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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
September 5, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Replaces Tanks with Armored Vehicles in Sinai (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
    Egypt's military is deploying light armored vehicles in Sinai to replace some heavy tanks whose presence at the border area had raised concerns in Israel, security sources said on Tuesday.
    "Egypt's decision to remove tanks was taken to calm Israel after it voiced concerns about the presence of tanks near its borders," said Safwat al Zayaat, a retired army general and military expert.
    See also Militants Attack Army Post in Egypt's Sinai (DPA-Ha'aretz)
    Gunmen attacked an army post in Sheikh Zuweid in northern Sinai on Tuesday, a day after tanks were withdrawn from the area, a senior security official said.

Islamists Installed in Egypt State Institutions - Maggie Michael (AP)
    Egypt's Islamist leadership took a new move Tuesday to put its stamp on the country's government, appointing members of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood as provincial governors and installing ultraconservatives and other Islamists in the state's top human rights body and a powerful media council.
    On Tuesday, Morsi's office announced 10 new governors - four are leading members of the Brotherhood, while three are retired generals.
    The National Council for Human Rights, once headed by former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, includes at least seven Islamists.

Assad's Massacre Strategy - Hassan Hassan (Foreign Policy)
    Over the past several weeks, the Assad regime has escalated military operations throughout the country - shelling neighborhoods in previously loyal cities, using airplanes to drop "TNT barrels" containing hundreds of kilograms worth of explosives, and unleashing its militias to commit gruesome massacres
    By making regular Syrians suffer greatly for hosting rebels in their neighborhoods, the regime hopes residents will reject fighters - a tactic that has already succeeded in several areas across the country.
    Syria's internal dynamics have shifted. Syrians have largely split into two camps, whereas before there had been a large group in the middle that supported neither the regime nor the opposition.
    Slipping into the regime camp are mainly minority groups that were previously on the fence - Christians, Druze, and Ismailis - but have grown disenchanted with the rebels.
    Meanwhile, the opposition has clearly failed to unite and present a viable alternative to Assad.

90% Drop in Number of Infiltrators (Ynet News)
    Israel's Interior Ministry reported Tuesday that in August, only 199 infiltrators crossed into Israel from Egypt.
    In August 2011 there were 2,000. The ministry attributed the drop to the near-completion of the security fence along the southern border.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Supplying Syrian Military via Iraqi Airspace - Michael R. Gordon
    Iran has resumed shipping military equipment to Syria over Iraqi airspace in a new effort to bolster the embattled government of President Assad, according to senior American officials. The Obama administration pressed Iraq to shut down the air corridor that Iran had been using earlier this year, raising the issue with Prime Minister Maliki. But Iran doubled down in supporting the Syrian leader and the flights started up again in July. Maliki's tolerance of Iran's use of Iraqi airspace suggests the limits of the Obama administration's influence in Iraq, despite the American role in toppling Saddam Hussein and ushering in a new government.
        Several airlines have been involved in ferrying the arms, according to American officials, including Mahan Air, a commercial Iranian airline that the U.S. Treasury Department said last year had ferried men, supplies and money for Iran's paramilitary Quds Force and Hizbullah. The Iranians have even provided a cargo plane that the Syrian military can use to ferry men and supplies around the country, according to two American officials.
        According to one American official, there have been reliable reports that Iraqi Shiite militia fighters are now making their way to Syria to help the Assad government. (New York Times)
  • Israel Tries to Ease Differences with U.S. Over Iran
    Israel, convinced that Iran isn't taking seriously U.S. vows to block it from acquiring nuclear weapons, believes that time to stop the Iranians is quickly running out. Yet senior American officials have made clear they oppose any Israeli military action at the current time.
        After tense exchanges with the Americans, Israeli political and defense officials said Tuesday that the sides are now working closely together in hopes of getting their positions in sync. Clearer American assurances on what pressure it is prepared to use against Iran, including possible military action, would reduce the need for Israel to act alone, the officials said.
        A UN report last week showing continued progress in the Iranian nuclear program reinforced the Israeli view that negotiations and economic sanctions are not persuading Iran to change its behavior. Feeling so vulnerable, Israel needs strong assurances from its key ally, said Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and confidant of Netanyahu. "We have to hear something a lot more concrete, a lot more public from the U.S., which is the leader of free world. What is it going to do?" Gold told Israel Army Radio. (AP-New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Security Cabinet Convenes on Iran - Herb Keinon
    Israel's Security Cabinet met Tuesday for ten hours to hear intelligence assessments and conduct an in-depth discussion on Iran. It is likely that among the issues discussed were the "red lines" that Israel would like the U.S. to establish as a way of deterring Iran from moving ahead.
        Uzi Arad, former head of the National Security Council, said that they could include a declaration that any uranium enrichment beyond 20% would be a direct trigger for military action. Arad told Israel Radio that other possible red lines could be the discovery of additional uranium enrichment plants or interference with the work of International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.
        In addition, Arad said the U.S. has not yet spoken in "categorical terms" about its determination to stop the Iranian nuclear march. An example of this would be clearer presidential declarations that the U.S. will not tolerate or allow a nuclear Iran, and will use all means to prevent it. Another "categorical" expression could be a clear statement that the military objective of any U.S. action would not be to "buy time," but rather to prevent Iran from ever being able to build a nuclear bomb. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Where Is the Red Line on Iran? - Yaakov Lappin
    This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke of a critical red line with Iran. Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, noted: "You need massive pressure on Iran to get it to negotiate seriously," adding that this was the purpose served by defining a red line. Without a credible military threat, economic sanctions and diplomacy stood no chance, she said. "We're not seeing a clear enough message on the credible threat," Landau added. "The idea is to set a red line now, to beef up the credibility of consequences."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Iran Information Disturbing, Not Daunting - Attila Somfalvi
    Israel's Security Cabinet held a special meeting on the Iranian threat on Tuesday. "The information presented to the Cabinet was very disturbing, but it wasn't too daunting," said a senior official who participated in the meeting. While the information Israel has on Iran's progress is troubling, "It's not scary. The Iranians are relentlessly pursuing nuclear activities and they're not slowing down." Israel believes that further sanctions should be employed to bring Iran to yield. (Ynet News)
  • West Bank Palestinians Protest Cost of Living - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinians demonstrated in West Bank cities Tuesday in protest against an increase in prices of fuel and basic goods. In Ramallah, scores of young men blocked the main road leading to the Mukata presidential compound. The protesters carried banners that read: "No to the Government of Disgrace" - a reference to the government of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. In Hebron, dozens of protesters burned effigies of Fayyad and shouted slogans denouncing his government.
        Earlier, dozens of truck drivers staged a sit-in strike in the center of Hebron, blocking several main roads. Similar protests also erupted in Bethlehem and the nearby Dehaishe refugee camp, where hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets, demanding that the PA government take measures to solve the economic crisis. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jordan's King Cancels Fuel Price Rise in Face of Protest - Ranya Kadri and Isabel Kershner
    King Abdullah II of Jordan moved quickly to block a recent increase in fuel prices after angry protesters took to the streets over the weekend. (New York Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Answers to Questions about Iran, Israel, Bibi and Obama - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Q: Was Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey straying from the administration script when he said he doesn't want to appear to be "complicit" in an Israeli attack on Iran?
    A: I do think the use of the word "complicit," with its sinister air, was not the word the White House would want to see used, in part because it made the Israelis unnecessarily nervous. Martin Indyk, of the Brookings Institution, and formerly the American ambassador to Israel, wrote in an e-mail, "I don't think Dempsey was scripted. The White House would never have agreed to his use of the word 'complicit.'"
        (Indyk also argued that Netanyahu is "not going against the will of the President if only because the day after he pulls the trigger he's going to be calling Obama to help manage the aftermath. And by backing down he incurs an obligation from Obama even if he doesn't get the 'red line' declaration he is hoping for.")
        No one in the world has done more to focus attention on the dangers of Iran's nuclear program than Netanyahu, and I've met many people in the American government who are privately thankful he pushed the international community to its (relatively) strong position. As Nicholas Burns, the former undersecretary of state, told me recently, "Netanyahu has made the threat of force credible and that's not a bad thing for us. We don't want the Iranians to think we're paper tigers, and Netanyahu has played a useful role in this."  (Atlantic)
  • Why Containment Is Not an Option Against a Nuclear Iran - Yaakov Lappin
    Iranian political, religious, and military leaders have expressed their desire to annihilate Israel at every opportunity. It would be criminally negligent to disregard Iran's official state ideology, and gamble with the lives of millions of Israelis on the unproven assumption that Iran will behave rationally as a nuclear-armed actor. For Israel, the struggle to keep Iran from going nuclear is about Israel's Right to Life.
        Once Iran breaks through to the nuclear arms stage, it would automatically spark a Middle Eastern arms race, as Iran's frightened Sunni rivals would rush to get their own atomic bombs. Sunni states such as Egypt - already under Islamist rule - as well as Turkey and Saudi Arabia would end up armed with nuclear weapons, too. (Gatestone Institute)

Where Is the Flotilla for Syria? - Ron Prosor (Wall Street Journal)

  • The fleets of flotillas, ferries, yachts, sailboats, canoes and catamarans that have set sail for Gaza in recent years rival the size of the Spanish Armada. Yet one might argue that humanitarian flotillas are needed just a bit more urgently in Syria, where more civilians have been murdered by the Assad regime than those killed during Japan's 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11 combined.
  • The conflict in Syria has also claimed roughly four times as many victims in the past 20 months as were killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past 20 years. The residents of Gaza continue to enjoy more international assistance than virtually any other population on the planet, but almost no aid is reaching the two million people displaced within Syria.
  • The flotilla crowd prefers to protest Israel's legitimate defense against the terrorists who target its citizens and fire thousands of rockets into its cities.
  • Israel's democratic institutions, civil society and independent media offer a wealth of easily accessible information that these "human-rights activists" use to attack Israel. With more reporters and human-rights activists per capita than anywhere else on the planet, we understand deeply the invaluable role of civil society, even though its institutions can sometimes be used and abused by those with the most radical of agendas.
  • Just this May, the British activist group Viva Palestina enjoyed the hospitality of Bashar Assad. Around the same time that Assad's thugs were gearing up for their massacre of children in Houla, members of Viva Palestina were proudly tweeting their whereabouts and posting photos on Facebook of themselves next to the regime's representatives. Instead of dancing with dictators, what if the flotilla crowd actually set sail in the direction where aid is so desperately needed?

    The writer is Israel's ambassador to the United Nations.

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