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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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August 26, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Expects U.S. Strike on Syria - Amos Harel and Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    The likelihood is increasing of an American strike on Syria as a targeted retaliation against the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons last week, according to assessments in Israel based on President Obama's statements over the past few days.
    Washington announced Friday that four U.S. destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea armed with Tomahawk missiles would be moving closer to Syria.
    The U.S. is expected to make do with a targeted response that will not embroil it in another war in the Middle East.
    See also After Syrian Chemical Attack, Obama Opts for "Tomahawk Diplomacy" - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    Every U.S. president since 1991 has ordered Tomahawk launches - in Iraq, Afghanistan, Serbia, Yemen, Sudan, and two years ago when Obama supported the rebels in Libya.
    See also France Says "Proportionate Response" Brewing after Syria Chemical Arms Attack (AP-Washington Post)

The Chemical Attack in Syria: Initial Implications - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    War crimes and crimes against humanity have been carried out in Syria on a large scale and before the eyes of the world.
    The international impotence in the face of these events weakens deterrence against the use of nonconventional weapons and has implications in the Iranian context as Tehran continues on its determined march toward nuclear weapons.

Report: Syrian Rebels Trained by West Are Moving toward Damascus (Jerusalem Post)
    Guerrilla fighters trained by the West began moving towards Damascus in mid-August, the French newspaper Le Figaro reported on Thursday.
    The rebels were trained for several months in Jordan by CIA operatives, as well as Jordanian and Israeli commandos, the paper said.

Expect No Improvement in Relations with Israel before Turkish Elections - Gokhan Basik (Zaman-Turkey)
    Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan continues to repeat claims that Israel is backing the coup in Egypt led by Gen. Sisi.
    Any improvement in relations is almost impossible at least until 2015 or 2016, following Turkey's long and complicated electoral period.
    With parliamentary and presidential elections within the upcoming three years, as well as the possibility of a referendum on the constitution, the Turkish government is likely to create a platform for its electoral campaign based on severe criticism of the West.
    Not a day goes by that we do not hear some criticism of the immoral West.
    Once anti-Western sentiment is on the rise in Turkey, Israel is automatically included.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Doctors Without Borders Confirms 355 Dead in Syria, Thousands Treated for "Neurotoxic Symptoms" after Chemical Attack - Bassem Mroue and Albertr Aji
    In France, Doctors Without Borders said three hospitals it supports reported receiving roughly 3,600 patients with "neurotoxic symptoms" over less than three hours on Wednesday morning, when the attack in the eastern Ghouta area took place. Of those, 355 died. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Saturday that its estimated death toll from the attack had reached 322, including 54 children, 82 women and dozens of fighters. (AP-Huffington Post)
        See also U.S. Official: "Very Little Doubt" Syria Used Chemical Weapons
    A senior U.S. official said Sunday there is "very little doubt" that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in an Aug. 21 incident in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta. The U.S. intelligence community based its assessment on "the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured," and witness accounts. (AP-CBS News)
  • Despite Use of Chemical Weapons, Many Americans Oppose Syrian Intervention - Lesley Wroughton
    Americans oppose U.S. intervention in Syria's civil war and believe Washington should stay out of the conflict, a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken August 19-23 says. 46% of Americans would oppose U.S. intervention even if Syrian President Assad's forces used chemicals to attack civilians, while 25% would support it. Just 27% said they supported President Obama's decision to send arms to some Syrian rebels, while 47% were opposed. (Reuters)
  • Report: Large Arms Shipment Reaches Syrian Rebels - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    A 400-ton shipment of Gulf-financed weapons has reached Syria's rebels, opposition sources said on Sunday. "Twenty trailers crossed from Turkey and are being distributed to arms depots for several brigades across the north," said rebel official Mohammad Salam. The consignment included ammunition for shoulder-fired weapons and anti-aircraft machine guns. (Reuters)
  • Lockdown by Government Smothers Muslim Brotherhood Protests in Egypt - David D. Kirkpatrick and Rod Nordland
    A tight lockdown on Cairo by Egyptian security forces on Friday squelched planned protests by the Muslim Brotherhood, suggesting that the new military government had gained a decisive edge in its battle against supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
        Armored military vehicles moved through the streets around dawn, unrolling coils of barbed wire across thoroughfares, encircling central mosques where protests have often broken out after prayers on Fridays. Tanks and armored personnel carriers took up positions at bridges, tunnels and other crucial intersections. The relatively small number of demonstrators avoided even the smallest confrontation.
        It was the latest sign that the escalating crackdown against "terrorism" called for by Gen. Sisi, chief of the armed forces, appears to have broken the back of the Brotherhood. Egyptian security forces have killed more than a thousand and arrested at least as many in the nine days since they dispersed two Brotherhood-led sit-ins by tens of thousands of Morsi supporters. In addition to detaining Morsi, the police have arrested the Brotherhood's top spiritual leaders and much of its governing board. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Syria's Use of Chemical Weapons Must Stop
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday: "What happened in Syria is both a terrible tragedy and an awful crime. Our hearts go out to the women, children and babies, the civilians who were so brutally attacked by weapons of mass destruction. From this we draw three conclusions: One, this situation must not be allowed to continue. Two, the most dangerous regimes in the world must not be allowed to possess the most dangerous weapons in the world. And three, we expect that this will stop."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Netanyahu: Syria Has Become Iran's Testing Ground
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told visiting French Foreign Minister Fabius on Sunday: "Assad's regime is not acting alone. Iran, and Iran's proxy, Hizbullah, are there on the ground playing an active role assisting Syria. In fact, Assad's regime has become a full Iranian client and Syria has become Iran's testing ground. Now the whole world is watching. Iran is watching and it wants to see what would be the reaction on the use of chemical weapons."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Netherlands Seeks to Block Dutch Involvement in Jerusalem Sewage Treatment Plant - Barak Ravid
    The Dutch government has asked the country's largest engineering company, Royal HaskoningDHV, to rethink its participation in a sewage treatment project with the Jerusalem municipality because the project is based east of the 1967 lines. The plant would be built to battle pollution in the Kidron stream, which runs from the Mount of Olives and the village of Silwan in eastern Jerusalem toward Ma'ale Adumim and the Dead Sea. The plant is in Area C, under full Israeli military and civilian control.
        According to a senior official at the Israel Foreign Ministry, Dutch Foreign Ministry officials told Royal HaskoningDHV that such a project would violate international law. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • In Syria, America Loses If Either Side Wins - Edward N. Luttwak
    It would be disastrous if President Assad's regime were to emerge victorious after fully suppressing the rebellion. Iranian money, weapons and operatives and Hizbullah troops have become key factors in the fighting, and Assad's triumph would dramatically affirm the power and prestige of Shiite Iran and Hizbullah, posing a direct threat both to the Sunni Arab states and to Israel.
        But a rebel victory would also be extremely dangerous for the U.S. and for many of its allies because extremist groups, some identified with al-Qaeda, have become the most effective fighting force in Syria. If the jihadis were to triumph in Syria, Israel could not expect tranquility on its northern border.
        The war is now being waged by petty warlords and dangerous extremists of every sort: Taliban-style Salafist fanatics who beat and kill even devout Sunnis because they fail to ape their alien ways, Sunni extremists who have been murdering innocent Alawites and Christians merely because of their religion, and jihadis from Iraq and all over the world.
        There is only one outcome that the U.S. can possibly favor: an indefinite draw. By tying down Assad's army and its Iranian and Hizbullah allies in a war against al-Qaeda-aligned extremist fighters, four of Washington's enemies will be engaged in war among themselves and prevented from attacking Americans or America's allies. The writer is a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (New York Times)
  • Syria Will Require More than Cruise Missiles - Eliot A. Cohen
    The scale, openness and callousness of the Syrian government's breaking of an important taboo seems likely to compel this president to launch warplanes yet again in the Middle East. The temptation here is to follow the Clinton administration's course - a futile salvo of cruise missiles, followed by self-congratulation and an attempt to change the topic.
        It would not work here. A minority regime fighting for its life, as Assad's is, can weather a couple of dozen big bangs. More important, no one would be fooled. As weak as the U.S. now appears in the region and beyond, we would look weaker yet if we chose to act ineffectively. The writer, who directed the U.S. Air Force's Gulf War Air Power Survey from 1991 to 1993, teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. (Washington Post)
  • Questions as Attack on Syria Looms - Zvi Bar'el
    The foot-dragging in the West stems from a lack of clear-cut proof about who fired the chemical weapons. The U.S. wants to find the smoking gun in President Assad's palace so its attack on Syria will not be restricted to aiming cruise missiles at some weapons stores, but, rather, will lead to a strategic change that will decide the battle in Syria.
        The question still remains of what happens "the day after." Who exactly will reap the fruits of the attack? Who will take the reins of government in Syria if the strike leads to Assad's downfall? No one knows the answer. (Ha'aretz)

America's Grand Strategy in the Middle East - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)

  • Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian military have been America's most important regional allies both because they share strategic interests and because they are effective actors in a way that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and smaller states aren't. If these three forces are working with you, then things often go reasonably well.
  • The struggle against terror is going to be harder than we hoped. Our enemies have scattered and multiplied, and the violent jihadi current has renewed its appeal.
  • It is delusional to believe that we can eliminate this problem by eliminating poverty, underdevelopment, dictatorship or any other "root causes" of the problem; we cannot eliminate them in a policy-relevant time frame.
  • Instead of minimizing the terror threat in hopes of calming the public, the president must prepare public opinion for a long-term struggle.

    The writer, Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College, was the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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