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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 13, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Accuses Hizbullah of Aiding Syria's Crackdown - Rick Gladstone and Anne Barnard (New York Times)
    The U.S. accused Hizbullah on Friday of deep involvement in the Syrian government's violent campaign to crush the uprising there, asserting that Hizbullah has trained and advised government forces inside Syria and has helped to expel opposition fighters from areas within the country.
    The U.S. also accused Hizbullah of assisting operatives of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Quds Force in training Syrian forces inside Syria.

Report: Iranian Officers Led Syrian Militia in Homs (Al Arabiya)
    Defected Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim al-Jabawi said Monday that the Syrian regime's Shabiha militia were led by Iranian military advisors when they stormed the al-Shamas district in Homs. Each Shabiha group followed an Iranian military advisor, Al Arabiya reported.
    See also Senior Syrian Policeman Defects (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
    Brig.-Gen. Ibrahim al-Jabawi, deputy police commander for the Syrian province of Homs, has defected to Jordan, an opposition source said Sunday.

Chinese Merchant Sought U.S. Technology for Iran - Joby Warrick (Washington Post)
    Last month, the Justice Department announced indictments against two people, one Chinese and the other Iranian, for conspiring to acquire maraging steel for advanced centrifuges in Iran's nuclear program.
    U.S. officials say the case is part of a broader effort by Iran to dramatically expand its capacity to enrich uranium - with Chinese firms serving as willing accomplices.
    The case is at least the fourth in the past two years in which companies based in China have been accused of helping Iran try to purchase sensitive technology.

Sinai Vacuum a Boon to Gaza Rocket Men - Dan Williams and Douglas Hamilton (Reuters)
    Israeli sources say Egypt's north Sinai region is becoming not only a rallying point for jihadist gunmen but also a firing range for Gaza's rocket-builders.
    Soon after the 2011 revolt in Egypt, Israeli rocket radars began to spot unusual launches from Gaza. Normally they streaked towards Israeli towns and cities. But now some were aimed at the empty desert wastes of Sinai.
    The purpose seemed clear: to test rockets. "They have a Bedouin collaborator in Sinai who finds the crater and marks it by GPS," an Israeli official said.

Truth as Elusive as Militants in Egypt's Sinai - Samer al-Atrush (AFP)
    In Tumah, a small village in Sinai where Egyptian air strikes against militants were reported to have taken place on Wednesday, residents said the military's claims were pure propaganda.
    There was indeed a site, on the village's outskirts, which Islamist militants used as a training base, said one local resident, but the militants were long gone when armored personnel vehicles raided the village.
    Abu Mohammed said, "There were 45 armored personnel carriers and police vehicles, and two helicopters. They fired two rockets but they didn't hit anything."
    Local Bedouin say they have not heard of a single tribesman killed in the security force campaign, and no dead or wounded were taken to hospital.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Egypt's Morsi Replaces Military Chiefs in Bid to Consolidate Power - Ernesto Londono
    Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday forced out Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi - the defense minister and top military chief - and his deputy, army chief of staff Sami Anan, suggesting that the Muslim Brotherhood is willing to act more quickly and assertively in taking control of key institutions than analysts had predicted. The president also announced that he had suspended a constitutional amendment the generals passed on the eve of Morsi's election giving themselves vast powers and weakening the presidency.
        "Now, officially, it is a Brotherhood state," said Zeinab Abul-Magd, a history professor at the American University in Cairo. "Now it is official they are in full control of state institutions." Tantawi's removal sidelines a longtime U.S. interlocutor in a country that has received tens of billions of dollars in military aid in exchange for maintaining peace with Israel.
        Morsi appointed Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi as defense minister and commander of the armed forces, replacing Tantawi. Sissi served as head of military intelligence and as a member of the supreme military council. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Officials Warily Endorse New Egyptian Defense Minister - David Ignatius
    U.S. officials appear to have confidence in the new Egyptian defense minister, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who had extensive contact with the U.S. in his previous post as head of military intelligence.
        What's indisputable is that the Muslim Brotherhood has now tightened its grip on Egypt, controlling the military as well as the presidency and the parliament. That's either an example of democracy in action and civilian control of the military, or a Muslim Brotherhood putsch. It probably has elements of both. (Washington Post)
        See also New Egyptian Defense Minister "Well-Acquainted with Israel" - Stuart Winer and Greg Tepper
    A senior official in Jerusalem told Maariv on Monday that Defense Minister Mohammed Hussein Tantawi's replacement, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, "is well acquainted with Israel's security elites."  (Times of Israel)
  • Blasts, Gunfire Hit Damascus; Iranian "Pilgrims" in Syria Are Revolutionary Guard Officers - Brian Murphy
    Gunmen detonated back-to-back roadside bombs and clashed with police in central Damascus Saturday in attacks that caused no damage but highlighted the ability of rebels to breach the intense security near President Bashar Assad's power bases. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in Aleppo a helicopter gunship fired missiles on apartment buildings.
        Syrian rebels last week seized a bus carrying 48 Iranians, claiming the men are military personnel, while Iran says the group was Shiite pilgrims. The Paris-based Iranian opposition group People's Mujahedeen Organization claimed Saturday that at least seven of the captives were active members of the Revolutionary Guard, giving names and ranks - ranging from brigadier general to colonel. (AP-USA Today)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Israel Will Have to Tackle Iran Alone - Michal Shmulovich
    A day after White House spokesman Jay Carney claimed the U.S. would know if Tehran is close to obtaining a nuclear weapon, Israel's Channel 2 news quoted "sources in Jerusalem" saying the Americans "didn't see 9/11 coming."
        Channel 2 News' diplomatic correspondent Udi Segal said Israel does not believe the U.S. will take military action as Iran closes in on the bomb. The U.S. has not provided Israel with details of an attack plan. President Obama has not promised to attack Iran if all else fails. Conditions cited by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta for an American attack do not calm Israeli concerns. And Obama has a record of seeking UN and Arab League approval before action. All these factors underline the growing conviction that Israel will have to tackle Iran alone, the TV report said.
        Netanyahu "is convinced that thwarting Iran amounts to thwarting a plan to destroy the Jewish people," Segal said. The prime minister considers Iran's spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to be acting rationally in order to achieve "fanatical" goals.
        The TV report made much of Netanyahu's words at the scene of last Sunday's terror attack thwarted by Israel at the Gaza-Egypt-Israel border: "It becomes clear time after time that when it comes to the safety of Israeli citizens, Israel must and can rely only on itself. No one can fulfill this role except the IDF and different security forces of Israel, and we will continue to conduct ourselves in this way."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel: PA Perpetuating the Conflict through Incitement to Hate - Raphael Ahren
    Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry distributed a report accusing the PA of perpetuating the conflict "through incitement to hate, promotion of an ethos of violence and struggle, and non-development of a culture of peace."
        Ministry director-general Yossi Kuperwasser said: "As long as the psychological infrastructure of the Palestinian people is based on denying Israel's right to exist in any form - let alone as the nation-state of the Jewish people - it is difficult to see how peace can be made between these two peoples." He said the psychological infrastructure adopted by the Palestinian leadership "continues to call for violence and justifies violence, and dehumanizes and demonizes Jews."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Incitement Index: Upsurge in PA Incitement Against Israel
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Strategic Affairs Ministry "Incitement Index" "helps us prepare ourselves and avoid the mistake of not understanding with whom we are dealing....The Palestinian leadership is bequeathing this incitement to the coming generations and is preventing them from holding a dialogue of peace."  (Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Israel Border Attack's Unintended Consequences - Zvi Mazel
    The massacre of 16 Egyptian soldiers at a traditional Ramadan end-of-fast dinner near the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel is far from the first time that militant Islam has struck Egypt. Islamists murdered president Anwar Sadat and tried to assassinate Hosni Mubarak; Jihadist terror organizations that draw their inspiration from the creed of the Muslim Brotherhood murdered hundreds of Egyptians and tourists between the '70s and the fall of Mubarak.
        However, during those years, ordinary Egyptians did not really feel concerned; for them, it was more a matter of Islamists fighting a corrupt and dictatorial regime. This is no longer the case. A people's revolution has brought to power a democratically elected president and he has to answer to the people, who angrily demand explanations for what is perceived as a colossal failure.
        President Morsi capitalized on the opportunity by firing a number of high-ranking defense personalities from the old regime. Newcomers will be chosen for their sympathy to the Brotherhood, the first step toward doing away with the old army guard by pensioning them off and appointing officers closer to the new regime in their stead. The Muslim Brothers have no wish to go on sharing power with the army. The writer, a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Iran: Syrian Ally to the Bitter End - Shahram Akbarzadeh
    Since its inception in 1979, the Islamic regime in Iran has presented itself as the true champion of the downtrodden Muslims in the Middle East. Yet its worldview has been knocked out by the Arab revolutions. When two pro-Western governments in Tunisia and Egypt were brought down by popular uprisings, the Iranian leadership was quick to claim credit by suggesting that the Arabs were finally following the Iranian model. But the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has been adamant to emphasize its rejection of the Iran model.
        Soon other holes started appearing in the Iranian narrative of the Arab revolution. Libya and Syria were engulfed in the same social upheavals. In the Iranian version of history, Syria should have been immune to popular uprising. Syria's history of war with Israel and its confrontational relationship with the U.S. should have saved the Assad regime.
        The Iranian view of history forecasts an Islamist victory over the U.S. and its local allies. Because of this ideological underpinning, Iran cannot allow Assad to fall. The writer is deputy director of the National Center of Excellence in Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne. (The Conversation-Australia)

The Case for Stopping Iran at All Costs - Benny Morris (Israel Hayom)

  • Israel's reasons for a future strike on Iran's nuclear facilities are logical and clear: Iran armed with nuclear weapons threatens Israel's existence; the weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists; and it will undoubtedly ignite an arms race in the Middle East that could end in nuclear war.
  • For three decades no country, including Israel, has succeeded in deterring Iran from advancing toward its strategic goals, which include regional hegemony and leading the Islamist camp in its struggle against the West in general, and against Israel in particular.
  • Destroying Iran's nuclear installations, even if it only delays their progress toward an atomic weapon for one or two years, will shake Iran and force it to reconsider its options, especially if accompanied by threats that Israel is determined to prevent a nuclear Iran even if it means using nonconventional weapons.
  • Such an attack will also function as a signal to all of Israel's enemies in the Middle East that their dreams of annihilating Israel are not necessarily realistic.
  • One word to those who are afraid of what Iran's response will be: It will pale in comparison to the damage Iran will cause if it has nuclear capabilities.

    The writer is a professor of history in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University.

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