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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
May 28, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

The Syrianization of Lebanon - Michael J. Totten (World Affairs Journal)
    Sunni and Alawite militias have been battling it out in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, mirroring the war in Syria.
    Last week more than 1,200 mortar rounds and rockets exploded in Lebanon's second-largest city, killing dozens.
    How much armed conflict needs to take place before we stop referring to it as a series of clashes and start calling it a war?
    See also Hizbullah Widens the Syrian War - Dexter Filkins (New Yorker)
    The most serious effects of Hizbullah's stepped-up intervention in the Syrian war will be felt in Lebanon, where peace depends on each of the country's main sects refraining from trying to grab too much power at the expense of the others.
    Hizbullah's intervention in Syria - essentially, a Shiite army crossing the border to kill Sunnis - represents a flagrant violation of Lebanon's fragile sectarian pact.
    It's not difficult to imagine Lebanon slipping into a new civil war of its own.

Young Hizbullah Critic Banished from Village - Alex Rowell (Now Lebanon)
    Marwa Olleik, 20, a journalism student from the south Lebanese village of Yahmur, south of Nabatieh, was forced to flee her lifelong home on Wednesday due to her support for the Syrian uprising and criticism of Hizbullah's intervention against it.
    "For months I've been writing messages... supporting the revolution, on Facebook," she said. "People would tell me I was shaming the honor of the village, and of the Shiites, and they would use terrible insults against me."
    "When Hizbullah went into Qusayr [in Syria], I immediately started posting comments and photos, asking what they were going there for, especially since in Nabatieh every day I would see two or three bodies returning."
    Her father, an orthodox Hizbullah partisan, began to receive phone calls from local party affiliates urging him to make his daughter publicly retract her comments. Then the front porch of their Yahmur home was set ablaze.
    "The rabit [local Hizbullah official] came to our house and told my mother I can't go back and I have to immediately publish an apology, although I already had done so. He said that this time they burnt the porch, but next time they'd burn the whole house."

Hizbullah Member Arrested in Texas - Guillermo Contreras (San Antonio Express-News)
    The FBI has arrested a San Antonio man, Wissam Allouche, 44, on charges he lied to get into the U.S. and tried to get a sensitive Defense Department position.
    "He allegedly tried to cover up his affiliation with Hizbullah," said special agent Erik Vasys, spokesman for the FBI in San Antonio.
    Allouche had married a U.S. citizen and was going through the naturalization process.
    The FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force alleges he was a fighter with the Amal militia in Lebanon in the 1980s.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Chemical Warfare in Syria - Jean-Philippe Remy
    A chemical attack doesn't look like anything much at first. It's not spectacular or even detectable. By the time the rebel fighters of the Free Syrian Army understand that they've been exposed to chemical products by government forces, it's too late. Omar Haidar, chief of operations of the Tahrir al-Sham (Liberation of Syria) brigade, described a metallic ping like "a Pepsi can that falls to the ground." No odor, no smoke, and then the symptoms appear. The men cough violently. Their eyes burn, their vision blurs. Soon they experience difficulty breathing; they begin to vomit or lose consciousness.
        Reporters from Le Monde witnessed this on several days in a row in the Jobar district, on the outskirts of Damascus. Gas attacks occurred on a regular basis in April. Dr. Hassan O., of the Al-Fateh de Kafer Battna hospital in the Ghouta region east of Damascus, described the patients' symptoms in detail. "The people who arrive have trouble breathing. Their pupils are constricted. Some are vomiting. They've lost their hearing, they cannot speak, their respiratory muscles have been inert. If we don't give them immediate emergency treatment, death ensues."  (Le Monde-France)
        See also More Chemical Attacks Reported in Syria - Erika Solomon
    Heavy fighting raged around the strategic Syrian border town of Qusayr and the capital Damascus on Monday amid further reports of chemical weapons attacks by President Assad's forces on rebel areas. In Harasta, an eastern Damascus suburb largely under rebel control, dozens of people were afflicted by respiratory difficulties after an apparent overnight chemical attack, according to opposition sources.
        Video showed victims lying on the floor, breathing from oxygen masks. Another video from Harasta showed at least two fighters struggling to breathe while medics put tubes into their throats. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said there was "increasingly strong evidence of localized use of chemical weapons" in Syria. (Reuters)
  • EU Ends Arms Embargo on Syrian Rebels - Ashley Fantz
    EU nations agreed on Monday to end an arms embargo against Syrian rebels, Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said. (CNN)
  • Congressmen Urge UN to Block Iran from Heading Nuclear Disarmament Panel - Adam Kredo
    More than 70 members of Congress have called on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to remove Iran from its role as host of the UN Conference on Disarmament, which opened on May 27, in light of Tehran's illicit pursuit of nuclear arms. "In what parallel universe could Iran - a world leader in weapons proliferation and terror financing - be taken seriously leading the charge for nuclear disarmament?" said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.). "It's outrageous that a country that refuses to abide by any international proliferation agreements - as it continues its own illicit pursuit for nuclear weapons - is chairing a conference on disarmament," said Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.). (Washington Free Beacon)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Reject Kerry's Focus on Boosting Their Economy - Michal Shmulovich and Raphael Ahren
    The Palestinian Authority on Monday rejected Secretary of State Kerry's ambitious $4 billion economic plan designed to boost the Palestinian economy in exchange for political concessions. Mahmoud Abbas' economic adviser, Mohammad Mustafa, said, "The Palestinian leadership will not offer political concessions in exchange for economic benefits."  (Times of Israel)
        See also It's Not the Economy, Stupid - David Horovitz
    Private investment can certainly flow into the Palestinian territories, but it will only flow after the conditions are created for long-term stability, not as the means to create those conditions. Investment in the West Bank today is necessarily cautious and prudent - as befits the radical instability of the wider region, the potential for chaos extending to the West Bank, and ongoing local crises such as the recent ousting by Abbas of the single most credible figure for would-be West Bank investors, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.
        The path to an accord requires compromise and pragmatism. It requires a Palestinian leader like the English-speaking Abbas, who said last year that there would be no third intifada under his leadership and that he had no demands on pre-1967 Israel. It does not require a Palestinian leader like the Arabic-speaking Abbas, who went to the UN last November seeking statehood without the inconvenience of negotiating modalities with Israel, and who told the world that Israel was born in fundamental sin through ethnic cleansing. (Times of Israel)
  • Wave of Politically Motivated Arson Hits Jerusalem Area - Efrat Foresher
    A wave of politically motivated arson has swept through the Jerusalem district. Since the beginning of May, firefighters have been called 15 times to the Ofrit army base on the Mount of Olives, near the village of Issawiya. Each of the fires was intentionally started, according to an investigator. Firefighters responding to calls have been frequently barraged with rocks.
        Jerusalem's fire department was summoned 13 times in May to put out fires at Hashalom Forest, near the village of Jabel Mukaber and the Abu Tor neighborhood. Three fires were extinguished in a single day. (Israel Hayom)
  • Salafist Adviser to Morsi: "We Have No Problem with the Peace with Israel" - Elhanan Miller
    Emad Abdel Ghafour, head of the Salafist Al-Watan party and adviser to Egyptian President Morsi, said Sunday that he "had no problem" with the Camp David Peace Accords between Israel and Egypt, but added that the number of Egyptian soldiers allowed to enter the Sinai Peninsula under the agreement must be increased. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • A New Road Map to Middle East Peace? - David Ignatius
    Secretary of State John Kerry has made a restart of the peace process a personal priority. It appears that he's seeking agreement on basic parameters - the borders for a Palestinian state and an understanding about Israel's security requirements - that would allow negotiations to begin in earnest. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants a clear U.S. commitment that any Palestinian state will be demilitarized and won't become a base for launching attacks on Israel. Diplomatic observers say Kerry is surprisingly close to getting the parties back to the table. (Washington Post)
        See also Abbas Doesn't Want Talks - Dan Margalit
    In recent years, there has been a growing impression that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is comfortable with the existing situation. He has sought diplomatic achievements at the UN and has pushed for strengthening boycotts of Israel, but he has shown no will for real discussions. The growing extremism of the Palestinian approach has been nourished by the support given to Abbas by the U.S., which now also includes the economic plan announced by Secretary of State Kerry. It would be preferable if U.S. aid to the Palestinians were accompanied by a demand that the Palestinians drop their preconditions for meaningful talks with Israel. (Israel Hayom)
  • League of Illusions - Guy Bechor
    Representatives of the Arab League are amending the "Saudi initiative" and turning it into a "peace" treaty with Israel. Really? Who does the Arab League represent? Only the regimes of the Sunni countries, or what's left of them. The Shiite countries - Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon - no longer cooperate with this league. So Israel makes peace with the Sunnis; but what about the others? We must keep in mind that the territory the IDF will withdraw from will be seized immediately by armed Salafis from all across the Arab world - as was the case in Sinai and Syria. Who will come to Israel's aid when it is attacked? The writer heads the Middle East Division at the Lauder School of Government at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Ynet News)

Iran's Nuclear Games Demand a Tougher U.S. Approach - Dennis Ross and David Makovsky (Washington Post)

  • While the Iranians install the next generation of centrifuges that can produce enriched uranium three to four times faster than before, the P5+1 negotiations on Iran's nuclear program have ground once again to a halt. While economic pressures impose a cost on Iran, so far they have failed to alter its nuclear program.
  • In light of President Obama's objective of preventing the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, at a minimum, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei must be made to feel that the U.S. means it when it says the time for diplomacy is running out - and that the consequence is likely to be the use of force.
  • The U.S. needs to shift its negotiating strategy away from the "step-by-step" approach - which only deepens Iranian perceptions that they can string us along until we acquiesce. Instead, the U.S. needs to establish greater clarity about what we can and cannot live with regarding Iran's nuclear program.
  • This new approach would involve defining an acceptable civil nuclear capability for Iran. It could mean accepting limited enrichment but with strict and verifiable restrictions. This would prevent Iran from being able to break out and present the world with a nuclear weapons fait accompli.
  • Were Iranian leaders to turn down the opportunity to have civil nuclear capability, their real aims of acquiring nuclear weapons would be revealed. In such circumstances, the U.S. would be far better positioned to make the case to the international community that military action is warranted.

    Dennis Ross, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was a senior Middle East adviser to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. David Makovsky is a senior fellow at the Washington Institute.

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