Assad Rejected Iran Request for Raid to Free Captured Iranians - Julian E. Barnes (Wall Street Journal)
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime rejected Tehran's request to conduct or allow a raid to rescue Iranians captured by Syrian rebels, U.S. officials said.
After Syrian rebels waylaid a bus carrying 48 Iranians, U.S. officials said at least some were operatives from the Revolutionary Guard Corps sent to Syria to train government forces and conduct missions to aid the Damascus regime.
The Assad regime told Tehran that rescuing the Iranians isn't a top priority for Damascus.
More broadly, U.S. officials see Iran expanding its support for Assad. Recently, Iran assumed control over Syria's efforts to disrupt rebel communications.
Despite Alarm by U.S., Europe Lets Hizbullah Operate Openly - Nicholas Kulish (New York Times)
As American officials sound the alarm over what they call a resurgent threat from the Shiite militant group Hizbullah, thousands of its members and supporters operate with few restrictions in Europe, raising money that is funneled to the group's leadership in Lebanon.
Washington and Jerusalem insist that Hizbullah is an Iranian-backed terrorist organization with bloody hands, and that it is working closely with Tehran to train, arm and finance the Syrian military's lethal repression of the uprising there. Yet, the EU continues to treat it foremost as a Lebanese political and social movement.
The group's secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, has said that a European blacklist would "destroy Hizbullah. The sources of our funding will dry up and the sources of moral political and material support will be destroyed."
Germany Arrests Four for Supplying Nuclear Reactor Parts to Iran (Reuters-Guardian-UK)
German police have arrested four men - a German and three people with dual German-Iranian citizenship - suspected of delivering valves for a heavy water reactor to Iran in violation of the Iran embargo.
Palestinian "Refugee Camp" a Misnomer in Syria - David Enders (McClatchy-Miami Herald)
As elsewhere in the Middle East, the term "refugee camp" for where Palestinians live in Syria is a misnomer.
Rather than a temporary collection of tents and facilities, Palestinians in Syria live in low-income neighborhoods with narrow alleys and cinder-block buildings that often house extended families, with new floors added for each generation.
In Syria, however, the camps aren't exclusively Palestinian; they're also home to lower-income Syrians.
Yarmouk is an example. By most estimates, the neighborhood houses half a million people, only one-fifth of whom are Palestinian.
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- UN Investigators Conclude War Crimes Perpetrated in Syria
Syrian government forces and allied Shabiha militia have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder and torture, UN human rights investigators said on Wednesday. Syrian rebels have also committed war crimes, but the violations "did not reach the gravity, frequency and scale" of those carried out by the army and security forces. The investigators said they would update their confidential list of suspects or units responsible for violations and hand it over to UN rights boss Navi Pillay next month.
- Israeli Ambassador: Israel Would Strike Iran to Gain a Few Years - Tony Capaccio and Nicole Gaouette
Israel would be willing to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, even if doing so only delayed its ability to produce nuclear weapons for a few years, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said Wednesday in Washington.
"One, two, three, four years are a long time in the Middle East," Oren said.
"Diplomacy hasn't succeeded," Oren said. "We've come to a very critical juncture where important decisions do have to be made." "An Iranian nuclear weapon is an existential threat to Israel," Oren said. "We don't just say it. They say it as well. They confirm it." (Bloomberg)
See also Iran Targeted Israeli Embassy
Israel's ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren told WTOP radio in Washington Wednesday that last year's plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador at a Washington restaurant also included plans to blow up the Israeli Embassy.
The complaint against Manssor Arbabsiar, who is charged in the plot, also states that Arbabsiar "discussed the possibility of attacks on a number of targets. These targets included government facilities associated with Saudi Arabia and with 'another' country and these targets were located within the United States."
Oren said Israel was that other country.
- Israel Shifts Defense Focus after Arab Spring - Paul Colsey
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a major review of the country's defense strategy on Wednesday, seeking to adapt to a post-Arab Spring world. "The Muslim Brotherhood is forming a ring around Israel, out of Sinai and other places," Uzi Dayan, a former Israel Defense Forces deputy chief of staff, said Wednesday. If the Sinai is not demilitarized, it becomes a new front, Dayan said.
Syria could become a Sunni Muslim state if Assad is forced out, he added.
"In the long run the Americans are leaving Iraq, leaving Afghanistan, so there is new pressure from the east. So these are the new threats - not to mention the main threat posed by Iran," he said.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israeli Defense Officials: Iran Won't Hit Back at U.S. Targets If Israel Attacks - Ron Friedman
Tehran is not interested in raising the stakes and would not strike U.S. targets if Israel were to attack its nuclear program, Israel Channel 10 news reported Wednesday, quoting senior Israeli defense officials. Contrary to previous assessments that Iran would turn an Israeli attack into an all-out regional war, current wisdom holds that it would avoid drawing the U.S. into battle and settle for retaliating solely against Israel. While prior estimates held that Iran would retaliate for an Israeli attack by closing off the Strait of Hormuz and launching missile attacks on regional U.S. installations, recent intelligence reports indicate that Iran's leaders fear American involvement.
(Times of Israel)
- Egypt Deployed Troops in Sinai without Israel's Prior Approval - Avi Issacharoff
The Egyptian army has been deploying large anti-terrorist forces in parts of the Sinai peninsula without informing Israel in advance. The peace treaty between the two countries limits the Egyptian military presence in Sinai. Before the August 5 terrorist attack, Egypt had not stationed the full complement of troops in Sinai that it was permitted. Since the attack, the Egyptians have done so, but have also exceeded the terms to which Israel has agreed.
- Survey: Israel Cannot Rely on U.S. Promise to Stop Iran Nukes
The July 2012 Peace Index survey asked: U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed
that the sanctions on Iran are starting to have an effect and promised that
"Iran will never have nuclear weapons." Do you think Israel can
rely on Panetta's promise? Yes 22%, No 70%.
Do you believe that negotiations between Israel and the
Palestinians will lead to peace in the coming years? Yes 24%, No 74%.
(Tel Aviv University-Israel Democracy Institute)
- Egypt's New President Moves Against Democracy - Eric Trager
Egypt's "full transition to civilian rule" has finally come to fruition. But it is neither liberal nor democratic.
On Sunday, having purged top military officials, Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi issued a sweeping constitutional declaration that grants him complete executive and legislative power, plus the authority to select the writers of Egypt's new constitution. Eighteen months after Mubarak's ouster, Egypt has a new dictator.
Many Washington analysts believe that Morsi won't make any major foreign-policy moves, such as revoking Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, since he needs international investment to boost Egypt's ailing economy. But this same logic once dictated that he wouldn't rush to challenge Egypt's generals.
Rather than touting him as a democratically elected leader, Washington should denounce his power grab and insist that he demonstrate his commitment to democratic rule with action or risk losing the international goodwill that followed his election. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Egypt's Islamist Leaders Accused of Stifling Media - Kareem Fahim and Mayy El Sheikh
Last week, Egyptian authorities suspended a satellite television channel that featured a program whose host is Tawfik Okasha, a strident opponent of President Mohammed Morsi. On Saturday, authorities confiscated copies of Al Dustour, which has published regular condemnations of the Islamist group.
Hani Shukrallah, the editor of Ahram Online, referring to the Muslim Brotherhood, said: "We've got an organization that is not interested in democratizing the press, or freeing the press. It's interested in taking it over." (New York Times)
- Israel Is Not Bluffing - David Rothkopf
The Iranian nuclear program continues moving closer to weapons capability. Diplomacy doesn't seem to be working. And the Iranians themselves have matched their rhetoric about the annihilation of Israel with direct support for attacks on its people, like the suicide-bomb murder of five Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, which U.S. officials have linked to Iran.
It is often hard for Americans to grasp the idea of an existential threat to a nation. Since the end of the Cold War, the notion that any single actor with any single act could effectively obliterate Americans or their lifestyle is very hard for many people to get their brains around. But that is exactly the threat that Israelis face from even a "limited" Iranian nuclear attack.
And though it is reasonable to debate whether the Iranians would actually use such a weapon against Israel given the likely consequences for them, from the Israeli perspective, given Iranian threats and actions, the risks of guessing wrong about the intent of the leaders in Tehran are so high that inaction could easily be seen to be the imprudent path.
Decision-Making about Iran - Maj. Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin (Ynet News)
"A good agreement would keep Iran at least two years away from nuclear bombs," writes former IDF Military Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin, who now heads the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, in an essay titled "A Conceptual Framework and Decision-Making Model for Israel about Iran." But without a credible threat of military action, diplomacy and other strategies to block or delay Iranian nuclearization would be ineffective, he states.
- "It is also important to build up maximal legitimacy for a future strike should diplomacy fail....It is incumbent to ensure that the entire world is prepared to participate in the ongoing effort to stop Iran the day and the decade after the attack."
- "Demonstrating the scope of losses to Iran from maintaining its military nuclear program, continuing the sanctions, blocking critical technologies and materials, threatening repeated attacks, and continuing diplomatic pressure are all part of a necessary next stage campaign in which Israel cannot succeed on its own."
- "This manifests the importance of gaining legitimacy for an Israeli strike and international - or at least American - recognition that Israel acted only after all other attempts had failed."
- "Without legitimacy allowing an international campaign over the subsequent decade, Israel faces the risk of finding itself opting for bombing and bearing its full cost, and still ending up with the Iranian bomb and its attendant dangers."
- "The Iranians have neither the capability nor the interest in setting fire to the entire Middle East. It is almost certain that there would be an Iranian response after an attack, but calculated Iranian interests suggest that it would be measured and tolerable, especially in light of the achievement of stopping Iran's nuclear program."
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