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August 31, 2011

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Jordanian Opposition Demands Limits on King's Powers (DPA/Trend - Azerbaijan)
  Jordan's opposition Muslim Brotherhood movement on Sunday called for a curtailment of the king's powers and indicated it might boycott the next general elections if its demands were not met.
  "The Islamic movement will decide its political participation in the light of the response to these necessary demands that cannot be postponed," said Hamzeh Mansour, secretary general of the Islamic Action Front, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
  One of these demands, Mansour said, called for a revision of the constitution to ensure that prime ministers be appointed from parties or parliamentary coalitions that have majorities in the lower house. The king has so far appointed premiers and ministers at his discretion.
  King Abdullah II set up a royal committee for the revision of the constitution in May at the height of demonstrations that swept Jordan, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia.

Luxury, Horror Lurk in Gaddafi Family Compound - Dan Rivers (CNN)
  At a seaside compound in western Tripoli, Moammar Gaddafi's sons enjoyed a decadent lifestyle that his people could only dream about, while perpetrating unspeakable horrors on the staff that served their every whim. We met a nanny who worked for Hannibal Gaddafi. She'd been burnt by Hannibal's wife, Aline. Viewer discretion.

Female Sniper's Confession Reveals Mass Murder in Libya - Kursat Bayhan (Zaman - Turkey)
  Captured by opposition forces, 19-year-old Nasrin Mansur Alfarjari, a female sniper in Gaddafi's Special Forces, confessed to targeting innocent people at military training sessions during the Gaddafi era.
  She said hundreds of 19 to 20-year-old women soldiers like her fought with the Special Forces. They had to shoot living people as target practice, she said.

Israel to Focus More on Exports to India, China and Less on U.S,, EU (Port 2 Port)
  Figures show that Israeli manufacturers have been increasingly targeting the fast-growing markets of Asia, partly at the expense of the United States.
  Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Israel is working to safeguard its economy by focusing less on the United States and Europe markets and more on countries to the east and south.
  Steinitz noted, “Over the past two years the Finance Ministry has led a change from Israeli exports to the U.S. and Europe in the direction of China, India and South America.” Steinitz added that “In the past year the number of exports to those countries has gone up by 20%, from 33% to 40%.”

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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ Missile Defense System Hits 85% of Targets - Eli Lake
    Israel’s cutting-edge missile defense called Iron Dome scored an 85 percent success rate in knocking out rockets launched against Israel’s southern cities in recent clashes with Gaza.
      The battlefield success of Iron Dome could change the political calculus in Israel by providing protection against attacks that prevented Israel from withdrawing after it dismantled settlements in Gaza in 2005. A former senior Israeli defense official with detailed knowledge of the Iron Dome system said it is a crucial element of Israeli defenses. “But it is not a silver bullet because there will always be 10 times more rockets than Iron Dome interceptors can stop,” he said. (Washington Times)
        See also Iron Dome vs. Gaza Rockets - Moshe Arens
    The Iron Dome, developed by Rafael, is a superb technological achievement. It follows Israel's first technological breakthrough in ballistic missile interception - the Arrow, developed by IAI. It is an achievement unequaled anywhere in the world.
      The Iron Dome is a source of pride and gives us the feeling that we are not completely helpless against the rocket threat.
      But to be honest, whereas the Iron Dome can effectively defend small militarily important targets, it does not provide the protection that our civilian population in the south, and maybe tomorrow in the north, is entitled to. The idea that missile interception systems, when eventually deployed throughout Israel, will provide an impenetrable umbrella under which Israelis will be able to peacefully carry on their daily lives even when Israel is attacked by rockets, is an illusion. There are other ways to put an end to the rocket threat, and the government will sooner or later have to resort to them. (Ha'aretz)
  • Syria Crackdown Horror Catalogued in Amnesty's "Deaths in Detention" Report - Nour Ali
    At least 88 people, including 10 children, have died in detention in Syria since the uprising against the regime began in March in what amounts to "systematic persecution on a vast scale", according to Amnesty International.
      The majority of victims were tortured or ill-treated, with injuries ranging from beatings, burns and blunt-force traumas to whipping marks, electrocution, slashes and mutilated genitals.
      According to one activists' group, at least 551 Syrian civilians have been killed during Ramadan, which ends with the festival of Eid al-Fitr. (Guardian - UK)
  • Obama Administration Targets 3 Senior Assad Regime Officials with Sanctions
    The Obama administration expanded its net of sanctions on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime on Tuesday, banning Americans from doing business with the country’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, and two other senior officials as it seeks to further pressure authorities to halt a five-month crackdown on protesters. (AP/Washington Post)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • IDF Chief Warns Terror Groups: Don't Test Us - Tova Dadon
    IDF Chief of Staff Gen Benny Gantz on Tuesday warned the Gaza Strip-based militant groups of Israel's severe response should terror attacks and rocket fire on the south continue. "Hamas and the other terror groups in the Gaza Strip should know that bringing harm to Israeli citizens will bring about a harsh response. They do not want to test our might," Gantz said.
      Israel's security forces remained on high alert on the Egyptian border in response to a viable Islamic Jihad terror threat. Military intelligence suggests that an Islamic Jihad terror cell has left the Gaza Strip and intends to infiltrate Israel through Sinai. (Ynet News)
  • Jordan Urges Abbas to Rethink UN Bid - Roee Nahmias
    Jordan has appealed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and asked him to reconsider the PA's nearing bid for UN recognition, Saudi Arabia's al-Madinah newspaper reported on Tuesday. According to the report, Jordan views the move as dangerous and as one that may compromise the Palestinians' assertion of the right of return. (Ynet News)
  • Turkey's Need for Israel's UAVs May Rehabilitate their Relationship - Zvi Bar'el
    Turkey censured Israel for its activities in Gaza, but operates in a similar manner against the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK): It penetrates Iraq's air space and bombs villages or sites suspected of housing PKK members, causing the deaths of innocent people, including women and children.
      According to Turkish sources, the Turkish army is using unmanned aerial vehicles acquired from Israel, to which Turkish-made cameras are attached. It turns out that the amount of UAV's in Turkey's hands is insufficient, and it is seeking to purchase more, along with other military equipment, for immediate delivery.
      A senior Turkish source told Ha'aretz that it is possible that "the war against the PKK may actually be the factor that rehabilitates relations between Turkey and Israel. Turkey needs the UAV's and Israel is likely to be a good source." (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israeli Ambassador: Palestinian Statehood Vote Could End All PA Agreements with Israel and the U.S. - Josh Rogin
    If the Palestinians go forward with their drive to seek recognition as a state at the UN General Assembly next month, all agreements governing Israeli-Palestinian and U.S.-Palestinian cooperation could become null and void, according to Israel's ambassador to the United States.
      "We have a lot of agreements with the Palestinian Authority, we have no agreements with a ‘Government of Palestine,'" Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, told The Cable in an exclusive interview on Tuesday. "It's just a fact, we have no agreements with a ‘Government of Palestine.' It puts us in a different realm."
      Oren said that agreements covering all sorts of fields, such as import-export, water sharing, and Israel-Palestinian security forces cooperation, would become invalid if the Palestinians declare statehood unilaterally, based on a vote at the UN -- rather than by negotiating statehood with the government of Israel via the stalled peace process.
      "It's not just our agreements with the Palestinian Authority, it's America's agreements with the Palestinian Authority (that are at risk)," Oren said. "America is a cosignatory to the Oslo Accord and this would seriously undermine it." (The Cable, Foreign Policy)
  • Iran Feels Heat Over Support for Damascus - Farnaz Fassihi
    Iran's steadfast support for Syria's regime has rapidly eroded Tehran's credibility among Arabs, leaving the country with a foreign-policy dilemma as popular uprisings mount across the region. Meanwhile, Iran's official reaction to the downfall of Col. Moammar Gaddafi's regime in Libya has been measured. Iranian officials, as well as leaders of Iran-backed Hizbullah, appear to have taken a selective approach to the Arab uprisings.
      A new poll the Arab-American Institute conducted in six Arab countries and released in July showed Iran's popularity has fallen drastically. The poll, taken during the first three weeks of June, asked more than 4,000 Arabs questions that included whether Iran contributed to peace and stability in the Middle East. In Egypt, only 37% had a favorable view of Iran, compared with 89% in 2006. In Saudi Arabia, the number dropped to 6% from 85%, while in Jordan it fell to 23% from 75%.
      In Lebanon and the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza, anti-Syrian regime protests have erupted, to the dismay of their governments, which are allied with Iran. In Syria, protesters have burned Iranian and Hizbullah flags, along with pictures of Iran's Khamenei and Hizbullah's Nasrallah as they chanted "Death to the Dictator. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Observations:

    If the Arab Spring Turns Ugly - Vali Nasr (New York Times)

  • There are no recent examples of extended power-sharing or peaceful transitions to democracy in the Arab world. When dictatorships crack, budding democracies are more than likely to be greeted by violence and paralysis. Sectarian divisions — the bane of many Middle Eastern societies — will then emerge, as competing groups settle old scores and vie for power.
  • Syria today stands at the edge of such an upheaval. The potential for a broader clash between Alawites and Sunnis is clear, and it would probably not be confined to Syria. Instead, it would carry a risk of setting off a regional dynamic that could overwhelm the hopeful narrative of the Arab Spring itself.
  • Throughout the Middle East there is a strong undercurrent of simmering sectarian tension between Sunnis and Shiites, of whom the Alawites are a subset. Shiites and Sunnis live cheek by jowl in the long arc that stretches from Lebanon to Pakistan, and the region’s two main power brokers, Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, are already jousting for power.
  • Today, Shiites clamor for greater rights in Lebanon, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, while Sunnis are restless in Iraq and Syria. For the past three decades the Saudi monarchy, which sees itself as the guardian of Sunni Islam, has viewed Iran’s Shiite theocracy as its nemesis.
  • Saudis saw Iran’s hand behind a rebellion among Yemen’s Houthi tribe — who are Zaydis, an offshoot of Shiism. Iran blamed Arab financing for its own decade-long revolt by Sunni Baluchis along its southeastern border with Pakistan. And since 2005, when Shiite Hizbullah was implicated in the assassination of Rafik Hariri, a popular Sunni prime minister who was close to the Saudis, a wide rift has divided Lebanon’s Sunni and Shiite communities, and prompted Saudi fury against Hizbullah.

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