The Iraqi Army, cited for poor performance in counter-insurgency operations, has launched an effort to improve its marksmanship.

Officials said the army has expanded its advanced marksmanship course to enhance urban warfare operations. They said the course, held at the Besmaya range 30 kilometers east of Baghdad, would produce Iraqi snipers who could target insurgents in Baghdad and other cities.

“More and more attacks by insurgents have been by snipers,” an Iraqi instructor, identified only as Sgt. Naim, said. “Now we have the opportunity to send our soldiers out to defeat those threats.”

Officials said the marksmanship course was part of a U.S. effort to increase training of the Iraqi Army. They said many Iraqi units have obtained embedded U.S. trainers.

Naim, who underwent a sniper course to teach other Iraqi soldiers, said an armed insurgent could stop a battalion. A battalion contains about 400 soldiers.

Officials said the course lasts seven weeks and the first seven soldiers graduated on Dec. 1. The course began with the teaching of advanced marksmanship principles using standard AK-47 rifles. Later, the soldiers advanced to the sniper part of the course and were provided Romanian PSL sniper rifles.

“In my unit we have sniper rifles, but nobody knows how to use them,” an Iraqi Army sergeant identified only as Haida said. “I really believe this training is going to help me in the future.”

Officials said the army would be provided snipers to most units. This would deploy a marksman on a roof to target insurgents and their commanders.

The marksmanship course was said to be difficult and selective, demanding the striking of targets at ranges of up to 600 meters. Officials said the majority of students did not complete training, which included a 10-kilometer march as well as firing at pop-up targets.

Officials said the sniper course was designed for an urban environment. They said the focus was on establishing a good position, breathing and firing techniques and weapons proficiency.

“We fired a lot of rounds,” an adviser said. “With just 19 guys going through this program and many of those washing out, we went through more than 1,800 rounds over the past seven weeks.”

Palestinian Authority Continued To Smuggle Into Gaza

The Israeli military has determined that the Palestinian Authority (PA) has increased smuggling of weapons from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Officials said the weapons smuggling comes amid a cease-fire declared by the PA in the Gaza Strip. Israel has pledged to abide by the cease-fire and has not responded to daily Palestinian missile fire into the Jewish state.

“There is no effort by the PA to stop the weapons smuggling,” an official said. “Indeed, all indications are that the PA is coordinating the smuggling and taking a portion of the booty.”

On Sunday, Palestinian gunners fired a Kassam-class, short-range missile into Israel. Nobody was injured and Israel did not respond.

“Fifteen rockets have been fired at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip since the cease-fire declaration,” a Cabinet statement said. “Most were fired by Fatah infrastructure. This infrastructure is operating under the guidance of Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.”

Officials said that during one day last week, the PA received 140 AK-47 assault rifles smuggled from Sinai to the Gaza Strip. They said the Palestinians also received a shipment of rocket-propelled grenade systems as part of a rearmament effort.

On Sunday, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decided not to respond to Palestinian missile fire from the Gaza Strip. The decision was opposed by Defense Minister Amir Peretz, who warned that the Palestinians were rapidly rearming.

Officials said Israel would continue to honor the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip as well as reduce operations in the West Bank. They said operations against Palestinians in the West Bank would require approval of the chief of Central Command.

“We must act responsibly and wisely, while considering all aspects of the matter,” Olmert said.

Saudis Crack Down On al-Qaida

Saudi Arabia has conducted a major crackdown on al-Qaida.

The Saudi Interior Ministry has reported the dismantling of several al-Qaida cells over the last two months. The ministry said the cells had been operating in several Saudi cities and sought to attack vital targets.

“Security officers are ready to foil any future terrorist operation,” Interior Minister Prince Nayef Bin Abdul Aziz said on Sunday.

The ministry said Saudi authorities captured 139 al-Qaida operatives, all of them non-Saudis. The statement said the detainees included members of cells as well as a suspected would-be suicide bomber and targeted banks and other businesses.

“They recruited people to travel to troubled areas, provided cover for wanted men and financed their operations that target the nation and its security,” an Interior Ministry source said. “They exploited pilgrimage traffic to smuggle in people who were trained abroad.”

Officials said arrests were reported in Dammam, Hail, Jawf, Jizan, Mecca, Medina, Qasim and Riyad. They said weapons, money, communications systems and computers were seized.

On Oct. 26, the ministry announced the arrest of 44 suspected al-Qaida operatives in Hail, Qasim, Riyad and the oil-rich Eastern Province. Those suspects were all said to have been Saudis.

In September, Saudi security forces arrested another 31 people, all but four of them Saudis. Officials said the cell sought to conduct a suicide attack against an unidentified target.

Officials said the al-Qaida network produced and distributed material meant for recruitment and propaganda. They did not elaborate.

Iran Has $3 Trillion Worth Of Energy

Iran has $3 trillion worth of energy reserves.

Abbas Maleki, a member of the board at Sharif University of Technology said Iran has $3 trillion worth of crude oil and natural gas. Maleki said Iran owns 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 16 percent of gas reserves.

Maleki said Iran must attract foreign investments. He warned that Iran faces competition from Kuwait, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Iran must explore for additional energy reserves and grapple with privatization of the oil industry, Maleki said. He recommended Iranian management of energy resources in cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council states.

©The Bulletin 2006

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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