Did Assad Win the First Round in the Battle for Damascus? - Layla M. (Al-Monitor)
The assassination of members of the regime's upper echelons and simultaneous penetration and control of districts in Damascus raised hopes that an end to the Syrian crisis was near.
However, the Free Syrian Army failed to decapitate the regime and didn't receive much-needed reinforcements. It was therefore unable to withstand the overwhelming might of the regime's continued onslaught, and the rebels withdrew fighters from several areas.
Judging by the FSA's retreat from Midan, a staunchly anti-regime district in southern Damascus, and their failure to stop regime forces from devastating Mezzeh, Kafr Souseh, Berzeh, Tadamon, and many others, it looks like the FSA still has its work cut out for it if it is to "win" Damascus.
State television showed footage of young, fresh-faced soldiers joyously recounting their success at having "cleansed" Midan of "armed terrorists."
However, on a drive through Midan, devastation was everywhere: bullet-ridden doors and shutters, collapsed buildings, burnt houses, crumpled cars and smashed windows.
Watch for Indicators of Assad's Fall - Mohamed Fadel Fahmy and Orit Perlov (Foreign Policy)
Former Israeli military intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said in an interview:
"Watch for these five indicators signaling Assad is about to fall: Defections of Syrian generals along with their divisions, the Free Syrian Army winning over neighborhoods in Damascus and Aleppo, Druze and Christian minorities moving into opposition to Assad, Russia abandoning its protection of Assad in the UN, and a collapse of the economy."
After Assad's Fall - Lee Smith (Tablet)
Over four decades, the Assads have supported terrorist groups that targeted the U.S. and American allies in Israel, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, and the Gulf Arab states.
The fall of the Alawite regime is unlikely to usher in a Syrian government that the U.S. will be able to consider a reliable ally.
Nor will Sunni rule likely lead to an age of freedom and democracy. It is doubtful that Sunni-led Syria will be anything other than an autocracy, like every other Sunni Arab state in the Middle East.
However, anything that weakens the Iranians is a net gain.
Iran Scientist Reports New Cyber Attack on Nuclear Facilities - Alexandra Evans (Foreign Policy)
In a letter made public on the website of the Finnish security company F-secure, an Iranian scientist from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) writes:
"I am writing you to inform you that our nuclear program has once again been compromised and attacked by a new worm with exploits which have shut down our automation network at Natanz and another facility, Fordo, near Qom."
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News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- World Bank: Palestinian Economy "Not Strong Enough to Support a State"
The Palestinian economy's recent growth is unsustainable because of its heavy reliance on foreign aid, a World Bank report said Wednesday. For the past two decades, donor countries have propped up the Palestinian economy by giving billions of dollars.
Growth has been primarily in government services and real estate, while manufacturing and agriculture have dropped significantly.
The study said the Palestinian Authority has made steady progress toward establishing a future state, "but the economy is currently not strong enough to support such a state." (AP-Washington Post)
- Fighting in Aleppo Intensifies
Syrian troops rushed dozens of tanks and reinforcements Wednesday toward Aleppo, the country's commercial capital, in a bid to crush a rebel advance that has spread to wide swaths of the city.
See also Assad May Lose Syria If He Does Not Regain Control of Aleppo - Adrian Blomfield
See also Turkey Becomes Hub for Syrian Revolt - Liz Sly
Rebels, arms smugglers, defectors and war wounded have swarmed into southern Turkey in recent months, transforming the region into a nerve center for the Syrian revolution. Syria's other borders, with Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan, are witnessing similar activity on a lesser scale.
Turkey is deeply involved in efforts to organize the Syrian opposition, hosting the offices of the Syrian National Council in Istanbul and acting as gatekeepers at the camp housing the leadership of the Free Syrian Army at Apaydin.
- White House Counterterror Advisor in Israel to Discuss Bulgaria Bombing - Laura Rozen
White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan visited Israel Wednesday "to consult with senior Israeli officials about a range of shared security concerns, including the recent wave of terrorist plots against Israeli and other interests," U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Defense Minister: Nuclear Iran Far More Dangerous than Preemptive Israeli Strike - Gili Cohen
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the IDF's National Security College on Wednesday: "I am well aware of the difficulties involved in thwarting Iran's attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon. However, it is clear to me that without a doubt, dealing with the threat itself will be far more complicated, far more dangerous and far more costly in resources and human life." (Ha'aretz)
- Israel: EU Refusal to Blacklist Hizbullah Affects Mideast Stability - Herb Keinon
The EU's refusal to place Hizbullah on its list of terrorist organizations will have "severe ramifications" for Middle East stability and global security, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on Wednesday in Brussels. "Everyone knows who and what the Hizbullah organization is, and all are aware of the criminal and terrorist activities it perpetrates."
Following Tuesday's annual EU-Israel Association Council meeting, the EU issued a statement about that meeting that included a litany of complaints against Israeli policy. Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said it was "disappointing to observe that the EU, instead of publishing a review that summarizes the discussion, chose to publish an agglutination of complaints and grievances." (Jerusalem Post)
- British Satellite Company Provides Services to Iranian Military - Ilan Ben Zion
Inmarsat, a London-based telecom corporation, continues to provide mobile satellite services to Iranian military and oil-carrying ships, says Shurat HaDin, an Israel-based legal organization that pursues civil litigation against terrorist organizations. Shurat HaDin brought legal action against Inmarsat in 2011 for providing services to ships seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza.
"Inmarsat must uphold its legal obligations in compliance with U.S. Treasury regulations and immediately cease its support for Iran," Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner said.
(Times of Israel)
- Iran's Support for Terrorism in the Middle East - Matthew Levitt
Iran, the world's most active state sponsor of terrorism, has employed an aggressive foreign policy that relies heavily on clandestine assets abroad to collect intelligence and support foreign operations.
Iran's involvement in international terrorism is now more important than ever, both to
deny the group its coveted "reasonable deniability" and to build an international consensus
for action against Iran's support for terrorism.
In light of Iran's long-standing use of diplomatic equities to support international
terrorism, Washington should press its allies to restrict the size of Iranian missions to the
minimum needed to conduct official business, restrict visits by Iranian officials to official
business only (no meetings with sympathizers, no speeches, etc.), and exercise
diligence about the possibility that nondiplomatic Iranian travelers connected to the
Iranian government may be engaged in illegal activities.
From testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on July 25. The writer is director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- Why Tribes Matter in Syria - Hassan Hassan
Nawaf al-Fares, the Syrian envoy in Iraq who defected this month, leads a powerful clan, part of the Egaidat tribal confederation with at least 1.5 million members across 40% of Syria's territory.
The Shammar confederation has at least one million members in Syria. The Jubour has a presence in eastern Syria and Iraq and sustains strong relations with relatives in the Gulf. The Eniza is another prominent Gulf tribal confederation with numerous members in Syria.
The N'eim is the prominent tribal confederation in Deraa, with a considerable number in Homs, and a strong presence in the Gulf. Some top leaders of the Free Syrian Army come from this tribe. The Baggara is a prominent tribe in both Iraq and Syria (approximately 1.2 million).
Tribal leaders who openly opposed the Assad regime have become a source of pride to their tribes.
Members of the tribes are organizing themselves and have certain expectations when the regime falls. But there are also historical rifts and rivalries between and within the tribes. (Guardian-UK)
- Saudis Fear the Muslim Brotherhood - Steven Miller
Egypt's new president, Mohamed Morsi, is trying to court vital benefactors in the Persian Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia. So far, Morsi has done all the right things: pledging not to export Egypt's revolution, describing the Gulf countries' security as a "red line" that should not be crossed, and making the Saudi kingdom his first foreign destination as president - and the Saudis have continued sending Egypt financial support.
However, as a Sunni Islamist who came to power through democratic elections, Morsi challenges the autocratic system that Saudi Arabia's rulers have been fighting tooth and nail to uphold. The Saudis are ambivalent about Morsi's Islamist credentials, but they want to thwart Iranian aspirations in the Arab world. Their main goal now is to pull the new Egypt into their sphere of influence. Luckily for them, Morsi desperately needs Saudi money to repair Egypt's economy and has virtually no choice but to accept the terms that come with it. The writer is a research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
EU Confusion on Hizbullah - Walter Russell Mead (American Interest)
"There is no consensus for putting Hizbullah on the list of terrorist organizations" since it had a political wing as well as an armed wing, said Cypriot Foreign Minister Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency.
- However, she left the door open for a change in policy if anybody could find some "tangible evidence" of Hizbullah wrongdoing. Apparently word has not reached the EU about some of Hizbullah's past activities:
- The 1983 U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut, which killed 63 people.
- The 1983 Beirut barracks attacks, the deadliest terrorist assault on a U.S. target prior to 9/11, which killed 241 Marines, sailors and soldiers and wounded over 100 others.
- The 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847.
- The 1994 bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires, which killed 80 and injured over 300.
- The indictment of Hizbullah leaders by a UN tribunal for the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
- Attempted 2009 attacks on Egyptian and Israeli targets, foiled by Egyptian security (with similar incidents in Thailand and elsewhere this year).
- The U.S., UK and Canada have all listed Hizbullah as a terrorist group. Perhaps there are reasons. Worth following up with a phone call, anyway.
- The EU has at least provided a new answer to an old question.
Q: What do you call something if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck?
A: A political wing.
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