their Arab and Egyptian identity. Evidence of the regime's collaboration with a foreign power may well heighten their resolve to battle the regime and the million security services agents which Mubarak put on the streets Wednesday. Slogans of "US out" and "Death to the US" have begun to appear on anti-Mubarak placards.
Now, Palestinians Riot Against Abbas in Gaza
(Protestors held up photos of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with his face crossed out, in backdrop of Al Jazeera documents supposedly indicating he agreed to significant concessions during peace talks with Israel)
Jan. 27….(FOJ) Several thousand Palestinians in Gaza participated in marches against Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, calling him a traitor. The protests were sparked by reports by Al-Jazeera satellite TV about leaked documents from a decade of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Al-Jazeera says the documents show Abbas made far-reaching concessions on Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees. Abbas' political rival, the Islamic militant Hamas, has accused him of selling out Palestinian rights. On Wednesday evening, several thousands Palestinians marched in two Gaza towns. In one, they hoisted effigies of Abbas and other Palestinian negotiators draped with Israeli flags and chanted, "Go home, traitors." In the other, they held up photos of Abbas with his face crossed out.
Is it not ironic that on the day after Hezbollah takes over the government in Lebanon, and just one week after the government overthrow in Tunisia, that we now are witnessing riots and protests in Egypt, Jordan, and Gaza? Israel now faces an Iranian-controlled terrorist state in Lebanon to the North, another in Gaza in the South, with the threat of one materializing in Egypt also. Nevermind that Syria is a client with Iran and serves as the headquarters of many terrorist organizations. How in the world could the US, or any other nation require that Israel permit another terrorist proxy to takeover in the West Bank. Yet that is exactly what many nations around the world are doing by supporting unilateral Palestinian Statehood. And that is exactly what would happen if Israel did not maintain precautions in the West Bank.
Egypt President's Son, Family Flee to Britain
Jan. 27….(Arab Herald) Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak's son who is considered as his successor has fled to Britain along with his family, US-based Arabic website Akhbar al-Arab reported. The plane with Gamal Mubarak, his wife and daughter on board left for London Tuesday from an airport in western Cairo, the website said. The report came as violent unrest broke out in Cairo and other Egyptian cities and hundreds of thousands of people reportedly took to the streets in a Tunisia-inspired day of revolt. The protesters want Egyptian government to end its 30-year state of emergency and pass a law preventing a president from serving more than two terms, and want the interior minister Habib al-Adly, to resign. Protests in Egypt broke out after opposition groups waged an internet campaign inspired by the Tunisian uprising. Weeks of unrest in Tunisia eventually toppled president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month. A police officer was killed in clashes Tuesday in central Cairo, Egyptian daily al-Wafd reported. Over 30,000 protesters gathered in Cairo's Maidan al-Tahrir square to take part in the 'day of anger', the spokesman for Egypt's '6 April' opposition movement, Mohammed Adel, said. 'Police used tear gas and water canon to break up our protest and they arrested 40 of us, but we don't have official figures on the numbers of arrests across Egypt,' said Adel. Supporters of the '6 April' movement, the opposition al-Ghad party, the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, the al-Wafd party and supporters of former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed El Baradei took part in the protest. Al-Wafd daily said police arrested 600 people during Tuesday's protests in Cairo, Alexandria, Port Said, Tantan, al-Mahala, Asiut, al-Bahira and al-Quium. More than 200,000 people took part in protests in these cities. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said Tuesday Washington believed the Egyptian government was stable and urged restraint on both sides.
Egyptian Protests Continue
Jan. 27….(DEBKAfile Special Report) Hundreds of opposition activists were arrested by Egyptian security forces in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez Wednesday, Jan. 26 in an attempt to quell the stormy anti-government demonstrations which began sweeping Egyptian cities Tuesday, before they got out of hand. Official sources said 500 arrests were made, while Debkafile's Middle East put the figure closer to 1,000, including journalists. This morning, the day after four people were killed in the anti-Mubarak rallies, the interior ministry in Cairo banned public gatherings, street protests and marches, warning that anyone defying the ban would be detained and prosecuted. Nonetheless, by nightfall Wednesday, demonstrators were again out on the streets of Cairo and Suez. Foreign correspondents reported that hundreds congregated outside the Egyptian Journalists Association building in central Cairo and clashed with police forces.
Mohamed ElBaradai, former director of the UN nuclear watchdog who is considering running in the next presidential election, called on the Egyptian masses to join the street rallies against President Hosni Mubarak. According to reports, Hosni Mubarak's son and chosen successor as Egyptian president secretly took himself and family out of the country Tuesday by way of the military airfield in West Cairo at the peak of anti-government riots in Egyptian cities. There are unconfirmed reports that Suzanne Mubarak, Egypt's first lady, was identified by airport workers on arrival at Heathrow airport, London. If confirmed, Gemal Mubarak's defection would attest to deep cracks in the 82-year old president's regime, the reverse of the prevailing view in the West and Israel that the regime is in no danger of being overthrown by the protest movement sweeping the country. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday she believed the government was stable. Yet Wednesday, the Egyptian pound fell sharply against the US dollar and the stock market tumbled more than 4 percent.
With tension running high in Cairo, most observers report to Debkafile their sense that in the last two years, the Mubarak regime had lost its momentum. Grave domestic problems and economic hardships were neglected or addressed sluggishly. Even after 30 years in power, Mubarak heaped obstacles in the path of a choice of successor and an orderly handover of power. He kept his son Gemal dangling without a final decision and denied him the chance to prepare himself for the task. In the parliamentary poll of December 2010, opposition parties were kept off the ballot by Egyptian security services headed by Intelligence Minister Gen. Omar Suleiman. Opposition organizations were therefore more than ready for a showdown with the government when the spark from Tunis appeared to help ignite the street.
The government and security forces were not prepared for these numbers, the extent of the unrest or the force of the demonstrators' anger. But when hundreds broke through the police phalanx and ran toward the parliament building, they were told to use rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas. A mass melee resulted such as Cairo has not seen since 1977 when mass riots forced Anwar Sadat to back down from bread price hikes. Debkafile's Cairo sources report that the organizers plan to keep their protest going non-stop to absorb all the non-religious opposition elements in the country. So far, the Islamic parties led by the Muslim Brotherhood have ordered their followers not to join in. If this order is changed, the Mubarak regime will be in trouble. Anti-government outbreaks also continued in the streets of Tunisia and Jordan. For the first time in decades of Middle East history, Arab streets are willing to battle incumbent regimes and brave the security forces ranged against them.
Egyptians Riot, Denounce Mubarak
Jan. 26….(AP) Thousands of anti-government protesters, some hurling rocks and climbing atop an armored police truck, clashed with riot police Tuesday in the center of Cairo in a Tunisia-inspired demonstration to demand the end of Hosni Mubarak's nearly 30 years in power. Police responded with blasts from water cannons and set upon crowds with batons and acrid clouds of tear gas to clear demonstrators crying out "Down with Mubarak" and demanding an end to Egypt's grinding poverty, corruption, unemployment and police abuses. Tuesday's demonstration, the largest Egypt has seen for years, began peacefully, with police showing unusual restraint in what appeared to be a calculated strategy by the government to avoid further sullying the image of a security apparatus widely seen as little more than corrupt thugs in uniforms. With discontent growing over economic woes, and the toppling of Tunisia's president still resonating in the region, Egypt's government, which normally responds with swift retribution to any dissent, needed to tread carefully. But as crowds filled downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square, waving Egyptian and Tunisian flags and adopting the same protest chants that rang out in the streets of Tunis, security personnel changed tactics and the protest turned violent. In Egypt, discontent with life in the autocratic, police state has simmered under the surface for years. It is the example of Tunisia, though, that appeared to be enough to push many young Egyptians into the streets for the first time.
'Day of Rage' as Hezbollah Gains Power in Lebanon
Jan. 26….(MNS) Hundreds of angry protesters burned tires and blocked roads across Lebanon on Tuesday after Iranian-backed Hezbollah secured the appointment of its candidate to lead the next government. The nomination of Najib Mikati as prime minister, endorsed by President Michel Suleiman, is seen a victory for Hezbollah, which secured the parliamentary votes needed to wrest control of the Lebanese government. Hezbollah's control over the government for the first time will sound alarm bells in Washington and Israel and raise concerns in moderate Sunni Arab states. The protesters turned out in many cities in support of Mikati's defeated rival Saad al-Hariri, a Sunni Muslim whose government was ousted this month by Shiite Hezbollah and its allies in a dispute over the investigation of his father's assassination in 2005. The protests were part of a "day of anger" called by loyalists of Hariri, who is backed by Saudi Arabia and Washington, to protest against Hezbollah, funded and supported by Tehran. Mikati, a telecoms tycoon who has portrayed himself as a consensus candidate, said he would start talks to form a government on Thursday and appealed to all Lebanese factions to overcome their differences. "All Lebanese leaders should cooperate together to face the current challenges," he said from the presidential palace after he accepted his nomination by President Michel Suleiman. "I reiterate my position ... that my hand is extended to all factions to take part and end division...through dialogue." The biggest protest took place in the northern city of Tripoli where medical sources said 20 people were treated for injuries and protesters set fire to a satellite truck used by the Arab television channel Al Jazeera. Hariri appealed for calm, saying he rejected demonstrations of violence. "You are angry but you are responsible people. I understand your feelings," Hariri told supporters in a televised speech. "This anger should not lead us to what disagrees with our values, our belief that democracy is our refuge." "Sunni blood is boiling" chanted protesters in Tripoli, urging Mikati, a Sunni Muslim, to withdraw his nomination and waving flags of Hariri's Future Movement which says it will not serve in any government dominated by the militant Shi'ite group. Mikati secured the crucial backing of Walid Jumblatt and six of the influential local leader's supporters on Monday, giving him a majority of support among parliament's 128 members.
In Beirut, protesters blocked a road with burning tires and overturned garbage containers. A security source said shots were fired in the air and the army intervened, but no one was hurt. Lebanon's power-sharing political system calls for the post of prime minister to be held by a Sunni, and Hariri supporters said any figure who accepted the nomination from the Shi'ite group to form a new government would be considered a traitor. Hezbollah and its allies walked out of Hariri's unity government on January 12 in a dispute over still confidential indictments by a UN-backed tribunal which is investigating the 2005 killing of statesman Rafik al-Hariri, the premier's father. Politicians allied to Hezbollah have said the first priority of their new government would be to cut links with the tribunal, which is expected to accuse Hezbollah members of involvement in the 2005 killing. Hezbollah denies any role. Hariri supporter Mustafa Alloush told the crowd in Tripoli on Tuesday that the overthrow of the government two weeks ago was part of an Iranian takeover. "It's an attempt to bring Lebanon into the Persian sphere. We will not accept that, and we will be on alert for them," he said. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has defended the movement's decision to bring down Hariri's government after he rejected demands to cut Lebanon's links to the tribunal, saying Hezbollah ministers and their allies acted peacefully and within the constitution. The demonstrators in Tripoli said investigation into Rafik al-Hariri's killing could not be blocked. One poster read: "Tripoli will not accept the overthrow of the international tribunal."
The Prophetic Truth of the Obama Birth Certificate Issue
Jan. 26….(Bill Wilson) Sometime before the last Presidential election, I was interviewing with a premier conservative media outlet for the position of investigative reporter. Two icons of the conservative/Republican think tank and media were conversing with me about what I thought were the important issues of the time. One that I brought up caught their attention, but not in a way that I expected. I said that there was a question whether the Democratic frontrunner was eligible to be president. Raising their eyebrows in surprise, one looked at the other, and asked what I meant by that. I explained what I had researched at the time about the lack of a verifiable birth certificate. The interview was going well up to that point. And it was there that I lost out. The more I answered their pointed questions, the more I realized that there was a unification within the conservative circles in Washington, DC against pursuing the eligibility requirement of the presidency. They tried to pass it off as rumor. When I spoke of straightforward documentation, they passed that off as not credible. When I spoke of reliable sources in Kenya who visited villages and gathered information, they said it was chasing after rainbows. It was clear that by the end of the interview, I not only would not get the job, but that the conservative elite inside the beltway were never going to pursue the birth certificate issue. But a Democrat did. Hawaii gubernatorial candidate Neil Abercrombie promised that if elected, he would find the president’s birth certificate. He said it was a personal issue to prove all the naysayers wrong. He was elected and he tried to follow up on his promise. At first, he said he was there when the now-president was born. Then he retracted. Then he said he could not find the birth certificate, Then he retracted. Then he said that there was a document, but it wasn’t a traditional birth certificate, but some sort of long form. Then he retracted. Now he is saying that he is giving up his efforts to produce the birth certificate because its against the state law to release private documents without consent. Many well known conservatives have joined the chorus that questioning the birth certificate is a “right wing” conspiracy. I agree that it is a conspiracy, but between all the elites irrespective of party. They are hiding something or getting at something even more strategic such as a democracy election precedent, rather than a republican election. They are subverting the Constitutional mandate for sake of democracy. This plays into the hands of the one world order. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father but by me.” There is only one savior, Jesus Christ. And until He is manifest in the hearts of our leaders, there will be no truth, irrespective of party affiliation.
Palestinian Leadership in Hot Water over 'Palestine Papers'
Jan. 26….(Israel Today) One of the two main issues holding up the advance of the peace process (the other is control of Jerusalem) is whether or not the five-to-seven million so-called “Palestinian refugees” should have the right to take up residence in sovereign Israel. Israel, of course, rejects this condition, as it would mean the demographic destruction of the Jewish state. The Palestinian leadership publicly insists that the “right of return” will never be surrendered, but in private they apparently agree with Israel. On Monday, the pan-Arab news network Al Jazeera released yet more documents detailing meetings between Israel and the Palestinians, and between Palestinian leaders regarding the peace process. Those documents have been dubbed “The Palestine Papers.” One of the most recently published documents details a June 2009 meeting between Palestinian Authority officials during which chief negotiator Saeb Erekat states that the Palestinian leadership is ready to accept that only 10,000 Palestinian refugees will be allowed to take up residence in Israel. Another document has Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas telling a gathering of Palestinian negotiators in 2008 that “it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or even 1 million, that would mean the end of Israel.” Documents released on Sunday showed that Abbas and Erekat were also willing to cede large parts of eastern Jerusalem to Israel. These revelations beg the question, why does the Palestinian leadership continue to make such a big deal about the refugees in public, even going so far as to use militant rhetoric? Also, why did they not sign an agreement with the leftist government of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was ready to match these concessions by surrendering most of Judea and Samaria?
For those who have been following the Middle East conflict with their eyes open, the answer is that these Palestinian concessions behind closed doors amount to a negotiating tactic. The leaders know that voicing these offers will make them look conciliatory, even as they have themselves prepared the Palestinian public to violently reject such gestures. Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership continues to fume over these embarrassing revelations. In a written response published by the Bethlehem-based Ma’an news agency, Erekat said the Palestine Papers had “misrepresented our positions,” but acknowledged that concessions had been discussed in private that the Palestinian leadership knew would be rejected by the Palestinian public. The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition (Al-Awda) issued a statement saying that the Palestine Papers had only confirmed the suspicions they had about the Abbas and his government, and demanded that the current Palestinian leadership be replaced immediately. Jerusalem Post analyst Khaled Abu Toameh wrote that Al Jazeera had also basically judged Abbas and his regime to be traitors, and that the network and the rest of the Arab world are now just waiting for the Palestinian street to carry out the sentence. The Palestinian Authority is reportedly interrogating employees at the PLO Negotiations Department on suspicion that one or two officials there leaked the documents to Al Jazeera in exchange for a large payment. Even so, top Palestinian official Yasser Abed Rabbo said the story would have never been aired without a green light from Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based. Rabbo claimed the publication of the documents is part of a political campaign being directed by the emir, and accused Al Jazeera of massaging the information to make the Palestinian Authority look as bad as possible. Washington was also none too happy about the situation. State Department spokesman PJ Crowley said the Palestine Papers would make it even more difficult for the Obama Administration to broker a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
Lebanon: Security Forces Arrest top Hariri Aides
(As Hezbollah prepares to take control of Lebanese government, changes already set in motion with arrest of three senior members of Hariri's ousted Future Movement)
Jan. 26….(YNET) Lebanese security services arrested three members of ousted Prime Minister Saad Hariri's Future Movement, local station OTV reported Tuesday. While Hezbollah was preparing to appoint its own candidate to the role of prime minister, OTV, a news outlet affiliated with one of Lebanon's opposition leaders Michel Awan, reported a number of arrests that are set to deepen the country's political crisis. ews agencies identified one of the detainees as Hussam Trabulsi, Hariri's head of security. During his arrest Trabulsi was in possession of weapons and ammunition. Hariri is personally overseeing efforts for his release. Earlier, President Michel Suleiman announced that he had chosen billionaire businessman and former premier Najib Mikati to assemble the new government. Mikati, who is backed by Iranian-allied Hezbollah, won a majority of parliament support in two days of voting, defeating Western-backed Hariri as the candidate for the next premier. The choice set off a "day of rage" by Sunnis, who burned tires and a van belonging to Al-Jazeera to protest the Shiite militant group's rising power. Ousted PM Hariri called on his supporters, thousands of whom are rallying against Hezbollah, to avoid violence. "Today you are an angry people, and I understand your outcry of rage. But your rage should not lead to measures that go against our morals," Hariri said in a speech. "Let's protect the sovereignty of Lebanon together," he added. Meanwhile, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah delivered a speech in which he sent out a warning to his Sunni rivals. "These are crucial and sensitive days in Lebanon. It's a battle between the forces of those who are right and those who are wrong," Nasrallah said. He also made a direct attack on Hariri and his supporters: "Accusing Hezbollah of seeking to rule the country and forcing its own choice of prime minister on the people is the biggest lie. We never sought power; all we are interested in is defending the country.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday that a Hezbollah-dominated government in Lebanon would affect the country's relations with the United States, which regards Hezbollah as a terrorist group. "A Hezbollah-controlled government would clearly have an impact on our bilateral relationship with Lebanon," Clinton told reporters in an appearance with Spain's visiting foreign minister. "Our bottom lines remain as they always have been," Clinton said. "We believe that justice must be pursued and impunity for murder ended. We believe in Lebanon's sovereignty and an end to outside interference." The White House on Tuesday accused the Shiite Muslim group of using "coercion, intimidation and threats of violence" to achieve its political goals and said the country's new government must abide by the Lebanese constitution and renounce violence. Clinton said Washington was monitoring moves to form a new government in Lebanon, where Hezbollah-backed politician Najib Mikati has been named prime minister in a move that shifts the balance of power in the country toward Iran and Syria. "As we see what this new government does, we will judge it accordingly," Clinton said. Hezbollah's enhanced political strength appears likely to alarm Israel, Washington's chief ally in the region, which in 2006 fought a five-week war in a failed effort to destroy the Iran-backed movement's formidable military capacity.
Israel’s New Northern Neighbor: HizbullahSTAN
Jan. 26….(Arutz) Iranian terror proxy, Hizbullah scored a bloodless coup Tuesday and is set to become Israel’s new political neighbor to the north, but the shadows of civil war stalk the streets of Beirut. The Lebanese parliament gave billionaire banker Najib Makati, a solid majority of 68-60 to replace caretaker Prime Minister Said Hariri, backed by Hizbullah. Makati claimed he was not beholden to the terrorist party. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah insisted that Hizbullah will not lead the government, but the terrorist organization's political party has been increasingly pulling Lebanon's political strings the past several years. Legislators voted as violence swept Beirut, threatening to re-kindle the flames of civil war that wracked the country for 15 years from 1975 to 1990. Hizbullah’s huge terrorist army and widespread political organization have changed the face of Lebanon, where it already is a state-within-a state from the Litani River to Israel’s border.
The IDF has reported no incidents at the border in the past several days, but soldiers are on alert. By coincidence, several brigades of soldiers are in the midst of training in the Golan Heights. Hizbullah’ political coup comes several days after a United Nations tribunal turned over to a Belgian judge a sealed envelope with the indictments of Hizbullah leaders suspected of being involved in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, who was fiercely anti-Syria. His son Said has forged an alliance with Damascus but apparently was outflanked by the Iranian-Syria-Hizbullah axis. The choice of Makati puts the finishing touches on Hizbullah’s initial political coup two weeks ago, when it toppled the government by pulling out of the coalition. A Hizbullah-controlled government is expected to denounce the UN tribunal’s conclusions. Makati’s victory is another Middle East setback for the United States, which warned Lebanon it might face a cut in aid if the terrorist party were officially to take control of Lebanon, which it already dominates with the assistance of Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Iran Completes Lebanon Coup With Figurehead Prime Minister
Jan. 26….(DEBKAfile Special Report) The two days Iran's new foreign minister Ali Salehi spent in Damascus from Saturday night, Jan. 22, were enough to keep Syrian president Bashar Assad in place for Tehran's final steps in its grab for Lebanon: the installation of a puppet government in Beirut. Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah's performance Sunday, Jan. 23, was a crucial piece of misdirection: He stepped out of character to call in dulcet tones for a unity government in Beirut. This sounded as though he was following Assad's orders last week to go for a broad coalition which left the prime minister he toppled Saad Hariri out in the cold and strengthened Syrian influence in Beirut. But meanwhile, a parliamentary majority had been put together to install as prime minister Najib Mikati, a 55-year old Lebanese tycoon, who was willing to pledge in advance to cut Beirut's ties with the UN tribunal, STL, investigating the 2005 assassination of Rafiq Hariri and declare its summonses and rulings null and void.
Mikati has built a business empire in Europe, Africa and the Middle East through his personal connections with the Syrian president and Hizballah leader and the use of their intelligence facilities to promote his interests. He was awarded the premiership in return for a commitment to disqualify the STL as his first order of business, thereby saving Iran, Damascus and Hizballah the embarrassment of a head-on clash with the international court over its summonses, not only for the extradition of Hizballah's top security officials, but also against Iranian and Syrian regime officials suspected of complicity in the Hariri assassination. By having the duly appointed Lebanese prime minister delegitimize the tribunal, all three can insist they are obliged to disobey court decrees against the will of the Lebanese government and its people and barred from following the orders of a body declared illegitimate and operating at the behest of Washington and Tel Aviv.
By a single stroke, therefore, Tehran has checked one of President Barack Obama's most critical Middle East policy moves, one which hinged on support for the Hariri tribunal and the strengthening of a pro-West administration in Beirut. Instead, Washington wakes up to find an Iranian puppet ruling Lebanon. Tehran accomplished this two days after fatally stalling the world powers' attempt to bring Iran around to a diplomatic resolution of its drive toward a nuclear bomb. In two days of talks with six powers in Istanbul, ending Friday, Jan. 21, the Iranian delegation refused to budge an inch. A day later, Iran's foreign minister was already ensconsed in Damascus tying up the ends of its grab for Lebanon. Monday night, realizing the Mikati appointment was in the bag, supporters of the ousted prime minister Saad Hariri and his March 14 alliance, were out in the streets, burning tires, firing off shots and trying to block the highways from Beirut to the north, south and east to Damascus. They declared Tuesday, Jan. 26, a day of anger and called for mass rallies in support of their pro-Western leader, accusing the Hizballah of "a coup to put the office of prime minister under the control of Wilayat al Fakih (Iranian clerical authority). But there is not much they can do beyond this for three reasons:
1. The Sunnis and Christians having been thrust into opposition to a Shiite-dominated government will be loath to go all the way and ignite another civil war of which Lebanon has had more than its fill, especially when the national army will obey the pro-Iranian government.
2. Although the Obama administration pledged its support for Saad Hariri in his struggle against Hizballah, Tehran and Damascus, and Friday, Jan. 21, the USS Strike Force with 6,000 marines and sailors aboard moved into place opposite Lebanese shores, not a single marine has landed in Beirut to save the day. Tehran was not impressed by the American show of strength. Two days later, the Islamic Republic dared the US, Israel and Egypt to do their worst by provocatively announcing the dispatch of an Iranian war fleet to the Red Sea, Suez Canal and Mediterranean.
3. The Netanyahu government, though aware of the tectonic strategic change which is making its northern neighbor an Iranian vassal, refrained from even a demonstrative step that might have made Iran and Syria hesitate before going through with the total subjection of Lebanon. Saudi Arabia and Egypt likewise, though heading the moderate Arab Sunni bloc of nations committed to curbing radical Iran's domination of the Middle East, have held silent and not lifted a finger to help their Arab ally survive the pro-Shiite tide swamping Lebanon.
Lebanon Becoming Iran Proxy as Hizballah Rises to Power
Jan. 24….(Israel Today) Obama Administration officials were quoted by Arabic media on Sunday as saying all US foreign aid to Lebanon will cease if the Hizballah ends up controlling the government in Beirut. Hizballah brought down the Western-backed government of Prime Minister Saad Hariri last week, and appears poised to either score a major victory in upcoming elections or to use its superior military forces to seize control of the country. Hizballah had been part of Hariri’s government, and was even granted veto powers as part of a coalition deal signed last year. Christian leaders in Lebanon are panicked over what will happen to their country in the coming weeks. Samir Geagea, leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces, warned at a Beirut press conference on Saturday that Hizballah will “turn Lebanon in to Gaza,” referring to the current state of the Palestinian-controlled coastal strip after it came under the sway of Hamas. Walid Jumblatt, whose Druze community is smaller and weaker than the Christians, apparently felt he must side with the stronger of the two opposing forces, and threw his lot in with Hizballah. Jumblatt’s backing may tip the scales in Hizballah’s favor when the Lebanese parliament meets on Monday to pick a new prime minister. Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom on Saturday said these development had removed all doubt that Lebanon is now a satellite of Iran, which sponsors and even gives orders to Hizballah. The situation in Lebanon also provides further evidence of why a Palestinian Arab state is a bad idea. Israel can sign nicely-worded agreements with the Palestinian Authority today, but there is no guarantee that Hamas will not tomorrow seize control of the entire Palestinian state and all the money and weapons the Americans have poured into it. That has already happened once in the Gaza Strip, though the geography of the region has kept the terror group somewhat contained. Were it to happen in a fully sovereign Palestinian state incorporating Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, and all indications are that it would, then Israel would be facing a new existential threat.
Iran Sending Warships to Mediterranean and Red Seas
Jan. 24….(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) Less than 24 hours after the breakdown of its nuclear dialogue with the six world powers in Istanbul, Iran announced plans Sunday, Jan. 23, to send a fleet of warships, including a home-made destroyer, on operational and intelligence-gathering missions to the Red Sea and on to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. Debkafile's military sources: Parts of the fleet will in fact be deployed in the three waters around Israel's southern and western shores. Tehran is taking advantage of the lack of military and diplomatic momentum on the part of US and Israel for a naval thrust to expand its range of operations and encroach on their areas of control. It is also a rapid response to the arrival of the USS Enterprise carrier with a strike group carrying 6,000 sailors and marines and 80 warplanes in the Mediterranean at the end of last week on its way to the Arabian Sea opposite Iran. British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair's call on the West to stop apologizing and react to Iran with force was not lost on the rulers of the Islamic Republic.
The Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari spoke of three or four vessels including Iran's first home-made destroyer, Jamaran, with back-up operational units standing by for urgent support missions.
His deputy, Rear-Admiral Gholam Reza Bi-Gham said the deployment would last about a year and at some future time, long-distance submarines would join the fleet.
Since Nov. 2008, the Iranian Navy has been conducting anti-piracy patrols between the Gulf of Aden Straits of Bab al-Mandeb off Yemen so some of its units are not far away.
Both admirals reported that a flotilla of Iranian naval officer cadets would soon be dispatched to the Mediterranean and Red Seas to gain experience in these new areas and gather intelligence. Iran recently purchased three Kilo class submarines from Russia and is using them in the Persian Gulf. debkafile's military sources report they belong to a bygone generation of subs and lack advanced electronic systems, making it hard for them to stay deep down underwater for long periods without surfacing. For two years, Iranian military shipyards have been building miniature submarines, war ships and fast assault craft. Most Western naval give them low ratings in performance especially in view of their outdated electronics. Debkafile's military sources, however, estimate that if deployed in support of the warships assigned to the Mediterranean and Red Seas, those mini-submarines and assault craft could be extremely troublesome and give plenty of headaches to American, Israel and Egyptian naval commanders.
WEEK OF JANUARY 16 THROUGH JANUARY 22
Hu Says China Not a Military Threat to Any Nation
Jan. 21...(AP) Chinese President Hu Jintao denied his country is a military threat despite its arms buildup and pressed the US on Thursday for closer cooperation between the global powers. He urged the United States to treat China "with respect and as equals" after encountering a fresh barrage of criticism from lawmakers over human rights. "We do not engage in an arms race, we are not a military threat to any country. China will never seek to dominate or pursue an expansionist policy." Hu said China intended to "develop a socialist democracy and build a socialist country under the rule of law." In particular, Hu called for closer US-Chinese cooperation in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Rim. "We should stay committed to promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, engage in open and inclusive regional cooperation, and turn the Asia-Pacific into an important region where China and the United States work closely with each other on the basis of mutual respect," Hu said. As to his warning on Taiwan and Tibet, Hu said such matters "concern Chinese sovereignty and territorial integrity. They touch upon the national sentiments of 1.3 billion Chinese." It was a reference to China's claim to the currently self-governing island of Taiwan, which split from the mainland amid civil war in 1949, and to Tibet, which is already under China's control. US leaders, including Obama, have irked China repeatedly by meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The US and China must "treat each other with respect and as equals and handle major sensitive issues in a proper manner," Hu said. In recent years, China has grown stronger both economically and militarily. Worrisome to the Pentagon is Beijing's increasingly aggressive stance in the western Pacific and questions over the extent to which the People's Liberation Army, which also includes China's air force and navy, is answerable to civilian leaders in the one-party government.
Franklin Graham: Spirit of Anti-Christ Is Everywhere
Jan. 21...(Newsmax) The Rev. Franklin Graham says just mentioning the name Jesus Christ in the public square is increasingly frowned upon and warns: "The spirit of anti-Christ is everywhere." The Samaritan's Purse founder and son of beloved evangelist Dr. Billy Graham voiced his dismay at the rapid secularization of society Franklin, Graham, Jesus, Christ, spirit,anti-Christduring a Tuesday chapel service at John Brown University, a private Christian university based in Siloam Springs, Ark. Graham, who was banned from a Pentagon national day of Prayer event last year for expressing his opinions about Islam, told students: "Even in our government today, you can't pray to Jesus in many public meetings. You can pray to God or a god. You can mention Buddha or the name of Muhammad, but you can't pray to Jesus Christ." The president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association criticized the recent memorial service for the Tucson shooting victims. Unlike the memorials held after the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11, he said, the Tucson program did not include an official prayer or mention of God. Graham noted gratefully, however, that President Barack Obama did quote scripture from the biblical book of Job. The one religious dedication on the program came from a member of the Pascua Yaqui tribe, who delivered a peroration that among other things called out to "Father Sky, where we get our masculine energy" and "Mother Earth, where we get our feminine energy." Earlier this week, Graham penned an op-ed in the Washington Times saying it was "a shame" that the University of Arizona had failed to put God anywhere on its program. "How sad," the Graham op-ed stated. "Father Sky and Mother Earth can do nothing to comfort Capt. Mark Kelly, who had been at the bedside of his wife, Rep. Giffords, wondering if she'd ever leave her bed. Or Mary Stoddard, who was only alive because her husband sacrificed his life by shielding her with his body. Or the family, classmates, teammates and friends of little Christina, whose life was snuffed out before she could play another season of Little League." Graham told the university students what was missing from the memorial: "There was no call for God to put His loving arms around those who were hurting," said Graham. "Why did they leave him out? They scoff at the name of Jesus Christ." Graham predicted the persecution of Christians will get worse in coming years, and he encouraged students to use the new media and the Internet to spread the gospel. "I'm going to build an army of young people," Graham said, according to ChristianPost.com. "We're going to find out how do you infiltrate every language of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do it on the Internet."
Hariri Will Challenge Nasrallah/Hezbollah for Leadership in Lebanon
Jan. 21...(DEBKA) Lebanon swerved closer to a factional conflagration Thursday night, Jan. 20, after Saad Hariri, whose coalition Hizballah toppled eight days ago, announced he would form a new government in defiance of the opposition. Hassan Nasrallah's supporters warned he was leading Lebanon to disaster. Debkafile's sources note that by standing his ground against Hizballah's efforts to oust him from Lebanese politics, Hariri may be able to abort Nasrallah's plan for an alternative Lebanese government that would disqualify the UN tribunal and its indictment of senior Hizballah officials for complicity in the six-year old assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Nasrallah has sworn never to surrender his loyalists to the Netherlands-based court. Therefore, by thwarting him, Hariri has raised the Lebanese crisis to a new and dangerous pitch. Nasrallah must now decide whether to rise to the challenge and go through with the steps for seizing control of the capital which his troops practiced this week, or give up and accept defeat. Thursday afternoon, Lebanese forces showed themselves willing for the first time to stand up to Hizballah's superior strength and ward off its takeover of the capital. Extra security was laid on for Hariri, guards were reinforced at government institutions and traffic hubs secured. Police units were seen unloading concrete blocks at the main city intersections after which military units moved in to man them. A Lebanese military official commented that these measures were prompted by "concerns over movements on the ground by some parties." No one doubted he was referring to Hizballah and its repeated exercises this week to practice the rapid seizure of Beirut. Our sources report that Hariri and Nasrallah camps now face each other for a straight duel after the latest mediation effort was abandoned. Thursday morning, the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers departed Beirut announcing they were "halting their mediation" in the Lebanese crisis.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Killed (Beheaded) Daniel Pearl
Jan. 21...(WND) A new report on the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl reveals that US officials used a forensic technique called vein analysis to corroborate the confession of the self-professed killer, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who also is suspected of planning the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the US The report details problems in bringing to justice others suspected of involvement in the crime, including the recent release by Pakistan of a man thought to have been one of the main players. The report is the work of the Pearl Project, a three-year endeavor to answer lingering questions surrounding Mr. Pearl's death. The project was led by former Journal reporter Asra Q. Nomani, who worked with faculty and students from Georgetown University. It is being published Thursday by the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based investigative-journalism organization. Mr. Pearl, who was 38 at the time of his death, was abducted Jan. 23, 2002, by Islamist militants in the crowded and chaotic Arabian Sea port of Karachi, while reporting on terrorism. The report shows that, despite the widespread attention his case garnered, the precise story of Mr. Pearl's final days and the exact timing of his death remain shrouded in a fog of conflicting confessions and testimony by alleged perpetrators, their compatriots and Pakistani investigators.
World Needs $100 Trillion more Credit, says World Economic Forum
Jan. 21...(Tribune) The world's expected economic growth will have to be supported by an extra $100 trillion (£63 trillion) in credit over the next decade, according to the World Economic Forum. This doubling of existing credit levels could be achieved without increasing the risk of a major crisis, said the report from the WEF ahead of its high-profile annual meeting in Davos. But researchers warned that leaders must be wary of new credit "hotspots", where too much lending takes place, as the world emerges from a financial catastrophe blamed in large part "to the failure of the financial system to detect and constrain" these areas of unsustainable debt. "Pockets of credit grew rapidly to excess, and brought the entire financial system to the brink of collapse," said the report, written in conjunction with consulting firm McKinsey. "Yet, credit is the lifeblood of the economy, and much more of it will be needed to sustain the recovery and enable the developing world to achieve its growth potential." The global credit stock has already doubled in recent years, from $57 trillion to $109 trillion between 2000 and 2009, according to the report. The WEF said the continued demand for credit could be met "responsibly, sustainably, and with fewer crises". However, it cautioned that to achieve this goal, financial institutions, regulators, and policy makers need more robust indicators of unsustainable lending, risk, and credit shortages.
FOJ Note: With more world credit and debt levels will come more Global Government and less liberty, thus moving the whole world closer to the servitude of the Antichrist. (Rev 13:15-17 And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.)
America, Russia Implicitly Recognize Palestinian State
Jan. 20...(Israel Today) The United States and Russia on Tuesday followed the example of a growing number of South American countries by taking steps to openly recognize a Palestinian Arab state on the ancient Jewish lands of Judea and Samaria. Speaking to the press in Jericho during his visit to the Palestinian Authority, Russian President Dimitry Medvedev noted that Russia had already recognized a Palestinian state when Yasser Arafat first declared independence in 1988. "We have supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital since the last century, and we still support it," said Medvedev. Palestinian officials declared Medvedev's remarks to be "historic" and graciously thanked Russia for joining the chorus of voice recognizing a Palestinian Arab state in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel. The Russian leader's statement was "an historic move to make the Palestinians proud for a very long time to come," said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat. Medvedev's visit was also notable as it was the first time that the leader of a major world power had visited only the Palestinian Authority without first touring Israel and meeting with its leaders. Medvedev backed up his words by actually treating the Palestinian Authority as a sovereign state. Hours later, the Obama Administration allowed the Palestinians to raise their flag over the Palestinian Authority diplomatic mission in Washington for the first time ever, symbolically transforming the location into a national embassy.
(Republican officials were furious with the move.)
Voicing the concern of many, including many in Israel, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) noted that "raising this flag in DC is part of the Palestinian leadership's scheme to manipulate international acceptance and diplomatic recognition of a yet-to-be-created Palestinian state, while refusing to directly negotiate with Israel, or accept the existence of Israel as a democratic, Jewish state." Ileana, who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the Palestinians believe they can continue "extracting concessions without being required to meet international commitments," and that Obama is playing right into their hands.
Saudis End Lebanon Mediation, Warn of Hezbollah Taleover
(Kingdom abandons efforts to resolve dispute between PM Hariri, Hezbollah. 'If situation reaches separation or partition of Lebanon, this means the end of Lebanon as a state,' Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal says)
Jan. 20...(YNET) Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday it had abandoned mediation efforts in Lebanon between Shiite Hezbollah and Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri over the killing of his father and warned that the country's future was at stake. Regional power Saudi Arabia and Syria had worked for months to resolve a dispute between Hezbollah and Hariri over indictments in the 2005 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, which are widely expected to accuse Hezbollah members. Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said the kingdom had abandoned its efforts and that the situation in Lebanon was "dangerous". "If the situation reaches separation or partition of Lebanon, this means the end of Lebanon as a state that has this model of peaceful cohabitation between religions and ethnicities and different groups," he told Al Arabiya television. "It would be a loss for the whole Arab nation". Despite the declared withdrawal by Saudi Arabia, a powerful regional player and close supporter of Hariri, other countries were continuing efforts to find compromise. Analysts however say no compromise or breakthrough could happen without backing from Saudi Arabia, a close US ally. Ministers from Qatar and Turkey were holding a second day of talks in Beirut, after meeting Hariri and Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Tuesday. "(Saudi Arabia is saying) it is not part of the negotiation process lead by Turkey and Qatar," Okab Sakr, a parliamentarian close to Hariri told Reuters. "Because its efforts collided with obstacles (inside Lebanon). So they are saying let the Turkish and the Qataris do (what they can) and it supports any efforts aimed at protecting Lebanon."
Hu Demands US Respect Chinese Sovereignty
Jan. 20...(Newsmax) Chinese President Hu Jintao (hoo jihn-tow) says the US and China must respect each other's sovereignty, territorial integrity and development interests. Hu's opening comments at a joint news conference with President Barack Obama at the White House focused on areas of cooperation between the two world powers, their common interests and mutual economic and security benefits to be gained. But Hu's emphasis on China's sovereignty was an indication that there are areas where China will be unwilling to bend to US interests.
But President Barack Obama's red-carpet treatment of visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao has failed to sweep away growing alarm over China's no-holds-barred push for military and economic dominance, with one leading conservative expert charging Wednesday that the president's over-the-top coddling of the Chinese amounts to "appeasement." Frank Gaffney, founder and president of the Center for Security Policy, tells Newsmax that Obama's over-the-top treatment of Hu will inevitably be viewed by the Chinese as kowtowing. "I believe it is appeasement," Gaffney tells Newsmax. "At the very least, it is accommodation. And what exactly the distinction is between the two I'm not sure. "If you wind up incessantly accommodating somebody's aggressive behavior," Gaffney says, "it is almost certainly going to be construed by them as acts of appeasement." Gaffney tells Newsmax that he sees a link between China's aggressive pursuit of economic leverage and its military expansion. China in recent years has inked a plethora of deals to tie up global energy resources for its rapidly growing economy. It also has displayed a willingness to wield its control of rare earth metals as an economic weapon against Japan. "I think that what China is up to is pursuing a comprehensive strategy for supplanting the United States as the pre-eminent power in the world," Gaffney declares.
Obama Lavishes Chinese Leader Hu With White House State Reception
Jan. 19...(Guardian) The White House is set to throw a lavish reception for the Chinese leader, Hu Jintao, on Wednesday in an effort to patch up relations after a difficult year dominated by tensions over currency rates, jobs, North Korea and other international issues. President Hu is due in Washington tomorrow for the start of a four-day visit, the highlight of which is to be a state dinner at the White House on Wednesday evening. Hu is to go from Washington to Chicago on Thursday for two days. Given China's pivotal role in the global economy and in foreign affairs, it is the most important state visit of the Obama presidency so far. Obama needs China's help in turning the US economy round, particularly in creating jobs, and in resolving tensions on the Korean peninsula and exerting pressure on Iran. China analysts in Washington expressed little hope of any substantial agreement on economics or foreign affairs and said the importance of the meeting was the opportunity for the two to establish a good personal relationship. A US economics team sent to Beijing to help negotiate agreements to be announced this week returned to Washington last Friday reporting a lack of progress so far. Instead there are a series of small US-China business deals, about 40 so far, to be announced in Chicago. Hu is to attend a small dinner at the White House evening with the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the White House national security adviser, Tom Donilon. The black-tie dinner at the White House on Wednesday night contrasts with George Bush's workmanlike lunch in 2006. According to Chinese media reports at the time, Hu, who, like other Chinese leaders, places a lot of importance on protocol, saw Bush's arrangements as insulting. Bush was unwilling to host a state dinner in part because he was conscious of US public concern over China's human rights record. Unlike 2006, this will be a state visit, with all the ceremony that entails. It will be the first US State dinner for a Chinese leader in 13 years. The president and first lady will greet Hu on arrival at the White House, followed by a review of troops, lengthy talks, a joint press conference and the dinner.
Members of Congress had been planning to name China as a currency manipulator, a move that could sour relations but that now seems to be on hold. But there are still problems. Democratic congressman Mike Michaud is circulating a letter in the House hoping to gather signatures to send to Obama asking him to tell Hu that consistent violations of international trade law will no longer be tolerated. "China's disregard for its World Trade Organization membership directly hurts the US economy and impedes our ability to recover from the economic downturn," Michaud said. Members of Congress are also focusing on China's human rights record. Several members are hosting a press conference that includes two leaders from the Tiananmen Square crackdown, Chai Ling and Yang Jianli, and Harry Wu, who spent 19 years in Chinese labor camps.
Moscow Affirms Soviet Recognition of Palestine
Jan. 19...(Reuters) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday Moscow had recognized an independent Palestinian state in 1988 and was not changing that position adopted by the former Soviet Union. But on his first visit to the Israeli-occupied West Bank as Russian head of state, Medvedev stopped short of making a ringing declaration of recognition of Palestinian statehood by the Russian Federation that he represents. Israel has been alarmed in the past two months by a string of recognitions by Latin American states including Brazil and Argentina which some analysts say could be a precursor to a move by the Palestinians to seek full United Nations membership. At a news conference with Medvedev in Jericho, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: "We remember that Russia was one of the first states in the world to recognize the state of Palestine in 1988." Medvedev responded, saying: "Russia made its choice a long time ago ...we supported and will support the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to an independent state with its capital in East Jerusalem." The Soviet Union recognized a Palestinian state in 1988, after it was declared by the late Yasser Arafat in a move that won broad support in the Communist bloc and Third World but had little real impact on diplomatic and political realities.
Political Upheaval in Israel as Barak Resigns
Jan. 19...(Israel Today) Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday separated from the Labor Party that he had previously headed, throwing the Israeli political landscape into turmoil and leaving the left wing party to slip further into obscurity. Labor is one of Israel's oldest and most respected political parties. But Barak lamented at Monday's press conference that Labor had in recent years "shifted toward the Left and post-Zionism," creating a situation the decorated soldier and former prime minister felt he could no longer be a part of. Four senior Labor lawmakers joined Barak, and together they will form the new Independence Party, which Barak described as "centrist, Zionist and democratic." Barak said the Independence Party's agenda will be "first of all the state, then the party, then the media, and only then ourselves," playing on the frustration many Israelis feel over the fact that individual politicians are not accountable to the voters. Barak immediately entered into negotiations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring the Independence Party into the ruling coalition, and is expected to remain defense minister. Shortly after Barak's announcement, the remaining Labor Party ministers began resigning from Netanyahu's government, something they had long wanted to do, but were held in check by Barak. The split will move Labor even further to the left, and likely result in it winning even fewer seats in the next election, but it has also put Netanyahu's government on very thin ice. Barak's move has resulted in Netanyahu's ruling coalition going down from 69 out of 120 Knesset seats to just 61 out of 120, the narrowest of majorities.
Report: Virus Attacking Iran Nuke Program is Israeli
Jan. 17...(Israel Today) The New York Times reported rather conclusively on Saturday that the super-advanced computer virus that has at least partially crippled Iran's nuclear program was developed and tested by Israel, with American involvement. Known as Stuxnet, the virus was first identified "in the wild" about two years ago. About one year ago, it infected the computers that control the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz in central Iran. By all accounts, Stuxnet has to date managed to knock out 984 centrifuges and has, according to Israeli officials, set back Iran's nuclear program by a good three-to-four years. According to the report, the idea for the virus was birthed after Israel requested bombs and a green light from the US to launch a military assault on Iran's nuclear facilities. Told that such an assault would not end Iran's nuclear program, but merely set it back by several years, former US President George W. Bush said no. So, work began on another way to achieve the same goal without sparking a Middle East war. One of the keys to the plan were the computer controllers made by the German technology firm Siemens, which US intelligence had learned were being used at the Natanz plant. American engineers spent time analyzing the potential security holes in the Siemens machines. But there was a hiccup. Iran is apparently using centrifuges modeled on the now-archaic designs of Pakistani scientist AQ Khan. America had gotten its hands on a large stockpile of these centrifuges when Libya dismantled its nuclear program in 2003, but US and British engineers failed to get the things to operate in a stable manner. That's where Israel comes in. At the nuclear base in the southern Israel town of Dimona, engineers did manage, reportedly after much trial and error, to get the outdated centrifuges to run stably and were able to test the meticulously-crafted computer worm on them. Computer security experts who have since deconstructed Stuxnet say it is a work of art, and by far the most advanced computer virus ever created. Stuxnet has infected countless industrial computers around the world, but was very carefully coded to only attack a very specific kind of system performing a very specific kind of task.
Basically, the way Stuxnet works is that is causes the centrifuges to spin so fast that they begin to wobble and tear themselves apart. But that's not enough, as the computer controllers that run the centrifuges are programmed to shut down at the first sign of trouble. So, Stuxnet was also programmed to fool the computer controllers by sending signals indicated that all was well with the centrifuges, when in reality they were self-destructing. And Stuxnet might not be done. One expert who examined the code said the virus has the ability to hibernate and self-replicate, hiding itself deep inside a computer system undetected only to reemerge and again cause havoc at a later date. Both Israel and the US continue to assert they have no connection to Stuxnet, though it is now widely believed that the Israeli army's vaunted Unit 8200, the equivalent of American's National Security Agency, was the originator.
Israel Tests on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay
Jan. 17...(New York Times) The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel's never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal. Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role, as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran's efforts to make a bomb of its own. Behind Dimona's barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran's at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran's nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran's ability to make its first nuclear arms. "To check out the worm, you have to know the machines," said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. "The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out." Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.
The worm itself now appears to have included two major components. One was designed to send Iran's nuclear centrifuges spinning wildly out of control. Another seems right out of the movies: The computer program also secretly recorded what normal operations at the nuclear plant looked like, then played those readings back to plant operators, like a pre-recorded security tape in a bank heist, so that it would appear that everything was operating normally while the centrifuges were actually tearing themselves apart. The attacks were not fully successful: Some parts of Iran's operations ground to a halt, while others survived, according to the reports of international nuclear inspectors. Nor is it clear the attacks are over: Some experts who have examined the code believe it contains the seeds for yet more versions and assaults. Officially, neither American nor Israeli officials will even utter the name of the malicious computer program, much less describe any role in designing it.
By the accounts of a number of computer scientists, nuclear enrichment experts and former officials, the covert race to create Stuxnet was a joint project between the Americans and the Israelis, with some help, knowing or unknowing, from the Germans and the British. The project's political origins can be found in the last months of the Bush administration. In January 2009, The New York Times reported that Mr. Bush authorized a covert program to undermine the electrical and computer systems around Natanz, Iran's major enrichment center. President Obama, first briefed on the program even before taking office, sped it up, according to officials familiar with the administration's Iran strategy. So did the Israelis, other officials said. Israel has long been seeking a way to cripple Iran's capability without triggering the opprobrium, or the war, that might follow an overt military strike of the kind they conducted against nuclear facilities in Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007.
Stuxnet is not the only blow to Iran. Sanctions have hurt its effort to build more advanced (and less temperamental) centrifuges. And last January, and again in November, two scientists who were believed to be central to the nuclear program were killed in Tehran. The man widely believed to be responsible for much of Iran's program, Mohsen Fakrizadeh, a college professor, has been hidden away by the Iranians, who know he is high on the target list. Publicly, Israeli officials make no explicit ties between Stuxnet and Iran's problems. But in recent weeks, they have given revised and surprisingly upbeat assessments of Tehran's nuclear status. "A number of technological challenges and difficulties" have beset Iran's program, Moshe Yaalon, Israel's minister of strategic affairs, told Israeli public radio late last month. The troubles, he added, "have postponed the timetable."
WEEK OF JANUARY 9 THROUGH JANUARY 15
Poll: Jerusalem Arabs Want to Remain in Israel
Jan. 14...(Israel Today) Just days after the world erupted in anger over a construction project aimed at helping secure Israel's control over the entirety of Jerusalem, a plurality of the Arab residents of the holy city said they want to remain under Israeli sovereignty. A poll carried out by American Pechter Middle East Polls on behalf of the Council on Foreign Relations revealed that if Jerusalem were divided in a final status Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, most Arabs living on the Palestinian side would try to move to the Israeli side. A 40 percent plurality said they would move anywhere else within Israel to retain their Israeli citizenship if their Jerusalem neighborhood became part of a Palestinian state. A 35 percent plurality said they far prefer Israeli citizenship to Palestinian citizenship. Thirty percent declined to answer the questions, likely out of fear that preferring Israel could put them in danger. Those Jerusalem Arabs who said they want to remain Israeli cited a number of reasons, including superior health care and social benefits, freedom of movement in Israel, and higher income and job opportunities. The number of Arabs living in eastern Jerusalem and surrounding villages who are requesting Israeli citizenship has been increasing every year for the past decade. When Israel reunited the city in 1967, the Arabs living on the eastern side were all given permanent residency status in Israel and were offered an upgrade to full citizenship. Very few chose to become citizens, confident that the city would fall back into Arab hands in the future, or fearful that identifying with Israel would put them and their families in danger
Lebanon in Crisis: Hizballah Brings Down Government, Israel on Alert
Jan. 13...(DEBKAfile Exclusive Report) With backing from Tehran, Hizballah abruptly quit the Lebanese unity government Wednesday, Jan. 12, in a move that could pave the way for their seizure of power in Beirut. They struck as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon's prosecutor Daniel Bellemare prepared to hand over to the pre-trial judge "within hours or days" indictments naming Hizballah officials in the case of the former premier Rafiq Hariri's assassination in 2005. Hizballah is committed to defying those indictments and refusing to hand over its top officials for extradition by the government. As the Lebanese crisis raced towards it climax, President Barack Obama, Saudi King Abdullah, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri held intense consultations in Washington and New York on a united front against Iran-backed disruptions in Beirut by Hizballah and its allies. Iran's supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said repeatedly that the STL and its rulings are "null and void" because they serve "foreign interests."
As the US, France and Israel made military and diplomatic preparations to thwart a clash, Obama scheduled a meeting with the Lebanese Prime Minister for Wednesday night, Jan. 12, to decide how the US, France and its allies would act in a conflagration. Over the weekend, the US president ordered US vessels to buttress the Sixth Fleet stationed in the eastern Mediterranean with the USS Enterprise carrier and its strike group with 6,000 sailors and marines aboard and 80 fighter-bombers. Already deployed there is the USS Bainbridge missile destroyer. On Monday, Jan. 10, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a tour of the Persian Gulf, expressed concern over the situation in Lebanon. Clinton said: "I'm deeply worried about the efforts to destabilize Lebanon. We should do everything we can to make sure those warnings are not accurate."
American military moves in the Mediterranean are intended to signal to Tehran and Hizballah that Washington will be prepared to use force to defend the Saad Hariri government in Lebanon and if necessary deploy aerial forces and the marines to avert a Hizballah takeover in Beirut. The French fleet was also ordered to bolster its naval strength opposite Lebanon. But Hizballah got its move in first. Its resignation from the Hariri government showed that its leaders and Iranian sponsors were not fazed by the US-French military moves off the Lebanese coast and were moving ahead with their plans. Debkafile's military sources add that a comment by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Tuesday, Jan. 11, fit into the picture taking shape in Washington, New York and Paris. He remarked to foreign journalists that 60,000 missiles and rockets, all of Iranian and Syrian origin, were now pointing at Israel. Last week, Meir Dagan, at a ceremony marking the end of his tenure as head of the Mossad, said that only 10 countries in the world have firepower on a par with that of Hizballah. According to our sources, it is definitely on the cards for an Iranian-Hizballah move in Lebanon provoking a US-French military response to evolve into a clash between Hizballah and Israel, providing an opportunity for the destruction of Hizballah's might missile arsenal.
Arab League: Lebanon at Risk of Civil War
Jan. 13...(YNET) Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa called on Lebanon's political leaders Wednesday to "act calmly and wisely" in the wake of the local government's collapse, warning that the country faces the risk of civil war. Moussa urged Lebanese leaders to "leave room for dialogue between the two sides, so that Lebanon will be able to avoid tensions and tragedies which won't be of use to anyone but its enemies." He stressed that "the Arab League supports Arab efforts invested in extricating Lebanon from the dangers of civil war and the deterioration to political and security disputes which will harm Lebanese interests." Meanwhile, the fall of Lebanon's national unity government following the resignation of Hezbollah ministers and their allies has raised concerns in Israel. Defense minister Ehud Barak addressed the recent developments at a closed-door session Wednesday and noted that Israel was "closely monitoring" events in Lebanon. Officials in Jerusalem estimated that the toppling of Lebanon's government will not lead to escalation between the two states. "Jerusalem conveyed indirect messages to Beirut whereby the Lebanese and regional interest is to maintain the calm and not be drawn to provocations and hasty actions," one official said. "This is an internal Lebanese affair," the Foreign Ministry's Yossi Levy said. "However, we are closely monitoring developments."
Is Hamas Close to Acquiring Unconventional Weapons?
Jan. 12...(Israel Today) Hamas' Al-Qassam news agency carried a curious story on Monday that sparked concerns in Israel that the terrorist organization, which controls and operates out of the Gaza Strip, is close to acquiring chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons. Speaking at an anti-Israel rally on Monday, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar declared, "We are only a few steps away from achieving a historic triumph which might cost us a large number of our children. However, in the coming confrontation with the Zionist entity, we will realize our ancestors' dream and return history to the right track." Hamas has already unloaded its conventional rocket and missile arsenal on Israel in the past, so it is difficult to imagine what it could do that would be so drastically different except for using unconventional weapons. It is also worth noting that the rhetoric about being "only a few steps away from achieving a historic triumph" is similar to that used by Iran to describe its nuclear efforts. Israel has long feared that Syria, Iran and other terror-supporting states will transfer unconventional weapons to Hamas and Lebanon's Hizballah terrorist militia, leading to an enormous escalation of the Israeli-Arab conflict. While it is more difficult for Hamas to obtain such weapons thanks to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip, it is now widely known that Iran and Syria are arming Hizballah at a worrying pace.
Iran Rounds up Christians in Crackdown
Jan. 12...(AP) Iran has arrested about 70 Christians since Christmas in a crackdown that demonstrates the limits of religious tolerance by Islamic leaders who often boast they provide room for other faiths. The latest raids have targeted grass-roots Christian groups Iran describes as "hard-liners" who pose a threat to the Islamic state. Authorities increasingly view them with suspicions that range from trying to convert Muslims to being possible footholds for foreign influence. Christian activists claim their Iranian brethren are being persecuted simply for worshipping outside officially sanctioned mainstream churches. Caught in the middle is the small community of Iranian Christians who get together for prayer and Bible readings in private residences and out of sight of authorities. They are part of a wider "house church" movement that has taken root in other places with tight controls on Christian activities such as China and Indonesia.
Iran's constitution gives protected status to Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, but many religious minorities sense growing pressures from the Islamic state as hard-edged forces such as the powerful Revolutionary Guard exert more influence. There are few social barriers separating Muslims and Iran's religious minorities such as separate neighborhoods or universities. But they are effectively blocked from high government and military posts. Iran has claimed as a point of pride that it makes space for other religions. It reserves parliament seats for Jewish and Christian lawmakers and permits churches, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox and a few others, as well as synagogues and Zoroastrian temples that are under sporadic watch by authorities. Religious celebrations are allowed, but no political messages or overtones are tolerated. In past years, authorities have staged arrests on Christians and other religious minorities, but the latest sweeps appears to be among the biggest and most coordinated. In the West, the followers are drawn to house churches because of the intimate sense of religious fellowship and as an alternative to established denominations. In places such as Iran, however, there also is the effort to avoid monitoring of sanctioned churches from Islamic authorities, who have kept closer watch on religious minorities since the chaos after hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's disputed election in 2009. Groups monitoring Christian affairs in the Islamic world say Iranian authorities see the unregulated Christian gatherings as both a potential breeding ground for political opposition and suspect they may try to convert Muslim in violation of Iran's strict apostasy laws, which are common throughout the Muslim world and have at times fed extremist violence against Christians and others.
Tehran Governor Morteza Tamadon described the Christians as "hard-line" missionaries who have "inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite," according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. The crackdown by Iran resonates forcefully across the Middle East at a time when other Christian communities feel under siege following deadly attacks against churches in Egypt and Iraq.
Iran Utilizing Hezbollah for Multi-Front War on Israel
* Israeli and Western intelligence services have long been aware of Syrian and Iranian involvement in Hizbullah's arms buildup. Damascus Airport has been identified as the transit point for airlifts of Iranian arms that were subsequently transferred to Hizbullah via the open Syrian-Lebanese border, under the supervision of the Syrian security services.
* A senior Pentagon official has divulged that Hizbullah has 50,000 rockets and missiles, including 40-50 Fatah 110 missiles and 10 SCUD-C ground-to-ground missiles. Furthermore, some 10,000 Hizbullah fighters have been provided with a broad range of modern weapons, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guards have trained Hizbullah teams to operate these weapons.
* Currently, the Iranians exercise more control than ever over Hizbullah. Iranian General Hassan Madavi, Commander of the Lebanon Corps of the Revolutionary Guards, sits in Beirut alongside scores of Iranian officers and experts.
* The Iranian intelligence services, operating in the framework of the Revolutionary Guards, have built many cells in Africa, most of which rely on Shiite emigrants from Lebanon. This is being undertaken in the framework of the African Division of the Jerusalem Corps of the Guards, an effort headed by Gen. Qassem Suleymani. After training in Iran, they serve as a nucleus for recruiting others and provide a base for Iranian intelligence activity in their countries.
* In South Lebanon, with the assistance of the engineering units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hizbullah has dug tunnels that conceal its fighters from the watchful eye of Israeli UAV's that patrol the region. Hizbullah command centers were also equipped with an independent communications network funded by Iran.
* Hizbullah also continues to conceal its war materiel in mosques, schools, fire stations, and the like. According to Israeli intelligence, at least 100 Lebanese villages have become genuine military bases.
In January 2010, American intelligence services reported the transfer of 26 M-6002 missiles of Syrian manufacture to Hizbullah in Lebanon. These missiles, with a range of over 250km., are intended to reinforce Hizbullah's ability to strike at the Israeli home front if and when hostilities erupt. This unverified report corresponds with other efforts by Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah to prepare for a new round of hostilities with Israel. It is an open secret that the Syrian-Lebanese border has been deliberately left wide open by Syria in order to guarantee the supply of war materiel to Hizbullah. The Lebanese Army is thinly deployed along the 359-km. border with Syria and is unable to block the movement of Hizbullah fighters or Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Any thoughts of attempting to block the border must also take into account the presence of belligerent Palestinian units such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and Fatah Intifada that answer to Syria.
Israeli and Western intelligence services have long been aware of Syrian and Iranian involvement in Hizbullah's arms buildup. Damascus Airport has been identified as the transit point for airlifts of Iranian arms that were subsequently transferred to Hizbullah via the open Syrian-Lebanese border, under the supervision of the Syrian security services. In the spring of 2010, Western intelligence services received a rare glimpse into the logistics network built by Syria, Iran, and Hizbullah for the passage of weapons from Iran to Hizbullah in Lebanon. This network was built following the slaying of Hizbullah military commander Imad Mughniyeh and was intended, first and foremost, to guarantee Hizbullah's clandestine activity and the security of its fighters and commanders.
Furthermore, some 10,000 Hizbullah fighters have been provided with personal weapons, intermediate and long-range missiles, and high-trajectory and flat-trajectory weapons. According to Ha'aretz, Iran has even provided Hizbullah with UAVs and perhaps even with attack aircraft. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards have been identified as being responsible for training Hizbullah teams to operate these weapons systems. Unit 108, whose main office is located in Damascus, is the main body in the organizational chain that engages in weapons transfers, and it was involved in transferring the M-6002 missiles. The mission of this unit is to transfer weapons that arrive from Iran and from logistics bases in Syria to logistics bases located along and near the Syrian-Lebanese border. "Regular" warehouses are located in Damascus, in Duma near the Syrian capital, and near Adra, adjacent to Damascus International Airport. "Reserve" warehouses are located in the region of Aleppo, Homs, and the coastal city of Tartous.
The second body in the logistics chain is Unit 112, whose job is to disperse the war materiel among Hizbullah bases in the Bekaa Valley and elsewhere. The transfers take place in convoys of trucks that frequently change their license plates. Finally, there are two sub-units of Unit 100, whose job is to transfer Hizbullah fighters and Iranian advisors between Syria, Iran, and Lebanon. This is the unit that dispatches Hizbullah cadres to Iran for training on the missile systems that Iran supplies. It should be emphasized that currently, the Iranians exercise more control than ever over Hizbullah. Iranian General Hassan Madavi, Commander of the Lebanon Corps of the Revolutionary Guards, sits in Beirut alongside scores of Iranian officers and experts.
On November 3, 2009, the Israeli Navy intercepted the cargo ship MV Francop, which carried Iranian weapons bound for Hizbullah. The ship was heading for the Syrian port of Latakia. Nearly 500 tons of weapons were seized, hidden in 36 containers. There were 2,800 short-range 107mm and 122mm rockets as well as 106mm recoilless artillery shells, grenades, and ammunition.6 Once the Iranians became aware that Western intelligence services and Israel were focusing their information-gathering efforts on Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, they sought to develop alternative sea routes after the weapons-smuggling route in Sudan was exposed and attacked in March 2009.
In March 2010, five Italians and two Iranian citizens were arrested in Italy on charges of weapons smuggling. Investigators discovered that the network had been active since 2007 and engaged in the purchase of war materiel in Europe and its transfer via England, Switzerland, and Romania to Iran. Albania served as a transfer base for weapons that were purchased for Hizbullah in the Ukraine. In Thailand as well, a shipment of war materiel was seized that had been sent from North Korea to Hizbullah, after a technical malfunction compelled the plane to make an emergency landing in Bangkok and thus exposed the shipment. A new African weapons route was exposed in October 2010 when Nigerian authorities seized 13 containers at the port of Lagos that had arrived from Iran, containing 107mm rockets, bombs, grenades, rifles, machine guns, and ammunition, camouflaged as building material.10 The Nigerian authorities were induced to take action with encouragement from the United States. Furthermore, UN Security Council Resolution 1929 permits countries to take over ships suspected of transferring war materiel in order to examine their cargo.
The Iranian intelligence services, operating in the framework of the Revolutionary Guards, have built many cells in Africa, most of which rely on Shiite emigrants from Lebanon who live in Africa. This is being undertaken in the framework of the African Division of the Jerusalem Corps of the Guards, an effort headed by Gen. Qassem Suleymani. According to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Shiraa, Imad Mughniyeh was the architect who initiated the establishment of support cells in Lebanese Shiite communities outside of Lebanon. Lebanese recruited for the Iranian intelligence efforts were invited to visit Iran, where they underwent training in the field of intelligence. Upon their return, they serve as a nucleus for recruiting others and provide a base for Iranian intelligence activity in their countries.
Following the Second Lebanon War, Hizbullah reorganized its command-and-control system. In South Lebanon, with the assistance of the engineering units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hizbullah dug tunnels that conceal its fighters from the watchful eye of Israeli UAVs that patrol the region. Hizbullah command centers were also equipped with an independent communications network distinct from the system covering all of Lebanon. A US State Department cable dated Apr. 16, 2008, and released by WikiLeaks, "decried the establishment of a complete fiber optics network by Hizbullah throughout Lebanon." Lebanese Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh cited the Iranian Fund for the Reconstruction of Lebanon as the source of funding for the network. As in the past, Hizbullah also continues to conceal its war materiel in mosques, schools, fire stations, and the like. According to Israeli intelligence, at least 100 Lebanese villages have become genuine military bases. All this attests to the feverish preparations that Iran is making, not only in anticipation of a renewed military conflict between Hizbullah and Israel, but also in anticipation of the possibility that Hizbullah will move to subdue the Lebanese government, should it decide to do so.
China leads list of biggest US creditors
Jan. 11...(Reuters) President Barack Obama will host Chinese President Hu Jintao for a state visit on January 19, and the leaders of the two economic powerhouses are expected to discuss thorny issues such as China's trade surplus and its currency policies. The United States will tread carefully as Beijing is America's largest creditor, holding more than $900 billion worth of US Treasury bonds. Below are the top 10 largest holders of US debt as of the end of October.
-- China, mainland: $906.8 billion
-- Japan: $877.4 billion
-- United Kingdom: $477.6 billion*
-- Oil exporters, which include Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria: $213.9 billion.
-- Brazil: $177.6 billion
-- Hong Kong: $139.2 billion
-- Caribbean banking centers, which include Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Netherlands Antilles and Panama: $133.7 billion
-- Russia: $131.6 billion
-- Taiwan: $131.2 billion
-- Canada: $125.2 billion
-- UK figure may include government debt bought by other countries through London intermediaries
China Gets Tough With US Over Taiwan
Jan. 11...(In The Days) China rebuffed a US proposal for a clear timetable of strategic defense talks on the first day of a long-delayed visit to Beijing by Robert Gates, the US defense secretary, and indicated that Taiwan remains the single biggest obstacle to improving the world's most important bilateral relationship. While agreeing to narrower defense exchanges some time in the first half of the year, Mr. Gates's Chinese counterpart, General Liang Guanglie, also made clear that China would suspend military ties again if the US continues to sell weapons to Taiwan, the island that Beijing regards as a rebel province. Gates arrived in Beijing Sunday on a three-day mission to deepen and stabilize military-to-military relations, which China has repeatedly suspended for political reasons over the past decade, most recently in January 2010 in response to US arms sales to Taiwan. His trip falls just ahead of a state visit to Washington by Chinese President Hu Jintao next week, Gates had hoped that Chinese officials would agree to set dates for a series of high-level defense talks and a visit to Washington by Gen. Chen Bingde, chief of staff of the People's Liberation Army. But while Pentagon officials had been hoping for a more enthusiastic response from Gen. Liang on Monday, the reaction wasn't unexpected.
Some US officials and China analysts believe that China's civilian leadership is more keen on building the military-to-military relationship with Washington than the PLA. Chinese experts on US-China relations say Beijing is highly unlikely to show any flexibility on the issue of US weapons sales to Taiwan, especially in the run-up to a Communist Party leadership change in 2012. Sec. Gates asked the Chinese military to look at American arms sales to Taiwan as a political matter, and not let Beijing's objections to the transactions lead to a suspension of military ties. "We are in strong agreement that in order to reduce the chances of miscommunication, misunderstanding, miscalculation, it is important our military-to-military ties are solid, consistent and not subject to shifting political winds," Mr. Gates said. He also proposed establishing a broader strategic defense dialogue that would include in-depth discussions on Chinese and US policies on nuclear weapons, missile defenses, cyberattacks and space.
Palestinians Seek UN Recognition for Independent State in September
Jan. 10...(Ha Aretz) The Palestinian foreign minister says he will seek United Nations recognition for a Palestinian state in September and is currently lobbying for votes worldwide. The move is part of the Palestinians' so-called Plan B of pursuing an alternative to a negotiated peace deal while talks with Israel remain stalled. Riad Malki's announcement Sunday followed Chile's recognition of Palestine, making it the fifth South American country to do so recently. While a majority for Palestine in the General Assembly seems possible, recognition by the Security Council, whose decisions are legally binding, would likely face an American veto. The September target date has the month shaping up to be a crucial one for the Palestinians. It also marks the time frame for President Barack Obama's goal of reaching a peace deal and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's hope of having the foundations of the future state ready. Fayyad has acknowledged that the recognition drive at the UN will not necessarily bring realization of a state. But it helps the Palestinians enshrine their demand that the 1967 borders serve as the basis for drawing their nation's shape. The Palestinians want their state in the lands Israel captured in the Mideast war that year, the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem. "Such recognition would create political and legal pressure on Israel to withdraw its forces from the land of another state that is recognized within the '67 borders by the international organization," Malki, the foreign minister, told reporters in Ramallah. He said the Palestinian Authority is working to attain as much recognition as possible for a state by September, when it will call for a UN vote. It will initially seek Security Council recognition but, failing that, will turn to the General Assembly, where the decisions are not binding but there is no veto.
The Palestinians have made South America a priority. Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador recognized Palestinian statehood last month, and Uruguay, Paraguay and Peru are expected to join Chile on that list in the coming weeks. Malki said Asia, Africa and the Caribbean were next in line. In the Caribbean there are 12 small states, but these countries have the same vote that China has in the UN General Assembly," he said. About 100 other countries have recognized statehood, most of them developing nations, after the Palestinians declared "independence" in 1988, and a few others, mostly former Soviet republics, did so after the 1993 Oslo peace accords. In the mid- and late-2000s, Venezuela and Costa Rica followed suit. Malki said the Palestinians have been talking to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador as well, and that Spain has promised to recognize Palestine in September. Spain would be the first western European country to do so. Former Communist countries in eastern Europe, including Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania, were among those who recognized Palestine in 1988.
The Palestinians appear to have a majority in the General Assembly, but are unlikely to get the go-ahead in the Security Council. The US routinely vetoes measures Israel considers hostile, and the US House of Representatives last week passed a resolution "condemning unilateral measures to declare or recognize a Palestinian state." Israeli officials have called the recognition declarations meaningless and counterproductive to the peace process. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposes withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines, though he says he remains committed to negotiating a partition of the land.
Israel Targets New Iran-built Hamas Command Centers in Gaza
Jan. 10...(DEBKA) The Israeli air strikes in Gaza early Monday, Jan. 10, described officially as aimed at "terrorist targets" and "smuggling tunnels" were in fact systematic missions to start destroying the new Hamas underground command centers which Iranian Revolutionary Guards engineers are building across the enclave. The enhancement of Hamas's military capabilities against Israel is seen as Iran's punishment for the attacks on its nuclear scientists and installations, while serving its broader effort to control the Gaza Strip as its Mediterranean outpost. The heads of Hamas's military wing Ezz e-Din Al-Qassam tried to persuade Iran's Palestinian proxy, Jihad Islami leader Amin al Hindi, to rein in his group's missile and mortar attacks on Israeli towns and villages and its rocket strikes against Israeli border patrols. They argued that these attacks caused no real harm, depleted the resources needed for a major showdown with Israel and provoked the IDF into prematurely launching another round of the Cast Lead campaign of 2008-2009. This campaign had already begun, they said, with the Israel Air Force's precision bombing of the new Hamas facilities going up for the next Palestinian war on Israel; Israel should not be driven to devastating attacks before the facilities were in place.
Debkafile's sources report that IRGC engineers who stole into Gaza in recent weeks have been working around the clock to lay a network of command centers across the territory according to detailed plans. In highest demand in Gaza today are not the missiles capable of hitting Tel Aviv but the concrete smuggled in mainly from Egypt. The "terror targets" the IAF struck Monday in Gaza City and Khan Younis were those very command centers. To tempt Jihad Islami leaders into keeping their powder dry for now, Hamas offered them cabinet portfolios, hoping to buy them off with ceremonial departments, sumptuous offices, fancy cars and "budgets." However, Al Hindi, who takes his orders from Tehran, refused to play. He told Hamas: We don't want money; we want to step up our war on Israel.
According to Debkafile's Iranian sources, Tehran is aiming to launch a war of attrition from the Gaza Strip by using the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami to constantly batter the border fence and the Israeli populations in its vicinity and so elevate the level of confrontation with the IDF. Since Jihad Islami takes its orders directly from Tehran, Hamas, which also depends on Iranian directives, funding and military aid received through Damascus, cannot afford to force its will on the Jihad Islami and risk an open breach with Tehran. Hamas-Gaza's only recourse is to persuade Khaled Meshaal, head of its Damascus wing, to press Tehran to rein in Jihad Islami and so save the unfinished command centers from destruction. Hamas seems to think that in Tehran one hand doesn't know what the other is doing. In fact, according to our sources, Iran is acting deliberately to stir up confusion among the Palestinan organizations in the Gaza Strip while also maintaining military tensions around the border fence and southwestern Israel at a high pitch. While its air force takes advantage of the confusion Iran is generating in Gaza to wipe out the new military command centers, Israel's military planners are fully aware that this is a short-term strategy which carries a high price. Their reprisals for attacks are predicted by Iran and serve its strategic objectives in the Gaza Strip. Iran can rebuild Hamas's destroyed command centers but is determined to allow no letup in Palestinian violence from the Gaza Strip. Israeli strategists are therefore expected to chart different and novel modes of operation for stemming the attacks now fully orchestrated from Tehran. So far, Iran is doing better in the Gaza Strip than in Lebanon. There, it calls the shots for a single radical group, the Hizballah, whereas in Gaza it holds the two dominant radical Palestinian movements in the palm of its hand
WEEK OF JANUARY 2 THROUGH JANUARY 8
Iran builds new Eastern Front in Iraq against Israel, Jordan
Jan. 7...(DEBKAfile Exclusive) The urgent phone call Jordan's King Abdullah II put in to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Wednesday Jan. 5 dealt only marginally with stalled diplomacy with the Palestinians. The king pressed for answers on what Jerusalem and Amman can do to curb Iran's advancing domination of Iraq in the face of America's inaction. Referring to Hizballah's role, Abdullah commented to Netanyahu: First Iran's missiles had you jammed from the north and the south, now Iran and Hizballah are cornering you from the east. The Americans are not lifting a finger to stop this happening." The call, which came through the day before the Israeli prime minister met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for lunch at Sharm al Sheikh, elicited no real practical replies. Netanyahu confirmed that Israel still stood by the guarantee of support its armed forces and security services had granted the Hashemite Kingdom and its ruler for the past 60 years. Both the king and the prime minister appreciated that words are not enough. Since both their military and strategic policies are synchronized with Washington, the total disintegration of American strategic positions in Baghdad Wednesday, Jan 5, was an alarming setback to both Jerusalem and Amman. On that day, the anti-US radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr, a close friend and ally of Hizballah's leader Hassan Nasrallah, came marching home from self-imposed exile in Iran, and the new Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi paid his first visit to Baghdad, both in full sight of 50,000 US troops.
Sadr was greeted by thousands of supporters on his return to his old stronghold in the holy city of Najef south of Baghdad three years after his armed militia was defeated in bloody revolts against US forces. The two arrivals from Iran, the cleric and the diplomat, made it plain that Tehran has Iraq by the throat and plans to impose on Baghdad its regime structure, which rests on two focii, the political capital and the clergy. Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is already in Iran's pocket; he is beholden to the radical Sadr's support for his appointment. The same cleric, and therefore Iran will control his fate, both by means of the 40-member Sadrist faction in parliament and the authority he wields from his seat in the religious city of Najef. Tehran has also not neglected to carve out a position of influence in Baghdad for its Lebanese protege, Hizballah, whose officers and instructors have been training the commanders of Sadr's powerful militia, the Mahdi Army, alongside Iranian instructors. The two ultra-radical Shiite leaders, Sadr and Nasrallah, are now bound closer together than ever before in an adventure for bringing Iraq under pro-Iranian Shiite domination. Iraq's neighbors, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, could only shudder at the sight of the two black-turbaned Shiite extremists taking charge of Iraq on behalf of Revolutionary Iran against no opposition.
This pair and Maliki have taken out of the hands of Washington and Baghdad the decision on whether a reduced US force stays on in Iraq after the main force departs in 11 months' time. Moqtada Sadr has vowed to remove every last American from Iraqi soil and no one shows any sign of stopping him. US troops will be replaced by Shiite-dominated Iraqi forces, the Shiite militias commanded and funded by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods Brigades and Hizballah militia detachments transferred from Lebanon. Iran will in the coming months consolidate the Shiite takeover over Iraq. Hizballah will win a place in the sun and strategic depth after being squeezed between Syria, Israel and the sea.
After US troops exit Iraq, the Iranians will be able to deploy their missiles and Hizballah's rockets in the bases the Americans leave behind in Iraq and point them at Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Russia: Obama Signed Away US Missile Defense
Jan. 6 (Newsmax) Russia's legislature says the New START nuclear arms treaty ratified last month by the US Senate restricts the US from building and operating missile defenses against nuclear attacks. President Obama says the opposite: that the treaty "places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs." There may never have been such a huge dispute on such a fundamental aspect of a high profile treaty between two major world powers. As reported by the Voice of Russia on Monday, Russia's Duma, the lower house of parliament, "plans to confirm the link between the reduction of the strategic offensive arms and the restriction of antimissile defense systems' deployment in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START)," according to the lawmaking body's foreign policy chief. The Russian news agency quoted the chairman of the Duma Committee on International Affairs, Konstantin Kosachev, who was apparently sneering that US negotiators had been tricked. Kosachev claimed, "our American colleagues do not recognize the legal force of the treaty's preamble. The preamble sets a link between strategic offensive arms and defensive arms." The text of New Start's preamble recognizes an "interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms" which it declares "will become more important as strategic nuclear arms are reduced." And while the introductory portion of the pact adds that, "current strategic defensive arms do not undermine the viability and effectiveness of the strategic offensive arms of the Parties," it gives no license for future defensive systems. According to Kosachev, the US belief "that the link between strategic offensive armed forces and antimissile defense systems is not juridically binding for the parties" because "this link was fixed only in the preamble of the document" is an attempt on the part of theUnited States "to find an option to build up its strategic potential," and the foreign policy committee chairman warns, "the Russian lawmakers cannot agree with this."
When asked by ABC News on Monday if the Russians were right about New START squashing future missile defense breakthroughs, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor replied: "The President sent a letter to the Senate on December 18th that said: 'The New Start Treaty places no limitations on the development or deployment of our missile defense programs.' That remains the case." But as ABC News pointed out back in April on the eve of the signing of the New START treaty, Russian officials have been saying all along that the agreement restricts US efforts toward building missile defenses. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the time said, "linkage to missile defense is clearly spelled out in the accord and is legally binding."
The United States agreed not to refurnish or use ICBM and SLBM launchers for interceptor missile deployment and vice versa." New START's provisions "take into account the presence of strategic defensive systems capable of neutralizing strategic offensive armaments. This interconnection has been legally stipulated," the Medvedev senior adviser stated in April. In a letter to Republican senators encouraging them to vote for New START, President Obama pledged, "As long as I am President, and as long as the Congress provides the necessary funding, the United States will continue to develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect the United States, our deployed forces, and our allies and partners." As long ago as last March, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates promised that "missile defense is not constrained by this treaty."
Fringe Christian Group Predicts End of Days in May?
("But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Matthew 24:36)
* FOJ Note: People and groups like this one do more damage to the cause of Christianity and the purpose of Bible prophecy than anybody else. These wild and erroneous predictions only serve to malign and discredit legitimate Bible Prophecy purposes. I have often said that Bible prophecy is not about "predictions," but rather it is about "promises." God has made promises to the Church and to Israel, and He will keep those promises in his time. The Bible has given us many prophecies relative to the 2nd coming of Jesus, which is connected to the rebirth of Israel, but there are no signs indicating a date for the Rapture. There are no cosmic formula's related in the Bible. Jesus did highlight the fact that certain signs in the latter days indicated that the "season" for his return was near, but he expressly warned against setting dates!
Jan. 4...(Breitbart) A movement of Christians loosely organized by radio broadcasts and websites, independent of churches and convinced by their reading of the Bible is predicting the end of the world will happen on May 21, 2011. To get the word out, they're using billboards and bus stop benches, traveling caravans of RVs and volunteers passing out pamphlets on street corners. One lady left her home in Colorado Springs, Colorado to work with Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio Worldwide, the independent Christian ministry whose leader, Harold Camping, has calculated the May 21 date based on his reading of the Bible. Not everyone who's heard Camping's message is taking such a dramatic step. They're remaining in their day-to-day lives, but helping publicize the prophecy in other ways. Allison Warden, of Raleigh, has been helping organize a campaign using billboards, post cards and other media in cities across the US through a website, We Can Know. The 29-year-old payroll clerk laughs when asked about reactions to the message, which is plastered all over her car. "It's definitely against the grain, I know that," she said. "We're hoping people won't take our word for it, or Harold Camping's word for it. We're hoping that people will search the scriptures for themselves." Camping, 89, believes the Bible essentially functions as a cosmic calendar explaining exactly when various prophecies will be fulfilled. The retired civil engineer said all his calculations come from close readings of the Bible, but that external events like the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 are signs confirming the date. "Beyond the shadow of a doubt, May 21 will be the date of the Rapture and the day of judgment," he said. The doctrine known as the Rapture teaches that believers will be taken up to heaven, while everyone else will remain on earth for a period of torment, concluding with the end of time. Camping believes that will happen in October. "If May 21 passes and I'm still here, that means I wasn't saved. Does that mean God's word is inaccurate or untrue? Not at all," Warden said. The belief that Christ will return to earth and bring an end to history has been a basic element of Christian belief since the first century. The Book of Revelation, which comes last in the New Testament, describes this conclusion in vivid language that has inspired Christians for centuries. But few churches are willing to set a date for the end of the world, heeding Jesus' words in the gospels of Mark and Matthew that no one can know the day or hour it will happen.
Predictions like Camping's, though, aren't new. One of the most famous in history was by the Baptist leader William Miller, who predicted the end for Oct. 22, 1844, which came to be known as the Great Disappointment among his followers, some of whom subsequently founded the Seventh Day Adventist church. "In the US, there is still a significant population, mostly Protestant, who look at the Bible as kind of a puzzle, and the puzzle is God's word and it's predicting when the end times will come," said Catherine Wessinger, a professor at Loyola University in New Orleans who studies millennialism, the belief in pending apocalypse. "A lot of times these prophecies gain traction when difficulties are happening in society," she said. "Right now, there's a lot of insecurity, and this is a promise that says it's not all random, it's part of God's plan." Past predictions that failed to come true don't have any bearing on the current calculation, believers maintain. "It would be like telling the Wright brothers that every other attempt to fly has failed, so you shouldn't even try," said Chris McCann, who works with eBible Fellowship, one of the groups spreading the message. For believers like McCann, theirs is actually a message of hope and compassion: God's compassion for people, and the hope that there's still time to be saved. That, ultimately, is what spurs on Exley, who said her beliefs have alienated her from most of her friends and family. Her hope is that not everyone who hears her message will mock it, and that even people who dismiss her now might still come to believe. "If you still want to say we're crazy, go ahead," she said.
US in Secret Talks with Syria Over Peace Accord with Israel
(Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai reports US believes Syria ready to distance itself from Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas)
Jan. 3...(Ha Aretz) The United States has been in secret contact with Syrian officials in the hopes of realizing a comprehensive Israel-Syrian peace treaty, the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper reported Saturday. The past few weeks had witnessed an "unprecedented Syrian cooperation" in the peace process, prompting Washington to talk with Syrian officials to reach a peace agreement between Syria and Israel, informed sources told al-Rai. Sources said Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem had sent positive signals to the US showing that "the Syrians are ready to re-engage in dialogue with the Israelis to reach peace". President Barack Obama's administration believes that an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement will be "a breakthrough in the peace process as a whole to achieve peace in the Palestinian territories." Sources said that Obama adviser Dennis Ross told the US administration that he found "Syria ready to move away from Iran and reduce relations with Hezbollah and Hamas, and work with the United States in the fight against terrorism." Israel, for its part, apparently expressed a willingness to return the Golan Heights to Syria, reach an agreement on water rights, and normalize relations with Damascus. Syrian demands the return of the Golan, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, as a prerequisite for any peace deal. Israel captured the Golan in the 1967 Six Day War, and in 1981 parliament passed a law applying Israeli "laws, jurisdiction and administration" to the territory, in effect annexing it. The annexation was not recognized internationally. Direct Israeli-Syrian peace talks fell apart in 2000, over a dispute over Syrian access to the Sea of Galilee, as per the de facto border which existed prior to the 1967 war. Turkish mediated Israeli-Syrian talks also failed to produce any breakthrough.
UN Prepares to Condemn Jewish Life in Biblical Judea and Samaria
Jan. 3...(Israel Today) At the behest of the Palestinian Authority, the UN Security Council is considering a draft resolution that condemns Jews for settling in their ancestral lands of Judea and Samaria, and demanding that Israel halt the practice altogether. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told reporters on Wednesday that his government would soon be seeking official UN Security Council condemnation of Jewish communities in those areas claimed by the Palestinians as "illegal." The Associated Press published a copy of the draft resolution authored by the Palestinian Authority. In it, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (the so-called "Jewish settlements") are blasted as the "major obstacle to the achievement of peace." The document goes on to claim that "Israeli settlements established in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, including east Jerusalem, are illegal," and demands that Israel "immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem." The US State Department responded to the news by reiterating that Washington opposes taking these issues to the UN Security Council. However, because the current draft does not include operative steps, such as imposing sanctions on Israel, it is feared that the US will not veto the resolution should it come to a vote. Israeli officials warn that the more watered-down the resolution text is, the less likely the US is to block its adoption by the Security Council. Nevertheless, the Palestinians and Arab world will hold such a resolution aloft as further "proof" that the Jews have no legal right to reside in this land. The resolution is, of course, a misrepresentation of recent history and international law, not to mention totally contradictory to the biblical mandate. In the original British Mandate for Palestine adopted in 1923 (the only legally binding resolution on the issue of the land), the Jews were granted international recognition of their right to settle all parts of their ancient homeland. In 1948, in response to growing Arab pressure, the UN decided to propose (not impose) a division of the land that would have created an Arab state in Judea and Samaria. Israel agreed, the Arabs rejected. Legally, the deal was off the table. From that time until Israel's liberation of the land in 1967, Judea and Samaria were occupied by neighboring Jordan. Despite this history, the Arabs have somehow managed to convince the world's top administrative body that Israel has invaded and illegally settled "the land of Palestine," as though such an entity ever existed.
Suicide Bomber Kills 21 at Egypt Church
Jan. 3...(Reuters) A bomb killed at least 21 people outside a church in the Egyptian city of Alexandria early on New Year's Day and the Interior Ministry said a foreign-backed suicide bomber may have been responsible. Dozens of people were wounded by the blast, which scattered body parts, destroyed cars and smashed windows. The attack prompted Christians to protest on the streets, and some Christians and Muslims hurled stones at each other. Egypt has stepped up security around churches, banning cars from parking outside them, since an al Qaeda-linked group in Iraq issued a threat against the Church in Egypt in November. Egypt's leaders were quick to call for unity, wary of any upsurge in sectarian strife or other tension as the country approaches a presidential election due in September amid some uncertainty about whether President Hosni Mubarak, 82, will run. Mubarak promised in a televised address that terrorists would not destabilize Egypt or divide Christians and Muslims. He said the attack "carries evidence of the involvement of foreign fingers" and vowed to pursue the perpetrators. A statement on an Islamist website posted about two weeks before the blast called for attacks on Egypt's churches, listing among them the one hit. No group was named in the statement. President Barack Obama described the bombing as a "barbaric and heinous act" and said the United States, a major ally, was ready to help Cairo in responding to it. The Muslim Brotherhood, seen as Egypt's biggest opposition group and which decades ago renounced violence as means to power in Egypt, condemned the attack. "There are people who want this country to be unstable, and all fingers point to outside hands being behind this incident," senior group member Mohamed el-Katatni said. The circumstances of the attack, compared with other incidents abroad, "clearly indicates that foreign elements undertook planning and execution," the Interior Ministry said. "It is likely that the device which exploded was carried by a suicide bomber who died among others," it said in a statement. State media had earlier blamed a car bomb. The embassy of the United States, a close ally of Egypt, expressed condolences to victims of the "terrible event." Other Western and regional states also condemned the bombing. An Iraqi deputy interior minister, Hussein Kamal, urged Arab states to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and to help stop Arab militants training in Iraq and then returning home. Christians make up about 10 percent of Muslim-majority Egypt's 79 million people. Tensions often flare between the two communities over issues such as building churches or close relationships between members of the two faiths. Analysts said this attack was on a much bigger scale and appeared far more organized than the kind of violence that usually erupts when communal frustrations boil over.
Many Christians blame violence against their community on Islamic extremists. They accuse the government of blaming attacks on lone renegades or mentally ill people to avoid addressing what they call anti-Christian sentiment among Muslims. The mistrust of the government is so great, that even the ministry's report that a suicide bomber was behind Saturday's blast raised suspicion among some Christians. Whoever was behind it, the blast appeared qualitatively different from past attacks on Christians. Most recent anti-Christian violence has involved less sophisticated means, mainly shootings. Stabbings at three Alexandria churches in 2006 sparked three days of Muslim-Christian riots that left at least four dead.
Alexandria's Copts were victims of homegrown Egyptian Islamic terror
Jan. 3...(DEBKAfile Special Report) The suicide attack on the Coptic Saints Church in Alexandria, northern Egypt, which left 21 dead and 79 injured after New Year's mass, was carried out by a local Egyptian Islamic Jihad extremist, Debkafile's counter-terror sources report. In calling for national unity, President Hosni Mubarak stepped away from blaming Al Qaeda, which has been massacring Iraqi Christians. But he also glossed over homegrown terror by calling the attack "a foreign assault." The rising tide of Islamist terror in Egypt, which exploded in Alexandria on Jan. 1, is thrown up by multiple sources inside the country:
1. Al Qaeda has grown offshoots in the cities lining the Suez Canal, such as Ismailya, Suez, and the towns and villages around Alexandria.
2. For years, Egyptian security forces have tried and failed to uproot the Al Qaeda cells and Egyptian Islamic Jihad fugitives on the run which are entrenched in the rugged mountains at the heart of the Sinai Peninsula. These strongholds are also used by the local Bedouin tribesmen operating a thriving Middle East smuggling network for weapons, drugs and human traffic.
3. Its routes keep Al Qaeda supplied with weapons, explosives and reinforcements. They start in Somalia, pass through Eritrea and Sudan into southern Egypt, cross the Suez Canal and land in Sinai with their contraband. Their supply route then forks into a western branch for deliveries to Palestinian Gaza Strip and West Bank recipients , and the eastern branch, which heads northeast to Jordan and winds across its borders through to Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
Since no one including Israel takes any real action to stifle this booming smuggling trade, Iran can safely jump aboard any segment of the network to smuggle missiles and other weapons systems to the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic JIhad in the Gaza Strip.
4. Egypt and Israel have also been looking the other way as Al Qaeda cells in the Gaza Strip flourish and become increasingly aggressive. Those cells are largely responsible for the rising number of attacks on Israeli forces patrolling the Gaza border fence, providing their fighters with valuable experience in real combat conditions. Some Egyptian Islamic Jihad fugitives have reached the Gaza Strip too and liaise between the Egyptian and Palestinian terrorist movements.
Copts account for roughly ten percent of Egypt's population of 80 million. Their Coptic Orthodox Church, one of the oldest in Christendom, was founded in the first century. After the seventh century Arab conquest, Islam gradually became the dominant faith of the land until the present. The Copts have survived against spates of persecution. Sunday morning, dozens filled the same Saints Church attacked a day earlier, while riot police backed by armored vehicles were deployed outside.
Exactly a year ago, six Christians were killed in a drive-by shooting outside a church in southern Egypt, and in November police killed a protester during clashes with Copts triggered by a halt to the construction of a church in Cairo. Non-Islamic tourists are often targeted for homegrown Islamist terror attacks, such as the suicide bombing at the crowded Cairo Khan el-Khalili souk on April 7, 2005, in which three tourists were killed, two French and one American. Three months later, on Oct. 30, another terrorist jumped to his death from a bridge into a busy bus terminal from which tourists head out to the different sites across the country. At the same time, two veiled women opened fire on a tourist bus bringing sightseers back from the Saladin Citadel in Cairo. Those attacks were claimed by the "Egyptian Mujahidin" and "Abdullah Azzam Shaheed Brigades," an ersatz name which many terrorism experts believe is used by al Qaeda's many offshoots in the Middle East and Persian Gulf mask their members' identify. The Alexandria attack peaked a period of simmering Islamic-Coptic violence. In November, police killed a Copt taking part in a protest triggered by a halt to the construction of a church in Cairo. Muslim rioters have long demanded that two Muslim women married to Copts and converted to Christianity be "returned." The law is behind them. In Egypt, interfaith marriages between Muslims and Copts are banned as illegal. While Iraq's Christians are in flight from Al Qaeda-led Islamist terror, the Lebanese Shiite extremist Hizballah is ironically on the alert for the same scourge to attack its own religious and military centers. Hassan Nasrallah and his security chiefs fear that Lebanese Islamists with links to Al Qaeda, or jihadis attacking Christians and Shiites in Iraq, may soon infiltrate the country through Syria and target his strongholds. One Islamist terrorist organization would then be pitted against another for the first time.
3 US Military Giants Speak Out on New Sex Rules
'The mission is fight and win wars. President's job is to protect nation'
Jan. 3...(WND) Their biographies read like the script for an action movie, except perhaps the movie wouldn't have quite so much action: Flying military missions over enemy territory, sending coded messages while captured, firefights in exotic locales from Vietnam to Iran to Mogadishu, Oval Office briefings and faceoffs with communists in Nicaragua. These three retired military giants, US Navy Cmdr. Eugene B. McDaniel, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin and Adm. Jeremiah Denton, have scoured their experiences and come to the conclusion that using the military services for social experiments regarding homosexuality poses a huge danger to America's future. "My outlook tells me we should pray the words 'God bless America' and immediately after that prayer offer another, 'God help America.'" Denton's extravagant heroics remain unchallenged to this day. Flying missions over Vietnam, he was shot down and spent years as a POW, famously blinking Morse code with his eyes during a staged "interview" to reveal that the communist regime was using torture. He later returned to the United States to thank the president and nation for being allowed to serve, and went on to represent America as a US senator from Alabama and also serve President Reagan. His book, "When Hell was in Session," documents his eight years in captivity, his release and promotion to rear admiral and describes his shock at the moral decline in America during his absence. "My opinions on 'Don't ask, don't tell' are not politically correct," he warned. He said the military is not set up to respond to the "hurt feelings" of everyone because there is just no room in the battle for freedom and rights for those disputes. The nation, and it's military; he said, need to be focused on the fundamental biblical principles on which the nation was founded.
Facing demands from homosexual advocacy organizations as well as Obama, Congress recently authorized the repeal of the military's practice of "Don't ask, don't tell," given certain conditions are met such as "proof" that it will not significantly hurt the nation. "Not enough emphasis is being placed upon the fact that growing counter-cultural development has already done grave harm to the well-being and security of the United States," Denton said. "A strong portion of our population, including our government, has already been persuaded that many of the most critically important fundamental founding principles of our country should be discarded, especially the critically important portion of the Declaration of Independence which holds that it is an inalienable truth in the field of human rights that 'all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.'" He continued, "Our creator is God, and His Ten Commandments stipulate a set of behaviors that are permissible and a set of things that are not permissible in the pursuit of happiness by our citizens. "Our government has all but abandoned this dictum, causing a tremendous deterioration of our culture and behavior. A solid institution of the family is essential not only for a nation's survival, but for the survival of civilization." He said the US has abandoned a commitment to, or even recognition of, a morality. "History has redundantly proven that when nations choose to ignore morality and the citizenry drops allegiance to God, they soon perish," he said. "The government is imposing social experimentation on our armed forces," he said. "We are taking a big new step toward violating the point of what President Reagan meant when he said, 'When we stop being one nation under God, we will become one nation gone under.' "I regard the debate about DADT as one of the many symptoms of our progressive abandonment of the principles which brought this nation from birth to unparalleled world power."
Joining the argument was Boykin, who in 1978 joined what would become the world's first Special Operations unit, Delta Force, where he was promised only "a medal and a body bag." At one point he took a .50 caliber round in his chest and he spent his career bringing down warlords, despots and dictators. His team hunted in Columbia for drug lord Pablo Escobar and he helped capture dictator Manuel Noriega in Panama. His missions also took him to Mogadishu, Iran and Vietnam. His book, "Never Surrender: A Soldier's Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom," describes his adventures. He told WND the move to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military should not even have been considered. "There is no constitutional right to serve," he said. "The military always has discriminated based on physical limitations, bad life choices like felony convictions." The argument, he said, is about the moral character of the nation. "The anchor of our society should be the church," he said. "The church already has been compromised. The military is the last bastion of ethics and morality. That's what it's about." He said such social considerations are not only unnecessary but dangerous. "The mission of the military is to fight and win wars. It's never changed," he said. "There's no question that what this is going to do is reduce the effectiveness of the military." He said America will "suffer the consequences." "The No. 1 job of any president, of any administration, is to protect the nation," he said. "Every decision has to be made with a focus on enhancing the ability to do that." However, this move by Congress and Obama, fails. "No one can demonstrate this decision is going to enhance readiness," he said. "Quite the opposite."
McDaniel, a pilot in Vietnam, was headed to Van Dien, North Vietnam, when his jet was shot down and he spent nearly six years as a POW. After leaving the Navy as a captain, he founded the American Defense Institute to encourage patriotism. "I'm very concerned about the impact of repeal," he told WND. He said it was difficult enough for military vehicles such as aircraft carriers to create opportunities for women, but the issue of those of the same sex openly exhibiting attraction to another in the ranks will befuddle standards and "destroy the morale." "There is no upside," he said.
Also joining the argument was retired Gen. Carl Mundy, USMC, 30th commandant of Marines, whose remarks appeared on the Dakota Voice. "Ordinary citizens have the right to say whatever they wish, to be active in politics of their choice, to demonstrate, to groom or dress as they prefer, to live wherever and with whomever they wish, and short of an absolute violation of law, to behave as they wish," he said. "Uniformed military members do not have these rights. By both verbal oath and personal signature upon enlistment, they swear before God to support the Constitution that gives rights to others in society, while denying the same to themselves. They affirm that they will bear true faith and allegiance to it, and that they will obey the orders of the president and those of the officers appointed over them. Officers go a step further, swearing that they accept this obligation without mental reservation or purpose of evasion." But he said nothing in the Constitution, nor any action of Congress to date, "Gives any citizen the right to serve." He explained the military has the authority to reject applicants for age, physical or mental conditions, education, drug use, weight and other reasons. And he noted the law for years actually has excluded from eligibility to serve those who exhibit "a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts" and the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy already was an allowance for those with such lifestyle choices who would promise not to make a public spectacle. He said the reason for military operations should not be "social reform" but "military effectiveness."