- As Hezbollah mobilizes, Syrian official declares group will attack U.S. warships on Syria's behalf
- White House lines up bipartisan support for Syria strikes resolution
- As Syria ups threats, Israel carries out anti-missile test
- Egypt deepens anti-jihadist campaign in Sinai, claims major arrest
What we’re watching today:
- Hezbollah is mobilizing troops in southern Lebanon, redeploying fighters from the group's coastal and Bekaa valley strongholds into what the Hezbollah-linked Arabic daily Al-Akhbar describes as "their positions." Al-Akhbar also reported that the Iran-backed terror group had established a joint "operations room" with the Bashar al-Assad regime in order to coordinate funding, ahead of possible Western strikes against the regime. A senior Syrian official went further, telling the Wall Street Journal that Hezbollah and the Syrian armed forces "are now one body," and that Damascus would in part rely on the group to conduct "operations targeting warships in the Mediterranean." Hezbollah has an extensive record of targeting U.S. assets and interests. The organization maintains an extensive terror networ in the United States and has sought to facilitate [PDF] attacks on U.S. airports. A recent article by Matthew Levitt described how "the Hezbollah-Qods Force threat has sometimes eclipsed that of al-Qaeda."
- The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today held hearings on President Barack Obama's request for authorization to use military force against Syria's Bashar al-Assad regime, after a day in which the administration worked to line up bipartisan support for proposed action.After Monday meetings between the president and Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, McCain declared that a failed Congressional resolution to strike Syria would be “catastrophic.” On the House side, both House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi publicly expressed backing for the president regarding proposed strikes. In the afternoon Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin E. Dempsey pushed the administration's case in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Congress will formally come back from recess on September 9th.
- Israel’s Defense Ministry confirmed this morning that Jerusalem had carried out a successful anti-missile exercise over the Mediterranean, amid renewed threats of attack from the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria and the reported defection of a top Syrian official associated with the country's chemical weapons program. The test was reportedly conducted as a joint exercise with the United States, and the missiles were detected by Russian early-warning radars. The Associated Press described the launch as being done with an eye on Syria, and it came within hours of declarations issued by Assad to the effect that Western military action against the regime would escalate into a regional conflict. Reports were also aired on Syrian television threatening to attack Israel and the United States with chemical weapons. Meanwhile, reports began to emerge that Dr. Abdel Tawwab Shahrour, the defecting chief of the Syrian regime's Chemical Warfare Medical Committee in the Aleppo district, was ready to present classified documents demonstrating the use of chemical weapons by Syria. The recent use of such weapons against rebel-controlled suburbs of Damascus has brought Western navies streaming into the Eastern Mediterranean in response. Russia - which supports the regime - has also mobilized its assets. Click here to see an illustrated situation analysis published by The Israel Project outlining the deployments, current as of 12 p.m. local time Monday.
An Egyptian air force raid near the border with Israel has left at least 15 Islamists dead, one of several moves that the country's military is making as it widens an ongoing campaign to root out jihadist networks in the restive Sinai Peninsula. Egyptian security forces also reportedly arrested a top jihadist linked to the shooting deaths of 25 Egyptian police officers in the northern Sinai last month who were reported as having been slain in "execution-style" killings. Scores of Egyptian military personnel have been killed in a wave of violence as Islamists deepened and consolidated terror networks in the Sinai after the army’s July 3 removal of the country's former Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohammed Morsi.
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