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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
August 11, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah: Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Hizbullah Will Wipe Out Israel Following U.S. Withdrawal from Iraq (MEMRI)
    Hizbullah MP Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Walid Sakariya told the London-based Arab TV station ANB on August 7:
    "Iran is the country most hostile to Israel, but Iraq serves as a buffer between Iran and the Palestine front....Iran supports the forces of confrontation: Hamas, Hizbullah, and Syria."
    "If, following the U.S. withdrawal, Iraq becomes a bridge linking Iran to Syria, the Iranian forces could cross Iraq and arrive in Syria, in order to participate in a direct war on the Golan front. In that case, Israel would not be fighting Hizbullah alone. It would be fighting Hizbullah, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. This is the so-called 'Shiite Crescent' that they fear."
    "You will have the strategic superiority and a force large enough to pulverize Israel, even if this war costs you hundreds of thousands of martyrs - not just 1,000 or 2,000. You will enter this war with a population mass exceeding 100 million....Hizbullah, Syria, Iraq, and Iran will constitute a force that is militarily superior to Israel and will destroy it."

Iranian Commander: Netanyahu Should Prepare to Stand Trial Like Mubarak (Fars-Iran)
    Commander of Iran's Basij forces Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should prepare for a trial in a cage like former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.
    "Today Zionists are completely surrounded by the Mujahedin of Islam and we advise them to return to the countries of their origin soon to save their lives," Naqdi said.
    See also Iranian President Ahmadinejad Deplores Suppression of Protesters in Britain (Fars-Iran)

Revived Mujahidin Faction Emerges in Gaza (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    Ansar Al-Mujahidin, a new break-away armed faction with declared links to Fatah, has emerged in Gaza, claiming to have thousands of members.
    The group's spokesman, Abu Bilal, said this week that the group had previously existed under the name Kataeb Al-Mujahidin, and had claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Israelis in 2009 and 2010. "Mujahidin" means "holy warriors."
    "We have successfully executed many jihad missions against Israel, our enemy, and we have given so many souls to Palestine because the Israeli enemy has assassinated many of our leaders and leading members," he said.
    "It's a growing headache for Hamas as the global jihad movement is growing in Gaza," said one Israeli security official. "They are Salafists or Jihadists and are setting up these organizations all the time."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Support for Assad Government Shows Signs of Weakening - Anthony Shadid and Steven Lee Myers
    Cracks have begun to emerge in the Syrian leadership, dissidents and analysts say, with signs of flagging support of the business elite in Damascus, divisions among senior officials, and even moves by former government stalwarts to distance themselves from the regime. "They're starting to be divided, and you have people in the government who are really getting frustrated with Assad and his security circles," an Obama administration official in Washington said.
        In Damascus this week, 41 former Baathists and government officials announced an initiative for a political transition, led by Mohammed Salman, a former information minister. (New York Times)
  • Syria's Assad Target of War Crimes Investigation - Borzou Daragahi
    At least one Western government is bankrolling a project to gather evidence that could be used to indict Syria's President Bashar Assad at an international tribunal over his crackdown on the country's democracy movement, said a diplomat whose government is sponsoring it. As part of the effort, international legal experts held a workshop in Turkey last month to train Syrian activists in how to document alleged crimes against humanity, said Nabil Halaby, a Lebanese-based human rights lawyer who is part of the project. (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. Adds Sanctions on Syria - Nour Malas, Marc Champion, and Jay Solomon
    The U.S., aiming to weaken the Assad regime's financial network, on Wednesday sanctioned Syria's largest commercial bank and its largest telecommunications company. The Treasury action bars any U.S. business with the Commercial Bank of Syria and Syriatel, which is controlled by Assad's cousin, Rami Makhluf. U.S. officials said the sanctioning of the bank could significantly impair Damascus' ability to sell crude oil, as most of its oil sales are conducted through the bank. The U.S. also charged the bank with facilitating arms deals between Syria and North Korea. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Islamist Militant Group Resurgent in Egypt - Mohamed Fadel Fahmy
    A well-armed jihadist group is making its presence felt in the Egyptian town of el Arish in Sinai on the Mediterranean coast, intimidating opponents and demanding Egypt becomes an Islamist state. In July the Takfir-wal Higra - a group sympathetic to al-Qaeda's goal of establishing an Islamic Caliphate - "stormed in by the hundreds mounted on pickup trucks and motorcycles waving black flags, a symbol of Jihad," said local resident Mohamed Mahmoud. "The militants were heavily armed with machine guns, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades," he said. "They attacked two police stations and scared the residents under the name of Jihad."
        The head of security in North Sinai, General Saleh al Masry, told CNN: "I guarantee there is no al-Qaeda presence in Sinai but the Takfiris are in the thousands." Takfir-wal Higra was founded by Shukri Mustafa in the 1970s as a splinter group of the Muslim Brotherhood. (CNN)
        See also The New Sinai - Alex Joffe (Jewish Ideas Daily)
        See also In Egypt's Bedouin Badlands: No Police Allowed - Abigail Hauslohner (TIME)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Western Diplomat: UN Statehood Bid Will Harm U.S.-PA Ties - Barak Ravid
    Cooperation between the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority will be harmed if the PA goes through with its plan to seek UN recognition of a Palestinian state at the General Assembly session in September, a senior Western diplomat told Israeli journalists on Wednesday in Tel Aviv.
        "If the PA will go to the UN in September, it will make it harder for us to have the same relations with them as we had before when it comes to aid and security training," the diplomat said. "We are trying very hard to make clear to the Palestinians that only direct talks can achieve their goals," the diplomat said. "We told the PA that going to the UN is a bad idea and avoiding talks will not produce any results for them."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Italian Deputies Oppose UN Recognition of Palestinian State - Benjamin Weinthal
    Italian deputy Fiamma Nirenstein told the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that over 150 of her fellow parliamentarians signed a document rejecting the Palestinian Authority's attempt to circumvent the peace process and convince UN member states to recognize an independent Palestinian state.
        The letter says: "The Palestinian Authority does not meet the traditional test for statehood - particularly the test of effective government - such that a premature and unilateral recognition of an 'unripe' Palestinian state could have a prejudicial effect on other regional conflicts."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • New Housing Projects Planned for Jerusalem - Kobi Nahshoni
    Interior Minister Eli Yishai has authorized the construction of 1,600 housing units in the northeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo, 700 units in the adjacent neighborhood of Pisgat Zeev, and a 2,000-unit project planned for Givat HaMatos. Yishai views the projects as one of the solutions to Jerusalem's housing plight. A project for 7,000 housing units has been approved in the Haifa district as well.
        Israel is currently experiencing a wave of public protests that have focused on the serious shortage of affordable housing. Last week the Knesset passed new legislation to accelerate the authorization process for new housing projects. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Assad's Noose Tightens - Lee Smith
    Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, believes that Assad may have already dug his own grave by making war on Syria's powerful tribes in the eastern part of the country. "The regime abducted and detained the chief of the tribal confederacy, Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir, and assaulted Deir al-Zour with tanks," says Badran. "The tribes are incensed and ready to mobilize against Assad. Unlike the besieged civilians in Hama or Homs, these tribes straddle the border with Iraq where they have extensions that number even more than they do in Syria. This means that should they decide to pick up arms against the regime, they will have strategic depth in Iraq. A tribal insurrection in eastern Syria poses a critical challenge to Assad and his troops - many of whom have already defected in Deir al-Zour and Albu Kamal."  (Weekly Standard)
  • Turkey Should Take a Harder Line on Syria - Suat Kiniklioglu
    There is something in the human condition that urges us to intervene in the killing of people who live right next door. Turkey must take the lead, build the necessary diplomatic consensus/coalition and communicate in a way that leaves Damascus in no doubt that Turkey will no longer stand by while Syrian security forces kill their own citizens.
        There is every indication that the Syrian protests are broadening their base to include the Syrian middle class now, too. Even in the wealthy suburbs of Damascus and the business community in Aleppo there are signs that cracks are forming. We simply should not support a minority dictatorship that sees itself as equal to Turkey. It is time that Turkey take a harder line. (Today's Zaman-Turkey)
  • Assad's Overreach Pushes Former Allies into a Corner - Michael Young
    For months Syrian security forces have been slaughtering protesters at will, with no response from the Arab world. But Hama was one massacre too many, as many in the region are viewing the repression of a Sunni majority by Syria's Alawite minority. In recent days, Turkey, the GCC and the Arab League have condemned Damascus, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain recalling their ambassadors. The Syrian leader was quietly given time to put his house in order, but couldn't deliver.
        With the regional doors slamming shut, the options are narrowing for Assad. There is no military answer to his regime's problems. (The National-UAE)

Beyond September: Lessons from Failed Mideast Diplomacy - Shai Feldman (Crown Center for Middle East Studies-Brandeis University)

  • The U.S. needs to decide whether to focus on the convening and facilitating of permanent status negotiations or on attempting to achieve some interim agreement. The U.S. should avoid spending its limited time and energy on attempting to improve the environment for such talks.
  • Palestinians should understand that no one has a greater interest in a negotiated resolution of the conflict than they do. Accordingly, it is never in the Palestinians' interest to attach preconditions to the convening of such negotiations.
  • The PA must avoid creating confusion regarding its basic objectives. If its strategic goal is to conclude an agreement with the Jewish state rather than attempting to replace it in some fashion, then it cannot enter into a partnership with Hamas unless it is made crystal clear that Hamas has come around to the PA's approach to negotiations - which would entail Hamas' recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and acceptance of all previous PLO-Israel and PA-Israel agreements.
  • A partnership with Hamas that is not seen as based on these principles will inevitably raise doubts as to the PA's true intentions and give credence to suspicions that it views an agreement with Israel as only a stepping stone to future efforts to destroy the Jewish state.

    The writer is Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies and Professor of Politics at Brandeis University.

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