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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
May 23, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Syrian Rebels in Trouble: German Intelligence Sees Assad Regaining Hold - Matthias Gebauer (Der Speigel-Germany)
    Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, has fundamentally changed its view of the ongoing civil war in Syria. The BND now believes the Syrian military is capable of undertaking successful operations against rebel units at will.
    Assad's troops once again possess effective supply lines to ensure sufficient quantities of weapons and other materiel. Fuel supplies for tanks and military aircraft, which had proved troublesome, are once again available.
    The BND does not believe that Assad's military is strong enough to defeat the rebels, but it can improve its position in the current stalemate. Fighters loyal to Assad have expelled rebel fighters from several districts on the edge of Damascus and cut off their supply lines.
    Meanwhile, the different rebel groups are fighting with each other to attain supremacy in individual regions.
    The BND says there is no functional chain of command between opposition leaders abroad and the militias inside of Syria. The fighters on the ground simply don't recognize the political leadership.

Two Argentina Bombing Suspects among Iran Presidential Candidates (JTA)
    Mohsen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayati, who are believed to have planned the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires, were among the eight candidates approved Tuesday for Iran's June 14 presidential election.
    Rezai is under an international arrest warrant from Interpol, as is the current defense minister, Gen. Ahmed Vahidi.

Middle Eastern Hackers Are Targeting the U.S. - Steven Stalinsky (Wall Street Journal)
    On Friday, the Financial Times became the latest victim of the Syrian Electronic Army when the pro-Assad group hijacked the newspaper's technology blog and its Twitter account.
    For the past decade a considerable number of cyberattacks and threats against the U.S. and other Western countries have emanated from the Arab and Islamic world.
    A large number of cyberattacks from the Middle East have directly followed fatwas issued by influential sheiks specifically supporting them.
    On Feb. 6, 2013, a major Salafist website hosted in New Jersey and owned by Sheik Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi published a fatwa in response to a question about the permissibility of hacking and using fraudulent credit card information on U.S. retail websites.
    The fatwa stated that since the citizens of "infidel" countries are legitimate targets, taking their property "is permissible."
    The writer is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
    See also 10 Reasons to Worry about the Syrian Electronic Army - Dylan Love (Business Insider)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Lawmakers Pledge to Back Israel Against Iran - Michael Bowman
    The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution affirming America's firm opposition to Iran's nuclear ambitions, and pledging full support for Israel in the event of an Israeli military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. (VOA News)
  • IAEA Report: Iran Expands Nuclear Technology
    The UN atomic agency on Wednesday detailed rapid Iranian progress in two programs geared toward making nuclear weapons, saying Tehran has upgraded its uranium enrichment facilities and advanced in building a plutonium-producing reactor. The International Atomic Energy Agency said Tehran had installed close to 700 high-tech centrifuges for uranium enrichment, and had added hundreds of older-generation machines at its main enrichment site to bring the total number to more than 13,000. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Text of May 22, 2013, IAEA Report on Iran (IAEA)
  • Britain, Germany and France Seek to Put Hizbullah Military Wing on Terror List - Nicholas Kulish
    Britain, Germany and France have thrown their weight behind a push for the EU to designate Hizbullah's "military wing" as a terrorist organization. Still, many experts question the strategy of simply taking aim at Hizbullah's military wing, arguing that it is impossible to separate the political organization from the group's large armed militia. Moreover, if only the so-called military wing is blacklisted, the group might still be able to raise money in Europe under the banner of politics.
        An Israeli official noted that "Hizbullah itself does not make any distinction between the political wing and the military wing, so why should anybody else?...The whole organization is centered around terror - it's one big military wing."  (New York Times)
  • British Soldier Hacked to Death in Islamist Attack in London - Gordon Rayner and Steven Swinford
    A British soldier has been butchered on a busy London street by two Islamist terrorists. The men attempted to behead the soldier, hacking at him in front of dozens of witnesses, before both were shot by police.
        After the killing, one of the men, believed to be a British-born Muslim convert, spoke calmly into a witness's video phone. "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you until you leave us alone. Your people will never be safe. The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day."
        Witnesses said the men used a car to run over the soldier just yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, before setting about him with knives and a meat cleaver. As they attacked the soldier, one of the men shouted "Allahu akbar."  (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu to Kerry: Israel Wants to Renew Talks with Palestinians
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Jerusalem on Thursday, as part of recent efforts to jump-start Middle East peace talks. Netanyahu said that the conversation with Kerry would touch on concerns about Iran and Syria, "but above all what we want to do is restart the peace talks with the Palestinians."  (Ha'aretz)
  • World Health Organization to Discuss Health Conditions in "Occupied Syrian Golan" - Herb Keinon
    Health conditions "in the occupied Syrian Golan" will be discussed at this week's World Health Organization annual assembly in Geneva. Even as tens of thousands of people are being killed in Syria, a WHO document reports that the organization "has no access to the occupied Syrian Golan and thus cannot provide a report on the prevailing health conditions there."
        Israel responded that "The Health Assembly is not the forum to discuss the narrative of an ongoing conflict, nor the place to decide on political matters." Israel "regards the continuous World Health Assembly's debate on the 'health conditions in the occupied Syrian Golan' as an absurd example of the way the assembly's agenda is cynically abused."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Court Rejects Suit Against IDF for Killing Palestinian Rioter - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The Jerusalem District Court has rejected a civil damages claim against the state for the killing of Ekel Saror during clashes over the West Bank security barrier near Ni'lin between Palestinian protesters and the IDF in 2009, it was announced on Tuesday. The court accepted the argument that the soldier who shot Saror was acting in self-defense.
        The state said that a force of only three soldiers was temporarily left behind to cover the withdrawal of a larger force, and that this force was attacked with violent rock-throwing that posed a mortal threat to the soldiers. The court said the soldiers' fear was reasonable as the rocks being thrown were large and that even after the soldiers fired warning shots towards the legs of a protester, several others continued to move toward them. The court also accused some of the plaintiffs' witnesses of blatantly lying in their testimony. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israel's Interests in Syria - Efraim Inbar
    Syria under Assad has been the most stable ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Middle East. Iran is the greatest strategic challenge to Israel's national security, particularly because of its quest for nuclear weapons. Iran is Israel's arch-enemy and therefore weakening it should be Israel's first priority in its foreign policy. The fall of Assad would be a great blow to Iran's ambitions for Mideast dominance. It is in Israel's interests that Iranian influence in the region be rolled back.
        Ascribing moderation to the Assad family because it has kept the Golan Heights border quiet is somewhat misleading. During all those years, Syria did not hesitate to bleed Israel via its proxies in Lebanon, Hizbullah and radical Palestinian groups. Moreover, the "moderate" Assad tried to develop a nuclear option with the aid of North Korea and Iran.
        The most significant result of the Arab upheavals in recent years is the weakening of the Arab state, which has increased the power differential between Israel and its neighbors. Jerusalem cannot choose its neighbors and their regimes; it can only minimize their abilities to harm Israel. Therefore, Israel's interests are very clear: stay out of the domestic struggles in Syria, and destroy any enemy military capabilities there that have a significant potential for harming Israelis. The writer, a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University, is director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • The Myth of the Arab State - Aaron David Miller
    From North Africa to the Levant, a process of state decentralization, perhaps even fragmentation, is underway that will have negative consequences for American interests, and there may be very little the U.S. can do about it.
        The three elements required for democratic life in any form simply aren't evident in the Arab world: leaders who rise above sectarian, religious and ethnic affiliations and govern in the best interests of the nation as a whole; institutions that are deemed authoritative, legitimate and inclusive and not mere playthings in the elites' struggle for power; and an accommodative process that contains and manages even the bitterest of debates without spilling over into violence or political pressures that paralyze national life. The writer, a Distinguished Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, served as an adviser to U.S. secretaries of state on Arab-Israeli negotiations. (National Interest)

A Palestinian Peace Message - Editorial (Wall Street Journal Europe)

  • Palestinian politics has overwhelmingly rejected the notion of the Jewish state's legitimacy. Yet the "peace process" marches on, with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and UK Foreign Minister William Hague in the Holy Land again this week to give it another try.
  • Enter Jibril Rajoub, veteran Palestinian politician and member of the Fatah Party's 20-person Central Committee. Appearing May 1 on Lebanese television, Rajoub said in Arabic that "The resistance, for us in Fatah, is still on the agenda. I am talking about resistance in all its forms." Such as? "By God, if we'd had a nuclear weapon, we would have used it this morning."
  • Quite a message from a man who a few years ago recorded a Hebrew-language television ad assuring Israelis "I am your partner." But so it goes with a Palestinian leadership bred by Yasser Arafat, who made an art of delivering different messages to different audiences in different languages.
  • A two-state solution will be at hand when Palestinian leaders endorse it - consistently, in Arabic, to the Palestinian people and to the Arab world at large, in children's textbooks and at their summer camps.

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