- Senate committee votes 10-7-1 to authorize strikes on Syria
- Israel prepares contingency plans as Egypt deepens efforts to uproot Sinai Peninsula jihadists
- Syria threatens to lash out against Israel, Jordan, and Turkey should U.S. take action after chemical weapons attack
- As reconciliation talks deadlock, Turkey analysts worry Ankara's anti-Jewish bias has "overwhelmed pragmatism"
What we’re watching today:
- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today approved a resolution authorizing President Barack Obama to use military force against Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime, in response to what is widely considered to have been mass chemical weapons use by the Syrian army against opposition-controlled Damascus suburbs. The approved wording limits military action to 60 days with a potential 30-day extension, and includes language describing the policy of the United States as one of "chang[ing] the momentum on the battlefield in Syria." The committee vote was 10-7-1 and the resolution will now require a vote in the full Senate. Meanwhile the House Foreign Affairs Committee heard testimony today from Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as the administration's team pressed the case for strikes. The White House has been signaling confidence that Congress will authorize the President's request for the use of force, and Reuters had already noted this morning that the administration has won "backing for Syria strike from key figures in Congress." Republican House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor both pledged their support for military action.
- Israel has prepared contingency plans for a security collapse in the Sinai Peninsula, amid deepening fears that the Egyptian army is straining in its ongoing campaign to root out jihadists in the increasingly restive territory. Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, who oversees Israel's Southern Command, explained to Israel Hayom that both Gaza-based terrorists and global jihadists were active in the Sinai. The groups are seeking to undermine Cairo's ability to control the territory, to directly attack Egyptian infrastructure and personnel, and to launch terror attacks against Israel. IDF data reflects that some 300 terror attacks have been launched against Egyptian security forces in recent weeks. A single attack saw 25 Egyptian police officers reportedly slain in "execution-style" killings. Cairo has recently expanded its campaign to dampen and contain violence in the Sinai, and has implemented what Israeli media outlet Ha'aretz describes as “zero tolerance toward any political or military activity of radical organizations” in Egypt.
- Iranian and Syrian officials have threatened to lash out against the West - both the U.S. and France were explicitly named - should Western powers take military action against the Bashar al-Assad regime. Gen. Hossein Salami, acting commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, said on Tuesday that an attack against Damascus would spread the "spirit of jihad." Assad himself - speaking to Le Figaro - threatened “repercussions” against Paris and its interests. His comments were echoed by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad Tuesday, who reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that Syria would lash out not only against Israel and the U.S. but also - should they participate - against Jordan, and Turkey.
- Turkish analysts and academics are increasingly concerned that deep-seated conspiracy theories dominating the Turkish public sphere are subverting efforts to stabilize Turkey's domestic and foreign policies. Two weeks ago Georgetown University Turkey expert Michael Koplow described the "paranoia" of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as being at "an all-time high." Koplow worried that anti-Jewish theories floated by Erdogan blaming Israel for the Egyptian army's moves against the country's deposed Muslim Brotherhood-linked government were signs of a "continuing crackup." He also gestured toward a precipitous decline in Turkey's regional position: Ankara has seen its relations plummet with Egypt, Israel, the Sunni bloc centered in the Gulf, and the Shiite bloc dominated by Iran. Last week Turkish political scientist Doğu Ergil echoed Koplow's concerns, fretting that the Turkish establishment's anti-Jewish bias "has often overwhelmed pragmatism." The latest analysis follows reports that reconciliation talks between Jerusalem and Ankara have become deadlocked amid what Israel considers to be unprecedented Turkish demands for compensation related to the 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla incident in which nine people died fighting Israeli commandos while trying to breach Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Talks have been ongoing for month, following a political gambit by President Barack Obama that saw Erdogan outmaneuvered on several key long-standing demands related to rapprochement.
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