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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
December 5, 2013

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Poll: Iran Not Serious about Resolving Nuclear Dispute (Pew Research Center)
    Most Americans do not believe that Iranian leaders are serious about addressing concerns over their nuclear program, according to a survey conducted on Oct. 30-Nov. 6, before the interim agreement was reached in Geneva.
    Among those who heard about the nuclear talks, just 33% say they think Iranian leaders are serious about addressing international concerns, while 60% say they are not.
    68% of Americans say that Iran's nuclear program is a major threat to the well-being of the U.S.

Hizbullah Prepares for War - Nicholas Blanford (Christian Science Monitor)
    Hizbullah has expanded its training camps in Lebanon, preparing for a future clash with Israel.
    New training camps, which include firing ranges, assault courses and urban warfare sites, are processing thousands of new recruits.
    Western intelligence agencies first noticed the appearance of visible training facilities in areas under Hizbullah control in 2008.
    Since then, other training camps have sprung up across the Bekaa Valley and in south Lebanon.
    See also Battlefield Lessons in Syria Strengthen Hizbullah's Fighting Force - Nicholas Blanford (Christian Science Monitor)
    Hizbullah's involvement in the Syrian conflict has had a spin-off benefit: turning a new generation of young recruits into battle-hardened veterans. This experience should make them a more capable combat force in the event of another war against Israel.
    Analysts say Hizbullah combatants have learned valuable lessons in mounting offensive and defensive operations in urban and rural environments.
    Hizbullah fighters initially spent an average of one week in Syria. In recent months, this rotation was raised to a month.

IDF Has Treated over 500 Wounded Syrians - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
    Over the past ten months the IDF has treated over 500 Syrian nationals, Col. Dr. Tarif Bader, the Northern Command's chief medical officer, said Wednesday.
    Since Feb. 16, 2013, the IDF has treated wounded Syrians at the Golan Heights divisional medical unit or at a field hospital established to treat those injured in the civil war.
    Bader revealed that dozens of Syrians have been given a new life-saving treatment using freeze-dried plasma to counteract blood loss.

Bequests to Israel Reached $27M in 2012 - Yasmin Gueta (Ha'aretz)
    The State of Israel received $27 million in donations and estate bequests in 2012, up from $25.5 million in 2011, according to a report by the Administrator General and Official Receiver.
    $8 million came from French individuals, $8.5 million was received from the U.S., Canada and the UK, and $5 million came from Austria, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. $5 million was received from individuals in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House Prepared to Allow Limited Iran Nuclear Enrichment - Jim Acosta
    The Obama administration is "prepared to negotiate a strictly limited enrichment program" with Iran, national security spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said Tuesday in a statement. "But only because the Iranians have indicated for the first time in a public document that they are prepared to accept rigorous monitoring and limits on level, scope, capacity, and stockpiles." Meehan cautioned that agreement to any limited enrichment program in Iran applies only to peaceful energy "needs" and does not amount to U.S. recognition of an Iranian "right to enrich."  (CNN)
  • U.S. Seeks "a Lot of Dismantling" of Iran's Nuclear Infrastructure
    U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, the lead negotiator of the nuclear interim agreement with Iran, told PBS NewsHour that she thinks the Geneva nuclear deal "will hold because it's in Iran's interest for it to hold." "The fundamental architecture around banking and oil sanctions that we have, that the European Union has, all remain in place. So what Iran really wants isn't available to them unless we get to a comprehensive agreement."
        "A comprehensive agreement...includes a lot of dismantling of their infrastructure, because, quite frankly, we're not quite sure that you need a 40-megawatt heavy water reactor, which is what [the] Arak [facility] is, for any civilian peaceful purpose."  (PBS)
  • U.S., Allies Reach Out to Syria's Islamist Rebels - Stacy Meichtry, Ellen Knickmeyer and Adam Entous
    The U.S. and its allies have held direct talks with key Islamist militias in Syria, Western officials say, aiming to undercut al-Qaeda while acknowledging that religious fighters long shunned by Washington have gained on the battlefield. At the same time, Saudi Arabia is moving to directly arm and fund one of the Islamist groups, Jaish al-Islam, the Army of Islam.
        The Saudis and the West are pivoting toward a newly created coalition of religious militias called the Islamic Front, which excludes the main al-Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria - the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS).
        The shift reveals the West's failure to unite Syria's rebels under the banner of a secular opposition force capable of toppling the Assad regime. The critical difference between the two camps of Islamists is that al-Qaeda's avowed enemies include not just Assad, but the West and its allies, including the Saudi monarchy. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Jordan to U.S.: Security Control in the Jordan Valley Must Remain in Israel's Hands - Eli Bardenstein and Ariel Kahane
    The Jordanians are pressing the U.S. to accept Israel's position that the presence of the Israel Defense Forces along the Jordan River is essential for the security of the region. A senior Israeli official said: "There is no technical solution that the Americans have proposed that can replace the presence of the IDF on the Jordan."
        A senior political official said that Netanyahu is planning to speed construction of a security fence along the river and that the Jordanians are pressing Washington to accept Israel's security requests since they will also defend Jordan. (Maariv-5 Dec 2013)
  • Kerry Arrives in Israel for Talks - Khaled Abu Toameh and Herb Keinon
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived Wednesday for another round of talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah. An Israeli official dismissed Palestinian claims that the talks between Israel and the PA were on the brink of collapse, saying this was part of their policy of brinkmanship, and that every time Kerry arrives there are always Palestinian statements about the talks being in trouble. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Senior Commander's Death a Major Blow to Hizbullah - Amos Harel
    The death of Hassan al-Laqis, a senior Hizbullah commander who was killed on Tuesday in Beirut, is the biggest operational blow to Hizbullah since the death of Imad Mughniyeh, the group's chief-of-staff, who was killed in Damascus in 2008. Laqis was the address for efforts to smuggle advanced weapons from Syria to Hizbullah. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Who Killed Hizbullah's Chief Military Procurement Officer? - Ariel Ben Solomon
    "By all indications, whoever killed Hassan al-Laqis did so in retaliation for Hizbullah's involvement in Syria. The perpetrators probably would have preferred to kill Hassan Nasrallah instead, but the security ring around him is much greater," said Mordechai Kedar, a research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University. "In the current situation, it seems that the background was painted in Syrian Sunni blood."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Sunnis Concerned over Wider Impact of Iran Accord - Liz Sly
    Sunni Arab states don't object to a deal that could curb Iran's nuclear ambitions, but they worry about the ramifications of warming ties between Tehran and Washington, said Mustafa Alani, the Dubai-based director of security and terrorism studies at the Gulf Research Center. The big worry, he said, is that a long-term deal normalizing ties between Iran and the U.S. would come at the expense of Sunni influence. "We have concerns about what sort of concessions the Americans will give. Will they anoint Iran as a regional superpower?" Alani asked. "The idea of Iran having hegemonic power is an absolute red line for all the Arab states."
        With a population of nearly 80 million, Iran far eclipses in size all its Arab neighbors except Egypt. With international sanctions easing, Sunnis fear, Iran may feel emboldened to increase assistance to the widespread network of allies it has cultivated over the decades, including Lebanon's Hizbullah, numerous Shiite groups in Iraq and others from Afghanistan to Yemen.
        Iran is unlikely to match its compromises on the nuclear issue with concessions on other fronts, Obeid said. "Iran will not leave Hizbullah, it will not leave Assad, and it will not leave Iraq."  (Washington Post)
  • Paving the Way for a Nuclear Iran - James A. Lyons
    Iran will continue to be the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. It has been at war with the U.S. for more than 34 years and will continue to be. This regime has cost thousands of American lives and countless more injured. Its stated intention - to eliminate our ally Israel and continue war against the U.S. - must be recognized.
        The only thing the Geneva agreement has accomplished is to provide Iran another six months to perfect its nuclear-weapons program. The Islamic republic is not going to negotiate away its nuclear infrastructure. It can only be eliminated by a military strike. However, this agreement has taken the U.S. military option off the table and has placed the sole burden for eliminating Iran's nuclear capability on Israel. This is not the way a great power is supposed to behave. Adm. James A. Lyons (ret.) was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. (Washington Times)
  • When a Peace Deals Means War - George Jonas
    The nuclear ayatollahs of Tehran will hardly abandon a stance that keeps benefiting them - that is, belligerence - and neither the Israelis nor the Saudis, let alone the Egyptian junta, have enough confidence in the Obama White House to rely on it for protection. This means preparations for war, plus a near-certain re-entry of Russia as a Middle East player, with incalculable consequences. Letting the ayatollahs play with explosive toys is criminally negligent of big powers, and suicidal of small powers in the region. (National Post-Canada)

Iran Deal Another Russian Diplomatic Victory over the U.S. - Shlomo Avineri (Project Syndicate)

  • Western statesmen are wrong to believe they have resolved the Iranian nuclear threat. Indeed, it is naive to imagine that a final agreement with Iran will be achieved in the coming six months: Iran's seasoned diplomats will make sure that does not happen.
  • While the interim agreement may not be a replay of the Munich Agreement in 1938, it may have set the stage for an even more combustible future. President Obama may not be in office when the fire ignites, but if things do go terribly wrong, he may be remembered as another statesman who was blind to the consequences of his peaceful intentions.
  • The main reason for pessimism stems from the interim agreement's wider geopolitical context, which has been ignored in favor of the regional dimension. In fact, the agreement, which alleviates much of the economic pressure on the Iranian regime, is a result of Russia's success in delaying international sanctions against Iran and its stubborn refusal to tighten them further.
  • For the Kremlin, Iran's nuclear program is only one chapter in a campaign to reassert Russia's role as a great power. Indeed, the interim agreement should be viewed as another in a string of recent Russian diplomatic victories over the U.S.
  • These include Ukraine's decision to reject an association agreement with the EU, President Assad remaining in power despite Obama's insistence that he leave, and Western-oriented groups in Egypt turning to Russia as a source of future military supplies.

    The writer, professor of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, served as director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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