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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
August 22, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Thailand Convicts Two Iranians in Botched Bomb Plot Against Israeli Diplomats (AP-CBS News)
    Two Iranian men were convicted Thursday of taking part in a botched bomb plot that was exposed last year when an accidental explosion blew apart the Bangkok villa where they were staying.
    Israeli and Thai officials said the plot was aimed at Israeli diplomats in Bangkok.
    Saeid Moradi, 29, was sentenced to life in prison for attempting to murder a police officer and possessing explosives that damaged property and injured several civilians. Mohammad Kharzei, 43, was sentenced to 15 years.

Courier Led U.S. to Al-Qaeda Internet Conference - Eli Lake and Josh Rogin (Daily Beast)
    Prior to the worldwide security alert that temporarily shuttered U.S. embassies throughout the Middle East earlier this month, authorities captured an al-Qaeda courier who had in his possession a recording of a seven-hour Internet-hosted meeting between more than 20 senior al-Qaeda leaders from around the globe, U.S. intelligence officials said.
    The courier was captured by Yemen's National Security Bureau with help from the CIA.

Power Struggle Splits Turkish Ruling Party - Hasnain Kazim and Maximilian Popp (Der Spiegel-Germany)
    The protests against the government of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan did not succeed in toppling him.
    Now, however, followers of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) are turning against the prime minister, with Erdogan's competitors within the party using the unrest as an opportunity to distance themselves from him.
    Criticism has come from the pro-government daily newspaper Zaman as well as the conservative-Islamist Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV).
    Both belong to the movement surrounding Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is believed to have enormous influence within the government. Gulen himself has been living in self-imposed exile in the U.S.

IDF Deploys Sixth Iron Dome Battery - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
    The IDF last week brought a sixth Iron Dome anti-missile battery online, it was confirmed Sunday.
    The newest battery will be operated solely by reserves soldiers. "Most of the reservists are veterans of the [Iron Dome] unit and a small number of them are IAF technicians who were trained to use the system," said the commander of the new battery, Maj. Itamar Abu.

Ancient Wall in Israel Matches Up with Bible's Tale of Assyrian Attack - Alan Boyle (NBC News)
    Archaeologists say they have unearthed the remains of massive fortifications built about 2,700 years ago around an Assyrian harbor in present-day Israel. The ruins appear to have a connection to Assyria's takeover of the region, as mentioned in the Book of Isaiah.
    The discovery was announced at the end of the first excavation season at Ashdod-Yam in the contemporary city of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Scores Killed in Syria, But No Proof of Chemical Attack - Ben Hubbard and Hwaida Saad
    Scores of men, women and children were killed outside Damascus on Wednesday in an attack marked by the telltale signs of chemical weapons: row after row of corpses without visible injury. But even with videos, witness accounts and testimonies by emergency medics, it was impossible to say for certain how many people had been killed and what exactly had killed them. (New York Times)
  • Top U.S. General: Syrian Rebels Wouldn't Back U.S. Interests - Bradley Klapper
    The Obama administration is opposed to even limited U.S. military intervention in Syria because it believes rebels fighting the Assad regime wouldn't support American interests if they were to seize power right now, said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a letter Aug. 19 to Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.). (AP-Business Week)
        See also The U.S. Should Sit Tight on Syria - for Now - Avi Issacharoff
    The U.S. has good reasons to be cautious in its approach to the ongoing events in Syria. Assad's regime is bad, but the apparent opposition in the country is also bad - maybe even worse, as far as the West is concerned. Al-Qaeda-style gangs are taking control of more and more territory across Syria, including areas in the country's large cities. The fall of Assad would see the West dealing with no less serious a threat - of armed Sunni militias with no desire or ability to talk to the West and the U.S., and definitely not to Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Seized Weapons Caches Boost Syrian Rebels' Hopes - Joby Warrick
    Syrian rebels have seized large weapons caches in fighting during the past three weeks, including hundreds of advanced anti-tank missiles captured in fighting near Damascus and a sizable haul of armored vehicles, machine guns and rockets taken from a Syrian air base. Analysts say the Menagh air base north of Aleppo was overrun on Aug. 6 by a force of Western-backed rebels and radical Islamists who split the seized materiel, carting away truckloads of booty.
        During an early-August raid on an army depot in a Damascus suburb, rebel militias acquired hundreds of wire-guided anti-tank missiles, including French-made Milans and Russian Konkurs. Weapons experts say the highly accurate missiles are capable of destroying any tank in the Syrian army. (Washington Post)
  • Islamists Step Up Attacks on Christians for Supporting Morsi's Ouster - Kareem Fahim
    The call for revenge echoed from the loudspeakers of mosques last week in the village of Nazla, southwest of Cairo, after the military invaded two protest camps in Cairo, killing hundreds of supporters of the deposed president, Mohamed Morsi. Hundreds of Islamists poured into the street, torching, looting and smashing the village's two churches and a nearby monastery, lashing out so ferociously that marble altars were left in broken heaps on the floor.
        Over the next few days, a wave of similar attacks on the Coptic Christian minority washed over the country as Islamists set upon homes, churches, shops, schools, and youth clubs as the authorities stood by and watched. (New York Times)
        See also Christian-Muslim Animosity Becomes Incendiary Subplot in Egypt - Jeffrey Fleishman
    The gunmen sped past on motorcycles and in a car, firing automatic weapons and hurling gasoline bombs. Parishioners ran for cover as bullets chipped the stone and rattled the metal doors of St. George's Church in Helwan, south of Cairo. (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Criticizes Preoccupation with Preventing Jews from Building in Jerusalem - Barak Ravid
    During a visit to Brazil this week, Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin criticized what he said is a preoccupation with preventing Jews from building in Jerusalem, O Estado de S. Paulo reported. He said that in any other country it would be considered anti-Semitic to prevent "only" Jews from building. Elkin noted that Israel and the Palestinian territories are the most stable areas in the Middle East, in comparison with places like Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq. Settlements are not an obstacle to peace because they take up "only 3%" of the West Bank, he added. (Ha'aretz)
  • Jordan to Trade Desalinated Water with Israel - Hani Hazaimeh
    The Jordanian government on Monday said that part of the water produced by its planned Red Sea desalination project will be sold to Israel in return for drinking water from the Tiberias reservoir [Sea of Galilee]. This will save the effort and cost of conveying water from the south to the northern governorates: Irbid, Jerash, Ajloun and Mafraq.
        The project to desalinate Red Sea water and save the shrinking Dead Sea is expected to cost $1 billion and represents a permanent source that will address the water shortage in the Kingdom, which increases by 7% annually. Minister of Water and Irrigation Hazem Nasser noted that Jordan does not need to sign a new agreement with Israel since it is all covered by the peace treaty signed with Israel in 1994. (Jordan Times)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Egypt: Balancing Interests Over Values - Chuck Freilich
    Egypt, under the thrall of the Muslim Brotherhood, was undergoing democratization only in the sense that Germany was after free elections gave rise to the Nazis in 1932, the mullahs in Iran in 1979, or Hamas in Gaza in 2006. It is not by chance that the liberal camp in Egypt strongly supported the military's ouster of Morsi and the harsh measures adopted since then to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentally anti-democratic organization.
        The U.S. needs a stable Egypt that will remain the head of a moderate, pro-American Arab camp. Without Egypt, there is no pro-American Arab "camp." If America can be a strategic ally of the Saudi regime, it can support the new Egyptian regime too. Paradoxically, the greatest hope for a semidemocratic, stable, moderate, economically viable and pro-American Egypt, at peace with Israel, is for the military to successfully put down the Muslim Brotherhood counter-rebellion and reassert its authority. The writer is a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School. (National Interest)
        See also Another Devil We Know - Shmuel Rosner
    If Israelis are rooting for Egypt's military, it's because they want a government next door that will respect the two countries' peace treaty. And it's because the military is the only institution in Egypt today that can prevent the Sinai Peninsula from becoming a safe haven for radicalism. Israelis are being pragmatic, and that might look ugly, but that's what experience has taught them. (New York Times)
  • Why Are Americans Backing the Muslim Brotherhood? - Robert Reilly
    What were the Egyptian people expected to make of the visits earlier this month by two U.S. senators to Mohammed Morsi, under house arrest, and to the Deputy Guide of the Brotherhood, Khairat al-Shater, also under arrest? No matter what intentions the senators may have had, the choreography of the visits clearly indicated support by the U.S. for a Muslim Brotherhood restoration.
        Deploring violence and calling for reconciliation simply makes the U.S. appear naive and totally disconnected from what is actually taking place. Saudi Arabia and the UAE understand what is going on, which is why they are willing to pony up $12 billion in support of the new government. They are relieved that the Brotherhood's imperial project, of which they were intended victims, has been thwarted for the time being.
        Instead of just deploring violence, the U.S. should be appraising the character of the moral principles animating the two sides in this conflict and supporting the side that more closely comports with our own. And yes, that may require the choice of a lesser evil. The writer, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, was senior advisor for information strategy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (2002-06) and former director of the Voice of America. (Intercollegiate Review)

Israel: Assad, Hizbullah, Iran Responsible for Attacks Against Civilians (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

During a discussion on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, Israeli UN Ambassador Ron Prosor told the Security Council on Monday:

  • "By far, the worst instance has been Bashar al-Assad's murderous campaign against the Syrian people. Day after day there are reports of detentions and disappearances; of soldiers ordered to fire on civilians; and of people being kidnapped, beaten and tortured."
  • "The atrocities in Syria have been made possible by the backing Assad receives from Hizbullah....Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah...has proven that he has no regard for the lives that have been lost, for the people who have been forced to flee, or for the untold suffering of the Syrian people."
  • "Before proclaiming his support for the Assad regime, Nasrallah travelled to Iran to secure financial and military backing from Ayatollah Khamenei. We must not forget that the first nonviolent protests were in the streets of Tehran - and the Iranian government's response was to torture, detain and even kill peaceful protesters."
  • "For those who thought that Rouhani's election would be the dawn of a new Iran - take note. After taking office, the new president wasted no time expressing his support for Assad."

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