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March 29, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Players Begin Savage Moves for Post-Assad Power Grab - Clare Lopez (
    The forces that will savage one another to succeed Bashar al-Assad in Damascus are beginning to make moves that are calculated to improve their position in the immediate post-Assad period.
    Key players are being either removed from the chess board or strategically placed on it.
    For example, on March 19, 2013, the Turkey-based Syrian National Council (SNC) elected Ghassan Hitto, a senior member of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, as head of an interim opposition government for Syria.
    The Free Syrian Army rejected Hitto's election, asserting that they do not recognize the Qatar-backed Muslim Brother as the legitimate choice of the anti-Assad coalition.
    In another example, a massive explosion inside a Damascus mosque on March 21 killed at least 42 people, including one of the most important remaining Sunni clerical figures still supporting the Assad regime, Sheikh Mohammad Said Ramada al-Bouti, 84.
    In yet another case, somebody also tried to assassinate Col. Riad al-Assad, one of the top leaders of the Free Syrian Army, on March 24. The grenade attack on al-Assad's car did not kill him, but he lost a leg.
    The writer served for 20 years as an operations officer with the CIA.

Britons in Gaza Aid Convoy Kidnapped in Libya - Alexandra Topping and Chris Stephen (Guardian-UK)
    Three women, two of whom are sisters, who were part of a large aid convoy passing through Libya on the way to Gaza, have been sexually assaulted in Benghazi, after a group of five British nationals were briefly kidnapped.
    The group is currently safe in the Turkish consul in Benghazi and is expected to return to the UK.

Palestinian Journalist Jailed for "Insulting" Abbas - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Journalist Mamdouh Hamamreh from Bethlehem was sentenced on Thursday to one year in prison for "insulting" PA President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook.
    Hamamreh, who works for Palestinian Al-Quds TV, shared a photo on Facebook that compared Abbas to a man who played the role of a French spy in a popular Syrian TV series.

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The Threat of Islamic Betrayal - Raymond Ibrahim (American Thinker)
    A recent assassination attempt in Turkey offers valuable lessons for the West concerning Islamist hate towards non-Muslim "infidels."
    Last January, an assassination plot against a Christian pastor in Turkey was thwarted when police arrested 14 suspects. Two of them had been part of the pastor's congregation for more than a year, feigning interest in Christianity. Three of the suspects were women.
    "These people had infiltrated our church and collected information about me, my family and the church and were preparing an attack against us," said the pastor, Emre Karaali, a native Turk. "Two of them attended our church for over a year and they were like family."
    "The 14 [suspects] had collected personal information, copies of personal documents, created maps of the church and the pastor's home, and had photos of those who had come to Izmit [church] to preach."
    Islamic doctrine permits deceits, ruses, and dispensations.
    Lying is forbidden - unless the intention is to empower Islam.
    Killing women and children is forbidden - but permissible during the jihad.
    Suicide is forbidden - unless the intention behind it is to kill infidels, in which case it becomes a "martyrdom operation."
    The writer is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • UN Asks Syria for "Unfettered Access" to Investigate Chemical Weapons Use
    Syria has not yet agreed to give the "unfettered access" demanded by the UN for an inquiry into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the country's conflict, diplomats said Wednesday. The Syrian government has asked the UN to investigate its accusation that opposition rebels used chemical weapons in Aleppo province. Britain and France have demanded that the inquiry also take up opposition demands that the government staged that attack and two other allegations that the government used chemical weapons.
        UN leader Ban Ki-Moon has repeatedly demanded that UN experts be given "unfettered access" in Syria to determine whether chemical weapons have been used. "The [Syrian] government has still not given this pledge," a UN diplomat said. (AFP)
  • Israel Sends More Medics to Border with Syria - Josef Federman
    Israel's military says it's beefing up medical teams along the border with Syria following several cases of wounded Syrians crossing the frontier to seek medical assistance. A military official said on Thursday there have been "numerous incidents" in recent months in which wounded Syrians arrived for first aid from Israeli medics. 11 wounded Syrians were taken and treated at Israeli hospitals, including one who died from his wounds on Wednesday. Others returned home after their condition improved. (AP)
  • Iraq Feels Ripples from War in Syria - Ernesto Londono
    Syria's civil war is increasingly threatening to destabilize neighboring Iraq, widening a sectarian divide in a nation still reeling from the messy aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion a decade ago. After staying on the sidelines for more than a year, Sunni tribes in Iraq that straddle the frontier have decisively joined the effort to topple the Alawite Shiite-led government in Damascus. "We will be the most affected if violence spreads in a way that cannot be controlled," Ali al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, said in an interview.
        Jabhat al-Nusra, a hard-line Islamist group that has engineered many of the rebels' decisive tactical victories in Syria, is closely linked to the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq. In online forums used by jihadists, members have posted statements vowing to take on Maliki after they drive out Assad and proclaiming that they will march on Baghdad after seizing Damascus. The convergence of militant groups in both countries became starkly clear this month when Iraqi insurgents ambushed a convoy transporting Syrian soldiers who had fled into Iraq after a firefight along the northern border. (Washington Post)
  • Palestinians Realize Downsides of Foreign Aid Boom - Shira Rubin
    Palestinians are among the largest per capita consumers of foreign aid worldwide. While desperately needed, the billions of dollars flooding in from overseas since 1994 have also caused economic productivity to plummet by flooding Palestinian markets with imported goods. A recent World Bank report asserts that foreign aid has caused long-term damage to the Palestinian economy.
        In cosmopolitan Ramallah, a construction boom and cappuccino-fueled culture of luxury cars and inflated real estate suggest an economic upswing. But experts warn that the growth is fostered largely by foreign donations to the PA, and the profusion of NGOs setting up shop in the de-facto capital has created a bubble - hollow and unsustainable. (Christian Science Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Views Escalation of Palestinian Violence in West Bank - Tovah Lazaroff
    The escalation of Palestinian violence in the West Bank has not yet turned into a third intifada, the IDF's Judea Brigade commander Col. Avi Bluth said Thursday. "Are we in a period of escalation? The answer is yes. Are we on the way to a third intifada? As an army we are prepared for it, but it is my personal assessment that we are not."
        Bluth said that in Hebron he often works in coordination with the PA security forces. But he was careful to note that the operative word was "coordinate," and not "cooperate." He added that the two forces worked best when it came to operating against Hamas. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Video: IDF Foils West Bank Shooting Attack - Captain Barak Raz
    IDF surveillance footage shows the apprehension of suspects involved in a shooting incident at Beit Fajar on Feb. 15. Over the past two months, Israel has arrested 35 suspects involved in shooting incidents in the area south of Bethlehem. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • Palestinians Still Owe Israel Electric Corp. NIS 730 Million - Amiram Barkat
    Israel currently supplies all electricity needs to the West Bank, and the Palestinian Authority currently owes the Israel Electric Corp. (IEC) NIS 730 million ($200 million). In late 2012, former Minister of Finance Steinitz halted the transfer of tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA in response to the UN General Assembly's recognition of the State of Palestine, and the withheld funds were used to pay, in part, the Palestinians' debt to IEC. However, following President Obama's visit to Israel last week, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to release the withheld funds as a goodwill gesture to the PA. (Globes)
  • Israel's Jewish Population Passes 6 Million - Gad Lior
    Israel's population reached eight million over Passover, Yediot Ahronot reported Thursday, with six million Jews, 1.6 million Arabs, and 350,000 non-Arab Christians and others, mostly relatives of immigrants from the former USSR.
        There are 5.5 million Jews in the U.S., 500,000 in France, 380,000 in Canada, and 290,000 in Britain. "In the world today there are 13,800,000 Jews," said Professor Sergio Della Pergola, an expert on Jewish demography from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who collected the data. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Turkish-Israeli Rapprochement - Yoav Karny
    Six years after storming out of a debate with President Shimon Peres at Davos, three years after divorcing Israel to the acclaim of the Arab world, two months after excoriating Zionism as a crime against humanity, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan is not a friend, not an ally, and not a polite neighbor. At best, he is a temporary partner for temporary deals. Erdogan hates Israel, is hostile to its very existence, and longs to do something to speed up the end of that existence.
        Three weeks ago, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu invited the descendants of the last of the Ottoman dynasty to a festive dinner at the Turkish embassy in London. Among the guests was the grandson of the last Caliph, whom Kemal Ataturk deposed in March 1924. And Turkey is seriously trying to convince its neighbors that it has no interest in reviving the Ottoman past? (Globes)
        See also Israel and Turkey Let Bygones Be Bygones - Editorial (Washington Post)
  • Muslim "Secret" Courageously Outed - Douglas Murray
    The British Muslim writer Mehdi Hasan recently described anti-Semitism among his Muslim peers in Britain: "It pains me to have to admit this but anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace." He goes on to explain what a large number of the British Muslims with whom he speaks believe: that Princess Diana was murdered because she was going to have a Muslim baby, that 9/11 was not perpetrated by Muslims, and that the Holocaust of European Jews never happened.
        "In recent years, I've been depressed to discover that there are plenty of 'second-generation' Muslim youths, born and bred in multiracial Britain, who have drunk the anti-Semitic Kool-Aid," he says. (Gatestone Institute)
        See also Anti-Semitism Has Infected the British Muslim Community - Mehdi Hasan (New Statesman)
  • Israel's Insightful Cynicism - Robert D. Kaplan
    Israel had a convenient situation for decades, surrounded by stable Arab dictatorships. Israel could promote itself as the region's only real democracy, even as it quietly depended on the likes of Hosni Mubarak, the al Assad clan and the Hashemites to ensure order and more-or-less few surprises. Now dictators are falling and anarchy is on the rise.
        Fighting state armies of the kind that the Arab dictators built in wars in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 was simpler compared to today's wars: Because the Arabs never really believed in their dysfunctional states, they didn't always fight very well in state-organized formations. But sub-state militaries like Hizbullah and Hamas have been more of a challenge. Given their geographical circumstances, Israelis can be forgiven their cynicism. (Stratfor)
  • Some Arab Leaders Have Taken Risks for Peace - and Paid with Their Lives - Clifford D. May
    Meeting with King Abdullah II in Jordan last Friday, President Obama was gracious enough to mention the monarch's great-grandfather, King Abdullah I, assassinated in 1951, who "gave his life in the name of peace." To Western ears, that sounded like a tribute. To Arab and Muslim ears, it may have sounded like a warning.
        Imagine you are Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. You know that making peace with Israel will bring you the praise of British prime ministers and American presidents. Perhaps you understand that peace would be in the best interest of your people. But you also are keenly aware that serious peacemaking will place you and members of your family in severe peril.
        Egypt's President Anwar Sadat made peace with Israel in 1979. Two years later, he was assassinated in accord with a fatwa written by Omar Abdel Rahman, the "Blind Sheikh," who would go on to be convicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Since becoming president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been calling for the Blind Sheikh's release.
        The assassination of Lebanese president Bashir Gemayel in September 1982 was related to the fact that just two weeks earlier he had agreed to start the process of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Israel Hayom)

  • Weekend Feature

  • U.S. Army Chaplain Who Told the Jews of Buchenwald: "You Are Free" - Margalit Fox
    Rabbi Herschel Schacter died last week at 95 after a career as one of the most prominent modern Orthodox rabbis in the U.S. On April 11, 1945, Schacter was the first Jewish chaplain to enter the Buchenwald camp in Germany, which had just been liberated by Gen. George S. Patton's Third Army. He would remain at Buchenwald for months, tending to survivors and helping to resettle thousands of Jews.
        Schacter said afterward, at first it seemed as though there was no one left alive, with hundreds of bodies strewn everywhere. He was led to filthy barracks where men lay on raw wooden planks stacked from floor to ceiling. "Shalom Aleichem, Yidden," Schacter cried in Yiddish, "ihr zint frei!" (Peace be upon you, Jews, you are free).
        As he passed a mound of corpses, Schacter spied a small boy, Prisoner 17030, hiding in terror. "What's your name, my child?" he asked in Yiddish. "Lulek," he replied. Rabbi Schacter discovered nearly a thousand orphaned children in Buchenwald. He and a colleague, Rabbi Robert Marcus, helped arrange for their transport to France - a convoy that included Lulek and the teenage Elie Wiesel. Lulek, who eventually settled in Palestine, grew up to be Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel from 1993 to 2003 who is now the chief rabbi of Tel Aviv. (New York Times)

Obama's Breakthrough in Jerusalem - Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post)

  • Barack Obama said in Jerusalem on March 21: "I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those [Palestinian] kids, they'd say, 'I want these kids to succeed.'" Very true. But how does the other side feel about Israeli kids?
  • Consider that the most revered parent in Palestinian society is Mariam Farhat of Gaza. Her distinction? Three of her sons died in various stages of trying to kill Israelis - one in a suicide attack, shooting up and hurling grenades in a room full of Jewish students. For that she was venerated as "mother of the struggle" and elected to parliament.
  • In the Palestinian territories, streets, public squares, summer camps, high schools, and even a kindergarten are named after suicide bombers and other mass murderers. So much for the notion that if only Israelis would care about Arab kids, peace would be possible.
  • What Obama blithely called "missed historic opportunities" are not random events. They present an unbroken, unrelenting pattern over seven decades of Palestinian leaders rejecting any final peace with Israel.
  • In Ramallah last week, Obama demolished the claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace. Palestinian sovereignty and Israeli security are "the core issue," he told Abbas. "If we solve those two problems, the settlement problem will be solved."
  • Exposing settlements as a mere excuse for the Palestinian refusal to negotiate - that was the news, widely overlooked, coming out of Obama's trip. It was a breakthrough. When an American president so sympathetic to the Palestinian cause tells Abbas to stop obstructing peace with that phony settlement excuse, something important has happened.
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