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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
August 21, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Gaza Turning into Regional Terror-Training Center - Barak Ravid (Ha'aretz)
    15 different Salafi groups affiliated with the global jihad movement and al-Qaeda are operating in Sinai, according to senior officials at the Israel Security Agency.
    While the ISA estimates the number of operatives at several hundred, IDF Military Intelligence puts it at a few thousand. Some are from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Gaza, but most are Sinai Bedouin who have undergone radicalization.
    The four groups most active against Israel are Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which has fired rockets at Eilat several times; Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen Fi Aknaf Bayt al-Maqdis, which killed an Israeli civilian at the border fence in June 2012; Al-Takfir wal-Hijra, which killed 16 Egyptian policemen in August 2012; and Jaish al-Islam, a group started by the Dughmush clan from Gaza that was involved in kidnapping IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
    Israel's 2005 pullout from Gaza brought Gaza and Sinai much closer. After Israel's disengagement, Gaza began exporting terror to Sinai.
    Experienced Palestinian terrorists from Gaza have gone to Sinai and hooked up with Bedouin groups there, bringing a great deal of knowhow with them, a senior Israeli intelligence official explained.
    Moreover, over the last two years, Gaza has become a base for Salafis from all over the Arab world seeking military training.
    Most of the training camps are run by Mumtaz Dughmush, the head of Jaish al-Islam. The trainees then go to Sinai, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.

U.S. Condemns Erdogan's Comments on Israel, Egypt (Reuters)
    The U.S. on Tuesday condemned comments by Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan accusing Israel of having a hand in the Egyptian military's overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi.
    Erdogan said: "What is behind it? Israel. We have in our hands documentation."
    White House spokesman Josh Earnest responded: "We strongly condemn the statements that were made by Prime Minister Erdogan today. Suggesting that Israel is somehow responsible for recent events in Egypt is offensive, unsubstantiated, and wrong."
    See also Israel: Erdogan Blaming Egypt Turmoil on Us Is "Nonsense" - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Erdogan's documentation, it emerged, was a video of a discussion held at Tel Aviv University on the Arab Spring in June 2011, where French Jewish intellectual Bernard-Henri Levy urged the prevention of the Muslim Brotherhood from coming to power.
    Erdogan's comment Tuesday came five months after Prime Minister Netanyahu - at the behest of President Obama - phoned the Turkish prime minister and apologized for operational errors that may have led to loss of life on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.
    Expectations that the apology would pave the way for an Israeli-Turkish reconciliation have failed to materialize.
    What the apology did do, one Israeli official said Tuesday, was remove U.S. pressure on Israel to reconcile with Turkey.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Report: Hundreds Killed in Nerve Gas Attack by Assad Troops in Syria
    Syrian activists have accused government forces of killing hundreds of people in a nerve gas attack near Damascus. Medical sources said at least 213 people, including women and children, had been killed in the assault by Assad forces on rebel-held areas of the Ghouta region east of Damascus. Activists said the area had been bombarded with rockets loaded with chemical agents. (Reuters-Telegraph-UK)
  • Senator: U.S. Suspended Military Aid to Egypt - Josh Rogin
    The office of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the head of the state and foreign-operations appropriations subcommittee, said on Monday that military aid to Egypt has been temporarily cut off. Leahy's "understanding is that aid to the Egyptian military has been halted, as required by law," said David Carle, a spokesman for Leahy.
        The administration's public message is that $585 million of promised aid to the Egyptian military in fiscal 2013 is not due until Sept. 30, and no final decisions have been made. But two administration officials said that administration lawyers decided it was best to observe the law restricting military aid on a temporary basis, as if there had been a coup designation. "We are going to act as if the designation has been made for now," said one administration official. "By not announcing the decision, it gives the administration the flexibility to reverse it."
        Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that all aspects of U.S. aid to Egypt were part of an ongoing review. He also sought to tamp down expectations that any suspension or revoking of U.S. aid to Egypt would immediately change the calculus of the Egyptian military. "Our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited," he said. (Daily Beast)
        See also White House Denies Reports that U.S. Cut Aid to Egypt - Anne Gearan (Washington Post)
  • Ties with Egypt Army Constrain Washington - Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt
    Most nations, including many close allies of the U.S., require up to a week's notice before American warplanes are allowed to cross their territory. Not Egypt, which offers near-automatic approval for military overflights, to resupply the war effort in Afghanistan or to carry out counterterrorism operations in the Middle East, Southwest Asia or the Horn of Africa. American warships are also allowed to cut to the front of the line through the Suez Canal in times of crisis. Those are some of the largely invisible ways the Egyptian military has assisted the U.S. - and why the generals now in charge in Cairo are not without their own leverage in dealing with Washington.
        "We need them for the Suez Canal, we need them for the peace treaty with Israel, we need them for the overflights, and we need them for the continued fight against violent extremists who are as much of a threat to Egypt's transition to democracy as they are to American interests," said Gen. James N. Mattis, who retired this year as head of U.S. Central Command. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Letter Guaranteed Our Preconditions, PA Negotiator Says - Elhanan Miller
    The Palestinians would not have returned to the negotiating table with Israel were it not for an American letter of assurances guaranteeing their main negotiating preconditions, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told Nazareth-based A-Shams radio on Tuesday. Erekat said that the U.S. had assured Palestinians in writing that talks would recognize the pre-1967 lines as the basis of a Palestinian state, and would not allow for any interim solutions before a final-status agreement was signed. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israeli and Palestinian Negotiators Hold Unannounced Jerusalem Meetings - Herb Keinon and Khaled Abu Toameh
    Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met twice in Jerusalem on Tuesday, completely out of the media's eye. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egyptian Official: It's Natural that Israel Is Concerned about Egypt - Yasser Okbi
    Mustafa Hijazi, an adviser to interim Egyptian President Adly Mansour, told Russia al-Youm, an Arabic-language Russian media outlet, on Monday that "Israel is naturally following the events, as a regional neighbor, and wants to be assured, because what's happening right now in Egypt is important to all in the region." He referred to the Muslim Brotherhood as "an extremist enemy of the Egyptian people" that is engaging in terrorist activity in order to get its way, and vowed that "victory" over the Brotherhood would come soon. (Reuters-Jerusalem Post)
        See also Former Defense Minister: Sisi Is Preventing Egypt from Turning into Iran - Lahav Harkov
    Former defense minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said Monday that deposed Egyptian Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was "trying to lead Egypt to be something similar to Iran." Egyptian General "Sisi wouldn't have made this move if he didn't have the backing of most, about 80%, of the Egyptian people," he added. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Egypt's Beleaguered Muslim Brotherhood - Hamza Hendawi and Maggie Michael
    The Muslim Brotherhood's decision to play hardball after the military's ouster of Egypt's Islamist president has backfired, leaving it with unattractive choices: aligning with hard-line groups in an insurgency that almost certainly will fail or going underground in the hope of resurfacing one day. The Brotherhood's grim future will impact Islamic groups across the Middle East. Egypt's Brotherhood is something of a "mother ship" that has inspired their creation and provided a role model of the political Islam they want to prevail.
        Hundreds of Brotherhood leaders and supporters have been detained in the crackdown, crippling the group's command structure and demoralizing loyalists and sympathizers. Pro-Morsi demonstrations in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt have diminished since last week's deadly clashes, with only a few hundred or even dozens showing up for protests after the government authorized the use of deadly force against protesters last week.
        However, Raafat Sayed Ahmed, head of the Yafa Center for Arab Studies, predicted the group will continue to show a measure of resistance so long as its sources of funding are left untouched by authorities. He predicted the Brotherhood will join an insurgency already underway in Sinai, while simultaneously starting another in southern Egypt, where the Brotherhood and Gamaa Islamiyah, an allied hard-line organization with a history of violence, enjoy significant influence. (AP)
  • It's Time to Hold Our Nose and Back Egypt's Military - Leslie H. Gelb
    Let's get real and tamp down the moral posturing about democracy in Egypt. Freely elected President Morsi and his now-deposed Muslim Brotherhood government weren't practicing democracy. They were co-opting the laws and slowly destroying all possible opposition. Besides, they were aligning with America's jihadist enemies in Syria, Gaza, and elsewhere. The U.S. has little or no chance of saving Egypt for democracy if the Islamists return to power.
        The worst thing we could do would be to cut off military assistance, thereby humiliating the Egyptian government and driving the relationship into crisis. The writer is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Daily Beast)
  • Bambi Meets Godzilla in the Middle East - Walter Russell Mead
    Americans need to face an unpleasant fact: while American values may be the long-term answer to the Middle East's problems, they are largely irrelevant to much that is happening there now. We are not going to stop terrorism, at least not in the short or middle term, by building prosperous democratic societies in the Middle East. We can't fix Egypt, we can't fix Iraq, we can't fix Saudi Arabia and we can't fix Syria. Not even the people who live in those countries can fix them at this point.
        In the Middle East, we can't win the love and esteem of the folks who live there by promoting a transition to democracy that isn't going to happen, and we can't insulate ourselves from the region's problems by walking away.
        The one thing everybody in Egypt agrees on now is that the Americans are about the most horrible people around - arrogant, stupid, judgmental, impractical, and not to be trusted when the going gets tough. The liberals, the generals, the Mubarak family, the Christians, the Islamists: on this one point they can all agree.
        Making the coup look anti-American helps the generals make it look patriotic. This is balm to the Egyptian soul right now, and money in the bank for the new regime. (American Interest)

Cold Calculation in Egypt - Editorial (Chicago Tribune)

  • The U.S. shouldn't cut off aid to Egypt. Despite the brutality of the military regime, Washington cannot back away from the nation at the heart of the Arab world. The generals haven't listened and probably won't listen to American entreaties for military restraint in pursuing Muslim Brotherhood militants. The generals won't again surrender Egypt to Islamic extremists.
  • A stable Egypt, an Egypt at peace with Israel, an Egypt that thrives economically, is crucial to American interests in the region. An Egypt that instead slides into civil war becomes a fertile recruiting ground for jihadists.
  • We don't pick the leaders of Egypt. Egyptians do - and not always at the ballot box. Walking away from the most populous Arab country, which sits at one of the Earth's most important geopolitical locations, would be the worst of many bad alternatives.
  • Morsi aggressively expanded his powers and protected the Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly from judicial oversight. He ignored vital secular groups and persecuted political opponents. He sidled up to the terrorists of Hamas in Gaza and welcomed then-Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

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