- Syria crisis brings world powers into eastern Mediterranean, raising geopolitical stakes
- Iran escalates threats against Israel, declares Israel will be drawn "deep into the fire"
- Egypt moves against Qatar-funded Al Jazeera affiliate for "rumors and claims which are harmful to Egyptian national security and threaten the country's unity"
- Israel preps cyber defenses in anticipation of Syrian, Iranian campaign
What we’re watching today:
- World powers are streaming naval and air assets into the eastern Mediterranean, deepening concerns that the Syrian conflict may further destabilize the Middle East and expand to impact nations from outside the region. The U.S. and Russia, which many have suggested are on a geopolitical collision course for a variety of reasons, are both deploying warships into the theater. The U.S. this afternoon announced that a fifth destroyer, the USS Stout, would join ships that were already repositioning toward Syria in anticipation of possible strikes against regime infrastructure. The U.K. confirmed the deployment of six Typhoon fighter jets to Cyprus. State-owned Russian media reported that that Moscow has sent a missile cruiser and a large anti-submarine vessel to the eastern Mediterranean Sea. As world powers begin to mobilize in the Mediterranean, reports are emerging that Russia and Iran would engage in "extensive cooperation" to thwart Western action against Syria, even as Washington dismissed as a stalling tactic a request by Syria to extend chemical weapons inspections in the country.
- Iranian officials today escalated their threats against Israel, with multiple military figures declaring that Israel would be attacked in the event of Western air strikes against the Iranian-allied Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Iranian media conveyed statements by Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran's Armed Forces, declaring that Israel will be drawn "deep into the fire" in the event of such strikes. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, asserted that U.S. military action against Syria would trigger the Jewish state's "imminent destruction." Other Iranian officials have recently threatened that Israel would become the "first victim" of Western air strikes against Syria, and that it would be consumed by "flames of outrage" in the event of such strikes. In Lebanon, Iran's terror proxy Hezbollah began to mobilize troops in the country's south, and declared that it would launch attacks against Israel if the West made moves to topple Assad.
- Egypt’s army-backed interim government is reportedly moving toward banning Al Jazeera’s local affiliate, which it alleges has been spreading "rumors and claims which are harmful to Egyptian national security and threaten the country's unity." Ongoing criticism of Al Jazeera Mubashir Misr has generated geopolitical blowback for Al Jazeera funder Qatar, which has been accused of seeking to promote extremist Islamist movements across the Middle East among other things, via biased coverage on Al Jazeera. Following the July 3 ouster of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-backed former President Mohammed Morsi, Al Jazeera Mubashir Misr aired statements by fugitive Islamist leaders and broadcast hours of protests by supporters of the Brotherhood and Morsi. Last month dozens of Egypt-based Al Jazeera employees resigned over what they alleged was editorial control from Doha enforcing pro-Brotherhood coverage. A leaked cable produced by a U.S. Ambassador to Qatar described Al Jazeera as "one of Qatar’s most valuable political and diplomatic tools." During Morsi’s year of power, the Egyptian government received approximately $8 billion in aid from Doha.
- Israel is preparing for an array of cyber threats in the event that Syria and its Iranian backers make good on days of threats to lash out against the Jewish state should the West act militarily against the Bashar al-Assad regime. An IDF spokesperson told The Media Line that there are already hundreds of attempted cyber attacks on Israel every day, and that the number was expected to spike in the event of a military strike against Damascus. Pro-Syrian hacking groups have garnered renewed focus recently, including this week, for attacking Western websites. Israel's cyber efforts are taking place alongside more concrete efforts to prepare for attacks by Syria and its allies. Two batteries of Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system have been deployed in northern Israel, and there is now an ongoing, two-day security exercise being held on Israel’s northern Golan Heights. Nearly five million gas masks have already been distributed to the Israeli population, against the backdrop of what is widely suspected to be the mass use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians by the Syrian regime. Syria has one of the world’s largest chemical weapons arsenals, containing roughly 1,000 tons of nerve agents.
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