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Eurasia Security Watch - No. 226

Edited by Jeff M. Smith
August 20, 2010


ISRAEL AND LEBANON CLASH AT THE BORDER
 Israeli forces engaged in a rare clash with the Lebanese Army at the shared border between the two countries on August 3. The incident appears to have started when Israeli troops attempted to cut down a tree on the opposite side of a security fence but within the United Nations “blue line” which serves as Israel’s internationally recognized border with Lebanon. Israel claims it informed the UN force monitoring the border of its activities. Yet, according to Israeli accounts, Lebanese army snipers opened fire on Israeli commanders observing the maintenance force. A battalion commander was killed and a platoon commander critically wounded as a result. Israeli forces returned fire with light arms and artillery, killing at least two Lebanese soldiers and a Lebanese journalist, and then attacked the Lebanese Army Forces Battalion Command Center in Al Taybeh with an Israeli Air Force helicopter.
 
 Following the skirmish, Israeli officials have complained about a “Hezbollah-ization” of the Lebanese armed forces, insisting the Iran-backed Shi’ite militant group is increasingly influencing the direction and disposition of the supposedly non-partisan Lebanese military which, according to Aram Nerguizian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is roughly one-third Shi’ite, one-third Sunni, and one-third Christian and Druze. “Israel tends to view the distinction between the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah as increasingly cloudy,” says Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren. The U.S. Congress, which has allocated $525 million in assistance to the Lebanese army since 2006, is now considering blocking aid in light of the recent skirmish and several congressmen have put a hold on at least $100 million in appropriations. (New York Times,
August 3 and August 10, 2010; Christian Science Monitor, August 6, 2010)
 
 ARMING THE SAUDIS

 In one of the biggest defense deals of its kind, the Obama administration plans to sell as much as $60 billion in military equipment to Saudi Arabia over the next ten years, part of an effort by the Administration to bolster the militaries of allied Gulf states “as a way to check Iranian power.” Between 2005 and 2008, Saudi Arabia spent $11.2 billion in arms purchases from the U.S., more than double the $4.1 billion spent from 2001-2004. However, the new deal dwarfs any previous deals of its kind, and will include the purchase of 84 F-15 fighters for $30 billion, and as many as 132 helicopters, including 72 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and up to 60 Longbow Apache attack helicopters, for another $30 billion. The proposed sale of F-15s to Saudi Arabia has raised alarm in Israel, which has successfully lobbied to get long-range weapons systems excluded from the fighter jets to be sold. (
Wall Street Journal, August 8, 2010; Doha The Peninsula, August 15, 2010)
 
 TERROR TITLE SHIFTS TO SOUTH ASIA

 The Middle East has lost its title as the foremost center of terrorist activity in the world, according to the Congressionally-mandated global terrorism report put out annually by the U.S. State Department. For the first time since the U.S. began compiling statistics more than two decades ago, more terrorist activity took place in South Asia than in the Middle East. Out of nearly eleven thousand terrorism incidents in 2009, 75 percent took place in those two regions, with 16,000 fatalities in total. A “sharp decline” in incidents in Iraq was countered by a large increase in Afghanistan. (
Voice of America, August 5, 2010)
 
 IMU LEADER YULDASHEV DEAD

 The longtime leader of one of the world’s most notorious Islamist groups was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone strike last year. Tahir Yuldashev, head and co-founder of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a radical Islamist group linked to al-Qaeda, has been declared dead by an Uzbek-language website linked to the IMU. Speculation about Yuldashev’s death started on August 27, 2009, when several militants and Pakistan’s spy agency reported a drone strike in South Waziristan had killed the IMU leader. Yuldashev co-founded the IMU with Juma Namangani in 1998 and assumed leadership when the latter was killed during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Originally focused just on Uzbekistan and Central Asia, the group became increasingly linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban after 2001. Its strength in Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it is based today, is estimated at between 2,500 and 4,000. (
Long War Journal
, August 16, 2010)