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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
March 29, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Despite Promise of Reforms, Syrian Forces Disperse Protesters with Gunfire (New York Times)
    On Monday Syria's armed forces fired live ammunition in the air to disperse hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators in Dara.
    The marchers gathered in the city's main square, chanting, "Not Sunnis, not Alawis, we all want freedom."
    More than 60 people have been killed in Syria since March 18, human rights groups say.
    See also Mass Protests Support Syria's Hard-Line Regime (AP)
    Hundreds of thousands of supporters of Syria's hard-line regime poured into the streets of Damascus and at least four other major cities Tuesday, waving pictures of President Bashar Assad.

Food and Syria's Failure - Spengler (Asia Times-Hong Kong)
    The Syrian government's attempt last month to keep food prices down prompted local merchants to hoard commodities, causing prices to rise.
    The doubling of world food prices over the past year has overwhelmed the Assad family's ability to manage through the usual mechanisms.
    Instability will afflict the Muslim world for a generation, and there is nothing that the West can do to stop it.

Hizbullah, at Home Alone - Michael Young (Now Lebanon)
    An astute friend and I were talking about the recent publication by the daily Al-Akhbar of American diplomatic cables circulated by WikiLeaks.
    Most of the published documents purport to show how Lebanese politicians welcomed, or sought to exploit, a Hizbullah defeat in the summer war of 2006.
    The party has used the leaks to affirm that its political enemies were on Israel's side. My friend, a Shia journalist, had a different view. What they really showed, he said, was how isolated and unpopular Hizbullah is.
    Indeed, several of the cables, written by the former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, show not Hizbullah's enemies, but its allies expressing discomfort, or displeasure, with the party.

The Middle East Crisis Has Just Begun - Robert D. Kaplan (Wall Street Journal)
    The Middle East is only beginning to unravel. Every country is now in play.
    The era of a dependable, pro-Western Jordan living in peace with Israel may not go on indefinitely.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Video: Women in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)
    The IDF is the only military worldwide drafting women for compulsory service by law. 90% of the positions in the IDF are open to women.
    This video includes interviews with women taking on noteworthy roles throughout the army.
    See also Video: Female Paratrooper Instructors in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Air Power Plays Expansive Role in Libya - Eric Schmitt
    As President Obama on Monday described a narrower role for the U.S. in a NATO-led operation in Libya, the American military has been carrying out an expansive and increasingly potent air campaign to compel the Libyan Army to turn against Col. Gaddafi with an all-out assault on Libya's military. American involvement is far deeper than discussed in public and more instrumental to the fight than was previously known.
        The U.S. is supplying much more firepower than any other country, including all but 7 of the nearly 200 Tomahawk cruise missiles fired by the allies since March 19. The Americans have dropped 455 precision-guided munitions compared with 147 from other coalition members. America is taking the lead role in gathering intelligence, intercepting Libyan radio transmissions, and using the information to orchestrate attacks against Libyan forces on the ground. The White House strategy is to hit Libyan forces hard enough to force them to oust Gaddafi.
        Ten days into the assault, officials said Libya's formidable integrated air defense has been largely obliterated, and that the operation was shifting to put even more pressure on the country's armored columns and ground troops. (New York Times)
        See also Remarks by President Obama on Libya (White House)
        See also Libyan Rebels Too Fast for their Own Good - Rosie DiManno
    After a jubilantly unimpeded head-long rush westward, rebel forces were ambushed on Monday. (Toronto Star)
  • Abbas Would Give Up U.S. Aid for Reconciliation with Hamas - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is making a heavy push for reconciliation with Hamas and is willing to give up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid if that's what it takes to forge a Palestinian unity deal, Azzam Ahmed, an Abbas aide, said Monday. "Of course we need the American money. But if they use it as a way of pressuring us, we are ready to relinquish that aid," he said.
        The U.S. administration, the largest single donor to the Palestinians, withheld funds when Hamas was a part of a short-lived Palestinian unity government, which collapsed when Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007. The Palestinians receive more than $470 million a year in direct financial assistance from the U.S. The U.S. will likely cut off the funds unless Hamas agrees to renounce violence and recognize Israel. (AP)
        See also Why Is Abbas Running After Hamas? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas wants the U.S. and EU to force Israel to make concessions to the Palestinians. The message he is sending to the Americans and Europeans is: Get me all that you can from Israel or else I will go to Hamas. (Hudson Institute-New York)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Quartet Parameters Must Address Israel's Needs - Herb Keinon
    If the Quartet feels obligated to propose outlines of a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement at its upcoming meeting in mid-April, it needs to take into account Israeli demands, not only Palestinian ones, Israeli government sources said this week. While the Palestinians insist that the baseline for talks should be a return to the 1967 lines, Israel's position is that those lines are not sacrosanct, and that what needs to be discussed were secure and defensible borders - something Israel says is not provided by the 1967 lines.
        Israeli officials say that if the Palestinians see they can get benefits from the international community as a result of refusing to engage with Israel, they will continue to refuse to negotiate. This creates the "illusion" that the international community can deliver a peace agreement while avoiding Israel, something one official characterized as a "mirage." The Palestinians will only return to the table, the official said, if the international community makes clear that the Palestinians will get nothing without returning to talks. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Will Take Unilateral Action If UN Recognizes Palestinian Statehood - Barak Ravid
    Israel informed the 15 members of the UN Security Council last week, as well as several other prominent EU countries, that if the Palestinian Authority persists in its efforts to gain recognition in September as a state within the 1967 borders, Israel would respond with a series of unilateral steps of its own. Israeli embassies overseas were instructed to convey the message that support for international recognition encouraged the Palestinians to forgo negotiations with Israel. Such a move violates the Oslo Accords and will not lead to a Palestinian state, even with General Assembly recognition. (Ha'aretz)
  • Argentinean Prosecutor: Bombing Probes Continue - Gil Shefler
    Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman on Sunday denied a report that Argentina had offered Iran to stop investigations into the 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. "We are moving steadily and incorporating new evidence that further compromises former officials of the Iranian regime, a regime that continues to protect and shelter those accused of terrorist action," he said. "We are finding many links between the perpetrators of this and those who have just been convicted by a jury for trying to bomb Kennedy Airport in New York in 2007."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The New York Times and Itamar - Andrea Levin
    The murders of the Fogel family posed a dilemma for the New York Times, fixated as it is on a story line in which Israel, and especially Israeli settlers, bear central responsibility for ongoing tensions with the Arabs. The first major account of the carnage appeared on March 13 - on page 16 with no photo. A day later, updates on the story appeared on page 4, as the focus turned to Israel's announcement of renewed construction in several settlements. Two photos ran that day of the Fogel funerals, with the caption: "About 20,000 attended the funerals for the Fogels, whose deaths outraged settlers."
        Did the Times think only "settlers" were outraged over slitting the throats of children in their beds? Israel's leading columnist, Nahum Barnea, who's not a settler, wrote: "The murder in Itamar is so shocking, so horrible, that it makes the debate over settlements irrelevant....The difference between Tel Aviv and Itamar is erased."  (CAMERA)
  • Syrian Unrest Threatens Mythical Peace Process - Jonathan S. Tobin
    To Washington's foreign policy "realists"" and the professional peace processers in the State Department, the spread of the so-called Arab Spring to Damascus has provoked something akin to panic. Sunday's New York Times quoted administration officials saying: "The deepening chaos in Syria, in particular, could dash any remaining hopes for a Middle East peace agreement."
        The belief that a Syria run by one of the Assads would ever make peace with Israel was always a myth. Yet, punctuated by only brief interludes of sanity, the impulse to think well of the Assads was part of Washington's peace process obsession for decades. The fact that every such effort failed miserably never penetrated into the consciousness of the peace processers. It never seemed to occur to them that the Assads needed a foreign foe to distract their people from their own tyrannical leaders. The last thing Bashar Assad wanted or needs is peace with Israel - no matter what the Israelis were prepared to give him. (Commentary)
  • Egypt - The Hangover - Bret Stephens
    Soon after my arrival in Cairo, an Egyptian friend explained: "People are much more scared than they used to be, and it comes from the fact that there's no police." Much was made at the time of how the protests were a secular triumph in which the Muslim Brotherhood was left to the sidelines. But that judgment now looks in need of major revision. A package of constitutional amendments meant to pave the way toward parliamentary and presidential elections in just a few months time was approved with a whopping 77% of the vote. Yet early elections will only benefit well-organized and politically disciplined groups like the Brotherhood and the remnants of Mubarak's National Democratic Party, which is really the party of the Egyptian military.
        "The West seems to be convinced that the revolution was led by secular democratic forces," says my friend Mahmoud. "Now that myth is shattered. Which means that either the old order" - by which he means the military regime - "stays in power, or we're headed for Islamist dominance."  (Wall Street Journal)

What If Gaddafi Had Gone Nuclear? - Michael Oren (Wall Street Journal)

  • America and its allies are interceding militarily in Libya. But would that action have been delayed or even precluded if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi had access to nuclear weapons?
  • Gaddafi unilaterally forfeited his nuclear weapons program by 2004 because he feared that the U.S., which had recently invaded Iraq, would deal with him much as it had Saddam Hussein.
  • A similar fear impelled the Iranian regime to suspend its own nuclear weapons program in 2003, resuming it only when the threat of military intervention receded. It continues to make steady progress today.
  • Sanctions alone are unlikely to prove effective unless backed by measures capable of convincing the Iranian regime that the military option is real. The critical question then becomes: Does anybody in Tehran believe that all options are truly on the table today?
  • While the allied intercession in Libya may send a message of determination to Iran, it might also stoke the Iranian regime's desire to become a nuclear power and so avoid Gaddafi's fate.

    The writer is the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

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