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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
February 19, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Suicide Bombers Target Iranian Center in Beirut, Kill Four - Laila Bassam and Alexander Dziadosz (Reuters)
    A twin suicide bombing hit Hizbullah-controlled southern Beirut on Wednesday, killing at least four people and wounding 70 in an attack targeting Iran's cultural center.
    Radical Sunni Islamists sympathetic to the anti-Assad rebellion have pledged to attack Hizbullah on Lebanese soil for helping Assad, who is also backed by Iran.

Israel Waits for Egypt to Deal with Terrorists in Sinai - Ben Caspit (Al-Monitor)
    As long as Morsi was in power in Egypt, Hamas in Gaza was the apple of the Egyptian regime's eye. The Muslim Brotherhood saw itself as Hamas' big brother. They cooperated closely.
    Yet one day it was all over. From Gen. Sisi's standpoint, Hamas is the enemy - an ally of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which claimed responsibility for the bombing of a bus of tourists from South Korea, just across from the Taba Hilton Resort in Sinai.
    According to several Israeli intelligence assessments, Hamas leaders in Gaza are unable to leave the Strip.
    Meanwhile, Israel and Egypt updated the security protocol of their long-standing peace accord. The Egyptian army consists of 11 regular battalions, a much larger order of battle than permitted in the accord. It includes a beefed-up armored battalion, a helicopter-gunship squadron, and quite a few commando forces.
    Provided they are used to the fullest extent, these forces should be enough to vanquish terrorism, but that has yet to happen. Sisi doesn't want to take any chances before assuming the presidency and stabilizing his regime.
    Egyptians make do with laying siege on areas suspected of terrorist activity, gathering intelligence and carrying out pin-point operations.

Germany's Deutsche Bank Denies Boycotting Israel's Hapoalim (Ha'aretz)
    Deutsche Bank on Tuesday denied news reports that it was boycotting Israel's Bank Hapoalim.
    "We wish to make it explicitly clear that Deutsche Bank is not boycotting any Israeli company," a bank spokesperson told Ha'aretz, adding, "we have many funds that invest in Bank Hapoalim and many other Israeli companies."

Israeli Hospital Saves Two Pregnant Women from Gaza (Rambam Health Care Campus)
    Last month, a 29-year-old pregnant woman from Gaza was brought to Rambam Hospital in Haifa suffering from Rh incompatibility - a condition in which the mother and fetus have two different blood types. In this case, the problem was not detected in time and the mother arrived in critical condition.
    At the same time, a 35-year-old woman from Gaza was brought to Rambam in extremely critical condition, suffering from a blood clot disorder. She was in danger of bleeding to death.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran: "Dismantling Nuclear Program Not on the Agenda" - Anne Gearan
    "Dismantling [the] nuclear program is not on the agenda," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said Tuesday in Vienna, pledging never to dismantle equipment or facilities as the latest talks on Iran's nuclear program began. (Washington Post)
        See also At Nuclear Talks, U.S. Seeks Caps on Iran's Ballistic Missiles - Jay Solomon
    Talks on a permanent Iran nuclear accord opened Tuesday with the U.S. pressing Tehran to agree the deal should encompass caps on its expanding ballistic missile capabilities. "Every issue is on the table as part of the comprehensive negotiations, including Iran's ballistic missile program," said a senior U.S. official at the talks.
        But Iran says the missiles are beyond the limits of nuclear talks. "The Islamic Republic of Iran's defensive issues are neither negotiable nor subject to compromise," Iran's deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, told Iranian state television on Sunday. "We won't discuss any issue other than the nuclear dossier in the negotiations."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • A Stronger Western Effort to Back the Syrian Rebels - David Ignatius
    Western and Arab intelligence services that support Syria's opposition gathered for a two-day strategy meeting in Washington last week that appears to signal a stronger effort to back the rebels. The gathering was attended by spy chiefs from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and Jordan. Sources said these countries agreed to coordinate their aid so that it goes directly to moderate fighters rather than to extremists of the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
        The CIA has organized the training of opposition fighters in Jordan, where the training camps can handle about 250 fighters a month. Over 1,000 fighters have come through this program and Arab countries have urged the U.S. to double this training capacity.
        The new commander of the Free Syrian Army's supreme military command is Brig. Gen. Abdul-Illah al-Bashir, who defected from the Syrian army last year and is based in Quneitra, on Syria's southern border. He lost a son in fighting against Assad's forces, which gives him credibility among rebels. His deputy will be Col. Haitham Afiseh from Idlib province in the north. U.S. observers credit Afiseh for leading attacks that routed ISIS jihadists from his home town. (Washington Post)
        See also Syria Rebels Reorganize, Push for Arms - Liz Sly (Washington Post)
        See also Anti-Government Armies in Syria Plan for Spring Offensive
    After regime and opposition representatives failed to reach consensus in talks last week, anti-government spokesmen in southern Syria say a spring offensive against Damascus, the capital, is planned, which will include fighters trained in Jordan by Western forces.
        At the same time, the Syrian army is moving troops to the border between Syria and Israel and is accelerating the shelling of rebel positions in Daraa province, on the border with Jordan. "Daraa is the gateway to Damascus. The battle for Damascus starts here," said rebel commander Abdullah al-Qarazi, a former Syrian army officer. (UPI)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Neutralizes 20-Kg. Bomb near Gaza Fence - Gili Cohen
    A 20-kilogram bomb - an especially large and powerful charge - was found Tuesday buried near the border fence in southern Gaza. Israel Defense Forces engineers neutralized the bomb, working from across the fence. It was the fourth bomb found near the fence since the beginning of 2014. (Ha'aretz)
  • Rise in Palestinian Attacks on Jerusalem-Tel Aviv Highway - Mitch Ginsburg
    Route 443, one of only two roads linking Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the capital, has witnessed a flare-up of violence, including 20 firebomb attacks, during the first two months of the year. In February, the Israel Police ruled the road off-limits to Israeli government ministers. The 16-km. road is under constant surveillance, with IDF female soldiers working four-hour shifts, their eyes fixed on the screens in front of them. Responding to the increased threats, the IDF has doubled its forces in the area. (Times of Israel)
  • Number of Economic Migrants Departing Israel Voluntarily Doubles - Marissa Newman
    "The increase in the number of [departing] infiltrators we have witnessed each month is dramatic," Interior Minister Gideon Sa'ar said on Tuesday. "In December - 325 infiltrators; in January the number rose to 765 infiltrators who left voluntarily; and...[in February] we are expecting to double the number of people who departed voluntarily in January." There are currently 50,000 African migrants in Israel. The Israeli government offers migrants grants of $3,500 to leave the country of their own accord. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel Flying Asylum Seekers to Uganda - Ilan Lior (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The U.S. Undercuts Its Own Power in Iran Nuclear Talks - Ray Takeyh
    In the nuclear talks with Iran, the U.S. is not dealing with the Soviet Union but a beleaguered middling power that may still be coerced into more expansive concessions. A close reading of Iran's political scene reveals that Ayatollah Khamenei's most important red line has not been on the nuclear issue but on preventing moderates from regaining political power.
        Given the disparity of power between the U.S. and Iran, Washington has an opportunity to craft a durable accord for arms control while preserving its coercive leverage. Such are the advantages of being a superpower with the world's largest economy and intact alliances. But for that to happen, the U.S. must stop underestimating its power and overestimating its adversary's resilience. The writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Washington Post)
        See also Obama Weapons Expert: No Chance of Success with Iran - Jeffrey Goldberg
    Gary Samore, who was until recently the Obama administration's top expert on weapons of mass destruction, says the Iran nuclear talks have an almost zero chance of success because the West has given the Iranian regime insufficient cause to feel as if it must give up its nuclear dreams. (Bloomberg)
  • The Impending Clash between Iran and Saudi Arabia - Jonathan D. Halevi
    In 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini declared that Mecca was in the hands of a "band of heretics." For the current Iranian leadership, Khomeini's remarks remain authoritative and frame the way Iran views Saudi Arabia. In January 2014, Frederic Hof, a former adviser to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, disclosed during a congressional hearing that he heard from the Iranians that they viewed Saudi Arabia as their primary enemy, and not the U.S. or even Israel.
        In Riyadh's eyes, Iran remains the most serious security challenge to the stability and territorial integrity of the Saudi kingdom. Saudi Arabia is preparing to purchase an atomic bomb "off the shelf" from Pakistan in order to create deterrence against Iran. Iran's determination to persist with its nuclear program and the Saudi determination to acquire a nuclear shield may drag the Middle East into a nuclear arms race.
        Whatever understandings might be reached between Iran and the West on the nuclear file, Iran has no intention of retreating from its efforts to establish its hegemony in the Middle East. Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • EU Funds Promotion of the Palestinian Political Narrative
    One of the EU's major financial assistance programs is the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), whose program objectives are to provide "support for the promotion of democracy and human rights." For the years 2007-2010, projects that address Israel and the Palestinians received €11,472,593 in EIDHR grants. The majority of these grants support NGOs that adopt and promote the Palestinian political narrative and engage in political warfare campaigns against Israel.
        Many of the NGOs chosen to promote EIDHR principles are highly political organizations with a strong bias against Israel. These EU-funded organizations regularly employ "apartheid" and other demonizing rhetoric, campaign for anti-Israel boycott efforts (BDS), actively lobby international frameworks, and engage in lawfare activities. (NGO Monitor)

The Long Iran Stall Begins Again - Jonathan S. Tobin (Commentary)

  • It's not just that the Iranians are pouring cold water on any optimism about the negotiations, with their Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying they "will lead nowhere" or his representatives' adamant refusal to even discuss the dismantling of any of their nuclear infrastructure.
  • What is most distressing about the Iran talks is the blithe assumption on the part of the negotiators that they will drag on for as long as a year, allowing the Iranians to keep delaying while they continue to get closer to their nuclear goal.
  • The deal Secretary of State John Kerry signed in Geneva on November 24 stipulated that the talks that would follow were to take place over a six-month period. Kerry and his boss President Obama stressed the six-month time frame in order to assure Americans and nervous Israelis that the agreement couldn't be used by Tehran to stall the West indefinitely.
  • Yet we are now being assured that we should expect the negotiations to drag on until 2015 with little hope that they will end even then. With Iran's economy showing signs of a revival in the wake of the West's loosening of sanctions, there appears to be no reason to expect Tehran will ever give up its nuclear dream.
  • Open-ended negotiations were exactly what the president promised he would not be drawn into. For a decade, Iran has been able to engage in diplomatic tricks that have enabled it to stall the West indefinitely as they tried to run out the clock until their nuclear project was completed.
  • Right now, faith in diplomacy with Iran seems to have more to do with a disinclination to pressure them than it does with any belief that the U.S. can achieve its objectives.

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