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August 27, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Egyptian Security Sources: Freed Egyptian Prisoners behind Sinai Attack (Maan News-PA)
    Egyptian security officials said Saturday that several of those involved in the Aug. 5 attack on an Egyptian border post are Jihadis who had been recently released from prison.
    One of the seven assailants who were killed - who had recently been released from prison - is from Mersa Matruh in northern Egypt. Another three people security forces say were involved in the attack had been released by President Muhammad Morsi 45 days before it took place.

Rocket Hits Sderot as Children Return to School (JTA)
    A Kassam rocket fired from Gaza struck Sderot Monday morning as children returned to school after summer break. The previous day three rockets were fired at southern Israel, hitting two factories.
    The fundamentalist Salafi group Jamiat ul-Mujahedin Bayt al-Maqdis claimed responsibility for the rockets fired on Sunday. The organization is affiliated with al-Qaeda and is believed to be operating in Gaza.

Did Syria's Rebels Overreach? (Economist-UK)
    A month after rebel forces launched a blazing attempt to capture Aleppo, they are starting to wilt.
    Many Syrians conclude that the rebels overreached by taking the fight to Aleppo.
    "Rebel commanders had a sensible strategy of fighting a war of attrition that matched their capabilities. They were going after roads, military outposts and consolidating control of the rural areas where the regime has retreated," says Emile Hokayem, an analyst at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.
    "Then suddenly they diverted to a plan to 'liberate' a city which they knew they couldn't do."
    Part of the problem is that the rebels are failing to win hearts and minds among the urban middle class in Aleppo.
    The same was true of the failed attempt to take the capital, Damascus, in July.
    See also Syrian Rebels Shoot Down Military Helicopter over Damascus - Babak Dehghanpisheh (Washington Post)

Turks Want Their Own Nukes to Counter Iran (Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies-Turkey)
    Turkish public opinion was polled on the question: "In reaction to a possible threat from a nuclear armed Iran, should Turkey develop its own nuclear weapons?"
    54% said Turkey should develop its own nuclear weapons, while 35% said Turkey should not develop nuclear weapons under any condition.

Israel Stops Foreign Activists from Entering West Bank - Dale Gavlack (AP)
    Israeli authorities refused entry on Sunday to about 100 pro-Palestinian activists of the "Welcome to Palestine" campaign attempting to cross to the West Bank from Jordan.
    Israel's Defense Ministry denounced the protesters as "provocateurs and known troublemakers," calling the effort a "failed publicity stunt."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • UN Nuclear Talks with Iran Fail to Get Access for Inspectors - Carol J. Williams
    Eight hours of negotiations between UN officials and Iran's nuclear policy envoy Ali Asghar Soltanieh ended Friday in Vienna without an agreement for inspectors to visit suspect Iranian facilities, International Atomic Energy Agency deputy director Herman Nackaerts said. He said "important differences remain" between the IAEA and Iran over a plan that would open key Iranian nuclear sites to agency inspectors. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also IAEA May Say "Pointless" to Inspect Iran Nuke Site - Simon Sturdee
    Iran has "sanitized" the Parchin military base, where nuclear weapons research took place, to such an extent that the IAEA may say next week there is now little point inspecting it, Western diplomats told AFP.
        New satellite images posted Friday by the Institute for Science and International Security showed a building suspected of housing the explosive experiments covered in pink tarpaulin in what Western diplomats said was an attempt to hide activity from satellites. (AFP)
        See also New Phase of Suspect Activity at Parchin Site - David Albright and Robert Avagyan (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • Hundreds of Bodies Found Outside Damascus
    The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 370 people were killed across the country Saturday. Activists say nearly 200 bodies were found in Daraya, a town close to Damascus. (VOA News)
        See also Crackdown Toll Seen as Syrians Bury Hundreds - Damien Cave
    Residents of Daraya, a city of several hundred thousand, described how the Syrian Army first closed off the city, keeping civilians from fleeing, then methodically began a campaign of heavy shelling and house-to-house searches ending with executions. Up close, in the field where there were more bodies than people to prepare them for burial, gunshot wounds could be seen in the heads of many men. Abu Ahmad, 40, a resident of Daraya, said: "I saw dozens of dead people, killed by the knives at the end of Kalashnikovs, or by gunfire. The regime finished off whole families." In addition, the Local Coordination Committees said about 150 bodies had been discovered in the basement of a mosque.
        Experts say the counterinsurgency campaign by Assad's forces has increasingly centered on an effort to turn the population against the rebels by showing people the fatal consequences of harboring the opposition. (New York Times)
  • Iran Uses Non-Aligned Movement Summit to Criticize U.S., West - Ramin Mostaghim
    On Sunday the Islamic Republic welcomed attendees of a weeklong gathering of nonaligned nations, a Cold War-era movement that Iranian officials have embraced as a counterweight to U.S.-led efforts to isolate their country. A balloon with a message hailing Iran as a "cradle of peace and justice" hovered near the site of the former U.S. Embassy, where Iranian militants held 52 people hostage almost 33 years ago.
        The gathering is shaping up as a global stage for Iran to thumb its nose at the U.S. and dispute Washington's insistence that Tehran is an isolated rogue state and sponsor of terrorism. Those expected to attend include President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, the first Egyptian head of state to visit the Islamic Republic, and India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, whose nation remains a major oil client of Iran. (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan: We Can Only Rely on Ourselves - Yehuda Shlezinger
    "Iran poses a credible threat, and we are the target, so let's not delude ourselves," Maj. Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan said in an interview. Dayan believes that the Israeli homefront will withstand a barrage of Iranian missiles. "We need to stop scaring the public. There is no point in this, particularly when it comes to the highly exaggerated assessments regarding Iranian retaliation and Iranian capabilities. The decision is a difficult one, even if it is of historic proportions, but there is nothing that Israel cannot handle."
        "People are wildly exaggerating the Iranian retaliation. At the most, the Iranians can activate Hizbullah and Hamas to fire missiles. This is very serious and dangerous, but this isn't something that we haven't faced in the past."
        "We have a good defense system. But the key factor should be what happens when Iran comes into possession of the bomb, and this could be even more dangerous." "The Israeli civilian needs to ask himself if we can afford to live with a nuclear Iran. We don't have to come to such a situation. This is avoidable."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Terrorist Involved in Attack on Israel Killed in Sinai - Roi Kais
    Egyptian and Palestinian media reported Sunday that Ibrahim Owida Nasser Madan, an Egyptian citizen and member of the Global Jihad in Sinai who was involved in a terrorist attack on the Israeli border, was killed in an explosion while riding his motorcycle. Sources estimated that the blast was caused by an explosive device Madan was carrying. Israeli defense officials denied any IDF involvement. Madan was arrested and released last week by Egyptian officials. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Diplomacy Is Not "the Best Tool for Iran" - Ephraim Asculai and Emily Landau
    In an August 16 op-ed in the Boston Globe entitled "Diplomacy Is the Best Tool for Iran," Nicholas Burns, a veteran U.S. diplomat and director of the Aspen Strategy Group, made the case for creating a direct channel between Washington and Tehran and beginning an extended one-on-one negotiation with all issues on the table. However, Burns gives the impression that diplomacy is a new idea that was never tried.
        Not only has a string of diplomatic initiatives been attempted for almost a decade, all of these efforts have met with failure. Indeed, Obama came into office with his hand outstretched to all U.S. adversaries, and got a slap in return from Iran. The problem is not that diplomacy has not been attempted, but rather that the job was not done well.
        Iran is not interested in a negotiated deal because it would mean giving up its long-held goal of attaining a military nuclear capability - a goal that it is close to achieving, and for which it has paid a heavy price. To get Iran to negotiate seriously, its cost-benefit calculation will have to be profoundly altered. Massive pressure is essential to get Iran more interested in cutting a deal. Dr. Ephraim Asculai is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. Dr. Emily B. Landau is Director of the Arms Control program at INSS. (Times of Israel)
  • Will America Protect Its Arab Allies Against Iran? - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Iran is a Persian country, not an Arab country, and its leadership and ideology are loathed across much of the Arab world. The leaders of Arab nations ranging from Morocco and Jordan to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom are American allies, see Iran as the primary threat to peace and stability in the Middle East, and have been asking President Obama to confront Iran for three years. You'll recall that the king of Saudi Arabia urged the U.S. to "cut off the head of the snake" before it was too late.
        And Iran is especially unpopular now that it has sided with the minority Alawite regime in Damascus, against Syria's Sunni majority. In other words, American action against Iran could be understood as America siding with the Arabs, not only with the Israelis. (Atlantic)
  • An Action Plan for Syria - Irwin Cotler
    I have been writing for close to a year now of the need to affirm and implement the Responsibility to Protect doctrine to help save Syrian civilians being massacred by the Assad regime. What is so necessary now is to implement the following measures with all deliberate speed: protect against Syria's chemical weapons; interdict Iranian and Hizbullah military assistance to Syria; enhance support for the opposition; establish safe havens; unify the Syrian opposition; put Syrian political and army leadership on notice that they will be held accountable for war crimes; address the risk of rising sectarian violence; deploy a large, Arab-led, international peace protection force; and enhance humanitarian assistance.
        Every day, more Syrian civilians die, not because of the actions we have taken, but because of the actions we have not taken. The writer is former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. (Ottawa Citizen-Canada)

Sen. Lieberman: Iran Must Give Up Nukes or Chances of Military Action Are "High" (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty//Radio Farda-Persian)

  • Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) said Sunday: "We think this evidence is clear, not just from the U.S. but international United Nations agencies, that the Iranian regime is building the capacity to build a nuclear weapon - many of them - and that if that happened it would be threatening to the entire region and the entire world."
  • "There is tremendous fear of Iran with nuclear weapons, not just in the United States and Israel, for instance, but throughout the Arab world and, of course, in Europe."
  • "So, we're coming to a point where there will only be two choices for not just the U.S. and Israel but other countries. Will we simply sit back and let Iran become a nuclear power and destabilize the region and start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East? Or will we be compelled to take some military action to delay or destroy that program?"
  • He said it "doesn't make any sense" to wait until Iran actually possesses nuclear weapons to take military action. "What we are saying is we have to be ready, if all else fails - economic sanctions, diplomacy, etc."
  • "I think we have the capability either to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program or to disable it in a way that it will be delayed for enough years that we may hope and pray that there will be a regime change and that there will be a more democratic and friendly regime."
  • "If there is military action by anyone outside of Iran against Iran's nuclear program, it's only because the government in Tehran has given us no other choice....But if Iran doesn't respond by altering its nuclear program, the prospects of U.S. military action are high."

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