- U.S., Britain, and France ready militarily, politically for Syria attack
- Iran threatens war that will "engulf the whole region" if Syria attacked
- Israel prepares for Syrian lashout as Syrian official declares Israel will "burn with the fire of war"
- Egyptian media describe "sharp decline" in pro-Brotherhood rallies, as new polling shows broad support for army's moves against Islamists
What we’re watching today:
- The West appears prepared to strike Syrian military infrastructure perhaps as soon as this week, amid threats by both Damascus and its Iranian patrons to respond to Western action by attacking Israel and with "surprises." Both U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are being presented with a range of contingency plans for degrading assets of the Bashar al-Assad regime, which is widely believed to have last week crossed Washington's long-standing red line against the use of chemical weapons with an attack on rebel-controlled Damascus suburbs. France declared itself "ready to punish" the regime, with French President Francois Hollande describing the chemical attack as a threat to "world peace." The extent to which London and Paris will be involved in any military action is unclear. Cameron still needs to weather a parliamentary debate on the issue - he has recalled parliament into session - and Hollande has only declared that France will boost support to the Syrian opposition. For its part Washington is declaring that no decision has been made regarding military action, but the U.S. naval mobilization in the region makes it unlikely that the administration will stop short of at least limited strikes.
- Iran yesterday threatened that Western action against Syria would escalate into a war that would "engulf the whole region," pointedly warning of "perilous consequences" in the aftermath of harsh statements from the State Department and White House accusing the Bashar al-Assad regime of crossing Washington's long-standing "red line" against the use of chemical weapons. The Guardian conveyed the statements of Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi, contextualizing them as evidence that Tehran was "resolved" to defend the Assad government. Iran's commitment to the embattled Damascus regime has been a mainstay in the foreign policy declarations of newly inaugurated Iranian president Hassan Rouhani. Iranian officials yesterday declared that Western strikes against Syria would trigger attacks at least on Israel.
- Iranian media today carried statements by a top Syrian officer declaring that Syria will lash out at Israel - the exact phrase was that the Jewish state "will burn with the fire of war" - in the event of Western strikes against Damascus. Top Israeli officials had met earlier at the Israeli Defense Ministry to prepare responses to potential attacks by Syria and its Shiite allies Iran and Hezbollah, which Syrian and Iranian officials had already threatened in the event of increasingly likely Western strikes. Attendees at the meeting included Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, and what Israeli outlet Yedioth Ahronoth describes as 'an array of top IDF officers.' Netanyahu gave a statement after the meeting emphasizing that Israel is "not part of the Syrian civil war" but will take military action if attempts are made to harm the Jewish state. The Israeli military has raised its alert levels across the north of the country, and there is now an ongoing, two-day security exercise being held on Israel's northern Golan Heights. U.S.-Israeli military consultations on the potential strikes are ongoing. Yaakov Amidror, the chairman of Israel's National Security Council, met overnight with U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Maj. Gen. Nimrod Shefer, the head of the IDF's Planning Directorate, held meetings with American counterparts in the Pentagon to evaluate potential scenarios in the aftermath of a strike on Syria.
- Egyptian media outlets report on dwindling crowds at Muslim Brotherhood rallies being held in support of the country's former President Mohammed Morsi, even as the pro-Brotherhood National Alliance to Support Legitimacy announced that it was seeking to conduct new demonstrations. Al-Awsat evaluated the situation as one in which Morsi supporters are being "met with public condemnation across Egypt" - to the point where some anti-Brotherhood protesters are reportedly attacking Islamist protesters and destroying their placards - and noted a "sharp decline" in turnout. The assessment is in line with an array of qualitative and quantitative data showing broad support for the military, as well as new polling data published in recent days by the Egyptian Centre for Public Opinion Research (Baseera). The new poll asked respondents to evaluate the army's recent campaign to disperse Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins, moves that quickly escalated into nationwide clashes that killed hundreds. Two out of every three Egyptians described themselves as "content" with the Egyptian military moves, while fewer than 25 percent described themselves as "not content." Asked specifically if the army used excessive force, 65 percent of respondents said that the military's tactics were not too violent, while 23 percent said they were excessive. Fifty-six percent of respondents thought the death toll was too high, but 62 percent blamed the Brotherhood for the high number of casualties while only 13 percent held security forces responsible. An lopsided majority of Egyptians - 78 percent versus 8 percent - rejected international pressure on the army.
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