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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
May 22, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Iran Wants Dozens of Bombs - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran is not looking for just a few nuclear bombs "in the basement," but rather to produce dozens each year, International Relations Minister Yuval Steinitz said Tuesday.
    Steinitz told a security conference that Iran's nuclear industry was "many times larger than that of either North Korea or Pakistan."
    He described the Iranian nuclear industry as designed "not to produce a few bombs, but to produce fissionable material for dozens and hundreds of nuclear bombs."
  The issue, he said, is not only of Iran becoming a nuclear state, but rather becoming a "nuclear superpower."
    According to Steinitz, Iran plans to expand the capability of the Natanz nuclear facility to enrich enough uranium to produce between 20 to 30 atomic bombs a year.
    See also Steinitz Discusses Iranian Threat (IMRA)
    Steinitz said that within a decade, the Iranians will be able to have over 100 nuclear bombs.
    Moreover, Iran is making a concentrated effort to develop a satellite launch vehicle, which is, in effect, cover for developing inter-continental ballistic missiles.

Text of Israel's Report on the Muhammad al-Dura Video - (Israel Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy)
    "The France 2 Al-Dura Report, Its Consequences and Implications," a report of the Government Review Committee, concluded:
    "The Al-Dura affair demonstrates that countries committed to scrupulously adhering to international law while combating terror cannot remain complacent in the face of inaccurate or mendacious media reports."
    "It is our hope that in presenting Israel's position regarding the Al-Dura affair, we can moderate some of the damage done by this pernicious narrative and help prevent the repeat of such incidents in the future."

Israel Sends Condolences to U.S. after Oklahoma Tornado (Prime Minister's Office)
    Prime Minister Netanyahu wrote to President Obama on Tuesday:
    On behalf of the government and people of Israel, I offer our heartfelt condolences to you and to the people of the United States on the massive tornado that struck in Oklahoma and exacted such a horrific toll in human life.
    Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of this tragedy and their families at this difficult time.

Palestinians Threw 200 Firebombs at Rachel's Tomb in Past Three Months - Gideon Allon (Israel Hayom)
    Palestinians have thrown 200 firebombs and 80 explosive devices at worshippers and Israeli soldiers at Rachel's Tomb between Bethlehem and Jerusalem over the past three months, senior IDF officers told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday.

Hamas Textbooks to Teach "Plans to Liberate Palestine" - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas has begun preparing new school textbooks that teach children about "plans to liberate Palestine and the legitimacy and various forms of resistance [against Israel]," Jamal Abu Hashem, advisor to the Hamas-controlled education ministry, said in Gaza.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iranian Soldiers Fighting for Assad in Syria - Anne Gearan
    Iran has sent soldiers to Syria to fight alongside forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those of the Lebanon-based Hizbullah militia, a senior State Department official said Tuesday. The U.S. official's allegation was a tacit acknowledgment that the Syrian conflict has become a regional war and a de facto U.S. proxy fight with Iran. "This is an important thing to note: the direct implication of foreigners fighting on Syrian soil now for the regime," the official said.
        In Washington on Tuesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed legislation authorizing President Obama to send weapons to vetted Syrian opposition groups, although the administration has not decided whether to provide lethal aid and does not need congressional approval to do so. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Acts to Expand Sensitive Nuclear Capacity - Fredrik Dahl
    The next quarterly report on Iran's nuclear program by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expected on Wednesday, is likely to show continued installation of the centrifuges used for enriching uranium, Western diplomats said Tuesday. That would include the advanced IR-2m model which would enable Iran to speed up sharply its accumulation of refined uranium. The number of IR-2m centrifuges and empty centrifuge casings that have been put in place at Iran's main enrichment site near Natanz is expected to have risen significantly since February.
        One Western envoy said Iran was also believed to be pressing ahead in the construction of a reactor near Arak that could yield plutonium for nuclear arms. (Reuters-Chicago Tribune)
  • Sinai Kidnappers Release Egypt Security Force Hostages
    Seven members of Egypt's security force captured in the Sinai Peninsula last week have been freed. "The seven kidnapped Egyptian soldiers are on their way to Cairo after their release thanks to the efforts of Egyptian military intelligence in coordination with the elders of the tribes and families of Sinai," army spokesman Ahmed Ali said. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
        See also Egypt Sinai Campaign Coordinated with Israel - Avi Issacharoff
    An Israeli official has confirmed that Egypt's military campaign in Sinai in response to the kidnapping of seven Egyptian security forces is being coordinated with Israel. Cairo has poured troops, artillery, and armored vehicles into the territory. Egyptian warplanes have been targeting terrorist cells. Special forces are also operating on the ground.
        Egypt's official MENA news agency declared that the groups responsible for the kidnapping were trained in Gaza and received weapons from Hamas and other terrorist groups there. (The Tower-Israel Project)
  • Iran Bars Prominent Candidates from Ballot - Farnaz Fassihi
    Iran's Guardian Council disqualified former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, an aide to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, from running for president. The council approved eight names for the June 14 ballot including six ultraconservatives loyal to the regime, Iranian state-run television reported Tuesday. They include two of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top advisers: nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and former Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Frontrunner for Iran President Speaks of His Life Battling U.S. Power - Scott Peterson
    Saeed Jalili, Iran's smiling but immovable top nuclear negotiator, a revolutionary with a decades-old suspicion of the U.S., has become a frontrunner in Iran's presidential race. Jalili, 47, said in an interview that Iran is winning its strategic struggle with America, despite crippling sanctions and Western attempts to isolate it from the world. He says that he is the man to carry Iran's revolutionary torch into the future. (Christian Science Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Assad Regime Claims Responsibility for Firing at Israel - Gili Cohen
    The Syrian government took responsibility for firing at Israeli forces on Tuesday. At approximately 1 a.m., Syrian forces fired at IDF troops patrolling near Tel Fares in the central Golan Heights. No one was wounded, but an army jeep was damaged. Syrian state TV reported Tuesday that the Syrian army destroyed an armored IDF vehicle. Senior IDF officials said the claim was fabricated.
        Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "We do not and will not allow any Syrian fire to enter our territory. Last night a Syrian army target was destroyed as a result of such fire."  (Ha'aretz)
  • 11 Palestinians Died in PA, Hamas Detention in 2012 - Khaled Abu Toameh
    11 Palestinians died in Palestinian Authority and Hamas detention centers during 2012 - 2 in the PA and 9 in Gaza, according to a report released Tuesday by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Islamists in Syria: How Strong?
    The governor's headquarters in Raqqa, a city of 250,000 in Syria's northeast, is a base for Jabhat al-Nusra (Victory Front), an extreme armed opposition group with which al-Qaeda in Iraq recently claimed to have merged. There are at least four other rebel outfits in Raqqa, mainly Salafist ones. Yet in the eastern provinces as a whole, Jabhat al-Nusra has emerged as a hugely powerful presence. By some estimates, Jabhat al-Nusra now has 6,000 carefully vetted men, mainly Syrians but under foreign leadership.
        The group enjoys regular payments from al-Qaeda in Iraq. But the al-Qaeda announcement may have harmed it, causing dissent within its ranks between those who favor the link and those who are against it. Some civilians who had started to welcome the group because of its military prowess and provision of services have protested against the al-Qaeda tie. Even Ahrar al-Sham, another large nationwide network of Salafist jihadists, criticized the affiliation. Rebels from more secular-minded or more moderately Islamist groups speak openly of a second war to come - against Jabhat al-Nusra. (Economist-UK)
  • For Russia, Syria Is Not in the Middle East - Brenda Shaffer
    To get Russia to cooperate on any stabilization plan for Syria, the U.S. and its allies will have to take into account Russia's significant interests in the Mediterranean region. In Russia's view, the outcome in Syria affects Moscow's core strategic interests - including its global naval strategy and energy exports. While the Arab Middle East has been a relatively low priority in Russia's foreign policy, the Eastern Mediterranean region is a policy priority for Moscow.
        Russia might have only relative power in comparison to the U.S., but in many regions it has more "relevant" power, where Moscow can both contribute to and undermine U.S. policy goals. The writer is a professor at the University of Haifa. (Reuters)
  • Iran and the Arab World - Eric Trager
    The Salafists, who are deeply opposed to Iran, have emerged as a major political force in a number of post-revolutionary Arab states, and in Egypt the Salafists are highlighting the Muslim Brotherhood's outreach to Iran in their campaign against the Brotherhood. As with Iran, anti-Westernism is a foundational principle for the Brotherhood, which views the establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt as necessary for resisting Western cultural and political influence. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute. (Foreign Policy Association-Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Egypt: From Tehran with Love - Steven A. Cook
    The writer is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Is Egypt Heading toward a Military Regime? - Jacques Neriah
    After the Muslim Brotherhood and President Mohamed Morsi himself began signaling their intention to turn Egypt into an Islamic state, the opposition turned hostile to the regime, castigating it with the newly acquired freedom of the press. Morsi became the target of satire and mockery. In addition, a new activist group emerged. Members of the Black Bloc, who dress in black with black masks, have declared an open war against the Brotherhood.
        Amid a sudden popular wave of affection and longing for the Mubarak days, an increasing number of people are calling on the army to return to the political scene. A recent poll found 82% supporting such a move. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood, having waited almost eight decades to become the rulers of Egypt, are certainly in no hurry to give back what the 2011 revolution gave them on a silver platter. Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah was formerly Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Iran and Hizbullah Support for Syria Complicates Peace-Talk Strategy - Michael R. Gordon and Steven Lee Myers (New York Times)

  • Secretary of State John Kerry has pushed for an international conference in Geneva in June that would bring representatives of the Syria government together with the opposition.
  • But the stepped-up support Syrian President Assad has received from Iran and Hizbullah in recent months appears to have fortified his belief that he can hang on to power and prevail militarily - or at least control a strategically significant swath of the country.
  • According to American intelligence reports, there are some 200 Iranian paramilitary Quds Force personnel in Syria.
  • Qassim Suleimani, the Quds Force commander, recently ordered Iranian artillery and armor officials to help Assad's regime, American officials say.
  • Suleimani has also requested that several hundred fighters from Asaib al-Haq and Kataib Hizbullah, two Iraqi Shiite militias that have been trained by the Iranians, join the war effort in Syria.

        See also White House Condemns Hizbullah Role in Syria
    The White House on Tuesday condemned Hizbullah's direct intervention in the battle for the Syrian rebel stronghold of Qusayr. Spokesman Jay Carney said, "We have condemned and condemn again Hizbullah's direct intervention in the assault on Qusayr where Hizbullah's fighters are playing a significant role in the regime's offensive....Hizbullah's occupation of villages in Syria and its support for the regime and pro-Assad militias exacerbates and inflames regional sectarian tensions and perpetuates the regime's campaign of terror against the Syrian people."  (AFP)

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