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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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December 22, 2014

In-Depth Issues:

Senior Cleric: Iran Has Knowledge to Build a Nuclear Bomb (Guardian-UK)
    Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a leading cleric who often leads Friday prayers in Tehran, told a group of Revolutionary Guard commanders in Iran's Kurdistan province that Iran had the expertise to enrich uranium to levels required for a bomb.
    "[We] can enrich uranium at 5% or 20%, as well as 40% to 50%, and even 90%."
    Khatami attacked the government of president Hassan Rouhani for trying to establish formal diplomatic relations with the U.S. and for trying to eliminate the slogan of "Death to America" from use at official rallies.

Report: ISIS Executed 100 Foreign "Deserters" - Erika Solomon (Financial Times-UK)
    Flagging morale, desertion and factionalism are starting to affect the Islamic State.
    "Morale isn't falling - it's hit the ground," said an opposition activist from ISIS-controlled areas of Syria. "Foreign fighters who thought they were on an adventure are now exhausted."
    An activist well known to the Financial Times said he had verified 100 executions of foreign ISIS fighters trying to flee the Syrian city of Raqqa, ISIS' de facto capital.
    "After the fall of Mosul in June, ISIS was presenting itself as unstoppable and it was selling a sense of adventure," a U.S. official said.
    He added that the dynamics have changed since the U.S. launched air strikes in August and helped break the momentum of the ISIS advance, which has helped stem the flow of foreign recruits.
    Activists in ISIS-held parts of Syria said many fighters in Raqqa were angry about being sent to Kobani, a Kurdish town near the Syrian border with Turkey that has become a focal point for coalition strikes.
    According to a Dec. 7 report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS lost 1,400 fighters in 80 days of fighting.

ISIS Diverts River in Iraq, Threatening Water Supply for 150,000 (Al Arabiya)
    An Iraqi official warned on Saturday of a "humanitarian disaster" after Islamist militants diverted the Al-Roz River away from the Bildoz district in the eastern province of Diyala.
    "ISIS, for the fourth consecutive day, diverted the Al-Roz River, considered to be an essential water source to Bildoz, and supplying drinking water to 150,000 people as well as irrigating vast areas of land," said Diyala MP Furat al-Timimi.
    He said diverting the river took place following ISIS militants taking control of the strategic Nadhim Al-Sudour Al-Arwaai dam.

Egypt's President Replaces Influential Intelligence Chief - David D. Kirkpatrick (New York Times)
    Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Sunday named Khaled Fawzy, a top deputy in the intelligence service, as acting chief of general intelligence to succeed Sisi's friend and mentor, Gen. Mohamed Farid el-Tohamy, who was leaving for medical reasons.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Regime Escalates Threats to Annihilate Israel
    As the Nov. 24 deadline for the Joint Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 approached, Iranian officials, mostly from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), significantly ratcheted up their calls to annihilate Israel. One major motif is the arming of the West Bank. In late November, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei reiterated that the West Bank will be armed with missiles, as Gaza had been armed, and that Israel's security would deteriorate by the day.
        IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari predicted that Israel would be eliminated thanks to the missile capabilities of the resistance factions. Basij commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi said that Iran was determined to hold victory prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. Members of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee stressed that Leader Khamenei had ordered the West Bank armed in order to hasten Israel's annihilation and that Iran intended to follow those orders. (MEMRI)
        See also below Observations: Iran Accelerates Arming of Hizbullah and Hamas - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (ICA-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • India May End Support to Palestine at UN - Amit Baruah
    The Modi government is looking at altering India's supporting vote for the Palestinian cause at the UN to one of abstention, two sources within the government confirmed. (The Hindu-India)
        See also India PM Tweets Hanukkah Greeting
    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sent out a Hanukkah greeting in Hebrew and English on Twitter on Friday. Relations between Israeli and India have warmed significantly since Modi came to power in May. (Times of Israel)
  • UN Asks Israel to Pay $856 Million for Oil Spill during Second Lebanon War
    The UN General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution by 170-6 on Friday asking Israel to compensate Lebanon for $856.4 million in oil spill damages that occurred during the 2006 war with Hizbullah. The oil spill was caused when bombed oil tanks near a Lebanese power plant leaked 15,000 tons of oil onto the Mediterranean coast. The U.S., Australia, Canada and Israel voted against the resolution. (AFP)
        See also Israel Rejects UN Demand that It Pay for Oil Spill from Lebanon War - Herb Keinon
    An Israeli government official said this UN resolution is another example of the degree to which the Arab states can bring any resolution against Israel to the General Assembly and get it passed. "It is clear to anyone who looks at the legality of the war, that Israel was responding to clear aggression from Lebanon into Israel," the official said. The 2006 conflict was triggered by a cross-border raid by Hizbullah and its capture of two Israeli soldiers. (Jerusalem Post)
  • French Police Kill Knife-Wielding Man Yelling "Allahu Akbar"
    Police near the city of Tours in central France shot dead a Burundi-born French national who injured three police officers with a knife while shouting "God is great!" in Arabic, French media report. (BBC News)
        See also Driver Plows into Crowd in France's Second "Allahu Akbar" Attack - Pauline Talagrand
    A driver shouting "Allahu Akbar" plowed into pedestrians in Dijon, France, on Sunday, injuring 11. The man had targeted passersby at five different locations in a rampage that lasted half an hour. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Aircraft Strike Gaza in Response to Rocket Fire - Yoav Zitun and Elior Levy
    The Israeli Air Force struck a Hamas facility in Gaza on Friday night in retaliation for a rocket fired at Israel earlier in the day, the first Israeli air strike in Gaza since Operation Protective Edge ended in August. (Ynet News)
        See also Netanyahu: We Will Not Ignore Even One Rocket from Gaza
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Saturday evening: "I will not ignore the firing of even one rocket; therefore, the air force responded to this firing by destroying a cement factory that served to rebuild the tunnels that we hit in Operation Protective Edge. Hamas bears the responsibility for any escalation."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Hamas Seeks to Douse Flareup on Gaza Border
    Hamas informed Israel on Saturday night that it was not interested in an escalation and would crack down on the Palestinians behind the rocket fire at Israel on Friday, the Palestinian al-Quds daily reported. "We are interested in upholding the understandings that were reached, because there are priorities that must be kept at this point," Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk said. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israel: Hamas Arrests Global Jihadis Who Fired Rocket - Yaakov Lappin
    Hamas arrested members of a jihadist organization in Gaza for firing a rocket at Israel on Friday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Sunday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Why Gazans Risk Sneaking into Israel - Amira Hass
    170 Palestinians have tried to enter Israel from Gaza since the beginning of the year. Several have been injured in the course of their attempt. The unemployment rate in Gaza is 45-50%, and it's 63% among those between the ages of 15 and 29. The fact that more jobless young people have not tried to sneak into Israel is testimony to the effectiveness of Israel's border fence.
        Since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Israel has not allowed Gazans to work in Israel. However, in the collective memory of Gazan residents, work in Israel has developed mythological proportions. The legacy that remains of employment in Israel are the wages earned by family members, including women, that enabled them to earn a livelihood with dignity. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Palestinians Roll the Dice at the UN - Colum Lynch
    The Palestinians last week shrugged off appeals by Secretary of State John Kerry to shelve a UN bid to advance their statehood drive, submitting a draft UN Security Council resolution demanding the withdrawal of Israeli troops by the end of 2017. It has virtually zero chance of being adopted. Even Arab governments, including Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, have urged the Palestinians not to force a showdown with the U.S. on a draft that is doomed to fail.
        The U.S. has long opposed a role for the UN Security Council in the Middle East peace process, and the administration has been straining to avoid a messy UN collision that risks culminating in a U.S. veto. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said Israel would refuse to abide by UN demands over its security policy.
        European and American diplomats are upset that the Palestinians decided to press ahead with a resolution that stands no chance of passage. "The move shows the Palestinians are not really interested in achieving an outcome, but in provoking a public standoff with the United States on the UN stage," said one European diplomat. (Foreign Policy)
  • 2012 Bombing of Syrian National Security Bureau May Have Been an Inside Job - Sam Dagher
    The July 18, 2012, bombing of Syria's National Security Bureau, in which Assef Shawkat, the deputy defense minister and President Assad's brother-in-law, and three other senior officials were killed, now appears to have been an inside job. New revelations point to a split between the Assad family on one side, and officials seeking negotiations with opposition groups on the other.
        Several people with knowledge of the matter said Shawkat, who had previously headed Military Intelligence and commanded a loyal group of officers, posed a threat to Assad's rule. Two months before the bombing, there was an unsuccessful plot to poison Shawkat.
        The attack opened the door for Iran and Hizbullah to play a greater role in defending the regime. Within weeks, foreign Shiite militiamen flocked to Syria, helping push the death toll from less than 20,000 at the time to more than 190,000 as of August 2014. (Wall Street Journal)

Iran Accelerates Arming of Hizbullah and Hamas - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • At the same time that it engages in nuclear talks, Iran continues to arm and train Hizbullah, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad with rockets and missiles, UAVs and advanced anti-aircraft weapons (mainly for Hizbullah). Iran also provides antitank weapons, sniper rifles, mortars, and more.
  • Under Supreme Leader Khamenei's direction, Iran views the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank as a single unit under the leadership of Hamas. Iran seeks to encircle Israel from the north (Hizbullah), south (Gaza), and east (the West Bank).
  • Iranian activity is incessant and includes persistent smuggling of weapons into Gaza as well as shipments and convoys to Hizbullah via Syria.
  • The weakening of the American presence in the Gulf and the strengthening of Iran's influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, along with the Palestinian organizations' successes, from Iran's perspective, in the recent rounds of conflict with Israel, inspire great confidence in Iran.

    IDF Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael (Mickey) Segall is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center and at Foresight Prudence.

        See also Iran Official to Hamas: We're Willing to Arm West Bank Palestinians Too - Amira Hass
    Nasser Al Sudani, head of the Iranian Parliament's Palestine committee, told a Hamas news website Saturday that Iran is willing to arm Palestinians in the West Bank, in addition to Hamas in Gaza. He said that even during the recent chill in relations between Tehran and Hamas over its support of the Syrian opposition, Iran had not ceased its military aid to Gaza. Now, Iran intends to bolster those relations with monetary aid as well, Al Sudani said.
        Al Sudani also said that his nation continues to disbelieve the "fraudulent" Holocaust, but that President Hassan Rouhani decided that keeping quiet on the matter would bolster relations with the West. (Ha'aretz)

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