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January 18, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Oil Glut Dampens Iran's Hopes as Sanctions Lift - Steven Mufson (Washington Post)
    When international sanctions were tightened in 2012 and took nearly 700,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude oil off world markets, the price of oil was $109.45 per barrel.
    With the easing of those sanctions in the middle of a massive glut, oil is selling for just $25 a barrel, less than a quarter of the 2012 level.
    The result will be sharply lower revenue for Iran than its leaders anticipated, and it could make international oil companies more wary about making new investments in Iran's oil fields.

New Offshore Gas Find by Israel - Eran Azran (Ha'aretz)
    An Israeli exploration group reported on Sunday the discovery of another large natural gas field off Israel's Mediterranean coast.
    Isramco Negev and Modiin Energy said there could be 8.9 trillion cubic feet of natural gas at the Daniel East and West fields.

IDF Redeploys in West Bank in Response to Palestinian Violence - Gili Cohen (Ha'aretz)
    Four months into the current wave of Palestinian terror, the Israel Defense Forces is changing its operational deployment in the West Bank and returning to positions it had abandoned in previous years.
    A permanent garrison has returned to the Shdema outpost near Beit Sahur in the Bethlehem region, which had been abandoned in 2006.
    The IDF also confirmed that it plans to build several new pillbox guard posts in the Nablus region.
    The army is continuing its policy, begun two months ago, of putting military checkpoints at the entrances and exits of Palestinian towns from which large numbers of assailants have come.

Israeli Journalist on the Edge of the Islamic State - Tzur Shezaf (Ynet News)
    An Israeli journalist interviewed ISIS captives in the Kurdish area of Iraq.
    One ISIS captive, Laith Ahmad Mohammed, said: "The sheikhs said all of the Western countries belong to the Jews. They said 'we'll finish with Syria and then go to foreign countries and annihilate them.' We won't leave any Christians or Jews alive."
    "They told us: 'If you catch a Jew, immediately behead him with a sword. Call out Allahu Akbar and behead him.'"

Association of American Universities Re-affirms Opposition to Israel Boycotts (JTA)
    The Association of American Universities (AAU) reaffirmed its opposition to boycotts against Israeli academic institutions in a statement issued Thursday.
    The AAU represents 62 major public and private research universities in North America.
   "Restrictions imposed on the ability of scholars of any particular country to work with their fellow academics in other countries, participate in meetings and organizations, or otherwise carry out their scholarly activities, violate academic freedom," the statement says.
    "The boycott of Israeli academic institutions therefore clearly violates the academic freedom not only of Israeli scholars but also of American scholars who might be pressured to comply with it."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Finds Iran in Compliance with Nuclear Deal, Lifts Sanctions - Julian Hattem
    The U.S. on Saturday lifted sanctions against Iran after the UN nuclear watchdog certified Iran has fulfilled its promises under the nuclear deal. Iran will immediately receive at least $50 billion of its own money that had been held in restricted accounts. Critics say the actual "signing bonus" is closer to $150 billion. Existing U.S. sanctions will remain in place on Iranians connected to the country's human rights abuses and support for terrorism. (The Hill)
        See also EU Terminates Iran Economic Sanctions - Amir Paivar (BBC News)
        See also Netanyahu: Iran Will Now Have More Resources to Divert to Terrorism and Aggression
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "Following the nuclear agreement with Iran, Israel will continue to monitor all of Iran's international violations, including regarding the nuclear agreement, the ballistic missile agreement and terrorism. The international community must enact severe and aggressive sanctions against each violation. Were it not for our efforts to lead sanctions and thwart Iran's nuclear program, Iran would have had nuclear weapons some time ago."
        "Israel's policy is exactly as it has been - not to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. What is clear is that Iran will now have more resources to divert to terrorism and its aggression in the region and around the world, and Israel is prepared to deal with any threat."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Iran Releases Four Americans in Prisoner Swap with U.S. - Ramin Mostaghim
    On Saturday, four Americans were freed from Iranian jails, the culmination of a year of secret negotiations between Iran and the U.S. Among the U.S. citizens freed was Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post correspondent and California native who had been jailed in Tehran for nearly 18 months. Also freed were Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor from Boise, Idaho; Amir Hekmati, an ex-U.S. Marine; and businessman Nosratollah Khosravi-Roodsari.
        In return, Washington agreed to pardon or drop charges against seven Iranians accused of trying to circumvent sanctions against Iran. In addition, U.S. authorities dismissed charges and removed Interpol alerts against 14 Iranian fugitives. (Los Angeles Times)
  • U.S. Imposes New Sanctions over Iran Missile Tests - Peter Baker
    The Obama administration announced Sunday that it was imposing new, more limited sanctions on some Iranian citizens and companies for violating UN resolutions against ballistic missile tests. The announcement, which had been delayed, was made shortly after a Swiss plane carrying Americans freed by Iranian authorities departed Tehran.
        President Obama vowed to continue monitoring Iran's nuclear program to ensure it does not cheat and said he would work to restrain any aggressive behavior by Iran, including terrorist activity and human rights abuses. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Calls New U.S. Sanctions Illegitimate (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Woman Stabbed to Death in Her Home in West Bank Sunday - Karni Eldad
    On Sunday evening, a Palestinian terrorist entered the home of Otniel resident Dafna Meir, 38, and stabbed her to death in front of her teenage daughter. The daughter, Renana, fled upstairs with two of her younger siblings during the attack. Meir died after struggling with the terrorist, acting to protect her children. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Stabbing Victim a Nurse and Mother of Six - Yaakov Lappin
    Dafna Meir was a mother of six who worked as a nurse in the Department of Neurosurgery at Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheba. The terrorist who stabbed Meir fled when he could not remove the knife from her body, South Hebron Hills spokesman Assaf Fassy said.
        Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said, "The murder today teaches us again about the kind of cruel and relentless enemy we are dealing with....We will not rest until we settle accounts with the terrorist, wherever he is."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Remembering Dafna Meir - Rachel Sharansky Danziger (Times of Israel)
  • Pregnant Israeli Woman Wounded in Tekoa Stabbing Attack Monday - Stuart Winer
    In the second attack against Israeli women in the West Bank in two days, a 15-year-old Palestinian terrorist on Monday stabbed a pregnant woman in her 30s in Tekoa, moderately injuring her. The stabber was shot outside the 2nd-hand clothing warehouse in the community. The injured woman is Michal Froman, daughter-in-law of the late Rabbi Menachem Froman of Tekoa who was known as a peace activist. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Gen. Amidror: "It Is an Excellent Agreement for Iran" - Steven Erlanger
    IDF Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser, told Israel Radio on Sunday, "I think in the Middle East most of the countries, most of the leadership, do not like this agreement. It is an excellent agreement for Iran and therefore Iran will fulfill it down to the last detail. It has to rebuild its economy and enter the circle of international legitimacy because it can make, within this agreement, very great strides forward in the area of missiles and in the areas of nuclear capability. One would have to be a complete idiot not to fulfill this agreement at least in the first five to 10 years."
        The main question now for Israel is whether the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will monitor Iran's compliance with the deal, acts in a way "more political or more professional," Amidror said. He also wondered "how much effort American intelligence will make, despite the agreement, to try to find Iranian violations." For the moment, he said, he had confidence in Israel's developing system of antimissile defenses against any potential Iranian missile strike. (New York Times)
  • Robert Levinson: The American Left Behind in Iranian Prisoner Release - Brian Ross and Lee Ferran
    Robert Levinson, 67, who served for more than two decades with the FBI before retiring, disappeared off Iran's Kish Island in March 2007. Levinson family attorney David McGee told ABC News that Levinson had a long-term relationship with the CIA, spying on Iran's nuclear program and on Hizbullah. "The CIA sent Bob Levinson to Iran to do an investigation on its behalf," McGee said. U.S. officials told ABC News that Levinson being left out of the prisoner release raises fears that he may not still be alive.
        "Bob's former colleagues have not forgotten him. We continue to stand with the Levinson family," said FBI Agents Association President Renaldo Tariche. "We celebrate today's release of Americans, but the world should not forget Levinson's continued unjustified imprisonment and continue to work for his release."  (ABC News)
        See also Two Americans Detained in Iran Are Not Coming Home - Adam Goldman
    Authorities in Tehran said they would not be freeing Siamak Namazi, 44, an Iranian-American businessman based in Dubai who was arrested in October, and were silent on the fate of former FBI agent Robert Levinson.
        The U.S. suspected the Iranian security services were behind Levinson's abduction, according to a diplomatic cable disclosed by WikiLeaks. The CIA ultimately concluded that it was responsible for Levinson while he was in Iran and paid $2.5 million to his wife. Three years ago the Levinson family received a 54-second video and later pictures of him shackled and dressed in an orange jumpsuit. "I am not in good health," he said in the video. (Washington Post)
        See also Jewish-American Robert Levinson Not Included in Prisoner Exchange (i24 News)

Sweden's Foreign Minister Misunderstands International Law - Noah Feldman (Bloomberg)

  • Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom warned in December that Israel might be committing "extrajudicial executions" in connection with stabbing attempts by Palestinians against Israeli citizens. Wallstrom defended herself in Sweden's parliament this week, insisting that she "was making an argument based on principles of international law."
  • To what extent can international law be applied to instantaneous events that take place in the course of policing? As a teacher of international law, I find Wallstrom's interpretation at best confused, and at worst outright mistaken.
  • On Wallstrom's theory, the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, would be an issue for international criminal investigation. The same would be true for the use of lethal force by police in Trollhattan, Sweden, against a man who killed three people at a school in October. He was armed with a sword, and police killed him with firearms.
  • Wallstrom referred to "the right of self-defense and the importance of the principles of proportionality and distinction," which belong to the body of international law governing the use of military force in wartime against combatants. But they aren't relevant here.
  • According to Philip Alston, who has served as a special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings for the UN, the legal standard is that police "may only use intentional lethal force when it is clear an individual is about to kill someone and cannot be detained by other means." Police are supposed to save the innocent and subdue the attackers, by lethal means if necessary.
  • Wallstrom said that Israelis and Palestinians "were killed in connection with knife attacks." The Israelis were killed by Palestinians wielding knives. The Palestinians were killed after they wielded the knives, attacking Israelis. There's a crucial moral difference between the two kinds of "connection" to the knife attacks.

    The writer is a professor of constitutional and international law at Harvard University.

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