Saturday, July 30, 2011

US Treasury targets Iran's 'secret deal' with al Qaeda

From The LongWarJournal (The Foundation for Defence of Democracies), by

The US Treasury Department has designated six al Qaeda members who work for a terrorist headquartered in Iran. The Treasury Department explained that the six operatives are members of an al Qaeda network "headed by Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, a prominent Iran-based al Qaeda facilitator, operating under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government."

Atiyah Abd al Rahman. Image from the Rewards for Justice website.

Today's designation is the second time in less than three years that al Qaeda's network inside Iran has been targeted by the Treasury Department.

"Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world today. By exposing Iran's secret deal with al Qaeda allowing it to funnel funds and operatives through its territory, we are illuminating yet another aspect of Iran's unmatched support for terrorism," Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen is quoted as saying in a press release. "Today's action also seeks to disrupt this key network and deny al Qaeda's senior leadership much-needed support."

The Treasury Department said Iran is "a critical transit point for funding to support al Qaeda's activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

The designation notes that "Iranian authorities maintain a relationship with Khalil and have permitted him to operate within Iran's borders since 2005." Khalil's activities include moving "money and recruits from across the Middle East into Iran, then on to Pakistan," where they serve senior al Qaeda leaders.

The Treasury Department hints at the double-game Iranian authorities play in detaining al Qaeda members. Khalil "works with the Iranian government to arrange releases of al Qaeda personnel from Iranian prisons." After they are released, "the Iranian government transfers them to Khalil, who then facilitates their travel to Pakistan."

One of the al Qaeda leaders working with Khalil, according to the Treasury Department, is Atiyah Abd al Rahman, who was also included in today's designation. Rahman is al Qaeda's "overall commander in Pakistan's tribal areas and as of late 2010, the leader of al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan, Pakistan." The Treasury Department adds: "Rahman was previously appointed by Osama bin Laden to serve as al Qaeda's emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials."...

Islamist groups hijack Egypt's 'unity' protest

From Aljazeera, 30 Jul 2011:

Islamist groups take over "Friday of Unity" march, forcing secular parties to boycott protest movement.

Egypt's secular groups have said they no longer support the protest movement and have withdrawn their support after Islamist groups hijacked Friday's protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

The secularists' boycott came as tens of thousands of people gathered on Friday to demonstrate in what had been dubbed "The Friday of Unity and the People's Will" march.

...The assistant head of the Wafd Party, the oldest and largest secular party, urged the Muslim Brotherhood to come out and declare that it had no intentions of forming an Islamic state.
Several banners reading "Islamic law above the constitution" were displayed in Tahrir Square and protesters who fear Islamists will seek to dominate plans to rewrite the constitution demanded the banners be taken down. Similar tensions emerged in Suez.

...Separately, in the northern town of Arish, armed men attacked a police station, killing one police officer and wounding three police men, said Al Jazeera's correspondent Mohyeldin.Two civilians were also critically wounded in the attack.

Earlier in the day, masked gunmen fired in the air near a demonstration, wounding civilians.
In Tahrir Square, protesters massed before the start of Muslim prayers at noon and religious chants such as "There is no God but God" and "Islamiya, Islamiya" rang out.

"There are so many [Islamic] beards. We certainly feel imposed upon," said Samy Ali, 23, student in Tahrir, adding Salafists had tried to separate women and men camping there.
Islamists and more liberal groups have diverged on how hard to press the ruling generals for change.But the debate over the constitution, due to be re-written after parliament is elected this year, has also been divisive.
More liberal groups fear the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's best organised grouping, and other Islamists will dominate the vote and so be able to push for a more Islamic-leaning constitution.

"[There are] troubling signs that the 'Friday of Unity' may soon turn into a 'Friday of Division'. Let's hope that's not the case," wrote Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Doha Center on Twitter...

Israeli Jet Fighters in Qatar

From Arutz Sheva, 29 July 2011, by Elad Benari, Canada:
Israeli-Qatari relations warming up? Hizbullah television says IAF fighter jets landed in Qatar.

IAF F-16 fighter jet (archive)
IAF F-16 fighter jet (archive) Israel news photo: IDF
Fighter jets belonging to the Israeli Air Force landed last weekend in military bases in Qatar, Hizbullah’s Al Manar television network reported on Friday.

The report, which was attributed to “informed sources,” has not been confirmed elsewhere. According to Al Manar, the sources pointed out that this is “a most dangerous development and one which was planned in advance between Qatar and Israel and the United States.”

The Lebanese news network claimed that Qatar and Israel have had close military coordination for a long time and added that “officials from both countries hold meetings to promote relations between the two countries in many fields, be it politically, militarily, or economically.”

Despite being an Arab country, Qatar has tried to brand itself as a peaceful neutral world power.
In recent months, Qatar has been one of the countries that tried to broker a deal to ease Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power. It is also reportedly mediating talks between the Taliban and the United States, as well as between the Taliban and the Karzai government in Afghanistan.

Qatar has also taken what can be seen as bold moves against other Arab countries. These include joining the international allied effort against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and indefinitely closing its embassy in Damascus, after it was attacked by pro-Assad demonstrators.