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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
February 8, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Leader Denies Massacre in Homs, Syria - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
    Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah on Thursday addressed the bloodshed in Syria, cementing once again his allegiance to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
    He dismissed the reports of a massacre in Homs: "We looked into those reports. Nothing happened there. The timing of those reports - just before the debate in the UN Security Council - wasn't based on facts."
    See also Syria: 47 Die Overnight in Homs - Roland Oliphant and David Blair (Telegraph-UK)
    At least 150 people are believed to have died in Syria in the last 48 hours. On Wednesday Reuters spoke to activist Mohammad Hassan who said at least 47 people have died in Homs since midnight.

PA Monitors Palestinian Facebook - Khaled Abu Toameh (Stonegate Institute)
    Palestinian Authority security forces have been monitoring the activities of Palestinians on Facebook to make sure that no one criticizes them.
    The PA wants Palestinians to write only nice things about their leaders. Criticism should be directed only against Israel. Those who fail to toe the line will find themselves either behind bars or without work.
    The Palestinian leadership's clampdown on Facebook users is seen as a pre-emptive measure to prevent the "Arab Spring" from infiltrating into the West Bank.
    See also Official Fatah Facebook Page Glorifies Terrorists - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    Fatah's official Facebook page currently displays a poster with the pictures of eight terrorists who carried out a terror attack on the Savoy Hotel in Tel Aviv in 1975. Eight Israeli civilians and three soldiers were killed in the attack.

Israeli Radio in Farsi Transmits Peace to Iran - Aron Heller (AP)
    Radio Radisin, a private Farsi-language radio station based in Tel Aviv, airs Iranian music, poetry and current affairs shows aiming to spread peace between the Israeli and Iranian people.
    "We, the people in Israel, are a peaceful nation and not an enemy, or the 'little Satan' as we are described by the Iranian regime," said Shay Amir, 42, the station's CEO, who left Iran for Israel after the 1979 Islamic revolution. "For 32 years, the regime has poisoned its people against Israel. We are here to tell the truth."
    In addition, Israel's state-run radio station has been broadcasting in Farsi for 50 years and chats with Iranians via a switchboard in Germany.

U.S. Planning to Slash Iraq Embassy Staff by Half - Tim Arango (New York Times)
    Less than two months after American troops left, the State Department is preparing to slash by as much as half the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for Iraq, a sharp sign of declining American influence in the country.

Useful Reference:

Israel's National Photo Collection Being Released for Free Use - Batsheva Sobelman (Los Angeles Times)
    The Israeli government is gradually releasing its National Photo Collection from copyright restrictions. It's an online treasure trove of 150,000 photographs.
    Some historic pictures have already been uploaded on the Government Press Office's new Flickr account.
    See also Israel Government Press Office Photostream (Flickr)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Website: "Kill All Jews and Annihilate Israel!" - Lee Moran
    The conservative Iranian website Alef, with close ties to Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has published a doctrine detailing why it would be acceptable to kill all Jews and annihilate Israel. The article, written by Khamenei's strategy specialist Alireza Forghani, warned that it would only take nine minutes to wipe out Israel.
        It said Iran would be justified in launching a pre-emptive strike against Israel because of the threats against its own nuclear facilities. It added Israel would need U.S. approval and help to carry out such an attack, and that because of a current passive climate in America, the time for Iran to strike was now. Since Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa contain more than 60% of the Jewish population, it noted that Iranian Shahab 3 ballistic missiles could easily kill everyone. (Daily Mail-UK)
        See also The Nature of the Islamic Republic - Elliott Abrams
    This call for genocide is acceptable discourse in the Islamic Republic. It is a reminder of the evil nature of the regime, and helps explain why Israelis say it is unacceptable for that regime to possess nuclear weapons. (Council on Foreign Relations)
        See also Text: Iranian Official Calls on Regime to Attack Israel - Y. Mansharof and A. Savyon (MEMRI)
  • Iran's Middle Class on Edge as World Presses In - Robert F. Worth
    The Iranian government has sent police into the streets to stop the black marketeers trading in American dollars, but with confidence in Iran's own currency, the rial, collapsing by the day, the trade goes on. Hamid, a construction engineer, explained: "Food prices are going up, and my salary is not enough." He added that he had converted almost all of his assets into dollars and had also stockpiled months' worth of rice and other staples.
        The new European oil embargo has yet to take effect, but there is a rising sense of panic about Iran's encirclement, the possibility of war and the prospect of more economic pain to come. The rising economic panic has illustrated - and possibly intensified - the bitter divisions within Iran's political elite. A number of insiders, including members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, have begun openly criticizing Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in recent weeks.
        Many wealthy Iranians made huge profits in recent weeks by buying dollars at the government rate (available to insiders) and then selling them for almost twice as many rials on the soaring black market. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Defaults on Payments to India for Rice - Ratnajyoti Dutta and Mayank Bhardwaj
    Iranian buyers have defaulted on payments for about 200,000 tons of rice from their top supplier India, exporters and rice millers said on Tuesday, a sign of the mounting pressure on Tehran from a new wave of Western sanctions. The default prompted the head of the All India Rice Exporters' Association to call on members to stop rice exports to Iran based on credit. Vijay Setia, the association's president, said Thailand, Vietnam and Pakistan had stopped sending rice to Iran on credit. India is Iran's top rice supplier, accounting for 70% of its annual needs.
        Ukraine's maize exports to Iran dropped 40% in January due to payment problems, Ukrainian consultancy ProAgro said last week. Five ships of grain have been diverted away from Iran to other destinations and about 400,000 tons of grains on at least 10 vessels have been held up outside Iranian ports because of payments problems, trade sources said. (Reuters)
        See also Iran Parliament Summons Ahmadinejad over Economic Policy (Al Arabiya-Dubai)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Praises U.S. Measures Against Iran - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday said that he and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were in agreement on most of the issues raised in their meeting Tuesday in Washington. Most importantly, he said, "there is understanding and agreement that Iran must be prevented from getting a nuclear weapon." On Tuesday, Lieberman thanked Clinton for the "very important message" recent sanctions on Iran have sent. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S.: "Our Red-Lines about Hamas Are the Same as Israel's"
    State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland discussed Secretary Clinton's meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman on Tuesday: "With regard to Middle East peace, the foreign minister reconfirmed Israel's commitment to the two-state solution, made clear that this is the policy of the entire coalition government, and their interest in continuing the process of trying to get to direct talks."
        "Our red-lines about Hamas are the same red-lines that the Israelis have: recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and agreeing to all of the past Palestinian agreements."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Free Syrian Army Seeking Refuge in Lebanon - Zvi Bar'el
    Pictures on opposition websites show Free Syrian Army soldiers crossing into northern Lebanon carrying people wounded in the fighting in Syria. A field hospital has been set up to treat rebel casualties in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, 80 km. from the Syrian city of Homs. In the Wadi Khaled area of Lebanon, right on the border, the Free Syrian Army has set up logistics bases, a communications center and stations for smuggling weapons and ammunition.
        The Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar reports that al-Qaeda people have traveled to Lebanon from Libya and Iraq and are already "surveying the territory and examining possibilities for starting to act against the Syrian regime."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Syria, Iran's Achilles' Heel - Efraim Halevy
    Events in Syria could result in a strategic debacle for the Iranian government. Iran's foothold in Syria enables the mullahs in Tehran to pursue their reckless and violent regional policies - and its presence there must be ended. Ensuring that Iran is evicted from its regional hub in Damascus would cut off Iran's access to its proxies (Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige.
        Iran has poured a vast array of resources into the country. There are Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps encampments and Iranian weapons and advisers throughout Syria. And Iranian-controlled Hizbullah forces from Lebanon have joined in butchering the Syrians who have risen up against Assad. The writer, a former Israeli national security adviser and ambassador, was director of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002. (New York Times)
  • From the Syria Veto to the Egypt NGO Crisis - Robert Satloff
    Not only did Moscow and Beijing succeed in blocking a resolution on Syria not to their liking, they also procured from Washington a commitment not to intervene militarily.
        While it has been no secret that elements of the Egyptian regime (both before and since the revolution) have been incensed at what they perceive to be U.S. meddling in Egypt's internal affairs via the operations of the NGOs, a tacit bargain has permitted them to stay in business for years, without formal registration. One of the great ironies of the current crisis is that a revolution whose most democratic and liberal proponents benefited from the training provided by U.S. NGOs has now turned on those very institutions.
        In both cases, the reluctance to draw stark alternatives for the key actors only invited bad behavior to become worse. The writer is executive director of The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Silence as Arabs Kill Arabs in Syria - Eliezer Yaari
    More than 300 people were murdered in Syria by their own government over the weekend, killed by tank, cannon and mortar fire. Just across the border from Israel, a fascist, uncontrollable ruler is butchering his people.
        For weeks, I've been writing about this and trying to get the attention of human rights organizations. I have devoted the best years of my life and strength to establishing and supporting them. But the answers I got were vague mumblings. How is it that in all these months there hasn't been a single demonstration against the massacre? The writer is the former director-general of the New Israel Fund. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Wanted: A Goldstone Inquiry into Syrian Atrocities - Bradley Burston (Ha'aretz)

The New PA-Hamas Agreement: Opening the Gates to the Trojan Horse - Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Although the words of the Doha Declaration on PA-Hamas reconciliation signed on Feb. 6 sound weighty, their practical significance is small since it does not express genuine Hamas recognition of Abbas' leadership or authority. Instead, it is merely verbal, expedient recognition for tactical reasons, intended to enable Hamas' official entry into the PLO in the framework of new elections for the Palestinian National Council and to pave the way for Palestinian presidential and parliamentary elections.
  • The Hamas leaders are trying to implement the strategy of the Arab Spring in the Palestinian arena. They assume they will win an overwhelming majority in the elections and, thereby, complete their historic takeover of the Palestinian national movement. In other words, they view Abbas as the doorman who opens the gates to the Trojan horse.
  • From Abbas' perspective, his appointment as prime minister, in addition to president, will enable him to maintain the international recognition of the Palestinian government despite the agreement with Hamas, and give him room to maneuver in contacts with the international community, both politically and in terms of keeping the aid money flowing. Abbas thereby buys himself some quiet for an interim period. When it ends, though, he will likely find himself without assets and in a minority in the representative institutions of the Palestinian national movement.
  • Abbas' cooperation with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal, and his uncompromising refusal to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, illustrates the strategic choice he has made. He does not prefer the path of a political settlement but, rather, to link up with Hamas and the other regional forces emerging in the Arab Spring and thereby use them as a force multiplier against Israel without having to offer political concessions. The release of 64 "political" prisoners is not only a gesture to Hamas but also an implicit message that the security cooperation with Israel is secondary in Abbas' eyes to the old-new alliance with Hamas.

    Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

        See also Will Palestinian Reconciliation Lead to a Hamas Takeover of the PLO? - Jonathan D. Halevi (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

        See also The Doha Palestinian Unity Agreement: Now the Hard Part - Robert M. Danin
    Monday's Fatah-Hamas unity agreement announced in Doha marks the latest in a series of unimplemented accords between the two Palestinian adversaries. The announcement is more of a statement of intent than it is a full-fledged accord. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a former Director for the Levant and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs at the National Security Council. (CNN)

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