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November 21, 2011

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The "Free Syrian Army" Challenges Assad - Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Dissident Syrian officers have organized into the "Free Syrian Army" (FSA) - which is fighting the regime openly.
    Headed by Col. Riyad al-Ass'ad and nine other colonels, the FSA exceeds 20,000 troops and is organized in 23 fighting battalions.
    Exactly as in the Libyan case, if the regime falls, it will probably fall only in the aftermath of the defeat of the forces loyal to the present regime.
    Until now, the opposition forces were led by civilians. But today the armed confrontation is in the hands of rebel professional soldiers who seem to attract new recruits to their forces day after day.
    The FSA and the Syrian National Council (SNC), a body that represents all the political forces opposed to Assad, both carry a growing hostility toward Iran and its ally - Hizbullah, while being open to a deep relationship with Turkey and probably with the U.S., France, and the UK.
    See also Free Syrian Army Gathers on Lebanese Border - Martin Chulov (Guardian-UK)
    The rebels of the Free Syrian Army move freely within range of Syrian loyalist snipers. But they say they no longer fear their former army colleagues in the hills nearby. Instead, they are looking to them for help.
    Syrian commanders have ordered their men to seal the border, but the sharp rise in defectors crossing into northern Lebanon in the past week suggests that many soldiers are hedging their bets. Defectors in one region said they received about 70 men last week.
    See also The Fall of the House of Assad - Lee Smith (Weekly Standard)
    Bashar al-Assad is finished. The Syrian economy is in free fall. The last few weeks have seen more and more defections from the Syrian military and armed operations against security and military outposts.
    While Islamists are undoubtedly going to have a role in a post-Assad Syria, they are going to have a lot of competition. There are the military leaders, the Sunni merchant class, and the tribal leaders, who tend to take a dim view of Islamists or those absolutely devoted to a religious faith that specifically challenged the authority of the tribes.
    A recent report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies explains that the Free Syrian Army already has 17,000 men under arms, operating out of Turkey and Lebanon. The FSA will call for more defections as soon as the international community implements a no-fly zone.

UN Condemns Plot to Kill Saudi Envoy - Patrick Worsnip (Reuters)
    The UN General Assembly on Friday condemned a plot - blamed by U.S. authorities on Iranian agents - to kill Saudi Arabia's envoy to the U.S. and urged Iran to obey international law.
    The resolution, which passed with 106 votes in favor, 9 against, and 40 abstentions, did not specifically pin the plan on Tehran.
    A diplomat from an Arab country that did not vote said he thought the number of countries in favor - well under two-thirds - represented less than a crushing majority.
    Voting against were Armenia, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Ecuador, Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Zambia. (UN)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S., UK, Canada to Announce Coordinated Sanctions on Iran - Kirit Radia
    The U.S. and its British and Canadian allies are preparing to roll out a coordinated set of sanctions against Iran on Monday amid growing concern that Tehran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, sources tell ABC News. U.S. officials say they target Iran's nuclear sector as well as plugging key gaps that have allowed Iran to work around existing sanctions on its energy and financial sectors. EU ministers are to meet on Dec. 1 to consider their own sanctions.
        The Treasury Department, meanwhile, is expected to issue a finding that the Iranian financial system is a "jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern." This enables the Secretary of the Treasury to require American banks to conduct additional reporting to ensure their corresponding foreign accounts are not indirectly dealing with Iran. That extra vigilance, officials say, will have a cascade effect where foreign financial institutions are more reluctant to do business with Iran. (ABC News)
        See also U.S.: Iran Facing "Unprecedented" Isolation over Nuclear Program - Nusa Dua
    The White House said on Saturday that Iran is facing an unprecedented degree of isolation, with major world powers united in their opposition to Tehran getting a nuclear weapon. "Russia, China, and the United States, I can tell you, share a similar goal, and that is to not see the Iranians move toward the development of nuclear weapons," U.S. national security adviser Tom Donilon said. (Reuters)
  • Iranian Commander Died During Missile Testing, Brother Says - Thomas Erdbrink
    A mysterious explosion at an Iranian military base last week was caused when a test of an experimental intercontinental ballistic missile failed, the brother of a senior Revolutionary Guard Corps commander who was killed in the incident said Saturday. Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moqadam, who was killed Nov. 12, has been called the "founder" of Iran's missile program. His brother, Mohammad Tehrani Moqadam, also a Guard officer, told the official government newspaper Iran on Saturday that the commander had also founded the missile unit of the Lebanese Hizbullah. (Washington Post)
  • Iran May Have Sent Libya Shells for Chemical Weapons - R. Jeffrey Smith, and Joby Warrick and Colum Lynch
    The Obama administration is investigating whether Iran supplied the Libyan government of Moammar Gaddafi with hundreds of special artillery shells for chemical weapons that Libya kept secret for decades, U.S. officials said. The shells, which Libya filled with highly toxic mustard agent, were uncovered in recent weeks by revolutionary fighters at two sites in central Libya. "We are pretty sure we know" the shells were custom-designed and produced in Iran for Libya, said a senior U.S. official.
        The stockpile's existence violates Gaddafi's promises in 2004 to the U.S., Britain and the UN to declare and begin destruction of all of Libya's chemical arms, and it raises new questions about the ability of the world's nations to police such pledges in tightly closed societies. (Washington Post)
  • Egypt: 20 Dead, 1,700 Injured in Clashes - Mohamed Fadel Fahmy
    20 people have died and 1,700 were wounded in two days of clashes between protesters and security forces in Cairo. Thousands have denounced a plan for a constitution that would protect the military from public oversight. (CNN)
  • "Al-Qaeda Sympathizer" Accused of NYC Bomb Plots - Chris Dolmetsch and Henry Goldman
    New York prosecutors charged a New York resident, a native of the Dominican Republic, with plotting to bomb government offices and police vehicles as part of an effort to kill federal employees and military personnel. Jose Pimentel, also known as Muhammad Yusuf, who police said was under surveillance for more than a year, was motivated in part by the U.S. government's killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen whose online magazine published bomb-making instructions, prosecutors said.
        "The suspect was a so-called lone wolf motivated by his own resentment of the presence of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as inspired by al-Qaeda propaganda," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said. "He was not part of a larger conspiracy emanating from abroad."  (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iranian Drug Ring Funding Terror - Dudi Cohen
    The revenues of an Iranian-run global narcotics network are being transferred to terrorist organizations, the London Times reported Friday. Members of the Revolutionary Guard took over the smuggling of heroin, opium and methamphetamines, and are using the revenues - estimated to reach dozens of billions of dollars - to build a solid support base for global crime networks and terror organizations acting against the West.
        The Iranians are using ships and planes to transport drugs to Albania, Bulgaria and Romania, and from there to western Europe. The revenues are used to fund Iranian military projects, including the development of missiles and weaponry, but are mostly aimed at "exporting the Islamic revolution."  (Ynet News)
  • Hamas: Next Palestinian Government Will Be Located in Gaza - Avi Issacharoff
    Fatah and Hamas have agreed that the next Palestinian government will be located in Gaza, and hence the next head of the Palestinian government will be from Gaza, Ahmed Yousef, an adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, said on Saturday. (Ha'aretz)
  • Miami Mayor: "Settlements" Is Wrong Word to Use - Herb Keinon
    Israel should be describing Jewish communities beyond the "green line" as developments, not settlements, Carlos Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, said on Friday. Gimenez, on a visit to Israel with four other mayors of large U.S. cities sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, said, "When you conjure up the word 'settlement,' you think about the Old West, pioneers and all that....'Settlement' is the wrong word to use. If you want to describe it to Americans, it is really a development."
        While the Hispanic community in the U.S. is not seen as having a strong, emotional pro-Israel reflex, Cuban-Americans are the exception. "Cuban-Americans identify very closely with Israel," he said. "We were basically without a country, and know what it is like to be persecuted for your beliefs."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Devil We Knew - Itamar Rabinovich
    Until Hafez al-Assad came to power in 1970, the Syrian republic was a weak unstable state, an arena in which regional and international rivalries were played out. The revolt against the regime last March pushed Syria back to its pre-1970 state. It has become a war by proxy between Iran and its rivals. Assad's fall would deal a mortal blow to its "resistance axis," and Iran is making a major investment to shore up his beleaguered regime. This is matched by counterefforts by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
        In 2005, when George W. Bush wanted to topple Bashar al-Assad, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon cautioned against doing so since the alternative, according to the conventional wisdom at the time, was the Muslim Brotherhood. This is not Israel's policy now. After the discovery of Assad's secret cooperation with North Korea, and given the threats to its national security by Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, Israel came to the conclusion that there is more potential damage in Assad's survival than in his departure. Israel is also of the opinion that extracting the Syrian brick from the Iranian wall could usher in a new phase in regional politics. The writer served as Israel's chief negotiator with Syria and as Israel's ambassador in Washington. (New York Times)
  • Don't Give Up on Sanctions - Reuel Marc Gerecht and Mark Dubowitz
    We have to make sanctions on Iran smarter and more mutually reinforcing. Iran exports 2.3 million barrels of oil every day - accounting for more than 50% of Iran's national budget. Sanctions obviously need to hit this industry harder. Effective energy sanctions don't have to raise oil prices; Washington just has to learn how to leverage greed.
        We should bar from operating in the U.S. any European and most Asian energy companies that deal in Iranian oil and work with the Iranian central bank, Revolutionary Guards or National Oil Company. At the same time, however, we should allow companies from China that are willing to risk their access to American markets to continue buying Iranian crude in whatever quantity they desire. This would reduce the number of buyers of Iranian petroleum, without reducing the quantity of oil on the market.
        With fewer buyers to compete with, the Chinese companies would have significant negotiating leverage with which to extract discounts from Iran, which could lose out on tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue. Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Mark Dubowitz is executive director. (New York Times)

Israel Warns of Terrorists with Nuclear Weapons, Armed by Iran - Fareed Zakaria (CNN)

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told CNN on Sunday:

  • "The IAEA report has had a sobering impact on many world leaders, as well as the public....People understand now that Iran is determined to reach nuclear weapons....And that should be stopped."
  • "And under a nuclear Iran, the whole region will turn nuclear - Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt will have to turn nuclear. The countdown toward nuclear materials in the hands of terrorists will start."
  • "But, more than this, they will use the nuclear umbrella to intimidate neighbors all around the Gulf, to sponsor terror. Try to think what happens...three years downstream, and you end up with a Bahrain overwhelmed by Iran. Who will come to the rescue?"
  • "Who would have come to rescue Kuwait when it was taken by Saddam Hussein 20 years ago, if Saddam could have said credibly enough that he has three or four crude nuclear devices?"

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