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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
August 2, 2011

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In-Depth Issues:

Palestinians Call for Mass Marches on Sept. 20 - Mohammed Daraghmeh (AP-Forbes)
    Palestinian officials said Monday they plan to begin mass marches against Israel's occupation of the West Bank on Sept. 20, the eve of a largely symbolic UN vote to recognize their independence.
    The U.S. opposes the Palestinian initiative and has signaled it will use its veto power to defeat the measure in the Security Council.

Why Damascus, Aleppo Are Silent for Now - Sami Moubayed (Gulf News-Dubai)
    Sympathy with the Syrian uprising is high in the Syrian capital, but close to non-existent in Aleppo because of the city's distance, its relative immunity from the economic crisis (thanks to flourishing business relations with Turkey), and the unique relationship the city has had with President Bashar Al-Assad, who has paid it plenty of attention since coming to power in 2000.
    Within the new districts of Damascus and Aleppo, the business elite has been staunchly pro-regime.
    That will likely remain the case due to the weight of their clerics (who are allied to the state), along with the political, social and economic interests of their nobility and business community.
    In many cases, that nobility is "new money" and rose to power and fame only after the Baathists took over in 1963.
    The silence of both cities, however, won't last for too long.

Palestinian Rocket Wounds Israeli Bedouin Woman - Shmulik Hadad (Ynet News)
    A rocket fired from Gaza on Monday exploded near a Bedouin tent encampment in southern Israel and its shrapnel wounded Fatma Sariaa, 55, in the legs.

4,000 Ethiopians on Their Way to Israel (Jerusalem Post)
    Four thousand Ethiopian Falash Mura received Israeli immigration authorization in the past six months and more than half already arrived, Israel Radio reported.

Jordan Jails Former Al-Qaeda Aide for Terrorism (AFP-Al-Ahram-Egypt)
    A Jordanian military court on Thursday sentenced Issam Barqawi, known as Abu Mohammed Al-Maqdessi, a former advisor to top Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, to five years in prison for recruiting people in Jordan to join the Taliban in Afghanistan.
    Following the verdict, Maqdessi shouted: "We are mujahedeen (holy warriors)...and we will continue to fight the Americans."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Ready to Discuss Border "Package": No Return to the 1967 Lines - Allyn Fisher-Ilan
    Israel has told Middle East power brokers it was ready to discuss a proposed package on borders with Palestinians to help Western powers revive stalled peace talks, an Israeli official said Monday. The official denied reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu had agreed to President Obama's proposal to negotiate a pullback to the 1967 lines.
        Israel Radio and Channel 2 television reported that Netanyahu had agreed to negotiate a possible withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. The Israeli official responded that Netanyahu "has been clear that Israel will not return to the 4th of June 1967 borders." "In order to...facilitate the restarting of direct talks, Israel has been willing to accept a package that includes a formula on borders," the official said, adding that "a part of the package would mean being recognized as a Jewish state."  (Reuters)
  • Syrian Forces Intensify Assault on Hama - Liz Sly and Joby Warrick
    Syrian forces launched a renewed assault on the city of Hama on Monday. At least four people were killed, but the toll was expected to rise because residents reported a sudden and intense increase in bombardments Monday night, with shells crashing into residential neighborhoods, a hospital and the courthouse. "The bombing is very big, and they are using some bombs that are bigger than tanks," said activist Saleh Hamawi. Syrian troops did not, however, penetrate the center of the city, which has effectively been under the control of protesters since June. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Military Claims Success Curbing Attacks in Iraq with Iranian Weapons - Thom Shanker
    Attacks by insurgents using advanced Iranian weapons have dropped significantly over the last few weeks, senior American military officials said Monday, citing a two-track campaign of allied raids on Iranian-backed militants and official Iraqi protests to Tehran. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a visit to Iraq: "You've seen in the last two or three weeks a dramatic reduction."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • UNIFIL: IDF Troops Didn't Cross Border - Hanan Greenberg
    UNIFIL said Monday that Lebanese fire on IDF troops earlier in the day was uncalled for, and that the IDF had not crossed into Lebanese territory, as the Lebanese army had claimed. Lebanese soldiers had opened fire on Israeli soldiers patrolling the border, who returned fire. (Ynet News)
  • Egypt Recruits Sinai Bedouin to Protect Natural Gas Pipeline - Oren Kessler
    The companies managing the pipeline that transports Egyptian natural gas to Israel have contracted Bedouin tribes to protect the facilities - sabotaged five times since the start of this year - Egypt's state-run MENA news agency reported Monday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli Prime Minister Sends Ramadan Message to Muslims - Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broadcast a Ramadan message to Israeli Arabs and Muslims around the world on Sunday. Ramadan began on Monday. Netanyahu said: "We are witnessing now a very dramatic moment in human history, and the history of the Middle East. We are witnessing the Arab Spring and we all want it to flourish and succeed. I know it is true for the people of Israel, who know the taste and meaning of democracy."
        He said that Israeli democracy can serve as "a beacon for their brothers in this vast area." If Arab democracy will take root, Netanyahu said, "there will be true peace. But we don't have to wait for that to happen. I would like to use this opportunity and call upon my neighbor, President Abbas, to sit down and negotiate with me without preconditions, right here and now."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Syria's Ramadan Massacre - Editorial
    On Sunday, Syrian army troops led by tanks launched an assault on the city of Hama from four directions, firing cannon and machine guns indiscriminately at the unarmed residents manning street barricades. Video clips posted on YouTube showed the tanks blasting at the minarets of mosques, while snipers picked off people on the streets.
        Assad clearly is calculating that those who suppose that dictators can no longer get away with massacres are wrong. On June 17, administration officials talked about sanctions against Syria's oil and gas sector and the referral of Mr. Assad and his collaborators to the International Criminal Court on war crimes charges. Nothing has happened since then. Is it any wonder that Mr. Assad thinks he can slaughter the people of Hama with impunity? (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Weighs New Sanctions Against Syria - Joby Warrick
    The Obama administration said Monday that it was studying possible new sanctions and other unilateral measures against Syria. (Washington Post)
  • Syria's Brutal Crackdown Must End Now - Editorial
    The savage crackdown comes as the government-sponsored National Dialogue was supposed to start. Many opposition leaders have decided that the only purpose of the supposed dialogue is to legitimize the government. The Syrian army's timing was deliberate. Across the Islamic world, Muslims were preparing for the start of Ramadan. But the Syrian army grabbed this opportunity to seek a military solution to the continuing civil unrest in the country. (Gulf News-Dubai)
        See also Losing Patience - Editorial
    The Syrian authorities might believe themselves to be smarter than their domestic opposition and the international community, but their latest moves have exhibited an embarrassing amount of shortsightedness. In 2011, the battle is not between the government and the Muslim Brotherhood. It's between the government and the people. It's between the government and a number of cities. And suburbs. And villages. The Syrian people are quickly losing their patience. (Daily Star-Lebanon)
  • UN Vote on Palestine Leads Only to Pain - Joel Brinkley
    In September the UN is likely to vote on whether to recognize Palestine as a sovereign state. Right now, Israeli and Palestinian officials are traveling to European and other capitals, furiously soliciting votes. But no one doubts that a majority will vote with the Palestinians. "We have no chance of winning," said Ron Dermer, a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We have maybe 30-40 countries on our side."
        Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, has publicly criticized Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, for raising public expectations. "That's not my thinking about September at all - assert absolute sovereignty unilaterally." The truth is, he added, the day after the vote will the same as the day before. (Tribune Media Services)

Preventing Civil War in Syria - Elliott Abrams (Wall Street Journal)

  • Unlike in Egypt or Tunisia, sectarian rivalries are central to Syrian politics. The Assad regime is Alawite, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that comprises only 10-15% of Syrians. However, the best-armed and best-trained divisions of the Syrian army are Alawite.
  • To avoid civil war, our goal should be to separate the Assad family and its closest cronies from the rest of the Alawite community. The Alawite generals in the Syrian Army should be key targets for a campaign of psychological warfare urging them to salvage their community's post-Assad future by refusing now to kill their fellow citizens.
  • The U.S. should stop speaking about "the regime" and speak instead about "the Assads." We should say clearly that Assad must and will go. The Alawites, and the generals in particular, won't think hard about their place in Syria's future until they are convinced Assad is finished. For the same reason the U.S. should be far more active in turning Assad and his closest supporters into international pariahs, using whatever multilateral bodies are available.
  • Much can be done to avoid a sectarian war in Syria if the Assad mafia can be separated from much of its own sectarian support. We can use our voice and influence to persuade Syria's minorities that they have a secure future after Assad is gone - and help all of Syria's communities agree on the rules for the post-Assad era that is coming.

    The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council from 2001 to 2009.

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