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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
September 19, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Syria Tested Chemical Weapons Systems, Witnesses Say (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The Syrian army is believed to have tested missile systems for poison gas shells at the end of August near a chemical weapons research center at Safira, east of Aleppo, witnesses said.
    Five or six empty shells devised for delivering chemical agents were fired by tanks and aircraft at a site called Diraiham in the desert near the village of Khanasir.
    Iranian officers believed to be members of the Revolutionary Guards were flown in by helicopter for the test.
    See also Damascus Planned to Send Chemical Weapons to Hizbullah - Joshua Davidovich (Times of Israel)
    Maj.-Gen. Adnan Sillu, who was in charge of Syria's massive chemical weapon stockpile before he defected three months ago, told the London Times that the Assad regime drew up plans to transfer chemical weapons to Hizbullah.
    Israeli officials have hinted that Israel would take action before letting such a transfer take place.

Iran Reports Sabotage at Fordow Underground Enrichment Plant (Reuters)
    Explosives were used to cut the electricity power lines to Iran's Fordow underground enrichment plant on August 17 in an apparent sabotage attempt, Iran's nuclear energy chief Fereydoun Abbasi-Davani said on Monday.
    He said "the same act" had been carried out on power lines to Iran's main enrichment plant near Natanz.

Hizbullah Leads Massive Anti-U.S. Protest in Lebanon - Zeina Karam (AP)
    In a rare public appearance, Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah told an estimated 500,000 demonstrators in Beirut that there would be serious repercussions if the U.S. does not ban the film "Innocence of Muslims" and have it removed from the Internet.

French Magazine Risks Muslim Ire with Mohammed Cartoons (AFP-Telegraph-UK)
    The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday published cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.
    The magazine confirmed that its latest edition contains several cartoons featuring Mohammed that would "shock those who will want to be shocked," the publication's editor said.
    Last year, after the magazine published an edition "guest-edited" by the Prophet Mohammed that it called Sharia Hebdo, its offices in Paris were firebombed.
    Jean-Marc Ayrault, the prime minister, issued a statement expressing his "disapproval of all excesses." The magazine's editor, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, asked: "Freedom of the press, is that a provocation?"
    See also Brazen French Magazine Insists on Insulting Prophet Mohammad (Al-Manar-Lebanon [Hizbullah])

Gunmen Attack International Peacekeepers in Sinai - Kristen Chick (Christian Science Monitor)
    Some 150-200 armed men on Friday attacked a Multinational Force and Observers base of foreign peacekeepers at Al Gorah near Al Arish in Egypt's Sinai peninsula.
    The attackers threw hand grenades, fired rocket-propelled grenades, briefly entered the peacekeepers camp, and raised a black Islamist flag. At least five soldiers were wounded.
    See also Islamist Militants Attack Egypt Security Headquarters in Sinai (Reuters)
    Islamist militants attacked Egypt's security headquarters in northern Sinai on Sunday with a barrage of mortar bombs and machinegun fire.
    The militants had climbed onto the roofs of buildings across from the headquarters building in Al Arish and fired rocket-propelled grenades.
    See also Egyptian Army Restores Calm at Multinational Force Camp in Sinai - (Al-Masry Al-Youm-Egypt)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu: Iran on Brink of Nuclear Bomb in Six-Seven Months - Matt Spetalnick and Dan Williams
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Sunday that Iran was just six to seven months away from the brink of being able to build a nuclear bomb. Netanyahu said that by mid-2013 Iran would be "90% of the way" toward enough enriched uranium for a weapon. "You have to place that red line before them now, before it's too late," Netanyahu told NBC's "Meet the Press," adding that such a U.S. move could reduce the chances of having to attack Iran's nuclear sites, "because once the Iranians understand that there's a line that they can't cross, they're not likely to cross it."
        "It's the same fanaticism that you see storming your embassies today. You want these fanatics to have nuclear weapons?" Netanyahu asked. (Reuters)
        See also Panetta: "When You Have Friends Like Israel, You Engage in Vigorous Debates" - Kevin Baron and Gordon Lubold (Foreign Policy)
  • Top Iranian Official Acknowledges Syria Role - Farnaz Fassihi and Jay Solomon
    Maj. Gen. Mohamad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, on Sunday acknowledged at a news conference that members of its Quds Forces were in Syria to assist and train a 50,000-strong volunteer plainclothes militia called Jish Shaabi, or People's Army, modeled after the Basij, Iran's network of militias and paramilitary organizations. "It is an honor for the Islamic Republic of Iran to share its experience and provide any kind of consultation to help defend Syria," Jafari said.
        U.S. officials said Brig. Gen. Hossein Hamedani, an IRGC commander who led the crackdowns on Iranian protesters in 2009, has been dispatched to help keep the Assad regime in power. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Egypt Seeks Arrest of Seven Expatriate Copts for Anti-Islam Film
    Egypt's general prosecutor issued arrest warrants Tuesday for seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Florida-based American pastor and referred them to trial on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that has sparked riots across the Muslim world. The eight face charges of harming national unity, insulting and publicly attacking Islam and spreading false information. They could face the death penalty, if convicted. However, they are believed to be outside of Egypt and are unlikely to stand trial.
        In charges that predate the film, a Coptic teacher in Egypt was sentenced Tuesday to six years for posting on his Facebook page drawings that were deemed to be insulting the Prophet Mohammed. Islamists outside the courtroom protested the sentence as too meager. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Egypt Threatens to Execute American Citizens - Michael J. Totten (World Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Cooperation with U.S. Is Preventing Iran Bomb - Shlomo Cesana and Yoni Hersh
    The head of the Israel Defense Ministry's Political-Security Bureau, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, told Channel 2 TV on Saturday that international pressure and fear of military strikes had kept Iran's nuclear program in check. Gilad said Israel and its allies were in agreement that "the Iranian threat is a central threat" and that awareness of this cooperation had prevented Tehran from producing weapons.
        "For now, as long as there is this unanimity, it seems to me that even the Iranians understand this and are not crossing the build a nuclear bomb, not because they are merciful toward us, not because they like us, but because they fear a military or other response."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Foreign Ministry: U.S. Ignored Arab Radicalization - Barak Ravid and Jonathan Lis
    For months before the attacks on U.S. embassies, senior Israel Foreign Ministry officials claimed that Washington was ignoring the increasing radicalization in Arab states. The attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates in Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and Egypt proved the great hostility to the U.S. and the unwillingness of these country's new leaders to challenge domestic public opinion. Senior Foreign Ministry officials say their conversations with their Washington counterparts have focused on "radicalizing trends" against not only Israel but also against the U.S. and the West.
        During a visit to Jerusalem by acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs A. Elizabeth Jones, "The Americans were constantly trying to supply explanations and excuses for events in the post-revolution Arab states, and simply ignored the problems," one senior Israeli official said. "Only now, after what happened to their embassies, the Americans are beginning to understand the situation."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Gaza Court Convicts Four Palestinians in Murder of Italian Peace Activist
    A Hamas-run court in Gaza on Monday convicted four Palestinians of the killing of Italian peace activist Vittori Arrigoni in 2011. Three of the defendants were Hamas security men who had been working for a Salafi group. Arrigoni, a member of the International Solidarity Movement, was kidnapped on April 14, 2011. (Maan News-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Video Didn't Start the Riots - Michael Singh
    The current unrest is not in fact a result of a single offensive video, but is rather a continuation and outgrowth of the Arab uprisings of 2011. Politicians have frequently sought to settle old scores instead of taking their countries forward. Political participation has increased, but it has not brought results sufficient to meet the (unrealistic) expectations of the people in these countries.
        In such circumstances, it is not unusual for people to look for others to blame. The U.S. is just one of many parties upon whom blame for the Middle East's woes has been cast. The former regimes, religious minorities, wealthy businessmen, Israel, and liberals are among those who have been targeted in these Arab uprisings.
        We must avoid the temptation of misapprehending the current spurt of violence as the harbinger of some sort of epic conflict between the West and Islam, or the urge to disengage with the Middle East in frustration over the persistence of anti-Americanism and chaos there. The Middle East remains a region which is vital to U.S. interests. The writer is managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Foreign Policy)
  • Cairo and Benghazi: The Writing on the Wall - Zvi Mazel
    The attacks in Benghazi and Cairo did not come out of the blue. There had been warnings. On Sep. 10, the Egyptian daily Al-Fajr published a communique signed by several jihadist organizations announcing that they were going to set fire to the American Embassy in Cairo and to capture whoever remained alive if the U.S. did not release all the jihadists jailed in Guantanamo as well as the blind Sheikh Abdel Rahman, spiritual leader of the Gamaa Islamiya. Abdel Rahman gave his blessing to the Anwar Sadat assassination in 1981 as well as to the first attack on the Twin Towers in 1991, and is serving a life sentence in the U.S.
        Freedom of expression is enshrined in the American constitution, yet American leaders were apologizing to terrorists who had attacked them, as if they were acknowledging that America itself was guilty of the creation of the film. America's apologies did not help. The fire spread all over the Arab/Muslim world. The writer, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Look in Your Mirror - Thomas L. Friedman
    I don't like to see anyone's faith insulted, but we need to make two things very clear - one is that an insult does not entitle people to go out and attack embassies and kill innocent diplomats.
        And, second, before demanding an apology from our president, the young Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, Yemenis, Pakistanis, Afghans and Sudanese who have been taking to the streets might want to look in the mirror - or just turn on their own televisions. They might want to look at the chauvinistic bile that is pumped out by some of their own media insulting Shiites, Jews, Christians, Sufis and anyone else who is not a Sunni, or fundamentalist, Muslim.
        Let's cut the nonsense that this is just our problem and the only issue is how we clean up our act. Our president and major newspapers consistently condemn hate speech against other religions. How about yours? (New York Times)
  • The Video Didn't Do It - Lee Smith
    White House spokesman Jay Carney told the world that the violent protests in Cairo and Benghazi and elsewhere were "not a case of protests directed at the United States at large or at U.S. policy, but in response to a video that is offensive to Muslims." Carney's comments send the message to America's enemies that if you kill our diplomats and lay siege to our embassies, the first move the American government will make is to tell other Americans to shut up.
        Virtually every description in our media of the movie was attended by various aesthetic qualifiers - laughable, crude, amateurish - as if the mobs and their organizers were motivated by considerations of artistic craft. To debate the right of an American to criticize religion does not indicate sophisticated sensitivity to the feelings of others but a willingness to turn tail and abandon our principles at the first sign of a fight. (Weekly Standard)
  • Can "Innocence of Muslims" Trailer Really Be that Potent? - Jonah Goldberg
    White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insists the attacks in Egypt, Libya and elsewhere were a "response not to United States policy, and not to, obviously, the administration," but were rather a spontaneous "response to a video, a film we have judged to be reprehensible and disgusting."
        It is simply a fact that Islamist radicals, the Arab street and the Muslim world have been angry at America for decades, under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. It's also true that demagogues and other opportunists have used things like this video as an excuse to attack America and the West for generations. But our public officials now treat attacks on Islam as especially offensive - more offensive than unremarked-upon near-daily attacks on Christianity, Judaism, Mormonism, atheism and just about every other faith and creed.
        Muslim rioters get special treatment. And that's nuts. If these people are going to hate us, maybe we should just accept that fact and stand up for what we believe, without apology. (Los Angeles Times)

Arabs Sense Weakness - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)

  • The wave of anti-West riots sweeping through the Muslim world will gradually subside, mostly because the regimes realize that this wave threatens them more than it does the West. When the riots erupted after the anti-Islam film was posted on YouTube with Arabic subtitles, the regimes in the Muslim countries displayed sympathy and understanding with the rage and violence of the masses. The street sensed that it had the government's support and went wild.
  • Muslims have been experiencing a frustrating "cognitive dissonance" for the past 200 years. They are taught that Islam is a source of greatness and achievements in all fields - as was the case during the religion's golden age. The frustrating reality, however, is that despite their oil reserves, the Muslims cannot integrate into the modern world and succeed in it, while the heretics in the West boast unimaginable achievements in every field.
  • Suddenly, the street became a dominant factor that imposes its will on the new Arab regimes, which are cautious not to anger it for fear they will meet a fate similar to Mubarak's. This is apparent in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Jordan and even in the PA. In the aftermath of the revolutions, the Arab street imposes its will on the regimes.
  • The White House and State Department condemned the insult to the Muslim religion's values, which in the Muslim world was interpreted as an admission of guilt by the U.S. which, from the Muslims' perspective, legitimizes violence.

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