Excerpts: Egypt/Iran 'hold talks'. Egypt's 'Sinai crackdown'. Israeli
'fixes' Bible inconsistencies. Iran and Hizbullah re Israel August 09, 2012
+++SOURCE: Los Angeles Times via Egypt Daily News 9 Aug.'12:"Egypt's
president holds talks with Iran's vice president"The meeting between Mohamed
Morsi and Hamid Baghaei is the highest-level official contact between the
nations in decades and signals a new era in Egyptian diplomacy."
SUBJECT: Egypt/Iran 'hold talks'
QUOTE:"(Egypt President)Morsi's visit with Iran's (Vice President) Hamid
Baghaie gave Iran a diplomatic coup"
FULL TEXT:CAIRO — Signaling a new era in Egypt's diplomacy, President
Mohamed Morsi met with Iran's vice president Wednesday [8 Aug.'12] in the
highest-level official contact between the two strategic nations in decades.
Morsi's visit with Hamid Baghaei gave Iran a diplomatic coup amid sharpening
international pressure over its nuclear program and links to Syria. It came
as Egypt's new Islamist president looks to gradually reshape the
pro-American policies of toppled leader Hosni Mubarak to reflect political
shifts brought by the"Arab Spring" revolts.
The brief meeting in the Egyptian capital did not produce any breakthroughs,
but it was symbolic. Formal relations between the two countries were broken
after the Iranian Revolution and Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Mubarak had rebuffed Iran's efforts in recent years to restore full
diplomatic ties, although lower-level talks between officials were
Baghaei's stopover came at a pivotal time for both nations regarding Israel.
Israel has suggested it might attack Iran's nuclear program, which it
believes is aimed at developing a bomb and which Tehran says is purely for
civilian purposes. Cairo is under pressure from Israel and the United States
to improve security in the Sinai peninsula after recent attempts by
militants to infiltrate Israel.
Egyptian forces said airstrikes killed about 20 suspected extremists early
Wednesday after militants ambushed a string of army checkpoints. The state
news agency reported that soldiers, backed by helicopter gunships, targeted
"terrorist hotbeds" in El Arish and around the Rafah border crossing into
the Gaza Strip.
The deterioration of security in the Sinai prompted Morsi to fire Egypt's
intelligence chief and the governor of North Sinai. The shake-up also
included Morsi asking Defense Minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to dismiss
the commander of the nation's military police, which has been criticized for
human rights violations and crackdowns on democracy activists.
It is unlikely that Sunni Muslim-dominated Egypt's relationship with Shiite
Muslim-controlled Iran will change significantly in the short term. The
secular Egyptian military, which receives about $1.3 billion in U.S. aid,
holds considerable power over security and foreign policy in Egypt. Morsi
has promised that Cairo will honor international treaties, including its
peace deal with Israel.
Morsi, a conservative Islamist who ran as a candidate for the Muslim
Brotherhood, has also been careful not to strain relations with Sunni
Persian Gulf countries that have accused Iran of instigating Shiite Muslim
protests in Bahrain and in eastern Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi monarchy had strong bonds to Mubarak and has long been suspicious
of the Brotherhood's Islamist populism. Morsi's first international trip as
president was to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Saudi Arabia holds billions of
dollars in potential aid for Cairo, which is facing shortages of electricity
and water and dwindling foreign financial reserves.
"The U.S. would not be happy if Egypt improved relations with Iran; neither
would the gulf countries," said Emad Gad, an analyst at Al Ahram Center for
Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "Morsi does not have it in him at
this point to defy these strategic allies, especially since he needs their
support and aid."
Iran has hailed Morsi's presidency as Egypt's "Islamic awakening." It has
turned to Cairo as Iran's regional stature is under duress from economic
sanctions and political upheavals that have reconfigured the Arab world.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran's reliable proxy, has been weakened by
months of protests and bloody insurgency. If Assad is overthrown or
relinquishes power, Tehran could lose an ally in its maneuverings in Lebanon
and the Gaza Strip, which is governed by the militant group Hamas.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which inspired the founding of Hamas, has been
urging closer relations with Iran. But many Egyptian clerics have been
opposed to strengthening ties given the historical animosity between Sunnis
Baghaei's mission in Cairo was to invite Morsi to a meeting of the
Non-Aligned Movement this month in Tehran. The visit was preceded by
controversy in June when Iran's Fars News Agency reported that Morsi was
keen to improve relations with Tehran. Morsi denied that he had ever spoken
to the agency and his office said the president had not committed to the NAM
Morsi faced more pressing problems Wednesday as the Egyptian military
expanded into the Sinai in an offensive dubbed Operation Eagle. The
airstrikes against the militants, the first by Egyptian forces in the
peninsula since the 1970s, indicated Cairo was moving to restore stability
to the lawless desert region.
The government said a joint police-military operation would "regain control"
over militants who have grown bolder in the region of arms traffickers and
people smugglers. On Sunday, 35 masked gunmen attacked an outpost on the
Egypt-Israel border, killing 16 Egyptian guards. The militants hijacked two
vehicles and drove toward Israel, where one of the vehicles was hit by an
The trouble in the Sinai has led to new calls for a wider Egyptian military
presence. Under the 1979 peace treaty, much of the region was designated as
demilitarized. Before Mubarak was toppled early last year, Egypt increased
the number of lightly armed troops in the region.
Special correspondent Reem Abdellatif contributed to this report
+++SOURCE" Egyptian Gazette 9 Aug.'12:"Egypt's army declares success in
Sinai crackdown", Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Egypt's 'Sinai crackdown'
QUOTE:" ''Elements from the armed forces and interior ministry supported by
the air force began a plan to restore security . . .and it has accomplished
this task with complete success' "
FULL TEXT:CAIRO - Egypt's army declared tentative victory in a crackdown on
Islamist militants in Sinai on Wednesday[8 Aug.], hours after State
television reported the military killed 20 militants in unprecedented air
The campaign to uproot the militants was launched on Tuesday[7 Aug.], two
days after gunmen ambushed a border guard outpost near Israel's border and
killed 16 soldiers, the military said in a statement.
"Elements from the armed forces and interior ministry supported by the air
force began a plan to restore security by pursuing and targeting armed
terrorist elements in Sinai, and it has accomplished this task with complete
success," it said.
It would "continue implementing this plan," it added in a statement, which
did not provide details of the operation.
State news agency MENA gave a conflicting account of how the militants were
"Terrorist elements fired rockets and shells and heavy machine guns... at
the aircraft combing the area, but did not hit the aircraft, and ground
forces then dealt with them and killed a number of them," the agency
The reported air strikes in Tumah village - the first in the peninsula for
decades - came as security forces massed near Rafah on the Gaza border for
what they called a decisive confrontation with the militants.
A senior military official in Sinai confirmed the state television report
and said "20 terrorists were killed" in Apache helicopter raids and when
soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division stormed Tumah.
He said the militants were trying to escape when the helicopter targeted
Other security officials in the north of the peninsula reported air strikes
near the town of Sheikh Zuwayid, close to the village.
Overnight, unknown assailants attacked four security checkpoints near the
town of El-Arish, security officials said.
The interior ministry said three policemen were wounded.
The strikes came a day after the military held a funeral for the 16 soldiers
who died in Sunday's attack amid widespread calls for vengeance.
The soldiers were killed when the militants raided a border guard base under
the cover of mortar fire, and commandeered a military vehicle into
neighbouring Israel before they were stopped by an Israeli helicopter
Security forces had raided homes on Tuesday[7 Aug.] in search of suspects in
the attack, as they prepared to close tunnels to the Palestinian Gaza Strip
used to smuggle weapons and militants as well as food and other supplies.
Israel had handed over to Egypt six "completely charred" bodies that were in
the armoured personnel carrier that was driven into Israel before being
destroyed, said a medical official in El-Arish.
The reports of the Egyptian raids in Sinai were welcomed in Israel.
"These extremist organisations can harm the entire Middle East, it is not
just against Egypt," said Amos Gilad, a senior defence ministry official,
told Israeli radio.
The bodies from Sunday's[5 Aug.] attack have not yet been identified, but
security officials blame Bedouin militants and Palestinian Islamists from
Gaza for the attack.
In a rare public statement, intelligence chief Murad Muwafi said his agency
had received information that militants would target security forces in the
peninsula, and passed on the information "to the relevant authorities."
Sunday's[5 Aug.] bloodshed highlighted the government's tenuous grip on the
Sinai Peninsula, from where Islamist militants have launched several rocket
attacks on Israel and a deadly cross border raid last year.
It also presents a challenge to Egypt's new Islamist President Mohamed
Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood has good relations with the Hamas rulers of
the Gaza Strip.
Morsi has received both Hamas's chief and its prime minister in Gaza, Ismail
Haniya, in visits, along with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, and his
government had eased border restrictions on Gaza.
Following Sunday's[5 Aug.] attack, Egypt indefinitely closed its Rafah
crossing with Gaza, the Palestinian territory's only access to the outside
world that is not controlled by Israel.
The enclave has been under a semi-blockade by Israel since Hamas seized it
After president Hosni Mubarak's ouster in February 2011, militants stepped
up attacks in Sinai, prompting the military, then in charge of the country,
to send reinforcements to the peninsula.
+++SOURCE: Saudi Gazette 9 Aug.'12:"Israeli ‘fixes’ Bible inconsistencies",
SUBJECT: Israeli 'fixes' Bible inconsistancies
QUOTE:"the first major overhall of the Hebrew Bible in nearly 500 years"
FULL TEXT:RAMAT GAN, Israel — For the past 30 years, Israeli Judaic scholar
Menachem Cohen has been on a mission of biblical proportions: Correcting all
known textual errors in Jewish scripture to produce a truly definitive
edition of the Old Testament.
His edits, focusing primarily on grammatical blemishes and an intricate set
of biblical symbols, mark the first major overhaul of the Hebrew Bible in
nearly 500 years.
Poring over thousands of medieval manuscripts, the 84-year-old Cohen
identified 1,500 inaccuracies in the Hebrew language texts that have been
corrected in his completed 21-volume set. The final chapter is set to be
published next year.
The massive project highlights how Judaism venerates each tiny biblical
calligraphic notation as a way of ensuring that communities around the world
use precisely the same version. “The people of Israel took upon themselves,
at least in theory, one version of the Bible, down to its last letter,”
Cohen said, in his office at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv.
The last man to undertake the challenge was Jacob Ben-Hayim, who published
the Mikraot Gedolot, or Great Scriptures, in Venice in 1525. His version,
which unified the religion’s varying texts and commentaries under a single
umbrella, has remained the standard for generations, appearing to this day
on bookshelves of observant Jews the world over.
Since Ben-Hayim had to rely on inferior manuscripts and commentaries,
numerous inaccuracies crept in and were magnified in subsequent editions.
Most of the errors Cohen found were in the final two thirds of the Hebrew
Bible and not in the Torah scrolls.
To achieve his goal, Cohen relied primarily on the Aleppo Codex, the
1,000-year-old parchment text considered to be the most accurate copy of the
Bible. For centuries it was guarded in a grotto in the great synagogue of
Aleppo, Syria, out of reach of most scholars like Ben-Hayim.
Cohen also included the most comprehensive commentaries available, most
notably that of 11th-century Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki, known as Rashi.
“It was amazing to me that for 500 years, people didn’t sense the errors,”
said Cohen, who wears a knitted skullcap and a gray goatee. “They just
assumed that everything was fine, but in practice everything was not fine.”
Rafael Zer, the project’s editorial coordinator, called Cohen’s work
“quasi-scientific” because it presents a final product and does not provide
the reader a way of seeing how it was reached. He credits Cohen for bringing
an exact biblical text to the general public but said it “comes at the
expense of absolute accuracy and an absolute scientific edition.” — AP
+++SOURCE: New York Times 9 Aug.'12:"Plots Are Tied to Shadow War of Israel
By NICHOLAS KULISH and JODI RUDOREN
SUBJECT: Iran and Hizbullah re Israel
QUOTE: "aa continuing offensive by Iran and Hizbullah against Israel and its
BACKGROUNDER: FULL TEXT:BERLIN — A magnetic bomb detonated on a diplomatic
car in New Delhi. The police uncovered a cache of explosives at a golf
course in the Kenyan city of Mombasa. Five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian
bus driver were killed in an attack outside the airport in the Black Sea
coastal city of Burgas.
In January, the Iranian police towed a car in Tehran after a bomb attached
to it detonated and killed an Iranian scientist.
These were just a few of what some Israeli and American intelligence
officials say were nearly a dozen plots that form the backbone of a
continuing offensive by Iran and Hezbollah against Israel and its allies
abroad. But the links seem tenuous at times, the tactics variable, the
targets scattered across the globe, from the Caucasus to Southeast Asia to
“This is not a spy thriller that necessarily has a plot readers can follow
from page to page,” said Matthew Levitt, director of the program on
counterterrorism and intelligence at the Washington Institute for Near East
Policy. “Iran and Hezbollah both thrive on reasonable deniability.”
Analysts say the shadow war pitting Israel against Iran and Hezbollah has
more in common with the cloak-and-dagger maneuverings of the C.I.A. and the
K.G.B. during the cold war than the publicity-hungry terrorism campaign of
Al Qaeda. It represents a return to the idea that the most effective attack
is often an ambiguous one.
“They want just enough ambiguity that you can’t nail down that they did it,
the seed of doubt that makes it difficult for Israel or the United States to
respond,” said Andrew Exum, a senior fellow with the Center for a New
American Security in Washington. The undercover conflict signaled “a return
to the black arts of the cold war,” he said.
After the blast in Bulgaria, both Iran and Hezbollah denied involvement
almost as quickly as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel pointed the
finger at them. American and Bulgarian officials backed the assessment off
the record, but would not say so openly. There has been little hard evidence
presented to show how or by whom the plots were coordinated.
Israeli intelligence has evidence of many telephone calls between Lebanon
and Burgas in the two months before the bombing, according to a senior
government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the
information is classified, with the volume intensifying in the three days
leading up to it.
But they are no more prepared to expose the details of their
counterintelligence work publicly than the attackers are to claim
responsibility. “We know the sources in Lebanon,” though not the identity of
those on the other end in Bulgaria, the official said. “They shouldn’t know
that we know the numbers in Lebanon.”
Weeks after the attack, the Bulgarian investigation has largely stalled.
Officials there have yet to identify the attacker, also killed in the blast,
or his suspected accomplices. They are hesitant to declare Hezbollah
responsible without ironclad proof, given that the European Union has never
designated the group a terrorist organization.
European allies expect more concrete evidence than the volume of calls
before taking steps against Hezbollah. They maintain “some skepticism that
it was Hezbollah as an organization itself, and not, for instance, Iran
using individuals with some Hezbollah affiliation,” said a senior security
official in Germany.
The investigation in New Delhi appears further along, but there, too,
diplomatic and trading ties leave India with a dilemma. Iran is a major
supplier of oil to India, which has struggled to balance relations with
Iran, Israel and the United States.
The Indian police issued warrants in March for three Iranian citizens in
connection with the New Delhi attack. But when The Times of India recently
reported that the police had identified Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as
responsible, officials immediately denied the report.
Several of the plots have been hasty and even sloppy. In Thailand, the
suspects set off an explosion in their own safe house. Many other suspected
plots failed or were disrupted before they materialized. That gave some
experts the impression that the assaults were planned in a hurry, perhaps
because Iran and Hezbollah scrambled to lash out after a string of covert
attacks on Iran’s nuclear program. The civil war in Syria, which threatens
the government of a key Iranian ally, may be another spur to action.
“We see Iran and Hezbollah as monoliths without realizing there is internal
competition, dissent, factionalism, and these things become important when
we have external pressures like we do now,” said Rashmi Singh, a lecturer at
the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the
University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “What’s happening in Syria is making
this more acute than ever,” she said.
The proliferation of plots has kept Israel on guard. It was less
cat-and-mouse than Whac-A-Mole, with plots popping up in Africa, Europe,
South Asia and Southeast Asia.
“There was kind of a desperation to carry out these attacks; they weren’t
necessarily as well prepared,” a senior Israeli official said. “Even when
they were thwarted there was a sense they’d done something. They need to
show some results.”
Analysts say that the increased planning was also evidence of deepening
anger in Tehran as international sanctions took hold. Simple revenge is a
possible motive, they say.
Hezbollah has sworn to retaliate against Israel for the 2008 assassination
of Imad Mughniyah, the group’s former security chief, who was killed in a
car bombing in Syria. Iran blames Israel for killing at least four Iranian
nuclear scientists, several with magnetic bombs placed on their vehicles.
Efraim Halevy, formerly head of the Mossad, conceded that the shadow war was
not just one-sided with “a measure of attack on both sides.” He drew a
distinction between “innocent bystanders” and “people who are threatening
The Israelis count an assassination attempt against the Israeli consul
general in Istanbul and the killing of a Saudi diplomat in Karachi, both in
May 2011, as the beginning of the recent offensive. The United States said
it had thwarted an Iranian-backed plot last year to kill the Saudi
ambassador in Washington with the help of a Mexican drug gang.
But the intensity of the new offensive came into focus in February when
tactics similar to those used in the killings of Iranian scientists were
deployed against Israelis. A motorcyclist pulled up alongside a vehicle
belonging to the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi and attached a small explosive
device. The wife of an Israeli defense official was wounded in the ensuing
blast, as were three others, but all survived.
In the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, on the same day, a driver for the Israeli
Embassy “found something stuck to the car with a magnet,” he told the
Georgian television station Real TV. Investigators cordoned off the area
while explosives experts defused the bomb. No one was harmed.
The following day, an explosion rocked a rented home in Bangkok. One man
lost his legs after a bomb exploded as the Bangkok police tried to arrest
him. A second man was arrested by the police at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi
Airport trying to flee the country. A third suspect sought in the case was
apprehended in neighboring Malaysia, where he is still fighting extradition.
The police in Thailand said those suspects, too, were targeting Israeli
Embassy staff members with explosives that were fitted with magnets. All
three, as well as another man and a woman sought in connection with the
case, are Iranian.
The Indian police say that one of their suspects was “in touch” with a
suspect in Thailand. Israeli officials say they have cellphone calls and
text messages between Thailand, India and Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.
Security services there announced in March that they had arrested 22 people
who they said had been hired by Iran to carry out terrorist attacks against
Israeli, American and other Western targets.
Ronnie Bar-On, chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee in
Israel’s Parliament, said Iran could pass weapons, ammunition, technology
and “knowledge” through diplomatic mail. “We have unlimited resources, we
have unlimited time” to deal with this and other threats, Mr. Bar-On said.
By midsummer, despite the close call in New Delhi, all the operations had
been either thwarted or bungled. Two Iranians were arrested in Nairobi in
June in connection with the explosives found at the Mombasa golf course. In
July, the police in Cyprus arrested a Lebanese man with a Swedish passport
suspected of scouting airplanes and buses carrying Israeli tourists to the
A few days later, a slender young man with a large backpack slipped into a
crowd of Israeli tourists at the airport in Burgas as they lugged baggage
from the terminal to a waiting bus. The blast from the bomb hidden in his
backpack shattered any sense of invincibility that the Israelis might have
That civilians were the victims in Bulgaria rather than diplomatic or
military targets was not necessarily a sign that others were behind that
attack. “When you fail and time passes, sometimes you lower your bar,” Mr.
Yoram Schweitzer, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National
Security Studies, said those responsible wanted to see Israel embroiled in
fighting with its neighbors. “Precisely for this reason it is best for
Israel to adopt a restrained policy and respond at a time of its own
choosing,” Mr. Schweitzer said, “in a targeted and covert fashion.”
The conflict, in other words, may continue to play out in the shadows.
Nicholas Kulish reported from Berlin, and Jodi Rudoren from Jerusalem.
Reporting was contributed by Jim Yardley and Hari Kumar from New Delhi,
Thomas Fuller from Bangkok, Jeffrey Gettleman and Reuben Kyama from Nairobi,
Kenya, Eric Schmitt from Washington, Shahla Sultanova from Baku, Azerbaijan,
and Olesya Vartanyan from Tbilisi, Georgia.
Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA