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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
September 3, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Palestinian Authority Blames Obama for Syria War - Robin Shepherd (Commentator)
    The Palestinian Authority's official newspaper has launched a series of blistering attacks on President Obama over the Syria crisis.
    "Events of mass killings do not upset [America] because they themselves have used killing as a means and a strategy to attain global domination," the PA daily said on Sunday.
    "The Americans knew that Assad was destroying Syria and this is what they had hoped for, so they worked to have the massacres and destruction continue."
    See also PA: U.S. Behind Civil War in Syria - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)

Egyptian Helicopters Strike Militants in Sinai - Ashraf Sweilam (AP-ABC News)
    Egyptian helicopter gunships fired rockets Tuesday at militants in northern Sinai, causing "dozens" of casualties, a security official said.

As Egypt Blocks Access, Gazans Turn to Israel for Outlet - Elhanan Miller (Times of Israel)
    Israel is increasingly replacing Egypt as a source of commodities to Gaza and as an outlet for its civilian traffic, following an intensification of Egypt's crackdown on smuggling tunnels along its border with Gaza.

Egypt's Road to Recovery - Zvi Mazel (Jerusalem Post)
    Egypt's statistics bureau on Aug. 31 put the country's population at 85 million (not counting 8 million living abroad).
    800,000 Egyptians are added to the job market each year, though the birthrate has dropped significantly to 2.4%.
    The interim regime is doing its best to bring order to the political situation. New civilian institutions should be up and running within nine months.
    The Muslim Brotherhood is still fighting, though it is rudderless, the top echelons being in jail or having fled. There are still sporadic demonstrations, but in ever smaller numbers.
    At some point the Brotherhood will have to admit defeat and seek ways to reorganize and find its voice.
    The writer, a fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Egypt.

Eight Million Israelis - Omri Efraim (Ynet News)
    On the eve of the Jewish New Year of 5774, Israel's population stands at 8.081 million, including 6.066 million Jews, 1.67 million Arabs, and 345,000 "others," the Central Bureau of Statistics reported on Monday.
    The data indicate that 75.1% of the population are Jews, 20.7% are Arab; and 4.2% are "others."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Drawing a Line on Syria, U.S. Eyes Iran Talks - Robert F. Worth
    As the Obama administration makes a case for punitive airstrikes on the Syrian government, its strongest card may be the need to send a message to another country: Iran. If the U.S. does not enforce its self-imposed "red line" on Syria's use of chemical weapons, Iran will smell weakness and press ahead more boldly in its quest for nuclear weapons.
        The debate over chemical weapons also has raised questions about the strength of Iran's commitment to the government of President Assad of Syria. Iran suffered terrible losses from chemical weapon strikes during its decade-long war with Iraq in the 1980s, and the issue is a delicate one for many Iranians. Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria on his English-language Twitter feed. (New York Times)
        See also Report: Are Iranians Seeking to Distance Themselves from Assad? - Ariel Ben Solomon
    Key Iranians have reportedly expressed their opposition to Tehran's ongoing support for Syrian President Assad. Sources inside Iran claim that former president Hashemi Rafsanjani asked the commander of the Iranian al-Quds Brigades, Maj.-Gen. Qassem Suleimani, to stop sending volunteers to fight in Syria, according to a report on Sunday in the Iraqi daily Azzaman. The sources added that elements from the al-Quds Brigades and the Basij militia were visiting mosques and neighborhoods in search of recruits to fight in Syria. (Jerusalem Post)
  • France Blames Syria's Assad for "Massive" Chemical Attack - Michael Mainville
    A French intelligence report said Monday that forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad carried out a "massive" chemical attack last month. The nine-page report said, "The attack on August 21 could only have been ordered and carried out by the [Syrian] regime." In addition, imagery obtained by French intelligence showed that "the launch zone for the rockets was held by the regime."  (AFP)
  • Israel Carries Out Joint Missile Test with U.S. in Mediterranean
    Israel acknowledged conducting a joint missile test with the U.S. in the Mediterranean Sea on Tuesday, after Russia reported that it had detected a missile launch. Israel's Arrow III missile defense system was tested during the exercise, the Defense Ministry said. (Fox News-Ha'aretz)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Obama Assures Netanyahu on Iran - Herb Keinon and Greer Fay Cashman
    President Obama assured Prime Minister Netanyahu in a telephone conversation on Saturday that he remains determined to keep Iran from going nuclear, Israel Channel 2 TV reported Monday. According to the report, Obama told Netanyahu that the confrontation with Syria was completely different from the Iranian situation. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel: IDF Capable of Protecting Country Against Syrian Chemical Weapons Threat
    Israel's leaders are reportedly unhappy that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are citing concern over Israel being hit by Syrian chemical weapons as a means to galvanize Congressional support for a strike against President Assad's regime. Israel's Channel 2 news on Monday quoted a senior Israeli official as saying that the IDF was perfectly capable of protecting Israel from any dangers posed by Assad. Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly said that he sees a low probability of Assad retaliating against Israel for any U.S. strike. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians Break Through Entrance Barrier at Ben-Gurion Airport
    Two Palestinians from the West Bank broke through the security barrier at the entrance to Ben-Gurion airport on Tuesday morning while driving a stolen truck. The two fled the vehicle after a security guard fired at the truck's tires, and airport security apprehended them. The incident prompted airport authorities to declare an emergency, suspending flights temporarily. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Linking Targets to Political Objectives in Syria - Chandler P. Atwood and Michael Knights
    If a U.S. strike in Syria is to be more than a token move, U.S. leaders need to approve targeting that sends the most menacing message possible to the Assad regime. Success is more likely if Washington surprises the regime. Clearly explaining the rationale for hitting certain targets is crucial if Washington hopes to influence the regime.
        The Assad regime needs to understand that U.S. attacks may not unfold in a linear or predictable fashion. Washington should prevent Assad from concluding that he can selectively trade occasional chemical weapon attacks for limited U.S. strikes. Maj. Chandler Atwood, USAF, is a Visiting Military Fellow at The Washington Institute. Michael Knights is Lafer Fellow with the Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Jihadists Are Not Running the Rebellion in Syria - Elizabeth O'Bagy
    The pro-democracy opposition in Syria is believed to have transformed over the past two years into a mob of violent extremists dominated by al-Qaeda. In the past year, I have made numerous trips to Syria, spending hundreds of hours with Syrian opposition groups ranging from Free Syrian Army affiliates to the Ahrar al-Sham Brigade, and saw that moderates and extremists wield separate control over distinct territories. The war in Syria is not being waged entirely, or even predominantly, by dangerous Islamists and al-Qaeda die-hards. The jihadists pouring into Syria from Iraq and Lebanon are not flocking to the front lines. Instead they are concentrating their efforts on establishing and holding their Islamic emirate in the north of the country.
        Moderate opposition groups make up the majority of actual fighting forces, and they have recently been empowered by the influx of arms and money from Saudi Arabia and other allied countries, such as Jordan and France. There is no denying that groups like Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham have come to dominate local authorities in the north. This is more the result of their having better resources than an indicator of local support. Where they have won over the local population, they have done so through the distribution of humanitarian aid.
        Syrians have pushed back against the hard-line measures imposed by some of these extremists groups. While I was last in northern Syria in early August, I witnessed nearly daily protests by thousands of citizens against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in areas of Aleppo. Any U.S. action should be part of a larger strategy that has the ultimate goal of destroying Assad's military capability while simultaneously empowering the moderate opposition. The writer is a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel Views America and Syria - Jennifer Rubin
    A former U.S. official tells me the top levels of the Israeli government are convinced that Assad is not about to make more enemies by lashing out against Israel in the event the U.S. responds militarily to the use of weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, most Israelis are coming to the conclusion that it will be up to them to deal with Iran's nuclear arms program.
        Imagine for a moment how different this situation would be if Iran had a nuclear weapon. Iran would rule the roost, daring the U.S. to act while threatening to take out Tel Aviv - or Berlin. Iran's nuclear capability would soon become a shield for every bad actor in the region. Israel swims in a sea of violence and unchecked Islamic extremism. (Washington Post)

How Significant Is the Delay in a U.S. Strike on Syria? - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)

  • The former head of IDF Military Intelligence and current director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, Maj. Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin, told the Times of Israel that the delay in U.S. action in Syria "enables the arrival of additional forces, like aircraft carriers or intercontinental bombers. If they had attacked last week, they would have been restricted to Tomahawks [cruise missiles] from destroyers."
  • In addition, the delay allows for a tactical surprise and, in the interim, it "paralyzes the Syrian army, which is busy with survival and hiding in schools and universities."
  • "What's important is not the timing of the attack but its scope and its quality" that will allow it to attain "the desired strategic goal of significant punishment and deterrence against future use of chemical weapons in particular and the murder of civilians in general."
  • Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, a former head of Israel's National Security Council, said "the volume [of the attack] has to be such that Iran, too, will be deterred."
  • Dayan said the U.S. could not destroy all of Syria's chemical weapons capabilities without putting forces on the ground, but that "his entire ground-to-ground missile capacity could be destroyed." 

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