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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
December 21, 2011

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10,000 Soldiers Desert Syrian Army - Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    More than 10,000 soldiers have deserted the Syrian army, sources say, with as many as half the conscripts not reporting in the last three call-ups.
    According to Western intelligence agencies, even though the top brass is still loyal to President Bashar Assad, lower-level officers are deserting in large numbers, and in some cases, whole units have deserted en masse.

Violence in Syria Leaves at least 150 Dead over Two Days - Alice Fordham (Washington Post)
    The Syrian army battled military defectors and armed opponents of the government for a second day Tuesday. The fighting has centered on villages near the northwestern city of Idlib, said Wissam Tarif, an activist with the rights group Avaaz.
    One activist said 150 people had been killed, while others put the death toll at 269 - 97 security forces and nine civilians, with the rest defected soldiers who had staged ambushes against the army.

Syria's Economy Is Nearing the Brink - Christian Henderson (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Syria's economy is contracting rapidly. It is estimated that since the protests began, the country's gross domestic product has shrunk by as much as 20%.
    Revenues from oil and tourism, two important sources of foreign income, have almost disappeared. Recent Arab League sanctions have closed the trading route between Turkey and the rest of the region, cutting customs revenues.
    On the black market the value of the Syrian pound against the U.S. dollar has fallen to 62 pounds to $1, which means that Syrians have lost some 25% of their spending power.
    Imported goods have suddenly become very expensive and life in Syria is becoming difficult for ordinary people.

Mysterious Fire at Iran Refinery - Dudi Cohen (Ynet News)
    Witnesses reported seeing flames and thick smoke covering the area of the Isfahan oil refinery, the second largest in Iran, in the latest in a string of mysterious mishaps in the past few months.
    A power outage was created as a result and a state of emergency was declared at the refinery, the Iranian Mehr news agency reported.

Report: Apple Buys Israel's Anobit for $500 Million (Reuters)
    Apple has bought Israel's Anobit, a maker of flash storage technology, for up to $500 million, the Calcalist financial daily reported on Tuesday.
    Anobit has developed a chip that enhances flash drive performance and may as much as double the memory volume in new iPads and MacBooks.
    The chip is already incorporated in Apple devices such as the iPhone, iPad and MacBook Air.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Top U.S. General: Iran Shouldn't "Miscalculate Our Resolve" - Barbara Starr
    Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN that Iran is playing a dangerous game that could ensnare the U.S. into conflict and a renewed nuclear arms race. "My biggest worry is they will miscalculate our resolve," Dempsey said. "Any miscalculation could mean that we are drawn into conflict, and that would be a tragedy for the region and the world."
        Behind the scenes Dempsey is quietly leading the ongoing military planning for an attack against Iran's nuclear weapons in the event the president gives the order to do so. "We are examining a range of options," Dempsey said, adding that the military options are achievable. "I am satisfied that the options that we are developing are evolving to a point that they would be executable if necessary," he said. (CNN)
  • Plunge in Currency's Value Unsettles Iran - Rick Gladstone
    Iran's currency, the rial, tumbled in value to its lowest level ever against the dollar on Tuesday in panic selling caused in part by the country's increased economic isolation from international sanctions, an unbridled inflation problem and worries that government officials there are ideologically incapable of devising a workable solution. Iran's Fars News Agency reported that it cost 15,150 rials to buy one dollar in Tehran, compared with 13,400 rials to the dollar a few days earlier. In late October, it cost about 7,000 rials to buy one dollar, which means the Iranian currency has plunged in value by more than 50% against the dollar in the past few months.
        "This is the most serious financial crisis they've faced, with multiple things coming to a head," said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, a professor of economics at Virginia Tech and an authority on Iran's economy. "I have the feeling that really nobody is in charge of economic policy."  (New York Times)
  • UN Members Point Finger at U.S. for Refusing to Condemn Israel over Settlement Construction
    Fourteen members of the UN Security Council pointed a finger at the U.S. Tuesday for blocking condemnation of Israel's continued settlement construction. Washington vetoed a resolution in February that would have demanded an immediate halt to all settlement building. Payton Knopf, the U.S. Mission's deputy spokesman, told AP that the U.S. opposes Security Council action on "final status issues" because this "would only harden the positions of both sides and make the resumption of negotiations more difficult."
        Karean Peretz, spokeswoman for Israel's UN Mission, questioned why the Security Council was focusing on settlements but remained "silent and paralyzed" on pressing issues including civilian killings in Syria, terrorist groups operating in Gaza, attacks on UN forces in Lebanon and Iran's quest for nuclear weapons. "The main obstacle to peace has been, and remains, the Palestinians' claim to the so-called right of return (for refugees) and its refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state," she said. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PLO Reviews Security Coordination with Israel - Nasouh Nazzal
    The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) is currently reviewing whether to halt security coordination with Israel and downgrade the PLO's ties with Israel. Wasel Abu Yousuf, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, said that walking away from the security agreement with Israel remained an option that was being seriously discussed. "The Paris Economic Agreements will also be re-reviewed and amended should the Israeli government decide to freeze the Palestinian revenue funds again," he said. (Gulf News-Dubai)
  • Israel Will Send Development Mission to South Sudan - Herb Keinon
    Jerusalem will send a government delegation to South Sudan shortly to see how Israel can help the development of the fledgling country, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting South Sudanese President Salva Kiir on Tuesday. Kiir told President Shimon Peres, "I am very moved to be in Israel and to walk on the soil of the Promised Land, and with me are all South Sudanese people....Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people. Without you, we would not have arisen. You struggled alongside us in order to allow the establishment of South Sudan and we are interested in learning from your experience."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Protests Again Thwart Israeli-Palestinian Meeting - Khaled Abu Toameh
    In the second incident of its kind in the past week, Palestinian political activists Tuesday thwarted a meeting between Israelis and Palestinians in eastern Jerusalem. The activists are opposed to such meetings under the pretext that they are designed to promote "normalization" between Palestinians and Israelis. The event was called off at the last minute after the organizers learned that a group of Palestinian activists belonging to various factions, including Fatah, was planning to demonstrate in front of the conference hall. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Mufti: Everyone Capable Must Strike at America and the Jews
    Sheikh Nader Tamimi, mufti of the Jordan-based Palestine Liberation Army, has stated: "My brother, our God said, 'Kill them where you find them'....All the Muslim people must attack the common enemy. America is against us all. America must realize this. I issue a religious ruling now, and I am a mufti. I say: The clerics have decided, in consensus, that when the enemy conquers Muslim land, or takes a Muslim prisoner, the Jihad becomes a personal commandment for every Muslim man and woman, to the point where it is permitted for a woman to leave her home [to wage Jihad] without her husband's permission, and for a child without his father's permission. Everyone joins in the battle."
        "Now the people of Palestine are not capable [of doing this] alone, and therefore every Muslim on the face of the earth, if he does not fight the Jihad, let us see what happens to him according to Islamic law: His fate is that he will not enter Paradise....Oh my brothers, from Jakarta to Tangier, listen: By Allah, if you do not wage Jihad in accordance with your abilities, you will not enter Paradise even if you fast and pray. Anyone who finds an enemy target anywhere must strike at it, he must strike at it everywhere."  (MEMRI)
  • Palestinian Identity Is a Recent Invention - Michael Curtis
    The concept of Palestinian identity and nationalism is a recent invention. Today, however, it is clear that Palestinian nationalism has emerged and become a political factor. Historically, Arabs living in the area now known as Palestine were regarded not as a separate entity but as part of the general Arab people. No independent Palestinian state has ever existed.
        The first Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations in the area that met in February 1919 to consider the future of the territory formerly ruled by the Ottoman Empire declared: "We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria." Palestinian spokesperson Ahmad Shuqeiri told the UN Security Council in 1956 that Palestine was nothing more than southern Syria.
        The head of the Military Operations Department of the PLO, Zuheir Muhsein, declared on March 31, 1977, "Only for political reasons do we carefully underline our Palestinian identity....The existence of a separate Palestinian identity is there for tactical reasons." Only after the State of Israel was established in May 1948 did the term "Palestinian" become exclusively used in referring to Arabs in the area. The writer is a distinguished professor emeritus of political science at Rutgers University. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
        See also The Arabs of Palestine Saw Themselves as Part of Syria 90 Years Ago (Israel Daily Picture)
  • Tom Friedman's Slur Swap Changes Nothing - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Last week, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman asserted that the ovations Congress gave Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were "bought and paid for by the Israel lobby." Later, Friedman told New York Jewish Week's Gary Rosenblatt: "In retrospect I probably should have used a more precise term like 'engineered' by the Israel lobby." But there is no real difference between "engineered" and "bought and paid for." Both terms seek to describe the across-the-board, bi-partisan support for Israel in the ovations Netanyahu received as the result of Jewish manipulation, not a genuine and accurate reflection of American public opinion. (Commentary)

Obama: Bonds with Israel Are Ones that All Americans Hold Dear (White House)

President Barack Obama told the Union for Reform Judaism on December 16, 2011:

  • As President, I have never wavered in pursuit of a just and lasting peace - two states for two peoples; an independent Palestine alongside a secure Jewish State of Israel.
  • There's no question about how lasting peace will be achieved. Peace can't be imposed from the outside. Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them.
  • The fact that peace is hard can't deter us from trying....That vision begins with a strong and secure State of Israel. And the special bonds between our nations are ones that all Americans hold dear because they're bonds forged by common interests and shared values. They're bonds that transcend partisan politics - or at least they should.
  • We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know that Israel is born of firmly held values that we, as Americans, share: a culture committed to justice, a land that welcomes the weary, a people devoted to tikkun olam. So America's commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel's security is unshakeable.
  • No nation can tolerate terror. And no nation can accept rockets targeting innocent men, women and children. No nation can yield to suicide bombers....No U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel's security than ours.
  • We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons....We have imposed the most comprehensive, the hardest-hitting sanctions that the Iranian regime has ever faced....And we're going to keep up the pressure. And that's why, rest assured, we will take no options off the table.

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