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July 6, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Parliament Speaker: "Time Has Come for the Disappearance of the West and Israel" (Press TV-Iran)
    Iran's Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has described the West and the Israeli regime as the major sources of oppression in the current era, saying that time has come for their existence to cease.
    "Today, the time has come for the disappearance of the West and the Zionist regime (Israel) - which are two dark spots in the present era - from the face of the universe," Larijani said Thursday.

Iranian Weapons on America's Doorstep - Joseph M. Humire - (Washington Times)
    A few days before Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit in June, Venezuela's ailing President Chavez unveiled the newest addition to his military arsenal: Iranian-designed, Venezuelan-built unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
    A Spanish media outlet recently reported that the drones could be a cover for a more threatening program in Venezuela, one that involves missile engineers and front companies that are part of Iran's missile and weapons-of-mass-destruction (WMD) programs.
    The Kimia Sanaat Co., an alias for the Iranian firm Qods Aviation Industries, is sanctioned by the UN for its involvement in Iran's missile and WMD programs. However, it is suspected of shipping more than 70 containers to a joint Iran-Venezuela auto manufacturer, Venirauto, located in Maracay, home of the joint Iran-Venezuela UAV program.
    In January 2011, another military site in Maracay went up in flames when an unusual explosion rocked the city and damaged the UAV facilities.
    Suspected of being involved in joint chemical projects is Parchin Chemical Industries, a subsidiary of the Iranian Ministry of Defense.
    Elsewhere, a Spanish newspaper reported that there are 145 credentialed Iranian diplomats operating in Bolivia, some of whom are trainers from the Revolutionary Guards of Iran.

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Leaked Foreign Office Documents Attack Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu - Marcus Dysch (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
    British Foreign Office documents, released following a Freedom of Information Act request, accuse Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of blaming the Palestinian Authority for inciting hatred of Israel as an excuse for him to delay peace talks.
    The documents were passed to The Commentator website, which claimed they proved a differing stance between Prime Minister David Cameron's support of Israel and the approach taken by Foreign Office civil servants.
    See also Foreign Office Attitudes towards Netanyahu (The Commentator-UK)

The Threat to Israel Is Far from Theoretical - Manfred Gerstenfeld (Ynet News)
    Europeans' current anxiety about the future derives mainly from darkening social and economic prospects. Some Europeans are also apprehensive about climate change. For Israelis, physical survival is a prime matter, often over and above their many other concerns.
    Israeli society faces mortal risks from parts of the Muslim world, where extreme anti-Semitic hate-mongering is massive. Israelis live in a reality and have worldviews that differ from those of other societies.

U.S. Homeland Security Allocates $9.7 Million to Jewish Facilities (JTA)
    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has allocated $9.7 million to Jewish organizations and facilities considered vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
    The funding from the Nonprofit Security Grant Program was the program's seventh allocation since 2005.

Israeli Medical Students Donate Books to Nepal (Nepal News)
    Israeli Ambassador to Nepal Hanan Goder-Goldberger on Thursday handed over a collection of books sent from the Medical School for International Health (Soroka University Medical Center), Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel, to Prof. Dr. Rajesh Gangol, Dean of the Patan Academy for the Health Science at the Patan Hospital.
    In recent years there has been ongoing cooperation and sharing of know-how and exchange of professional staffs between Israel and Nepal.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Brig.-Gen. Manaf Tlass, Member of Bashar Assad's Inner Circle, Defects
    The defection of Brig.-Gen. Manaf Tlass, a member of the Syrian president's inner circle, has dealt a blow to Bashar Assad. Tlass was a member of Assad's closest group of advisers. The two men had been friends since childhood. He is the highest-ranking military official to abandon Assad since the uprising in Syria began. (AP-CBS News)
        See also General Tlass Defects from Syria's Republican Guard
    Manaf Tlass' father Mustapha was defense minister under Assad's father for 30 years. Tlass is a rare representative of the Sunni Muslim majority in a political elite and officer corps dominated by Assad's fellow Alawites, and his break may reflect an erosion of support for the regime among wealthy Sunnis. A Western diplomat who knew Tlass in Damascus told Reuters: "His defection is big news because it shows that the inner circle is disintegrating."  (Daily Star-Lebanon)
        See also Syrian General Breaks from Assad's Inner Circle - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    Tlass was privy to the inner working of the military crackdown by the core Alawite forces on the popular revolt. As a senior officer in the Republican Guard, he would have been in regular contact with that force's commander, Bashar al-Assad's feared younger brother Maher, an architect of repression. (Reuters)
        See also Senior Sunni Defections in Syria - Andrew J. Tabler and Jeffrey White (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Syrian Deputy Minister, Who Defected in March, Speaks - Nour Malas (Wall Street Journal)
  • FSA: Opposition Controls 70 Percent of Syrian Territory - Yousef Diab
    FSA commander Colonel Riad al-Asaad told Asharq Al-Awsat that "90% of the military units affiliated to the al-Assad regime are being provisioned with food by helicopters, because they no longer possess the military capabilities to move freely on the ground in Syria for fear of being targeted and attacked." He added, "We, the FSA and the revolution, are in control of approximately 70% of Syrian territory."
        The FSA commander revealed that "more than 40,000 armed soldiers of the FSA are fighting on the ground in Syria, while there are 100,000 more who are waiting for arms to join the ranks of the fighters and who are ready for battle."  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also In Syria, the Tide Begins to Turn
    On all fronts President Bashar Assad is losing ground. Rebels have de facto control over swathes of territory, including parts of the border with Turkey. Fighters stroll across, ferrying in arms and medicine, and greeting refugees and defectors passing the other way. A UN expert reckons that 40% of Syria's populated area is no longer fully under government control.
        Many security men now move around in inconspicuous shabby cars, thanks to a rash of assassinations, many of them in the capital. As one insurgent pocket is squashed, another pops up. Inflation is running at 30% a year. Fuel is getting scarce. A Western boycott of Syria's oil is draining state coffers. Tourism is dead. Mr. Assad looks ever more isolated and vulnerable. (Economist-UK)
  • U.S. Presbyterians Reject Israel Divestment
    The Presbyterian General Assembly voted 333-331, with two abstentions, to reject a proposal Thursday to divest from three companies that do business with Israel. Major Jewish groups from across the political spectrum had lobbied furiously against the measure. The American Jewish Committee said the proposal demonized Israel and threatened Christian-Jewish relations. (AP)
  • Israeli Diplomat Asked to Leave Forum in Cyprus - Elias Hazou
    Israel's Ambassador to Cyprus Michael Harari, attending the 2nd Levant Energy Forum by special invitation at the University of Cyprus on June 26, was rather indecorously asked to leave after the Lebanese Energy Minister complained to organizers. "I decided to leave in order not to embarrass the President [of Cyprus]," Harari later told the Cyprus Mail. "The organizers should have handled it differently." Ironically, one of the forum's themes was the need for energy cooperation among the region's nations. (Cyprus Mail)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • "Polonium Found on Arafat's Clothing Was Planted" - Yaakov Lappin
    The high levels of the radioactive poison polonium reportedly found on the belongings of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat indicate that the toxin was planted on them long after his death, Dr. Ely Karmon of the Institute for Counterterrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya said Thursday. Polonium has a half-life of 138 days, "meaning that half of the substance decays roughly every four-and-a-half months." Yet, eight years after Arafat's death, Swiss scientists reported finding polonium at high levels. "If it had been used for poisoning, minimal levels should be seen now. Yet much higher levels were found. Someone planted the polonium much later."
        Karmon also asked: "If Suha Arafat safeguarded these contaminated materials, why, after seven years, was she not poisoned too?" In 2006, ex-Russian spy turned dissident Alexander Litvinenko died after being poisoned with polonium. Karmon also cited an article published Wednesday by the French daily Le Figaro which reported that the symptoms found in Arafat's French medical file do not fit polonium poisoning. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Is Preparing for the Next Lebanon War - Gili Cohen
    Six years after the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War, the IDF is preparing for another Lebanon war, Brig.-Gen. Hertzi Halevy of the IDF Northern Command said Thursday. "The IDF is preparing seriously and professionally for another Lebanon war. The response will need to be sharper, harder, and in some ways very violent."
        Hizbullah has the capability to launch a large quantity of rockets in a short period of time, and this could cause significant damage on the Home Front. "The next war will be different, and therefore we should stop it as quickly as possible, in order to make things easier for the home front. This means carrying out a very strong attack against Lebanon, and the damage will be enormous," says a senior officer in the Northern Command. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Key Issues

  • Will Iran Crack? - Meghan L. O'Sullivan
    The latest Iran sanctions came into full effect this week. Will increased sanctions compel Tehran to make real concessions and allow for a diplomatic solution to the standoff? The real test of sanctions is not whether they create economic hardship, but whether they induce a change in the behavior of Tehran's leaders.
        At the negotiations in Moscow, the Iranians demanded recognition of their right to enrich. This tough stance hardly indicates they perceived themselves to be under the sword of Damocles. Instead, it suggests that Tehran had decided to weather any and all economic pressure, seeing it as an unwelcome but possibly necessary cost of pursuing its nuclear ambitions. The writer, an international affairs professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School, is a former deputy national security advisor. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Egypt's Islamist Future - David Schenker
    The election of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi as Egypt's president temporarily puts to rest the debate about whether the nation will be secular or Islamist. Egypt is an Islamist state. Though headlines will remain focused on the struggle for supremacy between the Islamists and the military, the more important political battle in Cairo will be over what kind of Islamic state Egypt will become, with competition between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.
        The Muslim Brotherhood was never particularly moderate. Now, internal political dynamics are likely to propel the Brotherhood toward even more militant positions as it tries to bridge gaps with its Salafi cousins. The Salafis have threatened to withdraw from Morsi's presidential team if he follows through on his commitment to include a woman and a Coptic Christian among his six vice presidents. The writer directs the Program on Arab Politics at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Will Hamas Hijack the Palestinians' Islamist Spring? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Recent public opinion polls have shown that the popularity of Abbas' ruling Fatah faction has declined and that Palestinians are eager for change. Most Palestinians would like to see new faces among the top brass of their leadership. The same leaders have been in office for decades. Many Palestinians feel that under Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority has joined the club of corrupt Arab dictatorships that suppress the opposition and crack down on freedom of speech.
        Palestinian youth groups appear to have reorganized themselves and are preparing for another wave of protests in the West Bank. In recent days, the protesters have even begun chanting the same slogans that Egyptians used against Hosni Mubarak and the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces. The Facebook and Twitter protesters say they have no political affiliations and that their only goal is to replace the old-guard leaders in Ramallah with young and charismatic faces. The Palestinian Authority, however, says that the protests are part of a foreign conspiracy designed to undermine Abbas' leadership.
        In the absence of a credible and organized Palestinian opposition in the West Bank, a Palestinian Spring could quickly turn into an Islamist Spring, paving the way for Hamas to seize control over the West Bank. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Israel to Upgrade Air Force with Advanced Stealth Aircraft - Hanan Greenberg
    According to Steve O'Bryan, Lockheed Martin's vice president for F-35 business development, 20 F-35 fighter planes will be handed over to Israeli air force pilots at Eglin Air Force Base in south Florida in the second half of 2016. Israeli airmen will train in the U.S. and will return to Israel at the beginning of 2017. The transaction will cost approximately $2.7 billion.
        Due to the different shape of the Stealth, it will be "parked" in custom-designed underground shelters different from those that currently house fighter planes. IDF top brass feel that the Stealth is advantageous not only for deterrence purposes. Many believe the reason for acquisition of Stealths is to achieve real air superiority.
      Quite a few defense industries in Israel are benefiting from the development of the new fighter plane, since they are involved in production of some of its components. Israel Aerospace Industries is in charge of producing wing-parts; Elbit - helmet-mounted display systems and airframe parts. (Al Monitor)

  • Syria

  • Syria's Paramilitary Gangs a Law unto Themselves
    When members of Syria's shabiha paramilitary gangs strut into a shop, shoppers shrink back and staff rush to serve them. Opponents of the government say the shabiha were created by the secret intelligence apparatus of the Assad police state, ready to do the dirty work. Shabiha leaders now have a constant supply of income from raiding and looting rebellious areas and can easily buy more weapons and ammunition. In Hom's Zahra neighborhood, Murad holds court with his group of 30 men cradling rifles. A hulking former prison inmate, he says he now works closely with the security forces and has spies planted among the rebels. (Reuters)
  • Syria's Threatened Christians - Daniel Brode, Roger Farhat and Daniel Nisman
    Last month, Christian residents of the Syrian city of Qusayr received an ominous warning: Either join the Sunni-led opposition against Bashar al-Assad or leave. Soon after, thousands of Christians fled the town.
        Throughout the years, Christians, like many other minorities in the region, have lent their support to those regimes that have guaranteed their security and religious freedom. Watching their once-shielding dictators fall like dominos across the region, Christians have suddenly found themselves on the wrong side of history. Faced by a rising tide of radical Sunni Islam, Christians in Iraq and Egypt have fled by the thousands.
        In March, Islamist militants went door to door in neighborhoods of Homs, expelling local Christians. Of the more than 80,000 Christians who lived in Homs prior to the uprising, approximately 400 remain today. As rebel forces continue to chip away at Assad's control over the country, Syria's Christians continue to be expelled or held at the mercy of an increasingly extremist Sunni opposition. (New York Times)
  • Palestinians in Syria Drawn into the Uprising - Rod Nordland and Dalal Mawad
    Under the ruling Assad family, Syria has long defined itself as a champion of resistance to Israel, providing a haven for Palestinians and hosting radical militant groups like Hamas. Now the Palestinians are forced to choose between the popular mood and their benefactor. The top Hamas leadership chose to leave, while other groups stayed behind.
        Nidal, 23, a university student in Damascus, said he and his friends were reluctant at first to support the Syrian uprising. "Day by day, Palestinians began to see and hear by their eyes and ears what the Assad regime does, and this pushed us, slowly, to change." In addition, most Palestinians are Sunni Muslims, as are most Syrian opponents of Assad's government. At the same time, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, led by Ahmed Jabril, is said to be working with the Syrian secret police. (New York Times)

  • Weekend Features

  • IDF Ranks: Join the Game - Become the Ultimate Virtual Soldier
    IDF Ranks promotes you for your activities around IDF-related material. Your every action - commenting, liking, sharing and even just visiting - rewards your efforts, as well as helps spread the truth about the Israeli army all over the world. Earn points and badges and rise through the ranks to become the most decorated virtual fighter. Share fascinating content with your friends and family. Play now at (Israel Defense Forces)
        See also Want to Help Defend Israel? Become a Virtual Soldier - Ruth Eglash (Jerusalem Post)
  • Dead Sea Level Drops 11 Cm. in One Month - Sharon Udasin
    The level of the Dead Sea dropped 11 cm. in June to 426.13 meters below sea level, according to the Water Authority's Hydrological Services. A year ago, the level was 1.44 meters above that of today, and a decade ago, the level was 10.4 meters higher. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also German WWI Weapons Found at Dead Sea - Lenny Ben-David
    Last month Israeli newspapers reported on the discovery of a huge cache of guns, bullets, artillery shells and mines in the Dead Sea. It was believed the weapons belonged to the German army during World War I. The salt water preserved the weapons which were exposed as the Dead Sea waters receded. Photographs in the Library of Congress show that the Turkish-German army was well dug-in along the shores of the Dead Sea. (Israel Daily Picture)

The Obstacles to Reaching a Negotiated Settlement in Syria - Benedetta Berti and Cameron S. Brown (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)

  • The failed attempts to seek a peaceful end to Syria's ghastly bloodshed signal that all efforts to obtain a negotiated resolution to the conflict in the near future are unlikely to succeed. Given what each side stands to lose should it concede defeat, the possibility of achieving a purely diplomatic solution is extraordinarily dim.
  • The Syrian uprising is most likely to end in one of two ways: either one side will eventually suppress the other entirely, or outside actors will impose an end to the slaughter and oversee a political transition.
  • The regime is still largely cohesive and determined to crush the opposition, despite ongoing defections from the military. Besides the support of most Alawites, the regime has successfully cultivated the support of other minority groups, such as the country's Christians. Moreover, a sizable number of Sunnis who live in the main urban centers like Damascus and Halib (Aleppo) support the regime, or benefit greatly from it, and thus stand to lose should the Assad regime collapse.
  • On the other side is the country's Sunni majority, especially the poor living in the countryside, who for decades have been eager to see an end to the Assad tyranny. They, like their Libyan counterparts, know quite well that if they end the protests, the regime will spare no effort to hunt down its leadership. They realize that if the opposition fails now, it may be decades before another opportunity arises.
  • Both sides perceive the conflict in similar zero-sum terms, and neither side trusts its adversary to live up to its end of any substantive bargain.
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