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September 7, 2012

In-Depth Issues:

Syria Calls Reserves as It Strains to Crush Revolt (Reuters)
    Syria is calling up reservists to active army service in growing numbers, a sign of the strain of efforts to crush the revolt against President Assad.
    Several fleeing reservists and a serving army officer told Reuters that thousands of men had been called up in the past two months, and many are failing to report for duty.
    "We have two choices: Stay and kill fellow Syrians, or desert, and be on the run from military courts," said one reservist summoned for duty.
    One army officer in Homs said he believed that only half of those called up in recent months had reported for duty. "There is a shortage of men. A lot of fighters have been killed, and we have desertions," he said.

Migrant Boat with Palestinians and Syrians Sinks Off Turkey, 61 Dead (Chicago Tribune-Reuters)
    At least 61 migrants including Palestinians and Syrians, more than half of them children, died after their overcrowded boat sank off Turkey's western Aegean coast on Thursday. 46 people were rescued.
    The boat had set out from the Turkish town of Ahmetbeyli which is only a few kilometers from the Greek island of Samos, a common entry point for migrants trying to get into the EU.

Egypt's Consumer and Investor Confidence on the Rise - Borzou Daragahi (Washington Post-Financial Times-UK)
    In recent weeks Egypt has experienced a palpable mood swing, resulting in increased consumer and investor confidence.
    The commercial districts and shopping malls of Cairo are bustling and businesses say that shoppers are spending more.
    The stock market is up 37% since the elections in June that propelled the Islamist Mohamed Morsi to the presidency.

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Fears for Bubble Burst after Ramallah Boom - Leone Lakhani (CNN)
    Ramallah, in the West Bank, has boomed over the past five years, with new restaurants, cafes and even luxury hotels.
    Bar owner Yazan Khalili said, "Since banks give loans for anyone who wants to open a business, this becomes a possibility."
    Most of the money in the economy comes from the government - the Palestinian Authority - and most of its money comes from donor aid.
    Many Palestinians are borrowing money to fund their basic needs and it is feared that, if donor aid dries up, many will be without work to fund their lifestyles.

Massive Reservoir Discovered Beneath Western Wall - Melanie Lidman (Jerusalem Post)
    Recently, part of a floor collapsed in a massive underground drainage ditch deep below the Western Wall as archeologists were taking it apart. Archeologist Eli Shukron looked into the hole and was blown away by the size of the room they had uncovered.
    Based on previous research and excavations in the area, Shukron was immediately convinced they had stumbled on an enormous underground well from the First Temple Period, the first evidence of stored water next to the Temple.
    The reservoir measures 12 meters by 5 meters by 4.5 meters and uses the same type of plaster as other reservoirs from the First Temple Period.
    The handprints of the laborers who added the plaster are still visible.

Iron Dome Missile-Defense Developers Donate Prize Money to Trauma Center - Gadi Golan and Lilach Shoval (Israel Hayom)
    Developers of the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system, who on Monday were awarded the Israel Defense Prize for 2012, have donated the prize money to the Shaar Hanegev Regional Council's Resilience Center, which provides therapy for trauma victims from rocket fire from Gaza.

Israel to Set Up 28 Agro-technology Centers of Excellence in India (Times of India)
    For a country in which water is scarce - and where less than 6% of the population engages in farming - Israel has achieved a remarkable feat: it is one of the world's leading citrus exporters.
    Israel, one-ninth the size of Gujarat state, rears cows that produce the highest volume of milk per animal in the world.
    The country recycles 85% of its water and operates the planet's largest desalination plant.
    Israel's consul-general Orna Sagiv says such accomplishments are spurred by cutting-edge agricultural technology.
    Sagiv pointed out that 28 centers of excellence have been promised across India.
    In Gujarat, two will be dedicated for growing mangoes in Gir, while the third will spread awareness about post-harvest treatment of date palms and bananas.

NYPD Opens Branch in Israel - Avi Ashkenazi (Al Monitor)
    The New York Police Department has opened an Israeli branch, staffed by Charlie Ben-Naim, a veteran NYPD detective and a former Israeli.
    He deals with the extradition of criminals, the transmitting of intelligence information, and assistance in the location of missing persons, both in the U.S. and in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Defense Minister Says Differences Remain with U.S. over Iran
    Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that differences remain with the U.S. over Iran's nuclear program, despite efforts by Israel and the U.S. to come to an agreement on the issue. He said "the clock is ticking at a different pace" for the U.S. and Israel. Barak spoke after meeting the U.S. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. James A. Winnefeld.
        Israel and the U.S. both believe that Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. Israel views a nuclear-armed Iran as an existential threat, citing Iranian calls for Israel's destruction, the country's development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish state, and Tehran's support for Islamic militant groups hostile to Israel, such as Hamas and Hizbullah. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Iran Sends 150 Senior Revolutionary Guards Commanders to Syria - Con Coughlin
    Iran is intensifying its support for the regime of Bashar al-Assad by sending 150 senior Revolutionary Guards commanders to Syria to help repel opposition attempts to overthrow the government. Western intelligence officials say that Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has personally sanctioned the dispatch of the experienced officers to ensure that the Assad regime, Iran's most important regional ally, survives the threat to its survival.
        In addition, Iran has shipped hundreds of tons of military equipment, including guns, rockets, and shells, to Syria through the regular air corridor that has been established between Damascus and Tehran. Intelligence officials believe the increased Iranian support has been responsible for the growing effectiveness of the Assad regime's tactics in forcing anti-government rebel groups on the defensive.
        The Iranian operation is being masterminded by Qassem Suleimani, the head of the Guards' Quds force. The decision to increase Iran's support for Syria was taken after the Syrian defense minister and Assad's brother-in-law were killed in July. The Revolutionary Guards officers were flown to Damascus in Iranian aircraft which were given permission to fly through Iraqi air space. (Telegraph-UK)
  • Worries Intensify over Syrian Chemical Weapons - Joby Warrick
    Western spy agencies suspect Syria's government has several hundred tons of chemical weapons and precursor components scattered among as many as 20 sites throughout the country, heightening anxieties about the ability to secure the arsenals in the event of a complete breakdown of authority in the war-torn nation, U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say. Officials expressed growing fear that they have not identified every location. "We had been on the ground in Libya, yet there were big surprises, both in terms of quantities and locations," said a former American intelligence official.
        The Syrian chemical weapons arsenal appears to be larger and more widely distributed than originally suspected, according to two officials who have seen the intelligence reports. U.S. spy agencies have devoted enormous resources to monitoring the facilities through satellite imagery and to developing plans to safeguard the weapons if the crisis worsens, U.S. officials said. However, the former U.S. intelligence official said North Korea and Russia have assisted Syria over the decades in constructing weapons facilities that are well-fortified and shielded from spy satellites. "They are masters at concealment," he said.
        U.S. and Israeli officials fear that the chemical sites could be looted, leading to weapons being sold or given to radical Islamists or to Hizbullah. A single crate of artillery shells or a few barrels of chemical precursors would contain enough lethal poisons for a series of terrorist attacks, weapons experts say. (Washington Post)
  • Hamas Pursuing Salafists from "Street to Street" in Gaza - Kifah Zaboun
    Over the past two days Hamas has been carrying out a campaign of arrests against armed Salafist Jihadist groups in Gaza. The campaign was begun in the aftermath of last month's attack on an Egyptian army checkpoint that resulted in the deaths of 16 Egyptian soldiers. Egypt has said the attack was carried out by 6 foreign nationals and one Egyptian citizen. Hamas intensified its arrests of Salafist Jihadists after rockets were fired at the Israeli town of Sderot, with the Mujahideen Shura Council [MSC] claiming responsibility.
        Salafist Jihadist official Abu Abdullah al-Muhajir told Asharq Al-Awsat: "Hamas arrested 37 [Salafist Jihadist] members in a short period of time, including 20 arrests over the past 48 hours....They are pursuing the jihadists from house to house and street to street." Al-Muhajir claimed the Hamas investigation is focusing on where the Salafist Jihadists are obtaining their arms, as well as the membership and command structure of the MSC.
        The Salafist Jihadist movement issued a statement on Tuesday from Gaza accusing Hamas of "carrying out a broad campaign of arrests targeting our ranks in order to prevent the firing of rockets towards the Zionist towns near Gaza." The statement accused Hamas of arresting the Salafist Jihadist leader of Jaish al-Umma, Abu Hafs al-Maqdisi, as well as senior figure Abu Suhaib Rashwan, who, it claimed, had been interrogated and tortured by Egyptian security officers. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Blast Decision to Return Omitted Language on Jerusalem to Democratic Platform - Yoel Goldman
    A senior Hamas official said Friday that the reinsertion of language declaring Jerusalem as the capital of Israel into the Democratic party platform was "stupid begging" for Jewish votes. Izzat al-Rishq added that Jerusalem was and will be the eternal capital of Palestine, and of Arab and Muslim people, according to Israel Radio. Veteran PLO official Yasser Abed Rabo called the move a dangerous departure from traditional U.S. policy not to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Growing Economic Protests in West Bank
    Palestinians have taken to the streets for three days in mass demonstrations against price rises and unemployment, as protesters across the West Bank have called for PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's resignation. Fayyad told Voice of Palestine radio that replacing figures in the government was not the solution to the financial crisis. (Maan News-PA)
        See also West Bank Economic Protests Build Steam - Avi Issacharoff
    Palestinians are calling for the scalp of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who should be a hero for rooting out corruption. Fayyad has managed to generate nothing short of miracles in the West Bank. After years of anarchy and chaos, peace has been restored to the streets of Palestinian cities. Armed militants have disappeared. The newly rehabilitated security forces are now operating with efficiency. Businessmen owning monopolistic companies in the PA were forced to compete for contracts; corrupt officers and clerks have been removed from public service. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Embracing Economic Protests, Abbas Declares Beginning of "Palestinian Spring" - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Resolves Plight of Migrants Trapped at Border - Attila Somfalvi
    Israel has allowed entrance to two Eritrean women and a boy who were part of a group who spent the past week trapped between the Israeli and Egyptian border fences. The remaining 18 male migrants have been placed in the custody of the Egyptian authorities. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • What We Know about Iran's Nukes - Olli Heinonen and Simon Henderson
    The International Atomic Energy Agency on Aug. 30 released its latest report on Iran's nuclear activities, which conveys a worrying message. Iran continues to expand its capacity for enriching uranium. There are now two new groups of centrifuges installed at Fordow - the hardened site built under a mountain near Qom - which signals a doubling of the site's capacity since May.
        Crucially, Iran continues to stockpile uranium enriched to 3.5% and 20% purity - levels for which Iran has no immediate use unless it is planning to make an atomic bomb. (Its stockpiles of 20% uranium far exceed Tehran's claimed needs for a reactor making medical isotopes.)
        Iran is now operating around 11,000 centrifuges. If Iran acquires or develops advanced centrifuges, it could pursue a "fast break-out" - moving within months to 90%-enriched uranium, which is weapons-grade - using its already sizable and growing inventories of 20%. Once it has five or six bombs-worth of 90% enriched uranium, it would essentially be a latent nuclear-weapon state - whether it has actually tested a bomb or not. Mr. Heinonen, a former top IAEA inspector, is a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. Mr. Henderson is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Does Iran Believe the U.S. Is Serious about "All Options on the Table"? - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, says his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem late last month did, in fact, devolve into a sharp confrontation with the American ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro.
        Rogers explained: "Here's the problem....I support the sanctions. But if you're going to have a hammer you have to have an anvil. You have to have at least a credible threat of a military option. So it's having an effect, yes, it's having an effect on the Iranian economy. It is not impacting their race on enrichment and other things, and that's very, very clear." He went on, "I think the Israeli position is, 'Hey, listen, you've got to tell us - I mean, if you want us to wait' - and that's what this Administration's been saying, you've gotta wait, you've gotta wait, you've gotta wait - got that - 'but then you've gotta tell us when is the red line so we can make our own decisions about should we or shouldn't we stop this particular program."
        "Right now the Israelis don't believe that the Administration is serious when they say that all options are on the table, and more importantly, neither do the Iranians. That's why the program is progressing."  (Atlantic)

  • Syria

  • Only Bombing Assad's Forces Will Stop the Slaughter Now - Amos Yadlin
    President Bashar al-Assad continues to exploit the international community's propensity to turn a blind eye to the escalation in Syria, which now results in the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians each week. A military intervention need not involve a ground invasion or even peacekeeping forces. The recommended model, built on the lessons of Iraq, is a Western aerial campaign that paves the way for regime change, as it did in Kosovo and in Libya. There are no "boots on the ground."
        The Syrian defensive capability is not dramatically greater than Iraq's of 1991 or 2003, which already included advanced Russian systems. As the Syrian military has been preoccupied with internal uprisings over the past year and a half, it is likely that its capabilities have eroded. Therefore, those who doubt the West's capacity to face the current Syrian defense ignore the fact that Western power was built to cope with much greater challenges.
        The "Responsibility to Protect" principle, endorsed by the West and formally adopted by the UN in 2005, declared the international community's obligation to halt and prevent mass atrocity crimes. In today's situation, it compels Western leaders to act with the Arab League to stop the massacre of Syrian civilians by the regime. It also obliges the Western powers to promote this campaign with their allies if Russia and China obstruct any broad endeavor under the UN framework. Military intervention also enables Western powers to cope with the potential use of chemical weapons.
        Finally, acting in Syria could weaken, if not break, the nexus between Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, and Palestinian terror organizations, and therefore likely contain Iranian influence in the Levant. This would have a dramatic impact on the balance of power between radical and pragmatic forces in the region. And it would signal to Iran the West's resolve to back up its interests and threats with force. A "Syria first" approach might complement international efforts and undermine Tehran's recalcitrance vis-a-vis the West. The writer is Executive Director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and former Head of Military Intelligence of the Israel Defense Forces. (Independent-UK)
  • Syria's Eerie Parallel to 1980s Afghanistan - David Ignatius
    The U.S. and its allies are moving in Syria toward a program of covert support for the rebels that, for better or worse, looks very much like what America and its friends did in Afghanistan in the 1980s. What does this historical comparison suggest? On the positive side, the Afghan mujahedeen won their war and eventually ousted the Russian-backed government. On the negative, this CIA-backed victory opened the way for decades of chaos and jihadist extremism that are still menacing Afghanistan, its neighbors and even the U.S.
        The U.S. should work hard (if secretly) to help the more sensible elements of the Syrian opposition and to limit the influence of extremists. The leaders of many Syrian tribes have sworn a blood oath of vengeance against Assad, and their power is one reason the engine of this insurgency is rural, conservative and Sunni. Iraq showed that the tribal leaders can be the best bulwark against the growth of al-Qaeda and other extremists. (Washington Post)

  • Weekend Feature

  • U.S. Homeland Security Runs Threat Response Exercise with Jewish Leaders
    About 50 high-ranking federal and state law enforcement officials met with an equal number of leading American Jewish officials for their first joint Department of Homeland Security-American Jewish Community Table Top Exercise on Wednesday. The exercise was designed to identify gaps in information sharing, to share best practices and to push security concerns throughout the American Jewish community.
        "This was not just another briefing," said Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Jewish Federations of North America's Secure Community Network. "This milestone event was to have the highest level national leaders together in a room for five hours with senior Jewish leaders." The program began with a current threat assessment by government officials and then simulated potential threats. Participants watched law enforcement coordinate responses to two scenarios: multiple attacks on Israeli and Jewish communities throughout the diaspora, and on Jewish institutions in the U.S.
        Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, who participated in the exercise, said in a statement: "Our partnership with organizations and leaders of faith communities has helped, and continues to help, communities across the country prepare for threats that may originate either within our borders or abroad."  (JTA)

Nuclear Weapons from Saddam to Iran: The Surprising Lessons for Israel from Captured Iraqi Documents - Dore Gold (Israel Hayom)

  • As a result of the 2003 Iraq War, the U.S. Army captured thousands of hours of recordings of highly-classified meetings of the Iraqi leadership on the subject of how they viewed the purpose of nuclear weapons in the future as well as how they envisioned their use in the context of a war against Israel.
  • So how did Saddam Hussein view the utility of nuclear weapons in a future conflict with Israel? Contrary to the theories of many experts on international relations in the U.S., who claim that states seek to acquire nuclear weapons for defensive purposes alone in order to enhance deterrence against their neighbors, the Iraqi documents indicate that Saddam Hussein's regime clearly had offensive goals in mind.
  • Saddam's strategic thinking was surprising, for he explained that Iraqi nuclear weapons would neutralize what many believed was Israel's nuclear capacity, thereby allowing Iraq to wage conventional war against Israel.
  • What Saddam's strategy illustrates is that the military use of nuclear weapons on the part of an adversary of Israel is very different from the role nuclear weapons played during the Cold War, despite the efforts of some analysts to apply the Soviet-American experience to the current Iranian threat.
  • Much has changed since the time of these Iraqi documents and the threats Israel might face are evolving. But it would be a mistake to imagine that they have disappeared completely, and much will depend upon the question of whether Iraq becomes a truly independent state or ends up being an Iranian satellite that serves as a springboard for its forces in the future.
  • Saddam's thinking about the relationship of nuclear weapons and conventional war is important to note for one other reason. In the debate over Israel's future borders in the West Bank, it is frequently argued that in the age of missiles - especially if they are armed with weapons of mass destruction - topography, terrain, and strategic depth are no longer relevant and hence Israel can give them up in future peace arrangements. This thesis, if widely accepted, could have enormous implications for areas like the Jordan Valley, undermining Israel's goal of obtaining defensible borders in any peace settlement.
  • But if the purpose of nuclear weapons in the hands of Israel's enemies is to make it safe for them to return to the era of conventional wars, then Israel must not be forced to concede its most vital territorial assets based on the unfounded notion that they no longer matter in the nuclear era.

    The writer, Israel's former ambassador to the United Nations, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
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