Is an Alawite State Viable? - Frank Jacobs (New York Times)
In an interview with Le Figaro, Fabrice Balanche, director of the research group on the Mediterranean and the Middle East at the University of Lyons II, said that the Assad regime in Syria has a worst-case plan, years in the making: "The Alawite minority can defend a redoubt along the coast, where it is in the majority."
Could a modern Alawite state be viable? According to Balanche: the farming is good, there's an airport at Latakia, a naval base at Tartus and an oil terminal at Baniyas. "Assad could continue to count on support from Iran, and the Russian Navy would retain its docking rights at Tartus."
Some observers think the question is moot. Collapsing governments tend to have neither the time nor the presence of mind to entrench themselves according to plan.
Alawite Homeland in Syria a Political Fantasy - Faisal Al Yafai
An Alawite homeland in the mountains is a political fantasy. If the Assads did retreat to the coastal mountains, it would be a short-lived stand.
Although the command of the Syrian army is disproportionately Alawite, the rank and file is not. Alawites make up no more than 10% of the military, concentrated in the Republican Guards.
Syria analyst Prof. Joshua Landis notes that there is no infrastructure to support a state on the coast: "no international airport, no electric power plants, no industry." An Alawite "state" would swiftly find itself unable to pay its soldiers.
See also In Appointing New Security Chiefs, Assad Moves to Keep Sunni-Alawi Alliance Alive - Joshua Landis (Syria Comment)
Bashar al-Assad announced four new security chiefs to replace those killed in the recent bombing. Three are Sunnis.
Prince Bandar: New Saudi Spy Chief - Bruce Riedel (Daily Beast)
Saudi King Abdullah has put Prince Bandar bin Sultan in charge of Saudi Arabia's foreign intelligence service.
Bandar served as Saudi ambassador to Washington for years.
Twice in the last two years, the Saudis foiled al-Qaeda plots to attack American cities.
Bandar's most urgent task will be Syria. The Saudis want Assad gone sooner, not later, and Bandar will get the rebels more arms.
It's deeply ironic since Bandar played an important role in helping Bashar consolidate power when his father Hafez died in 2000. Bandar pressed Syria's generals then to accept the young man as tough enough for the job. Now he must be Bashar's undoing.
The writer is a senior fellow in the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution.
In Russia, Even Putin's Critics Are OK with His Syria Policy - Julia Ioffe (New Republic)
Most Russians, including the Russian press, understand their country's role in Syria's ongoing civil war.
If the West has come to see Russia as the ornery spoiler in Syria, as the last ally of the cruel and increasingly embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad, Russia sees itself as the last sane person left in the room.
Fyodor Lukyanov, editor of Russia in World Affairs, explained: "Here, it is not a picture of peace-loving freedom fighters against a secretive, repressive regime....The situation in Syria is much more tangled."
"Many analysts are surprised that the West is supporting Islamist uprisings against secular regimes," says Lukyanov.
Maxim Yusin, deputy editor of the foreign affairs section of the daily Kommersant, said "the West, in painting [the Free Syrian Army] as freedom fighters, doesn't understand that these guys are blood-sucking vampires and if they come to power there will be hell to pay, and for the Americans, too."
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- Iran Increases Uranium Enrichment Activities
Iran is defiantly forging on with its nuclear activities by activating hundreds more uranium enrichment centrifuges, according to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"There are currently 11,000 centrifuges active in enrichment facilities" in Iran, he told supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday.
The IAEA report in May said there were 9,330 installed centrifuges in Natanz, of which 8,818 were being fed uranium hexafluoride gas to produce enriched uranium.
The Fordo facility, near Qom, had 696 working centrifuges, the report said. (AFP-Telegraph-UK)
- Assad Chemical Weapons Plans Blocked by Moscow - Samia Nakhoul
Analysts and diplomats do not doubt that the Assad government is capable of using agents such as Sarin gas if its survival is at stake.
One Western diplomat said: "There was talk of them using it two weeks ago, but the Russians intervened quickly to stop him."
"All of us think he (Assad) is capable of using it and will do it if he was pushed to the wall," the diplomat said, referring to credible reports that Assad was preparing to use Sarin gas against Syrian rebels.
But "the Russians got hold of him and told him 'don't even think about it'."
Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said, "Of course, nobody wants chemical weapons to be used, let alone to get into the hands of terrorists." (Reuters)
- Syrian Aircraft Bomb Aleppo - Babak Dehghanpisheh
Syrian warplanes bombed Aleppo, the nation's largest city, on Tuesday, part of a coordinated assault by government forces that included heavy artillery shelling and rockets launched from military helicopters. BBC reporter Ian Pannell, who was on the outskirts of Aleppo at the time, reported seeing what appeared to be Russian-made MiG fighter jets streaking across the sky. "We watched as they dropped in, bombing and strafing rebel positions." (Washington Post)
See also Syrian Forces Attack Mosque, Kill 30
Syrian forces killed up to 30 worshippers on Tuesday in al-Ghab Plain, a village northwest of Hama, opposition activists said.
"Troops and shabiha (militia loyal to President Bashar al-Assad) left the roadblock on the edge of Shariaa and crossed the main road and began firing automatic rifles at the worshippers as they were entering the mosque," said Jamil al-Hamwi, one of the activists.
"We have confirmed the names for 15 bodies and there is a similar number estimated still to be collected from the streets." (Reuters)
See also Syria Envoy to Cyprus Defects
The Syrian Charge d' Affaires to Cyprus, Mrs. Lamia al-Hariri, has defected and left for Qatar.
- Clinton at Holocaust Museum: Maintain Vigilance to Prevent Genocide
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on Tuesday, said:
"Every generation produces extremist voices denying that the Holocaust ever happened. And we must remain vigilant against those deniers and against anti-Semitism...we cannot let their lies go unanswered....We need to make clear that violence, bigotry will not be tolerated. And, yes, when criticism of Israeli government policies crosses over into demonization of Israel and Jews, we must push back." (State Department)
- Netanyahu: We Want to Restore Relations with Turkey - Servet Yanatma
Speaking to a group of Turkish journalists in Jerusalem for the first time since the Mavi Marmara raid, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "We want to restore relations with Turkey....In a region where instability reigns, Israel and Turkey are two quite stable countries. I believe in [our] common interest."
As an indication of the importance Israel attaches to restoring political relations with Turkey, Netanyahu received the Turkish journalists in the same room where Israel's National Security Cabinet meets. And behind Netanyahu, both Israeli and Turkish flags stood.
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- EU Refuses Israeli Request to Blacklist Hizbullah
The European Union turned down a request Tuesday by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman to blacklist Hizbullah as a terror group after last week's deadly bombing in Bulgaria.
Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said, "There is no consensus for putting Hizbullah on the list of terrorist organizations." (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
See also Lieberman: EU May Eventually Call Hizbullah a Terror Group
There is significant support for Israel's call to add Hizbullah to the EU's terrorist blacklist, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israel Radio on Wednesday. He said that discussion of his request, which seemed to be initially dismissed by EU officials, had been misrepresented, and that no one had expected it to be immediately accepted without debate. While the complicated process requires the consensus of 37 countries, he had heard a lot of support for the move. (Jerusalem Post)
- Israel Intercepts Palestinian Rocket Fired at Ashkelon - Yanir Yagna and Gili Cohen
An Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile battery intercepted a rocket fired by Gaza militants at Ashkelon on Tuesday.
- Al-Qaeda Taking Deadly New Role in Syria Conflict - Rod Nordland
Al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremists are doing their best to hijack the Syrian revolution, with a growing although still limited success that has American intelligence officials publicly concerned. While leaders of the Syrian opposition continue to deny any role for the extremists, al-Qaeda has helped to change the nature of the conflict, injecting suicide bombings into the battle against Assad with growing frequency.
Syria has become a magnet for Sunni extremists; the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey, which fell into Syrian rebel hands last week, has quickly become a jihadist congregating point. One Qaeda operative, Abu Thuha, 56, told an Iraqi reporter for The New York Times on Tuesday. "We have experience now fighting the Americans, and more experience now with the Syrian revolution....Our big hope is to form a Syrian-Iraqi Islamic state for all Muslims, and then announce our war against Iran and Israel, and free Palestine."
Although he is a low-level operative, his grandiose plans have been echoed by the Al Nusra Front for the People of the Levant, which military and intelligence analysts say is the major Qaeda affiliate operating in Syria, with two other Qaeda-linked groups also claiming to be active there, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades and Al Baraa ibn Malik Martyrdom Brigade.
(New York Times)
- Behind the International Terrorism Campaign of Hizbullah and Iran - Yoram Schweitzer
The deadly terrorist attack in Bulgaria is part of a combined, planned, and ongoing terror campaign waged by Iran and Hizbullah over the last year against Israeli and Jewish targets. The immediate background is the desire for revenge and the drive to create a balance of terror against Israel in light of what Iran and Hizbullah see as Israel's campaign against them.
It may be that Iran is determined to draw Israel into a harsh reaction against Hizbullah in Lebanon in response to terrorist attacks abroad. This would divert Israel from Iran, and perhaps even Syria. If an attack against an Israeli airplane results in the deaths of hundreds of Israelis, Israel would be forced to respond very harshly against Hizbullah in Lebanon and perhaps also against Iran.
Precisely for this reason it is best for Israel to respond at a time of its own choosing, in a targeted and covert fashion, against the perpetrators and those who dispatch them, rather than be drawn into a violent war.
(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
- Nuclear Submarine Program Surfaces in Iran - Olli Heinonen
The deputy chief of the Iranian navy announced that it is considering nuclear propulsion for its submarines. A debate in the Majlis included discussion of the use of nuclear propulsion for oil tankers.
There is speculation that nuclear propulsion will be used as a bargaining chip to trade away or as justification for continuing uranium enrichment and getting to higher enrichment.
Traditionally, naval reactors use highly enriched uranium (HEU) for fuel to reduce reactor size. American submarines use HEU fuel enriched up to 97% and nuclear-powered Russian icebreakers are up to 75%.
If we put aside the question of if Iran will make good on its proclaimed intent, this is what it could mean in terms of enrichment: Iran would need to produce approximately 50 kg of 90% HEU or 100 kg of 45% HEU to power a (small) 50 MWt submarine. The HEU produced under the first scenario is equivalent to the amount needed for 2 nuclear weapons.
But before that, a land-based test reactor of the same scale would need to be constructed. In sum, with those two reactors and additional materials needed for testing and manufacturing, such a project would require HEU amounts equal to half a dozen nuclear weapons.
The writer is a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, where he headed its Department of Safeguards.
(Belfer Center-Harvard Kennedy School)
How Dare the World Shun Israel on Terrorism - Jose Maria Aznar (The Times-UK)
- When we are about to mark the 40th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the Olympic Village in Munich, in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists, it is a real paradox to see Israel excluded from the first meeting of the Global Counter-terrorism Forum last month in Istanbul.
Worse still, in July, the forum organized its first victims-of-terrorism meeting. Israel was excluded.
- When we see deadly terrorist attacks, such as the recent one in Bulgaria, targeting tourists simply because they were Israeli, the marginalization of Israel is totally unacceptable.
- As a terrorism victim myself, who was fortunate to survive a car-bomb attack, I cannot understand or justify the marginalization of other terrorist victims just for political reasons.
- If we extrapolate Israel's experience of slaughter to Britain, it would mean that in the past 12 years about 11,000 British citizens would have died and 60,000 would have been injured in terrorist attacks. In the case of the U.S., the figures would be 65,000 dead and 300,000 injured.
- Israel's ordeal is far from insignificant. Israel has much to contribute in this area and everyone else has a lot to learn if we really want to defeat the terrorists.
Isolation not only renders Israel weaker against its enemies, but also makes all Westerners weaker.
- Israel is not the problem; it is part of the solution. We will become the problem if we continue to cold-shoulder Israel, the country most affected by terrorism and, possibly, the one that knows best how to defeat it.
The writer was Prime Minister of Spain from 1996 to 2004 and is chairman of the Friends of Israel Initiative.
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