Assad no longer beneficial to Israel

Updated 23 May 2012
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Assad no longer beneficial to Israel

Contrary to previous assessments, Israel’s intelligence no longer view the survival of Assad’s regime as beneficial for Israel. After months of adopting a wait and see strategy, Israeli officials have started changing their attitude toward Syria.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Syrian regime is doomed. He called on the international community to step up pressure on Assad’s regime.
For Barak, the downfall of the regime will be a major blow to Tehran and other non-state actors such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. “I’m quite frustrated for the slowness of its collapse. I believe that he (Assad) is doomed anyhow. I believe that there is a need to raise our voices both for moral reasons and practical...much more loudly,” Barak told CNN.
The timing of Barak’s statement cannot be more striking as it came only one day after a report quoting the chief of the Israeli military intelligence General Aviv Kochavi as saying in Washington that Israel would be better off with Assad’s regime. Explicit in his statement is that the intelligence community in Israel has changed its stance on Syria. For Israelis, it is not a matter of if but of when Assad will leave the scene. They calculate that Assad’s fate is sealed.
Kochavi was on a secret visit to Washington and the UN headquarters in New York two weeks ago. Israel is yet to be certain of the consequences of the demise of Assad’s regime. It is no secret that Israelis fear that Islamists may seize the opportunity and take over in Syria. Because of this fear, Barak argued for keeping the structure of the regime in Syria. Radical Islamists are the source of concern for the Israeli decision makers. The worst scenario for Israelis will be to see the Golan Heights fall in the hands of extremist such as Al-Qaeda.
If anything, Israelis are sensitive to the threat posed by Tehran rather than Syria. On more than one occasion, the Israeli leadership has hinted at the possibility of a preemptive strike on Iran to reverse its nuclear program. “I have enough experience to know that a military option is not a simple one...it would be complicated with certain associated risks. But a radical Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons would be far more dangerous both for the region and, indeed, the world,” Barak said.
Barak’s remarks should be seen within the debate within Israel as to what to do with regard to Iran.
Former security chiefs have made public statements warning against any reckless strike against Iran. Former internal security chief Yuval Diskin recently accused the government of his country of misleading the public on the level of effectiveness of a military strike. His statements caused uproar. Barak was not happy with such statements coming from former security officials.
“Parts of the world, including some politically motivated Israeli figures, prefer to bury their heads in the sand,” Barak said. On top of that, Barak wants to see a quick action before it is too late. Israel would run a huge risk if it failed to act on time.” Iran’s military nuclear program will be sufficiently developed and suitably concealed, rendering the facilities immune to surgical attacks.”
Israel held a long truce with Syria on the Golan Heights. Therefore, senior politicians have been reluctant to discuss the future of a Syrian regime for months. If anything, Israel fears the replacement of the Arab regimes. For almost a year Tel Aviv has circumspectly watched the seismic political shifts in region. They think the ascendance of Islamists in the Arab World will be unlikely to herald changes favorable to the their country. Some Israeli observers have argued that a regime change in Damascus could transform the quiet Golan Heights into a battlefield and Syria could be turned into a new base for anti-Israel radicals.
That said, Israel’s calculations have to do with their assessment of what is going on the ground. Key decision makers came to the conclusion that Assad’s regime will not make it and that change is just a matter of time.
Israel has been watching the development from the Golan Heights and finally they came to the unavoidable realization that Assad is on his way out. Will this happen before the end of the year remains to be seen.


Mo Salah, the face of Ramadan in Cairo

Ramadan lantern bearing the image of Liverpool's Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah hanging on sale at a market in Cairo's central Sayyida Zeinab district. AFP
Updated 13 min 32 sec ago
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Mo Salah, the face of Ramadan in Cairo

  • Ramadan, shoppers have flocked to buy a fanous — a traditional Ramadan lantern
  • Salah lanterns have even made it on to the official World Cup Twitter feed

CAIRO: They call him the Egyptian king. The king on the wing. Mohamed Salah, the gift from Allah. And that is just in the English city of Liverpool, where he plies his trade as a footballer of exceptional talent. Here in his homeland, he transcends the sport that has made him famous.

In Cairo this Ramadan his face is everywhere, adorning everything from lanterns to bedlinen. Egypt has a tradition of naming dates — traditionally eaten to break the fast — after celebrities. Unsurprisingly, the Mohamed Salah date is by far the top seller.
Meanwhile, in March it was reported that there was strong support for him in the presidential elections — and he was not even a candidate.
The ordinarily packed streets will be deserted during Saturday’s Champion’s League final between Liverpool and the mighty Real Madrid. It is the same story whenever there is a Liverpool match on: The streets go quiet and the cafes fill up. Cairo’s leading clubs, Al-Ahly and Zamalek, now have to play second fiddle to a club thousands of miles away on another continent.
“I make more money when Liverpool are playing than on any other day,” Hamdi El-Wahsh told Arab News. He owns a cafe in the Maadi district of Cairo and on the day of the Egypt Cup game featuring Zamalek, he had to warn customers that if the match went into extra time they would have to miss it because he was switching over for the pivotal Champions League semifinal between Liverpool and Roma.
“They did not mind. On the contrary, they seemed more excited to watch Liverpool because of Salah,” said El-Wahsh. “Nobody is really interested in a domestic match. They mainly come for Salah.”

Football achievements
At just 25, and after only one season with the English club, Salah’s footballing achievements are remarkable. He was the top scorer in the Premier League and was named Player of the Year by his peers in the Professional Footballers Association. He was also African Footballer of the Year in 2017, and it was his last-minute goal against Congo that secured Egypt a place in next month’s World Cup for the first time since 1990.
But Salah’s impact on his country reaches far beyond the football field, and he is loved for much more than what he does with a ball at his feet.
As a 14-year-old growing up in Nagrig, a village of 15,000 people in the Nile Delta, getting to training sessions with his first senior team, El Mokawloon, meant a four-hour journey each way by bike, several buses and on foot. Nowadays he drives a Porsche Turbo and a Mercedes GLE, and with a weekly salary of £90,000 will never again have financial worries, but he is not keeping his wealth for himself.
He has donated a dialysis machine to a hospital in Nagrig, paid for land to build a sewage treatment plant and renovated a public sports center, a school and a mosque. An empty car park is set to be the site of an ambulance station. The Mohamed Salah Charity dispenses financial support to families in need.
“He is constantly donating money to charities and to his home town,” said Said Elshishiny, Salah’s childhood football coach. “It’s enough to make anyone adore him.”
When the head of Zamalek, who decided not to sign Salah to the club, tried to give him a gift — variously reported as a humvee or a luxury villa — the footballer declined and suggested that he buy medical equipment instead.
He is a committed and effective anti-drugs campaigner. A video he took part in last month, promoting the message “You are stronger than surrender, you are stronger then drugs” produced 35 million interactions on social media. Within three days of its release, Egypt’s Ministry of Social Security reported a fourfold increase in the number of people seeking treatment for addiction.

Gold mine
In commercial terms, the man is a gold mine. His face is on video stores and shopping centers. One mural outside a downtown Cairo cafe has become a tourist attraction.
This Ramadan, shoppers have flocked to buy a fanous — a traditional Ramadan lantern — in the form of a moving, singing Mohamed Salah wearing the Egyptian national team strip, costing between 180 and 250 Egyptian pounds ($10 to $14).
“It’s the best-selling item I have now,” said Ramadan Salah, who owns a small shop in downtown Cairo. People come to my shop and specifically ask for it. One customer told me he was buying a Salah lantern as a birthday gift for his eight-year-old son who is a big fan.”
Demand has been so high that Egyptian traders have had to import Chinese-made lanterns. Salah lanterns have even made it on to the official World Cup Twitter feed with the caption: “Which toy do the kids of Cairo want? Woody, Hello Kitty, a surfing @mosalah? I think we all know the answer.”
Furnishings bearing the footballer’s image are premium items. Al Sayed Najida, a furniture trader in Ghouriya, admits he charges more but says that is because he uses superior materials for his Salah-themed wares. “We sell at a price that fits the cost of the raw material. He is a global player and God loves him as he loves us,” he said.