Calls from Lebanon to Burgas, Bulgaria, Increased before Attack - Nicholas Kulish and Jodi Rudoren (New York Times)
Five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver were killed in a July 18 bombing attack outside the airport in the Bulgarian coastal city of Burgas.
Israeli intelligence has evidence of many telephone calls between Lebanon and Burgas in the two months before the bombing, with the volume intensifying in the three days leading up to it.
Egyptian Officials Fired Over Soldiers' Killings in Sinai - Kareem Fahim (New York Times)
President Mohamed Morsi fired his intelligence chief, the head of the military police, the governor of North Sinai, and the head of the presidential guard on Wednesday in a sweeping response to the killing of 16 soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula.
See also Israel-Egypt Security Cooperation Strong - Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff (Ha'aretz)
The current security coordination between Israel and Egypt has undergone a significant upgrade.
The evidence includes passing along warnings of possible attacks, talks between senior officers in the field, and the continuous discussions between the Egyptian Ministry of Defense and General Intelligence Service and the Israeli security establishment.
The appointment of a new Egyptian intelligence minister should only strengthen ties.
On Damascus Streets, Front Lines Multiply - Nour Malas (Wall Street Journal)
Checkpoints and neighborhood patrols run by the most hardened supporters of President Bashar al-Assad have allowed the government to reassert control in most areas of Damascus.
Local councils of regime supporters, called Popular Committees, were months ago given the task to guard their neighborhoods. Now their members have been armed with rifles and handguns, issued ID cards and given monthly salaries.
At a military hospital in Barzeh, just north of Damascus, young conscripts recovering from injuries say they were surprised by effective rebel battle tactics.
Al-Aqsa Mosque Libel - Again (Palestinian Media Watch)
PA TV reported on Aug. 3 that Israel is using chemicals "in intensified excavations around the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in order to dissolve them."
See also The "Al-Aksa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Emigration from Israel at Historic Low - Zeev Klein and Yuri Yalon (Israel Hayom)
The number of Israelis emigrating from the country is at a historic low, according to data released by the Central Bureau of Statistics on Monday.
The data also shows that over the past three years a record high number of emigrants have been returning to Israel, largely due to the severe economic crises in Europe and the U.S.
Daily Alert Blog
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Israeli Defense Minister: Iran's Atomic Project Getting Harder to Foresee
Iran's nuclear moves are becoming harder for Israeli and U.S. intelligence to assess, making Tehran's atomic weapons drive an even more urgent matter, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Thursday.
Commenting on a report in Ha'aretz that President Obama had received a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) saying Iran had made significant and surprising progress toward military nuclear capability, Barak told Israel Radio:
"There probably really is such an American intelligence report - I don't know if it is an NIE one - making its way around senior offices (in Washington)."
"As far as we know it brings the American assessment much closer to ours...it makes the Iranian issue even more urgent and (shows it is) less clear and certain that we will know everything in time about their steady progress toward military nuclear capability." (Reuters)
- Iranian Hostages
Held by Syria Rebels Are Linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guard - Farnaz Fassihi
The 48 Iranians being held hostage by Syria's rebel army traveled to Damascus on Saturday as part of a large contingent on a trip organized by a Revolutionary Guard Corps travel agency. "Everyone on this trip was either a Guard or a Basij militia. This wasn't a regular tour group," said an employee of the tour agency.
People familiar with the trip said the men were active members of the Revolutionary Guards on a mission to train Syrian forces in counterinsurgency methods, modeled after IRGC's battles with Kurdish and Baluchi separatist groups.
(Wall Street Journal)
- U.S. Pushing Palestinians to Delay UN Bid
Washington is pressing the Palestinian leadership to delay a fresh bid to seek upgraded UN status until after the U.S. elections, PLO Executive Committee member Saleh Raafat told Voice of Palestine radio on Wednesday. On Saturday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said President Mahmoud Abbas would on September 27 make a fresh request to upgrade the Palestinians' UN status from that of an observer entity to a non-member state. (AFP)
- Islamists Name New Chief Editors for Egypt's State-Owned Newspapers
Egypt's Islamist-led upper house of parliament named 50 new editors for state-owned newspapers on Wednesday, including several who have Islamist leanings. The newspapers had a reputation as a mouthpiece for President Mubarak. State-owned media formally belong to the upper house of parliament, the Shura Council.
The Brotherhood and its newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, have complained about negative press coverage, and the move to replace the old editors with people more sympathetic to the Islamists was not a surprise.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel: Sinai Terrorists Supported from Afghanistan, Iraq - Yaakov Katz
Global jihad terrorists in Sinai receive financial and logistical support from other Salafi terror cells in Afghanistan and Iraq, a senior Israeli official revealed on Wednesday. The official said the attack from Sinai on Sunday - during which armed Bedouin from Sinai killed 16 Egyptian soldiers, stole an armored vehicle and infiltrated Israel - was "aimed at establishing the group's reputation and position within Sinai." The assessment within the Israeli intelligence community is that the attacks will continue and might increase in frequency.
- Hizbullah Smuggles High-Grade Explosives into Israel - Yaakov Katz
A series of Hizbullah terror attacks inside Israel were foiled recently by the Israel Security Agency (ISA) after a group of Israeli Arabs helped smuggle 20 kg. of high-grade explosives into Israel. The C-4 explosives were smuggled into Israel by a number of residents of Ghajar on the Lebanese-Israeli border on June 5.
The bag was transferred to a resident of Nazareth, Abed Zoabi, who hid it in his backyard where it was found by the Israel Police in mid-July.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg of Hizbullah's efforts against Israel," a senior ISA official said on Wednesday. "The attempted attack here and the recent attack in Bulgaria are all carried out by the same organization." (Jerusalem Post)
- In Egypt, Anti-Semitism Is Back in Fashion - Jeffrey Goldberg
Anti-Semitism is becoming the opiate of the Egyptian masses. And not just the masses. Today it's entirely acceptable among the educated and creative classes to demonize Jews and voice the most despicable anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. Any country in which anti-Semitism is considered a form of patriotism is in dire trouble.
As Walter Russell Mead has written, countries "where vicious anti-Semitism is rife are almost always backward and poor." They aren't backward and poor because the Elders of Zion conspire against them. They're backward and poor because they lack the ability to "see the world clearly."
- Scandinavia and the Jews - Elliott Abrams
On Tuesday we found that "Scandinavian activist groups are launching an aid ship destined for Gaza...hoping to challenge the Israeli blockade." This action is perfectly timed.
This week the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt has closed the main Gaza/Egypt border crossing at Rafah indefinitely and sent bulldozers to seal off the many smuggling tunnels after several terrorist attacks on Egyptian police and military personnel in Sinai. I have yet to see the news that the Scandinavians are sailing their boat to Alexandria to "put an end to the blockade of Gaza." (Weekly Standard)
- Looming U.S.-Iraqi Row over Decision to Release Hizbullah Commander - Matthew Levitt
Last week, the Iraqi Central Criminal Court rejected Washington's formal request to extradite Hizbullah commander Ali Musa Daqduq to the U.S. to face charges of murder, terrorism, spying, and other offenses filed by a U.S. military commission. The ruling means Baghdad could soon release one of the most senior and dangerous Hizbullah commanders ever apprehended.
In the words of one former CIA officer, Daqduq is "the worst of the worst. He has American blood on his hands. If released, he'll go back to shedding more of it." Washington must make clear at the highest levels of the Iraqi government that there will be tangible consequences to summarily freeing an Iranian proxy with American blood on his hands. The writer is director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
Report from Israel: "We Have Entered the Phase of Strategic Decisions" - John Hannah (Foreign Policy)
- Amidst the unraveling of the Middle East, Israeli officials have maintained a laser-like focus on the Iranian nuclear threat.
Israeli officials stress how much they value the Obama administration's strong support for Israel's security needs. They are also deeply appreciative of the recent, albeit belated, U.S. and European efforts to impose crippling sanctions on Iran's economy.
- But at this late date, Israeli officials suggest, coercive diplomacy's only chance of succeeding is if it is rapidly coupled with the credible threat of an overwhelming and imminent American attack. So long as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei remains convinced that President Obama has neither the will nor the intention of destroying his nuclear program by force, negotiations are doomed to fail - leaving Israel and/or the U.S. with no option but war to retard Iran's dash to the bomb.
- The Israelis I spoke with note that the president has backed away from any commitment to stop Iran from gaining the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Instead, he now only speaks of stopping Iran from assembling an actual bomb. "He's prepared to let them get one turn of the screwdriver away," several Israelis remarked. "We're not."
- To Israeli minds, a genuine U.S. commitment to prevention would be undergirded by a single-minded campaign to convince Iran's leaders that a massive military onslaught was inevitable if they did not relent in short order. Instead, Israeli officials point out, what Tehran has been treated to is an unending display of American hand-wringing over the possible use of force, epitomized by a series of very public warnings against any Israeli military action, and constant fretting over the parade of horribles that might accompany a possible clash with Iran.
- I was told that the Israeli military has presented its detailed options for attacking Iran's nuclear program to Israel's political leaders, and that "we have entered the phase of strategic decisions."
All the Israeli officials I spoke with would clearly love to see a diplomatic solution. But as more than one Israeli official told me, "We are forced to deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it would be."
- America's stake in how this drama unfolds, in a region so vital to our national interests, seems obvious to me - as does the proposition that our own wellbeing is best served by standing strong in support of those alarmingly few friends and allies we actually have in the Middle East who possess both the will and the capability to act in concert with us to defend our common interests and values against those who, given the necessary means, would surely destroy us.
The writer, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, served on former Vice President Dick Cheney's national security affairs staff.
Unsubscribe from Daily Alert