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July 13, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Concerned as Syria Moves Chemical Stockpile - Julian E. Barnes, Jay Solomon and Adam Entous (Wall Street Journal)
    Syria has begun moving parts of its vast arsenal of chemical weapons out of storage facilities, U.S. officials said. Syria's stockpiles of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide have long worried U.S. officials.
    Some U.S. officials fear Damascus intends to use the weapons against the rebels or civilians, while other officials said Assad may be trying to safeguard the material from his opponents or to complicate Western powers' efforts to track the weapons.
    "If we believe the Assad regime and their closest allies view this as an existential struggle, we have to assume they could use chemical weapons against their population at some point in the conflict," said Joseph Holliday, a former Army intelligence officer and an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.
    "This could set the precedent of WMD [weapons of mass destruction] being used under our watch," one U.S. official said. "This is incredibly dangerous to our national security."

France Penalizes Boycott of Israeli Products - Peter Martino (Gatestone Institute)
    On May 22, the Supreme Court of France ruled that publicly calling for the boycott of Israeli products is a case of incitement to discrimination on the basis of nationality, and as such is illegal under French law.
    France is the only country in Europe where calling for a boycott of Israeli products has been prohibited.
    In France, calling for a boycott of Israeli products is treated in the same manner as would be a call for a boycott of Islamic products.

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Pew Poll of Arab World: Iran, Hamas, Hizbullah, Al-Qaeda Not Viewed Favorably (Pew Global Attitudes Project)
    The Pew Spring 2012 survey of six Middle East countries released July 10 asked:
    Is your opinion of the U.S. favorable or unfavorable? Turkey - Unfavorable 72%, Egypt - Unfavorable 79%, Jordan - Unfavorable 86%, Lebanon - Unfavorable 49%, Tunisia - Unfavorable 45%, Pakistan - Unfavorable 80%.
    Is your opinion of Iran favorable or unfavorable? Turkey - Unfavorable 55%, Egypt - Unfavorable 76%, Jordan - Unfavorable 79%, Lebanon - Unfavorable 61%, Tunisia - Unfavorable 43%, Pakistan - Unfavorable 8% (Favorable 76%).
    Is your opinion of Hamas favorable or unfavorable? Turkey - Unfavorable 65%, Egypt - Unfavorable 56%, Jordan - Unfavorable 53%, Lebanon - Unfavorable 67%, Tunisia - Unfavorable 31% (Favorable 50%), Pakistan - Unfavorable 12% (Favorable 15%, Don't Know 73%).
    Is your opinion of Hizbullah favorable or unfavorable? Turkey - Unfavorable 71%, Egypt - Unfavorable 75%, Jordan - Unfavorable 70%, Lebanon - Unfavorable 60% (Favorable 40%), Tunisia - Unfavorable 33% (Favorable 46%), Pakistan - Unfavorable 11% (Favorable 15%, Don't Know 74%).
    Is your opinion of al-Qaeda favorable or unfavorable? Turkey - Unfavorable 72%, Egypt - Unfavorable 73%, Jordan - Unfavorable 77%, Lebanon - Unfavorable 98%, Tunisia - Unfavorable 63%.

"Palestine" Should Use Water to Procure Peace, Not Perpetuate Conflict - Mike Fegelman (Huffington Post-Canada)
    Contrary to claims made by Dr. Shaddad Attili, the Minister of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), in a Huffington Post Canada commentary, Israel exports volumes of water to the West Bank greatly in excess of what the Oslo Accords had mandated.
    West Bank Palestinians have access to over 248 million cubic meters (MCM) of fresh natural water as Israel supplies an extra 21 MCM beyond its obligations under the Interim Agreements.
    This is done, among other reasons, to compensate for the PWA's repeated failures to implement approved water projects.
    Under Jordanian rule prior to 1967, only one in 10 West Bank households was connected to running water. Today, owing to Israel's water policy, the figure stands at 96% and is rising.
    The writer is executive director of HonestReporting Canada.

Jillian Schwartz, Donald Sanford: Born in the USA, Competing for Israel at the Olympics - Ben Sales (JTA)
    Jillian Schwartz, 32, a U.S. Olympian pole vaulter in 2004, is one of two Americans on Israel's Olympic team for this month's Summer Games in London.
    Schwartz, who became an Israeli citizen two years ago, will be joined on the Israeli squad by fellow American-turned-Israeli Donald Sanford, a runner in the 400 meters.

Advanced Prosthetic Knees Will Turn Disabled IDF Vets into "Bionic Men" - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Eight disabled IDF veterans will receive new, state-of-the-art bionic knees manufactured by Germany's Otto Bock, enabling them, for the first time in years, to perform nearly any physical activity including riding a bicycle, running and jogging.
    The knee and attached leg, which costs $85,000, are loaded with sensors, gyroscopes, bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, and a GPS chip, said Ori Wiener, Israeli importer Chemitec's technical manager.

Israel's First Arabic TV Channel Launched - Ran Boker (Ynet News)
    Hala TV, Israel's first Arabic television station, has been officially launched.
    The new station will broadcast 24 hours a day, with new programming from 3 p.m. to midnight.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Khamenei Has Blood on His Hands, Is Lying about Nukes, Says Former Revolutionary Guards General - Saeed Kamali Dehghan
    A former general of Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards has accused the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, of having blood on his hands over the brutal crackdown on the opposition, and described government claims that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful as a "sheer lie."
        "The inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency are fooling themselves if they believe that the nuclear facilities on and under the ground are only for peaceful purposes," he writes. "The leader said [in a fatwa] that Iran has only peaceful intentions with its nuclear activities. This is a sheer lie." "We undertook this nuclear gamble with the leader's knowledge - that's why we are paying billions of dollars into Chinese and Russian bank accounts so that they support us in international negotiations."  (Guardian-UK)
  • MI6 Chief: Britain Foiled Iranian Nuclear Weapons Bid - Christopher Hope
    Sir John Sawers, the head of the MI6 Secret Intelligence Service, said in London last week that covert operations by British spies had prevented the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons as early as 2008. However, he said it was now likely they would achieve their goal by 2014.
        "The Iranians are determinedly going down a path to master all aspects of nuclear weapons; all the technologies they need," he said. "It's equally clear that Israel and the United States would face huge dangers if Iran were to become a nuclear weapon state."  (Telegraph-UK)
  • Frustrated by Iran Talks, Congress Presses for Harsher Sanctions - Joby Warrick and Jason Rezaian
    Congress is moving to dramatically tighten economic sanctions against Iran as lawmakers from both major parties express impatience over U.S. efforts to halt the expansion of Iran's nuclear program. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Expands Sanctions on Iran - Matthew Lee
    The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday announced new financial sanctions against 11 companies affiliated with the Iranian defense ministry, Revolutionary Guard Corps and national shipping line as well as a university. (AP-ABC News)
        See also Iran Fuel Oil Exports Plummet in June - Humeyra Pamuk
    Iran's fuel oil exports fell nearly 50% from May to June, sinking to 396,000 tons in June from 777,000 tons in May, according to industry sources. Exports to Asia fell in June by 84%, from just over half a million tons in May to around 80,000 tons. (Reuters)
  • Syrian Army Shelling "Kills at least 200"
    At least 200 people are reported to have been killed in the Syrian village of Tremseh, in Hama province. Opposition activists quoted residents as saying the village was attacked with helicopter gunships and tanks. Pro-government Shabiha militia later went in and carried out execution-style killings, they said. (BBC News)
        See also Syrian Army Shells, Then Swarms into Damascus District
    Syrian troops fired mortars into an area on the outskirts of Damascus on Thursday and hundreds moved in behind tanks to raid opposition districts and flush out rebels, activists said. It was the first shelling inside the city limits since the uprising began. (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
        See also Syrian Rebellion Reaches Deeper into Heart of Damascus
    The revolution that has engulfed much of Syria in bloodshed is now encroaching on the capital, Damascus. Anti-regime graffiti are scribbled on the walls in almost every neighborhood. At night, the sound of shelling in nearby suburbs that have fallen under rebel control echoes through the streets. Recent strikes by merchants of the Damascus souks have eroded perceptions that they still support the government.
        Many seeking refuge from the fighting elsewhere in the country have made their way to the capital, swelling the city's population substantially. They have brought with them stories of pain and injustice, infecting Damascenes with some of the anger that has sustained the uprising elsewhere. (Washington Post)
        See also Former Syrian Commander: Dozens of Soldiers Slaughtered Who Refused to Fire on Demonstrators - Micha and Natan Odenheimer
    A man interviewed in Jordan by the Times of Israel on Tuesday who said he is a former commander in Syria's military intelligence directorate, claimed that the Assad regime ordered its commanders to "shoot to kill 5% of the participants in any given demonstration," in order to strike fear and create deterrence.
        When the soldiers under his command, mostly Sunnis, refused to kill unarmed civilians at a demonstration outside Damascus, they themselves were slaughtered by the army and intelligence services, and dozens of them were killed, he said.
        He also said Assad has been using Shiite fighters from Iran, Lebanon's Hizbullah militia, and Iraq's Mahdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Muktada al-Sadr to quell demonstrations and fight opposition forces. (Times of Israel)
  • Saudi Shiites Clash with Security Forces
    Two Shiite protesters were killed in clashes with Saudi police following the arrest of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, activists said on Monday. Police opened fire to disperse a demonstration against the arrest in Qatif city in Eastern Province. The interior ministry described Nimr as an "instigator of sedition." Nimr has called for separating the Eastern Province's Shiite-populated Qatif and Al-Ihsaa governorates from Saudi Arabia and uniting them with Shiite-majority Bahrain. Saudi Arabia's two million Shiites live mostly in the east, where the vast majority of the kingdom's huge oil reserves lie. (AFP)
        See also Iran "Concerned" over Saudi Violence Against Shiites
    Iran is "concerned by the violent actions carried out by Saudi forces against religious figures and the population" in the heavily Shiite east of the country, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmaparast was quoted on Tuesday by state news agency IRNA. He called on the "Saudi government to respond to the legitimate demands of the population."  (AFP-Dawn-Pakistan)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Vice Premier Ya'alon: Iran Should Be Stopped by Joint Regional Effort - Tovah Lazaroff
    There is no way to secure the Middle East as long as Iran pursues nuclear weapons and engages in terror, Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon said on Thursday. "Without confronting the Iranian regime, there is no way to stabilize Afghanistan, Iraq, Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon," he said. He added that Iran should feel as if it has to choose between continued pursuit of its nuclear program or its survival as a nation. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli-U.S. "Strategic Dialogue" Focuses on Iran - George Potter
    Israeli and American officials met in Jerusalem on Thursday for their semi-annual "strategic dialogue." Iran's nuclear program was high on the agenda. One well-placed Israeli source spoke of friction in U.S.-Israeli ties, with the U.S. urging Israel to allow more time for sanctions to bite, and Israel expressing concern that its window of opportunity for military action is starting to close.
        Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have for months been publicly expressing skepticism about the prospect of sanctions thwarting Iran's nuclear drive, with Netanyahu urging the international community to consider the consequences of a failure to act in good time against Iran. (Times of Israel)
  • Israelis Work in Jordan to Assist Syrian Refugees - Yaakov Katz
    Israeli officials are present in Jordan working to assist Syrian refugees, particularly children and infants who have been injured, Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara revealed on Thursday. "They are there as part of the international assistance [to Syria] and not in the framework of the regime or government," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jordan Opens New Refugee Camp for Syrians - Dale Gavlak
    Jordan opened a new refugee camp Tuesday near the border with Syria to accommodate the growing number of people fleeing the deadly violence. Since March 2011, Jordan has provided shelter for 140,000 Syrian refugees. Lebanon hosts about 30,000 Syrians and Turkey has taken in tens of thousands of others.
        Jordan's Water Minister Mohammed Najjar said he has asked Western nations for donations to buy water for the refugees. Jordan suffers acute water shortages and has complained that the refugees were exhausting its limited resources. (AP)
  • Israel Shocked by UNESCO Chair at Gaza Islamic University
    The Israel Foreign Ministry Thursday expressed shock and consternation at the news that UNESCO is establishing a chair at the Islamic University of Gaza, a greenhouse and breeding ground for Hamas terrorists. Only last month, the university's dean of Koranic studies openly called for the Islamic conquest of the Vatican and of Spain.
        Scientists and academics at the university double as Hamas technocrats. The university conducts lectures on Hamas' radical ideology and concentrates on hostility to Israel; Hamas uses Gaza University laboratories to develop and produce explosives and rockets and has even run a course on explosive-making. The university is a warehouse for weapons and a venue for secret meetings of military leaders.
        Hamas and the Islamic University believe in extremism, violence and terror - not education, science and culture. That UNESCO should choose to establish a chair in such a university further damages UNESCO's reputation. (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • Sharp Increase in Terror Attacks Since Shalit Prisoner Exchange
    There has been a sharp increase in the number of attempted terror attacks since the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit last October, according to the commander of the Benjamin division in the West Bank, IDF Col. Saar Tzur. "Prison is like university for the terrorists - anyone who goes in comes out upgraded," Tzur told Israel Army Radio. He also said the IDF had to increase its activities in recent months since the Palestinian Authority has cut down its operations against terrorist groups. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Syria: How to Advance Transition to a Post-Assad Future - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog
    Western powers calling for Assad to go are relatively passive in supporting the Syrian opposition. With Assad unwilling to negotiate his own departure and the bulk of the opposition unwilling to negotiate any solution with him, the Annan Plan has little prospect for success and a plan B is required.
        The Assad regime's departure would deal a serious blow to the Iranian-led axis and encourage those in the region standing up to repression. To maximize the chances of Assad's departure, while minimizing risks, European powers along with the U.S. should adopt a more proactive policy through: significantly increased support for the opposition; further isolation of the regime; continuing to seek Russia's cooperation, while realizing that the more inevitable the fall of the regime looks, the more likely Russia is to engage in a process to replace it. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (BICOM-UK)
  • Champagne Flows While Syria Burns - Janine di Giovanni
    What emerges from a recent trip to Damascus, and conversations with dozens of people there who say they still support the government, is a deep sense of dread, kept at bay by distraction and, perhaps, delusion. There is a class of Assad supporters who go about their daily business - pool parties included - while the skyline burns. As if the war is happening in some other place, people drink champagne in the Damascus neighborhood of Mezzah and partake in glamorous fashion photo shoots and go shopping at the luxurious boutiques that line Shukri al Quatli Street.
        The secret police, the Mukhabarat, hover in hotels, restaurants, and cafes. They bug telephones and hack into people's emails, trying to weed out those who may not sympathize with the regime, clouding everything with suspicion.
        Barzeh is the home of a large military hospital, where I watched as men silently load the mangled bodies of 50 government soldiers into wooden coffins. It's an acute reminder of how hard Assad's forces are getting hit by the opposition. The hospital director says around 100 soldiers are killed every week. (Newsweek)

  • Iran

  • How Iran Steams Past International Sanctions - Claudia Rosett
    Iran's main oil tanker company, NITC, has just reflagged roughly half its fleet to the minuscule Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. Tuvalu now hosts at least 21 Iranian oil tankers on its shipping register - the bulk of them previously flagged to Malta, and a few to Cyprus. The ships have also shed their old Persian names, such as Nesa, Sima and Hatef. These vessels now sail under the new names of Truth, Blossom and Glory.
        Of the remaining NITC oil tankers, a handful still appear on Lloyd's ship-tracking service as flagged to Malta; 10 now show as reflagged to Tanzania, bedecked with new names such as Justice, Leadership and Freedom. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also U.S. Exposes Fronts for Iran's Tanker and Shipping Companies (Reuters)
  • The Quds Force: Iranian Masters of Mayhem
    The Quds Force is an Iranian organization trained to spread the Islamic revolution outside Iran. In Kenya on June 20, police arrested two Iranians in possession of bomb-making materials. Two years ago Nigerian police found 13 cargo containers full of weapons shipped from Iran.
        The Quds Force has eight departments, each assigned to a different part of the world. The Western Directorate of Quds established a recruiting and fund-raising network in Western nations. Many recruits are brought back to Iran for training, while Shia migrants are encouraged to donate money, and services, to Quds Force operations. The North Africa Department has been caught providing weapons to Islamic radicals in Somalia. Quds has been caught several times trying to smuggle weapons to rebel Shia tribesmen in northern Yemen. (Strategy Page)

  • Weekend Features

  • Crossing Religious Lines in an Israeli Hospital - Souad Mekhennet
    In the recovery room at Hadassah-Ein Kerem hospital in Jerusalem, doctors and nurses hover over patients. Manar Igbarya, 25, a Palestinian Muslim, is giving an Orthodox Jewish woman an injection and inspecting a bandage on her leg. Everyone is chatting in Hebrew. Muna al-Ayan, 22, who works as a secretary in the hospital, wears a hijab. She was accepted at the hospital because "all they cared about was how I do my job." Ashgan, 35, works in the operating room as a nurse. "We are a team here, and there is no difference, if one is Jewish or Muslim or Christian: The task is to help the patients," Ms. Igbarya said.
        In some cases, Muslim nurses treat Israeli soldiers wounded in fights with Palestinians while their Jewish colleagues also attend to Palestinians who attacked Jews. "We treat first the patient, and then maybe later we hear what the story was," Ashgan said. "As long as we keep politics out of it, all is good."  (New York Times)
  • No Obstacle Too Big for Israeli Hand Cyclist - Ori Lewis
    Pascale Bercovitch hurried to catch a train to school in a Paris suburb in 1984. Then 17, she tried to jump onto the departing train but could not hold on. She fell under the wheels, the train severing her thighs and leaving her inches from death.
        Bercovitch, now a 44-year-old mother of two girls, will represent Israel at the Paralympics. Since moving to Israel she has represented the country in the Paralympics in Beijing as a rower and is now set for London as a hand cyclist. While Israel has earned just one gold medal at the Olympics, it has achieved far greater success in the Paralympics, having amassed 333 medals, 113 gold, since its first participation in 1960. (Reuters)
  • Israeli Company Offers First "Medical Smartphone"
    LifeWatch Technologies, an Israeli company, unveiled the world's first "medical smartphone" last week. The LifeWatch V is equipped with numerous monitoring and measurement tools to monitor heart rate, body temperature, blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and others. The device works as a phone, with normal smartphone functions, but also records important medical information and uploads it to LifeWatch's remote monitoring service, which records a user's health and updates his medical records, alerting emergency services when necessary.
        Users monitor themselves by holding the device on its four corners, where sensors are located. To take their temperature, users pass the device across their foreheads. (Times of Israel)
  • Gold Coins from Time of Crusades Found in Israeli Ruins
    Israeli archaeologists have found buried treasure: more than 100 gold dinar coins from the time of the Crusades worth as much as $500,000. The joint team from Tel Aviv University and Israel's Nature and Parks Authority were working at Apollonia National Park, an ancient Roman fortress on the coast used by the Crusaders between 1241 and 1265, when they literally found a pot of gold. "All in all, we found some 108 dinars and quarter dinars, which makes it one of the largest gold coin hauls discovered in a medieval site in the Land of Israel," said Prof. Oren Tal, chairman of Tel Aviv University's Department of Archaeology.
        The Christian order of the Knights Hospitaller had taken up residence in the castle in Apollonia; the coins were buried on the eve of the site's downfall after a long siege by a large Muslim army. The coins were found on June 25, 2012, by TAU archaeology student Mati Johananoff. Once the archaeologists finish deciphering the coins and decoding their inscriptions, they will be transferred to a museum. (Fox News)

The U.S.-Egyptian Relationship - Aaron David Miller (Los Angeles Times)

  • Beneath the "isn't democracy wonderful (and messy)" platitudes emanating from the State Department, three fundamental contradictions are likely to keep America's ties with Egypt in the doldrums for some time to come.
  • First, the democracy problem. The good news is that Egypt has competitive politics; the bad news is that the two forces that are competing - the military and the Muslim Brotherhood - are inherently undemocratic, perhaps even anti-democratic, both in structure and philosophy.
  • Secretary of State Clinton can give rousing speeches in defense of democracy, but the Obama administration lacks real leverage, or at least leverage it's prepared to use. The $1.5 billion in U.S. military aid will continue to flow (for now) because without it we'll have no influence; and after providing so much aid to authoritarian Hosni Mubarak, how can we now cut assistance as Egypt tries to democratize?
  • Second, the Israel problem. The intimacy of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship began as a direct result of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. If the Egypt-Israel relationship goes south (and it will), how do we expect to keep the U.S.-Egypt relationship on the rails?
  • The military will abide by the letter of the treaty, but the spirit - comatose for some time now - may go into complete arrest as Egyptian public opinion plays a greater role in setting the tone on Israel. The bet is that as the anti-Israel rhetoric gets hotter, so will U.S. congressional reaction.
  • Third, the Egyptians-hate-our-policy problem. In the latest Pew polls, 76% of Egyptians had an unfavorable view of the Obama administration; Shibley Telhami found that 85% had an unfavorable view of the U.S. in general. Support among our politicians and the public for aiding countries that criticize America is going to contract.

    The writer is a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.
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