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THE CRISIS TODAY - An Insider's Briefing (Friday, July 28, 2006)

Israeli Security Expert Yossi Alpher offers a daily briefing during the elevated crisis in Israel...

Today's Briefing - Friday, July 28

"Zawahiri and the Dangers of Escalation" by Yossi Alpher

Yesterday, al-Qaeda number 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri threatened that his organization "will not stay silent while Muslims in Gaza and South Lebanon are under attack". That threat underlines the reasons why Israel feels it has to win this war--but also the danger that the war will escalate unless it ends soon.

Israeli strategic thinking about this two-front conflict with militant Islamists holds that any outcome that enables either Hezbollah or Hamas to declare victory in a convincing manner will be interpreted by all of Israel's enemies as open season to attack it. In contrast, Israeli success in radically weakening Hezbollah and Hamas will be understood as a victory not only for Israel, but also for the forces aligned against militant Islam in the West and among the moderate Arab states, and in particular a setback for Iran.

At least at the rhetorical level, Zawahiri did not wait for the outcome.

His is not the only threat of escalation. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah continues to promise new surprises. Speculation as to their nature centers on attempts to launch rockets at Tel Aviv and anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish terrorist attacks abroad. Both forms of aggression would likely involve some degree of Iranian involvement. Then there is the danger that Syria will decide to intervene, either because it fears Israeli attack or because it sees an opportunity--or because of some operational error on the battlefield.

The Israeli war cabinet seemingly took all this into account yesterday in deciding to call up reserves but not, at least for the time being, to escalate Israel's ground war in southern Lebanon. As Zawahiri's threat indicates, the danger is that over time the mere existence of this war might cause it to escalate.

The Crisis Today-An Insider's Briefing is a new daily, internet publication of Americans for Peace Now. A new edition of The Crisis Today will be posted Tuesday through Friday morning by 9:00 a.m. for as long as the current crisis continues.

The Crisis Today is written by Yossi Alpher, whose views do not necessarily reflect those of Americans for Peace Now or Peace Now.

Link to APN's Crisis Resource Page

Links to previous Briefings:

July 27, 2006
July 26, 2006
July 25, 2006
July 24, 2006
July 21, 2006
July 20, 2006
July 19, 2006
July 18, 2006