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- U.S. Has Seen Chemical Weapons Activity in Syria, Pentagon Says - Helene Cooper and Ben Hubbard
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said Tuesday that what looked like active preparations for a chemical attack were seen at Al Shayrat airfield, which was struck in April by U.S. cruise missiles two days after the Syrian government dropped bombs loaded with toxic chemicals in northern Syria. Another Defense Department official said that an aircraft shelter at Al Shayrat that had been hit by a U.S. Tomahawk missile was being used for the preparation.
Defense Department spokesman Major Adrian Rankine-Galloway said, "The continued brutality of the Assad regime and his use of chemical weapons presents a clear threat to regional stability and security, as well as the national security interests of the United States and our allies." (New York Times)
- Qods Day Commemorations Highlight Tehran's Global Reach - Amir Toumaj
The Islamic Republic of Iran and its allies abroad on Friday commemorated Qods (Jerusalem) Day, an annual event established by Ayatollah Khomeini.
Qods Day marches were held in Asia, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America, highlighting Iran's influence and global reach. Across several cities in Iraq, militiamen of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) led marches calling for "death to America" and "death to Israel." In Damascus, Fatah and the pro-Assad Arab Nationalist Guard participated in Qods Day marches.
In Latin America, Qods Day events were held in Brazil, Argentina, El Salvador and Venezuela. Protesters marched in Tanzania and Nigeria, as well. In Berlin and London, several hundred marched waving Hizbullah flags and effigies of Khomeini and Khamenei. Pro-Palestinian activists marked Qods Day in New York City and Toronto. In most cases, Iranian embassy staff helped organize Qods Day. The writer is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
(Long War Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Israel Will Not Accept Syria Being Turned into Another Front Against Israel - Lahav Harkov
Israel will not allow Hizbullah to attack from Syria, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said at the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday. "Whoever wants to turn Syria into a base for Syria and the Iranians against Israel should think again. We will not accept Syria being turned into another base and front against Israel." (Jerusalem Post)
- Iran's Flag on Israel's Border: "We Are Coming" - Seth J. Frantzman
I spent Tuesday touring the Lebanese and Syrian borders with Israel.
Across the border, near the Hizbullah flags, is a large banner with the Iranian flag, a visible presence of Iran just a stone's throw from Israel. On a hill overlooking Metulla is another huge poster with the face of Ayatollah Khomeini glowering down over the Dome of the Rock. Hizbullah has written "we are coming" in Hebrew and Arabic. Here is Iran glowering down on Israel from the north.
Iran is reaching a peak of influence and power in the region. Its tentacles stretch across Syria and Iraq and Hizbullah is emboldened. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah boasts of bringing thousands of foreign fighters to help him attack Israel. He sees Shi'ites from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen joining the assault. (Jerusalem Post)
- Iran Launches "Hizbullah Syria" to Open a New Front Against Israel on the Golan Heights - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
Iran views Syria (with or without Assad) as its principal arena of conflict with the West and with "heretic Sunni Islam" (under the leadership of Saudi Arabia). The Iranian Jomhouri Eslami newspaper stated: "The establishment of Syria's Hizbullah...will also be a strong arm of the resistance that will cause nightmares for the Zionists. The Zionist regime that was concerned about threats from the Lebanese borders, now should prepare itself for a new situation (on the Golan Heights front)."
Iran's defense posture is designed to distance the Iranian homeland from any threat, to conduct the campaign against Israel and the West in areas distant from Iran, and to use Syrian and Lebanese territory to deter Israel or retaliate if its nuclear installations are attacked. In the buds of "Hizbullah Syria" lay the infrastructure for enhanced Iranian subversion in the Golan Heights, which is perceived by Iran as a new and extended confrontation line with Israel. The writer, a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center, served as bureau chief to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and as military secretary to the Prime Minister. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs-2June2014)
See also Iran's Presence on the Syrian Side of the Border with Israel Is a Dangerous and Ongoing Menace to Regional Stability - Yuval Rotem
Amb. Yuval Rotem is Director General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Twitter)
- Knesset Speaker, Once a Prisoner in Siberia, Addresses Russian Parliament - Marissa Newman
Thirty years after his release from Soviet camps, where he was imprisoned for clandestine Zionist activity, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein on Wednesday addressed Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of parliament. In his speech he cast Islamist terrorism as the "Nazism of the 21st century," appealing to Russian national pride over its defeat of the Nazis during World War II with a call to likewise vanquish the new brand of "absolute evil."
Edelstein said Israel would continue to try to create a global alliance against terrorism. "Jerusalem is leading the fight against terrorism, and we will not rest until we win this war and peace is achieved." (Times of Israel)
- Israel's Defense Minister Meets U.S. Secretary of Defense at Munich Security Conference - Raoul Wootliff
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman met Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to discuss "regional strategy and the ongoing cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. defense agencies." (Times of Israel)
- Whatever Happened to the Term "Palestinian State?" - Yoni Ben-Menachem
The Palestinian leadership is expressing growing concern over the possibility of renewing negotiations with Israel and "the deal" that President Trump is planning for both sides.
Senior Palestinian Authority officials confirm that Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has not yet heard Trump utter the words "Palestinian state." Nor were these words said by emissaries Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt. Abbas has refused to meet with David Friedman, the new American ambassador to Israel.
Abbas fears that the "deal" that Trump speaks about is an expanded autonomy in the West Bank gift-wrapped with a presidential regime, government, parliament, embassies around the world, and the full status of a UN state. But in practice, the overall security responsibility in the West Bank will be in the hands of Israel.
There is no doubt that President Trump is trying to square the circle and find a creative solution that both sides will find difficult to reject. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority still don't know what he is planning, but it appears the Palestinian side is much more worried than the Israeli side - and probably with good reason. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Israel, the Arab States, and the Prospects for Normalization - Philip H. Gordon
The strategic rapprochement between Israel and some Arab states is undeniable, and behind-the-scenes cooperation is now greater than ever. But having spent much of the past several months in Israel and in Arab capitals, I believe that the hopes being placed on normalization are misplaced. If the Trump administration is looking to the Arabs for a shortcut on the Palestinian issue - or thinks Israel can establish closer relations with the Arabs without addressing that issue - it is likely to be disappointed.
The main obstacle to Arab governments working openly with Israel stems from their own political weakness. Facing massive domestic and foreign policy challenges, they simply cannot afford to spend valuable political capital defending a rapprochement with Israel that most of their citizens would consider a betrayal of the still-popular Palestinian cause.
On top of that, at a time of an intense competition with Iran, the Gulf Arabs and especially Saudi Arabia will not want to cede the Palestinian issue to their rivals in Tehran, who would be sure to denounce Riyadh for any public rapprochement with Israel. Moreover, since the Arab states are already getting most of what they need from Israel quietly with regard to intelligence, military and economic cooperation, they have little incentive to expand overt ties with Israel. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, was special assistant to the president and White House coordinator for the Middle East from 2013 to 2015.
Pressuring the PA Is Key to Ending Terrorist Payments - 13 Senior Former Israeli Security Officials (Jerusalem Post)
- The Palestinian Authority considers legitimate all forms of "struggle" to achieve their goals and therefore pays salaries both to incarcerated and released terrorists from every terrorist organization, including Hamas, according to PA law that refers to the terrorists as the "fighting sector of Palestinian society."
- Providing funds to the PA to enable it to keep paying those salaries, which are soliciting terrorism, is illogical, illegal and immoral.
- There is no chance that the PA will stop paying those salaries unless it is pressured politically, legally, and most of all economically. The U.S., Europe and Israel have approached the Palestinians on this matter many times and beyond cosmetic adjustments nothing has changed.
- Even confronted with direct demands from the new U.S. administration, the PA makes it clear that it is not going to make a real change in its terrorist payments policy. Only real, tangible pressure will make the PA leadership seriously consider the need to change.
- There is no reason to believe that if the U.S. Congress passes the Taylor Force Act, the PA's security cooperation with Israel is going to stop. The security cooperation serves the interests of the PA. It is focused on thwarting terrorist attacks planned by Hamas, the PA's nemesis, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Islamic State. These attacks may kill Israelis, but are also intended to embarrass the PA and weaken it in the power struggle against Hamas.
- The real threats to the PA are its commitment to unattainable political goals and to a long-lasting struggle against Israel instead of a genuine peace process, its low level of functioning, the corruption and the lack of a system that guarantees popular trust in the leadership.
- There is little we can do about these, but supporting the just demand to stop paying terrorists with real pressure is very much in accord with Israel's security interests.
Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Moshe Ya'alon served as defense minister and IDF chief of staff.
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, director of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, is former head of IDF Military Intelligence.
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan is former national security adviser and deputy chief of staff.
Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser is former head of the IDF Intelligence Directorate's research and assessment division.
Prof. Uzi Arad is former national security adviser and head of the National Security Council.
MK Yaakov Peri is former head of the Israel Security Agency.
Maj.-Gen. MK Eyal Ben-Reuven, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) MK Elazar Stern,
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Even, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Gershon Hacohen, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Lapidot, Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Oded Tira, Col. (ret.) Ephraim Laor
See also Former Israeli Defense Minister Ya'alon: "It Is Immoral to Ignore the Encouragement by the PA of the Murder of Israelis" - Barney Breen-Portnoy (Algemeiner)