Putting Hezbollah ‘out of business’

Illustration on the effects of cutting hezbollah funding on its operations by Alexandwer Hunter/The Washington Times

Illustration on the effects of cutting hezbollah funding on its operations by Alexandwer Hunter/The Washington Times

The Washington Times, by Jonathan Schanzer, May 31, 2016:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“After many years of sanctions targeting Hezbollah, today the group is in its worst financial shape in decades,” stated Adam Szubin, the acting Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence before a congressional hearing last week. “And I can assure you that, alongside our international partners, we are working hard to put them out of business.”

Mr. Szubin may be correct that sanctions are taking a bite out of Hezbollah’s finances. Congress enacted legislation in 2015 — the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act — which hammers banks that knowingly do business with Hezbollah. This has led to a purge in Lebanon’s banking system; banks are dumping Hezbollah accounts. At least, those that wish to remain plugged into the international financial system are doing so. One reports suggests that as many as 10,000 accounts have been closed.

And now Mr. Szubin’s lieutenant, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Danny Glaser, is pressing further. He was in Lebanon last week, where he gave a list of nearly 100 names of Hezbollah financial targets to the Central Bank governor, who vowed to take action against them. The targets range from Hezbollah media outlets to political figures and fighters.

Hezbollah’s heavy reliance on Lebanon’s banks presents a hugely important opportunity to weaken the group’s finances. But nobody is putting Hezbollah “out of business” anytime soon. Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran. And Iran just negotiated a massive windfall of $100 billion pursuant to last summer’s nuclear deal. For Iran, Hezbollah is too big to fail.

Even the Lebanese government is prepared to keep Hezbollah’s politicians in the black. Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the Lebanese Treasury started paying the salaries of government ministers belonging to Hezbollah in cash in order to evade U.S. sanctions.

But money aside, let’s not forget that even though Hezbollah maintains a vast illicit financial empire, its business is terrorism. And right now, even as the group’s military capabilities have never been stronger.

Read more

Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, is vice president for research at Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Obama’s dollar deal

Obama-sinister-leftist-620x264FDD, by Clifford D. May
6th April 2016 – The Washington Times

President Obama’s critics charge that he’s never developed a strategy to defeat terrorism, the weapon of choice for those waging what they call a global jihad. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the journalist whose ear Mr. Obama most likes to bend, says that’s wrong — that the president does have a strategy. “He is, after all, killing jihadists at a frenetic pace.”

First, it’s really not clear that Mr. Obama is engaged in anything more than a less-than-successful holding action against the Islamic State, al Qaeda, the Taliban and similar adversaries. Second, killing – at whatever pace – is a tactic, not a strategy. Third and perhaps most important:  There are Sunni jihadists and Shia jihadists and both utilize terrorism. What is Mr. Obama doing about the Shia jihadists? He’s rewarding and enriching them.

To be fair, that may be a strategy, or at least part of one. It’s based on a set of assumptions, all of which I’d call dubious, e.g. that the Islamic Republic of Iran has “legitimate grievances” that deserve to be addressed; that Iran’s theocrats, like us, seek compromise; that they, like us, favor “conflict resolution” through diplomacy and regard violence as a last resort.

Pursuant to this thinking, Mr. Obama concluded – without congressional consent — what he considers a good deal with Tehran. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) obligates Iran’s rulers to delay a nuclear weapons program they do not acknowledge exists. In exchange, the US and its European allies have agreed to release over $100 billion in frozen assets and lift those sanctions imposed in response to Iran’s illicit nuclear activities.

Other sanctions — such as those imposed because Iran, according to the U.S. government, continues to sponsor terrorism, develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads, and conduct illicit financial activities – were meant to stay in place.

Mr. Obama and his deputies were adamant about this when they were attempting to persuade Congress to go along with the JCPOA. There was one specific and enormous concession that Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew specifically assured Congress would not be granted: access to dollar transactions and the American financial system. “Iranian banks will not be able to clear U.S. dollars through New York, hold correspondent account relationships with US financial institutions, or enter into financing arrangements with U.S. banks,” he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Iran, in other words, will continue to be denied access to the world’s largest financial and commercial market.”

In recent days, however, Mark Dubowitz and Jonathan Schanzer, colleagues at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, have assembled evidence leading to the conclusion that Mr. Obama has indeed been planning to grant this concession.

He has asked Iran’s rulers for nothing in return. On the contrary, since the conclusion of the JCPOA, they have been “testing” ballistic missiles in violation of UN Security Council resolutions, aiding and abetting the slaughter in Syria, supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen, and threatening Israelis with genocide. They have seized and humiliated American sailors. Recently, for the first time ever, the US Justice Department charged state-sponsored individuals – seven Iranians – with hacking to disrupt critical American infrastructure.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains as anti-American and bellicose as ever. “Those who say the future is in negotiations, not in missiles, are either ignorant or traitors,” he said last week. So why give him a prize?

It could be because Mr. Obama sees the Iran deal as an important part of his legacy. It could be because he fears that Ayatollah Khamenei will walk away from the deal as soon as the stream of benefits stops flowing.  It could be because Mr. Obama wants to bolster Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whom he regards – incorrectly, I’d argue — as a moderate. It could be all of the above.

Whatever the explanation, many members of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, are furious over having been deceived. “I do not support granting Iran any new relief without a corresponding concession,” Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, said in a statement.

Rep. Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican who serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said either Congress has been “intentionally misled” or “the Obama administration and the Iranians are changing the terms of the nuclear deal months after it was finalized.  Either scenario is unacceptable.”

Responding to this pushback, Mr. Obama said it is “not necessary that we take the approach of [Iranians] going through dollar-denominated transactions. It is possible for them to work through European financial institutions as well.” Translated into English, this appears to endorse some kind of work-around involving off-shore dollar clearing, a less direct way of giving Iran’s rulers what they want, thereby allowing, as Mr. Obama put it, “deal flows to begin.”

If you’re puzzled as to why he’d be eager to facilitate Iran’s “deal flows,” consider this possibility: He believes in the power of commerce to transform the regime, to convert its theocrats into tycoons more eager to make money than war, more focused on building nest eggs than spreading the Islamic Revolution.

In other words, that could be Mr. Obama’s strategy to combat Shia jihadism/terrorism. Its most obvious flaw:  Iran’s theocrats are already filthy rich — and they’ve never been overly concerned about the deprivations suffered by the average Iranian. “This revolution was not about the price of watermelons,” Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s first “supreme leader,” famously stated. Not a shred of evidence suggests that his heirs see things differently.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times. Follow him on Twitter @CliffordDMay

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Clare Lopez: “Obama admin, especially the unfortunately clueless SecState John Kerry, has been deliberately complicit in enabling Iranian duplicity over its nuclear weapons & ballistic missile programs. Concession after concession flows to the jihadist mullahs despite nuclear NPT, UNSC Resolutions & JCPOA violations – not to even mention accelerating support to Islamic terror groups like HAMAS, Hizballah & Islamic State (yes, IS)…or the horrific, continuing & totally unmentioned human rights abuses against its own people.”

Also see:

Explosive accusations against Turkey are exposing a major problem for Obama

REUTERS/Jason Reed

REUTERS/Jason Reed

Business Insider, by NATASHA BERTRAND AND MICHAEL B KELLEY, Aug. 25, 2015:

US-trained rebels allege that Turkish intelligence tipped off Al Qaeda’s al-Nusra Front and orchestrated the kidnapping of US-trained rebels entering Syria, Mitchell Prothero of McClatchy reports.

Though experts immediately advised skepticism of the accusations, the situation typifies the contradictory priorities in the faltering partnership between the US and Turkey against ISIS in Syria.

“All of this speaks to a bigger issue of how Turkey is perceived to have been nurturing the Islamist side of the Syrian insurgency at the expense of Syrian nationalists,” Aaron Stein, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider.

The US began training a small group of Syrian rebels known as the New Syria Force, or NSF, in early May, on the condition that they focus solely on combating ISIS while refraining from going after forces loyal to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and his allies.

The program was intended to graduate as many as 2,000 moderate Syrian opposition forces, but only 54 have completed the program so far. In July, the Pentagon’s sent the first NSF graduates, known as Division 30, into Syria to fight ISIS.

The initiative failed spectacularly when the group was attacked by al-Nusra Front, the branch of Al Qaeda operating in Syria, immediately after it entered the country. The Division 30 Syria headquarters was subsequently bombed by Assad’s warplanes.

Map of Syria showing control by cities and areas held as of August 3 as well as a safe zone that the US and Turkey are trying to implement.

Map of Syria showing control by cities and areas held as of August 3 as well as a safe zone that the US and Turkey are trying to implement.

The US-backed rebels now claim that Turkish intelligence leaked information about the NSF’s arrival plans in Syria to al-Nusra. And a Turkish official told McClatchy that the leak would humiliate the Obama administration and push the US to go after both ISIS and Assad’s regime.

But some analysts quickly noted that a leak wasn’t necessary.

“The group itself had advertised its entry into Syria on social media, and it was well known that they were entering through Turkey,” Stein said.

Nevertheless, the accusations underscore Turkey’s alliances with rebel groups — specifically Ahrar al-Sham and al-Nusra — that the US opposes.

A member of al Qaeda's Nusra Front carries his weapon as he squats in the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province, May 29, 2015.

A member of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front carries his weapon as he squats in the town of the northwestern city of Ariha, after a coalition of insurgent groups seized the area in Idlib province, May 29, 2015.

“Our research has long pointed to a closer Turkish relationship to Ahrar al-Sham and Nusra than to IS. In that sense, this is not surprising,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider by email.

Stein has previously written about how Turkey “eventually reached out directly to al-Nusra, believing that the rebel group would be useful in achieving its ultimate goal: the overthrow of Assad.”

“Turkey also believed that it could potentially moderate the group and that al-Nusra would be good to work with as a ‘Syrian group’ fighting against the regime for the future of all Syrians,” he added.

The country has even closer ties to Ahrar, which is one of Syria’s largest rebel groups and the one with the most Turkish citizens. And although Ahrar is linked to Nusra, its stated political project is focused on toppling the Assad regime and establishing an Islamic state in Syria.

Read more 

***

FDD VP for Research Jonathan Schanzer discusses Turkey and the growing threat from ISIS. – The John Batchelor Show (Syndicated) – August 20, 2015

Beyond Hamas: planned Abbas visit elucidates Iran’s lesser-known ties to PA

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to leaders of the now-collapsed Palestinian unity government between his Fatah party and Hamas in Ramallah on June 2, 2014. While Iran has long supported Hamas, the PA's rival, Abbas plans to visit Iran in November. Credit: Issam RImawi/Flash90.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas speaks to leaders of the now-collapsed Palestinian unity government between his Fatah party and Hamas in Ramallah on June 2, 2014. While Iran has long supported Hamas, the PA’s rival, Abbas plans to visit Iran in November. Credit: Issam RImawi/Flash90.

JNS.org, By Sean Savage and Alina Dain Sharon, August 13, 2015:

While Iran’s funding of the Palestinian terror group Hamas is well-documented, the Islamic Republic’s relationship with the Palestinian Authority (PA) is less frequently discussed. But that pattern may start to shift upon the recent announcement of PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s planned trip to Iran in November.

Abbas last visited Ira in 2012, when he attended a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran. His upcoming visit, announced by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani, comes just weeks after the signing of a nuclear deal between world powers and Iran. Majdalani himself recently visited Tehran and met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Majdalani said Iran and the PA have agreed to work together on holding an international conference with the goal of bringing about the nuclear disarmament of Israel. (The Jewish state has never confirmed nor denied possessing nuclear weapons.)

“The visit now by a PA emissary, Ahmad Majdalani, is an advance visit and will likely not generate headlines. But Abbas’s visit could be historic. Depending on how it goes, it may be a sign that he has fully gravitated away from diplomacy with Israel if he invests in his ties to the Islamic Republic,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, told J NS.org.

The relationship between Iran and the PA’s precursor, the PLO—which was founded in 1964 and was recognized as the Palestinians’ representative organization following the signing of the Oslo Accords with Israel in 1993—“go back a long time, all the way to the Islamic Revolution,” said Kyle Shideler, director of the Threat Information Office at the Center for Security Policy.

“That said, the PLO-Iran relationship has always been bumpy,” he told JNS.org.

According to the United States Institute of Peace, during Iran’s Shah period, the PLO had close ties with the Iranian opposition and even provided training to dissidents. After the 1979 Iranian Revolution, “PLO forces trained the original Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on terrorism techniques,” Shideler said. But the PLO would later support Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

As a result of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process that resulted in the 1993 Oslo Accords, “ties have been rather horrible between Iran and the PA,” Schanzer said.

“The PA was created as an interim government as part of the Oslo process, which Iran utterly rejected. This is, in part, what drove Iran to embrace Hamas,” he said.

Shideler pointed to a ship called Karine-A as an example of collaboration between the PA and Iran. The ship was captured by the Israel Defense Forces in 2002 in the Red Sea and found to be carrying 50 tons of weaponry supplied by Iran and Hezbollah, and intended to reach PA hands.

But in 2010, then-Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stirred a controversy at a rally in Tehran by saying that year’s re-launched U.S.-brokered peace process between Israel and the Palestinians was going to fail, while criticizing Abbas as an Israeli puppet.

Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeineh responded by referencing Ahmadinejad’s controversial win in Iran’s 2009 presidential election, saying that “he who does not represent the Iranian people, who forged elections and who suppresses the Iranian people and stole the authority, is not entitled to talk about Palestine, or the president of Palestine.”

Further, Iran’s ties with Hamas have particularly alienated the Islamic Republic from the PA over the years, given the tense Hamas-PA relationship. According to Shideler, the PA even sought to recruit Saudi Arabia, Iran’s chief regional rival nation, to “help in crushing Hamas back in April [2015], effectively offering to bring the Saudi-Iran proxy fight to the [Palestinian] territories. The PA’s bid “seems to have failed, with the Saudi king meeting with Hamas leadership in July,” Shideler told JNS.org.

At the same time, however, the relationship between Hamas and Iran has also been bumpy in recent years. Iran’s ties with Hamas frayed at the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011 because Hamas backed—and potentially also trained—Syrian rebels militarily. More recently, Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal visited Saudi Arabia for a series of high-level meetings. Reports indicate that Iran was outraged by the visit and cancelled a planned visit to Tehran by Mashaal. Additionally, senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk has said that Hamas’s relationship with Iran is now virtually nonexistent.

Yet Iranian ties with Hamas “are not dead,” Schanzer told JNS.org.

“The Qassam Brigades (Hamas’s armed wing) still maintains close ties [to Iran],” he said. “The disagreement is with the Hamas political types. Iran is likely to exploit how fractured Hamas is, and ultimately find a way back to being a major patron.”

Then there is Islamic Jihad, the other prominent Palestinian terrorist organization in Hamas-ruled Gaza. Iran has “had recent trouble” with Islamic Jihad, which is reportedly almost bankrupt due to Iran pulling its funding for the terror group after the latter announced support for forces opposing the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, Shideler noted.

But ultimately, Iran has a vested interest in improving its relations with all of the various Palestinian factions in order to “be recognized as the chief leader and architect to resistance to Israel,” Shideler added.

“That may mean they want to work at ending schisms among the Palestinian leadership and reorienting all factions back towards focusing on Israel. This [upcoming visit by Abbas to Iran] may be intended to convince the PA that Iran wants to be the patron of Palestinian resistance at large, and not just of one or two groups,” he said.

While the Israeli Foreign Ministry has not yet released an official reaction to Abbas’s planned Iran visit, ministry spokesman Alon Melchior told JNS.org that the trip is “a bit peculiar.”

“The logic behind this visit is not really clear. Iran is financing their rivals (Hamas and Islamic Jihad) and terrorizing the region,” Melchior said.

But if one thing is certain, it is that the Abbas visit “won’t make the peace process any easier,” added Melchior.

The Iran nuclear deal also factors into Iranian-Palestinian relations because the Islamic Republic wants to use the agreement to solidify its place as a major Middle East power. It might be no coincidence that Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei released anew book titled “Palestine” around the time that the nuclear deal was reached.

Abbas “knows he is driving a wedge between Hamas and Iran” by engaging with the Islamic Republic, but the PA leader’s calculus is “bigger than that,” according to Schanzer.

“He also sees Iran as an emerging regional power after the nuclear deal. He is making sure that he is on the right side of Iran when that happens. Also, Iran is about to come into $100 billion in sanctions relief. The PA is broke. Do the math,” Schanzer said.

The PA might also believe that “better relations with Iran are the only way to keep Hamas at bay, since the gambit with the Saudis seemed to have failed,” added Shideler.

In recent years, beyond its military support for Hamas, Iran has had an increased interest in arming the PA-controlled disputed territories. In a 2014 speech, Khamenei said he believes that “the West Bank should be armed just like Gaza,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute.

Shideler believes that while the interests of Iran and the PA might not always align, they do have some common ground.

“Iran is invested in Hamas, and needs Hamas as a proxy to initiate conflicts with Israel… But Iran and the PA can cooperate on diplomatic efforts to publicly embarrass and hamper Israel, such as over the nuclear issue—for example by using the nuclear deal to portray Iran as once again within international consensus on nuclear proliferation and casting Israel as the nuclear rogue,” he said.

Also see:

 

State Department Won’t Rule Out $50 Billion ‘Signing Bonus’ For Iran

AP

AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, April 20, 2015:

The State Department on Monday would not rule out giving Iran up to $50 billion as a so-called “signing bonus” for agreeing to a nuclear deal later this year, according to comments made to journalists following reports that the Obama administration had formulated a plan to release tens of billions of frozen Iranian funds.

Experts have said this multi-billion dollar “signing bonus” option, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, could be the largest cash infusion to a terror-backing regime in recent memory.

A cash release of $30 to $50 billion upon reaching a final nuclear agreement would come in addition to the more than $11 billion in unfrozen assets that Iran will already have received under an interim nuclear accord reached in 2013.

When asked to address these reports on Monday, State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf attempted to dodge the issue and then accused reporters of getting “spun up” on the issue.

Asked whether Iran could receive $50 billion “on day one after signing” or verbally agreeing to a nuclear deal, Harf told reporters that she would “look into it.”

When pressed to provide an answer about the Journal’s initial report, Harf declined “to go line by line in the story.”

Harf said sanctions relief to Iran will continue through June 30.

“They’re getting access to money throughout this period as well,” she said. “Throughout the extension they’re now getting some sanctions relief, which will continue through June 30.”

Jonathan Schanzer, a top terrorism-funding expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), said such a cash release to Iran would enable the regime to continue backing various terror groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

“This could be the largest cash infusion to a state sponsor of terrorism in modern history,” Schanzer said.

Reports of this “signing bonus” come following concessions to Iran—which range from sanctions relief to continued nuclear work at military sites—during the most recent round of negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Lawmakers and experts critical of the Obama administration’s diplomacy with Iran have warned that a slew of recent concessions in the talks would enable Iran to continue many aspects of its nuclear program.

Iran is pushing to prohibit international inspectors from accessing possible military sites until after the United States provides substantial relief from economic sanctions.

Nuclear experts such as David Albright, founder of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), have warned that premature sanctions relief could gut the tough inspections and oversight regime on Iran promised by the Obama administration.

Under the framework agreement, Iran also would be permitted to store around 1,000 advanced nuclear centrifuges at an underground and fortified one-time military site known as Fordow, according to the Associated Press.

By keeping Fordow active, Iran would potentially be able to produce weapons-grade material in just a few weeks, according to Albright.

The New York Times reported that Iran is refusing to give up its stockpile of enriched uranium, the key component in a nuclear bomb. Under previous conditions, Iran would have had to ship these materials out of the country.

These stockpiles would also give Iran the ability to produce highly enriched weapons-grade uranium in less than six months, according to experts.

One congressional aide apprised of the ongoing talks with Iran said the administration continues to relent on key demands in order to keep Iran at the bargaining table.

“This is a disturbing yet unsurprising development in a failing series of negotiations,” the source said. “Once again, it seems the administration is prepared to make drastic concessions to Tehran in its desperate attempt to reach a deal. As a result, the United States will gamble away its remaining negotiating leverage with nothing to show for it.”

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EMET Phone Seminar: Dr. Jonathan Schanzer – Turkey and its Dubious Performance as an ‘Ally’

 

EMET is proud to host Dr. Jonathan Schanzer on a phone seminar to discuss Turkey.

Turkey is a supposed “ally” of the United States and NATO, yet many officials in Washington are doubting the loyalty of Ankara, which failed to join the U.S.-led air bombing campaign against the Islamic State. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled the U.S. allied Kurds in Syria fighting the Islamic State as terrorists.One U.S. official reportedly said Turkey is secretly offering support to ISIS, and that many in Washington believe Turkey is partnering with Qatar to support Islamist groups in Libya. Moreover, Turkey has allowed weapons to be transported into Syria through its borders, as well as ISIS fighters to move freely between the two countries. There are ISIS cells operating throughout Turkey, and Ankara has turned a blind eye to ISIS selling smuggled oil. Turkey also has a track record of supporting Islamists, serving as a safe haven for senior Hamas officials and Muslim Brotherhood members.
In light of the above, can Turkey be relied upon at all in the fight against ISIS? And is it time for the West to end its alliance with Turkey? Please join us to hear answers to these questions and more with expert Dr. Jonathan Schanzer, the Vice President of Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
Dr. Jonathan Schanzer joined FDD in February 2010, bringing solid scholarship and public policy credentials to his job of overseeing FDD’s research. He worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he played an integral role in the designation of numerous terrorist financiers. A former research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Dr. Schanzer has studied Middle East history in four countries. He earned his Ph.D. from Kings College London, where he wrote his dissertation on the U.S. Congress and its efforts to combat terrorism in the 20th century.

Dr. Schanzer’s books have made unique contributions to the field. He most recently published State of Failure: Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and the Unmaking of the Palestinian State (Palgrave Macmillan), which argues the main roadblock to Palestinian statehood is not necessarily Israel’s intransigence, but the Palestinian Authority’s political dysfunction and mismanagement.
Dr. Schanzer has testified before Congress and publishes widely in the American and international media. He has appeared on American television channels such as Fox News and CNN, and Arabic language television channels such as al-Arabiyya and al-Jazeera. Dr. Schanzer has traveled widely throughout the Middle East, including Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories. He speaks Arabic and Hebrew.

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Jerusalem, on a Knife’s Edge

crop458565742_0BY JONATHAN SCHANZER:

This is is not the Third Intifada. At least, it probably isn’t. But the persistent violence that has racked Jerusalem could certainly spark a wider popular protest movement across the Palestinian territories. Call it Jerusalem’s Arab Awakening.

In recent weeks, the holy city has seemed to be on the edge of an explosion. On Nov. 5, Ibrahim al-Akri killed an Israeli border guard and wounded three when he drove his car into a crowd. Two weeks before, Abdelrahman al-Shaludi killed a 3-month-old baby and a 22-year-old woman and wounded at least six others in a similar vehicular attack. The latter two perpetrators hailed from the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Shuafat and Silwan.

The violence only seems to be spreading. On Monday, Nov. 10, two Israelis were killed by Palestinian men in separate stabbing attacks in the West Bank and Tel Aviv. Last Friday, in the Lower Galilee town of Sakhnin, Israeli police shot and killed a man wielding a knife, setting off protests and rock-throwing among Palestinian youth.

The Jerusalem attacks, which have taken place against the backdrop of months of sporadic violence in East Jerusalem, mark a watershed moment for the city’s Arab community. This could be the first time since the Wailing Wall riots of 1929 — arguably the violent turning point in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict — that Jerusalem is the epicenter of Palestinian unrest.

Since the Israelis conquered the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, it has always been actors from these territories who have served as the driving forces behind Palestinian unrest against Israel. For example, the first spark for the First Intifada came from Gaza, after an Israel Defense Forces vehicle collided with a truck full of Palestinian workers, killingfour. The funerals led to mass protests, which soon swept across both territories.

The Second Intifada erupted after then opposition leader Ariel Sharon’s tour of the Temple Mount, the platform atop the ruins of the Jewish Second Temple that is also home to Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. The uprising was even called the Al-Aqsa Intifada. However, the impetus for the unrest came from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority leadership. Prior to the outbreak of the intifada, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat called young members from his Fatah faction “the new generals” and threatened to “launch a new intifada” in order to establish an independent Palestinian state. The Israelis went so far as to corner Arafat in his compound in Ramallah in a bid to quell the violence.

If anything, Jerusalem Arabs have traditionally stayed out of the fray. Much of this likely has to do with the Arab businesses — many in the Old City — that rise and fall based on tourism or are otherwise tied to the Israeli economy. But mercantile interests don’t explain everything: A surprising poll released in 2011 indicated that some 40 percent of Jerusalem Arabs preferred to live in Israel rather than a future Palestinian state; 85 percent of Jerusalem Arabs also elected not to vote in the 2006 Palestinian elections.

Read more at Foreign Policy

Top Al Qaeda commander relocates to Syria

Sanafi al NasrFox News, By Catherine Herridge:

A member of Al Qaeda’s senior leadership, Sanafi al Nasr, has relocated to Syria, where he is living openly and publicly courts his followers on twitter, according to counter-terrorism analysts and social media messages.

“This is a guy who fought with Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula. He’s a spokesman for the Nusra Front. He’s connected, if not a planner, for the Al Qaeda core. This demonstrates the integration of Al Qaeda and all its levels,”  Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies said.  “And the fact that it’s (Al Qaeda leadership) now seeking out Syria as a core area of operations, this explains a lot about, I think, the new direction of Al Qaeda today.”

While Nasr is not a household name, his pedigree is well established, according to counter-terrorism analysts, who say he is the third cousin of Usama bin Laden and almost all of his six brothers have fought alongside the Al Qaeda network. At least one of his brothers was held at Guantanamo Bay.

The Saudi, who is on that nation’s most wanted list, was first identified by the Long War Journal as relocating to Syria, and as a member of Al Qaeda’s so-called Victory Committee, which sets policy and long term strategy for the network.

“This is a sort of policy planning group for Al Qaeda,”  Schanzer said of the Victory Committee, adding, “These are people who are trying to think about what happens next, how to plan for the future.”

Nasr’s emergence is seen as another indicator that the network is sending members of its senior or “core” leadership to Syria to build alliances with other radical groups, and thereby extending the brand and reach of the senior leadership, which is traditionally based in Pakistan.

In recent congressional testimony, the head of the national  counter-terrorism center, Matt Olsen, told Congress that Al Qaeda is making a significant play for Syria with its operatives and its cash.

“Syria has become the pre-eminent location for Al Qaeda-aligned groups to recruit and to train, and to equip what is now a growing number of extremists some of whom seek to conduct external attacks,”  Olsen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in early March.

Nasr has coordinated with other senior “core” Al Qaeda members inside Syria, including Abu Khalid al Suri until al Suri’s recent death.

“Al Qaeda and terrorist networks in general – international terrorist networks – will go, they’ll follow the path of least resistance,  said Fox News military analyst Ralph Peters. “We’ve seen them moving into Syria in significant numbers. It tells me that they actually feel not only safer there, but that they have more flexibility there than they do in Pakistan.”

Nasr’s move to Syria, according to some analysts, was by design and it suggests that the traditional view of Al Qaeda, with its leadership based in Pakistan, is at the very least outdated or was wrong to begin with.

“The idea that we were hearing that Al Qaeda was decimated, or that it was destroyed because Usama bin Laden was killed, or because some of the senior operatives were wrapped up, it was absolutely not true,”  Schanzer said.  “This guy demonstrates the fact that people who’ve been fighting for affiliate groups, multiple affiliate groups, that can still be a leader on the battlefield in an area that seems to be apparently far-field from the core, and still seems to be working with the core.”

Sally Persons contributed to this report

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Muslim Brotherhood, Qatar to Dominate Downtown D.C.

DC city centerBy Ryan Mauro:

An organization linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Qatari government is making a $1 billion real estate investment in the hope that the complex will “become the unequivocal centerpiece of Downtown D.C.” Among its features is a Qatari cultural center named Al-Bayt, or “Home.”

The 10-acre project, named CityCenterDC, is an initiative of Qatar Foundation International. According to its website, it is a “U.S.-based member of Qatar Foundation” in Doha. It is also its main financier.

In 2008, the chairperson of the Qatar Foundation and the Qatari Emir established the Al-Qaradawi Research Center. Qaradawi is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and vocal supporter of its Palestinian wing, Hamas. He advocates the doctrine of “gradualism;”an incremental and practical strategy to stealthily advance the sharia agenda around the world.

The Research Center’s stated objective is promoting the ideology of Qaradawi, who it describes as a “pioneer of Islamic thought and presently its main theorist.”  He teaches his followers to wage “jihadwith money.”

The Qatar Foundation is also connected to the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity. Dr. Jasser Auda, the Deputy Director of the Qatar Foundation’s Center for Islamic Legislation, also teaches for IIIT.

Former U.S. Treasury Department terrorism-financing analyst Jonathan Schanzer explains, “Qatar is the ATM of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and its associated groups.” Qatar has drawn the ire of moderate Muslims for its generous subsidizing of Islamists.

Read more at Clarion Project

Palestinian President Abbas Praises Dead Terrorists As ‘Martyrs’

 Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority

Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority

IPT:

by John Rossomando

Libya Blowback: US Missiles intercepted in Egypt bound for Hamas-controlled Gaza

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By Patrick Poole

A stunning story out of Egypt on Friday (HT: Jonathan Schanzer at FDD) after a raid in northern Sinai uncovered a cache of anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles bound for Hamas-controlled Gaza. The discovery was made in Be’r al-Hefn near Arish in an area known as a transit point for materials headed for the smuggling tunnels running from Sinai into Gaza.

The most remarkable part of the story is that the missiles were American-made, arriving from Libya according to multiple reports.

Egypt Independent reported:

The North Sinai Security Director seized  a shipment of advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles at dawn on Friday.

The directorate received a tip that the missiles were being secretly stored in a repository in Be’r al-Hefn — just south of Arish, the capital of North Sinai — and would be smuggled through tunnels to the Gaza Strip, said a security source.

After informing the Interior Ministry in Cairo, two assistants to the interior minster led a large formation of police in a raid on the area. Be’r al-Hefn has often been used as an illegal storage area for explosives and weapons.

“With the help of secret informants, the police found the storage site, where they found six US-made advanced missiles inside large holes in the ground [that were waiting to be] smuggled to the Gaza Strip through tunnels,” the source said.

He said the shipment likely originated in Libya, and that the range of the rockets was 2 km.

That US-made weapons are finding their way from Libya should be of grave concern for American security officials. Presumably these are weapons provided by the Obama administration to the Libyan rebels in their fight against Gaddafi in 2011.

US weapons have also made their way to Syria via Libya with active US assistance according to reports. In October, Russia accused the US of sending Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, a claim that Defense Secretary Panetta denied.

Back in August I noted here at PJ Media the New York Times caught scrubbing one of its stories of any mention of CIA funneling arms to the Syrian rebels.

This is not the first time that US missiles have been bound for Gaza and Hamas. During Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, Hamas attempted to use American-made Stinger missiles they had acquired against Israel’s AH-64 ‘Apache’ helicopters to no effect since the weapons system identified the Israeli aircraft as friendly.

A Maan News Agency report on yesterday’s raid noted that authorities had recovered 17 French missiles several weeks ago in the same area.