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Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the most dangerous man on Earth?

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a ceremony at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in this April 9, 2007 file photo  (Credit: Reuters/Caren Firouz/Files)Is war in the Middle East imminent?

The International Atomic Energy Agency recently reported that the Islamic Republic of Iran will soon have the capacity to build nuclear warheads. Iran may already possess enough nuclear material for four bombs. It has also conducted computer modeling of nuclear explosions and developed triggering devices. It possesses missiles that can reach Israel and U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf. In a matter of months it could arm those missiles with nuclear warheads.

What if sanctions don't stop Iran's nuclear development program? A nuclear arms race in the Middle East would likely result, as Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia seek their own weapons. A nuclear Iran would shift the balance of power in the Muslim world, perhaps leading to a Soviet Union-like confederation of satellites under the Iranian umbrella. And Iran could launch a conventional war against Israel, confident that their nuclear weapons would deter the Jewish state from using their nuclear stockpile in defense.

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What should America do about Palestine?

A Palestinian woman watches a public screening of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' speech at the United Nations, in the West Bank city of Ramallah September 23, 2011. (Credit: Reuters/Darren Whiteside)Imagine this scenario: in the 28 states that voted for Barack Obama in 2008, he is their president. In the 22 states that voted for John McCain, he is their president. Now try to negotiate a trade agreement with China. Who speaks for whom?

This is precisely Israel's dilemma. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted a formal application today for the United Nations to grant the Palestinians status as an observer state. But Abbas speaks only for Fatah, the political party governing the West Bank. This is an area slightly smaller than the state of Delaware, located on the west bank of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, with a population of 2.5 million.

Hamas is the political party governing the Gaza Strip, the other area of Palestinian occupation. This is an area along the Mediterranean coast 25 miles long and 4 to 7.5 miles wide, with a population of 1.6 million people. Their prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, opposes Abbas' actions and the peace process. Their charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River.

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US hikers and Iran's apocalyptic leaders

American hikers Shane Bauer (L) and Josh Fattal (C) and their translator attend the first session of their trial at the revolutionary court in Tehran, in this February 6, 2011 file picture.Two U.S. hikers are the latest casualties in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's escalating war with America and the West. Iran's state-run TV reported on Saturday that Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, detained for two years on spying charges, have now been sentenced to eight years in prison.

What happened

According to CNN, the two men were seized on July 31, 2009 while hiking in the Iraqi Kurdish region. Iranian authorities have accused them of crossing into Iran illegally and of "cooperating with the American intelligence service." While no data supporting these charges has been presented, Iran insists that it has "compelling evidence" for them. Bauer's fiancee, Sarah Shourd, was arrested with the men. She was released on $500,000 bail on September 14, 2010 and returned to the U.S. after 410 days of solitary confinement.

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Deadly attack in southern Israel

Israeli medics evacuate a person wounded in one of several attacks in the Arava desert, to the Soroka hospital in Beersheba, southern Israel, Thursday, August 18, 2011.  (Credit: Reuters/Ilan Assayag)Is this the beginning of a major war in Israel? Israeli buses and cars were attacked Thursday on Highway 15, a rural road to Eilat, an Israeli resort town on the northern edge of the Red Sea. Two factors make these attacks especially frightening. First, they occurred more than 100 miles from Gaza, the area where the militants apparently originated. If Israel's enemies can now move with impunity into the country, the nation faces a terrorist threat on a scale it has not encountered in many years. Second, these attacks have apparently come from a new source of aggression against the State of Israel. If this is true, the Middle East just became more complex than we thought it was yesterday.

What happened?

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Why terrorism is getting worse

Two women are seen leaving as rescue workers arrive to evacuate the injured at the site of a powerful explosion that rocked central Oslo July 22, 2011. (Credit: Reuters / Thomas Winje Oijord)"Despite nearly a decade of war, al Qaeda is stronger today than when it carried out the 9/11 attacks." So begins Leah Farrall's fascinating article in a recent edition of Foreign Affairs. Farrall is former Senior Counterterrorism Intelligence Analyst with the Australian Federal Police, and is completing her PhD thesis on al Qaeda and militant Islam.

She begins her analysis with a brief history of the organization, stating that Osama bin Laden has sought for 20 years to unify other militant Islamist groups under his leadership. In the mid-1990s, he attempted to build an "Islamic Army" in Sudan but was expelled by that country. He then declared war on the United States, but failed to rally significant support.

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