Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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March 26, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Poll: Most Jewish Israelis Say Iran Strike Less Risky than Nuclear Threat - Ophir Bar-Zohar (Ha'aretz)
    65% of Jewish Israelis believe that attacking Iran to stop its nuclear program would be less harmful to Israel than living under the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb, according to a poll conducted by Prof. Camil Fuchs for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
    60% agreed that only military action could stop Iran's nuclear program.
    63% believe the Israeli home front will suffer equally whether Israel attacks Iran or the U.S. does.
    64% expressed confidence that the Israel Defense Forces could significantly damage Iran's nuclear program.

Report: Syrian Air Force Intelligence Chief Killed - Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
    Syrian Air Force intelligence chief Iyad Mando was killed on Monday, opposition websites reported.
    See also Syrian Pilot Joins Opposition Forces, Flies to Turkey - Daniel Syrioti (Israel Hayom)
    On Saturday a Syrian air force pilot defected and flew his combat helicopter to Turkey, according to the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
    "The pilot was given orders to attack civilians in the Aleppo suburbs but refused to carry out his orders and instead bombed a military security facility. After he ran out of ammunition, he defected to Turkey," an opposition leader said.
    Arab media reports claimed on Saturday that more than 70 people were killed in Syria over the weekend.

Report: Iran Planned Attack on Israeli Vessel in Suez Canal - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
    Egyptian security forces foiled a terror attack on Israeli vessels in the Suez Canal that was orchestrated by Iran, Cairo's Al-Ahram reported Saturday.

France's Jihadist Shooter Was No Lone Wolf - Jytte Klausen (Wall Street Journal)
    Mohamed Merah was no "lone wolf." He was practically a prince in French jihadist circles. His mother is married to the father of Sabri Essid, a leading member of the Toulouse radical milieu who was captured in Syria in 2006.
    Essid and another Frenchman were running an al-Qaeda safe house in Syria for fighters going to Iraq. In a 2009 trial, they and six others were convicted in France of conspiracy for terrorist purposes.
    Le Monde reports that the Pakistani Taliban and the Uzbek Islamic Movement trained Merah to become a killer.
    The writer, a professor of politics at Brandeis University, is founder of the Western Jihadism Project.
    See also The Making of a French Jihadi Killer with a Double Life - Harriet Alexander and Fiona Govan (Telegraph-UK)

    See also France Files Charges Against Jewish School Gunman's Brother (AP-USA Today)
    French prosecutors on Sunday filed preliminary murder and terrorism charges against the brother of a gunman who killed Jewish schoolchildren and paratroopers.
    Abdelkader Merah is suspected of complicity to murders and thefts and involvement in a terrorist enterprise.
    See also Dozens of French Muslims Training with Taliban in Pakistan (AP-Washington Post)
    Dozens of French Muslims are training with the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan, Pakistani intelligence officials said Saturday.
    Mohamed Merah said he trained with al-Qaeda in Pakistani Waziristan. Some 85 Frenchmen have been training with the Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan for the past three years, according to the intelligence officials.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Helping Assad to Put Down Protests - Mark Hosenball
    Iran is providing a broad array of assistance to Syrian President Assad to help him suppress anti-government protests, U.S. and European security officials say. Tehran's technical assistance includes electronic surveillance systems, technology to disrupt communications via social media, and Iranian-made drone aircraft for overhead surveillance, as well as lethal materiel that can be used for riot control.
        Iranian security officials have also traveled to Damascus to advise Assad's entourage how to counter dissent, a U.S. official said. Some Iranian officials have stayed on to advise Assad's forces. (Reuters)
        See also U.S. and Turkey to Step Up "Nonlethal" Aid to Rebels in Syria - Anne Barnard
    Turkey and the U.S. plan to provide "nonlethal" assistance, like communications equipment and medical supplies, directly to opposition groups inside Syria, and will urge other allies to do so as well, the White House deputy national security adviser said on Sunday. (New York Times)
  • Israel Weighs Measures Against Palestinians over UN Inquiry - Calev Ben-David
    Israel is considering measures against the Palestinian Authority for promoting a UN human rights inquiry into West Bank Jewish settlements, an Israeli official said Sunday. The UN Human Rights Council agreed on March 22 to send a fact-finding mission to investigate how Israeli settlements in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem are affecting the rights of Palestinians. The U.S., which cast the sole vote against the resolution, said the council is biased against Israel.
        Israel said it won't cooperate with the mission. "Since the conclusions of the future fact-finding missions are already dictated in advance by the resolution on which it is established, there is no point in working together with this travesty of an investigation," Israeli Foreign Ministry Yigal Palmor said. (Bloomberg)
        See also Israel Considering Freezing PA Tax Transfers over UN Move
    The measures against the PA being considered may include delaying the transfer of tax revenues or freezing joint economic ventures, a diplomatic source told Israel Radio. Israel wants to send the PA a message that it cannot enjoy Israel's cooperation while at the same time "acting against it in international bodies," the source said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Meridor: A Palestinian State Won't Be Established at the UN - Herb Keinon
    Intelligence Agencies Minister Dan Meridor told Israel's Channel 2 TV on Saturday that Israel "did not have to pay too much attention" to the UN fact-finding committee. "Instead of talking to us, [the Palestinians] prefer to pressure Israel at international forums," he said. "We are ready for a Palestinian state, but a Palestinian state won't be established at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, nor in New York, but through agreement with us."  (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iranian Military Experts Active on Israel's Southern Border - Avi Issacharoff
    A high-ranking official in Jerusalem said last week that Iranian military experts have been active in Sinai and Gaza. "We can see signs that Iran is building a terror infrastructure throughout Sinai," he said. The official added that although Israel has responded to every Egyptian request to beef up its forces in Sinai, no significant Egyptian operation has taken place in Sinai since the Egyptian revolution last year.
        Several terror groups are now at large in Sinai: local Bedouin, who are adopting the ideology of the Global Jihad; groups supported by Iran who are trying to recruit and train militants not only in Sinai but throughout Egypt; and Palestinian organizations. Joining them are Global Jihad militants from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the official said, adding that Israel and Egypt share a common interest in combating these terrorist elements.
        The official said Iranians are urging and directing Palestinians to carry out attacks, and have tried to encourage Hamas to do so as well. "A host of Palestinian organizations are using Sinai to carry out attacks," the official said, adding that since Gaddafi's fall, Libya has become a huge arms depot, with weapons transferred to Egypt and then to Gaza. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF Prepares for Border Disturbances - Amos Harel
    The army is making preparations to deal with demonstrations along Israel's borders in advance of "Land Day" on Friday, March 30. However, the current intelligence assessment in General Staff headquarters and at the Israel Security Agency is that demonstrators are organizing fairly limited activities at this point. On the Syrian border, there are currently no signs that authorities in Damascus will be encouraging violent demonstrations, in contrast to events in May and June of last year, when Assad's regime was behind the protests.
        Despite attention on preparations for Land Day on the Internet, there is no indication on the ground of a large-scale response to the call for protests. Nonetheless, a senior defense source told Ha'aretz: "The Palestinian Authority is looking for ways to again raise the Palestinian issue on the agenda, and therefore it has an interest in protest that attracts attention on Friday."  (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel: Don't Let Protesters Reach Our Borders - Ron Friedman
    An Israeli government source confirmed Sunday a report in A-Sharq Al-Awsat saying Israel announced it would treat anyone who approaches the border as an infiltrator, and act against them decisively. Israel sent a message to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Hamas government in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority calling on them not to allow marches to the border. "The Global March to Jerusalem" is to send demonstrators to approach Israel's borders simultaneously this Friday from Arab countries and the PA. (Times of Israel)
        See also The Global March to Jerusalem: Part of the International Campaign to Delegitimize Israel - Ehud Rosen (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • "Nothing Left" But Force If Next Talks with Iran Fail, Warns Ex-Mossad Chief Halevy - David Horovitz
    If upcoming international talks with Iran on thwarting its nuclear program do not quickly produce a breakthrough, there will be "nothing else left" but a resort to force, the former head of the Mossad, Efraim Halevy, said in an interview on Sunday. "The number one thing the world should be doing is investing enormous preparation into the P5+1 confrontation" with Iran, said Halevy, but "I don't detect any signs of this." Iran, he said, would doubtless try to play for time in the talks, which are likely to convene soon.
        Perhaps, it was put to Halevy, Israel could live with a nuclear weapons-capable Iran? Halevy responded: "I don't think that we should countenance that as long as we can do what we can to remove it. I don't accept the notion that Israel is destructible. But I think that if Iran retains a nuclear capability, life here is going to be very tough for a very long period to come. Israel will not disappear, but Israel will go through a period which I would not like it to go through."  (Times of Israel)
  • Forging Syria's Opposition - Itamar Rabinovich
    America and the West claim that they cannot act significantly in Syria without a UN mandate, which Russia and China are denying them. But the truth is that Western governments could do much more without a Security Council resolution. While some governments have closed their embassies in Damascus, there has been no systematic severing of diplomatic relations with Syria. Indeed, there has been no stoppage of flights to and from the country. This ambivalence can largely be explained by Western and Arab concern with the weakness and opacity of the Syrian opposition's political leadership.
        The Syrian regime has been effective in spreading the fear of an Egyptian scenario, in which the weakness of secular activists leads to a takeover by the Muslim Brothers and jihadis. The opposition must build itself as a credible and attractive alternative to the al-Assad regime, and the regime's international and regional critics must assist in that process.
        Al-Assad's regime is doomed. It has no legitimacy, and it is bound to fall. But that could take a long time - and come at an alarming cost. The alternative is an effective opposition that enjoys unambiguous support by the key regional and international actors. The writer is a former ambassador of Israel to the U.S. (1993-1996). (CNN)

How Washington Encourages Israel to Bomb Iran - Reuel Marc Gerecht (Wall Street Journal)

  • In front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee this month Mr. Obama intensely affirmed "Israel's sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs." He added that "no Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel's destruction."
  • By so framing the Iranian nuclear debate, the president has forced a spotlight on the efficacy of sanctions and the quality of American intelligence on Tehran's nuclear program.
  • Iran made around $79 billion last year from the sale of oil and certainly still has the few billions required to finish producing highly enriched uranium, triggering devices, and warheads for its ballistic missiles.
  • Many Iran observers would like to believe that sanctions could rapidly exacerbate divisions within the regime and thereby force Tehran to negotiate an end to possible nuclear weaponization. But this scenario beggars the Iranian revolutionary identity. Mr. Khamenei has shown no willingness to halt the program. Everything Khamenei and his praetorians have worked for since 1979 - the independence and pre-eminence of the Islamic Republic among Muslim states in its battle against the "world-devouring," "Islam-debasing" United States - would be for naught.
  • It's an excellent bet that the Israelis now know that the CIA probably has no sources inside the upper reaches of the Iranian scientific establishment, Khamenei's inner circle, or the Revolutionary Guards' nuclear brigade. The Israelis surely know that when the administration says it has "no evidence" that Khamenei has decided to build a nuclear weapon, this really means that Washington has no solid information. That is, Washington is guessing.

    The writer, a former Iranian-targets officer in the CIA's clandestine service, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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