Al-Qaeda Leader Zawahiri Is Said to Have Ordered Terrorist Attack - Ellen Nakashima and Anne Gearan (Washington Post)
Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered the head of the terrorist group's Yemen affiliate to carry out an attack, according to intercepted communications that have led to the closure of U.S. embassies and a global travel alert.
In one communication, Zawahiri, who succeeded Osama bin Laden and was once his personal secretary, gave "clear orders" to Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the founder of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, to undertake an attack, a source said.
4 IDF Soldiers Injured on Lebanese Border (Jerusalem Post)
Four IDF soldiers were injured by an explosion during an operation on Israel's northern border, the IDF Spokesman's Office said Wednesday.
Syria: Islamists Advance towards Assad Bastion of Latakia (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
Syrian Islamist opposition groups seized 11 Alawite-dominated villages along the Syrian coast on Monday, prompting civilians to flee to the city of Latakia.
Largely Sunni rebel groups, including the Al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham Al-Islami (Islamic Movement of the Free Men of the Levant), attacked several pro-Assad villages with mortars and Grad missiles before storming them.
The rebels kidnapped a prominent Alawite cleric and Assad supporter, Badr Eddine Ghazal.
Elsewhere, Islamist opposition groups continued to attack Aleppo's central prison, one of the two main prisons where political prisoners are held.
The offensive started on Thursday when a suicide bomber detonated a large amount of TNT near the prison, and fighting continued throughout the weekend.
This is the second time that the prison has been targeted by the Syrian opposition. In May the rebels captured one building but were forced to retreat a day later when regime troops began shooting prisoners and throwing them out of the windows.
Palestinian Leader in Canada: Shoot Israeli Jews If They Don't Leave Jerusalem (JTA)
Addressing the annual Al-Quds Day rally on Saturday in Toronto, Elias Hazineh, the former president of Palestine House, called for "an ultimatum" to Israelis: "You have to leave Jerusalem. You have to leave Palestine."
"We say get out or you're dead! We give them two minutes and then we start shooting," Hazineh said to cheers from a crowd of approximately 400.
Last year, the Canadian government cut funding to Palestine House because of what Ottawa called the center's "pattern of support for extremism."
Photo: Baby Elephant Born at Ramat Gan Safari Park in Israel (AP)
A newborn Asian elephant calf plays with its mother La Belle and grandmother La Petite a few hours after it was born at the Ramat Gan safari near Tel Aviv, Israel, on Aug. 2, 2013.
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- U.S. Awaits Iran's "Credible Steps" on Nuclear Issue
The inauguration of Iranian President Rouhani on Sunday "presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly to resolve the international community's deep concerns over their nuclear program," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
However, "there are steps they need to take to meet their international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, and the ball is in their court....We want to see credible steps taken" to address concerns that Iran is building a nuclear bomb.
- Netanyahu Urges Increased Pressure on Iran
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told 36 visiting U.S. congressmen on Tuesday that "increased pressure" on Iran was the only thing that would deter it from pursuing a nuclear weapons capability.
"Iran's president said that pressure won't work," Netanyahu said.
"Not true! The only thing that has worked in the last two decades is pressure. And the only thing that will work now is increased pressure....You relent on the pressure, they will go all the way. You should sustain the pressure."
Netanyahu has repeatedly said that an Iranian nuclear weapons capability would constitute an "existential threat" to Israel.
- Egypt's Leadership Denounces "Foreign Pressure" - Maggie Michael
Amid a flurry of visits by American and other foreign dignitaries, Egypt's interim presidency denounced "foreign pressure" on Tuesday in a sign of its growing impatience with international efforts to resolve a standoff with supporters of ousted Muslim Brotherhood president Morsi. Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain arrived in Cairo on Monday at President Obama's request to press senior Egyptians for a quick return to civilian rule.
Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been camping out in two main sit-ins in Cairo and Giza for more than a month demanding Morsi's reinstatement. Privately, protesters at the sit-ins say the camps are their last bargaining chip, to press for release of detained leaders and to get guarantees that they will be included in political life going forward. (AP)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Former IDF Intelligence Chief: U.S. Coming Around on Iran Strike - Haviv Rettig Gur
"The American stance on an Israeli strike against Iran has changed dramatically recently," Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, who served as head of IDF Intelligence from 2006 to 2010, told Army Radio on Wednesday. "In 2012 the [Americans'] red light was as red as it can get, the brightest red. But the music I'm hearing lately from Washington says, 'If this is truly an overriding Israeli security interest, and you think you want to strike,' then the light hasn't changed to green, I think, but it's definitely yellow."
Yadlin is thought to be close to parts of the U.S. defense establishment. He served as Israel's military attache in Washington from 2004 to 2006, and was a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 2011.
(Times of Israel)
- Israeli Cabinet Sets Development Priorities - Herb Keinon
The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday added a number of kibbutzim, Arab towns, and small Jewish settlements to the national priority list for state benefits.
At the same time, a number of settlements that had been on the list were removed, including the large communities of Betar Illit and Efrat.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel said the decision on which communities to include was based on purely professional and objective criteria, including security considerations, economic health, distance from the center of the country, and proximity to a border. Some of the communities on the list were populated by those who had lived in Gaza before the 2005 disengagement. (Jerusalem Post-Israel Hayom-UPI)
- Terror Attacks Decline 20 Percent in July
There were 82 terror attacks in July compared with 103 in June. There were 50 attacks in the West Bank compared with 60
in June; in Jerusalem there were 26 attacks in July compared with 39 in
(Israel Security Agency)
- CIA Official Calls Syria Top Threat to U.S. Security - Siobhan Gorman
The Central Intelligence Agency's second-in-command, Michael Morell, warned that Syria's volatile mix of al-Qaeda extremism and civil war now poses the greatest threat to U.S. national security.
The risk is that the Syrian government, which possesses chemical and other advanced weapons, collapses and the country becomes al-Qaeda's new haven, supplanting Pakistan.
He said there are now more foreign fighters flowing into Syria each month to take up arms with al-Qaeda-affiliated groups than there were going to Iraq at the height of the war there. The Syrian government's weapons "are going to be up for grabs and up for sale" as they were in Libya.
Morell outlined the top threats facing the U.S. in an interview before he ends 33 years with the agency on Friday. Second on his list was Iran, followed by the global al-Qaeda threat, North Korea, and cyberwarfare. In the case of Iran, he cited the merging of the regime's nuclear ambitions with its desire to be a hegemonic power in the Middle East. "I don't remember a time when there have been so many national-security issues on the front burner as there are today," he added.
(Wall Street Journal)
- The Paranoid Style in Turkish Politics - Editorial
Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan's government is venting its paranoid side, sentencing dozens of opponents to lengthy prison terms as part of a conspiracy case unworthy of a democratic state. The government has imprisoned hundreds of people it claims are part of the plot, many of them senior military officers but also journalists, lawyers and members of parliament.
For years, Turkey was a model of a Muslim country that could separate mosque from state. Under Erdogan, it might have also become a model of an Islamic democracy, hostile neither to religion nor modernity. With Monday's verdicts, it looks like something more depressingly familiar to the Middle East: a state where the fate of its citizens depends on the whims of the strongman.
(Wall Street Journal)
See also Scientists Sentenced in Turkish Conspiracy Trials - Alison Abbott (Nature)
- Hizbullah's Choice - Sarah Birke
When Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, gave a speech in Beirut on Friday, telling his Arab audience to stay focused on resisting Israel,
fewer people bought his line since Hizbullah seems to have neglected Palestine in favor of the war in Syria.
On Saturday, the day after Nasrallah's speech, the Lebanese journalist Nadim Koteich, a Shiite, asked on his popular satirical TV show "DNA": "Either the fighters have lost Palestine on the map and think it is in Syria, or they were informed that the road to Jerusalem runs through Qusayr and Homs," two Syrian towns where Hizbullah has fought alongside army troops. (New York Times)
- Iran's New President? I See Only an Old and Vicious Regime - Peyvand Khorsandi
I've been asked a number
of times what I think of Hassan Rouhani, the new Iranian president.
As an Iranian exile, I don't think much - or I'd be on the first plane home. There should be no doubt the man is one of "Them" - an unabashed Islamist: if he is a moderate or a reformer, I'm the Jolly Green Giant.
You can't be a moderate in Iran. Protecting the sanctity of the Islamic Republic's founding Khomeini-ist principles, and its resulting injustices, is your raison d'etre and if you're not up to the task, you're dead. It's a gangster regime, pure and simple.
For years this guy was the Secretary of Iran's feared Supreme National Security Council.
Countless killings occurred under his watch, not least during the student uprising of 1999 which Rouhani vowed to "crush mercilessly and monumentally."
The Supreme Leader's PR machine offers up a cutesy, smiling cleric keen to work with the West, inviting us to see him as no more harmful than the Cookie Monster.
The War on Terror Is Here to Stay - Walter Russell Mead (American Interest)
- With the latest intercepted chatter indicating that a major attack is being planned, and with the corresponding shuttering of U.S. embassies across the world, it's clear that al-Qaeda has adjusted to American tactics and taken advantage of the widespread chaos across the Middle East.
- The "Arab democracy" approach to the problem of terrorism that dominated recent U.S. administrations was a classic example of American "quick fix" thinking. Get democracy going, or so the thinking went, and we marginalize al-Qaeda, make people happy, and the war on terror comes to an end.
- However, the political, religious, cultural, and social issues that keep the Middle East under stress and set the conditions for al-Qaeda-type movements to arise are deeply rooted. Worse, we really don't have the answers to them.
- From Pakistan to Morocco there are countries and societies wrestling with demons we can't control and casting desperately about for answers we can't supply. That's a reality that is hard for Americans to accept, but accept it we must.
- Presidents Bush and Obama both thought they saw the evolution of a peaceful, democratic Middle East hovering just on the horizon. Instead, we face a long slog and changing risk against people who really, really hate us, and really, really believe that killing as many of us as possible is the shortest road to a better life for them and their people.
The writer is Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and a former Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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