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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
April 17, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Netanyahu after Boston Blast: Israel Stands with U.S. - Tovah Lazaroff and Greer Fay Cashman (Jerusalem Post)
    In the wake of Monday's terror attack on the Boston Marathon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday:
    "On this day and on any day, Israel stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the American people....When it comes to events like this, all of us are one family....We send our condolences to President Obama, the American people and the bereaved families." 

    See also Israel-Trained Medical Team Responded to Boston Attack (Times of Israel)
    Dr. Alasdair Conn, chief of emergency services at Massachusetts General Hospital where many of the wounded from Monday's bombing attack were treated, credited Israel with training the hospital's first-response team and readying it to deal with mass-casualty incidents.
    Two years ago, the Israelis "helped us set up our disaster team so that we could respond in this kind of manner."

Pentagon Requests More Funding for Israel's Anti-Missile System (AFP)
    The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has requested $220.3 million in 2014 to bolster Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system, and will seek an additional $175.9 million in fiscal year 2015.
    For its part, Israel has spent a billion dollars on the development and production of Iron Dome batteries.

The Real Danger from Iran's Bushehr Reactor - Ali Vaez (Foreign Policy)
    A 6.3-magnitude earthquake shook Iran on April 9, killing 37 people and injuring more than 900.
    Iran's sole nuclear reactor, located in Bushehr, almost 100 miles from the quake's epicenter, was unaffected.
    The Bushehr reactor is designed to endure earthquakes up to a magnitude of 6.7, so this was a very close call.
    See also 7.8-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Iran Tuesday (BBC News)

Egypt Starves - David P. Goldman (PJ Media)
    Egypt's pound has fallen by 40% since last December, from 6 to the dollar to 8.25 to the dollar on the black market.
    The price of basic food items like beans and milk has risen by more than that, pricing all forms of protein out of the range of the half of Egyptians who live on less than $2 a day.
    See also Egypt's IMF Loan Talks in Cairo End without Agreement - Alaa Shahine (Bloomberg)

Report: Germany Looking to Buy Weaponized Drones from Israel (AFP-Defense News)
    Germany is in talks with Israel to buy weaponized drones for its military that are seen as more technologically advanced than U.S. ones, Der Spiegel reported.
    Berlin was believed to favor Israel's Heron TP drone over the U.S.-made Predator because it was seen as more cutting-edge.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Army Chief: Israel Capable of Attacking Iran on its Own
    Israel's chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, said Tuesday that the country's military was capable of attacking Iran on its own without foreign support. Asked in an interview if the military could wage attacks on Iran "alone" - without the support of countries such as the U.S. - Gantz replied: "Yes, absolutely." "We have our plans and forecasts.... If the time comes we'll decide" whether to take military action.
        In a separate interview on Tuesday, Gantz said the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran was not imminent, and that sanctions imposed by the international community should be given priority to halt Tehran's nuclear drive. "Iran has the means to obtain nuclear capability before the end of the year, but this does not mean it'll get there." "Sanctions, isolation and continued pressure" on Tehran must intensify. (AFP)
  • Turkey Blocks NATO Meeting with Israel - Burak Ege Bekdil
    Despite a recent, partial thaw in diplomatic ties with Israel, Turkey has declined to agree to a meeting of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue group, which includes Israel and six Arab countries, Turkish diplomats said. Turkey previously rejected Israeli participation in a NATO summit in Chicago last May. It also rebuffed an Israeli request to have a permanent office at NATO. (Defense News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Defense Minister Ya'alon: Israel May Have to Face Iran Threat Alone - Yaakov Lappin
    Israel must prepare for the possibility of striking Iran's nuclear program on its own, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Tuesday. He said that Iran is unimpressed with the West's steps against its nuclear program and described Tehran's nuclear program as "the most significant" threat not only to Israel, but to the Middle East and the "modern world."
        "The world's response to the Iranian nuclear program was delayed. The fact that centrifuges in Iran are continuing to spin, and that enriched uranium has already been collected, proves that the regime in Tehran is not impressed by these steps taken so far. Even more so, the regime in Tehran does not identify determination in the Western world to stop its nuclear project."
        "Only by placing the Iranian regime before the dilemma of having a bomb or [risking its] survival will lead to the project being stopped. Only a significant increase in sanctions, international isolation, assistance as well as moral support to the repressed citizens of Iran, and a credible military option, will convince the regime in Tehran that its survival is preferable to the military nuclear project."
        Israel should not lead the campaign against Iran, but the Jewish state is the first target of the ayatollah regime, Ya'alon said. "The world must lead the campaign against Iran, but Israel must prepare for the possibility that it will have to defend itself with its own powers."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Chief of Staff Reviews Israel's Security Situation - Gili Cohen
    Regarding the situation in the West Bank, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz said Tuesday Israel was not facing the prospect of a third intifada. With regard to Syria, he said it was a distinct possibility that the clashes in Syria might at some point be directed toward Israel. Regarding Egypt, Gantz said that the regime change in Egypt hadn't hurt security coordination between the two countries. "Coordination even improved in certain aspects."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Two Rockets Fired at Eilat - Ron Friedman
    Two Grad rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city of Eilat Wednesday morning by Islamist terrorists in Sinai. One landed in a residential neighborhood and the other in an open area. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Fayad Resignation: Scapegoating a State-Builder - David Makovsky
    The departure of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayad could be a blow to the Palestinians, particularly in terms of how much international aid they receive. Fayad became the PA's finance minister in 2002 upon demand by donor countries who were concerned that their contributions were being diverted for corruption. Before he took office, PA security personnel were paid via paper bags full of cash. Fayad insisted that every PA employee have a bank account and be paid on time. After Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, Fayad became prime minister and security cooperation with Israel became the norm.
        His tenure has been defined by institution-building, in which the PA built schools, health clinics, hospitals, paved roads and installed water pipes. In particular, Fayad's embrace of economic transparency - which included U.S.-led audits - was instrumental in attracting increased international aid.
        Fayad repeatedly warned that Abbas' statehood bids at the UN would spur Washington to cut off aid, and Israel to halt the transfer of Palestinian tax revenues. Nevertheless, he was blamed for the economic downturn that resulted. The writer is director of The Washington Institute's Project on the Middle East Peace Process. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Limits of a Rational Iran - Steven David
    Either Iranian leaders are crazy, in which case they cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons, or they are not, making a nuclear-armed Iran tolerable. But what if Iranian leaders are rational yet would contemplate a nuclear strike against Israel or the U.S. anyway? This is precisely the situation we might expect if the Iranian leadership finds itself on the brink of being toppled from within. Facing the end of their rule, and possibly their lives, Iranian leaders quite possibly could choose to lash out against the U.S. or Israel in a parting shot for posterity.
        Studying Fidel Castro during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War, and Bashar al-Assad's current last stand in Syria can open our eyes to the seemingly irrational behavior that can manifest when powerful people who are used to having their way begin to believe their days are numbered. The Iranian leadership is close to meeting all the requirements for unleashing disaster: waning power, manifest hatred, and capability.
        Even with all its horrendous implications, a military solution is preferable to a nuclear-armed Iran whose leaders are likely one day to find themselves with nothing to lose, and everything to destroy. The writer is a professor of political science at Johns Hopkins University. (American Interest)
  • The Syrian Opposition and Israel - David Pollock
    Israel and the Syrian opposition share some important mutual enemies, namely Hizbullah and Iran. This convergence of interests provides an opening for America to quietly strike a deal between Israel and the leadership of the Syrian opposition to keep extremist groups like Hizbullah and Jabhat al-Nusra and other affiliates of al-Qaeda far away from the Israeli frontier.
        Over the past 18 months, my colleagues and I have traveled extensively in the region and conducted interviews with hundreds of armed and unarmed Syrian opposition leaders and activists. Three surveys we conducted for the firm Pechter Polls revealed intense animosity toward both Iran and Hizbullah. The writer is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (New York Times)
  • Obstacles to the Rebel Conquest of Damascus - Michael Weiss
    Syrian rebels face two major obstacles in any concerted foray into central Damascus. First, there is a greater concentration of loyalist hardcore regime forces there than anywhere else in Syria. This is to say nothing of the capital's buildup of the Popular Committees and Jaysh al-Sha'bi militias which stand to take the place of the Syrian army in a coming sectarian free-for-all.
        The second problem is topographical. All of the major regime installations are in elevated positions, meaning that, as rebels advance, a steady barrage of rockets and artillery can rain down on them. Analysts say there is simply no way that the rebels can penetrate the Rif Dimashq military installations given their current capability, even with Croatian rocket launchers and recoilless guns. (NOW Lebanon)

The Arab Uprisings and the Rebirth of the Shia-Sunni Divide - Geneive Abdo (Saban Center-Brookings Institution)

  • Tehran's tendency to see the Arab uprisings in its own terms is more strategic spin rather than an accurate reading of events. The Arab uprisings are the very definition of local politics and represent a significant break with a past largely dictated by outside forces, foreign policy considerations, and proxy contests between rival regional and global forces. In other words, it is domestic politics that now drives foreign policy - not the other way around.
  • Any dream that the uprisings would spawn a new era of pan-Islamism has been dashed by the Syrian war, which has revived the central narrative of Shia-Sunni conflict that has raged off and on for centuries. The wave of Arab uprisings has deepened ethnic and religious tensions between Sunni and Shia, which had been largely contained in recent years, and pushed them once again to the fore.
  • As a result, a strong argument can be made that the Shia-Sunni divide is well on its way to displacing the broader conflict between Muslims and the West as the primary challenge facing the Islamic societies of the Middle East for the foreseeable future.
  • Such sectarian conflict is also likely to supplant the Palestinian occupation as the central mobilizing factor for Arab political life. As Arab societies become more politically active and aware at home in the aftermath of the uprisings, fighting Israel is less of a priority, especially because there are so many domestic crises.

    The writer, a nonresident fellow in the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, and a fellow in the Middle East program at the Stimson Center, was a foreign correspondent for 20 years, focusing on the Middle East and the Muslim world.

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