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July 18, 2011

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IDF Doesn't View Gaza Rocket Attacks as Real Escalation - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    The IDF believes the 20 rockets fired from Gaza that landed in Israel since last week were launched by radical Islamic groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and global jihad, made up of former Hamas operatives.
    "We are not viewing this as a real escalation," one defense official said on Sunday after three more rockets hit Israel on Saturday night.
    Israel believes that if Hamas wanted to, it could stop the other factions from firing.
    Since the Egyptian revolution in February, the IDF believes Hamas has smuggled in three times the amount of explosives it brought into Gaza in all of 2010. This is in addition to unprecedented amounts of anti-aircraft missiles and guided anti-tank missiles.
    Israel understands Egypt's relationship with Hamas has changed and that the Egyptian military is turning a blind eye to the increase in smuggling, and at the same time has also lost control over Sinai and the Bedouin tribes there.

Report: Germany Approves 6th Submarine for Israel - Yaakov Katz (Jerusalem Post)
    Germany will provide Israel with its sixth Dolphin-class nuclear-capable submarine and will subsidize the deal with a total of 135 million euros, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported Sunday.
    Israel already has three Dolphin-class subs; another two are currently under construction in Germany.

Empty Words: Saudi Blustering and U.S.-Saudi Realities - Joshua Teitelbaum (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
    Although Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are neither friends nor allies, they have shared interests with regard to oil and security for many decades, leading to economic and military relations that are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
    Therefore, despite occasional public "outrage" from Saudi officials about U.S. policy, Riyadh and Washington are still very distant from the parting of the ways threatened by some Saudi officials.
    The writer is a research associate at the BESA Center.

Why the Palestinians Don't Want Fayyad - Khaled Abu Toameh (Hudson Institute-New York)
    In Palestinian society, it is much more important if one graduates from an Israeli prison than from a university in Texas. This is the reason that the two Palestinian governments, both Hamas and Fatah, are dominated by graduates of Israeli prisons who hold senior positions.
    Hamas remains strongly opposed to current PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, holding him responsible for the security crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank.
    Many Palestinians are also opposed to Fayyad because, they say, he was never part of the "revolution." They see him as an "outsider" who was imposed by the Americans and Europeans.
    In 2006, Fayyad's Third Way list won only two seats in the parliamentary elections.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Protests Spread to Damascus - Khaled Yakoub Oweis
    Syrian forces killed at least 32 civilians on Friday, including 23 in the capital Damascus. It was the highest death toll in the central neighborhoods of Damascus since the uprising erupted four months ago. "Tens of thousands of Damascenes took to the streets in the main districts for the first time," said one activist. A witness in the Rukn al-Din district of Damascus said hundreds of young men wearing white masks resisted security forces with sticks and stones. "Down Bashar al-Assad," they chanted.
        Iran is considering offering Syria $5.8 billion in financial help, including a three-month loan of $1.5 billion to be made available immediately, the French business newspaper Les Echos said, citing a report by a Tehran think-tank linked to Iran's leadership. (Reuters)
        See also Syrian Forces Mass Near Town Where Many Soldiers Have Defected - Nada Bakri
    At least 1,000 Syrian troops, some backed by tanks, descended on Albokamal in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq on Sunday. Residents said soldiers from at least four armored vehicles joined the popular uprising, along with dozens of personnel from Syria's Air Force. A video uploaded to YouTube showed residents standing on two tanks and an armored personnel carrier and chanting, "The people and the army are one hand," a slogan widely heard during the Egyptian uprising.
        On Friday, the largest protests yet were held across the country, and activists said that on Saturday at least 30 people were killed and 500 were arrested. (New York Times)
        See also Anti-Syrian Protest in Tripoli Targets Iran's "Persian Project" - Antoine Amrieh
    Supporters of the popular uprisings in Syria marched in a demonstration in Tripoli, Lebanon, on Friday, chanting slogans against Iran and setting the country's flag ablaze. Following Friday prayers at Hamza Mosque in the Qibbeh neighborhood, around 100 worshippers marched in nearby streets before gathering at Ibn Sina Square, in what has become a weekly practice. Protesters rejected what they called the "Persian project, which tries to dominate the resources...of the country."  (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • Syria Arming Hizbullah with More Missiles - Richard Beeston, Nicholas Blanford and Sheera Frenkel
    With the help of experts from Iran and North Korea, Damascus is pressing ahead with its development of sophisticated missiles at a secret site built into Jabal Taqsis, a mountain near the opposition stronghold of Hama. The missile program is run by the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Damascus, which is on a U.S. sanctions list.
        The Times reported last year that Hizbullah had taken delivery of two advanced Scud D surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 700 km. Since then, the Syrians have handed over eight more of the ballistic weapons, which have been assembled with the help of North Korean experts. The projectiles, which carry one-ton warheads, are accurate to within tens of meters and bring all of Israel, Jordan and large parts of Turkey within Hizbullah's range. Hizbullah also has M600 missiles based on the Iranian Fateh-110 - with a range of 250 km and 500 kg warheads.
        Sources close to Hizbullah said the flow of weapons entering the Bekaa Valley from Syria had accelerated in March when protests erupted against the Assad regime. One Hizbullah fighter joked that the scale of the arms shipments into Lebanon was so great that "we don't know where to put it all." An Israeli military intelligence source said, "Now that they see Syria as possibly unstable, we are seeing the movement of a lot of weapons into Lebanon."  (The Australian)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians May Not Ask for UN Membership to Avoid U.S. Veto - Barak Ravid
    Palestinian sources and European diplomats say the Palestinians will give up their effort to be accepted as a full member of the UN - which would require approval by the Security Council - and will seek instead recognition by the General Assembly of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, which will not be a full member of the UN. The Palestinians recognized that the U.S. will veto any resolution at the Security Council for unilateral Palestinian statehood. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hizbullah Lost the Second Lebanon War - Amira Lam and Yossi Yehoshua
    Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, who just completed five years as commander of the IDF's Northern Command, said in an interview that since the Second Lebanon War in 2006: "Hizbullah has doubled its rocket capacity, but I think the improvements we've made - in terms of range of targets, firepower, and maneuverability - are greater in the long run. Today we are in a much better position opposite them. Our intelligence picture of the organization has greatly improved. Our target bank has also improved and Hizbullah understands this."
        "The reason they have not acted against us in the past five years is not out of concern for the welfare of the residents of the State of Israel. This organization feels, in my opinion, that the ground is dropping from beneath its feet. Now the group is charged with the murder of Hariri, and Nasrallah fears for his life. The person who used to travel around Lebanon so grandly lives today in a bunker as the last of the wanted men and speaks to his people via plasma screens."  (Yediot Ahronot-Hebrew, 15July2011)
        See also Second Lebanon War Revealed Iran's "Shi'ite Crescent" - Yossi Melman
    In evaluating the Second Lebanon War, with all due regret over the 121 soldiers who died and the hundreds more wounded, Israel came out of the war with significant strategic and political assets. The northern border has been quiet for five years. Contrary to Hizbullah's wishes, the Lebanese Army deployed in the south and an international force was stationed along the border, creating a barrier. Hizbullah's fortification line along the border was destroyed.
        Hassan Nasrallah has in effect been in hiding for five years, for fear of being assassinated by Israel if he shows his face in public. The Israel Defense Forces' deterrent power has been restored. True, Hizbullah has tripled its stores of missiles since the war, and upgraded them, but it presumably would have done so in any event.
        But the war's most important consequence, arguably, was the disclosure of the extent of the connection between Hizbullah and Iran. It was Jordan's King Abdullah who coined the term "Shi'ite Crescent" to stress Iran's expansion into Lebanon via Iraq and Syria. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Assad Takes Hizbullah Down with Him - Thanassis Cambanis
    The Arab Spring changed the rules of the game that Hizbullah so masterfully played for the last two decades. The more short-term challenge comes from Syria, where a tottering Assad regime could severely curtail Hizbullah's military room for maneuver. If Hizbullah continues to ally itself with Assad, rather than Syria's popular will, it begins to look like a movement that prefers Arab tyrants to the Arab Spring.
        The more enduring issue is the Arab political renaissance underway, which could produce movements well positioned to steal Hizbullah's anti-Israel thunder with a resistance program free from the party's sectarian, militant baggage. (National Interest)
  • Egypt's Military Holds onto Power - Daniel Pipes
    It's been my contention since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak in February that (1) this was a military coup against the prospect of Mubarak's son taking power and (2) the military brass intend to hold on to power. An important article in the New York Times explains how the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces plans to keep its power - by pre-empting the constitution. (National Review)
        See also Egypt Military Moves to Cement a Muscular Role in Government - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
  • The Arab Awakening: Revolution Spinning in the Wind
    For all their drama, and de spite the satisfaction of seeing hated rulers fall, the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia have had to struggle to maintain momentum. The bloodier would-be revolutions in Libya, Syria and Yemen have dragged on for months, generating ever more destruction, with no resolution in sight. Other Arab states, especially the monarchies, have so far parried calls for change with seeming success, using the familiar mix of coercion, co-option and promises. Yet the overall trend towards democratization is no more stoppable in the Arab world than it has been elsewhere. (Economist-UK)

Will a Declaration of Statehood Help Palestinians? - Harriet Sherwood (Guardian-UK)

  • While the Palestinian Authority plans to ask the UN to recognize a declaration of statehood, some Palestinian observers believe the PA leadership may be quietly seeking a way to "climb down the tree."
  • Diana Butto, a former legal adviser to Palestinian negotiators, said she expected a retreat from the UN strategy. "They [the Palestinian leadership] climb up trees and don't know how to get down, except by falling out of the tree."
  • The PA, she said, had not thought through what it hoped to achieve by pursuing the UN approach. "There is a lack of imagination. Pursuing statehood is just a tactic to strengthen its hand in negotiations." Statehood should, for example, enable the Palestinians to challenge Israeli policies and actions at the international court of justice, she said.
  • In Ramallah, vegetable shop owner Adel Abu Mariam said of the Palestinian UN bid: "If it fails, maybe people will be angry for a couple of days, but then life will go on. We have no strength for a new intifada. People know what happened before."

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