History > 2012 > USA > International (V)
The mother of Usame Mircan,
who was allegedly killed by a Syrian government sniper,
mourns over his body with family and friends
in Aleppo on July
Boston Globe > Big Picture > Battle for Aleppo intensifies
30 July 2012
Syrian Jets Pound Rebel Positions
as Opposition Presses for No-Fly Zone
August 12, 2012
The New York Times
By DAMIEN CAVE
BEIRUT, Lebanon — Syrian jets fired on areas in and around
Aleppo again on Sunday, continuing an escalation of force that has led activists
and rebels to demand that foreign forces establish a no-fly zone to counter the
government’s air superiority.
Over the weekend, the United States and Turkey discussed a variety of measures
to aid the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad, including a no-fly zone,
though no decisions were reached.
While the fighting raged in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, the Syrian authorities
on Sunday reported two bomb attacks in Damascus, the capital.
The bombings occurred in the Marjeh district of Damascus, suggesting the rebels
were still active in the capital and were increasingly turning to explosives in
their evolving guerrilla campaign. Last week, a bomb tore through Syria’s state
television headquarters; a month ago, an explosion killed four senior military
and intelligence officials.
No one was wounded in the attacks on Sunday, Syria’s state news agency said. The
first blast was set off remotely as soldiers passed by in a vehicle. The device
was hidden under a tree about 100 yards from the Four Seasons Hotel in Damascus,
The Associated Press reported.
The second blast went off around the same time near a soccer stadium half a mile
away. Both explosions were followed by gunfire “to provoke panic,” the
Also on Sunday, Al Arabiya, an Arabic news channel, reported that a journalist
working with it was killed on Saturday by a bomb in a suburb north of Damascus.
The journalist, Bara’a Yusuf al-Bushi, was a defector from the Syrian Army who
worked with several international news organizations. Syria’s state news agency
said Sunday that one of its journalists had also been killed, a day after
reporting that, in a separate episode, rebels had kidnapped the members of one
of its television news crews.
The weekend’s events highlighted the risks that journalists in Syria face as the
government tries to limit access and as the rebels and Mr. Assad’s government
put a premium on propaganda. Over the course of the war, there have often been
conflicting accounts of events, most of them difficult to verify independently.
This year, the Committee to Protect Journalists identified Syria as the third
“most censored” country in the world, just behind North Korea.
More recently, the number of foreign reporters entering the country has
increased, and news agencies like Reuters have found ways to establish what
seems to be a full-time local presence. But as that presence has expanded, so
have the risks. Several reporters moving in and out of Aleppo have recently
described close calls as the Syrian military has shelled the city and, lately,
attacked it with fighter jets.
Opposition leaders said Sunday that despite reports that their fighters were
running low on arms and ammunition, they would continue to fight. Clashes
erupted in several areas in and around Aleppo on Sunday, with attacks from
fighter jets, as the war for the city edged into its third week.
There were also skirmishes and shelling in Damascus, activists said, where
fighting has also intensified in the past few days.
And in a video released on Sunday, one of the rebel brigades in the capital said
that Syrian troops had launched two attacks in an effort to free dozens of
Iranians kidnapped by the brigade last week. Iran says the captives are pilgrims
who were in Damascus to visit a Shiite shrine, but the rebels say their hostages
(45 are left after three were killed by shelling) are Iranian agents.
In the video, the brigade’s commander said that the government would have to end
its siege of rebel-controlled areas before the opposition would negotiate over
the release of the captives.
The Arab League postponed a meeting on Syria scheduled for Sunday. An official
told Reuters that it had to be rescheduled because Saudi Arabia’s foreign
minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, required surgery.
Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Antakya, Turkey.
Syrian Jets Pound Rebel Positions as
Opposition Presses for No-Fly Zone, NYT, 12.8.2012,
U.S. Accuses Hezbollah
of Aiding Syria’s Crackdown
The New York Times
By RICK GLADSTONE and ANNE BARNARD
States accused the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah on Friday of deep
involvement in the Syrian government’s violent campaign to crush the uprising
there, asserting that Hezbollah has trained and advised government forces inside
Syria and has helped to expel opposition fighters from areas within the country.
The American accusations, which were contained in coordinated announcements by
the Treasury and State Departments announcing new sanctions against Syria, also
accused Hezbollah of assisting operatives of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Quds
Force in training Syrian forces inside Syria. A Treasury statement said the
Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah, had overseen those activities,
which it called part of the Syria government’s “increasingly ruthless efforts to
fight against the opposition.”
The accusations, which went beyond previous American charges about Hezbollah
support for Syria’s government, seemed intended to counter critics of the Obama
administration who say that the White House is not doing enough to support the
Syrian opposition now that diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict are
Some Hezbollah experts expressed considerable skepticism, however, saying that
the accusations should be approached with caution unless more evidence was
The accusations were also part of an effort to further draw attention to the
Hezbollah-Iran alliance, which American and Israeli intelligence officials have
sought to portray as a subversive collaboration that has not only destabilized
the Middle East but has been implicated in terrorist violence elsewhere,
including a deadly bus bombing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria last month.
In a related announcement, the State Department said the United States had
blacklisted Sytrol, a state-owned Syrian oil company, accusing it of bartering
gasoline with Iran in violation of American sanctions over the disputed Iranian
nuclear program. The announcement said the United States “remains deeply
concerned about the close ties shared by the Iranian and Syrian regimes and is
committed to using every tool available to prevent regional destabilization.”
The accusations were made a few days after Iran’s top national security
official, Saeed Jalili, visited Syria and assured its embattled president,
Bashar al-Assad, that Iran, Syria and Hezbollah were an unbreakable axis of
resistance to Israel and its Western allies, reinforcing Syria’s evolving role
as the arena of a proxy war pitting Iran and its friends against the West.
American officials would not provide evidence for the new accusations against
Hezbollah and avoided specifying whether its operatives were engaged in combat
inside Syria, as some anti-Assad fighters have asserted. But the accusations
appeared to open a new avenue of American pressure on Syria’s government and to
be a way to embarrass Mr. Nasrallah, a powerful figure whose unwavering public
support for Mr. Assad has created political strains in his home base of Lebanon.
Many Lebanese support the uprising against Mr. Assad and his ruling Alawite
minority, and thousands of Syrian refugees from Mr. Assad’s crackdown have fled
“Hezbollah is actively providing support to the Assad regime as it carries out
its bloody campaign against the Syrian people,” David. S. Cohen, the Treasury’s
under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, told reporters in a
telephone conference call. He said the designation of Hezbollah in a Treasury
Department sanction makes “clear to parties around the world — both domestically
and internationally — the true nature of Hezbollah’s activities.”
The State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, Daniel Benjamin, who
also participated in the call, said, “Hezbollah’s actions in Syria underscore
its fears of a Syria without the Assad regime and the impact that this would
have on the group’s capabilities and its strength over the long term.”
Despite repeated questioning, neither official would provide details to support
the accusations, or specific evidence of how they had reached their conclusions.
“This is not a matter of idle speculation or press reports,” Mr. Benjamin said.
“This is based on a great deal of information-gathering that we have done and
we’ve synthesized and we’ve put it together in an authoritative document, and we
believe that it will be taken seriously by many around the world.”
An American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hezbollah was
using “its specialized skill set and understanding of insurgencies” to aid
Syria. “The group’s deep familiarity with the Syrian landscape makes it a nimble
and effective military partner,” the official said. “Even though at current
levels its assistance probably won’t change the outcome of the conflict, it’s
prolonging the fight and contributing to the deaths of innocent civilians.”
Both Hezbollah and Iran have repeatedly denied that they have aided Mr. Assad’s
military. They have supported his contention that the uprising against him is
led by terrorist groups armed by Sunni Arab monarchies, Israel and the United
Nonetheless, Mr. Nasrallah has made no secret of his support for Mr. Assad,
extolling his leadership after the assassination of top presidential aides in a
Damascus bombing carried out by insurgents last month. “These martyr leaders
were comrades in arms in the conflict with the Israeli enemy,” he said.
Hezbollah has long been classified as a terrorist organization by the United
States and Israel. But Hezbollah also is an important political party and a
welfare organization in Lebanon, with a long history of helping the country’s
Shiite Muslim and Palestinian populations.
Matthew Levitt, director of the program on counterterrorism and intelligence at
the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said that while broad accusations
of Hezbollah involvement in the Syrian conflict were not new, the Treasury
statement ratcheted up the pressure because the United States government was
stating them as fact and adding that Mr. Nasrallah was personally overseeing the
assistance. He said the statement appeared to be an attempt to embarrass
Hezbollah and Iran politically, rather than to exact a practical toll through
“The sanction effect of this is minimal,” he said. “This is a name-and-shame
exposé type of an action.”
Other scholars of Middle East politics questioned the accuracy of the
accusations against Hezbollah, saying it probably is giving Mr. Assad only
limited military help. They note that while Hezbollah has a strategic interest
in protecting Mr. Assad, it is also a savvy political operator that may need to
hedge its bets if Mr. Assad is deposed and replaced by a Sunni-led government.
They also said Hezbollah’s power in Lebanon depended partly on maintaining a
Lebanese nationalist image rather than a sectarian Shiite one.
“There’s not a lot of meat in it,” Augustus Richard Norton, a professor of
international relations at Boston University, said of the Treasury sanction. “My
reading — and I’m sure this isn’t a popular reading in Washington in some
quarters — is that Hezbollah has been taking a very low-key approach to the
Syrian crisis precisely because they have such high domestic stakes in Lebanon.”
Others said they needed to see more facts behind the American charges. Yezid
Sayigh, a scholar of Arab militaries and a senior associate at the Carnegie
Middle East Center in Beirut, said the accusations may be based on “an extremely
specific and narrow form of assistance, while giving the impression that
Hezbollah is involved in giving a much wider range of assistance.”
In Syria, the focus of the conflict continued on Friday to be the siege of
Aleppo, the largest city, where insurgents have been battling government forces
backed by jets, helicopters, artillery and tanks, and have retreated from some
neighborhoods. Rebel commanders have complained in recent days of ammunition
shortages, and some have criticized Western countries for not moving more
aggressively to help them.
Britain, however, seemed to move a step closer to aid the rebel side. Foreign
Secretary William Hague said the British government would establish official
contacts with insurgents inside Syria and expand its nonlethal aid to groups
fighting under the banner of the Free Syrian Army.
contributed reporting from Washington, Damien Cave from Istanbul,
and John F.
Burns from London.
U.S. Accuses Hezbollah of Aiding Syria’s Crackdown, NYT, 10.8.2012,
President Morsi’s First Crisis
The New York Times
Morsi was forced to respond quickly to his first security crisis as Egypt’s
first freely elected president. After 16 Egyptian soldiers were killed by gunmen
in the Sinai Peninsula last Sunday, he dispatched troops to secure the border,
moved to assert control of his security leadership team and avoided conflict
with Israel. It was a challenging beginning for an inexperienced leader who had
been in office less than two months.
The crisis, of course, is far from over. Militants have operated in the largely
lawless Sinai for years, but the region grew increasingly unstable after
President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011. Security and police forces
retreated from the region, giving Bedouin criminals, Palestinian militants from
neighboring Gaza and other militants wider rein.
Finally, violence exploded at the northern border, the nexus of Israel, Egypt
and Gaza. Failure to prevent continued lawlessness would compound an already
fragile situation and could conceivably unravel the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace
Much of what is happening is subject to speculation. On Wednesday, Egypt
reportedly sent hundreds of troops and armored vehicles into the Sinai, while
airstrikes by the military hit several targets. But it was not clear whether
reports in the Egyptian news media that about 20 militants had been killed and
nine others captured were factual or embellished to give the impression of a
Similarly, the identity of the attackers who killed the soldiers as they were
breaking their Ramadan fast has not been firmly established. Israel, among
others, suspects the involvement of Al Qaeda-inspired militants with ties to
Palestinians in Gaza. Egyptian leaders need to investigate thoroughly and be as
transparent as possible about what they find and about the kinds of military
operations they are carrying out.
On Wednesday, Mr. Morsi fired his intelligence chief, the top military police
officer and the governor of North Sinai — a stunning purge of officials who had
been seen as tied to the old order and/or blamed for security lapses that
contributed to the deaths of the soldiers. But, again, it was not clear whether
Mr. Morsi acted unilaterally or whether the shake-up was part of a deal with the
generals — with whom he has been engaged in a power struggle — so both sides
could avoid blame. Whatever the truth, Mr. Morsi is going to have to consider
even broader reforms in his security service.
If Palestinian militants from Gaza were responsible for the attack, it would be
a particular affront to Mr. Morsi, an Islamist. His party, the Muslim
Brotherhood, is allied with Hamas, which rules Gaza, and he has made a special
effort to work with leaders there. This relationship also makes his decision to
shut down the tunnels used to smuggle food, household goods, weapons and
militants themselves between the Sinai and Gaza, which is under Israeli
blockade, so sensitive.
Israel has long viewed these tunnels as a threat. It is unclear how many of them
Mr. Morsi intends to shut or for how long. He will be under heavy pressure from
Hamas to keep them open because they are a vital link for consumer goods needed
by Gaza citizens. Either way, a longer-term solution for Gaza is required.
Perhaps the most remarkable development, at this early stage, is the apparent
lack of friction with Israel, which has not objected to Egypt’s ground-force
buildup or the air missions, despite the fact that the Sinai was largely
demilitarized by the 1979 peace treaty. Now that it is in power, the Muslim
Brotherhood, which has a long history of antipathy toward Israel, may begin to
appreciate the value of investing in mutual security.
Mr. Morsi and his government will have an even harder time dealing with Egypt’s
many problems — including rebuilding a shattered economy and creating jobs — if
it has to deal simultaneously with growing militancy in the Sinai. Egypt and
Israel could be forced to finally figure out how to work together to confront
extremism and improve border security.
President Morsi’s First Crisis, NYT, 10.8.2012,
Crime Wave Engulfs Syria
as Its Cities Reel From War
The New York Times
By an EMPLOYEE of THE NEW YORK TIMES
in SYRIA and DAMIEN CAVE
Syria — The consequences of the war here have become familiar: neighborhoods
shelled, civilians killed and refugees departed. But in the background, many
Syrians describe something else that has them cowering with fear: a wave of
lawlessness not unlike the crime wave Iraq experienced during the conflict
From Dara’a, near the Jordanian border, to Homs, Damascus and here in Syria’s
commercial capital — the fighting has essentially collapsed much of the civilian
state. Even in neighborhoods where skirmishes are rare, residents say thieves
prey on the weak, and police stations no longer function because the officers
Kidnapping, rare before, is now rampant, as a man named Hur discovered here last
month. He simply wanted to drive home. The man shoving a pistol into his back
had other plans. “Keep walking,” the gunman told Hur, 40, a successful
businessman, as they approached his car. “Get in.”
Hur said he initially thought he was being arrested by government agents. But
then, after blindfolding him, his three captors made a phone call that revealed
“They asked my family to ransom me with 15 million Syrian pounds,” Hur said of
the abductors’ demand for about $200,000. “They were criminals, not a political
group. They told me they knew me and they knew my family could pay.”
Rebel leaders have been trying to fill the void. “We are running patrols to
protect our areas from thieves and criminals,” said Abu Mohammad, 30, a rebel
fighter in eastern Aleppo.
But as bloody ground battles rage throughout the city, rebel control is limited.
Syrians in Aleppo and elsewhere now say they bury their jewelry and other
valuables inside their furniture. Some people no longer keep money in their
pockets when they venture outside; residents and business owners across the
country are padlocking their property to protect against armed opportunists
mingling with combatants.
“No one wants to leave their houses, because you never know who is going to stop
you or attack you,” said Yasmin, 50, a resident of Aleppo who was too afraid to
give her last name. “Chaos, lawlessness, fear, it is just so chaotic, and with
all the thugs in the streets, you never know who might kidnap you and ask for a
Aleppo’s slide toward something resembling anarchy began months ago. Factory
owners here in the country’s industrial capital said the roads outside the city
went first, as armed bandits seized whatever they wanted from passing vehicles.
One of Syria’s main automobile exporters recently told a Lebanese friend that he
had to start sending vehicles to Iraq by boat from Lebanon because of the
Then more reports of kidnappings started surfacing. By the end of March, as the
government claimed to have retaken control of nearby cities, ransom demands were
a daily occurrence in Aleppo, said Amal Hanano, a Syrian writer and analyst
living in the United States. Usually, she said, the kidnappers asked for around
$75,000 and then dropped their price to a fifth of that after tough
Hur, using a nickname out of fear that he could be targeted again, said that his
brother talked his kidnappers down to about $30,000 in Syrian pounds. It took a
week. He said he spent most of the time tied to a water pipe in the back of a
small store somewhere outside Aleppo.
His kidnappers made sure he had enough food and water. They took his cellphone,
his watch and a gold ring but they left his car near the city, to establish
their credibility. “They told my family where to find the car and the keys to
prove that I was with them,” said Hur, indicating that they had probably
In addition to gaining more expertise as the conflict drags on, criminals are
also becoming more brazen. Yasmin said that a few days ago her cousin, a
65-year-old man, was robbed in his garden at 1:30 in the afternoon. His family
watched helplessly as the thieves stole all he had, about $70. Now her brother,
who lives across the street, makes sure his pockets are empty before he leaves
“We’ve all become a lot more careful since that incident,” Yasmin said. “Can you
imagine? It’s not even safe to carry $70.”
Many Syrians blame the government of President Bashar al-Assad for allowing the
crime to happen, or even encouraging it. Ms. Hanano, along with many activists,
say the crime waves afflicting Syrian cities began over the past year when the
unrest led to a guerrilla war. The battles themselves led to mass flight and
empty streets, making it easier to crack open a store like a piñata.
It was Iraq, circa 2003, in miniature: in areas where decades of suppressive
government have suddenly been lifted, looting, violence and sectarianism have
begun to thrive.
But the lawlessness may be more systemic. For years, the Assad government relied
for control on private militias called shabiha that were paid by the government
or by its wealthy supporters. With the government stretched financially and many
businessmen fleeing or switching sides, those payments appear to have stopped,
Ms. Hanano and others said, leading many militia members to pay themselves
however they can, often with violence as a byproduct.
One human rights group, Women Under Siege, said it had documented nearly 100
cases of rape in Syria since the conflict started, with many of them involving
several men believed to be members of pro-government militias.
The shabiha’s behavior, some activists said, contributes to the kind of rage
that led rebels to summarily execute several people suspected of being shabiha
members in a video from Aleppo that emerged last week.
But the shabiha are hardly the only problem. Rebel commanders have said that
there are “daylight robberies” in the bread lines of the bakeries that they
control, with thieves grabbing more than their allotted loaves to sell for a
premium on the black market.
Rebel fighters have also been seen stealing cars and destroying a restaurant in
Aleppo where Syrian soldiers have sometimes eaten. Some residents of Aleppo who
say they care about peace and distrust both sides in the conflict said that both
rebels and government militias — or their sympathizers — were targeting anyone
they thought supported the other side.
The penalty for that hastily determined loyalty is usually exacted by a group of
men carrying guns. “The city of Aleppo has become like the wild,” said Hur,
sitting in his parents’ fancy home in an upscale Aleppo neighborhood. “The big
fish eat the small ones.”
An employee of
The New York Times reported from Aleppo,
Cave from Beirut, Lebanon.
contributed reporting from Dubai, United Arab Emirates,
Mawad and Hwaida Saad from Beirut.
Crime Wave Engulfs Syria as Its Cities Reel From War, NYT, 9.8.2012?
Minister’s Defection in the Dark
The New York Times
By DAMIEN CAVE and DALAL MAWAD
Lebanon — The defection of Syria’s prime minister, Riyad Farid Hijab, began like
so many others: with coded conversations and furtive planning. He began
discussing the idea of fleeing, an aide said, as soon as President Bashar
al-Assad strong-armed him into taking the job in June. In recent days, he worked
to get his extended family out. Then, early Monday, the prime minister slipped
out of Damascus under cover of darkness with his wife and four children,
scrambling through the desert as a fugitive.
At sunrise, he crossed into Ramtha, Jordan, shocking the Syrian government —
which immediately claimed he had been fired — and spurring jubilation within a
“This is a proof that the political basis of the regime is collapsing,” said
Samir Nachar, a leader of the Syrian National Council, the main exile opposition
group. “This is the momentum we needed to tell the political and military elite
that it is time for them to jump off the sinking ship.”
Mr. Hijab’s journey began when he climbed into a simple car with a driver who
did not know his identity, according to an account provided by a Free Syrian
Army commander, an activist at the Syria-Jordan border, and Mr. Hijab’s
spokesman. He traveled down roads lined with rebel lookouts until he reached a
contested stretch of border. Finally, he made his dramatic departure from Syria.
The Assad government — nearly a year and a half into the conflict — remains
surprisingly strong where it counts. Its powerful military pounded rebels again
on Monday in Aleppo, Damascus and other cities, and many analysts question
whether the defection of another Sunni leader, no matter his place in the
hierarchy, is enough to swing the conflict to a conclusion. The war, after all,
has already taken on a blunt rhythm of violence, sectarianism and revenge that
does not necessarily respond to the finer pitches of politics and defection.
And yet the scale of the Hijab defection — involving 10 prominent Sunni families
who escaped in small groups over the past week — suggests that Mr. Assad is
losing the loyalty of Sunni political and security officials crucial to his
minority government’s ability to hold power.
His feared internal security apparatus also seems to be cracking. Mr. Hijab, the
highest-level official to leave, was closely watched by the Assad government,
which nonetheless failed to keep him from communicating with the opposition for
months and arranging for dozens of relatives to leave Damascus, where government
agents are concentrated.
“This is someone who was very, very close, and they couldn’t keep him,” said
Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Center for the Middle East. He added that
while the impact was not cataclysmic, “it’s a sign of advanced decrepitude.”
“It’s a beginning of an endgame sort of thing,” he added.
Mr. Hijab’s departure came less than a month after four members of Mr. Assad’s
inner circle were killed in a bomb attack in Damascus that raised serious
questions about the cohesiveness of the embattled government. On Monday, rebels
struck again close to the leadership’s core, bombing the third floor of the
government television and radio headquarters, which have been used to reassure
the population that Mr. Assad remains in control.
No one died this time, but the explosion — shown on Syrian television, where
officials insisted it was insignificant — again highlighted the rebels’ ability
to breach government institutions.
Defections highlight another vulnerability: betrayal within the ranks of
supposed loyalists. Over the past few months, there has been a steady flow of
high- and midlevel figures announcing that they have turned on the regime. In
recent days, in addition to Mr. Hijab, Syria’s most famous astronaut, an air
force officer named Ahmed Faris, fled to Turkey, pledging his loyalty to the
In Washington, the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, said the defections were
“a sign that Assad’s grip on power is loosening.”
“That the titular head of the Syrian government has rejected the ongoing
slaughter being carried out at Assad’s direction only reinforces that the Assad
regime is crumbling from within and that the Syrian people believe that Assad’s
days are numbered,” he said.
Rebel leaders and defectors said that the process for leaving varied. In some
cases, military officers have taken their allotted leave and have never returned
to their units. Other defectors say they have falsified paperwork or used
disguises to get through government checkpoints. In June, a Syrian Air Force
pilot simply landed his fighter jet at an airport in Jordan.
Most of the defectors have been members of the Sunni majority, breaking away
from a government dominated by Mr. Assad’s Alawite minority. Mr. Hijab, who has
served in government for most of his life after receiving a Ph.D. in
agriculture, is typical. The well-educated head of a Sunni family drawn into
government by Mr. Assad’s father in an effort to add legitimacy to his
government, he benefited from the government’s patronage before finally
Two of his brothers followed a similar path, with the opposition reporting that
they held high positions at the Ministries of Oil and the Environment before
they fled the country. And by leaving, said Sami Nader, a Lebanese political
analyst, they are stripping Mr. Assad of his “Sunni veneer.” With the defection
of such a senior-level Sunni family, Mr. Nader said, it will be harder for Mr.
Assad to claim that his is a national government representing all Syrians.
But few analysts, or even opposition leaders, seemed to believe that this latest
high-profile defection would be anywhere near enough to end the conflict. The
exuberance surrounding the early reports of Mr. Hijab’s defection partly
reflected claims that at least two other cabinet-level officials would be
Mohammad Otari, Mr. Hijab’s spokesman, said that was never true, and that the
plan had always been limited to Mr. Hijab and his family. “There were no
ministers involved,” he said. “There was no one left behind.”
Rumors about some kind of high-level defection began to spread late last week.
An activist in the border region of Dara’a said that government troops had
subjected the area to intensified shelling while the army seemed to be on the
hunt for someone important.
“We heard they were looking for high-level officials,” he said. “They went in to
every home along the border.”
Mr. Otari said the full details of the escape would be provided later, after the
Hijab family reached a location outside Jordan. But he said the most difficult
challenge involved leaving Damascus and Mr. Hijab’s home in the upscale
neighborhood of Mezze. Scores of government agents were watching. Mr. Hijab, Mr.
Otari said, had taken the job of prime minister only after Mr. Assad issued a
threat: “You take this position or you die.”
Previously, Mr. Hijab had been the governor in the coastal province of Latakia.
An activist who said he had dealt frequently with Mr. Hijab said he appeared to
have been selected as prime minister because of his close relationship with Mr.
Assad’s brother, Maher al-Assad. But during the initial protests last year, the
activist said, Mr. Hijab seemed to have some sympathy for the opposition; he had
agreed to keep the military and the police away from the first protests.
Later, after arrests were made at subsequent demonstrations, Mr. Hijab helped in
the release of 15 people. “He’s a good man,” said the activist, Rami, who
declined to provide his full name because he feared reprisals.
Malek al-Kurdi, the deputy commander of the Free Syrian Army, also said the
defection was encouraging because “he has a clean record” and “is accepted by
Some analysts said he could have escaped only through bribery, paying off all
the guards responsible for monitoring him. But Mr. Otari would say only that Mr.
Hijab took enormous risks to declare his loyalty to the opposition. “It was the
most dangerous and difficult defection that took place since the beginning of
the revolution,” he said. “This defection breaks the back of the regime.”
contributed by Hwaida Saad from Beirut;
from Amman, Jordan; Kareem Fahim from Cairo;
an employee of
The New York Times from Aleppo, Syria;
Myers from Washington; Alan Cowell from London;
and J. David
Goodman from New York.
Prime Minister’s Defection in the Dark Jolts Syrians, NYT, 6.8.2012,
Sinai Attack Tests
Egyptian President’s Relationship With Israel
The New York Times
By JODI RUDOREN
With the relationship between Egypt’s new Islamist leader and Israel still in
its fragile infancy, the terrorist attack on the border that the two countries
share with Gaza over the weekend presented a critical opportunity — and a
Several high-ranking officials inside Israel’s government and numerous
independent experts on Israel-Egypt relations said Monday that the attack — in
which masked gunmen killed 16 Egyptian soldiers on Sunday night and then
barreled into Israeli territory in a stolen truck and armored vehicle — is the
best evidence yet that the two countries are both threatened by lawlessness in
the Sinai Peninsula. Now the question is whether Egypt’s new president, Mohamed
Morsi, will make the Sinai a priority amid other challenges, and whether Israel
will make concessions in modifying the 33-year-old peace treaty between the
nations to allow for a more aggressive Egyptian military presence.
“Now it is obvious also to him that there is a real convergence of interests
here, and this may get us closer to him,” Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign
minister, said of Mr. Morsi.
Hillel Frisch, a political science lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and senior
research fellow at its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said the attack
underlined the differences between Islamists like Mr. Morsi who support the
international system of states and others who are trying to challenge it.
“The jihadists threaten any kind of order, anyone who has power, any kind of
incumbency,” Mr. Frisch said. “It will strengthen Morsi’s commitment to be a
status-quo actor, which is a big, big thing strategically. He runs a state, and
there are greater enemies to the Egyptian state than Israel. In that sense, it’s
The attack brought several early signs of cooperation and coordination. An
Israeli brigadier general and his Egyptian counterpart met near the border to
discuss the investigation. Israel handed over to Egypt the armored car and the
bodies of those killed as they tried to enter through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement of condolence.
But comments by both Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday included hints of concern. “I hope that this will
be a wake-up call for Egypt regarding the necessity to be sharp and efficient on
their side,” Mr. Barak said after visiting the area. Mr. Netanyahu expressed
regret over the killing of the soldiers and said, “It is clear that Israel and
Egypt have a common interest in maintaining a quiet border.” He quickly added
that “when it comes to the security of the citizens of Israel, the State of
Israel must and can rely only on itself.”
Mr. Morsi declared three days of mourning for the soldiers who were killed and
traveled to Sinai with his defense minister, intelligence chief and interior
minister. Egyptian security officials had spoken early Monday about a
large-scale military operation near Egypt’s Rafah crossing into Gaza, but there
was little sign of it later in the day.
New details emerged Monday about the attack, which began as the sun fell the
night before. Egypt’s military said in a statement that 35 masked gunmen, packed
into three Land Cruisers, stormed an Egyptian checkpoint and killed the soldiers
as they were sitting down to break their Ramadan fast.
Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli Defense Force, said one
of the men then drove a truck, taken from the military outpost and packed with a
half ton of explosives, about a mile to the Israeli border fence, which he blew
up along with himself and the vehicle. The armored car, also stolen, then
entered Israel, where it was stopped by three Israeli airstrikes that killed six
or seven men — most of them carrying explosives on their bodies — as they tried
to flee. The operation took 15 minutes.
Egyptian officials have blamed militants in Sinai and said they were aided by
Palestinians in Gaza. In its statement, the military called the attackers
“enemies of the state” and said that “those who stand behind them must be
confronted by force.”
But the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful political party, posted a
statement on its Web site on Monday night saying that Israel’s intelligence
agency, which it said had sought to “thwart” Egypt’s revolution, could be
responsible for the attack. The Brotherhood, which was not speaking for the
president, said that the attack highlighted the need to “reconsider” the terms
of Egypt’s treaty with Israel, which restricts the number of troops that Egypt
can station in Sinai.
But several Israeli officials and analysts noted that the so-called military
annex to the treaty signed in 1979 was modified two years ago to allow seven
additional Egyptian battalions into Sinai and that Egypt has yet to fill that
“The Egyptians will have to look in the mirror and ask themselves what they want
to do” about Sinai, said Maj. Gen. Dan Harel, who retired as No. 2 in the
Israeli military in 2009. “For a long time they pushed it under the rug. There’s
a hill under the rug today.”
But several others said the Egyptians would need even more troops, along with
more flexibility for air and intelligence operations, to make a difference in
Sinai. “Israel put the Egyptians in a very difficult dilemma,” said Yoram
Meital, chairman of the Herzog Center for Middle East Studies at Ben Gurion
University. “On one hand, Israel is saying this is Egyptian territory, you have
the responsibility to keep it secure; on the other, they are saying you should
do this under the conditions of the military annex, and I think this is an
If the episode offered a chance to improve the rocky relations between Israel
and Egypt, it also threatened the growing ties between Mr. Morsi’s government
and Hamas-controlled Gaza. In response, statements by Hamas leaders exceeded the
typical condemnations and condolences, promising help in chasing down the
attackers, who many believe either came from Gaza or moved freely there in the
“We will not allow anybody to harm Egypt’s security,” Mohammed Awad, Hamas’s
foreign minister, said in a statement. Drawing clear alliances, he accused
Israel of “turning Sinai into a field of terror and crime to shake the stability
Regardless of complicity, Gaza immediately suffered the consequences. Israel
shut down Kerem Shalom, its only commercial crossing into Gaza; Egypt closed
Rafah, through which both goods and people pass; and Hamas blocked the tunnels
through which all manner of things are smuggled from Egypt. This left Gazans in
long lines on Monday to load up on gas and food in fear of soaring prices once
existing supplies are exhausted.
“I do not know if these products will remain here or will disappear,” said Saied
Ajour, 56, pointing at boxes of Egyptian cheese on the shelves of the Zawya
market in Gaza City.
contributed reporting from Cairo, and Fares Akram from Gaza City.
Sinai Attack Tests New Egyptian President’s Relationship With Israel, NYT,
Kill 15 and Steal Vehicle in Attack on Egypt Base
The New York Times
By KAREEM FAHIM and MAYY EL SHEIKH
Masked gunmen opened fire on an Egyptian Army checkpoint in the northern Sinai
Peninsula on Sunday, killing 15 soldiers who were preparing to break their
Ramadan fast. The gunmen then seized at least one armored vehicle and headed
toward Israel, apparently in an attempt to storm the border, witnesses and
An Israeli military spokesman said a vehicle exploded at the border, and another
was struck by the Israeli Air Force at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, on the
southern tip of the Gaza Strip. Images broadcast on television showed an armored
vehicle after the attack, in flames.
It was the deadliest assault on Egyptian soldiers in recent memory. There were
no immediate claims of responsibility in the attack, in which seven soldiers
were wounded, including three in critical condition, the Egyptian Health
Ministry said. An Egyptian security official, speaking on state television,
blamed Islamist militants operating in Sinai, along with militants who had
crossed into Egypt from the nearby Gaza Strip.
Egyptian state media later reported that one of the gunmen had been killed and
that another had been arrested. Officials said the Rafah border crossing with
Gaza was closed after the attack. Clashes continued late Sunday near the border.
The killings were part of an escalation in violence for Sinai, long neglected by
the government and slipping from its control. Armed groups there have frequently
targeted the security forces. The problems in the region deepened after the
Egyptian uprising in 2011, as police and security officers fled their posts and
militants, including foreign fighters, established a presence.
The killing of the soldiers represented the first security crisis for Egypt’s
new president, Mohamed Morsi, who appeared on television to offer condolences to
the victims’ families after meeting with senior generals and security officials.
“There’s no room to appease this treachery, this aggression and this
criminality,” Mr. Morsi said. Security forces would extend “full control” over
the area, he said, adding, “Sinai is safe.”
The attack was also likely to add further tension to Egypt’s troubled
relationship with Israel. Israeli officials have become increasingly vocal about
security lapses in the border region after periodic infiltrations, including a
deadly attack by gunmen who crossed the border in June.
In a statement, the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said that “the
militants’ attack methods again raise the need for determined Egyptian action to
enforce security and prevent terror in the Sinai,” according to The Associated
Officials with Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the Gaza Strip, condemned
the attack, calling it “terror.” Hamas officials said that tunnels that are used
for smuggling between Egypt and Gaza had been closed in response to the attack.
A statement attributed to the Hamas Interior Ministry said, “Palestinian
resistance factions are committed to fighting only against the Israeli
occupation, and they launch their operations only from the Palestinian
The attack on the checkpoint began at sundown, according to witnesses who said
gunmen driving three Toyota Land Cruisers fired guns at a group of about 25
soldiers and officers who were preparing to break their fast.
An unknown number of gunmen then took an armored vehicle from the base,
witnesses and Egyptian security officials said.
Reports differed about what happened next. An Egyptian official said some gunmen
abandoned an armored vehicle near the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Egypt
and Gaza after Israeli soldiers fired on it. Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, said on Twitter that seven
militants were killed. At the checkpoint after the attack, blood and bread mixed
on the ground. The dead included at least one officer, according to security
contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Fares Akram from Gaza.
Gunmen Kill 15 and Steal Vehicle in Attack on Egypt Base, NYT, 5.8.2012,
The New York Times
By AVRAHAM BURG
WHEN an American presidential candidate visits Israel and his key message is to
encourage us to pursue a misguided war with Iran, declaring it “a solemn duty
and a moral imperative” for America to stand with our warmongering prime
minister, we know that something profound and basic has changed in the
relationship between Israel and the United States.
My generation, born in the ’50s, grew up with the deep, almost religious belief
that the two countries shared basic values and principles. Back then, Americans
and Israelis talked about democracy, human rights, respect for other nations and
human solidarity. It was an age of dreamers and builders who sought to create a
new world, one without prejudice, racism or discrimination.
Listening to today’s political discourse, one can’t help but notice the radical
change in tone. My children have watched their prime minister, Benjamin
Netanyahu, kowtow to a fundamentalist coalition in Israel. They are convinced
that what ties Israel and America today is not a covenant of humanistic values
but rather a new set of mutual interests: war, bombs, threats, fear and trauma.
How did this happen? Where is that righteous America? Whatever happened to the
good old Israel?
Mr. Netanyahu’s great political “achievement” has been to make Israel a partisan
issue and push American Jews into a corner. He has forced them to make political
decisions based on calculations that go against what they perceive to be
American interests. The emotional extortion compels Jews to pressure the Obama
administration, a government with which they actually share values and
worldviews, when those who love Israel should be doing the opposite: helping the
American government to intervene and save Israel from itself.
Israel arose as a secular, social democratic country inspired by Western
European democracies. With time, however, its core values have become entirely
different. Israel today is a religious, capitalist state. Its religiosity is
defined by the most extreme Orthodox interpretations. Its capitalism has erased
much of the social solidarity of the past, with the exception of a few remaining
vestiges of a welfare state. Israel defines itself as a “Jewish and democratic
state.” However, because Israel has never created a system of checks and
balances between these two sources of authority, they are closer than ever to a
In the early years of statehood, the meaning of the term “Jewish” was national
and secular. In the eyes of Israel’s founding fathers, to be a Jew was exactly
like being an Italian, Frenchman or American. Over the years, this elusive
concept has changed; today, the meaning of “Jewish” in Israel is mainly ethnic
and religious. With the elevation of religious solidarity over and above
democratic authority, Israel has become more fundamentalist and less modern,
more separatist and less open to the outside world. I see the transformation in
my own family. My father, one of the founders of the state of Israel and of the
National Religious Party, was an enlightened rabbi and philosopher. Many of the
younger generation are far less open, however; some are ultra-Orthodox or
This extremism was not the purpose of creating a Jewish state. Immigrants from
all over the world dreamed of a government that would be humane and safe for
Jews. The founders believed that democracy was the only way to regulate the
interests of many contradictory voices. Jewish culture, consolidated through
Halakha, the religious Jewish legal tradition, created a civilization that has
devoted itself to an unending conversation among different viewpoints and the
coexistence of contradictory attitudes toward the fulfillment of the good.
The modern combination between democracy and Judaism was supposed to give birth
to a spectacular, pluralistic kaleidoscope. The state would be a great, robust
democracy that would protect Jews against persecution and victimhood. Jewish
culture, on the other hand, with its uncompromising moral standards, would guard
against our becoming persecutors and victimizers of others.
BUT something went wrong in the operating system of Jewish democracy. We never
gave much thought to the Palestinian Israeli citizens within the
Jewish-democratic equation. We also never tried to separate the synagogue and
the state. If anything, we did the opposite. Moreover, we never predicted the
evil effects of brutally controlling another people against their will. Today,
all the things that we neglected have returned and are chasing us like evil
The winds of isolation and narrowness are blowing through Israel. Rude and
arrogant power brokers, some of whom hold senior positions in government,
exclude non-Jews from Israeli public spaces. Graffiti in the streets
demonstrates their hidden dreams: a pure Israel with “no Arabs” and “no
gentiles.” They do not notice what their exclusionary ideas are doing to Israel,
to Judaism and to Jews in the diaspora. In the absence of a binding
constitution, Israel has no real protection for its minorities or for their
freedom of worship and expression.
If this trend continues, all vestiges of democracy will one day disappear, and
Israel will become just another Middle Eastern theocracy. It will not be
possible to define Israel as a democracy when a Jewish minority rules over a
Palestinian majority between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea —
controlling millions of people without political rights or basic legal standing.
This Israel would be much more Jewish in the narrowest sense of the word, but
such a nondemocratic Israel, hostile to its neighbors and isolated from the free
world, wouldn’t be able to survive for long.
But there is another option: an iconic conflict could also present an iconic
solution. As in Northern Ireland or South Africa, where citizens no longer spill
one another’s blood, it will eventually become clear that many Israelis are not
willing to live in an ethnic democracy, not willing to give up on the chance to
live in peace, not willing to be passive patriots of a country that expels or
purifies itself of its minorities, who are the original inhabitants of the land.
Only on that day, after much anguish, boycotts and perhaps even bloodshed, will
we understand that the only way for us to agree when we disagree is a true,
vigorous democracy. A democracy based on a progressive, civil constitution; a
democracy that enforces the distinction between ethnicity and citizenship,
between synagogue and state; a democracy that upholds the values of freedom and
equality, on the basis of which every single person living under Israel’s
legitimate and internationally recognized sovereignty will receive the same
rights and protections.
A long-overdue constitution could create a state that belongs to all her
citizens and in which the government behaves with fairness and equality toward
all persons without prejudice based on religion, race or gender. Those are the
principles on which Israel was founded and the values that bound Israel and
America together in the past. I believe that creating two neighboring states for
two peoples that respect one another would be the best solution. However, if our
shortsighted leaders miss this opportunity, the same fair and equal principles
should be applied to one state for both peoples.
When a true Israeli democracy is established, our prime minister will go to
Capitol Hill and win applause from both sides of the aisle. Every time the prime
minister says “peace” the world will actually believe him, and when he talks
about justice and equality people will feel that these are synonyms for Judaism
And for all the cynics who are smiling sarcastically as they read these lines, I
can only say to Americans, “Yes, we still can,” and to Israelis, “If you will
it, it is no dream.”
a former speaker of the Knesset,
is the author
of “The Holocaust Is Over: We Must Rise From Its Ashes”
chairman of Molad, the Center for Renewal of Democracy.
Israel’s Fading Democracy, NYT, 4.8.2012,
Intensified Syrian Fighting
in Battles for Damascus and Aleppo
The New York Times
By DAMIEN CAVE and HWAIDA SAAD
Lebanon — Explosions and heavy fighting rocked Syria’s two largest cities on
Saturday, witnesses and activists said, as the Syrian government and rebel
fighters struggled to gain an advantage in the country’s bloody, 17-month-old
Also, Iran’s state news agency reported that unidentified “armed groups” had
kidnapped 48 Iranians on the road to the Damascus airport after the Iranians
visited a religious shrine.
The agency quoted an official from the Iranian Embassy in Damascus as saying it
knew of the pilgrims’ whereabouts and was trying to get them released, Reuters
reported. It would be at least the third time since the uprising began more than
a year ago that a group of Iranians had been kidnapped, apparently by rebel
forces angered by Iran’s support for Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad.
The latest kidnapping report could not be verified, and it was unclear who might
have been responsible. But if true, the kidnapping and the greater use of heavy
weapons — tanks, helicopters and jets are involved daily now — suggest that
Syria’s civil conflict is expanding and intensifying as new tactics, players and
areas are drawn into the battle for control.
Over the past week, attacks and counterattacks have been reported in at least
half a dozen Syrian cities and towns, including the country’s largest
Palestinian camp, in Damascus, the capital. For the first time, rebels have also
used tanks they have seized, while the Syrian military has begun firing from
jets in Aleppo, the country’s largest city and commercial center. Analysts have
said the government’s helicopters are showing signs of wear.
On Saturday, the escalation continued.
Clashes erupted in at least three Aleppo neighborhoods, Bustan al-Qasr,
Hamdanieh and Salaheddin, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights,
based in Britain. Rebels in the city, contacted by telephone and via Skype,
confirmed heavy fighting and said they continued to focus on seizing government
buildings, with the most ferocious engagement in recent days involving a
government television station.
It has been two weeks since the fighting for Aleppo started. Rebel leaders have
said repeatedly that they hope to make the city a safe haven and a headquarters
for their efforts throughout the country. One opposition leader in London said
last week that he was already setting up a transitional government that would
make “liberated” Aleppo its capital.
But in a conflict in which momentum swings wildly and progress is difficult to
ascertain, the rebels have yet to land a knockout blow. “It’s a guerrilla war,”
Col. Malik al-Kurdi, deputy commander for the Free Syrian Army, said in an
So far, especially in Aleppo, that means the rebels advance and retreat, gain
territory, give it up, hide among the population, and then return again for
another fight. This has already occurred several times in Aleppo, and the battle
over the television station offers yet another example of the current way of war
Rebels and activists inside the city said the fighting for the complex began
late Friday with a rebel assault. “My house overlooks the buildings, and I could
see the clashes from my rooftop,” said Tammam Hazem, an activist. “Three bullets
hit our house.”
Rebels have made government buildings a priority in Aleppo. They have seized
several police stations in contested neighborhoods, knocking out a base for
government troops and supporters. And their initial raid on the television
station, a strategic target because it is on a high hill but also symbolic and
functional for any effort to set up a local rebel government, appeared to be
“Our fighters got into the TV station buildings,” said Abu Hamza, one of the
rebels in Aleppo, using a nickname that means “father of Hamza.” “I was there
blocking the way, trying to keep out the thugs and state security guys who would
try to get in.” But he and others said the government response was swift and
typical: helicopters began firing from the air.
“We couldn’t handle the chopper attacks,” Abu Hamza said. “We lost about seven
fighters.” He added, “We ran out of ammunition.”
So the rebels retreated to a nearby neighborhood, and on Saturday afternoon, Abu
Hamza said they were looking for another opportunity. “Our fighters are still
there, around the buildings,” he said. “We didn’t pull out. I went to get
supplies, but I’m going back.”
Similar scenes have been described throughout Damascus, where fighting has
surged again in what some people on Twitter are describing as the “Damascus
volcano Part 2.”
Rebels and activists said the focus for both sides had become Tadamon, a
rebel-controlled area adjacent to the country’s largest Palestinian
neighborhood. Tadamon recently became the target of an all-out assault by
government troops. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that
mortars, helicopters and armored vehicles were being used against the rebels,
and that the rebels had destroyed at least four armored vehicles in the
neighborhood so far.
Abu Omar, a local battalion chief for the rebels, said his fighters had pulled
back Saturday afternoon because they were waiting for allies to send mortars. He
said many of his fighters had sneaked into Yarmouk, the Palestinian neighborhood
next door, where shelling killed 20 people Thursday night. As a result of that
attack, he said, more Palestinians are trying to help.
“They’re working undercover,” he said. “They’re helping the brigades find safe
An employee of
The New York Times contributed reporting from Aleppo, Syria.
Intensified Syrian Fighting Reported in Battles for Damascus and Aleppo, NYT,
Syrian War Roils, Sectarian Unrest Seeps Into Turkey
The New York Times
By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN
Turkey — At 1 a.m. last Sunday, in the farming town of Surgu, about six hours
away from here, a mob formed at the Evli family’s door.
The ill will had been brewing for days, ever since the Evli family chased away a
drummer who had been trying to rouse people to a predawn Ramadan feast. The
Evlis are Alawite, a historically persecuted minority sect of Islam, and also
the sect of Syria’s embattled leaders, and many Alawites do not follow Islamic
traditions like fasting for Ramadan.
The mob began to hurl insults. Then rocks.
“Death to Alawites!” they shouted. “We’re going to burn you all down!”
Then someone fired a gun.
“They were there to kill us,” said Servet Evli, who was hiding in his bedroom
with his pregnant wife and terrified daughter, both so afraid that they urinated
through their clothes.
As Syria’s civil war degenerates into a bloody sectarian showdown between the
government’s Alawite-dominated troops and the Sunni Muslim majority, tensions
are increasing across the border between Turkey’s Alawite minority and the Sunni
Muslim majority here.
Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of
the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s
embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey’s government, and many
Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels.
The Alawites fear the sectarian violence spilling across the border. Already,
the sweltering, teeming refugee camps along the frontier are fast becoming
caldrons of anti-Alawite feelings.
“If any come here, we’re going to kill them,” said Mehmed Aziz, 28, a Syrian
refugee at a camp in Ceylanpinar, who drew a finger across his throat.
He and his friends are Sunnis, and they all howled in delight at the thought of
exacting revenge against Alawites.
Many Alawites in Turkey, especially in eastern Turkey where Alawites tend to
speak Arabic and are closely connected to Alawites in Syria, are suspicious of
the bigger geopolitics, and foreign policy analysts say they may have a point.
The Turkish government is led by an Islamist-rooted party that is slowly but
clearly trying to bring more religion, particularly Sunni Islam, into the public
sphere, eschewing decades of purposefully secular rule. Alawites here find it
deeply unsettling, and a bit hypocritical, that Turkey has teamed up with Saudi
Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, and Qatar, a
religious monarchy, both Sunni, to bring democracy to Syria.
The Alawites point to the surge of foreign jihadists streaming into Turkey, en
route to fight a holy war on Syria’s battlefields. Many jihadists are fixated on
turning Syria, which under the Assad family’s rule has been one of the most
secular countries in the Middle East, into a pure Islamist state.
“Do you really believe these guys are going to build a democracy?” asked Refik
Eryilmaz, an Alawite member of the Turkish Parliament. “The Americans are making
a huge mistake. They’re helping Turkey fight Assad, but they’re creating another
American officials recently disclosed that a small group of C.I.A. agents were
working along the Turkey-Syria border with their Turkish counterparts, vetting
which rebels receive weapons. American officials have acknowledged concerns
about Syria turning into a magnet for jihadists, but they believe that foreign
fighters still make up only a small slice of the Syrian resistance.
Ali Carkoglu, a professor of international relations with Koc University in
Istanbul, said Turkey’s government was increasingly using sectarian language and
trying to play the role of “the Sunni elder brother” in the region. Like Syria,
Turkey’s population is predominantly Sunni.
The Alawites here are worried they could become easy targets. Historically, they
have been viewed with suspicion across the Middle East by mainstream Muslims and
often scorned as infidels. The Alawite sect was born in the ninth century and
braids together religious beliefs, including reincarnation, from different
Many Alawites do not ever go to a mosque; they tend to worship at home or in
Alawite temples that have been denied the same state support in Turkey that
Sunni mosques get. Many Alawite women do not veil their faces or even cover
their heads. The towns they dominate in eastern Turkey, where young women sport
tank tops and tight jeans, feel totally different than religious Sunni towns
just a few hours away, where it can be difficult even to find a woman in public.
“We’re more moderate,” explained Turhan Sat, a Turkish Alawite who works at a
gas station in Bridgeport, Conn., and was on vacation in Turkey. He was swigging
tea the other day in the leafy town square of Samandag, a predominantly Alawite
town not far from the Syrian border.
“We’re all with Assad,” he said.
Not far away in the Alawite-dominated town of Harbiye, there is a new
best-selling item that cannot seem to stay on the shelves: cheap tapestries
bearing Mr. Assad’s portrait.
“Everybody wants them,” said Selahattin Eroglu, a vendor, who had just sold his
last one. “People here love Assad.”
Part of this sentiment may be self-protective. The Syrian rebels hardly conceal
a vicious sectarian antipathy. Khaldoun al-Rajab, an officer with the rebel Free
Syrian Army, said he witnessed two Alawites in a car take a wrong turn in Homs
and end up in a Sunni neighborhood. “Of course they were arrested and killed by
rebels,” he said.
Few in Turkey expect such bedlam to break out anytime soon in this country,
which is tightly controlled and has escaped violent sectarianism, for the most
But the threatening mob at the Evli family’s home in Surgu reminded many
Alawites of the killing of more than 30 Alawites in 1993 who were burned alive
by a group of Islamists in the Turkish town of Sivas.
It was only after police officers reassured the mob that the Evli family was
moving out of the neighborhood, which was news to the Evlis, that the mob
Though the Evlis are also Kurdish, another minority group in Turkey, which may
have contributed to the nasty feelings against them, Songul Canpolat, a director
of an Alawite foundation in Turkey, said, “The idea that Turkish Alawites should
be eliminated is gaining ground.”
Turkish government officials denied any bias against Alawites, saying they had
made extra efforts to be “attentive and sensitive” to Alawite fears.
“Of course, we do not claim that all issues are resolved,” said Egemen Bagis,
minister for European Union affairs.
A few months ago, Mr. Eryilmaz, the member of Parliament, who belongs to an
opposition party, went to see Mr. Assad in Damascus. He said that Mr. Assad was
actually quite relaxed and that this whole conflict was really about religion.
“What’s happening inside Syria is the Syrian leg of an international project,”
he said, with the Turkish government aligning with Saudi Arabia and Qatar to
make this part of the Middle East more religiously “radical.”
He was sitting in a cafe in Antakya, a border town with a large Alawite
population, and digging into a plate of baklava during the bright, sunny hours
of the afternoon, when Muslims observing Ramadan usually fast.
“Look at my people,” he smiled, spreading his hands wide and encompassing
families eating ice cream and one young couple nuzzling on a couch. “My people
As Syrian War Roils, Sectarian Unrest Seeps Into Turkey, NYT, 4.8.2012,
Conflict Continues, Assad’s Arms Under Strain
The New York Times
By C. J. CHIVERS
diplomatic efforts dead and the future of Syria playing out on the battlefield,
many of the Syrian government’s most powerful weapons, including helicopter
gunships, fighter jets and tanks, are looking less potent and in some cases like
a liability for the military of President Bashar al-Assad.
Rebels have turned part of Mr. Assad’s formidable arsenal on his own troops.
Anti-Assad fighters on Wednesday shelled a military airport in the contested
city of Aleppo with captured weapons. On Tuesday, rebels used commandeered
Syrian Army tanks in a skirmish with Mr. Assad’s troops.
Perhaps even more worrying to Mr. Assad, his military has come to rely more
heavily on equipment designed for a major battle with a foreign enemy, namely
Israel, rather than a protracted civil conflict with his own people. Close
observers of his military say Syria is having trouble keeping its sophisticated
and maintenance-intensive weapons functioning.
The strain is likely to grow more acute as the government depends on helicopter
gunships to extend its reach to parts of the country rendered impassable to
logistics convoys and even armored vehicles by the rebels’ improvised bombs.
Analysts said Syria’s fleet of Mi-25 Hind-D attack helicopters, which numbered
36 at the start of the conflict, is insufficient to hold back rebels as the
number of fronts, from Aleppo and Idlib in the north to the suburbs of Damascus
in the south and Hama and Homs in the center of the country, continues to
Maintenance technicians are struggling to keep the machines aloft in an intense
campaign and in the searing heat and sand associated with summer desert war.
Estimates are that only half his fleet can be used at a given time, with some
helicopters cannibalized for spare parts and Mr. Assad dependent on supplies
“This army is going to start breaking,” said Jeffrey White, a former Defense
Intelligence Agency analyst now studying Syria for the Washington Institute for
Near East Policy. “Not the whole thing at once, but pieces of it will break.”
Mr. White said that by his estimates the Syrian military suffered nearly 1,100
soldiers killed in July, and is losing more soldiers and officers to defections.
The loyalties of many commanders and units are suspect, he added, and months of
sustained combat are no doubt taking a heavy toll on tanks and aircraft in a
military that he said “was never known for maintenance.”
Defections of government troops and seizures of armaments are also a growing
problem. Rebels in Aleppo claim to have control of a total of 14 T-72 and T-55
tanks and many indirect-fire weapons, including artillery pieces as well as
“The tanks are driven by our members, and their specialty is driving tanks,
that’s what they did before they defected,” said Bashir al-Haji, a Free Syrian
Army commander in Aleppo. “The tanks and artillery are important in our fight
because they enable us to shell the regime from a distance.”
More potent arms for the rebels and the strain on helicopters may help explain
why the Syrian military recently began using L-39 trainer jets in and around
Aleppo, Syria’s most heavily populated city.
Another explanation for the appearance of jets “is that the Syrian military is
fighting for Aleppo without enough artillery tubes,” said Joseph Holliday, a
former American intelligence officer who covers the war for the Institute for
the Study of War, in Washington.
At a glance, and for now, the government’s helicopter fleet is an imposing
force. Highly maneuverable and able to carry several types of munitions,
including free-fall bombs, it allows Mr. Assad’s military to roam above the
Syrian countryside, seeking targets beyond the ready reach of its ground units.
Rebel commanders routinely say that what they most need are antiaircraft weapons
to thwart government aircraft, especially helicopters.
But even if the rebels have no missiles these aircraft are almost certainly a
dwindling asset, arms specialists who follow the Syrian conflict say. An
American government official who covers the war said that fewer than 20 of these
aircraft were likely available to the Assad government on any given day, out of
the 36 in the fleet.
Mr. Holliday, the former American intelligence officer, put the estimate of
working Hind-Ds even lower. “Assessing a max of 15 operational,” he wrote by
As backup attack gunships, Syria possesses a similarly sized fleet of Gazelle
helicopters, a platform more suited for attacking armor than foot-mobile
guerrillas, and a much larger fleet of Mi-8 and Mi-17 utility helicopters,
another Russian-made design.
Open-source estimates indicate Syria began its crackdown with 100 Mi-8s or
Mi-17s, along with more than 30 Gazelles.
Robert Hewson, a specialist in air-launched weapons at IHS Jane’s, noted that
the pylons on the Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters can be fitted with many of the same
Russian-made weapons carried by the Mi-25, including one of the most powerful
pieces of ordnance that have been verified thus far in the conflict: 550-pound
OFAB free-fall bombs.
Taken together, Syria’s helicopters have been used in attacks with
high-explosive rockets fired from pods, in the release of unguided bombs like
the OFAB and possibly in at least one cluster-munitions strike. These are
weapons commonly associated, in the public’s mind, with fixed-wing attack
aircraft, including Syria’s MIG 23s.
But the Mi-8 and Mi-17 helicopters have many other missions. By early summer,
rebel commanders and Western analysts said, many Syrian units were largely
confined to their garrisons. Some, as in Azaz, had been principally resupplied
by these utility helicopters — a mission that demanded many flight hours and
diverted aircraft from ground-attack roles.
Mr. Holliday said that perhaps 60 of those helicopters were still in full-time
Two wild cards remain in the air-to-ground element of the conflict. First, the
analysts said, was the meaning of the recent use of Syria’s ground-attack jets.
This introduced a delivery system with a heavy payload and the ability to
frighten inexperienced guerrillas with low-level passes.
But that can be read as both an incremental move intended to increase the
pressure on antigovernment forces and an indication that Syria’s helicopter
squadrons are less robust than even several weeks ago.
If so, like the increased use of helicopters earlier this year as the anti-Assad
fighters’ effective use of makeshift bombs spiked sharply upward, it could be a
sign that the Syrian military has fewer combat tools at its disposal than
before, and fewer options for pushing its foes back.
That could augur a larger future role for Syria’s fixed-wing fleet.
The second wild card lies in the rebels’ acquisition of more weapons able to
down aircraft, especially helicopters. In an interview last month, a Syrian
Mi-17 pilot who had defected said that through June he and his peers did not
worry about the anti-Assad forces, often referred to as the Free Syrian Army,
possessing heat-seeking, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles.
The principal worry, he said, was fire from RPG-7s, a shoulder-fired anti-armor
weapon that at short ranges can be effective against helicopters, too. (Such a
system was used last August, American military officials said, to down an
American Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, killing all 38 people aboard.)
“We knew that the Free Syrian Army didn’t have antiaircraft missiles,” he said.
“So we flew at an elevation higher than kilometer — above the RPGs.”
In recent weeks there have been indications that the anti-Assad fighters are
creeping toward posing greater risks to the government helicopters.
One video, which analysts said was credible, showed a fighting group in Rastan
with what appeared to be two-thirds of an SA-7 shoulder-fired, heat-seeking
missile system. NBC News reported this week that unnamed anti-Assad sources
claimed to have obtained as many as two dozen heat-seeking missiles via transit
through Turkey. The claim has since been denied by other opposition members,
though the American government official said that there were indications that
rebels had apparently captured more SA-7 missile tubes and batteries from Syrian
government stocks. The official added that as yet the essential grip stock
required to fire the weapon had not been seen.
With the question of whether the anti-Assad forces have obtained functional
antiaircraft missile systems still unsettled, another question is not.
Many videos have shown fighting groups with what appears to be a growing number
of captured 12.7-millimeter, 14.5-millimeter and 23-millimeter machine guns —
all of which can be lethal to helicopters, and show the risks to Mr. Assad,
whose own weapons have been increasingly turned against the forces that secure
and Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon.
As Conflict Continues, Assad’s Arms Under Strain, NYT, 2.8.2012,
Resigning as Envoy to Syria, Annan Casts Wide Blame
The New York Times
By RICK GLADSTONE
by the seemingly intractable Syrian conflict, Kofi Annan announced his
resignation on Thursday as the special peace envoy of the United Nations and the
Arab League, throwing new doubts on whether a diplomatic solution is possible.
He also said President Bashar al-Assad of Syria “must leave office.”
In an announcement tinged with bitterness and regret, Mr. Annan tied his
decision to what he described as Syrian government intransigence, increasing
militance by Syrian rebels and the failure of a divided Security Council to
rally forcefully behind his efforts.
“I accepted this task, which some called ‘Mission: Impossible,’ for I believed
it was a sacred duty to do whatever was in my power to help the Syrian people
find a peaceful solution to this bloody conflict,” Mr. Annan said at a news
conference at the Geneva offices of the United Nations.
But, he said, “without serious, purposeful and united international pressure,
including from the powers of the region, it is impossible for me, or anyone, to
compel the Syrian government in the first place, and also the opposition, to
take the steps necessary to begin a political process.”
Mr. Annan also was critical of what he called “finger-pointing and name-calling
in the Security Council.”
The announcement was coupled with an opinion article Mr. Annan wrote that was
posted Thursday on the Web site of The Financial Times and headlined “My
Departing Advice on How to Save Syria.” In the article, he castigated all
parties in the conflict but appeared to reserve particular criticism for the
Syrian government, which he described as “40 years of dictatorship.”
“It is clear that President Bashar al-Assad must leave office,” Mr. Annan wrote.
“The greater focus, however, must be on measures and structures to secure a
peaceful long-term transition to avoid a chaotic collapse.”
Diplomats and experts on Syrian politics said they were not surprised at Mr.
Annan’s resignation. Some wondered why it had taken him this long, given the
rising levels of violence and refusal of Mr. Assad and his antagonists to
negotiate, making Mr. Annan’s peace plan seem increasingly irrelevant.
“Bottom line on Kofi’s mission. D.O.A. from the get-go,” Aaron David Miller, a
Middle East scholar at the Wilson Center, a research group in Washington, said
in an e-mail. “Too much blood spilled for a negotiated settlement between the
Assads and the rebels, and not enough for foreign intervention to pressure the
Assads to leave.”
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said in an announcement that
the search was on for a successor to Mr. Annan, who will serve until the end of
August, when his mandate expires.
It was unclear what the resignation might mean for the United Nations observer
mission in Syria, which was sent there by the Security Council as part of Mr.
Annan’s peace plan and suspended most work in mid-June because of the violence.
The observer mission’s mandate expires on Aug. 19.
Gérard Araud, France’s ambassador to the United Nations and the president of the
Security Council, said he did not believe it would renew the mandate. But later
in the day he softened his remarks, saying he could not rule out an extension.
Mr. Annan, one of the world’s most experienced diplomats, would not speculate on
who might replace him but sought to counter suggestions that with his departure,
the peace effort was over.
“Let me say that the world is full of crazy people like me, so don’t be
surprised if someone else decides to take it on,” Mr. Annan told reporters in
It was no secret that Mr. Annan had grown increasingly flustered over his
failure to achieve even a basic cease-fire in the conflict, which began 17
months ago as a peaceful uprising against Mr. Assad and has now escalated into
A Nobel Peace Prize winner and former United Nations secretary general, Mr.
Annan, 74, agreed in February to act as a special representative for both the
United Nations and the Arab League to negotiate a peace plan. He received
unanimous backing from the Security Council.
He negotiated a six-point proposal that called for the Syrian government to
withdraw its heavy weapons and troops from populated areas and for anti-Assad
fighters to put down their guns. Other provisions included a process for a
political transition that, in theory at least, would have replaced Mr. Assad, a
member of Syria’s Alawite minority whose family has dominated politics for four
Despite a pledge from Mr. Assad on March 27 to abide by the peace plan, the
Syrian government never put it in place. Mr. Assad’s opponents, concluding that
he had no intention of honoring his commitments, did not lay down their weapons,
Although the Security Council supported Mr. Annan’s efforts, two permanent
members, Russia and China, blocked any additional coercive measures that they
feared could lead to a change of government imposed by outside powers, foreign
military intervention, or both.
Their actions led to bitter recriminations on the council, pitting Russia and
China against the United States, Britain and France, the three other permanent
members, which had been pressing for more forceful action.
Mr. Ban noted in his statement that the Security Council’s own divisions “have
themselves become an obstacle to diplomacy, making the work of any mediator
vastly more difficult.”
Word of Mr. Annan’s resignation came as the United Nations General Assembly was
preparing to vote on a resolution drafted by Saudi Arabia that demands
compliance by the Syrian government with his plan.
But the General Assembly resolution, scheduled for a vote on Friday, does not
have the enforcement power of a Security Council measure, and has been viewed as
a symbolic effort to embarrass Syria and its backers.
Major powers expressed regret over Mr. Annan’s resignation and acknowledged the
difficulties of his assignment, but in doing so they appeared to commit the kind
of blame-laying he cited as one reason for quitting.
Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Mr. Annan’s resignation “highlights
the failure in the United Nations Security Council of Russia and China to
support meaningful resolutions against Assad that would hold Assad accountable
for his failure to abide by the Annan plan.”
Russian news agencies quoted President Vladimir V. Putin as calling Mr. Annan a
“very respectable person, a brilliant diplomat and a very decent man, so it’s
really a shame.” At the same time, Russia’s United Nations ambassador, Vitaly I.
Churkin, said Russia opposed the General Assembly resolution on Syria, calling
it unfairly biased against the Syrian government.
There was no immediate reaction to Mr. Annan’s departure from Mr. Assad or the
array of Syrian opposition groups, some of which have long expressed doubts
about Mr. Annan’s efforts.
But Louay Hussein, a Syrian writer and opposition activist, said in an e-mail:
“The responsibility of the failure of Mr. Annan in his mission is the
responsibility of the international community, and not the Syrian parties to the
conflict. It will have very negative consequences on the armed conflict in the
Hauser contributed reporting from New York,
Saad from Beirut, Lebanon.
Resigning as Envoy to Syria, Annan Casts Wide Blame, NYT, 2.8.2012,
Israel Intensify Talks on Iran Options
The New York Times
By ELISABETH BUMILLER and JODI RUDOREN
Israel — A series of public statements and private communications from the
Israeli leadership in recent weeks set off renewed concerns in the Obama
administration that Israel might be preparing a unilateral military strike on
Iran, perhaps as early as this fall.
But after a flurry of high-level visits, including one by Defense Secretary Leon
E. Panetta to Israel on Wednesday, a number of administration officials say they
remain hopeful that Israel has no imminent plans to attack and may be willing to
let the United States take the lead in any future military strike, which they
say would not occur until next year at the earliest.
The conversations are part of delicate negotiations between the United States
and Israel that have intensified over the past month. On Wednesday they
continued with Mr. Panetta, who appeared with the Israeli defense minister, Ehud
Barak, and declared that the United States would stand by Israel if Iran
developed a nuclear weapon.
“We have options that we are prepared to implement to ensure that that does not
happen,” Mr. Panetta said. Standing with Mr. Barak in front of an Israeli
antirocket missile battery in the southern town of Ashkelon, about five miles
from the Gaza border, Mr. Panetta made clear what he meant. “My responsibility
is to provide the president with a full range of options, including military
options, should diplomacy fail,” he said.
In the last three weeks, a steady stream of administration officials have flown
to Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, among them Secretary
of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Thomas E. Donilon, the national security
adviser. The trips were in part planned for other reasons — Mrs. Clinton and Mr.
Panetta were going to Egypt to meet with the new president and so diplomatically
could not ignore Israel — but administration officials say that there has been
an intense effort to stay in close contact with Israel and abreast of its
The visits, deliberately or not, also sandwiched in Mitt Romney, the presumptive
Republican presidential nominee, who was in Jerusalem two days before Mr.
Panetta. Mr. Romney, who received a short briefing from the American ambassador
in Israel but had no other substantive communication with the administration,
appeared to take a harder line against Iran than President Obama has.
In Jerusalem, Mr. Netanyahu continued on Wednesday with his tough rhetoric of
recent days, arguing that sanctions against Iran were largely useless. “Right
now the Iranian regime believes that the international community does not have
the will to stop its nuclear program,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “This must change and
it must change quickly because time to resolve this issue peacefully is running
Administration officials say that Israeli officials are less confrontational in
private and that Mr. Netanyahu understands the consequences of military action
for Israel, the United States and the region. They say they know he has to
maintain the credibility of his threat to keep up pressure on the United States
to continue with sanctions and the development of military plans.
“The more the Israelis threaten, the more we respond by showing them that we
will take care of the problem if it comes to that,” said Martin Indyk, a former
American ambassador to Israel and director of foreign policy at the Brookings
Mr. Panetta met separately on Wednesday with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Barak and Shimon
Peres, the Israeli president. Administration officials say the Americans and
Israelis shared the latest intelligence on Iran, coordinated implementation of
the most recent sanctions and discussed military options. Mr. Panetta said on
Tuesday in Cairo that he was not taking any American attack plans to show to the
He also said that any American strike would be a last resort. “We have to
exhaust every option, every effort, before we resort to military action,” Mr.
Panetta said at the Ashkelon missile battery, which is part of the Iron Dome
defense system in part paid for by the United States.
On Wednesday, Mr. Panetta used some of his sharpest language on Iran, as if to
assure the Israelis that the Obama administration could be equally tough.
“This is not about containment,” Mr. Panetta told reporters at the start of his
meeting with Mr. Peres. “This is about making very clear that they are never
going to be able to get an atomic weapon.”
In Israel, there remains feverish speculation that Mr. Netanyahu will act in
September or early October. Besides the prime minister’s fear that Israel’s
window of opportunity will close soon, analysts cite several reasons for the
potential timing: Israel does not like to fight wars in winter. Mr. Netanyahu
feels that he will have less leverage if President Obama is re-elected, and that
if Mr. Romney were to win, the new president would be unlikely to want to take
on a big military action early in his term.
“If I were an Iranian, I would be very fearful of the next 12 weeks,” said
Efraim Halevy, a former chief of Israel’s intelligence agency and national
Others made light of the constant visits from the United States. “The visitors
are actually baby sitters to make sure the unpredictable kids do not misbehave,”
said Efraim Inbar, the director of the Begin-Sadat Institute for Strategic
American defense officials and experts in Israel say that because Israel does
not have a bomb powerful enough to penetrate Iran’s underground
uranium-enrichment facilities, an independent strike would be likely to set the
nuclear program back only one or two years, at most. That has led to major
dissent among Israel’s security professionals over the wisdom of such an attack.
The Pentagon, in contrast, has the munitions, bombers, missiles, stealth
aircraft and drones that would cause far more extensive damage.
David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who recently
spent time in Israel talking to government officials, said that Israel’s
longstanding doctrine of self-reliance makes American promises to act later if
all else fails less effective. Instead, he said, Israel needs to be convinced
that if it waits, it can still retain the option to act independently.
“Make Israel not believe that it’s two minutes to midnight,” Mr. Makovsky said.
“If Israel is so convinced that its window of action is shutting, then maybe you
try to enlarge Israel’s window. You say, ‘Here, we know there are some things
you need. But we don’t want you to use them until several months ahead.’ ”
The Obama administration is eager to prevent an Israeli attack partly to avoid a
major foreign policy crisis during the American presidential campaign and partly
because officials say an Israeli strike could set off a new conflagration in the
region. If Iran retaliated by launching missiles at Tel Aviv that killed
thousands of Israelis, administration officials say the United States would be
under enormous pressure to defend Israel and respond, and would then be pulled
into another war in the Middle East.
Mr. Netanyahu and other Israeli officials have argued that Iran makes progress
in enriching nuclear fuel every day, enhancing its capability to withstand a
strike and keep any nuclear weapons program on track. Iran denies the intent to
develop nuclear weapons and says its program is for peaceful purposes.
The Israeli news media have been filled in recent days with speculation about a
strike. One article said that the Obama administration had vowed to strike
within 18 months, another reported continuing concerns in the security
establishment here about the effectiveness of an Israeli strike, and a third
said that Mr. Donilon, Mr. Obama’s national security adviser, had revealed
details of the American attack plans during his visit. The articles did not make
clear where those accounts came from, but they contributed to a growing
atmosphere of expectation.
“Everybody’s leaking like crazy right now — that doesn’t mean there will be a
strike, but it means we’re closer to a decision,” said Amos Harel, defense
correspondent for the left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz, who estimated the
chance of an attack before November at 50 percent. “It’s probably a more crucial
junction than it was ever before.”
Bumiller reported from Ashkelon, and Jodi Rudoren from Jerusalem.
U.S. and Israel Intensify Talks on Iran Options, NYT, 1.8.2012,