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September 19, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Tracks Threats Against West by Al-Qaeda Affiliate in Syria - Siobhan Gorman and Julian E. Barnes (Wall Street Journal)
    The U.S. is tracking multiple terror plots based out of Syria that target the West - traced to al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate and not to the Islamic State.
    Two such groups are the Nusra Front and a cell of al-Qaeda leaders now in Syria that works closely with the Nusra Front known as Khorasan. Together, the Nusra Front and Khorasan are suspected to have multiple plots in the works targeting countries in Europe as well as the U.S.
    Some counter-terrorism specialists also say it is a mistake for the U.S. to focus the new offensive solely on the Islamic State.
    "It's a half measure to target only ISIS on the Iraq and Syria fronts, when it misses the group that appears to be most extensively involved in Western plotting, including the USA, and that's the Nusra Front," said Seth Jones, a terrorism specialist at Rand Corp.

ISIS Gang Sparked Norway Terror Alert (The Local-Norway)
    Four terrorists connected to ISIS were responsible for a July 24 terror alert in Norway, Dagbladet reported Thursday.
    The Norwegian intelligence agency was warned by a foreign agency that a terror attack against Norway was expected.

Islamic State Issues New Curriculum in Iraq - Sinan Salaheddin and Vivian Salama (AP)
    The extremist-held city of Mosul, Iraq's second largest city, is set to usher in a new school year. But unlike years past, there will be no art or music. Classes about history, literature and Christianity have been "permanently annulled."
    The Islamic State has declared patriotic songs blasphemous and ordered that certain pictures be torn out of textbooks.
    Although the school year was to begin Sep. 9, pupils have uniformly not shown up for class.

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Moroccan Journalist Accuses Islamic Jihad Deputy Leader of Sexual Assault - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Amal Ahmed, the Moroccan female editor of the Cyprus-based Al-Amal Al-Arabi (The Arab Hope) magazine, accused the deputy head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Ziad al-Nakhaleh, of sexually assaulting her on Sep. 12 in Beirut, the Lebanese online newspaper Lebanon Debate reported.
    Ahmed arrived in Beirut after being promised an interview with PIJ leader Ramadan Shalah.
    A senior Islamic Jihad official told the Ramallah-based Wattan online newspaper that the Moroccan woman was part of a scheme by "Mossad or an Arab or Western intelligence agency to assassinate Ramadan Shalah or his deputy, Ziad al-Nakhaleh."

Intel's New Processors Developed in Israel - Omer Shurbit (Ha'aretz)
    Intel released a line of new processors that were developed in Israel at its annual developers' conference last week. The Core M processors are set to hit the market during the second half of 2015, said CEO Brian Krzanich.
    The new 14-nanometer processors will include WiGiG technology developed in Petah Tikva. With them, customers will be able to tap away without cables connected to their computers; this includes cordless charging and docking of devices.

Uganda Sends 200 Agricultural Students to Israel - Zurah Nakabugo (Observer-Uganda)
    Ugandan President Museveni saw off some 200 students on a one-year program to acquire agricultural skills in Israel.
    Merab Acham, a veterinary medicine student from Makerere University, said: "We have been always waiting for rain to do farming, but Israel is a desert and it's one of the best countries in agricultural production. So, we believe the skills we shall acquire will help in annual production and reduce the problems of food scarcity in the country."
    At least 1,100 students from 17 countries worldwide are attaining modern agricultural skills in Israel.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • West Tells Iran It Must Address Nuclear Bomb Fears - Fredrik Dahl
    Western powers told Iran on Thursday it must step up cooperation with a UN watchdog's investigation into suspected atomic bomb research by the country if it wants to get a broader nuclear deal that would ease sanctions. The warning was issued at a board meeting of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, as chief negotiators from Iran and six world powers prepared to resume talks in New York.
        Iran did not address two key issues by late August as agreed with the IAEA: experiments on explosives that could be used for an atomic device, and studies related to calculating nuclear explosive yields. U.S. envoy Laura Kennedy said, "Concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program must be addressed as part of any comprehensive solution."  (Reuters)
        See also below Observations: Why We Need Iran to Reveal All - Emily B. Landau (Times of Israel)
  • Dermer: Nuclear Iran Is a "Thousand Times" More Dangerous than ISIS - Ron Kampeas
    Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, warned Wednesday against including Iran in any coalition to derail ISIS, saying a nuclear Iran would be a "thousand times" greater threat to the world than the jihadist group. (JTA)
  • U.S. Faces Tough Struggle on Ground to Oust ISIS - Michael R. Gordon, Eric Schmitt and Helene Cooper
    The American air campaign to thwart the advance of fighters from the Islamic State has been the easy part of President Obama's strategy in Iraq and Syria. Soon begins the next and much harder phase: rolling back their gains in Mosul, Falluja and other populated areas, which will require American advisers to train and coordinate airstrikes with Iraqi forces. This will almost certainly require American Special Operations forces on the ground to call in airstrikes. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Director of National Intelligence: We Underestimated the Islamic State's "Will to Fight" - David Ignatius
    The U.S. has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam - underestimating the enemy's will, James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, said Wednesday in an interview. "In this case, we underestimated ISIL [the Islamic State] and overestimated the fighting capability of the Iraqi army....I didn't see the collapse of the Iraqi security force in the north coming. I didn't see that. It boils down to predicting the will to fight, which is an imponderable."
        Clapper said he believed that the Islamic State posed a "strategic threat...long term" to the U.S., given "their actions and their statements about the inevitability of confrontation with the U.S."  (Washington Post)
  • Israel Believes Syria Kept "Significant" Chemical Munitions - Dan Williams
    Israel believes Syria has retained caches of combat-ready chemical weapons after giving up raw materials used to produce such munitions, a senior Israeli official said Thursday. Summarizing Israeli intelligence estimates that were previously not disclosed to avoid undermining the Syrians' surrender of their declared chemical arsenal, the official said they had kept some missile warheads, air-dropped bombs and rocket-propelled grenades primed with toxins like sarin. He said the Syrians maintained "a significant residual capability." "There are a number of questions here that still have to be clarified, still have to be looked at very closely" by international inspectors, the official said. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Fatah Blames Hamas for Palestinians Fleeing Gaza - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Dozens of Palestinians fleeing Gaza have been killed after the boats carrying them to Europe capsized off the shores of Egypt and Libya. Fatah officials in the West Bank claimed that Hamas collects $3,500 from every Palestinian who seeks to leave Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. The PA's official Wafa news agency said that the Palestinians seeking to immigrate to Europe were leaving because of pressure from Hamas against anyone who does not belong to the Islamist movement. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Will Not Break Cease-Fire, Gaza Leader Vows - Elhanan Miller
    "The cease-fire continues and is not one month long," Mahmoud al-Zahar, a Hamas hardliner and former foreign minister in the government of Ismail Haniyeh, told the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar on Thursday.
        Palestinian sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hamas security forces arrested two Salafi jihadists who had launched a mortar at Israel on Tuesday "without consulting their superiors." Hamas informed jihadist leaders in Gaza that it "will not tolerate this and will crack down on those trying to launch missiles. It will not allow anyone to violate the general Palestinian agreement prescribing the end of war and adherence to the cease-fire."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Names Six New Female Ambassadors - Shlomo Cesana
    Israel's Foreign Ministry announced 12 new diplomatic appointments on Sunday, including six female ambassadors. Einat Shlain, head of the international division at the Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Research Center, will become Israel's new ambassador to Jordan. Other new female ambassadors include Aliza Ben-Nun to France; Tamar Samash to Romania; Irit Lilian to Bulgaria; Simona Frankel to Belgium, and Yael Ravia to Cyprus - as well as Judith Varnai, consul-general for Atlanta. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran Remains Our Biggest Challenge - Eric Edelman, Dennis Ross and Ray Takeyh
    As the U.S. begins its campaign to destroy the Islamic State, many voices can be counted on to call for cooperation with Iran. However, the theocratic Iranian regime and its attempt to upend the regional order remains the U.S.' most consequential long-term challenge in the Middle East.
        The Islamic Republic is not a normal nation-state seeking to realize its legitimate interests but an ideological entity mired in manufactured conspiracies. In today's disorderly region, Iran sees a unique opportunity to project its influence and undermine the U.S. and its system of alliances.
        Today, in Syria and Iraq, Iran's interests are inimical to those of the U.S. Our interests strongly argue against working with Iran against the Islamic State in Syria lest we lose the very Sunni support that will be necessary to eradicate the group. Similarly in Iraq, any putative alliance with Iran would undo much of what the U.S. has attempted to accomplish there.
        The only way that President Obama's objective of "destroying" the Islamic State can be achieved is by taking back, over time, much of the territory seized by its fighters in Nineveh and Anbar provinces. This will require significant buy-in from the Sunni tribes who formed the backbone of the uprising against al-Qaeda during the surge, which will be unattainable if there is a perception that the U.S. is seeking a de facto alliance with Iran.
        Eric Edelman served as U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy from 2005 to 2009. Dennis Ross was special assistant to the president for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011. Ray Takeyh is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. (Washington Post)
  • The Islamic State vs. Al-Qaeda - J.M. Berger
    The post-9/11 jihadi movement has split into two major groups - al-Qaeda and its declared affiliates, under the leadership of bin Laden and now Ayman al-Zawahiri - and everyone else. In the spring of 2014, Zawahiri disavowed the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) - at the time considered an al-Qaeda affiliate - essentially firing it for failing to follow his orders. A small but notable number of splinter groups from al-Qaeda and its affiliates have pledged their loyalty to the Islamic State. Yet very few establishment al-Qaeda supporters and clerics have come down in favor of the Islamic State.
        The Egyptian jihadi group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) is believed to have strong ties with the Islamic State. It recently mimicked one of the Islamic State's favorite practices, releasing a video featuring graphic decapitations of alleged Mossad spies. The Islamic State has a significant, possibly substantial, number of supporters in Gaza, including an armed brigade and key technology operatives who support the group's online presence.
        Since the declaration of the caliphate, online global financier networks supporting the Syrian jihad have displayed considerable hostility toward the Islamic State online, which was aggravated by the Islamic State's recent massacre of hundreds of Sunni tribesman in Syria. In other words, there are reasons for global jihadi supporters to hate the Islamic State other than blind loyalty to al-Qaeda. (Foreign Policy)
  • Why Turkey Won't Fight with U.S. Against Islamic State - Alexander Christie-Miller
    When Washington sought to rally world and regional partners last week for an assault on the jihadis of the Islamic State, one crucial ally was notably reluctant: Turkey, a NATO member with the alliance's second largest army. Visits to Ankara over the past week by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry yielded little, with Turkish leaders publicly refusing to play any military role against IS and forbidding the U.S. to use Turkish soil for strikes against the group. During the Iraq war of 2003, Turkey similarly spurned American overtures to station troops in the country and use its airbases.
        Asli Aydintasbas, a foreign affairs columnist at Milliyet, says Ankara is doing more to combat IS than its public rhetoric suggests. "They want the Americans to take care of ISIS, but they don't want to have their fingerprints on it."  (Christian Science Monitor)
  • The Islamic State Stands for Mass Murder and Barbarism - Melanie Phillips
    When the Islamic State started beheading American and British hostages and circulating its videos, this helped to recruit thousands of Muslims from Europe and elsewhere to join it. Are we supposed to believe this is just coincidence? Millions of Muslims believe that Islam should rule the world and that jihad is the path to this end; millions of other Muslims do not believe this.
        The fundamental goal of the Islamic State is not to remedy some geopolitical grievance against Israel, America, India or Saudi Arabia. It is to establish a caliphate and force the world to submit to Islam. What the Islamic State openly stands for is mass murder and barbarism. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Gaza War Leaned Heavily on F-16 Close-Air Support - Barbara Opall-Rome
    Hundreds of the more than 6,000 targets Israel struck from the air during the Gaza war were from fighter jets delivering bombs in record time and in close proximity to friendly ground forces. With an F-16 dedicated to every brigade, precision air power provided protection for friendly forces fighting less than 350 meters away. That's a three-fold improvement from the traditional 1-km. safety range for fixed-wing close air support, IDF officers said.
        Israel Air Force chief of staff Brig. Gen. Amikam Norkin said the Gaza war marked the first time fixed-wing fighters were used as dedicated assets to division- and brigade-level forces. During the 19-day ground segment of the war, close air support was provided within 30 minutes, and in many cases 20 minutes, of the first receipt of ground force tasking data. The Air Force wants to achieve bombs on target within 10 minutes.
        In addition, combat helicopters constantly accompany Israeli boots on the ground. "The Apaches are always there," Norkin said. But when forces are maneuvering in built-up areas where threats are hidden, above and under the ground, fighter-launched precision weaponry is the best option. "When there are residential buildings of three, four and five floors, and the civilians are already evacuated, fixed-wing precision air power is most effective."
        At any given time during the 50-day campaign, the Air Force had an average of 40 air platforms of different types operating in the same congested airspace over Gaza, Norkin said. UAVs monitored and recorded all of the designated targets prior to attack, an essential element for preserving legitimacy and countering inevitable accusations of excessive force. "100% of the targets we attacked had constant [visual intelligence] above them before, during and after attack," Norkin said. (Defense News)
  • Israeli Ambassador: British Jews Fed "a Relentless Diet of Media Distortions" - Daniel Easterman
    Israeli ambassador to the UK Daniel Taub said Tuesday that British Jews had been fed "a relentless diet of media distortions." "When trade unions resolve to boycott the only country in the Middle East which has a free trade union. When the media chooses to exact a price on the only country in the region which permits journalists to travel freely, and to report without intimidation."
        "When at the Edinburgh festival violent rioters prevent Israeli productions from performing for the first time. When supermarkets cave in to hooliganism by taking Israeli and even non-Israeli kosher products off the shelves. In this environment, a new generation of the Jewish people is coming of age. Fed on a relentless diet of media distortions, they leave school and go to universities where voices for Israel are rare and often silenced."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

Why We Need Iran to Reveal All - Emily B. Landau (Times of Israel)

  • As we move to the Nov. 24 deadline for P5+1-Iran negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear deal, the issue of Iran's past weaponization activities is becoming critical. Iran's most recent stonewalling on the IAEA's outstanding questions regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran's program was evident when Iran missed the Aug. 25 deadline for providing answers.
  • The most important reason for insisting that Iran admit its past work on a military nuclear program is to dispense with Iran's narrative that it has "done no wrong" in the nuclear realm.
  • Even though most officials and experts know that Iran has worked on a military program, the steadfast Iranian denial has effectively undercut the alternative P5+1 narrative, and has considerably weakened the hand of the international negotiators facing Iran. Iran's dogged narrative enables Russia to continue to insist that there is no evidence of military nuclear activity in Iran.
  • Iran's narrative must be discredited, and the charade must end. If Iran was confronted with clear-cut evidence that it had worked on a military nuclear program for years, the case for taking a harsh international approach would gain considerable traction.
  • The only way to get a good nuclear deal with Iran is by exposing the deception and applying massive pressure.

    The writer is head of the arms control program at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University.

        See also Principles and Guidelines for a Comprehensive Nuclear Deal with Iran - Emily B. Landau (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
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