Morning Report: December 30, 2004

Tsunami disaster: how to help. The death toll from the recent tsunami disaster is now over 100,000. To find out what you can do to help, go to Command Post. Update: Information also available at Roger L. Simon.

Commercial jet targeted by laser. Fox News reports this morning that the FBI is investigating a green laser that targeted the cockpit of a commercial aircraft flying in to Cleveland. 'Authorities are investigating a mysterious laser beam that was directed into the cockpit of a commercial jet traveling at more than 8,500 feet. The beam appeared Monday when the plane was about 15 miles from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (search), the FBI said. "It was in there for several seconds like [the plane] was being tracked," FBI agent Robert Hawk said.' (Fox) Follow-up: Rash of Pilot Laser Sightings Reported

Terrorist attacks on Saudi regime - Damascus, Riyadh in same boat? A recent bulletin from Debka provides information on Wednesday's terrorist attack on Riyadh, which included three car bombings and a machine gun attack, apparently targeting the life of Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz: 'Riyadh attack was al Qaeda attempt on life of interior minister’s son Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdelaziz, his father’s deputy and director of the ministry’s security unit running war on terror. ' Debka's feature article on the Saudi attack reports: 'This was the first attempt by Osama bin Laden’s organization to assassinate a member of the Saudi royal family. It is a pivotal event in that it sharply escalates the terrorist offensive besetting the kingdom and raises the stakes on both sides. By targeting interior minister Prince Nayef’s son, the terrorists declared open warfare on the minister who had been trying for the past year to maintain a dialogue with the Saudi cell through his connections in the clergy. According to our sources, Saudi cell leader Saud bin Hamoud al-Uteibi marked out the Nayef family after concluding that the interchanges the minister initiated were not on the level but an effort to plant his agents inside the terror cell and break it up from within. Had the assassination plot against Prince Mohammed succeeded, a major upheaval would have ensued – destabilizing not only the oil kingdom but sending tremors around the Arab and Muslim Middle East as well.' Morning Report notes that Riyadh and Damascus appear to be finding themselves in the same situation these days. A recent analysis available from Stratfor suggests that the Syrian regime's support for the Iraq insurgency may be motivated by a fear that the insurgent elements - including al-Qaeda - might otherwise set their sights on Syria. This, the Stratfor article continues, may help explain Syria's recent efforts to put on an Islamic face. Thus Damascus, like Riyadh, finds itself in the unenviable position of being caught between militant islamists and Western (chiefly US) adversaries. (Debka, Stratfor) Update: Debka reports: 'Saudis claim 3 senior al Qaeda operatives killed Thursday – two on 26-man wanted list - day after terrorist car bomb attacks on interior ministry and recruiting center in Riyadh. They were identified as Sultan Bejaad al-Uteibi and Bandar Abdulhrahman Dakheel. Nine were killed Wednesday.'

Iraq: 7200 leaders step forward. Mohammed posts on Iraq the Model: 'Iraqis' response to terror was so clear; after the terrorists, or the so called insurgents threatened to slaughter anyone who participates in the elections, 7200 Iraqis rushed to announce their candidacy. YES, 7200 Iraqis representing more than 200 different political parties and I believe this makes the image clearer for the viewer. And to remove the fog and debunk the claims about the Sunni population being against the democratic process, I want to point out that tens of the political parties come from the Sunni population. Moreover you almost can't find a single list that lacks Sunni candidates in it, even lists from She'at, Kurdis, Christian or liberal parties.' (ITM)

Najaf police chief: Iran regime agents behind car bomb. The chief of police in Najaf, Iraq, has pointed the finger at Tehran in connection with a recent car bomb attack, according to this article in Iran Focus: 'The police chief in Najaf said that the commander of three terrorists arrested on Sunday in connection with a car bomb that exploded in the holy city, had extensive connections to Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). He said that intelligence for when and where to attack was given by an MOIS agent to the terrorist cells. “Iraqi security forces had received information regarding a possible attack. The chaotic security situation, due to the burial ceremony of Sheikh Hatam al-Hassan however, enabled the terrorists to use the opportunity to carry out their attack”, he said. One of the three Iraqis, arrested whilst taking photos of the scene minutes before the explosions, was a resident of Najaf, while his two accomplices were both from Basra. He added that Iran closed its border with Iraq following the attacks to limit any intelligence leaks.'

Bin Laden and democracy. An article at Armies of Liberation highlights the choices facing the peoples of the Mideast today: 'Reform, elections, judicial independence, stemming corruption: these are the buzzwords on the Arab street today, and this is the essential work of the pioneering Iraqis. The transition of executive power in Egypt, Lebanese independence, minority rights in Syria, freedom of press in Yemen, youth enfranchisement in Saudi Arabia: these are the topics of modern patriots in the Middle East, their hope derived from free Iraqi labor unions and political parties and the anonymous anti-corruption hotline in Baghdad. Opposite these concepts of reform are the nihilistic ideology of al-Qaeda and the bloody tactics of the “Amir of Iraq,” Zarqawi, who freely murders innocent children, patriotic Iraqis, and poor truckdrivers.' Jane also offers a memorable interpretation of bin Laden's media image. (Armies of Liberation)

Egyptian opposition. A recent MEMRI bulletin, quoting metransparent.com, states that there are now four candidates set to oppose Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt's elections scheduled for mid-2005. They are: author and former military officer Jalal 'Amer; former MP Muhammad Farid Hassanin; feminist author Nawal al-Sa'adawi; and Sa'd al-Din Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Khaldoun Research and Development Center. (metransparent.com via MEMRI)