July 3, 2008
Number 07/08 #02
Today’s Update opens with a discussion of Wednesday’s terrorist attack on one of Jerusalem’s busiest streets, when a Palestinian construction worker from eastern Jerusalem ploughed a bulldozer into cars and buses. Three people were killed and 66 wounded in the attack. Additional news reports of the attack are here and here, and the description of the off-duty soldier who stopped the attack is here. Jerusalem Post Editor David Horowitz gives his thoughts on the attack, as does an angry Bradley Burston, from Haaretz.
Only hours after the attack, the Knesset passed the first reading of a bill which would strip the citizenship of anyone involved in a terrorist attack or found to be a member of a terrorist organisation.
Our first article today is an analysis of the new type of terrorism that Israel – and particularly Jerusalem – faces; that of attacks perpetrated by ‘lone gunmen,’ such as yesterday’s attack and March’s shooting attack in a Jerusalem yeshiva. For the reasons behind the change in methodology, and a look into the future, CLICK HERE. The Jerusalem Post’s Calev Ben-David also analyses this new type of terrorism, as do Haaretz’s Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff.
The second article is an Associated Press report that three top Iraqis have claimed Hezbollah was training fighters in southern Iraq until three months ago, after which they went across the Iranian border to further their training. This, and other allegations in the report, point to ongoing Iranian support for paramilitary activity in Iraq. To read this important news, CLICK HERE.
Also on Hezbollah, the quarterly report by the UN Secretary General to the Security Council on the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War, failed to accuse Hezbollah of violating the ceasefire, despite Israel alleging such violations. The report did mention that UNIFIL troops were forced to delete photos they’d taken of suspicious looking cables.
Ofer Dekel, the Israeli hostage negotiator, is set to go to Germany today to finalise the prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s leader has claimed the report on missing Israeli aviator Ron Arad that he’ll hand over as part of the swap will contain “a definite conclusion based on… witness accounts [gathered] on the ground,” and that the swap should take place in the next one or two weeks. This after Israel’s High Court made clear it would reject a petition to prohibit the government from going ahead with the negotiated swap.
Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora has said the prisoner swap is a failure for Israel and a success for Hezbollah.
In good news, the UK is set to outlaw the military wing of Hezbollah. If the legislation passes, it will be illegal to belong to, fundraise for, or encourage the Islamist group in the UK.
Finally, an article from the New York Post, by the Iranian-born Amir Taheri who reviews a new book by al-Qaeda’s chief strategist, Sheikh Abu Bakar Naji, in which Sheikh Naji advocates a new type of jihad. Instead of spectacular attacks like 9/11, 7/7 and the like, Naji says the only way to win (by which he means the establishment of global Islamic caliphate), is through total war in which no one feels safe. This means “countless small operations” that render daily life unbearable. The “infidel,” leaving his home every morning, should be unsure whether he’ll return in the evening, according to Naji. These attacks would occur in any country – East or West – where there is a substantial Muslim community, which, Naji suggests, will protect the mujahedeen. To read this frightening scenario, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in:
- Barry Rubin writes an insightful overview of Middle Eastern alliances.
- The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff has said an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would risk destabilising the entire region.
- Egypt has announced talks designed to garner the release of Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas for two years, will begin in ten days.
- A German academic has claimed the 11 Israeli Olympians killed in Munich in 1972 effectively committed suicide, in order to “strengthen the victim status of Israel” and thereby allow the Jewish state to use their deaths as an “instrument against the Palestinians”.
- Palestinians stormed the Gaza-Egyptian border crossing when Egypt opened it for a few hours on Wednesday, resulting in Cairo delivering a warning to Hamas.
- A very good summary of Hamas’ preparations for life and conflict after the ceasefire with Israel ends.
- Israel reopened its border crossings with Gaza on Wednesday, after a day without rocket fire. This comes as Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, claims Israel is backtracking on its ceasefire commitments.
- Also on Gaza, pan-Arab newspaper a-Sharq al-Awsat has published an opinion piece saying Hamas entered the ceasefire to give Syria a chance to improve relations with Turkey and Europe through its peace talks with Israel; and that Fatah is trying to destroy the ceasefire, just like Hamas tried to destroy Fatah’s chance of working with Israel.
- Jordan has passed legislation severely restricting the rights of opposition parties.
- Palestinian academics are boycotting an international conference held in Tunisia because of the presence of Israeli academics.
- The University of London has become the first British university to appoint a professor of Israel studies. This comes as the UK’s first ever ‘Salute to Israel‘ march ended in a successful 45,000-strong rally in London.
- Two retired Turkish generals have been arrested for plotting to overthrow the Turkish government, as the country’s chief prosecutor has brought a case against the Islamist-leaing ruling party for undermining the secular principles of the Turkish constitution.
- Some introspective articles on the new Adam Sandler movie about an Israeli commando who fakes his death in order to become a hair stylist, here, here and here.
- An interesting biography of Aaron Aaronsohn, an early Zionist famed for both his research on disease resistant wheat and his role in Nili, an espionage group that helped Britain against Ottoman control of what would later become Mandatory Palestine.
- Microchip giant Intel inaugurated its new US$3.5 billion lab in Israel this week.
- The largest Sunni political bloc in Iraq looks set to rejoin the Shi’ite-led government, in what’s seen as a positive step towards reconciliation. This comes as the US Embassy in Iraq has said Iraq has met 15 of the 18 benchmarks the US Congress set to measure success in that country.
- A poll has revealed that more than 50 percent of the world’s Arabs think the Arab-Israel conflict is central to how they view the world, but also think that peace will never be achieved.
- Direct Israel-Syria talks are likely to happen in two weeks time. Also, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has met and shook hands with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.
- Israeli President Shimon Peres has appointed a Druze brigadier general as his aide-de-camp – the first time in Israeli history someone who isn’t Jewish has been appointed to this position.
Yaakov Katz, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2008
They are both Arabs who lived in East Jerusalem with blue Israeli identity cards.
One committed the massacre at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in March, gunning down eight teenage students. The other rampaged through downtown Jerusalem on Wednesday with a bulldozer he stole from a construction site.
Wednesday’s attacker, Husam Taysir Dwayat, was a 30-year-old father of two from Sur Bahir. The gunman who massacred the Mercaz Harav students came from the nearby neighborhood of Jebl Mukaber.
Both attackers are examples of the type of terrorism threat that Jerusalem now faces. The city has experienced a lull in terrorist attacks over the past couple of years in comparison to 2001-2004, when there were suicide bomb attacks every few months.
While Jerusalem has known the occasional terrorist stabbing over the past few years, before Mercaz Harav, the last major attack in Jerusalem was in September 2004 when two border policemen were killed and 17 civilians wounded in a suicide bombing by a female terrorist at the French Hill junction.
But since then, the IDF Central Command and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have been very effective in preventing terrorist infiltrations into Israeli cities. This is not due to a drop in Palestinian attempts, but it has to do with the near-completion of the West Bank security barrier and IDF operational freedom throughout the territories. In 2007, there was only one suicide bombing in Eilat and so far this year, just one in Dimona.
The Shin Bet and the Israel Police launched a joint investigation Wednesday into the bulldozer attack, and while the possibility that Dwayat acted alone seems the most likely, other options have yet to be ruled out.
Dwayat was known to police for previous criminal activity, and defense officials raised the possibility that he had been coerced by terrorist elements to perpetrate the attack. It would not be the first time, the officials stressed, that terrorism and crime went hand in hand.
On the other hand, there is also the possibility that Dwayat had a falling-out with his employers at the Jerusalem light rail construction site, or that he decided on his own to perpetrate the attack on behalf of his brethren in the Gaza Strip.
Whatever the case may be, the Shin Bet did not record a terrorism threat prior to the attack. According to security officials, the IDF in the West Bank and the Shin Bet are currently operating against five warnings of Palestinian terrorist groups that are working to perpetrate an attack inside Israel.
This is further evidence that the attacker likely acted alone and of his own accord. The same was the case with the Mercaz Harav attacker, who also acted alone, and while he had a submachine gun – possibly provided to him by handlers – in a country like Israel where a large number of citizens have guns at home, it is fairly easy to buy weapons on the black market.
What makes the possibility of foiling such attacks even more difficult is the fact that both Dwayat and the Mercaz Harav gunman carried Israeli ID cards allowing them to travel freely throughout Jerusalem and the rest of the country. In the case of Mercaz Harav, one might argue that security forces should have caught the gunman since he was carrying a weapon, but in Wednesday’s attack Dwayat was unarmed and used a bulldozer, which can be found these days on almost every street corner in Jerusalem.
The security fence would also not have helped in such a case. With blue ID cards, the two attackers would have easily crossed into Israel like the thousands of blue card holders who live in the West Bank and travel to Israel daily.
From a security perspective, these types of attacks are the most difficult to foil. There is no planning, no infrastructure and rarely any accomplices.
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Associated Press, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2008
Hizbullah instructors trained Shi’ite militiamen at remote camps in southern Iraq until three months ago when they slipped across the border to Iran – presumably to continue instruction on Iranian soil, according to two Shi’ite lawmakers and a top army officer.
The three Iraqis claim the Lebanese Shi’ites were also involved in planning some of the most brazen attacks against US-led forces, including the January 2007 raid on a provincial government compound in Karbala in which five Americans died.
The allegations, made in separate interviews with The Associated Press, point not only to an Iranian hand in the Iraq war, but also to Hizbullah’s willingness to expand beyond its Lebanese base and assume a broader role in the struggle against US influence in the Middle East.
All this suggests that Shi’ite-dominated Iran is waging a proxy war against the United States to secure a dominant role in majority-Shi’ite Iraq, which has supplanted Lebanon as Teheran’s top priority in the Middle East.
“The stakes are much higher in Iraq, where there is a Shi’ite majority, oil, the shrine cities and borders with Saudi Arabia,” said analyst Farid al-Khazen, a Christian Lebanese lawmaker whose party is allied with Hizbullah.
“The big story is Iraq, and the Americans unwittingly opened it up for the Iranians” by their invasion in 2003, al-Khazen said.
The allegations come as the United States and Iran are engaged in a showdown over Tehran’s nuclear program and each country’s role in Iraq.
Iran, Hizbullah’s mentor, denies giving any support to Shi’ite extremists in Iraq.
But the three Iraqis who spoke to the AP said the Iranians prefer to use Hizbullah instructors because as Arabs, they can communicate better with the Iraqi Shi’ites and maintain a lower profile than Farsi-speakers from Iran.
For Hizbullah, a high-risk role in Iraq could give the Lebanese movement leverage with the United States and broaden its appeal within the Arab world where anti-American sentiment remains strong.
Iraqi officials have said little about a Hizbullah role in this country. However, President Jalal Talabani told US-funded Alhurra television this week that “there have been several occasions” when Hizbullah members or those who “claim to belong to Hizbullah” have been detained in Iraq.
He gave no further details.
But the two Iraqi lawmakers and the military officer said Hizbullah instructors work only with members of the Iraqi Shi’ite “special groups,” the US military’s name for splinter factions of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia. The US believes that Iran’s elite Quds Force, a branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, supports the special groups.
All three Iraqis spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to release the information.
The lawmakers belong to al-Sadr’s movement and were involved in the creation of the Mahdi Army in 2003. The military officer’s job gives him access to highly classified intelligence information.
They said Hizbullah began training Shi’ite militiamen in the second half of 2006 at two camps – Deir and Kutaiban – east of Basra near the Iranian border. They fled across the border in late March or early April this year after US-backed Iraqi forces launched a crackdown against militias in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city.
In Iran, training resumed in camps once used by Iraqi exiles who fought with Iranian forces during the 1980s war between the two countries, the lawmakers said. Instruction includes explosives, ambushes and use of rockets and mortars.
Citing testimony from special groups members in custody, the officer said the Hizbullah instructors never numbered more than 10 at any one time, kept a low profile and moved back and forth over the Iranian border.
Indications that Hizbullah was playing a role in Iraq first surfaced last July when the US military announced the arrest of Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese-born Hizbullah operative allegedly training Iraqi Shi’ite militiamen.
At least one other Hizbullah operative, identified only as Faris, was detained in Basra during fighting there in April and was handed over to the Americans, the Iraqi military officer said.
The US military has said little publicly about Hizbullah’s involvement here since announcing Daqduq’s arrest, though it has frequently alleged an Iranian role in arming, equipping and training Shi’ite extremists.
“At this point in time, we do not have any new, releasable information regarding Hizbullah’s involvement with special groups in Iran and Iraq,” a military spokesman, Capt. Charles Calio, said in an e-mail to the AP.
A Hizbullah spokesman in Beirut, Lebanon, refused to comment on any role for his organization.
However, Ibrahim al-Ameen, a Lebanese newspaper editor close to Hizbullah, said in a recent interview in Beirut that Hizbullah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, spends several hours daily dealing with “the situation in Iraq.”
Nasrallah, who studied Shi’ite theology in Iraq, spoke at length about Iraqi “resistance” during a speech last May that analysts believed was aimed at bolstering his image as a godfather of Arab opposition to the United States and Israel throughout the Middle East.
Beside its alleged role in Iraq, Hizbullah is known to have ties to Hamas. The charismatic Nasrallah has become a sort of folk hero in the mostly Sunni Arab world after his guerrillas fought Israeli forces to a standstill in a 34-day war in 2006.
A senior Western diplomat based in the Middle East said his government has information suggesting a growing Hizbullah interest in events in Iraq. However, the diplomat would say no more and insisted on anonymity because the subject is so sensitive.
Hizbullah’s possible role in direct attacks against US-led forces is murkier and more explosive.
The two Iraqi lawmakers said Hizbullah operatives planned and supervised both the Karbala attack and the brazen daylight kidnapping of five British nationals from a Finance Ministry compound in Baghdad in May 2007. The Britons are still being held.
In the Karbala attack, English-speaking militants wearing American uniforms and carrying American weapons stormed the compound, killing one US soldier and abducting four. The four were later found dead.
A senior Mahdi Army commander in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information, said Hizbullah’s operations in Iraq had been supervised by Imad Mughniyeh, a top commander of the guerrilla group killed in a car bomb in Syria last February.
The shadowy figure was suspected of a role in the 1983 bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut and the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
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Amir Taheri, New York Post, July 1, 2008
NO one should feel safe without submitting to Islam, and those who refuse to submit must pay a high price. The Islam ist movement must aim to turn the world into a series of “wildernesses” where only those under jihadi rule enjoy security.
These are some of the ideas developed by al Qaeda’s chief theoretician, Sheik Abu-Bakar Naji, in his new book “Governance in the Wilderness” (Edarat al-Wahsh).
Middle East analysts think that the book may indicate a major change of strategy by the disparate groups that use al Qaeda as a brand name.
The Saudi police seized copies of the book last week as they arrested 700 alleged terrorists in overnight raids.
Naji’s book, written in pseudo-literary Arabic, is meant as a manifesto for jihad. He divides the jihadi movement into five circles – ranging from Sunni Salafi (traditionalist) Muslims (who, though not personally violent, are prepared to give moral and material support to militants) to Islamist groups with national rather than pan-Islamist agendas (such as the Palestinian Hamas and the Filipino Moro Liberation Front).
All five circles are at an impasse, says Naji. Some accept the status quo while hoping to reform it. Others have tried to set up governments in a world dominated by “infidel” powers, and have been forced to abandon Islamic values. Still others failed because they didn’t realize that the only way to win is through total war in which no one feels safe.
NAJI claims that the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the Islamic Caliphate in 1924 marked the start of “the most dangerous phase in history.” Those events put all Arab countries, the heartland of Islam, under domination by the “infidel”- who later continued to rule via native proxies.
In Naji’s eyes, it is impossible to create a proper Islamic state in a single country in a world dominated by “Crusaders.” He cites as example the Taliban – which, although a proper Islamic regime, didn’t survive “infidel” attacks and opposition by Afghan elements.
Instead, he says, the Islamic movement must be global – fighting everywhere, all the time, and on all fronts.
SINCE 9/11, Islamist terror movements have been de bating grand strategy. Osama bin Laden had theorized that the “infidel,” led by the United States, would crumble after a series of spectacular attacks, just as the Meccan “infidel” government did when the Prophet Muhammad launched deadly raids against its trade routes. Yet the 9/11 attacks didn’t lead to an “infidel” retreat. On the contrary, the “Great Satan” hit back hard.
That persuaded some al Qaeda leaders that a new strategy of smaller, slower but steadier attacks was needed. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s No. 2, has advocated such a strategy since 2003, arguing that the jihad should first target Muslim countries where it has a chance of toppling the incumbent regimes.
Now Naji takes that analysis a step further – suggesting that low-intensity war be extended to anywhere in the world with a significant Muslim presence.
Islamists in the “wilderness” must create parallel societies alongside existing ones, Naji says – but not set up formal governments, which would be subject to economic pressure or military attack.
These parallel societies could resemble “liberated zones” set up by Marxist guerrillas in parts of Latin America in the last century. But they could also exist within cities, under the very noses of the authorities – operating as secret societies with their own rules, values and enforcement.
But they could also take shape in Western countries with large Muslim minorities: The jihadis are to begin by giving areas where Muslims live a distinctly Islamic appearance, by imposing special styles of dress for women and beards for men. Then they start imposing the shariah. In the final phase, they create a parallel system of taxation and law enforcement, effectively taking the areas out of government control.
The “wilderness” will provide the cover for bases for jihad operations. Jihad would be everywhere, rather than in just one or two countries that the “infidel” could hit with superior firepower.
IN a notable departure from past al Qaeda strategy, Naji recommends “countless small operations” that render daily life unbearable, rather than a few spectacular attacks such as 9/11: The “infidel,” leaving his home every morning, should be unsure whether he’ll return in the evening.
Naji recommends kidnappings, the holding of hostages, the use of women and children as human shields, exhibition killings to terrorize the enemy, suicide bombings and countless gestures that make normal life impossible for the “infidel” and Muslim collaborators.
Once parallel societies are established throughout the world, they would exert pressure on non-Muslims to submit. Naji believes that, subjected to constant intimidation and fear of death, most non-Muslims (especially in the West) would submit: “The West has no stomach for a long fight.”
The only Western power still capable of resisting is the United States, he believes. But that, too, will change once President Bush is gone.
NAJI makes it clear that the United States is the chief, if not the exclusive target, of jihad at this time. He mentions Israel only once, as “America’s little female idol.” His only reference to Palestine is in a historical context.
Naji asks jihadis to target oilfields, sea and airports, tourist facilities and especially banking and financial services. He envisages “a very long war,” at the end of which the whole world is brought under the banner of Islam.
He identifies several Muslim countries as promising for establishing “the governance of the wilderness”: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen, Turkey, Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco. The implication is that “wilderness” units already exist in nations such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Somalia and Algeria.
Naji’s theory is built on the concept of terror as the main organizing principle of the mini-states he hopes to set up everywhere in preparation for the coming Caliphate. He claims that the Prophet himself practiced the tactic by making his enemies in Medina, where he ran his version of the “wilderness,” pay “the maximum price” for any deviance, and through constant raids on trade caravans belonging to his enemies in Mecca.
IN a simple language, Naji of fers a synthesis of the themes that appeal to different jihadi groups. With anti-imperialist sentiments, missionary dreams, ethnic and class grievances and puritanical obsessions, he mixes a deadly cocktail.
Naji’s message is stark: Western civilization is doomed. Its last bastion, America, lacks the will for a long war. The “infidel” loves life and treats it as an endless feast. Jihadis have to ruin that feast and persuade the “infidel” to abandon this world in exchange for greater rewards in the next.
Amir Taheri’s next book, “The Persian Night: Iran Under the Khomeinist Revolution,” is due out this fall.