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DAILY ALERT

June 4, 2015

In-Depth Issue:

Iraq, Iran Fighters Deployed to Defend Damascus (AFP/Daily Star - Lebanon)
  Thousands of Iranian and Iraqi fighters have been deployed in Syria in past weeks to bolster the defenses of Damascus and its surroundings, a Syrian security source said.
  "Around 7,000 Iranian and Iraqi fighters have arrived in Syria over the past few weeks and their first priority is the defense of the capital. The larger contingent is Iraqi," the source said.
  "The goal is to reach 10,000 men to support the Syrian army and pro-government militias, firstly in Damascus, and then to retake Jisr al-Shughur because it is key to the Mediterranean coast and the Hama region" in central Syria, he added.
  Iran's official news agency IRNA quoted elite Revolutionary Guards General Qassem Soleimani as saying "in the coming days the world will be surprised by what we are preparing, in cooperation with Syrian military leaders."


Incoming Director-General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry Will Meet Senior Saudi Today in D.C. - Shlomo Tzezana (Yisrael Hayom – Hebrew)
  An unusual meeting is expected to take place today between the incoming Director General of the Foreign Minister, Dr. Dore Gold, and a senior Saudi official.
  Dr. Gold, currently head of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, will meet with Maj. Gen. (ret) Anwar Eshki at the Council for Foreign Affairs in Washington for an on-the-record discussion on “Regional Challenges and Opportunities: The View from Saudi Arabia and Israel.”
  The meeting is taking place after a year of joint activities by the Jerusalem Center and Eshki’s Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.


IDF Source: We’d Evacuate a Million Lebanese if War Breaks Out with Hizbullah - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
  In the event of a new conflict with Hizbullah, the IDF would seek to evacuate more than a million civilians in south Lebanon within 24 hours before proceeding to strike thousands of Hizbullah targets in some 240 villages and built-up regions, a senior military source said on Wednesday.
  Large-scale Hizbullah rocket and missile fire would be met with civilian evacuations, massive Israeli aerial strikes, followed by a ground offensive, he said.


Israel Strikes Hamas Post in Gaza after Rocket Attacks (AP)
  Israeli airstrikes hit Hamas training sites in Gaza early Thursday in response to earlier rocket fire toward Israel from the strip, the Israeli military said.
  A jihadist Salafi group that supports the Islamic State took responsibility for the rocket attack toward Israel, the second time it has done so in a week.


Israeli Defense Minister Cites Drop in Syrian Chemical Threat - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
  The chemical threat from Syria has plunged over the past year to the point that Israeli planners did not include gas-tipped missile strikes among the doomsday scenarios driving this year's annual emergency homefront drill.
  Speaking Monday on day two of a five-day nationwide drill, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said the chemical threat to Israeli citizens has dropped significantly as a result of international pressure to demilitarize Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.


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News Resources - North America and Europe:

  • Pentagon: Iran Continuing Work on Nuclear Systems - Bill Gertz
    Iran is continuing to develop missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons despite an interim agreement on its nuclear programs, according to a Pentagon report that was due in January but released this week.
      “Although Iran has paused progress in some areas of its nuclear program and fulfilled its obligations under the Joint Plan of Action, it continues to develop technological capabilities that also could be applicable to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missile development,” a one-page unclassified summary of the report says.
      Iran’s military also continues to threaten the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the Pentagon report said.
      “Iran continues to develop its capabilities to control the Strait of Hormuz and avenues of approach in the event of a military conflict,” the report said, adding that Tehran is “quietly fielding increasingly lethal weapon systems, including more advanced naval mines, small but capable submarines, armed unmanned aerial vehicles, coastal defense cruise missile batteries, attack craft, and anti-ship missiles.”
      Tehran’s support for terrorism also has not stopped, according to the Pentagon. “Iran’s covert activities appear to be continuing unabated,” the report says. “The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) remains a key tool of lran’s foreign policy and power projection, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, and Yemen.” (Washington Free Beacon)
  • Boston Terror Suspects Plotted to Behead Police Officers, Source Says
    The man shot and killed Tuesday by Boston police was plotting with another suspect to behead a cop, a law enforcement said.
      The dead suspect, 26-year-old Usaama Rahim, was under surveillance by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of state, local and federal law enforcement agents, when he was shot at about 7 a.m. in the city's Roslindale neighborhood, when he brandished the 9-inch blade at police. Later Tuesday, authorities arrested another suspect, David Wright, in connection with the case, police said.
      Three different Joint Terrorism Task Force teams had been carrying out 24-hour surveillance on at least three different people in the Boston area, though it was unclear how long that had been going on. The plot may have been inspired by the terror group ISIS, who have repeatedly called on followers in the United States to attack law enforcement officials or military installations. (Fox News)
  • Tony Blair Appointed as Head of European Body Fighting Anti-Semitism - Nicholas Watt
    Tony Blair is to take on a new role tackling anti-Semitism by assuming the chairmanship of a pan-European body that campaigns for stronger laws against extremism across the continent. The British former prime minister has been appointed as chairman of the European Council on Tolerance and Reconciliation.
      In the joint article with Moshe Kantor, the president of the council and of the European Jewish Congress, Blair warns that Europe is entering a dangerous era as it is experiencing the slow rate of economic growth last seen on the eve of the first and second world wars.
      Blair and Kantor write: “There have been three points in the past 100 years when annual GDP growth in Europe went below one percent: first in 1913, just before the first world war, second in 1938, just before the second world war and third, in 2014. Economic decline fuels instability and we know these concerns are being felt across the world.”
      They write: “As has been said before, but is worth repeating, prejudice and racism often starts with the softest targets, be it Jews or others, but it never ends there. Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem, but one infecting the whole of society and needs to be tackled for the sake of us all.” (Guardian - UK)
  • Al-Qaeda's Syria Branch Al-Nusra Front Chief Says Islamic State Caliphate 'Illegitimate'
    The chief of al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate says the self-proclaimed caliphate of Islamic State is "illegitimate" and its fighters have strayed from the path of Islam.
      In his appearance on the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera news channel, Nusra Front leader Abu Mohamed al-Golani criticised the IS at length and said he did not foresee a reconciliation between the two extremist groups.
      "They announced a caliphate, but the scholars rejected it as illegitimate. It is not based on Islamic law," Golani said, (AFP/The Age - Australia)
  • News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:

  • UK Universities Counter Students, Oppose Boycott of Israel
    An umbrella organization presenting the administrative heads of 133 British universities released a statement on Wednesday reaffirming its opposition to an academic boycott of Israeli institutions of higher learning. “Given the reported perception in Israel that UK universities support an academic boycott, the board of Universities UK wishes to confirm its previously stated position that it is firmly opposed to any academic boycott of Israeli universities,” it said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Turkey's Erdogan: "Liberate Jerusalem" from the Jews - Eldad Beck
    Just one week before upcoming parliamentary elections in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and officials in his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) found a unique way to try and secure a victory at the polls by calling for the "liberation" of Jerusalem.
      Erdogan drew a straight historical line between the capture of Jerusalem from the crusaders by Saladin in 1187 to the capture of Constantinople in 1453 to the elections in Turkey due to take place next week.
      Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently dedicated a new airport in the south of the country, naming it after Saladin. According to Davutoglu, "It's a name that says to the Kurds, to Turkey, and to the Arabs, yes, this is our leader. It's a symbol that unites us," he continued. "All those who claim that Jerusalem is the Jews' holy city should be ashamed." (Ynet)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Why Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Backs a Nuclear Deal: It’s Just Business - Scott Peterson
    Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the most powerful branch of Iran's military, is known for its fierce rhetoric, for supporting fellow Shiite Muslims across the Middle East, and for challenging American and Israeli regional influence by any means possible. So why is the Guard supporting an emerging deal?
      Domestically, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) wields substantial political influence and controls a multi-billion dollar business empire that accounts for at least one-tenth of Iran’s economy, and perhaps much more.
      Years of managing lucrative companies have created a more flexible business-first mentality, offsetting its ideological orientation. For the IRGC, support for a deal may be about money and preserving post-deal political influence. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Middle East Map Carved up by Caliphates, Enclaves, and Fiefdoms - Owen Bennet-Jones
    The Middle East's longstanding borders created by foreign powers are slowly breaking down. The rise of ethnic sectarianism and of the Islamic State have led ethnic groups, such as the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, and religious-based terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State, to gain autonomy over patches of land throughout the Middle East.
      With the central governments in countries such as Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya gradually losing power to non-state actors within their borders, many Western diplomats are worried whether this trend will spread to more stable countries such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Oil, a key Middle Eastern export, is a major concern for Western governments, so the increase in smuggling by non-government actors is a troubling trend.
      Although the Middle East's borders have been gradually shifting since the Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916 and the creation of Israel in 1948, Middle Eastern governments' loss of land and control to autonomous groups will most likely lead to turmoil throughout the region for years to come. (BBC)
  • Observations:

    Israeli Defense Minister: Iranian Nuclear Agreement Is ‘a Very Bad One’ - Lally Weymouth (Washington Post)

    Excerpts from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon's interview with Lally Weymouth:

  • We consider the [Iranian nuclear] deal a very bad one. There is no doubt that the Iranians’ intention and all of their activities in the last 20 years were in order to reach a military nuclear capability.
  • The deal is going to allow Iran to actually become a military nuclear threshold state. No facilities are going to be shut down, including underground facilities. No centrifuges will be destroyed. They will be able to go on with their research and development to have in the near future — whether it be 10 years or whatever — advanced centrifuges with a better capability to enrich uranium. They haven’t exposed [that] there was a weaponization part of the project. We have hard evidence about it.
  • This rogue regime in Iran is ready to sacrifice a lot in order to export the revolution and to gain hegemony in the region by being active in Afghanistan and in Iraq.
  • In Syria, they support Bashar al-Assad, and in Lebanon, they support Hizbullah. In the Gaza Strip, they support Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In Yemen, they support the Houthis.
  • What’s next on their list? Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Dhahran, the area of the oil resources of Saudi Arabia, which is dominated by a Shia population. Iran is active over there undermining these regimes. They already control the Hormuz Straits, and now they are trying to control the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb in the Red Sea. The Iranian idea is to dominate the region.
  • The last element that is [left] out of the deal is the missiles. They have missiles that can cover all of Israel. It is not discussed.
  • Bashar al-Assad is losing ground. He governs or controls less than 25 percent of the former Syrian territory. He’s concentrating along the shore — the Alawite enclave — Damascus, and a couple of towns. But he lost the eastern part of Syria. The Kurds enjoy autonomy in the northeastern part of Syria. He lost Aleppo, and Latakia is threatened now. We have the Islamic State now in the eastern part of Syria.

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