Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
February 15, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Increases Presence in Syria - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    Iran has significantly increased its involvement in Syria over the past few days, Ynet learned Monday.
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Hizbullah operatives assisting Syrian President Assad's brutal crackdown now number in the high hundreds.
    The majority supply intelligence and train Assad's forces on weapons' maintenance and reconnaissance. A smaller group is involved in the actual fighting.
    Tehran also increased its financial assistance to Damascus and maintains regular flights to the Syrian capital.

India, Israel Cooperate on Bomb Investigation - Yaakov Katz and Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Israeli forensic teams arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday to assist in the investigation of the bombing attack against an Israeli embassy car on Monday.
    Indian media outlets said Israel provided the Indian authorities with information on two suspects in the attack connected with Iran. Israel's envoy to India, Alon Ushpiz, said Israel had "no doubt" Iran was behind the attack.
    Tali Yehoshua-Koren, the wife of the Defense Ministry's representative to India who was injured in the bombing, was in stable condition after surgery. She is suffering from partial paralysis in one of her legs.
    Indian media said street cameras showed a man in a brown jacket following the Israeli embassy car on a red motorcycle.

Israeli Diplomats Worldwide Take Extra Precautions - Aviel Magnezi (Ynet News)
    The terror attack in New Delhi, the attempted attack in Tbilisi and the botched bombing in Bangkok over the past 24 hours have propelled Israeli diplomats abroad into a state of emergency, where even the kids are warned to stay alert.
    Veteran Israeli diplomat Eli Shaked said diplomats must make efforts to break their routine in order to "confuse the enemy."
    "You do everything not to be where you're supposed to be, in order to avoid the spot where (a terrorist) might be staking an ambush."
    "Even the young kids realize that something is off, and must be instructed to pay attention to what's going on without panic and without scaring them," he said. "The goal is to lead a life as normal as possible in an abnormal environment."

Israeli Earthquake Relief Delegation Welcomed in Turkey - Josh Hantman (Israel Ministry of Defense-IMRA)
    An Israel Defense Ministry team on Monday visited the Van district in Turkey which was hit three months ago by a catastrophic earthquake. Israel had transported 130 structures to the area by air and sea.
    District Vice-Governor Ahmet Kazankyeh, who conducted the tour for the Israeli delegation, said: "After the harsh quake that occurred here, you came, you the Israelis, with a lot of material and a lot of willingness to help. And for this I thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart."
    "You are our true friends, and the proof is what we see here. Only true friends can help so quickly and with such concern for their partners."
    Local university rector Prof. Dr. Mehmet Yozar said that more than 800 students will now be able to inhabit the structures provided by Israel after the earthquake. "Thanks to these structures we will be able to put life back on track here. We will finally be able to re-house the families and students."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Caught in His Own Blast: An Iranian Targeting Israel - Andrew Buncombe
    A day after an Israeli diplomat was injured in a bomb attack in Delhi and another attempt was foiled in Georgia - incidents Israel blamed on Iran - police in Bangkok were called to a property where an explosion badly damaged the roof. Reports said three men, all said to be Iranian, fled the scene. One of the men attempting to flee threw an explosive device at advancing police. His legs were said to have been torn off by the subsequent blast. The man was identified as Saeid Moradi. "We discovered the injured man's passport. It's an Iranian passport," Bansiri Prapapat, a police official, said. (Independent-UK)
        See also Thai Police: Bombs Intended for "Foreign Nationals" - Wassayos Ngamkham
    Bangkok police later arrested an Iranian, Mohummad Hazaei, at the airport. Hazaei arrived in Thailand on Feb. 8 on the same flight as Moradi and a third suspect. In the house where the earlier explosion had occurred, police found two explosive devices made of several kilos of C-4 plastic explosive built inside combination flashlight-emergency radios. National police chief Priewpan Damapong said the bombs were installed with magnets and could be stuck on vehicles. (Bangkok Post/MCOT-Thailand)
        See also Israel: Thai Bombs Similar to Ones Used in India, Georgia Attacks
    The "sticky" bombs discovered in a Bangkok house after an accidental blast were similar to devices used against Israeli Embassy targets in India and Georgia, Israel's ambassador to Thailand Itzhak Shoha said Wednesday. That and the arrest of the two Iranians in Thailand "again leave not too much room to assume who was behind it," he said. On Tuesday, Israel's Channel 10 TV quoted unidentified Thai authorities as saying the captured Iranians confessed to targeting Israeli interests. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Egypt State Media Accuses U.S. of Spreading Anarchy - Tom Perry
    "America is behind the anarchy," declared the front page of Al Gomhuria. "American funding aims to spread anarchy in Egypt," read the front page of Al Ahram. The headlines in two of Egypt's most widely distributed dailies marked another low in the crisis between Washington and Cairo triggered by the investigation into U.S.-based non-governmental organizations that has resulted in criminal charges against Americans who have been banned from leaving the country.
        Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a U.S. Senate hearing on Tuesday he had tried to convince Egypt's ruling generals of the gravity of the case during a visit to Cairo at the weekend. "I spent about a day and a half in conversation with them encouraging them in the strongest possible terms to resolve this so that our mil-to-mil (military-to-military) relationship could continue," Dempsey said. "When I left there, there was no doubt that they understood the seriousness of it."  (Reuters)
        See also Conspiracy Theories in Egypt - Elliott Abrams
    Egypt's leading aid official views the U.S. not as a partner, not as donor, but as a conspirator against Egypt. (Council on Foreign Relations)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: World Must Set Red Lines on Iranian Nuclear Program - Herb Keinon
    "The world must denounce Iran's terrorist activity and mark red lines on the Iranian nuclear program," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday. "Iran is undermining the stability of the world. It is attacking innocent diplomats around the world. The countries of the world must condemn these acts and draw a red line against Iranian aggression. This aggression, if not stopped, will eventually spread."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Congress Ready to Increase Israel Missile-Defense Funding - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Congress is set to significantly increase funding for Israeli missile defense to more than make up for White House cuts to the program, Capitol Hill sources told the Jerusalem Post Tuesday. The 2013 budget proposal unveiled by President Obama on Monday trims $6 million in defense spending from the Arrow and David's Sling programs as part of across-the-board defense cuts.
        While the administration's request for missile defense funds has dropped in recent years from $121.7m. in 2011 to $106.1m. in 2012 to 2013's $99.8m., Congress has consistently increased the final allocation. One aide to a Democratic member on the House defense appropriations subcommittee predicted the 2013 figure would be in the neighborhood of the $235.6m. slated for 2012. Another Congressional aide said that if the Israelis ask for more missile defense funding, "without a doubt they would get it."
        Rep. Kay Granger (R-Tex.), chairwoman of the House foreign operations appropriations subcommittee, said, "The President's budget is a blueprint for what the administration wants out of the Congress. This is not what will be enacted into law."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israeli UN Ambassador: "The Children of Syria Cry Out to Us"
    During a discussion on Syria at the UN General Assembly on Sunday, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said: "Today I recall the images of infants and young children from the Baba Amr neighborhood of Homs. They are injured, covered in bandages and terrified beyond belief....These pictures of helplessness in the face of death serve as a moral call to every person and every nation in the world." "These children in Syria...are the deliberate targets of a brutal regime that will commit any crime and cross any line to cling to power."
        "It is time for the international community to stop standing on the sidelines watching murder after murder....And it is high time for this organization to start doing something meaningful to stop him [Assad] from killing his own people."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The U.S.-Israeli Trust Gap on Iran - Editorial
    While the Obama administration suggests that only a clear Iranian attempt to produce a nuclear weapon would justify military intervention, Israel believes that Iran's acquisition of the capacity to do so would also be intolerable. That's understandable for a country within missile range of a regime that has called for the extinction of the Jewish state.
        Israeli commanders judge that in a few months, once Iran has fully prepared a new nuclear facility located under a mountain, Israel's capacity to disable the program with air strikes will be greatly reduced. The U.S. would retain a military window of opportunity for longer. But can the Netanyahu government count on the Obama administration to act if a moment of truth arrives?
        For now, several top Israeli officials are skeptical. That is where Mr. Panetta and Mr. Obama should be making an effort. Rather than publicly arguing with Israel, they should be more clearly spelling out U.S. willingness to take military action if Iran is discovered taking steps toward bomb-making, such as enriching its uranium beyond present levels or expelling UN inspectors. Saying "all options are on the table" is not enough; the Obama administration should be explicit about Iranian actions that will violate its red lines - and what the consequences will be. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Is Ready to Talk - Dennis B. Ross
    Iranians are now facing crippling pressure and their leaders have in the past altered their behavior in response to such pressure. Notwithstanding all their bluster, there are signs that Tehran is now looking for a way out. In January 2009, Iran was spreading its influence throughout the Middle East, and Arab leaders were reluctant to criticize Iran. Today, the fear of Iranian intimidation is gone. Iran is more isolated than ever. The regional balance of power is shifting against Tehran, in no small part because of its ongoing support for Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
        Of course, Iran's government might try to draw out talks while pursuing their nuclear program. But if that is their strategy, they will face even more onerous pressures when a planned European boycott of their oil begins on July 1. The writer, a former State Department and National Security Council official, was a special assistant to President Obama for the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia from 2009 to 2011. (New York Times)

What Israel Should Do About Syria - Ehud Yaari (Times of Israel)

  • Since there seems to be an agreement in Israel that we prefer the devil we do not know to the one we have come to know so well in Syria, there are certain measures that should be seriously contemplated:
  • Israel has to scream from the rooftops that we fully support the transformation of the Syrians from mere obedient subjects to real citizens; that we sympathize with the popular desire to see the collapse of the hated internal security organizations; that Israel would be willing to contribute to any international effort to offer humanitarian assistance to the destroyed cities of Homs, Idlib, Zabadany, etc.
  • Israel should establish quiet channels to some different factions and personae among the fragmented opposition groupings. Having maintained for years contacts with quite a few of them, I have reached the conclusion that unlike Egypt or Tunisia, Syria is not necessarily destined to fall under a Muslim Brotherhood regime, although Islamists are certainly key players in the current uprising.
  • Using its long-standing contacts to the Druze community, Israel could try to encourage the inhabitants of Suweida Province (the Druze Mountain) in southern Syria to throw their lot against Assad. So far the Druze have been hesitant to pick sides, but once they do, it will have an enormous impact on the attitude of other important minorities - Christians, Kurds, Ismailis, Circassians.
  • Israeli intelligence agencies possess huge amounts of detailed quality data on the Assad killing machine - they know who gives orders to whom and how; they know what the instructions are and how are they carried out. This is information that is highly incriminating and embarrassing to Assad.

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