Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
August 29, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Syria Threatens to Use Kamikaze Pilots Against West - Mona Mahmood and Robert Booth (Guardian-UK)
    The Syrian air force is considering using kamikaze pilots against attacks by Western forces, a Syrian army officer told the Guardian.
    "I myself am ready to blow myself up against U.S. aircraft carriers to stop them attacking Syria," he said.

Will Hizbullah Attack Israel If Western Airstrike Aims to Topple Assad? - Hussein Dakroub (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    A senior source close to Hizbullah told the Daily Star the party was unlikely to retaliate in case the U.S. and its Western allies carried out a limited operation against Syria.
    But "a large-scale Western strike on Syria will plunge Lebanon virtually and immediately into the inferno of a war with Israel," the source said, clearly referring to Hizbullah firing rockets into Israel.
    However, Hilal Khashan, a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, said he did not expect Hizbullah or Iran to retaliate whether the attack on Syria was limited or massive.
    "Hizbullah will not react in the south against Israel....In the event of a large-scale attack on Syria, neither Iran, nor Hizbullah will do anything except pep talk." 

Survivors of Syrian Gas Attack Describe Horrors (AP-Washington Post)
    Ammar, 30, miraculously survived the chemical attack on Moadamiyeh, where 80 people were killed.
    Around 5 a.m. he heard screaming on the street below his apartment. Once outside, he saw a gas with a faint green color. It "stung my eyes like needles."
    Ammar woke up at a makeshift hospital where he spent five days getting water, oxygen and injections of atropine.
    "I keep seeing the people who died, the scenes from the hospital of people twitching and foaming. I can never forget that.

Israeli Compassion amidst Syrian Atrocities - Dave Sharma (Times of Israel)
    Some 72 Syrian patients have been admitted to Ziv Medical Center in Safed in northern Israel since February. When I visited this week, 15 Syrian patients were being treated, the youngest an 8-year-old girl.
    Suffering from shrapnel and bullet wounds, burns and crush injuries, they are malnourished, fatigued and traumatized. Many have lost family members.
    If they had remained in Syria, most would have died or been left permanently incapacitated.
    Arabic-speaking doctors, nurses and social workers are all available to communicate with the Syrian patients.
    The writer is the Australian ambassador to Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Continuing Preparations to Attack Syria - Karen DeYoung
    The Obama administration appeared Wednesday to be forging ahead with preparations to attack Syria, and said it saw little point in further discussion of the issue at the UN. President Obama told PBS that "there need to be international consequences" for the Aug. 21 chemical strikes he said he has concluded were carried out by the Syrian government. "We do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on chemical weapons they are held accountable."  (Washington Post)
        See also Obama: Uphold the International Norm Against Chemical Weapons - Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill (PBS)
        See also No UN Approval for Use of Force in Syria, British Lawmakers Balk at Intervention - Paul Richter and Henry Chu
    The U.S. failed Wednesday to get UN approval for the use of force to punish Syria's government for using chemical weapons. Russia made it clear Wednesday that it would not support any Security Council move to censure Syria or sanction military action.
        In addition, British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has repeatedly called for strong action on Syria, was unable to muster enough support from lawmakers to push ahead with a vote in Parliament to approve military intervention.
        The UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said in Geneva that an armed response without UN approval would be illegal under international law. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Syria Evacuates Most Army Buildings in Damascus - Khaled Yacoub Oweis
    President Assad's forces have evacuated most personnel from army and security command headquarters in central Damascus in preparation for a Western military strike, residents and opposition sources said on Wednesday. Barracks and housing compounds for Syria's Republican Guards and Fourth Division also have been evacuated. (Reuters)
  • Hagel: No U.S. Plans to Cut Off Egypt Military Aid Yet
    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told BBC on Wednesday that he opposes cutting off U.S. military aid to Egypt, but vowed Washington would keep pressing for "reconciliation" in the country. "We've had strong partnerships with Egypt for many years starting with the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that the U.S. brokered in 1979....Egypt has played a responsible part of that, been a very responsible partner....We would not want to see the disintegration of a relationship with a large, important country like Egypt."
        "You can't go in and impose. It's up to the Egyptian people what kind of future they want and what kind of government they want."  (AFP-Defense News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Takes Defensive Precautions Ahead of U.S. Strike on Syria - Herb Keinon and Yaakov Lappin
    Israel's security cabinet approved a limited call-up of a few hundred reservists in vital military capacities and deployed air defenses around the country on Wednesday as precautionary measures ahead of an expected U.S. strike on Syria. The security cabinet was told there was a "low probability" that Syrian President Assad would respond by striking Israel.
        Assad is cognizant of messages Israel has sent indicating that an attack on Israel would ignite a counter-attack that would bring down his regime. Nevertheless, Israel was preparing for any eventuality. Prime Minister Netanyahu issued a statement Wednesday saying Israelis need not alter their daily routine.
        Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "We're not involved in this and we're not getting involved. The Syrians crossed a red line set by the United States, prohibiting use of chemical weapons against civilians....Those who are dealing with this issue are not us, but rather the Western world under the leadership of the United States."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Low Probability of Israeli Involvement in Syrian Conflict - Amos Harel
    Intelligence experts rate the possibility that Syrian President Assad will want to avenge an American attack by choosing an Israeli target as unlikely, since that it would achieve exactly the opposite of what Assad wants. The Syrian regime is interested in shortening the conflict with the Americans, in order to contain the damage and return to the battle with the rebels. If Assad involves Israel in this conflict, it will increase the danger to the regime - and even threaten Assad's personal survival. (Ha'aretz)
  • Five Hamas Members Arrested in Sinai over Egyptian Police Massacre - Elhanan Miller
    Five members of Hamas were arrested in northern Sinai for involvement in the killing of 25 Egyptian policemen, Arab media reported on Wednesday. The five were among 11 suspects arrested near Rafah, Asharq Al-Awsat reported. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • If Bombs Hit Damascus, Israel Looks to Tehran - David Makovsky
    While the U.S. debates whether its pending missile strikes on Syria should be designed as a deterrent against further chemical attacks or more broadly, Israel's government seems focused on the effects for U.S. deterrence throughout the region. In the public mind, the U.S. reluctance to intervene has raised questions about the reliability of American commitments going forward.
        As a top Israeli official told me last week, "when the U.S. puts forward a red line, it has to mean it. The issue goes beyond Syria. It is a matter of credibility with reverberations for U.S. policy towards Iran." Enforcing red lines in Syria would send out a broader message that words do have meaning.
        At the same time, Israel has not been prodding the U.S. to act in Syria, and the chemical issue is not viewed as relating directly to Israel. The writer is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Tablet)
  • What Will Iran Do If the West Strikes Assad? - Hanin Ghaddar
    As the international community heads to some sort of strike on Syria, will Iran react by attacking Israel? The answer is probably no: Iran has never engaged militarily against the U.S. or its allies, including Israel. They usually use Hizbullah for that, and Iran's economy cannot afford a war with the international community right now. Iran's objective in Syria is not to protect the Assad regime. Iran wants to make sure it does not lose the territorial advantage in Syria, mainly linking Lebanon to Damascus and the coast through Qusayr and Homs.
        Hizbullah is far more significant for Iran than Syria, where Hizbullah is fighting Iran's war. If Hizbullah was allowed to use its heavy weaponry in Syria, it could achieve greater victories on the ground. But Hizbullah's arms are to be used for one reason only: to protect Iran's nuclear program. In case Iran's program is hit, Hizbullah will launch a war against Israel. If Syria is hit, it is unlikely that Hizbullah or Iran will do anything. (Now Lebanon)
  • Threatening Israel - Editorial
    "If Damascus is attacked, Tel Aviv will burn," a Syrian higher-up bristled this week. The very fact that a neighboring state could be held for ransom for events entirely outside its control should shock world opinion. But it does not. We suspect the reaction would be radically different had any other country been similarly threatened for no fault of its own.
        This is disconcertingly reminiscent of our traumatic experience during the First Gulf War when Israel suffered repeated heavy missile attacks, including 40 Scud hits. The Iraqi warheads were aimed directly and unmistakably at civilian population centers. Saddam Hussein's reasoning was that by targeting Israel he was hurting the U.S. At the time, the only American response was to advocate Israeli restraint.
        This time Israel has made it clear that this country and its people will not be pawns in the wars that others wage. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Will Syria Standoff Be a Repeat of the 1991 Gulf War? - Freddy Eytan (i24News)

In Syria, U.S. Credibility Is at Stake - David Ignatius (Washington Post)

  • Using military power to maintain a nation's credibility may sound like an antiquated idea, but it has become obvious in recent weeks that President Obama needs to demonstrate that there are consequences for crossing a U.S. "red line."
  • Syrian President Assad overrode a clear American warning against the use of chemical weapons. The main rationale for military action by the U.S. should be restoring deterrence against the use of chemical weapons.
  • The Iranians surely have read Obama's caution (correctly) as a sign that he wants to avoid another war in the Middle East. Unfortunately, history tells us that an ambitious, revolutionary nation such as Iran makes compromises only under duress.
  • U.S. action against Assad may not deter the Iranians, but it will at least make them think twice about crossing Obama's "red line" against their acquiring nuclear weapons.

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