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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
September 17, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

Jane's: Half of Syrian Rebel Fighters Are Jihadists or Islamists - Ben Farmer and Ruth Sherlock (Telegraph-UK)
    Nearly half of the rebel fighters in Syria are now aligned with jihadist or hardline Islamist groups, according to a new study by IHS Jane's.
    Opposition forces now number around 100,000, with 10,000 jihadists - who include foreign fighters - as well as 30,000 to 35,000 who are hardline Islamists.
    Islamists share much of the outlook of the jihadists, but are focused purely on the Syrian war rather than a wider international struggle.
    There are also a further 30,000 fighters belonging to groups that have an Islamic character.
    Thus, only a small minority of opposition forces are considered "palatable" by the West.

Turkey Shoots Down Syrian Helicopter - Saif Tawfiq (Reuters)
    Turkish planes shot down a Syrian helicopter on Monday after it crossed into Turkish airspace.
    Syria said the helicopter had strayed into Turkish airspace by accident and that it was on its way back when it was shot down.

Netanyahu Did Not Urge Obama to Accept Chemical Weapons Deal (Jerusalem Post)
    The Israel Prime Minister's Office denied reports on Monday that Prime Minister Netanyahu had urged President Obama to accept Russia's proposal on Syria's chemical weapons.

Egyptian Media Attack U.S. - L. Lavi and N. Shamni (MEMRI)
    Since Egyptian President Morsi's removal from power, the Egyptian public and media - both pro- and anti-Morsi - have been fiercely attacking the U.S.
    The reasons for this include: President Obama's condemnation of the violent August 14 dispersal of the Morsi supporter sit-ins in Cairo; the U.S.'s July 24 cancellation of its delivery to Egypt of four F-16 aircraft; the U.S.'s August 15 cancellation of a joint U.S.-Egypt military exercise; and discussions in the U.S. about the possibility of halting aid to Egypt.

Polar Sea Lane May Compete with Suez Canal - Chris Jasper (Bloomberg)
    Polar shipping lanes that are opening up with the retreat of ice in the Arctic Ocean are attracting more traffic.
    A Chinese vessel docked in Rotterdam on Sept. 10 after sailing from Taicang City, near Shanghai, via the Arctic. Taking a polar route cut the journey by nine days, compared with traveling via the Suez Canal.
    Recent sailings involved ice-resistant models that still must be escorted by Russian icebreakers.
    Nevertheless, turmoil in Egypt combined with pirate attacks off Somalia and in the Malacca Strait are calling into question the security of the Suez route used by 18,000 ships each year.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Forensic Details in UN Report Point to Assad's Use of Gas - Rick Gladstone and C.J. Chivers
    A UN report released on Monday confirmed that a deadly chemical arms attack caused a mass killing in Syria last month. Extensive forensic details of the weapons used, including the large size and particular shape of the munitions and the precise direction from which they had been fired, strongly implicate the Syrian government. (New York Times)
  • Report: Iran Prepared to Shut Down Fordo Nuclear Site - Erich Follath
    According to intelligence sources, Iran's new president, Hassan Rouhani, is reportedly prepared to decommission the Fordo enrichment plant and allow international inspectors to monitor the removal of the centrifuges. In return, he could demand that the U.S. and Europe rescind their sanctions.
        When it comes to a possible deal, though, the devil is in the details: Who would monitor the dismantling of the centrifuges? Will the 185 kilos (408 pounds) of enriched material that has been produced so far - three-quarters of what is needed to produce a nuclear warhead - be placed under supervision? And how will it even be transported? What will happen with the heavy water reactor at Arak, which is expected to become operational in 2014 and begin producing plutonium that can also be used to build nuclear bombs? Friends and foes alike agree that the Iranians are master tacticians. (Der Spiegel-Germany)
  • Egypt Accuses Gaza Groups of Aiding Sinai Militants
    Egyptian army spokesman Ahmed Ali on Sunday accused groups in Hamas-run Gaza of mounting joint attacks with Sinai militants. He said the army seized weapons including anti-aircraft missiles and motorized paragliders. "There is cooperation between the armed terror groups with their counterparts in the Gaza Strip, and more than one joint operation has been monitored," Ali said. The military on Friday found two bombs beneath a security observation tower with detonation fuses that ran through a tunnel into Gaza. "The detonation was going to happen from Gaza," he said. He also screened a video in which 8 of 18 men detained in the security sweep identified themselves as Palestinian. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu, Obama to Discuss Stopping Iran's Nuclear Program
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Tuesday that during his upcoming visit to the UN he will first meet with President Obama. "I intend to focus on the issue of stopping Iran's nuclear program. The way to stop Iran's nuclear program requires four steps: 1. Halting all uranium enrichment; 2. Removing all enriched uranium; 3. Closing Qom; and 4. Stopping the plutonium track....Until all four of these measures are achieved, the pressure on Iran must be increased and not relaxed, and certainly not eased."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel: Syria Deal Proves Military Threat Deters Rogue Regimes
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Monday: "The latest developments, in which a diplomatic solution is emerging for Syria to be disarmed of chemical proof to the countries of the free world that a significant and credible military threat, as applied at the beginning of the crisis, deters dangerous rogue regimes and is able to advance a diplomatic solution to disarming countries of weapons of mass destruction.... In other words, he who seeks peace must prepare for war."
        "In parallel, from our point of view, the world must display clear and uncompromising determination toward the extremist regime in Tehran and its advancing program to develop a military nuclear weapon."  (AFP-Ynet News)
  • Israel Can See If Assad Is Moving Syria's Chemical Weapons - Yaakov Lappin
    Israel has "good capabilities" when it comes to tracking attempts by Syria to transfer its chemical weapons to others, such as terrorist organizations, Yuval Steinitz, the international relations, intelligence and strategic affairs minister, said on Sunday.
        Steinitz added that "even if Assad gives up chemical weapons he used to execute 1,400 people, this doesn't excuse him from punishment." He said it made little sense to pardon a murderer who shot dead victims just because "he turned over his gun." He also noted that Iranian nuclear weapons are "77 times more dangerous than Syrian chemical weapons."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Why Some Palestinians Want to Learn Like Israelis - Ben Lynfield
    Israel has introduced the Israeli curriculum into selected schools for Arab children in east Jerusalem at the initiative of parents seeking to facilitate their children's acceptance in the Israeli job market and at Israeli universities. ''Parents know that the future of their children is in Israel,'' says David Koren, an adviser to the Jerusalem mayor. ''Parents requested having the option of the Israeli curriculum. People were paying 12,000 shekels ($3,430 dollars) for private courses to prepare their children for Israeli universities and they asked the mayor, why not open a track within the school?''
        Seven east Jerusalem schools now offer the option of the Israeli curriculum, up from two last year. In practice, this means considerably more Hebrew, more science, and big changes in civics and history courses. Israeli officials deny that the curriculum is offensive in any way to Muslims, stressing it is the same curriculum used in government schools serving the Arab minority in Israel.
        At the Ahmed Sameh al-Khalidi boys school in Abu Tor, principal Najwa Farhat says the Israeli curriculum offers more course options and a better education than the PA's because it emphasizes critical thinking, not just memorization. "In the Israeli program, the student can be his own investigator and think about matters and not just learn things by heart. The Palestinian curriculum does not give the student a chance to think about things," she says. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • On West Bank, Palestinian Consumers Taking Large Loans for Luxury Items - Dalia Hatuqa
    Today some West Bank cities are overrun with flashy new cars and middle-class Palestinians are up to their ears in personal debt, courtesy of easy-to-receive mortgages and consumer loans made available in recent years. Economists attribute this new culture of debt dependency to an increase in consumer credit and the pouring in of donor cash. Since the Oslo Accords were signed two decades ago, Palestinians have been given $4 billion worth of assistance by the U.S. government, in addition to hand-outs from Europe, Gulf countries, Japan and others, making them "among the world's largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid."
        Banks that give out mortgage loans are particularly vulnerable "because there is no mechanism in place to ensure that the financial institutions can foreclose on property when homebuyers cannot meet their mortgage payments," said Basem Makhoul, an economist. "There has never been one case of a foreclosure in Palestine."
        "Consumerism has taken over the West Bank, which is something that doesn't go with the low income levels here," Makhoul said. "It's like that saying: 'We have the salaries of Somalia but we spend like we live in France.'...Obviously it's the donor money that has precipitated this phenomenon."  (Al-Jazeera)

What Might Be Expected in Monitoring Syria: Lessons from Past Middle East Weapons Inspections - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Weapons experts point to the successes of the West in both Iraq and Libya in destroying large weapons arsenals. Yet there are certain problems that weapons inspectors have had to deal with over the years that are common to all attempts to deal with control of the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) of rogue regimes in the Middle East.
  • The terms of the cease-fire that ended the 1991 Gulf War, UN Security Council Resolution 687, demanded that Iraq accept the destruction of all chemical and biological weapons. A key provision was a requirement that Iraq submit within 15 days a declaration on the locations, amounts, and types of chemical and biological weapons it possessed.
  • Iraq delayed fulfilling this most basic requirement for years. The quantities of chemical agents that Iraq eventually destroyed had no meaning unless they were measured against the amounts that Iraq possessed to begin with.
  • Like other Middle Eastern rogue states, Syria will not have an interest to fully disclose the extent of its chemical arsenal. Deception and concealment have always been part of the arms control process among these states and there is no reason to assume that Syria will be different.
  • While Syria's chemical arsenal is concentrated in government-held areas, access routes to suspected sites will require weapons inspectors to move through territories held by opposition groups.
  • Based on past experience, it may be expected that over time, the political conditions that led to the U.S.-Russian agreement are likely to erode. Russia and Syria itself are likely to use diplomacy to help dissipate the threat of the use of force, which had been pivotal in creating the conditions for obtaining the agreement to begin with.

    The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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