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Shaun Randol: China’s Chechnya (part 1 of 2)

Things are heating up in China’s westernmost province. In response to a number of violent incidents in Xinjiang Autonomous Region (XAR), Beijing has ratcheted up its security presence. Tit-for-tat clashes between pro-independence groups and police forces threaten stability and may portend a vicious cycle of killings. Ninety-two percent of China’s population is ethnic Han; the remaining 8 percent is constituted by a mix of 55 officially recognized minority groups, including the increasingly vociferous Uighurs in Xinjiang and Tibetans. Yunnan Province, home to at least 26 different minority populations, lies south of Tibet in China’s far southwest, a cool 1300 miles away (as the crow flies) from Beijing. Most unrest affiliated with minority populations occurs outside of Beijing’s immediate geographical area, making suppression burdensome for the central government; still, Beijing maintains tight control over the media and internet ensuring that uprisings and subsequent crackdowns in these relatively sparsely populated regions remain largely invisible to most outsiders. Currently Beijing has control over separatist (or as officials prefer, “splittist”) movements in Tibet and Xinjiang, but for how long?

Richard Horowitz: Pan Am 103, Revisited

Richard HorowitzJuval Aviv, an Israeli-born New York private investigator, gave a presentation on August 8 at the annual American Bar Association (ABA) convention held in New York. Aviv is president of Interfor, Inc., which describes itself as an “international investigations firm offering comprehensive domestic and foreign intelligence services to the legal, corporate, and financial communities” with offices in thirty-six countries. Aviv has created a mystique about himself by claiming to be the “Avner” character in Steven Spielberg’s Munich, hand-picked by former Prime Minister Golda Meir to lead a team of Israeli assassins to avenge the deaths of the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Black September during the 1972 Munich Olympics. As Aviv told the ABA audience, “Steven Spielberg bought the rights to my life story and Munich is based on that.” Last week, however, Aviv was removed as the keynote speaker at a security conference scheduled for October after I and another security professional brought our concerns about Aviv to the conference director. Aviv gained notoriety when Pan Am hired him to investigate the downing of Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. His investigative conclusion: the Central Intelligence Agency was responsible for the explosion on board the flight. According to his report, the CIA had allowed Syrian drug dealers to ship narcotics to the United States via U.S. aircraft in exchange for intelligence. Someone, however, slipped a bomb into the shipment aboard Pan Am 103, bringing down the plane. While this defense did not help Pan Am in court, Aviv’s report, commonly referred to as the “Interfor Report,” merited a chapter in The 80 Greatest Conspiracies of All Time by Jonathan Vankin and John Whalen (Citadel Press, 2004) and can be found on websites and discussion boards across the Internet. (See number 9 in Another Ten Conspiracy Theories, right after the famous Beatles rumor “Paul is Dead.”)

Joshua Miller: Capitulation to Terror is Shortsighted

Joshua MillerAt an international boundary between two countries that do not have diplomatic relations, recently fought a war and have a bitter history of violence, one might expect to find fortified gun emplacements, concertina wire, and the deep diesel rumble of idling tanks. But the Rosh Hanikra border crossing that sits at the juncture of Israel, Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea is an exquisite, peaceful corner of the Middle East. Set atop chalk cliffs overlooking the sea, and situated next to a vast array of grottoes formed by millennia of water lapping at the rocks, Rosh Hanikra (Hebrew for head of the grottoes) is a national park, a popular tourist attraction, and is even occasionally a location chosen by Israeli couples for their weddings. Sitting at the local restaurant, looking out at the Mediterranean, it’s almost possible to forget that one is at a military site.The border crossing between Israel and Lebanon. A line of buoys in the sea, marking the official border between Israel and Lebanon, stretches out from the shoreline to the horizon. In the distance, one can often see Israel Defense Forces (IDF) naval gunships assiduously patrolling the demarcation line. But in the early morning hours of April 22, 1979, there was only one ship moving along this coast, a small rubber skiff that had left from Tyre, Lebanon and was headed for Nahariya—an Israeli city of 50,000 people four miles south of Rosh Hanikra. After pulling the boat up on the beach in Nahariya, its four occupants, PLO terrorists led my a young man named Samir Kuntar, killed a policeman who had come upon them. They entered a nearby apartment building, waking a young Israeli couple, Danny and Smadar Haran, and their two children. Hearing gunshots, Danny helped Smadar and their two-year-old daughter, Yael, into a crawlspace in their bedroom. He was headed for the door with their other daughter, four-year-old Einat, when the terrorists burst into the Haran’s apartment. Suspecting there were more than two people in the apartment, the terrorists spent a few minutes searching for the other occupants. Trying to keep her two-year-old from making a noise and giving away their position, Smadar kept her hand over her daughter’s mouth, accidentally suffocating her to death. In a Washington Post op-ed, Smadar described what happened next:
“…the terrorists took Danny and Einat down to the beach. There, according to eyewitnesses, one of them shot Danny in front of Einat so that his death would be the last sight she would ever see. Then he smashed my little girl's skull in against a rock with his rifle butt. That terrorist was Samir Kuntar.”
Last week, on June 29, the Israeli cabinet, led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, agreed to release Samir Kuntar (who is currently serving four consecutive life sentences in an Israeli prison), four other Lebanese nationals, and the remains of Hezbollah fighters killed in the 2006 Lebanon War in return for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers, Ehud “Udi” Goldwasser and Eldad Regev. For Israel, this was a decision with far-reaching implications. Capitulation to terrorist demands has dire consequences.



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