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Oct. 30, 2002 at 1:40 PM

Insider notes from United Press International for Oct. 30 ...


A serious split is emerging within Israeli military ranks. Chief of Staff Gen. Moshe Yaalon is assuring the politicians that Israel is on the verge of breaking the Palestinians' will to continue the intifada and the Israel Defense Forces must maintain the pressure to ensure that this will be "the decisive year." By contrast, Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi, director of military intelligence, is warning the politicians to expect no change in the annual report he submitted to the inner Cabinet Wednesday. The intelligence branch sees no realistic negotiating partner for Israel, no prospect of an early retirement by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and no sign of any slackening of Palestinian resistance. Israel should therefore ensure that the fighting does not escalate nor spill over into a wider war with any Arab state, the intelligence wing argues. They now expect the U.S. attack on Iraq to come early in the new year, and that the region will remain relatively calm as Syria and Iran hunker down to avoid any prospect of U.S. attack.


The Pentagon is to run a series of military training courses for journalists applying to be "embedded" in U.S. forces for GWOT -- the Pentagon acronym for Global War on Terrorism. The field training will include small arms familiarization, mine identification and countermeasures, camouflage and concealment, how to react to direct and indirect fire, nuclear, chemical and biological protection, field sanitation and a five-mile tactical road march with a 25-pound pack. There are also classroom courses on military customs and courtesies, operational security, the Laws of War and a course described simply as "Combat Camera."


Diplomatic circles in the Middle East are buzzing with rumors of a failed coup against the Qatari regime on the night of Oct. 13. At least two members of the royal family are said to have joined with officers of Yemeni and Pakistani background, along with individuals from Islamic organizations, all opposed to the growing U.S. military presence. American troops stationed at the Al Udeid Air Base supposedly helped thwart the coup attempt, which had been penetrated in advance by Qatar security officials, after which 140 people were arrested. The rumors go on to suggest that Qatar suspects that the Saudis were behind the plot. The United States has been feverishly upgrading the Al Udeid base, in anticipation of a Saudi refusal to allow use of its Prince Sultan Air Base for the upcoming assault on Iraq.


There is no confirmation for these coup rumors, but Wednesday's Gulf News carried an interesting editorial that said: "Disagreements are normal, be they between people or countries. If handled in a civilized manner, disagreements can only strengthen relationships. Adversity is another great healer of rifts. Faced by a common outside threat, people and countries band together to present a front that is as strong as its cohesiveness. Sadly these truths do not often hold good in the Middle East."


That high point in Arabic culture, this month's international book fair in Damascus, has seen the birth of a new best seller. Already in its eighth edition in Syria, "The Matza of Zion" is written by Syria's Defense Minister Mustafa Tlas, and recounts Jews taking blood from a Muslim child to bake Passover matzos. This foul old fable, a modern echo of the medieval Europe's blood libel against Jews, has now been bought by publishers in nine other Arab states.


Chinese would-be English speakers are getting a curious view of the Anglophone world. "When is a sniper like a duck?" was the theme of Monday's English lesson in the mass-selling China Daily, based on the news conference of Montgomery County, Md., Police Chief Charles Moose on the hunt for the sniper. It was accompanied by a photo of a Bushmaster rifle. Previous articles used in the daily lesson included "Proof of Jesus -- burial artifact" and "Wanted on the Web -- rich husband, escape from Africa" and "Work Stress Doubles Risk of Heart Disease death."


Talking of English lessons, the Colombian Defense Ministry has launched an innovative scheme to provide free English classes to soldiers while they recover from their wounds. Defense Minister Marta Lucía Ramírez said the classes would keep the recuperating soldiers occupied and were a sign that the nation recognized the sacrifices made by the armed forces. "These boys, and their courage and desire to fight for their country, are the motivation behind everything this government is doing," the minister said. Around 100 soldiers have already signed up for the classes. All the teachers will be student volunteers and the textbooks will be donated. "I had to take advantage of this opportunity because you don't get a chance like this every day," 24-year-old Octavio Montano said. Montano was wounded in an army campaign against drug traffickers in the state of Putumayo.

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