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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
July 19, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Syrian Rebels Describe Damascus Bomb Attack - Adrian Blomfield, Ruth Sherlock and Damien McElroy (Telegraph-UK)
    "There were two bombs," Louay al-Mokdad, the Free Syrian Army's logistical coordinator, told the Daily Telegraph.
    "One was hidden in a packet of chocolates and one in a big flower pot that was in the middle of the table of the conference room."
    He claimed the operation was conducted by FSA members in collaboration with drivers and bodyguards working for Assad's inner circle.
    The two devices, one made of 25 lb. of TNT, and the other a smaller C4 plastic explosive, were said to have been planted in the room days before the meeting by an opposition mole working for Gen. Hisham Ikhtiyar, one of Assad's intelligence chiefs, who was wounded in the blast.

Egypt's Former Spy Chief and Vice President Omar Suleiman Dies in U.S. (AP)
    Egypt's state news agency says former spy chief and vice president Omar Suleiman has died after undergoing heart surgery in Cleveland.

Yemen Uncovers Iranian-Led Spy Ring (Reuters-Al Arabiya)
    Yemen has arrested members of a spy ring led by a former commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guard, the state SABA news agency said on Wednesday.
    The U.S. ambassador to Sana'a, Gerald Feierstein, said earlier this year that Shiite Iran was working with Shiite Muslim rebels in northern Yemen and secessionists in the south.

Free Syrian Army Gets Tribal Support from Syria's Neighbors - Ibrahim Naffee (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    A Free Syrian Army military source said most supplies come by road from Turkey, Iraq, and Jordan. Tribes play a major role in securing border roads for the delivery of weapons, said member of the opposition Syrian National Council Muhammad Mazeed al-Tarkawi.
    At the Lebanese-Syrian border, the Alfawwara, Alturki and Bani Khaled clans supply the FSA with weapons, money and men.
    Tribes on the Jordanian border are also delivering support in the form of money and weapons, according to al-Tarkawi.
    Tribes on the Syrian-Iraqi border give only moral support, he said.

Palestinians Join Syria Revolt (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
    A number of Palestinians in Damascus who are not affiliated to traditional Palestinian factions or movements have taken up arms alongside rebel Free Syrian Army fighters.
    Abu al-Sakan, a Palestinian activist, said, "We are treated in exactly the same brutal way as the Syrians. The regime is just as ready to kill us."
    "As Palestinians we have two revolutions: one against the Palestinian factions which do nothing for us, and another against the Syrian regime."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Terrorists Target Israeli Tour Bus in Bulgaria - Edmund Sanders
    An Israeli tour bus ferrying vacationers in the Bulgarian resort city of Burgas exploded Wednesday in a terrorist attack, killing seven people and injuring more than 30. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also 5 Israelis Killed, 34 Hurt in Bulgaria Suicide Bombing - Yaniv Kubovich and Barak Ravid
    Footage from airport security cameras captured the suspected suicide bomber roaming the airport for at least one hour, the Bulgarian news agency Novinite reported. He was a long-haired Caucasian with a fake U.S. driver's license. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Israel Evacuates Injured from Bulgaria - Carmit Reuven
    Two Israel Air Force C-130 aircraft landed in Burgas, Bulgaria, Thursday to airlift the Israelis injured in Wednesday's terror attack back to Israel. (Ynet News)
  • Jordan's King Abdullah: Syrian Chemical Weapons Could Fall into Al-Qaeda Hands - Wolf Blitzer
    King Abdullah II of Jordan said in an interview broadcast Wednesday: "All the countries in the region and the international community have been looking at [Syria's] weapons of what we call mass destruction, the chemical and biological weapons, as elements of tremendous concern....We can't afford the use of those chemical weapons, obviously on the Syrian people, but also the chemical weapons falling into the wrong hands."
        "Our information is that there is a presence of al-Qaeda in certain regions inside Syria; has been there for a while. And, again, one of the worst-case scenarios...would be if some of those chemical stockpiles were to fall into unfriendly hands."  (CNN)
        See also Washington Begins to Plan for Collapse of Syrian Government, Discusses Fate of Syrian Weapons with Israel - Helene Cooper
    Pentagon officials were in talks with Israeli defense officials about whether Israel might move to destroy Syrian weapons facilities, two administration officials said. The administration is not advocating such an attack because of the risk that it would give Assad an opportunity to rally support against Israeli interference. (New York Times)
        See also Syria's Chemical Weapons - Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman (Wired)
  • Rebels Keep Pressure on Assad in Damascus - Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Erika Solomon
    Syrian rebels kept up pressure on President Assad following the assassination of three top lieutenants, fighting loyalist troops within sight of the presidential palace and near government headquarters, Damascus residents said Thursday. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Iran Behind Terror Attack Against Israelis in Bulgaria
    Following Wednesday's terror attack in Bulgaria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "All signs point towards Iran. Over the last few months we have seen Iran's attempts to attack Israelis in Thailand, India, Georgia, Kenya, Cyprus and other countries. Exactly 18 years to the day after the horrendous attack on the Jewish Community Center in Argentina, deadly Iranian terrorism continues to strike at innocent people. This is a global Iranian terror onslaught and Israel will react firmly to it."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Who Is Behind the Bulgaria Attack? - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The terror attack at the Bulgaria airport is an almost exact repeat of the attack thwarted by Bulgarian security forces in January. Then, a bus full of Israeli tourists was supposed to be blown up using explosives snuck into it. The bombing thwarted in January was the work of Hizbullah. This time, apparently, it's Hizbullah's terror apparatus in conjunction with the al-Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards. (Ynet News)
  • Report: Assad Troops Defect En Masse, Opposition Says - Ilan Ben Zion
    Syrian opposition sources reported mass defections of Syrian Army soldiers on Wednesday in the wake of a bombing that killed top Assad ministers. The Local Coordination Committees in Syria tweeted Wednesday that 60 soldiers defected in Homs and 50 special forces troops abandoned their posts in the Qaboun neighborhood of Damascus. Additional defections were reported in the Syrian towns of Kafr Zita, Tayba, Sqeilbieh, Maroc, Kafr Naboodah, Salamieh, and Aqirbayat Station. The Free Syrian Army claimed Wednesday that regime soldiers had withdrawn from the Midan neighborhood of Damascus, abandoning their armored personnel carriers on the side of the road. (Times of Israel)
  • Sen. Lieberman: U.S. Must Act on Iran Soon - Hilary Leila Krieger
    Senator Joseph Lieberman warned Tuesday that the U.S. soon faces a choice between allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons or taking military action to stop it. "For me, there is only one choice," he told thousands of Christians United for Israel activists in Washington. "I have absolutely no doubt that it is within our power to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons country. The question is not whether we can stop them, but whether we will choose to stop them." He pointed to a bipartisan Senate resolution with 78 cosponsors declaring that when it comes to Iran, "all options are on the table except one, and that one is containment of a nuclear Iran."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Syria's War Hits the House of Assad - Fouad Ajami
    With Wednesday's rebel bomb attack on a meeting of Bashar al-Assad's top lieutenants, killing at least three, the war has come to the House of Assad itself. Asef Shawkat, the ruler's brother-in-law and deputy chief of staff of the armed forces, was a big player in the regime.
        The Assads took the Alawites - a historically despised community - from destitution and gave them a dominion of four decades. The edifice was unnatural, a majority Sunni society with pride as to its place in Islamic history submitting to the rule of a "godless" bunch of schismatics. The writer is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Looking for a Syrian Endgame - David Ignatius
    President Obama is seeking a "managed transition" in Syria with the twin goals of removing President Bashar al-Assad as soon as possible and doing so without the evaporation of the authority of the Syrian state. The need to safeguard Syria's chemical-weapons arsenal is one reason why the U.S. is stressing an orderly transfer in which the opposition works with acceptable elements of the regime and army.
        The most urgent question for CIA officers is how potent are al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the Syrian opposition. The answer seems to be that, while al-Qaeda is a factor, other opposition groups are promising the U.S. that they will root it out - once they have disposed of the Assad regime. (Washington Post)

Syrian Rebels Land Deadly Blow to Assad's Inner Circle - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)

  • The killing on Wednesday of President Bashar al-Assad's key security aides in a brazen bombing attack close to Assad's own residence dealt a potent blow to the Syrian government. It targeted the very cabinet ministers and intelligence chiefs who have coordinated the government's iron-fisted approach to the uprising.
  • The bombing pierced the psychological advantage that Assad's superior military strength has provided in preserving the loyalty of his forces and frightening much of the public into staying home.
  • With the opposition energized and the government demoralized, analysts wondered if other military units and trusted lieutenants would be more inclined to switch sides.
    See also Damascus Confronts New Reality After Attack - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
  • Something fundamental shifted in Damascus on Wednesday. The Syrian government has managed to insulate Damascus from the rest of the country since the uprising began in March 2011.
  • It became a kind of a psychological yardstick: if Damascus remained under control, it meant the Assad government was still in control.
    See also Profiles of Syrian Officials Targeted in Damascus Blast - Kareem Fahim (New York Times)

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