Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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October 3, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Egyptian Army Foils Plot to Kidnap International Peacekeepers in Sinai (Jerusalem Post)
    Egypt thwarted a terrorist plot against international peacekeepers in Sinai, Al-Watan reported on Thursday. The group planned to kidnap and kill soldiers from countries participating in the coalition against the Islamic State.
    The army uncovered the cell operating near a camp of peacekeeping troops in Egypt, killing 7 of its members and arresting 15 others. A cache of weapons and explosive devices was also uncovered.

Half of Those Who Died in the Gaza War Were Terrorists (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    ITIC has so far examined the names of 842 Palestinians killed in the Gaza war. Of the 721 dead who could be identified, terrorist operatives constitute about 49% of the fatalities, while non-involved civilians constitute approximately 51%.

Islamic State Presses Offensives in Iraq, Syria - Erin Cunningham and Brian Murphy (Washington Post)
    Islamic State fighters pressed their assault on two key towns in Syria and Iraq on Thursday.
    The two showdowns - in the Euphrates River town of Hit in Iraq and the strategic Syrian crossroads of Kobane near the Turkish border - suggest that the Islamic State retains enough firepower and command structure to make continued gains despite weeks of airstrikes by Western and Arab nations.
    The clashes also have exposed weaknesses among the ground forces trying to blunt the extremist group's push.

Turkey Approves Military Operations in Iraq, Syria - Suzan Fraser and Diaa Hadid (AP)
    Turkey's parliament voted Thursday by 298-98 to give the government new powers to launch military incursions into Syria and Iraq, and to allow foreign forces to use its territory for possible operations against the Islamic State, whose militants control areas of Iraq and Syria right up to the Turkish border.
    The motion could allow Iraqi Kurdish fighters to use Turkey's territory to safely cross into Syria to help Syrian Kurdish forces there, or permit the deployment of coalition forces' drones, Dogu Ergil, a professor of political science and a columnist for Today's Zaman newspaper, said.
    Turkey could also allow its air base in Incirlik, some 160 km. from the Syrian border, to be used by allied planes or for logistics.

    See also New Hostage Crisis for Turkey: Islamic State Surrounds Troops at Shrine - Roy Gutman (McClatchy)
    As many as 1,100 Islamic State militants on Tuesday surrounded 36 Turkish troops located about 15 miles inside Syria, assigned to guard the shrine of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire, raising concerns that they might be taken hostage.

Anti-Semites Gather in Iran for Regime-Sponsored Hate-Fest - Ben Cohen (Algemeiner)
    Anti-Semites and radical anti-Zionists from the U.S. and Europe have converged on Tehran for a three-day jamboree dedicated to conspiracy theories about the influence of the "Zionist Lobby."
    Among those attending are French-Cameroonian provocateur and comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, Medea Benjamin of CodePink, which supports the elimination of the State of Israel, and Thierry Meyssan, the French author of a book claiming that 9/11 was carried out not by al-Qaeda, but by the U.S. government.
    The conference is being hosted by the Iranian regime of Hassan Rouhani, who is often described as a "moderate."

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Volatile Environment in Syria Now "Calmer" for Irish Troops - Conor Lally (Irish Times)
    Armed rebels who have targeted Irish troops in Syria were now resting and rearming, leading to a "calmer" environment, but the region would stay volatile, Irish Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Conor O'Boyle has said.
    Because the Irish had moved to the Israeli side of the border with Syria they were much safer, he said.
    The Irish have been fired at a number of times since late last year, have returned fire several times and had one of their armored vehicles damaged in a roadside bomb.

Israel Saves Syrian Boy with Bullet Lodged in Neck - Inna Lazareva (Telegraph-UK)
    A five-year-old Syrian boy and his father were in their living room at home in southern Syria when a gunfight erupted outside. A stray bullet hit the boy in the face.
    "I decided to run to the border and try and save his life, because everyone knows there is [an Israeli] field hospital there," the father said.
    Doctors in Haifa managed to remove a bullet from the child's neck, situated millimeters from the main blood vessels.
    The boy cannot be identified due to fears his life will be in danger if it is discovered he has been treated in Israel.

Moody's: War or Not, Israel a Great Place to Invest - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Despite the costly summer war in Gaza, on Wednesday the international credit rating agency Moody's issued a report maintaining Israel's previous A1 stable outlook.
    Last month, S&P gave Israel an A+ Stable rating, and Fitch assigned Israel an A Positive rating.
    A high agency rating means that a country can borrow money at lower interest rates from international banks and agencies.

Chinese Firms Swoop into Israel Looking for Tech Investments - Orr Hirschauge (Wall Street Journal)
    Chinese investors are pouring millions into Israel-focused, tech-investment funds, as well as launching their own funds and investing directly in Israeli startups.
    Yongjin Group Inc. has put $15-20 million into Israeli venture fund Pitango Venture Capital during the past year. Lenovo Group Ltd. invested $10 million in Canaan Partners Israel in August.
    Ping An Venture created a $100 million fund dedicated to U.S. and Israel tech ventures, and has made six investments in Israeli startups so far.
    In the first half of 2014, 335 Israeli high-tech companies raised a record $1.6 billion in capital, 81% higher than in the year-earlier period.

U.S. Navy Saved Jews of the Land of Israel 100 Years Ago - Lenny Ben-David (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    100 years ago the Jews of Palestine suffered terribly from hunger, disease and oppression under Ottoman rule.
    On October 6, 1914, the U.S. Navy's USS North Carolina landed in Jaffa harbor and delivered to the U.S. consul general $50,000 in funds from the U.S. Jewish community for distribution to the Jewish community in Palestine.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Netanyahu Sees Arab Alliance Aiding Mideast Peace - Mark Landler
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Wednesday raised the tantalizing prospect that a new Arab alliance could resuscitate Israel's moribund peace talks with the Palestinians. Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu discussed how the militant group, Islamic State, was reshaping the region, with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states lining up with Israel against a common foe. That new alignment, Mr. Netanyahu declared in a speech on Monday at the UN, could be the foundation for the renewal of the Palestinian peace negotiations.
        Mr. Obama, who once listed the peace process as one of his top foreign-policy priorities, is now consumed with fighting the Islamic State. He echoed Mr. Netanyahu on the value of new alliances in the region, saying there was a need for a "shift in Arab states and Muslim countries that isolates the cancer of violent extremism that is so pernicious."  (New York Times)
  • Netanyahu: Don't Leave Iran at Nuclear "Threshold" - Patricia Zengerle
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told President Barack Obama on Wednesday that he must make sure any final nuclear deal with Iran does not leave it at the "threshold" of being able to develop nuclear weapons. "Both of us want to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But I say that is not enough. You want to prevent it from (being able to) develop a nuclear weapon in a short term, of weeks or months. What is called breakout time," Netanyahu told Israel's Channel 10 TV on Thursday. (Reuters)
  • Strong House Majority Raises Concerns on Iran Nuke Access - Michael R. Crittenden
    Four-fifths of the U.S. House of Representatives - 354 members, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) - signed a letter sent Wednesday to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding greater transparency from Iran over its nuclear program.
        "An agreement that effectively prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability demands transparency on the extensive research and development work that Iran has undertaken in the past," the lawmakers wrote. "Accurate predictions of the period of time needed by Iran to assemble a weapon and assessments of Iran's compliance cannot be made without highly reliable information obtained from an unrestricted inspection and verification regime."
        "Iran has to believe that the military option is not off the table, and two, that further economic sanctions are likely if an agreement is not reached," Mr. Hoyer said. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Abbas: Palestinians Risking U.S. Aid over UN Bid
    The Palestinians are under heavy pressure to drop plans to seek a UN Security Council resolution to establish a date for Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state with its capital in east Jerusalem, risking $700 million a year in U.S. aid, President Mahmoud Abbas has said. Abbas vowed on Tuesday to press ahead with the move, warning that if it were shot down by a U.S. veto, he would seek to join the International Criminal Court and petition the court over alleged Israeli war crimes.
        In a defiant speech to the UN General Assembly last Friday, Abbas accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in Gaza. The State Department described his remarks as "offensive" and "deeply disappointing."  (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Obama Choosing Not to Turn Jerusalem Building Dispute into Major Crisis - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
    Despite Wednesday's synchronized White House and State Department critique of building plans in Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos neighborhood, according to Washington insiders, the administration is not interested in turning the issue of Israel's plans to build some 2,600 units on a southeast Jerusalem hillside into a full-blown crisis. (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinians Caught with Explosives in West Bank - Noam Dvir
    Israeli Border Police arrested two Palestinians on Thursday carrying three pipe bombs, an improvised firearm and several knives near the Tapuach junction in the West Bank. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Must Be Well-Prepared for Dangers - Interview with IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz by Ben Caspit and Noam Amir
    Q: Is there any truth to the rumor that Hamas intended to carry out an attack in which all the tunnels would be used simultaneously?
    Gantz: "As we know well, Hamas did not utilize the tunnels for a mass terrorist attack....Hamas met with IDF forces every time it poked its head out of one of the tunnels and failed to reach any Israeli population centers. I am of the opinion that we have neutralized this problem."
        Q: Is Hizbullah really capable of conquering parts of the Galilee?
    Gantz: "Hizbullah has offensive abilities and attacking experience that it has gained in the Syrian war and in north Lebanon....Hizbullah, through Iran, has a number of drones, including some with offensive capabilities....If a war breaks out, it will be long and difficult....The scenario includes hundreds and even thousands of rockets that are much more precise and powerful than those we saw in Operation Protective Edge [the Gaza War]."
        "We may be in the OECD, but we are in the heart of the Middle East, completely surrounded by enemies. The only thing standing between us and ISIS right now is that they are currently busy with more urgent matters."  (Maariv Weekend-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    At the UN

  • U.S. President Says Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Not the Root of the Region's Problems - Zalman Shoval
    President Barack Obama told the UN General Assembly last week, "The situation in Iraq and Syria and Libya should cure anybody of the illusion that the Arab-Israeli conflict is the main source of problems in the region. For far too long, that's been used as an excuse to distract people from problems at home."
        For many years now Israel's public policy efforts have focused on shattering the claim that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all the problems in the Middle East, not to mention America's problems with the Arab world, when President Obama comes along with an outright and emphatic statement, the interpretation of which clearly means that we have been right all along. No longer will we hear that "the road to Baghdad runs through Jerusalem," or "American soldiers are risking their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan because the Palestinian problem has not been resolved."
        It is possible that the president simply arrived at the logical and necessary conclusion that the spreading chaos in the Middle East, which also threatens to spill over into Europe and the U.S., is too severe and dangerous for them to continue hiding behind the excuse provided by the Palestinian issue. The writer is a former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. (Israel Hayom)
  • Abbas Is Not a Partner for Peace - Michael Oren
    In his address to the UN General Assembly, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas proved that he is not a partner for peace. A Palestinian leader who accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing has no intention of becoming a partner for peace. He does not want negotiations - not even American-brokered talks - and is not interested in durable peace based on security arrangements and mutual recognition.
        Abbas' remarks at the UN mark the opening shot of a political Palestinian initiative aimed at isolating Israel in the international arena, delegitimizing it and imposing sanctions on it. The writer served as Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (Ynet News)
  • Abbas at the UN - Avi Issacharoff
    At the UN, PA President Mahmoud Abbas sounded one of his most aggressive speeches against Israel, including accusations of genocide. Yet Abbas is the same man who gave us information on the three kidnapped teens.
        Israel didn't commit any genocide in Gaza and the PA knows it. So why did Abbas go so far and say what he said? Palestinian public opinion. If elections were held today, Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh would defeat Abbas. He also knows that Hamas is more popular in the West Bank than in Gaza. According to Monday's poll from Khalil Shikaki, more people in the West Bank than in Gaza support firing rockets at Israel from population centers. Abbas' extreme words were meant to prevent a further drift of public opinion, which does not look kindly upon Abbas' security cooperation with Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Telling the Truth in the Hall of Lies - Dror Eydar
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address at the UN General Assembly was broadcast to millions of American viewers. Israelis know the things he said in his speech, but we need a messenger to relay our truth to the world. It is important that once every year, the head of the Jewish state comes to New York to tell the truth at the UN.
        As far as we're concerned, the Arabs are the ones who invaded our land in the seventh century. Ever since the 1880s, the Zionist waves of immigration (aliyah) brought with them hundreds of thousands of people from Arab states. They came here looking for work, while the Jews were coming back to their homeland - the only place for them on earth. That is why the IDF is not an army of occupation, but rather a force tasked with protecting Jews. (Israel Hayom)

  • Other Issues

  • The President and New Housing in Jerusalem - Elliott Abrams
    In December 2012, the Jerusalem District Planning and Building Committee announced a major new housing project called Givat Hamatos, with 2,600 units, half for Jewish residents and half for Arab Jerusalemites. The administration reaction is curious given that this is not new news, and that Arabs and Jews will live in this housing. Building new housing for Arabs and Jews in Jerusalem does not in fact "call into question Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians," the foolish and extreme phrase of both the White House spokesman and the State Department. Calling upon Israel to stop housing construction in its capital city is not realistic. The writer is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at CFR. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Will the ICC Investigate Israel? - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    A recent decision by the International Criminal Court in The Hague dealing with Egypt could impact the future of any Israeli-Palestinian legal conflict before the ICC, international law commentator Prof. Eugene Kontorovich has noted. Former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi had invoked the ICC to prosecute Egypt's current rulers for toppling him and for alleged war crimes against him and his supporters. However, the ICC prosecutor rejected his complaint, stating that he did not have "effective control" of Egypt and therefore could not apply on behalf of Egypt.
        According to Kontorovich, this same rationale could block "Palestine" from successfully getting the ICC to pursue Israelis over the Gaza war, since PA President Mahmoud Abbas does not have "effective control" over Gaza. Moreover, Hamas may fear ICC jurisdiction could lead to prosecution against it for indiscriminate rocket fire as war crimes. (Jerusalem Post)
  • As the Islamic State Rolls North, Turkey Reconsiders Military Action - Ilene Prusher
    Turkey shares a long border with Syria. Given the horrors that the Islamic State has perpetrated against almost everyone in its path - and the myriad ways in which Turkey itself is threatened by the fighting and taxed by the influx of refugees - it's become increasingly hard for Turkey to justify opting out of the international assault on the Islamic State.
        Though the Islamic State does not present an existential threat to Turkey, it can further destabilize the border, harm Turkish citizens and soldiers, and make Erdogan look like the Chamberlain of the Middle East. Thankfully, when he looks southeast and sees the march of the black and white flag, Erdogan knows that this is not the more brotherly Islamic neighborhood he had in mind. (Ha'aretz)
  • Who Brought the Arabs to This Nadir? - Hisham Melhem
    In 1960 the GDP per capita for South Korea and Egypt were almost equal, $155 and $149 respectively, and their populations were 25 million and 27 million respectively. By 2012 the GDP per capita in South Korea reached $16,684 with a population of 50 million. In comparison, Egypt's GDP per capita grew only to $1,976, and its population tripled to 82 million. What went wrong in Egypt and what went right in South Korea is a tale of political will and good and bad governance. South Korea invested heavily in education and in its corporations and revolutionized industrial productivity by empowering women and incorporating them in the labor force. (Al-Arabiya)
  • Is Another Intifada in the Works? - Sharif Nashashibi
    In the West Bank, current conditions are not ripe for another uprising, particularly compared with those that existed 14 years ago at the time of the last uprising. An intifada would require a level of national unity that simply does not exist today. Whereas previous intifadas have been directed solely at Israel, another one may well also target the Palestinian Authority. There is widespread public frustration at its failure to improve the daily lives of its people, or to bring them any closer to statehood.
        Also, with the Palestinian geographic split, Gaza is now hermetically sealed off, its people are physically unable to challenge Israeli authority. This excludes half the population from any cohesive national struggle. Moreover, previous intifadas were supported by Palestinian leaders. But it seems the PA would actively oppose another one. Foreign Minister Riad Malki has said that as long as Abbas is in charge, "there will be no third intifada."
        For all its bluster, Hamas is in no position currently to take part in an uprising. It suffered heavy losses in Gaza, and has been driven underground in the West Bank by Israel and the PA. The national unity deal stipulates a formal return of Hamas to the West Bank, so the faction may not want to jeopardize this, particularly with opinion polls showing that it would win presidential and parliamentary elections, which are the end goal of the deal. (Al Jazeera)
  • Hamas Radio in Gaza Reports on the Sunny Side of Islamist Rule - Terrence McCoy
    In Gaza, more than a dozen local radio stations compete for the ears of 1.8 million residents, but none of the stations have the reach and influence of Hamas-controlled Al-Aqsa, which amounts to official state media. "Because of the radio and television, many people believe in Hamas," said Gaza political analyst Talal Okal. But, he added, Al-Aqsa doesn't reflect all the facts - just those that make Hamas look good.
        Ibrahim Daher, the station's director, explained Al-Aqsa's strategy for covering news: "Our policy has always been to keep silent about certain news," he said. "If there was bad news during the war, or something went wrong, we just kept silent about it. And now we mostly keep silent about the blockade, and that Hamas wasn't able to lift it during the war," he added. (Washington Post)

  • The Gaza War

  • Yes, Israel Won in Gaza - Omri Ceren
    In June, Hamas operatives activated long-in-the-works plans to escalate terror operations in the West Bank and military attacks from Gaza. Israel responded by launching operations aimed at eroding Hamas' terror infrastructure in the West Bank and its military infrastructure in Gaza.
        By the middle of August, Israeli security forces had secured both strategic goals. In the West Bank the Hamas coup plotters had been rounded up, their weapons had been seized, and Hamas' leaders had been captured. In Gaza, the long-range rockets had been blown up or wasted, the hang-glider plot had been disrupted, the drones had proven useless, and the tunnels had been destroyed. The country emerged from the summer's violence more secure rather than less secure. (Commentary)
  • The IDF Human Intelligence Unit Saved Many Israeli Lives - Oded Shalom
    The IDF Human Intelligence Unit's operations are carried out along two axes - the recruitment and handling of agents in the West Bank and enemy states bordering Israel, and the interrogation of prisoners both on a routine basis and during times of war.
        "In times of war, the unit focuses its efforts primarily on field interrogations, the unit's commanding officer, Colonel A., explains. "The information the interrogators retrieve from the people the fighters capture in the battle zones can save lives and alter offensive or defensive plans."
        Do you use force against the detainees? "Never, there's none of that," says Lt. Col. H. "The use of force in field interrogations doesn't yield information, so interrogation is an acquired skill....Imagine you're sitting with a Hamas member in Khan Yunis and you're interrogating him while the fighting rages; and because of the pressure and force you subject him to, he gives you the information he thinks you want to hear but it is not necessarily the truth. Every detail you exact from him must stem from a willingness to cooperate."
        On July 21, Ohad Shemesh, 27, a field interrogator with the IDF's Human Intelligence Unit, was killed in an exchange of fire in Khan Yunis. R., a reservist who oversaw the field interrogators, says the information Shemesh gathered during the fighting was very significant. "On one of the days," he recounts, "the force he was with spotted a cell making preparations to launch a rocket towards Israel....Ohad convinced the company commander not to kill them, and really insisted on it, even though this required that the soldiers outflank them and capture them alive. Ohad got information from them about 15 launch sites, information that was immediately passed on to the air force, which, within minutes, then closed the circle and bombed those sites."
        After Shemesh was killed, Hamas maps were found on his person; he had found them in homes he had entered with the troops during the fighting. A. says they were maps with tactical markings that showed the location of Hamas command posts and places where ambushes had been set up against IDF forces. The information from these maps also soon became targets for the air force. (Ynet News)
  • "Out of the Depths" - Former IDF Combat Engineering Commander Views the Tunnel Threat - Col. (res.) Atai Shelach
    During the Gaza war, Israel revised its working assumption regarding the subterranean threat of offensive terror tunnels. For the first time in its history, Israel embarked on a military campaign intended to destroy a military obstacle that had evolved into a strategic threat to its security. Moreover, it embarked on the operation without possessing the tools required to eliminate the threatening phenomenon. It has lacked almost totally any supporting technological capability for spotting the tunnels. Nevertheless, it embarked on the operation, and it has been rather successful in locating and destroying all of the offensive tunnels it had been aware of prior to the ground move and during the ground move.
        We still have a long way to go before we can find a lasting solution regarding the subterranean medium. This phenomenon applies not only to the southern region but to all of Israel's borders. I have no doubt that the Israeli defense establishment will initiate substantial moves aimed at further improving the operational capability to handle this threat. Col. (res.) Atai Shelach is the former commander of the elite Yahalom unit of the IDF Combat Engineers. (Israel Defense)
  • Achieving Deterrence Is Not the Most Important Objective - David Ivry
    Limited-scale, asymmetrical conflicts have become the norm. After the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the deterrence of the last eight years was not achieved because of the accomplishments of the Israeli military. It was the result of other interests that had evolved and over which we had no control or influence.
        Achieving deterrence is not the most important objective. The national defense interest transcends deterrence. For example, during the First Gulf War, the State of Israel, under the leadership of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, avoided responding to the missiles launched into Israel from Iraq, thereby leading many people to claim that we lost our deterrence. However, the other national strategic interests we upheld were more important, which means that deterrence is not the dominant strategic goal.
        Additionally, it is important to understand that deterrence is not always achieved through a decisive military blow, but rather by creating interests that both parties would like to maintain or would be afraid of losing. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) David Ivry was Commander of the Israel Air Force, Chairman of the National Security Council, and Israel's Ambassador to the U.S. (Israel Defense)

Iran Is a Greater Threat than Islamic State - Melanie Phillips (Jerusalem Post)

  • "To defeat ISIS and leave Iran as a threshold nuclear power is to win the battle and lose the war," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week.
  • It is perplexing that Iran is not being treated by the West as the threat that it so patently is, despite its serial atrocities against Western interests. In Britain, the main anxiety is not about a nuclear Iran but the possibility that Israel might attack it.
  • This week the British home secretary, Theresa May, observed that "the lesson of history tells us that when our enemies say they want to attack us, they mean it." She was talking, however, not about Iran but about the Islamic State, which she described as planning to establish "the world's first truly terrorist state."
  • But that's precisely what Iran already is. And if the Islamic State with its 25,000 followers is such a threat, why isn't Iran, with its standing army of more than half a million and its terror proxies, rocket arsenals and imminent genocide bomb, seen as immeasurably more dangerous?
  • Iran is the world's principal terrorist regime. It is surely beyond irresponsible to allow it to become a nuclear-capable power.
  • The alternatives for the U.S. and its allies are stark. Either they support Israel in fighting Iran as the principal enemy of the West - or they crumble before Iran and thus inescapably empower its attack on the West.
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