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May 31, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Russia May Not Deliver S-300s to Syria This Year (AFP)
    Russia may not deliver a consignment of S-300 air defense missile systems to Syria this year, two Russian newspapers reported Friday, rejecting claims the weapons had already arrived in the country.
    Kommersant reported that delivery was only planned in the second quarter of 2014 and that no delivery of the missiles had taken place yet.
    After delivery, at least six months would be needed before the systems were fully operational.

France: 3-4,000 Hizbullah Fighters in Syria (Reuters)
    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday that the intelligence services believed 3-4,000 guerillas from Lebanon's Hizbullah militia were fighting alongside President Assad's army in Syria's civil war.
    "When you have fighters that are really well armed that are prepared to die and they are several thousand, that makes a difference," he said.
    Fabius pointed a finger at Iran for pushing Hizbullah into the Syrian conflict, and dismissed any suggestion that Iran could be involved in resolving the Syrian crisis because of its backing of Assad's government.

Israel Tracks Every Missile Fired in the Syrian Civil War - Dan Williams (Reuters)
    Israel tracks every heavy missile fired in the Syrian civil war, keen to study Damascus' combat doctrines and deployments and ready to fend off an attack on its turf, Col. Zvika Haimovich of Israel's air defense corps said Thursday.
    "Syria's [missile] batteries are in a high state of operability, ready to fire at short notice. All it would take is a few degrees' change in the flight path to endanger us," he said.
    Syrian opposition activists say Assad's army has fired dozens of Scud-type missiles at rebel-held areas in the last six months.

Syrian Rebel-Held Dam Churns Out Power - Nour Malas (Wall Street Journal)
    Three months have passed since rebels took over much of Raqqa province, yet it's business as usual at the hydroelectric plant at Syria's largest dam, 25 miles upstream from the city of Raqqa.
    The entrance to Tabaqa, the town built around the Tabaqa Dam project, is guarded by a Free Syrian Army unit.
    The Tabaqa power plant is the nerve center for the electricity network in northern Syria.
    Workers still receive salaries from the government, and a technical repair team from Damascus was recently dispatched to fix a glitch in the control room.

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Israel's See-Shoot Response to Hostile Fire - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    Israel's precision weapon of choice in response to hostile fire from Syria is Tammuz, a formidable sensor-fused network that detects and targets sources of fire.
    The IDF publicly credited the sensor-to-shooter network for the precision strike that destroyed a Syrian Army gunner's position on May 20.
    An Israeli Army officer said the Tammuz - a non-line-of-sight version of the Spike anti-tank missile - has become the "shooter of choice" against Syrian fire into Israeli territory.
    Operated by Israel's Artillery Corps, the round has an electro-optical, day-night seeker for precision strikes against targets up to 25 km. away, enabling "one-shot, one-kill" destruction of targets.

Outside Cairo: Fake Tombs, Real Raiders - Jean Carrere (NOW Lebanon)
    In Dahshur, where the desert begins, one can gaze upon three of Egypt's oldest and most well-preserved pyramids, a UNESCO world heritage site.
    But today, numerous holes can be seen, a clear sign of the large-scale looting that has been taking place since the 2011 Egyptian uprising.
    There is hardly any military or police presence in the area, and locals feel free to indulge in behaviors that would have been perceived as criminal prior to the revolution.

Top 10 Israeli Ancient Mosaic Discoveries - Miriam Feinberg Vamosh (Ha'aretz)
    The spectacular mosaic floor found in the Negev near Kibbutz Beit Kama is just the latest magnificent tiling discovery of ancient times in Israel.
    There are dozens of these marvelous, meticulous creations, some almost 16 centuries old. Most of the mosaics were installed in ancient synagogues and churches.
    The mosaics brim with human and animal figures, some from Jewish tradition and some borrowed from other cultures.

Israel to Open the Largest Desalination Plant in the World - Ben Sales (JTA)
    Water drawn from the Mediterranean 4,000 feet off of Israel's coast flows through pipelines to a series of filters and purifiers. After 90 minutes, it will be ready to run through the faucets of Tel Aviv.
    Set to begin operating next month, Israel Desalination Enterprises Technologies' Sorek Desalination Plant will provide 7 million gallons of potable water to Israelis every hour. At full capacity, it will be the largest desalination plant of its kind.
    The new plant and several others along Israel's coast are part of the country's quest to provide for the nation's water needs and solve the problem of drought.
    In Israel, desalination provides about 40% of the country's total water needs. That number will jump to 80% when Sorek opens and other plants expand in 2014.
    The company's U.S. subsidiary is designing a new desalination plant in San Diego, the $922 million Carlsbad Desalination Project, which will be the largest desalination plant in America.

Israeli Scientists Develop Bionic Eye for People Born Blind - Dan Even (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli scientists at Bar-Ilan University have developed a technology that may enable people who are blind from birth to see, with the help of a bionic contact lens.
    The technology consists of a tiny camera that transmits signals to the lens, which passes the signals via electrodes to the cornea.

Israel to Help India Diversify Fruit, Vegetable Crops - Gyanendra Kumar Keshri (IANS)
    Israel will offer technology and know-how to India to diversify its fruit and vegetable crops and raise their yield.
    "Our focus is on training the trainers," said Daniel Carmon, head of Mashav, Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation.
    Carmon said Israel will help set up 28 centers of excellence in 10 states, of which eight are likely to be functional by the end of 2013. Each center will focus on specific fruit and vegetable crops.
    Israel is a world leader in agriculture technologies. Despite limited water resources and a difficult environment, the yield per acre of most of its farm products is among the highest in the world.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iranian Support for Terrorism Surged in 2012
    Iran in 2012 boosted its support for global terrorism to levels not seen for two decades, the Obama administration said Thursday. The State Department's Country Reports on Terrorism for 2012 noted "a marked resurgence of Iran's state sponsorship of terrorism," carried out through the Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and Hizbullah, Iran's proxy in Lebanon.
        "Iran and Hizbullah's terrorist activity has reached a tempo unseen since the 1990s, with attacks plotted in Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa." Those included an attack on a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria that killed six, as well as thwarted strikes in India, Thailand, Georgia and Kenya. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Iranian-American Sentenced in Plot to Kill Saudi Ambassador - Benjamin Weiser
    Mansour J. Arbabsiar, a naturalized American citizen who was accused of plotting to hire assassins from a Mexican drug cartel to murder Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S. by bombing a Washington restaurant, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Thursday in Federal District Court in Manhattan.
        At the time of Arbabsiar's arrest, Attorney General Eric Holder said the plot had been "directed and approved by elements of the Iranian government and, specifically, senior members of the Quds force," which is part of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Arbabsiar had been drawn into the plot by a cousin in Iran who was a high-ranking member of the Quds Force. (New York Times)
  • Nigeria Discovers Hizbullah Arms Cache
    Nigerian soldiers uncovered a hidden arms cache in Kano in northern Nigeria that authorities believe belonged to members of Lebanese Shiite Muslim Hizbullah, the military and secret police said Thursday. The arms, shown on Nigerian television, included rocket-propelled grenades, land mines, hand grenades, and assault rifles. "The arms and ammunition were targeted at facilities of Israel and Western interests in Nigeria," a military statement said. It said three Lebanese men had been arrested, including one caught trying to board a flight to Beirut carrying $60,000 in cash. (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Iranian Shiite Terror Cell in Nigeria Followed a Familiar Pattern - Jacques Neriah (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel: Palestinians Looking for Excuses to Avoid Peace Talks
    "We consider the recent decision of the Israeli government to build a thousand homes in east Jerusalem as effectively destroying the efforts of Kerry," top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat charged on Thursday. But Israel said the construction plans were not new and accused the Palestinians of seeking a pretext to avoid a resumption of direct talks. Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said, "The Palestinians recycle old claims which are based on false information. They run to the media to avoid discussing outstanding issues." He called for them to "resume peace talks immediately."  (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Solution to S-300 Missiles Needed - Ron Ben-Yishai
    The transfer from Russia and deployment on Syrian soil of S-300 missiles and anti-ship Yakhont missiles would limit the Israeli Air Force and Navy's freedom to operate in the event of a flare-up. These systems may also jeopardize civilian flights at Ben-Gurion Airport, as well as offshore gas drilling.
        The Kremlin should understand the words of National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror regarding the S-300, that "Israel will not allow these systems to become fully operational." Amidror's statement offers the Russians a way of backing out of the corner into which they have backed themselves, at least if they so desire. The Russians are well known for invoking their creativity in regards to closing arms deals; in other words: Things happen, the media reports, but in reality something slightly (or completely) different takes place. (Ynet News)
  • Report: Hizbullah Orders Hamas Out of Lebanon - Ariel Ben Solomon
    A senior Hizbullah security official informed Ali Baraka, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, that Hamas operatives must leave Lebanon immediately, the Middle East Online news agency reported Thursday. The move came because of Hamas support for the Syrian rebels, according to the report.
        Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Jerusalem Post: "Whether or not Hamas is being driven out of Lebanon is not as important as the fact that it has been minimized in the Iranian 'Axis of Resistance.'" Hamas abandoned its headquarters in Damascus last year. It is getting far less aid from Iran now, and more from Sunni sponsors such as Qatar and Turkey.
        Palestinians in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, southeast of Sidon, burned aid that was delivered by Hizbullah, apparently to show their displeasure with the movement's support for the Assad regime. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Report: Yemen Houthis Fighting for Assad in Syria - Ariel Ben Solomon
    Last week 200 Houthi fighters left Yemen to fight alongside Assad's forces in Syria, according to a report Thursday in Asharq Al-Awsat. A Yemeni official said the Houthis have a relationship with Assad extending back before the current civil war, when they would use Syria as "a way-station through which they traveled to Tehran and south Lebanon for combat training."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • In West Bank Shadows, Repressed Hamas Breathes On - Noah Browning and Ali Sawafta
    Mohammed Ghannam, 44, who delivered the call to prayer in Dura's local mosque, said plainclothes security forces from the Palestinian Authority (PA) detained him last month for belonging to the Islamist movement Hamas and beat him mute. "They hit my head again and again against a concrete wall," he wrote on a notepad. The Western-backed PA has pursued surveillance, firings, arrests and torture to bar its Islamist militant rivals in Hamas from public life in the West Bank.
        The London-based Arab Organization for Human Rights surveyed 300 people jailed by the PA in political and security cases in the first half of 2012. Nearly a fifth said they had faced "cruel torture" during the period. Almost all said they had been tortured during previous jailings. Hamas is similarly accused by Fatah and rights groups of widespread torture and political repression in Gaza.
        In one small town, a former officer of the PA's preventative security forces explained how his agency keeps a lid on Hamas by paying a monthly stipend to 40 "snitches" to monitor mosques, schools, university elections and even funerals. For now, Hamas backers in the West Bank mainly keep a low profile or risk Israeli and Palestinian jails. Yet the group hopes to ride a wave of upheaval that has swept long-repressed Islamists into power throughout the region, believing they represent ideas whose time has come. (Reuters)
  • Money, Guns and Politics in the West Bank
    Despite the ferment in the West Bank, the preponderance of evidence indicates that fears of a Third Intifada were overblown. There is no indication that a critical mass of Palestinians will push their political system to the boiling point or move sharply into confrontation with Israel. With no unified Palestinian leadership, no strategy, and the people themselves divided and exhausted, an uprising possesses limited popular appeal. (International Crisis Group)
  • Political Reality TV in Ramallah - Fernande Van Tets
    The political changes sweeping the Middle East are giving birth to a new genre: political reality TV. Palestinians haven't had presidential elections since 2005, due to the conflict between Hamas and Fatah. But now broadcasters are offering wannabe politicians a viable path to a political career - on air, at least, with a program called "al-Rais" ("The President"). The contestants, all under 35, are grilled by a panel of judges and challenged to complete tasks meant to shed light on their ability to handle high office.
        Last week, for example, the contestants had to officially greet a visiting president during a mock state visit, and were judged on their knowledge of protocol and etiquette. Suddenly, there was a staged assassination attempt. While gunshots rang out, the key to completing the challenge was to display steady nerves.
        Raed Othman, director of the independent Ma'an network which broadcasts the program in the West Bank, explains, "We haven't had elections for 8 years." Now, viewers can vote every week in front of their TV sets until a winner is chosen at the end of June. The victor will win a car, and be named as a youth ambassador for Palestine. Othman says interest in "al-Rais" is off the charts. "Thousands have applied already," he boasts. (Foreign Policy)
  • Did the Nakba Begin in 1948 - or 1920? - Daniel Pinner
    May 15 saw demonstrations and ceremonies throughout the world to mark the 65th anniversary of the Nakba - the Disaster, the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Yet in The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement, George Antonius writes: "The year 1920 has an evil name in Arab annals: it is referred to as the Year of the Catastrophe," when European colonial powers partitioned the Ottoman Empire into a series of separate states. That year saw the first armed risings in protest against the post-war settlement imposed by the Allies on the Arab countries.
        The Arab uprisings of 1920 in British-mandated Palestine were largely instigated and led by Mohammed Amin el-Husseini, who had been an artillery officer in the Ottoman Army in the First World War. Following the Ottoman defeat in 1918 he founded the Jerusalem branch of the Syrian al-Nadi al-Arabi in 1919, and began writing for the Jerusalem newspaper Suriyya al- Jannubiyya ("Southern Syria"). Husseini, and indeed the Arab population as a whole, saw the entire region as "Syria."
        After the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, suddenly the Arabs of southern Syria found themselves with a new and unwanted foreign identity imposed on them by Europeans. They had become Palestinians. As a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, testified to the British Peel Commission in 1937: "There is no such country as 'Palestine'; 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented!...Our country was for centuries part of Syria." As late as May 31, 1956, Ahmed Shukeiri, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council: "It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Preferential Treatment for Palestinians - Yoni Dayan
    The international community has two refugee agencies: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a special organization tasked with caring only for Palestinians. The UNHCR, which cares for 33.9 million refugees in more than 125 countries, has a budget of $3 billion. UNRWA, which cares for the 5 million descendents of Palestinian refugees, has a budget of over $1 billion. Per person, that is $88.50 for each refugee around the world, and $200 for each Palestinian.
        UNRWA upholds two policies that have swollen Palestinian refugee population size. Palestinians, unlike any other refugee population in the world, pass on their refugee status from generation to generation. Palestinians, unlike any other refugee population in the world, maintain their refugee status even when gaining citizenship in another country.
        Former Knesset member Dr. Einat Wilf has proposed that UNRWA be dismantled and integrated into the UNHCR, and that there should be no such thing as a refugee with citizenship or a third-generation refugee. The UNRWA budget for the West Bank should be turned over to the Palestinian Authority, which should take over administration of educational and medical facilities. (Ynet News)
        See also UNRWA Spokesman Replies (Ynet News)

  • Iran

  • Iranian Support for Terrorism and Violations of Human Rights - Matthew Levitt
    Iran has a long history of violating human rights at home, but some of its more recent violations are taking place in Syria, where Tehran is actively supporting Bashar al-Assad's government's targeting of the Syrian civilian population, and around the world, where Iranian agents and proxy groups like Hizbullah are targeting diplomats and civilians alike for assassination.
        It is frequently the case that the people who direct and oversee the regime's human rights abuses at home and abroad are the same people who direct and oversee the regime's foreign terrorist activities and its nuclear and missile programs.
        In 2012 Iran executed at least 580 people. Due to Iran's control of the press and opaque judicial system, it is difficult to get a more accurate number. Sixty of these executions were carried out publicly, including public hangings on cranes, in order to intimidate people even further. The number of executions increased dramatically following the 2009 Green revolution protests. The Iran Human Rights group reported that between April 16 and May 19 of this year, 62 people were executed.
        The writer is a senior fellow and director of The Washington Institute's Stein Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. These remarks were delivered to the International Human Rights Subcommittee of the Canadian House of Commons on May 30, 2013. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iran Has No Territorial Ambitions? Tell It to Lebanon and Syria - Evelyn Gordon
    In a study recently published by the Rand Corporation, author Alireza Nader concludes that containing a nuclear Iran is feasible because Iran's nukes wouldn't threaten either America or its Middle Eastern allies. "Iran does not have territorial ambitions and does not seek to invade, conquer, or occupy other nations," Nader asserted.
        That might have been a tenable theory 25 years ago, when Iran was still licking its wounds from an eight-year war with Iraq. Since then, however, Iran has effectively taken over Lebanon and is now seeking to do the same with Syria. The takeover of Lebanon was completed in 2008, when Iran's wholly-owned Lebanese subsidiary, Hizbullah, staged an armed occupation of Beirut to reverse government decisions, forcing the government to sign a power-sharing deal that effectively gave Hizbullah a veto over all government decisions.
        Now, Iran is trying to annex Syria. It's clear that if Assad survives, Syria will be another wholly-owned Iranian subsidiary. As one senior Iranian cleric helpfully explained in February, "Syria is the 35th province [of Iran] and a strategic province for us....If we lose Syria, we cannot keep Tehran."  (Commentary)

  • Other Issues

  • Perils of Peace Conferences - Aaron David Miller
    Secretary of State John Kerry has two diplomatic tracks in the works: ending a civil war in Syria and promoting a peace between Israelis and Palestinians. With both, the parties involved don't know whether they really want to start a political process, and they certainly don't know how to conclude one. In Syria, you have 80,000 dead, which has increased the urgency of a political transition but hardened all parties' willingness to bring one about.
        Russian President Vladimir Putin is simply not going to allow the Americans to intervene and remove yet another client, after Saddam Hussein and Moammar Kadafi. The rebels have no intention of accepting a semi-permanent transition that risks leaving regime elements whole, in Syria, and beyond the reach of war crimes tribunals.
        On the Israeli-Palestinian front, can the U.S. find a formula on the core issues - particularly on territory - that meets the Palestinian need to define a border based on the June 1967 lines and the Israeli desire to avoid that focus and to discuss security first? Resuming negotiations without such an understanding almost certainly will lead to a collapse, destroy what remains of the peace process and probably accelerate violence, not delay it.
        It's hard to argue with the proposition that talking is better than shooting. But it is by no means inexorably bound to succeed, particularly if the parties to the conflict don't feel the urgency to do it; and the outside mediator, in this case the U.S., doesn't have the leverage to make it happen. Indeed, while it may come as a shocker to the Energizer Bunnies of American diplomacy, there are some problems we just can't fix. The writer, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, served as a Middle East negotiator. (Los Angeles Times)
  • What Mideast Crisis? Israelis Have Moved On - Ethan Bronner
    Back in Tel Aviv for a recent visit a year after ending my tour as Jerusalem bureau chief, I was struck by how few even talk about the Palestinians or the Arab world on their borders, despite the tumult and the renewed peace efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry. Israelis are insisting that the problem is both insoluble for now and less significant than the world thinks. We cannot fix it, many say, but we can manage it.
        A former senior aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed that most Israelis considered the peace process irrelevant because they believed that the Palestinians had no interest in a deal, especially in the current Middle Eastern context of rising Islamism. "Debating the peace process to most Israelis is the equivalent of debating the color of the shirt you will wear when landing on Mars."
        An afternoon in Ramallah revealed no stronger sense of urgency among Palestinians. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who showed real competence in his job but is resigning, tells friends that if he believed Kerry's efforts had any chance of yielding results, he would not be quitting. All of which suggests that, as has long been argued, there can be no Israeli-Palestinian peace deal so long as outsiders want it more than the parties themselves. (New York Times)
  • The Al-Dura Affair and Its Implications for Morality and Ethics in France - Freddy Eytan
    The report of Israel's governmental inquiry committee on the al-Dura affair, written after a thorough examination of all the materials related to this unfortunate affair, should serve as a lesson for all foreign reporters working in Israel and be taught in journalism schools throughout the world. The authors of the report have successfully demonstrated how a Palestinian photographer violated the basic tenets of journalistic work, and how a foreign reporter accepted his version of events and his photos wholesale without questioning their reliability. Verifying sources, cross-checking, meticulously ensuring objectivity - these are the foundations on which the whole enterprise of journalistic coverage rests.
        Of course it is regrettable that the report only appeared thirteen years after the affair, which caused grave damage to Israel's image, but there is no early or late when it comes to the truth. A democratic state that fights for its existence is required to defend itself and its image with all the tools at its disposal. Amb. Freddy Eytan, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry senior advisor who served in Israel's embassies in Paris and Brussels, was Israel's first Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Kurds, Jews and a New Mideast - Dan Diker and Harold Rhode
    Dore Gold's prescient analysis, "The Demise of the Middle East's Borders" (Israel Hayom, May 25), illustrates the geographic uncertainty toward which the Arab Muslim Middle East appears to be heading. The often violent competition for power and control among Islamic groups in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, that house Sunnis and Shi'ites, Alawites, Kurds, Druse, Christians and others, continues to cut across the random boundaries that were established by the British and French empires as a result of the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916.
        The Kurds, while overwhelmingly Sunni, see the Muslim Brotherhood and the Wahhabis as Arab imperialists trying to force them to abandon their Kurdish identity and become Arabs - probably the reason most Kurds loathe the Muslim Brotherhood. For the Brotherhood, being Sunni is not enough. In their view, only Arabs can be true Muslims. Non-Arabs must abandon their languages and cultures and adopt an Arab identity - the same attitude which explains how most of the Middle East became Arab and Muslim during the first century of Islam.
        In addition to the Kurdish self-governing authority in northern Iraq, Syria's unraveling has left the Kurdish minority its own geographical unit, while Turkey has recently reached out to its Kurds. Iraqi Kurdistan's success as an autonomous area or a potentially independent state may influence a process of self-determination for other sects, tribes, ethnic and religious groups.
        There are an estimated 35 to 45 million Kurds in the Middle East, many of whom have been secretly sympathetic to Israel for years. Kurdish suffering under Arab, Turkish and Iranian rule infuses them with a natural affinity for Jews and Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Future of Kurdistan: Between Turkey, the Iraq War, and the Syrian Revolt - Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Hizbullah's Declaration of War in Syria: Military Implications - Jeffrey White (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • On May 25, Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah committed his group to defeating the Syrian revolution and preserving the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
  • Hizbullah is not only involved in the current fighting around Qusayr in Homs province, but also in Damascus, purportedly to defend the Sayyeda Zainab Shiite shrine in cooperation with local Shiite militiamen. In addition, Hizbullah members have joined regime offensives in Deraa province as well as in East Ghouta in the Damascus countryside.
  • Hizbullah plays a key role in the Syrian regime's development of effective irregular forces, providing training and advice to local militia groups, Popular Committee elements, and the National Defense Army.
  • To be sure, Hizbullah's forces, even elite units, are not supermen - even when backed with regime air, armor, artillery, and missile forces, their performance against the Syrian rebels has been less than spectacular. Hizbullah elements fighting around Qusayr have paid a heavy price, making slow progress on the ground but failing to dominate rebel forces.
  • Direct and significant military intervention by Hizbullah gives the regime new capabilities and restores its ability to conduct significant offensive operations. Hizbullah's commitment will also boost morale among the regime's forces and supporters, encouraging Assad to stay the course and crush the rebellion.
  • As a result, the regime will be even less likely to negotiate a true transition of power, deflating hopes for a diplomatic solution. A regime that has shown no inclination to negotiate while losing the war will hardly be moved to compromise if it believes its prospects have improved.

    The writer is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute and a former senior defense intelligence officer.
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