Face to Face with a Revolution - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
I spent two days last week traveling inside Syria with the Free Syrian Army. As I traveled many hours across back roads, it was clear that the rural north belongs to the Free Syrian Army.
Their checkpoints are everywhere except the cities and major highways, and rebel commanders can travel safely across much of the northern third of the country.
Col. Abdel-Jabbar Akidi is the commander of rebel forces in the Aleppo region and perhaps the senior Free Syrian Army commander in the country.
Akidi says unless the U.S. provides weapons that can tip the balance, he needs help from the jihadists who are so eager to fight and die.
If the U.S. wants the rebels to coordinate better, it should lead the way by coordinating outside help.
The shower of cash and weapons coming from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and other Arab nations is helping extremist fighters and undercutting any orderly chain of command through the Free Syrian Army.
See also A Revolt's Extremist Threat - David Ignatius (Washington Post)
This is an authentic, bottom-up revolution. It arose spontaneously in different parts of Syria, and every area has spun off its own battalions.
Unless these militia-like groups can be gathered around a single source for money and weapons, they're unlikely to mount a unified resistance to Assad.
Given the lack of coordinated military planning, terrorist attacks are one of the best tactics the rebels have.
The alternative power center in the revolution is the emerging Salafist jihadist network.
It's a mistake to see them all as al-Qaeda affiliates or wannabes. Many of them are simply pious Sunnis who know they can get funds to fight Assad by playing the jihadist card.
See also Rebels Say West's Inaction Is Pushing Syrians to Extremism - C.J. Chivers (New York Times)
Majed al-Muhammad, the commander of a Syrian antigovernment fighting group, offered a warning to the West now commonly heard among fighters seeking the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad:
The Syrian people are being radicalized by a combination of a grinding conflict and their belief that they have been abandoned by a watching world.
None of the half-dozen fighting groups visited by journalists for the New York Times reported seeing any donations of American nonlethal aid.
Fatah Reaffirms Option of Armed Struggle Against Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
The Palestinians have not abandoned the option of armed struggle against Israel, Mahmoud Aloul, a member of the Fatah central committee and former PA governor of Nablus, said on Monday.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
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- Experts: Iran Could Make the Bomb within Ten Months - Dan De Luce
Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to make an atomic bomb within two to four months and then would need an additional eight to 10 months to build the device, experts at the Institute for Science and International Security
said Monday in a new report.
"If Iran successfully produced enough WGU (weapons grade uranium)
for a nuclear weapon, the ensuing weaponization process might not be detectable until Iran tested its nuclear device underground or otherwise revealed its acquisition of nuclear weapons," the report said.
"Therefore, the most practical strategy to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is to prevent it from accumulating sufficient nuclear explosive material." (AFP)
See also Iran's Evolving Breakout Potential - William C. Witt, Christina Walrond, David Albright, and Houston Wood (Institute for Science and International Security)
- Syria Agrees to Buffer Zone along Turkish Border - Martin Chulov
Syria has agreed to keep its forces six miles (10 km.) from the Turkish border in the wake of last week's deadly shelling incident, Turkish media have reported. Such a move would amount to a buffer zone that would allow rebels to operate freely and civilians to seek refuge. (Guardian-UK)
- French Police Kill Suspected Terrorist in Strasbourg
French police in Strasbourg on Saturday killed the top suspect in a September 19 kosher supermarket bombing in Sarcelles, outside Paris.
The DNA of Jeremy Sidney, 33, a former convict who at one point converted to radical Islam, was found on the explosive device.
The incident was part of a far-reaching counterterrorism operation targeting radical Islamists that led to 10 arrests, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.
During the raids police seized a number of items including a list of "Israelite" organizations in and around Paris.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Air Force Intercepts UAV in Israeli Airspace
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) was identified penetrating Israeli airspace from the west on Saturday (Oct. 6), and was intercepted by the Israel Air Force and downed over the northern Negev. An IDF spokesperson noted that the aircraft was identified before entering Israeli airspace.
(Israel Defense Forces)
See also Is Hizbullah Planning a Drone War? - Alex Fishman
Apparently Iran, through Hizbullah or the Revolutionary Guards in Lebanon, tested its technological and operational capabilities and also tested Israel's air defense capabilities. The drone was shot down 30 km. from Israel's Dimona reactor. Meanwhile in Israel, engineers and intelligence officials are reassembling the drone. The Iranians sent us a message via Lebanon: You will be attacked not only with rockets and missiles, but with explosives-laden unmanned aircraft as well.
- Palestinians in Gaza Fire Dozens of Rockets and Mortars at Israeli Communities - Ilana Curiel
Terrorist groups in Gaza fired some 55 rockets and mortar shells at communities in southern Israel on Monday. There were no reports of injuries, although two buildings were lightly damaged and several goats were killed by an explosion at a kibbutz petting zoo. In response, the IDF carried out three aerial strikes and one ground assault on Hamas terror hubs and rocket launching pads.
Israel Channel 10 TV quoted a military official in the Southern Command as saying that Hamas was using sophisticated launchers capable of shooting several rockets at once. The launchers were remotely operated, allowing the terrorists to remain hidden from sight. (Times of Israel)
- Arabs Riot on Temple Mount on Friday - Melanie Lidman
Riots broke out on the Temple Mount on Friday, Oct. 5. Towards the end of Friday prayers, hundreds of Muslim worshipers streamed out of the Al Aqsa mosque and started throwing stones at the soldiers and border police. An Arab man also attempted to stab a police officer next to one of the gates leading to the Temple Mount and was arrested. Rioters also threw rocks in the direction of the Western Wall plaza below which was filled with thousands of Jewish worshipers during the Succot holiday, but police officers were able to stop the rioters and did not have to evacuate the Jewish worshipers.
- Wanted: A Truly Credible Military Threat to Iran - David Rothkopf
Despite the president's regular assurance that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that force will be used if necessary, the American people's war fatigue in the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan has made any complex, costly, or highly risky action a tough political sell back home. Further, there have been multiple assertions by analysts that the likelihood of a successful strike on Iran is low.
According to a source close to the U.S.-Israeli discussions on Iran, the action that participants currently see as most likely is a joint U.S.-Israeli surgical strike targeting Iranian enrichment facilities. Were it clearer that the primary Iran option being discussed is a limited surgical strike, then a U.S. threat of force would be that much more credible. And if it were more credible, then it would have the added benefit of providing precisely the kind of added leverage that might make diplomacy more successful.
It's not the size of the threatened attack, but the likelihood that it will actually be made, that makes a military threat a useful diplomatic tool.
- Israel Believes It Can Degrade Iran's Nuclear Capabilities - Josh Rogin
Israel believes it has the capability to succeed in degrading Iran's nuclear capabilities, former Israeli ambassador and special envoy Zalman Shoval said in an interview Friday.
He rejected a reported deal in which Iran would gradually suspend the production of uranium but only after a full suspension of sanctions. He also said that the Obama administration's red line - that Iran would not be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon - was insufficient as far as Israel's security was concerned.
The red line for Israel is when the Iranians have produced enough fissionable material from which they can produce at least a dirty bomb within a short time, he said. "Israel doesn't pretend that it can totally eliminate Iran's nuclear program," he said. "But the general view in Israel is that we could stop the Iranian effort for 3 to 5 years."
The Israeli government doesn't see any evidence that sanctions would convince Iranian leaders to change course on their nuclear program, Shoval said.
Even the collapse of the Iranian currency is not going to cause the Iranian regime to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, he argued. (Foreign Policy)
A Red Line Iran Would Take Seriously - Michael Singh (Washington Post)
- While red lines have been mischaracterized as automatic triggers or even deadlines for war, their purpose is to facilitate diplomacy. Red lines set by the U.S. are crucial for determining the "rules of the game" in geopolitics. Red lines create predictability and can also foster stability by heading off avoidable conflicts and forming the context for diplomacy.
- Red lines must possess enforceability and credibility. The U.S. red line on Iran - that Iran simply cannot have a nuclear weapon - falls short on both counts. It is not enforceable because once Tehran gets sufficiently close to possessing a nuclear weapon, the final steps can probably be done relatively quickly and in secret - and thus are not detectable.
- The U.S. red line also, regrettably, lacks credibility. Washington did not move to halt the North Korean or Syrian nuclear programs; we did so in Iraq but at so high a price that "avoiding another Iraq" has practically become a mantra of U.S. foreign policy. Other states are understandably skeptical that we would move to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons if and when the moment finally comes.
- And when it comes to credibility, the U.S. has undermined itself on multiple fronts - by rewarding Iranian defiance with better offers at the negotiating table, by enforcing sanctions reluctantly, and by allowing senior officials to speak out publicly against the military option that the president insists remains "on the table."
The writer is managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Isru Chag.
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