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Eurasia Security Watch - No. 227
Edited by Jeff M. Smith
September 2, 2010
Al Qaeda’s branch in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, which some have described as the group’s most capable and deadly offshoot, is warning Muslims to prepare for a war “by the Jews against Iran.” Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as the local offshoot is known, released a radio message in August authored by the group’s second –in-command, Saeed al Shehri. Al-Shehri, who was held in Guantanamo for six years beginning in 2001 before being released to Saudi Arabia and escaping to Yemen, warned that Israel would soon strike Iran’s nuclear facilities by air. However, his greatest fear was not the potential attack on a fellow Muslim country; rather, Shehri worries Shi’ite Iran will use any such attack as a pretext to invade the Sunni Gulf and seize the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Iran and Saudi Arabia are regional rivals and Shehri believes Iran will blame Riyadh for assisting in the Israeli attack. Israel, meanwhile, will establish a “greater state of Israel” by seizing territory in the Levant, according to the tirade. In the message, Shehri also tells supporters to assassinate Arab leaders and asks pilots in Arab air forces to fly their planes into Israeli territory on suicide missions. (The Daily Beast, August 18, 2010)
AKP BESTS TURKEYS GENERALS AGAIN
Turkey’s secular-leaning military has had a bad summer in an ongoing series of political battles against the country’s ruling, Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP). First, eleven military officers implicated in an alleged coup plot that has been in Turkish headlines for years failed to win promotion, although prosecutors revoked arrest warrants for 102 other officers linked to the operation, nicknamed “Sledgehammer.” However a more public battle pitted retiring General Ilker Basbug, the Chief of the country’s General Staff, against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over who would become land-forces commander. Gen. Basbug wanted a close confidant, Commander Hasan Igsiz, placed in the role. Erdogan, however, opposed the appointment and was able to successfully block the move. Meanwhile, a proposed package of constitutional amendments carries even bigger stakes. Scheduled for a referendum September 12th, the package, put forward by the AKP and its allies, would boost the powers of the presidency and dilute the power of a judicial watchdog that leans pro-army, among other changes. (The Economist, August 12, 2010).
EGYPT GETS NUCLEAR BALL ROLLING
Egypt has announced it will launch an international tender for its first nuclear power plant by the end of the year. Cairo has flirted with the idea of nuclear power since 1955, when it set up its Atomic Energy Commission. However, concerns about cost and safety have prevented tangible progress for decades. In the interim, Egypt has relied on natural gas to meet its energy needs and the fossil fuel today comprises 80 to 90 percent of its energy needs. Yet Egypt could deplete its natural gas reserves in 20 to 40 years and its oil reserves in as soon as 15, according to Yassin Ibrahim, executive chairman of Egypt’s nuclear power plants authority. As a result, Egypt is planning on building its first nuclear power plant, a $4 billion facility on the Mediterranean coast in the Al Dabaa region, by 2019. The IAEA has encouraged the project and Egypt’s plan to have four nuclear reactors by 2025. By 2020, Cairo is determined to derive a fifth of its energy from renewable resources. (Abu Dhabi The National, August 24, 2010)
YEMEN CRACKS DOWN ON AL-QAEDA
Yemen’s military has “laid siege” to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in the southern Yemeni town of Loder, in Abyan province. Three days of intense fighting left 29 killed, including, according to Yemeni authorities, AQAP’s second-in-command. The army entered the city after AQAP militants killed two policemen on August 19 and then ambushed a military armored personnel carrier with a rocket-propelled grenade the next day. Yemen’s military surrounded the city and fighting lasted a few days, leaving 11 soldiers and 14 militants dead. Militant attacks have become a regular affair in south Yemen, including an assassination attempt on Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister for Internal Affairs on May 13. But no previous attack has warranted such a fierce response from Yemen’s military, which is stretched thin battling Houthist rebels in the north, separatist factions in the south, and AQAP cells throughout the country (Stratfor, August 24, 2010).
HAMAS TARGETS SETTLERS AHEAD OF PEACE TALKS
Hamas has claimed responsibility for a pair of attacks in the West Bank that have left four Israeli settlers dead and two injured. The first attack took place on August 31, two days before Israeli and Palestinian leaders engaged in direct peace talks in Washington, DC. In that attack four Israelis, including two women, one of them pregnant, were killed near Hebron when their car was fired on by militants. The Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, took credit for the attack in a text message to the media. It was the first attack by that group in the West Bank in six years. However, two days later, on September 2, two Israelis were wounded in a shooting attack near the Jewish settlement of Kochav Hashachar. Hamas’ armed wing again claimed credit. (Reuters, September 2, 2010; Indo-Asian News Service, September 1, 2010)