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DAILY ALERT

Friday,
June 22, 2012

In-Depth Issue:

"Flame" Can Sabotage Computers, Attack Iran: Expert - Jim Finkle (Reuters)
  The powerful Flame computer virus is not only capable of espionage but it can also sabotage computer systems and likely was used to attack Iran in April, according to a leading security company, Symantec Corp.
  Prior to Symantec's discovery, cyber experts had only unearthed evidence that proved Flame could spy on conversations on the computers it infects and steal data. Symantec researcher Vikram Thakur said on Thursday that the company has now identified a component of Flame that allows operators to delete files from computers, which means it can cause critical programs to fail or completely disable operating systems."These guys have the capability to delete everything on the computer."
  Neil Fisher, vice president for global security solutions at Unisys, said Symantec's findings - if verified - mean that Flame could be "highly dangerous."


Iran: 'Massive Cyber Attack' Detected on Nuclear Facilities - Zahra Hosseinian (Reuters/MSNBC)
  Iran has detected a planned "massive cyber attack" against its nuclear facilities, state television said on Thursday, after talks with major powers this week failed to resolve a row over Tehran's disputed nuclear activities. Iran's Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said the country's arch enemies the United States and Israel, along with Britain, had planned the attack.
  "Based on obtained information, America and the Zionist regime (Israel) along with the MI6 planned an operation to launch a massive cyber attack against Iran's facilities following the meeting between Iran and the P5+1 in Moscow," Moslehi claimed.


Syrian Opposition Forces Are Doing Better than Expected (Economist)
  In Syria, bands of armed rebels gathered under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army are now on the attack and gaining ground. Rebel morale and organization have improved thanks to a growing (if still modest) command structure. Light arms, money and satellite phones—long promised by supporters—are starting to flow into rebel hands.
  Still heavily outgunned, the rebels are using guerrilla tactics. Analysts monitoring video footage from citizen journalists inside Syria say at least 25 tanks have been destroyed since May 29th. Bombs and roadside ambushes have some government forces pinned down.
  Yet the opposition is still no match for the military might of the regime, which is resorting to ever greater brutality.
    See also What Russia Gave Syria; A Guide to Assad's Arsenal - David Kenner (Foreign Policy)


Texas Bomb Plot Trial, Saudi Faces Life in Prison - Betsy Blaney (AP)
  Federal prosecutors Friday will begin presenting their case against a Saudi man accused of gathering bomb components in his West Texas apartment with the goal of targeting sites across the United States.
  Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 22, faces up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction.
  Federal agents secretly searched Aldawsari's apartment in Lubbock, Texas, twice in February 2011 and say they found almost everything needed to build a bomb, including chemicals, beakers, flasks, wiring, a hazmat suit and clocks, which he had bought online in the previous months.
  Aldawsari's attorneys plan to use an insanity defense.


Grants Awarded in Israel-Massachusetts Pct - D.C. Denison (Boston Globe)
  The first round of grants, totaling at least $1.3 million, under the Massachusetts-Israel Innovation Partnership was awarded Tuesday at the BIO International Convention in Boston.
  MIIP is a collaboration between Israel and Massachusetts to encourage and support innovation and entrepreneurship in life sciences, clean energy, and technology. Governor Deval Patrick and Israeli Chief Scientist Avi Hasson jointly named the grant recipients.


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Ehud Barak: Iranians Keep Defying and Deceiving the World - Interview with Lally Weymouth
    "Sanctions are working better than in the past; diplomacy is more determined. But if I have to ask myself whether this will convince the ayatollahs to sit around the table and decide that the time has come to put an end to the military nuclear program, I don’t think that’s the case. They still feel there is room for maneuver."
      "It seems to me that the Iranians keep defying and deceiving the whole world. But it’s up to the participants in the negotiations to reach this conclusion. We cannot afford to spend another three rounds of this nature just to allow the Iranians to keep maneuvering." (Washington Post)
  • C.I.A. Said to Aid in Steering Arms to Syrian Opposition - Eric Schmitt
    A small number of C.I.A. officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government, according to American officials and Arab intelligence officers. The weapons, including automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some antitank weapons, are being funneled mostly across the Turkish border.
      The C.I.A. officers have been in southern Turkey for several weeks, in part to help keep weapons out of the hands of fighters allied with Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, one senior American official said.
      Senior administration officials have underscored in recent days that they are not actively considering military options. (New York Times)
  • Jordan Grants Asylum to Syrian Pilot Who Defects
    A Syrian military pilot flew to Jordan and was granted asylum Thursday, a day after the United States warned members of the Syrian military they could face international criminal prosecution for attacks on civilians. Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said, "We welcome this pilot's decision to do the right thing. We have long called for the military and members of the Syrian regime to defect and abandon their positions rather than be complicit in the regime's atrocities.
      The defection came as the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria reported at least 128 people, including at least 15 children, were killed across the country Thursday.
      Since the uprising began in March 2011, violence has killed more than 15,000 people in Syria, including 10,480 civilians, 3,715 soldiers and 830 defectors, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. (CNN)
  • Assad May Be Offered Clemency by Britain and U.S. If He Joins Peace Talks - Patrick Wintour
    Britain and America are willing to offer the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, safe passage – and even clemency – as part of a diplomatic push to convene a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva on political transition in Syria. The initiative comes after David Cameron and Barack Obama received encouragement from Russia's President Vladimir Putin in separate bilateral talks at the G20 in Mexico.
      A senior British official said: "Those of us who had bilaterals thought there was just enough out of those meetings to make it worth pursuing the objective of negotiating a transitional process in Syria." (Guardian - UK)
        See also Leading Syrians Prepare to Defect - Ruth Sherlock
    Members of Bashar al-Assad’s inner circle are secretly making plans to defect to the opposition should the Syrian regime become critically threatened by the rebellion, according to U.S. officials. Senior military figures are understood to be laying down “exit strategies” and establishing lines of communication with the rebels to discuss how they would be received if they deserted. (Telegraph - UK)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • Two Rockets Hit Western Negev, More than 100 Rockets this Week - Ilana Curiel
    Two Qassam rockets fired from northern Gaza Friday exploded in open areas in the Eshkol Regional Council. Earlier, the remnants of a Grad rocket fired from the Strip were found near the Be'er Tuvia Regional Council. On Thursday, the Iron Dome defense system intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza at Israel's south. Several other rockets exploded in open areas in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council.
      Gaza terrorist fired over 100 Qassams, Grads and mortar shells at Negev communities. (Ynet News)
  • Egypt Braces for Protests, Awaits Election Results
    Several Islamist groups are calling for mass protests in Egypt on Friday, as the country nervously awaits the official results of its first freely-contested presidential elections. Thousands of protesters camped out overnight in Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square to denounce what they see as a power grab by Egypt's interim military rulers and to call on officials to release the delayed results of last week's runoff.
      Egypt's election commission has postponed the results, which were due to be released Thursday, because it says it needs time to investigate fraud allegations by both candidates. Muslim Brotherhood officials have warned of a confrontation between the people and the ruling military if its candidate, Muhammad Morsi, is not named the winner. (VOA News)
  • Mofaz to Obama: Israel's Broad Coalition Will Enable Renewal of Mideast Talks - Natasha Mozgovaya
    Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday and emphasized that Israel's new coalition government is an opportunity to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. Mofaz told Obama that the new 94-member coalition that was set up in Israel, after his party Kadima joined the government, posed a window of opportunity to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
      "The Americans have a strong will to advance the process," Mofaz said following the meeting. "This time there are no preconditions… from my talks with U.S. Secretary of State Clinton and the National Security Adviser, I feel that there is support for talks without preconditions."
      Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has stepped up contacts with Israeli and Palestinian officials over the past week to persuade them to return to the table, beginning with a high-level meeting between Mofaz and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
      Clinton met on Wednesday with chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mofaz. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The Generals, Not the Dictator, Hold the Keys to the Regime - Michael Young
    It is strange how many people today seem surprised by the actions of the Egyptian armed forces, who have consolidated their political supremacy in recent days. That's because virtually nothing in what occurred a year and a half ago spelt revolution. Mubarak's stepping down represented a tactical retreat by the military to preserve its political and economic stakes in the system.
      The true test of the success of the Arab uprisings was always about whether they replaced the old order's instruments of repression - principally the army and the security forces, but also the judiciary - with accountable institutions. In Egypt, the state has historically been strong and society more or less homogeneous, allowing the military to take on the attributes of a supra-national body, extending its tentacles even into the economy.
      In Syria, we have also been witnessing the durability of the institutions of repression, albeit from a very different angle than in Egypt. The Syrian army and security forces, or rather the praetorian units with the most sway, are there to uphold Assad family rule, and that of the relatively small clique around them, most of whom are members of the Alawite sect.
      While there is more carnage to come, Al Assad's armed forces and security organs, after all the blood that they have shed, cannot conceivably anchor themselves in the system by managing, and hijacking, a political changeover. Rather, the core of any new military institution will be the disparate elements of the Free Syrian Army.
      The writer is opinion editor of The Daily Star in Beirut. (The National -- UAE)
  • Sinai's Emergence as a Strategic Threat to Israel - Michael Herzog
    Amid the uprisings that led to Hosni Mubarak's ouster, a power vacuum emerged in Sinai, one quickly filled by jihadists from mainland Egypt and neighboring Gaza. They joined local Bedouin, many of whom are well armed and increasingly influenced by Islamist/Salafist ideology. They cooperate closely with Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups from Gaza, who have established a foothold in Sinai and recruited local tribesmen for various operations.
      Israel should ask Washington and the international community to give due attention to the reality of a large, failed region in a turbulent Egypt, one that is fast developing into a source of instability and a threat to the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement. (Washington Institute)
  • Terror from Sinai: Global Jihadist Groups on Israel's Doorstep - Aaron Y. Zelin
    Recent statements and a video released on an al-Qaeda website are disturbing evidence of the growing lawlessness in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. (Washington Institute)
  • The West's Embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood - Dore Gold
    According to the Los Angeles Times, U.S. officials said on Monday that they were "deeply concerned by an Egyptian military decree giving the generals sweeping powers to pass laws and decide whether to go to war." This was a stunning statement, considering that the Muslim Brotherhood might still emerge as the winner. Right now, given the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and its ties to its Palestinian branch, Hamas, leaving Egypt's war-making powers with the Egyptian military is far safer for the world than transferring them to a Muslim Brotherhood government.
      The British even went a step further than the Americans. The spokeswoman for the Foreign Office, Rosemary Davis, was interviewed this week by the Palestinian Maan news agency and reportedly declared that Britain was more concerned with the Egyptian military than with the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a self-defeating approach. For if the West continues down this course and uncritically embraces the Muslim Brotherhood, then it will be extremely unlikely that it will temper its confrontational political program in the future and become a more moderate movement as many in the West presently hope. (Israel Hayom)
  • How America Can Help Its Friends Make Nice - Michael Herzog and Soner Cagaptay
    These days, there is a degree of openness in both Israel and Turkey to the idea of reconciliation. However, there are still tensions between the parties, especially because of recent Turkish indictments against senior Israelis involved in the June 2010 flotilla episode. A rapprochement will therefore probably require American mediation.
      Turkey seems interested in intervention inside Syria only if America and NATO back such an endeavor. A Turkish-Israeli dialogue on Syria could bolster Israel’s interest in regime change and enlist Israel to generate American support. A normalized Turkish-Israeli relationship would also open opportunities for cooperation against the Assad government.
      Michael Herzog, a former chief of staff to Israel’s minister of defense, and Soner Cagaptay, are fellows at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (New York Times)
  • Observations:

    As Nuclear Talks Fail, U.S. Experts Urge Obama to Weigh Military Option on Iran - Natasha Mozgovaya (Ha'aretz)

  • American officials and experts urged U.S. President Barack Obama this week to take a tougher stance on the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, with some advising the administration to provide Israel with the arms needed for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
  • At the hearing of the House Armed Services Committee titled "Addressing the Iranian Nuclear Challenge: Understanding the Military Option," former Senator Charles Robb of the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) urged in his testimony that "the dual approach of diplomacy and sanctions simply have not proved to be enough. We need the third track, and that is credible and visible preparations for a military option."
  • Robb explained that judging by past behavior of Iran, the best chance to induce it to concessions is when it is "in a dire and military threat."
  • He gave some examples of what he called "credible military readiness" - "augmenting the 5th Fleet's capacity by procuring and deploying force protection munitions; defend U.S. naval forces against potential Iranian retaliation by pre-positioning military supplies across the region, including strategic bombers, bunker buster munitions and fuel; by exploring strategic partnerships with countries on Iran's northern perimeter such as Azerbaijan; by conducting broad military exercises with regional allies."
  • Another suggestion was "augmenting Israeli offensive and defensive capabilities, including the sale to Israel of three KC-135 aerial refueling tankers and 200 GBU-31 bunker-busting munitions needed in whatever missile defense systems are needed."
  • Robb stressed that "we are not urging Israel to take unilateral military action against Iran nuclear facilities, but we need to make their capability to do so stronger so that Iran will take that threat more seriously."
  • "We are not advocating another war in this region. We'd like to see this perilous situation resolved peacefully. We applaud the president for offering an open hand to a closed fist in his very first few minutes as president, but diplomacy simply hasn't done the job," Robb added.
  • Vice Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, who is currently on visit to Washington, said on Tuesday at the Washington Institute that if there will be no other resort with Iran but the military strike, U.S. and other Western powers should lead it.
  • David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International Security, said at the hearing that he sees the threat of military action by President Obama as "genuine", but argued that surgical strikes "will simply not work, at least by themselves."
  • Albright added that he believes there will be enough time to detect an Iranian breakout - "sufficiently long to allow a response."
  • Albright also explained that his institution recommended among other things "strengthening the credibility of the Israeli military threat against Iran, as well as the U.S. military threat."

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