Posted by Albert Gersh - August 30, 2013
- WH presses case for potentially unilateral attack on Syria
- Associated Press: Muslim Brotherhood's weekly Friday protests "small and scattered"
- Israel deepens defensive preparations amid new Iran threats
- Egypt clamps down on Gaza goods and imports
What we’re watching today:
- Top administration officials declared today that they are committed to acting alone if necessary in striking the Bashar al-Assad regime, after a vote last night in Britain's House of Commons saw the body rejecting Prime Minister David Cameron's request to endorse British military action against Damascus. President Barack Obama pressed the U.S. case, and explained that he was considering a "limited" attack on Syria. European powers, including Britain, had long been viewed as urging the White House to take more robust action on behalf of the Syrian opposition, and the vote in London was considered a setback in Washington's efforts to assemble a coalition aligned against Assad. French President Francois Hollande told Le Monde that Paris wants “proportional and firm action” against Damascus, and expressed readiness to move forward with plans to strike Syria. France has deployed naval assets to the eastern Mediterranean to assist in possible military action. Meanwhile Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that Ottawa has pledged political support to Western allies contemplating strikes. Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week labeled Syria’s use of chemical weapons "undeniable" and called last week’s attack a "moral obscenity." Today he gave a speech describing the U.S. government's "unclassified estimate of what took place in Syria," which concluded that the regime had used chemical weapons multiple times against opponents and that a recent mass attack had been preceded by "specific instructions" regarding the attack.
- Several thousand Muslim Brotherhood supporters marched in Cairo today, participating in what have become weekly protests on behalf of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-linked former President Mohammed Morsi. Previous iterations of the demonstrations have been variously dubbed as "Day of Outrage" and "Friday of Martyrs" protests. The Associated Press characterized today’s protests as "small and scattered." The characterization aligns with Egyptian media reports describing a "sharp decline" in turnout at Brotherhood rallies, a dynamic that has prompted "speculations over a drop in the group’s popularity among Egyptians.” It also aligns with polling data showing broad Egyptian public support both for the army's moves against the Brotherhood. The military has long enjoyed broad popular support, and even during Morsi’s rule enjoyed a favorability rating markedly higher than the president’s.
The Israeli Defense Force overnight deployed an Iron Dome battery near Tel Aviv, the latest in a series of moves by the military to boost security amid multiple and consistent
threats of attack from Iran and its Syrian and Hezbollah clients. The chief editor of an Iranian newspaper linked to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei penned an op-ed this week, declaring that in the event of a Western attack on Syria, "thousands of missiles will rain down" on Israel. Hezbollah, which militarily controls Lebanon’s southern region, has begun to mobilize troops near the Israeli-Lebanese border. Iron Dome anti-missile batteries have recently been deployed to Israel's north, and there are reportedly plans to augment them with further anti-missile assets. Israel has also upped its distribution of gas masks, and dispatched IDF instructors to educate Israel’s civilian population on security measures in case of an attack.
Egyptian officials have increased their efforts to clamp down on goods flowing in and out of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The Iran-backed terror organization is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, and per The New York Times has been "reeling without crucial economic and diplomatic support" since the Brotherhood-linked government of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi lost power last month. The Egyptian army has subsequently shut down hundreds of smuggling tunnels running between the Gaza Strip and the Egypt-controlled Sinai Peninsula. The military blames Hamas for maintaining the tunnels, which security officials believe facilitate the transfer of jihadist operatives and personnel into the Sinai. The result has been a precipitous decline in the availability of Egyptian goods inside Gaza, to the point where shelves are increasingly filled with exclusively Israeli imports. Egyptian forces today also shot two Palestinian fisherman and detained another five for penetrating Egyptian waters.
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