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November 17, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Revolutionary Guard Showcases Missile Capabilities to "Destroy" Israel - Ali M. Pedram (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Iranian websites close to the Revolutionary Guard have run special reports relating to Iran's capability to "attack and destroy" Israel using ballistic missiles, the semi-state-run Fars news agency reported on Saturday.

UN: Islamic State Commanders Liable for Mass War Crimes - Stephanie Nebehay (Reuters)
    Islamic State commanders are liable for war crimes on a "massive scale" in northeast Syria, where they behead and shoot civilians and captured fighters, UN investigators said on Friday.
    Their report, based on over 300 interviews with witnesses and victims, called on world powers to bring the commanders before the International Criminal Court for both war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Iraq and U.S. Find Some Potential Sunni Allies Have Already Been Lost - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
    In the Islamic State's rapid consolidation of the Sunni parts of Iraq and Syria, the jihadists have used their abundant cash and arms to entice tribal leaders to join their caliphate.
    The jihadists have also eliminated potential foes, hunting down soldiers, police officers, and anyone who once cooperated with the U.S. as it battled al-Qaeda in Iraq.
    Now, as the U.S. and the Iraqi government urgently seek to enlist the Sunni tribes to fight the Islamic State, distrust of the Baghdad government's intentions and its ability to protect the tribes has won out.
    "ISIS has infiltrated these communities and depleted their ability to go against it," said Ahmed Ali, an Iraq analyst at the Institute for the Study of War.

UAE Designates Muslim Brotherhood as a Terrorist Organization - Adam Schreck (AP-ABC News)
    The United Arab Emirates designated the Muslim Brotherhood and dozens of other Islamist groups as terrorist organizations on Saturday, lumping it together with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria.
    The move follows a decision by Saudi Arabia in March to designate the Brotherhood a terrorist group.
    Egypt labeled the Brotherhood a terrorist organization in December.

Hamas-Fatah Tensions Delay Opening of Gaza-Egypt Border Crossing - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    Tensions between Hamas and Fatah are delaying the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, whose opening is conditional on PA personnel being stationed there.
    Last week, after bombs were placed in the houses of ten senior Fatah officials, Fatah blamed Hamas' former interior minister, Fathi Hamad.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Aid Worker Peter Kassig Beheaded by Islamic State - Patrick J. McDonnell and Katherine Skiba
    Islamic State militants have beheaded Peter Kassig, 26, a U.S. aid worker and former Army Ranger who was captured last year in Syria, the White House confirmed Sunday. U.S. officials authenticated a 16-minute video released earlier in the day. The video also includes footage of the mass beheading of men said to be Syrian government soldiers.
        President Obama condemned the killing as an "act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity." Kassig adopted the Arabic name Abdul-Rahman after converting to Islam while in custody, his family said. Islamic State demonstrated that it represented no faith, Obama said, "least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own."  (Los Angeles Times)
  • Hagel Concerned over Technologies, Weapons Obtained by Hizbullah and Al-Qaeda
    Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said Saturday: "Enduring and emerging powers are challenging the world order that American leadership helped build after World War II. In the Middle East, in North Africa, the order within and between states is being recast in ways that we've not seen for almost a century, often leaving dangerous ungoverned spaces in their wake."
        "Technologies and weapons that were once the exclusive province of advanced nations have become available to a broad range of militaries and non-state actors, from dangerously provocative North Korea to terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and Hizbullah - all clear threats to the United States and its allies."  (U.S. Department of Defense)
  • U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power Issues Warning on Anti-Semitism in Europe - Alison Smale
    American UN ambassador Samantha Power warned a conference in Berlin on Thursday that the growing number of anti-Semitic acts in Europe "are not only a threat to the Jewish community, they are a threat to the larger project of European liberalism and pluralism." Power stressed that "rising anti-Semitism is rarely the lone or the last expression of intolerance in a society." Often, she said, it is "the canary in the coal mine." According to a recent survey in the eight European nations where 90% of the continent's Jews live, one in four Jews reported having been subjected to attack. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: Abbas Must Halt the Incitement that Leads to Violence
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Cabinet on Sunday: "Last Thursday I met with King Abdullah and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. We called for a calming of the situation, the restoration of quiet and a halt to incitement and violence. I said that it is impossible to stop the violence without stopping the incitement that leads to violence."
        "Less than 24 hours after this meeting in Amman, the official media of the Palestinian Authority called for a day of rage in Jerusalem. Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] must halt the incitement that leads to acts of violence....I call on Abu Mazen to stop this propaganda immediately."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Video: The Temple Mount - The Truth about the Status Quo
    Israel will continue to maintain the status quo and enable safe access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for Muslims, Christians and Jews. (Prime Minister's Office)
  • German Foreign Minister: Palestinian State Must Come from Negotiations with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    A Palestinian state can only be established through negotiations with Israel, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday in Ramallah, as he met with PA President Mahmoud Abbas. "There is no alternative to negotiations for achieving the two-state solution and establishing the Palestinian state," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Netanyahu: EU Calls to Recognize Palestine Push Peace Away
    European calls to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state have only pushed peace further away, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday at a press conference in Jerusalem with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier. "[These calls] merely award the Palestinians a prize without asking them at all to make the concessions that are necessary for a genuine peace."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Jerusalem Unrest Propelled by Palestinian Teens - William Booth and Ruth Eglash
    The 2014 Palestinian uprising in Jerusalem involves mostly teenagers. Israeli police and military intelligence officers say the Jerusalem violence involves not tens of thousands of teens, but hundreds, here and there, in five or six Palestinian neighborhoods around the city.
        Israel's police commissioner, Inspector General Yohanan Danino, said: "We are starting to use intelligence information to get to those who are disturbing the peace, but really, in the end, they are sending small children - 12, 13 years old...and with children we can't really do anything to them." Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said, "We are trying to tell their parents, 'Please, don't let your son get a criminal record.'"
        Asked why they are clashing with Israelis, the teens shout that they are defending al-Aqsa mosque. (Washington Post)
        See also Israel Removes Age Restrictions for Muslim Prayers on Temple Mount, Friday Passes Peacefully - Nir Hasson
    Friday, the Muslim prayer day, was the quietest day Jerusalem has seen in several weeks. Police did not impose age restrictions on Muslims entering the Temple Mount and the crowd dispersed peacefully after prayers without any violent incidents. (Ha'aretz)
  • Islamic State Announces New Caliphate Provinces - Aaron Y. Zelin
    Last week, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, declared the creation of several new "provinces" in various Arab countries. He recognized the annexation of jihadist elements in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, along with groups in Algeria (Jund al-Khilafah), Libya (Majlis Shura Shabab al-Islam), and Sinai (Ansar Beit al-Maqdis). He ignored non-Arab factions based in Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, and elsewhere that made similar pledges to him.
        Baghdadi made clear that it is time to start an overt military campaign against Shiites. He also emphasized the order of priority, stating that jihadists in Saudi Arabia and Yemen should first target Shiites (including the Houthis), then the Saudi dynasty, and then finally the "Crusaders." In doing so, the Islamic State illustrated its differences from al-Qaeda, which has historically given precedent to fighting the "Crusaders" first. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Islamic State Leader Urges Attacks in Saudi Arabia (Reuters)
  • Israeli Settlements and Admissibility at the ICC - Eugene Kontorovich
    The Palestinian government has made clear its intention to challenge in the International Criminal Court (ICC) the legality of Israeli settlements. The recent ICC decision not to pursue a referral by Comoros against Israel over the 2010 Gaza flotilla was based on the requirement that the Court only deal with situations of particular "gravity." The ICC's gravity measure involves the number of persons killed; for settlements it would be zero. Indeed, settlements do not appear to have direct individual victims.
        Moreover, the ICC would at most have jurisdiction over settlement activity only from the date of Palestine's acceptance of its jurisdiction. Settlement activity in this time frame would not immediately cross the ICC's gravity threshold. The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law, and an expert on constitutional and international law. (Washington Post)
        See also When Gravity Fails: Israeli Settlements and Admissibility at the ICC - Eugene Kontorovich (Israel Law Review)

Netanyahu to U.S.: Iran Is Not Your Friend - Bob Schieffer (CBS News)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told "Face the Nation" on Sunday:

  • Q: Another of these hideous videos, another execution. Are we losing this war with ISIS?
    Netanyahu: No, I think you're fully engaged in it. First let me say that we see these horrors, this additional atrocity and the people of Israel are with you, we're with the family. We're with all the American people who understand the savagery that we're all up against and we support you in this battle. We support President Obama in leading this coalition. It has to be fought. ISIS has to be defeated and it can be defeated.
  • Q: Is Israel going to take a more active role in this fight against ISIS?
    Netanyahu: We're fully coordinated with the United States. We exchange all the information that needs to be exchanged.
  • Q: Should the U.S. try to work with Iran to fight ISIS?
    Netanyahu: Iran is not your ally. Iran is not your friend. Iran is your enemy. It's not your partner. Iran is committed to the destruction of Israel. The Ayatollah Khamenei, the ruler of Iran, calls for the annihilation of Israel.
  • Q: In the U.S.-Iran nuclear talks, do you think the U.S. should agree to any concessions in order to make a deal with Iran?
    Netanyahu: What has to be achieved is not merely preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons today, it's to prevent them from having nuclear weapons tomorrow. That means that Iran should not be left with the residual capacity to enrich uranium that you need for an atomic bomb, nor to have the intercontinental ballistic missiles to launch them. Why has Khamenei developed ballistic missiles? They don't need them to reach Israel, they need them to reach the United States.
        The alternative to a bad deal is not war. The alternative to a bad deal is more sanctions, tougher sanctions that will make Iran dismantle its capacity to make nuclear bombs.
  • Q: I would like to hear your characterization of how you think relations are now between the U.S. and Israel.
    Netanyahu: The relationship between Israel and the United States is very, very strong. There is bipartisan support for Israel which we appreciate. People instinctively understand that Israel is America's best ally in the Middle East. And in Israel, we think America is our best ally, too, so there is a very, very strong bond there. And, yes, we can have disagreements between governments, that happens in the best of families. But we are one family.

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