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August 3, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian President Calls for the Annihilation of Israel - Joanna Paraszczuk (Jerusalem Post)
    In a speech published on his website Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the ultimate goal of world forces must be the annihilation of Israel.
    Speaking to ambassadors from Islamic countries ahead of "Qods Day" ("Jerusalem Day"), an annual Iranian anti-Zionist event established in 1979 by Ayatollah Khomeini and which falls this year on August 17, Ahmadinejad said that a "horrible Zionist current" had been managing world affairs for "about 400 years."
    Ahmadinejad added that "liberating Palestine" would solve all the world's problems.
    "Anyone who loves freedom and justice must strive for the annihilation of the Zionist regime," he added.

Syrian Security Forces Kill 20 Palestinians in Damascus (Reuters)
    At least 20 people were killed and 65 wounded on Thursday when Syrian security forces fired three mortar rounds at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee community in Damascus.
    See also Syrian Government Forces Kill 50 in Damascus Suburb - Babak Dehghanpisheh (Washington Post)
    Opposition groups said at least 50 people had been killed by government forces in a Damascus suburb called Jdeidat Artouz, where civilians came under heavy attack by machine guns and mortar fire from the Syrian military.
    See also Syrian Rebel Forces Execute Clan Leaders Loyal to Assad - Patrick Martin (Globe and Mail-Canada)

Spain Arrests 3 Al-Qaeda Suspects with Explosives (AP-Washington Post)
    Police have arrested three suspected members of al-Qaeda who amassed explosives and may have been plotting attacks in Spain or elsewhere in Europe, Spain's interior minister said Thursday.
    Enough explosive material was found in the house in La Linea, near Gibraltar, where one of the suspects lived, to blow up a bus, Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said.
    He said the operation involved close collaboration with intelligence services from "Spain's allies."
    See also Spain Says Al-Qaeda Planned Airborne Attack - Nick Schifrin and Rich Esposito (ABC News)
    Police believe at least two of those arrested had practiced flying small "ultralight" airplanes or using small drones, said Spain's interior minister, Jorge Fernandez Diaz.

Iran: "The Hated Arabs" - Tariq Alhomayed (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    Last week, a senior official in Iran's Revolutionary Guard warned those he described as "hated Arabs" of the consequences of interfering in Syrian affairs.
    We can clearly see how Khomeinist Iran has lost ground with most Arab states, from Bahrain to the Arab Maghreb.
    Now we see Sheikh Rachid Ghannouchi apologizing to the Syrian rebels for inviting Hizbullah to participate in the Ennahda movement conference in Tunisia, especially as Hizbullah is one of the most prominent supporters of the tyrant of Damascus, and is merely an agent of Iran colluding against the Syrians.
    The term "hated Arabs" reveals the racial element that drives Iran in our region, for the story is not only one of sectarianism, but also one of Tehran's Persian racial prejudices against Arab countries.
    The writer is editor in chief of Asharq Al-Awsat.

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Palestinian Terror Groups Planning to Abduct Israelis from Sinai - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    Israel's Counter-Terrorism Bureau warned Israeli tourists in Sinai Thursday to return to Israel immediately.
    The agency has received new intelligence indicating that Gaza-based Palestinian terror groups and organizations linked to al-Qaeda in Sinai are planning imminent attacks on Israeli tourists with the intention of kidnapping them.
    The security situation in Sinai has deteriorated drastically after last year's Egyptian revolution.

Israel TV Journalist Arrested, Interrogated in Libya (Times of Israel)
    Israel TV journalist Emmanuel Rosen and his crew were arrested twice and interrogated for four hours while filming a documentary in Libya on life after Gaddafi.
    Rosen and his crew were traveling on European passports. When they were interrogated, Rosen said, "Of course we could not let them know that we were Jewish, let alone Israeli."

Syrian Spy Tried to Infiltrate German Intelligence Service (AP-Washington Post)
    A suspected Syrian spy who was arrested in Germany earlier this year tried to infiltrate the country's intelligence services, officials said Tuesday.
  The German federal prosecutors' office said Akram O., 35, was employed by Syria's embassy in Berlin when he applied in late 2010 for a post with the Interior Ministry. The application was made "at the behest of his intelligence agency handlers."
    He was indicted last week on suspicion of spying on Syrian opposition activists in Germany since 2008.

Indian Navy Warships on Goodwill Visit to Israel to Celebrate Diplomatic Ties (Economic Times-India)
    Four Indian navy warships are on a goodwill visit to Israel to "strengthen service-to-service linkages," as the two countries celebrate 20 years of diplomatic ties this year.
    INS Mumbai, Trishul, Gomti and Aditya, from the Indian navy's western fleet, anchored at Haifa on Monday as part of their Mediterranean tour.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Reassures Israel on Iran Plans - Adam Entous and Joshua Mitnick
    A senior U.S. official said Thursday the U.S. and Israel appeared to be on the same page regarding Iran. The official said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other officials, in talks in Jerusalem, made clear the Obama administration was prepared to take military action to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Any decision on a U.S.-led strike would depend on intelligence about Iran's nuclear program and would only come once diplomatic options have been exhausted, officials said.
        U.S. intelligence agencies believe they'll know if and when Iran is close to building a bomb. U.S. officials have suggested a decision on military action won't have to be made until next year or later. It is unclear whether the Israeli air force would be able to destroy many of Iran's heavily fortified nuclear sites without U.S. help, U.S. and Israeli officials say. Pentagon officials say the U.S. would be far more effective than Israel at setting back the Iranian program because of the U.S.'s fleet of stealth aircraft and more powerful bombs.
        A senior U.S. defense official said after Panetta's talks, "There's no daylight between the two countries. Both agree that sanctions are having an impact on the Iranian economy but haven't yet convinced the regime to make the right decisions."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • As Conflict Continues, Assad's Arms Under Strain - C.J. Chivers
    Rebels have turned part of Assad's formidable arsenal on his own troops. Anti-Assad fighters on Wednesday shelled a military airport in Aleppo with captured weapons. On Tuesday, rebels used commandeered Syrian Army tanks in a skirmish with Assad's troops.
        Close observers of the military say Syria is having trouble keeping its sophisticated and maintenance-intensive weapons functioning. The government depends on helicopter gunships to extend its reach to parts of the country rendered impassable to even armored vehicles by the rebels. Analysts said Syria's fleet of Mi-25 Hind-D attack helicopters, which numbered 36 at the start of the conflict, is insufficient as the number of fronts continues to proliferate. Estimates are that only half the fleet can be used at a given time.
        Jeffrey White, a former U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency analyst now studying Syria for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that by his estimates the Syrian military suffered nearly 1,100 soldiers killed in July, and is losing more to defections. The loyalties of many commanders and units are suspect, he added, and months of sustained combat are taking a heavy toll on tanks and aircraft in a military that "was never known for maintenance."
        In recent weeks there have been indications that anti-Assad fighters are posing greater risks to government helicopters. Videos have shown fighting groups with a growing number of captured 12.7-mm., 14.5-mm. and 23-mm. machine guns - all of which can be lethal to helicopters. (New York Times)
  • Islamists Sidelined in New Egypt Cabinet - Adrian Blomfield
    Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, has been forced to accept a cabinet dominated by army-backed figures in a sign that the military's political clout remains largely unbridled. Hisham Qandil, Morsi's prime minister-designate, announced that just three of the 35 ministerial positions in his government would be members of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military body that managed Egypt's transition, remains defense minister. The foreign and finance portfolios were given to army-backed civilians who served in the military-appointed interim cabinet. (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Missile Fire on Tel Aviv Will Unleash Unprecedented Response
    IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, Military Intelligence chief from 2006-2010 who heads the Institute for National Security Studies, told a conference on "Israel's Homefront Preparedness" on Thursday: "Israel is not threatened by 200,000 missiles, as previously claimed. It is under threat of perhaps 1,000 effective missiles and another 9,000 long-range rockets, but the rest of the 190,000 rockets in the region are inaccurate and short-range."
        In a future confrontation, "a few more" missiles would strike the greater Tel Aviv area "than the number that hit in 1991 [during the Gulf War] - but today we have the Arrow [anti-missile interception system], better intelligence and a better air force. A large number of the rockets will be stopped, but some of them will indeed hit."
        "When missiles start hitting Tel Aviv - and this will happen - and people will be killed, Israel's legitimacy to take action will drastically increase and our ability to do things that we have not done until today will be much greater," Yadlin added. Yadlin, a former deputy commander of the Israel Air Force, participated in the bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981. (Israel Hayom)
  • PA-Israel Financial Accord Short on Fanfare, But Not Meaning - Herb Keinon
    Tuesday's signing in Jerusalem of an economic agreement between Israel and the PA is not without significance. Quietly, imperceptibly, officials from the two sides have been working for close to a year on an agreement that regulates taxation and bilateral trade, meant to improve on the 1994 Paris Protocol that has governed economic relations between the two sides.
        None of this is sexy stuff, but it is an agreement that calls for a great deal of enhanced cooperation. Israel is interested in the agreement because of a belief Netanyahu has articulated on numerous occasions: a stronger Palestinian economy means fewer people will support a return to terrorism. The economic agreement and the ongoing security cooperation demonstrate that the two sides are able to cooperate when doing so furthers their interests. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: PA Failing to Reciprocate Goodwill - Herb Keinon
    The Palestinian failure to respond positively to a series of recent Israeli goodwill gestures shows that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is "unable to enter into negotiations that will require concessions," according to an internal government memo. According to an official, Israel has made a number of goodwill gestures lately toward the Palestinians, including recently agreeing to start negotiations with the Palestinians on developing the Gaza Marine gas field off the Gaza coast.
        Other goodwill steps the official cited included the signing this week of an economic accord with the PA aimed at enhancing trade and clamping down on tax evasion; the decision on the eve of Ramadan two weeks ago to advance the PA some NIS 180 million of tax money so salaries could be paid; and the transfer in May to the PA of the bodies of some 90 terrorists. In addition, the government's economic cabinet recently increased the number of Palestinian construction workers allowed to work in the country by some 5,000.
        "We think we have taken some bold steps, but that the Palestinians have refused to pick up the ball, and refuse to cease behavior that we see as hostile," the official said. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • U.S. Well-Positioned for Ongoing Operation Against Iranian Nuclear Facilities - Eitan Ben-Eliyahu
    It is becoming increasingly clear that the sanctions won't be enough to cause the Iranian government to halt its nuclear program. The U.S. has the means to launch an efficient military strike on the Iranian nuclear program. They have intelligence, stealth bombers, ballistic and cruise missiles, bunker buster bombs, as well as electronic warfare and aerial refueling capabilities. The Americans can surround Iran with army forces, they have airfields and aircraft carriers from which reinforcements can be scrambled at a moment's notice, and, in general, their level of preparedness is very high.
        The attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 was achieved with a short, pinpoint surprise attack. In Iran's case, there are no plans for a surprise, pinpoint attack, but for an ongoing type of operation in which the damage will be inflicted gradually. The mission is mounting destruction and attrition until the nuclear program is halted. Iran's response will surely include Israel, meaning that the Jewish state will be a part of this campaign in any case. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Eitan Ben-Eliyahu is a former commander of the Israel Air Force. (Ynet News)
  • The Importance of International Legitimacy - Yaakov Katz
    IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, head of Military Intelligence from 2001 to 2006, notes the required diplomatic support Israel will need after a strike to ensure that the Iranians are not allowed to rebuild their facilities and race toward the bomb. "An attack is not a single strike and once it happens we are in a whole other world," he said. "Iran will pull out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Khamenei and Ahmadinejad will reunite and it will be clear that they need a bomb now so that we cannot attack them again. This means that Israel will need legitimacy to be able to maintain the operation with more attacks within weeks, months and years after....This is the key to success or failure."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • How to Spark an Iranian Revolution - Michael Ledeen
    History suggests that sanctions will not compel Iran's leaders to scrap their nuclear program. Iran, which watched what happened to a disarmed Libya, will not back down. However, if the U.S. and its allies broadened their perspective and paid attention not merely to Iran's nuclear program but also to its larger assault on the West, they would see that a better option exists: supporting a democratic revolution in Iran.
        Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has waged a low-level war on the U.S. Thus, defending the U.S. and its allies from Iranian terrorists and their proxies is the central issue. To meet that goal, Washington must replace the Islamic Republic's regime.
        The time has come for the U.S. to actively support Iran's democratic dissidents. The same methods that took down the Soviet regime should work: call for the end of the regime, broadcast unbiased news about Iran to the Iranian people, demand the release of political prisoners (naming them whenever possible), help those prisoners communicate with one another, enlist international trade unions to build a strike fund for Iranian workers, and find ways to provide other kinds of economic and technological support.
        The Iranian people have already demonstrated their willingness to confront the regime. The missing link is a Western decision to embrace and support democratic revolution in Iran. The writer is Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Foreign Affairs)
  • What the Iranian People "Really Think"... and How to Help Them - Harold Rhode
    It is now quite common to hear Iranians say that life is becoming unbearable in Iran. During the past year, the cost of living has become so expensive that even middle class people can no longer afford the basic necessities of life. People are telling their friends and relatives outside the country that they are waiting for the day that this regime is gone so that they can lead some sort of normal life.
        Many Iranians would deeply appreciate our aid. This could include anything which shows we do not support the regime, ranging from publicly reprimanding the regime for violating human rights, condemning the regime for the way it puts down riots, supplying to the leaders of the opposition communications equipment which cannot be monitored by the regime, or, the next time an Iranian naval vessel provokes the U.S. in the Gulf, responding forcefully - either by taking over the ship and holding the occupants for interrogation, or any response which would signal that we were actively standing up to the regime.
        To the Iranian people, our lack of a reaction reveals weakness and shows them they have no external support to move against their regime. If we give them some sort of indication that we would back them, the Iranian people will understand the encouragement. After a few times, the Iranians would almost assuredly get the message and take matters into their own hands. Helping them liberate themselves would be a win-win situation for the West, and would help put the Iranian people out of the misery imposed on them by their tyrannical regime. From 1994 until his recent retirement, the author served in the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Syria

  • The Lessons of Failure in Syria - Editorial
    Kofi Annan turned in his resignation as UN special envoy to Syria on Thursday, but his mission was over months ago. It was doomed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was never serious about peace. The UN Security Council sent unarmed monitors into an intensifying war zone in Syria without a consensus of the leading powers to back them up. It was wishful thinking to believe that Assad would be coaxed into retirement.
        The events of the past 18 months suggest that the younger Assad has matched his father's record of despotism: He is willing to slaughter an unlimited number of his own people in order to cling to power. Now that diplomacy has utterly failed to stop him, it is time for the Obama administration to consider measures that stand a real chance of accelerating his downfall - beginning with greater material support for the opposition. (Washington Post)
  • Exit of Kofi Annan Augurs Rough Ride Ahead for Syria - Aaron David Miller
    The formal resignation of UN special envoy Kofi Annan reveals a reality that has been clear for some time: The margin for a diplomatic solution was always small to nonexistent at best. Too much blood had flowed to sustain a neatly negotiated transition between the rebels and the Assads, and not enough had been spilled to prompt a large-scale foreign intervention to tip the balance against the regime.
        The Assads will fall, and only then will the real struggle for Syria begin. With so many hands inside and outside the country in the pie and yet none of them strong or decisive enough to dominate it, Syria is in for a very rough ride. (Al Monitor)

  • Other Issues

  • Why Abbas Wants to Go Back to the UN in September - Khaled Abu Toameh
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas is now saying that he will go to the General Assembly, where the Palestinians enjoy the support of more than 130 countries, with a request to recognize a Palestinian state as a non-member of the UN. Abbas is going to the UN to ask for recognition of a Palestinian state when his people already have two separate entities, two prime ministers and two governments.
        Abbas is hoping to divert attention from his problems at home by embarking on a new "adventure" at the UN. His decision to go back to the UN is also linked to growing criticism of him and his sons for involvement in corruption scandals. Finally, Abbas' term in office expired in January 2009 - a deadline that has not stopped him from continuing to claim that he is the legitimate leader of the Palestinians. (Gatestone Institute)
  • The "They-of-All-People" Argument - Chas Newkey-Burden
    There is still one anti-Israel argument that makes my jaw drop. And it is one made with unfortunate frequency. It is the "they-of-all-people" argument: the suggestion that the Jews, having faced extraordinary persecution, should know better than anyone not to be oppressors.
        I contend that, as a result of the Holocaust and what preceded it, it is we gentiles who should know better. The Holocaust followed centuries of slander, persecution, violence and murder committed by gentiles against Jews. So it is not the Jews who have an increased responsibility to behave morally, but us.
        The world's ceremonies and gestures of regret over the Holocaust would carry an increased weight of sincerity were they to be matched with robust support for Israel as the countdown to a nuclear-armed Iran, whose leader denies the Holocaust while promising to commit a second one by wiping out the Jewish state, continues.
        Let us strip the "they-of-all-people" argument down to its very basics: gentiles telling Jews that we killed six million of your people and that as a result it is you, not us, who have lessons to learn. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • The Radical Right in Europe - Michael Whine
    The rise in radical-right social and populist movements over the past ten years has been remarkable. Once on the political fringes, they now carry political weight in the parliaments of Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Hungary, the Netherlands, Sweden, Greece, Latvia, and Slovakia, as well as in the European Parliament. The radicals do not target Jews, and several even profess to be pro-Israel. The reality, though, is that their members are sometimes former neo-Nazis.
        What particularly distinguishes the European extreme right from its forebears is its tendency to violence. In an assessment it published at the end of 2011, EUROPOL stated that: "The threat of violent right-wing extremism has reached new levels in Europe and should not be underestimated. The threat will most likely come from lone actors but organised underground groups also have the capability and intention to carry out attacks." The writer is the Government and International Affairs Director at the Community Security Trust, and Defence and Group Relations Director at the Board of Deputies of British Jews. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weekend Feature

  • Four Reasons Why Israel's Economy Is So Strong - Jordan Weissmann
    In the span of just a few decades, the Jewish state has "transformed itself from a semisocialist backwater into a high-tech superpower," as The Economist put it in 2010. Here are four big reasons its economy barely flinched during the financial crisis.
        It learned from disaster. In 1984 the inflation rate averaged 450%, sparking reforms that would lay the groundwork for Israel's present-day prosperity. It welcomed brilliant immigrants. Between 1990 and 1997, more than 710,000 Soviet immigrants landed in the country, 60% of whom had a college education.
        The government played venture capitalist (briefly) with the Yozma program, a $100 million state-owned venture capital fund that opened in 1993. The program convinced foreign venture capitalists to create funds in Israel by lowering their taxes and promising to match part of the money they raised from investors. In doing so, it created a thriving, independent venture capital market that was backing hundreds of startups a year by 2000. Israel pulled off a remarkable feat by cleverly growing a financial ecosystem for its tech entrepreneurs from scratch.
        They may have the world's smartest central banker: Stanley Fischer, the U.S. educated head of the Bank of Israel. He is a former MIT professor, chief economist at the World Bank, deputy managing director at the International Monetary Fund, and vice chairman at Citigroup. (Atlantic)

Brussels' Hizbullah Blinders - Daniel Schwammenthal (Wall Street Journal Europe)

  • The EU's continued refusal to put Hizbullah on its terror list is simply indefensible. Not designating the group as a terrorist organization gives the pioneers of Islamist suicide bombings the opportunity to organize, recruit and raise funds throughout the Continent. There are about 950 Hizbullah members and supporters in Germany alone, according to Berlin's domestic intelligence service. Hizbullah has also sent operatives from Europe to Israel for terror attacks.
  • Can there really be any reasonable doubt among EU officials about the true nature of Hizbullah? Syrian regime defectors have revealed that thousands of Hizbullah men (and Iranians) are in Syria as "military consultants" for President Bashar Assad, keeping themselves busy killing protestors. They supplied the same murderous services to Iran to put down the 2009 "Green Revolution."
  • And for decades Hizbullah has terrorized hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians, indiscriminately raining missiles on men, women and children, murdering scores in the process.
  • This is why the U.S., Canada and Australia, as well as the Netherlands and the UK, have already added Hizbullah to their terror lists. Likewise, the European Parliament passed a resolution in 2005 by a vote of 475 to 8, stating "that clear evidence exists of terrorist activities by Hizbullah. The [EU] Council should take all necessary steps to curtail them." That the EU still hasn't done so must be due to a lack of political will, rather than a lack of evidence.

    The writer is director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.
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