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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 2, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

CIA and Mossad Killed Senior Hizbullah Figure Imad Mughniyeh in 2008 Car Bombing - Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima (Washington Post)
    On Feb. 12, 2008, Imad Mughniyeh, Hizbullah's international operations chief, walked on a quiet nighttime street in Damascus. Not far away, a team of CIA spotters was tracking his movements.
    As Mughniyeh approached a parked SUV, a bomb planted in a spare tire on the back of the vehicle exploded, killing him instantly. The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. "The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off," said a former U.S. intelligence official.
    The U.S. helped build the bomb, the former official said. Mughniyeh had been implicated in Hizbullah's terrorist attack against the U.S. Embassy in Beirut in 1983 that killed 63 people, including eight CIA officers. Former agency officials said Mughniyeh was involved in the 1984 kidnapping and torture of the CIA's station chief in Lebanon, William F. Buckley.
    Mughniyeh was indicted in U.S. federal court in the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 shortly after it took off from Athens and the slaying of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, a passenger on the plane.
    He was also suspected of involvement in the planning of the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. servicemen.
    Former U.S. officials asserted that Mughniyeh was directly connected to the arming and training of Shiite militias in Iraq that were targeting U.S. forces. "They were carrying out suicide bombings and IED attacks," said one official.
    The authority to kill Mughniyeh required a presidential finding by President George W. Bush. A former U.S. official said the Bush administration relied on a theory of national self-defense to kill Mughniyeh, claiming he was a lawful target because he was actively plotting against the U.S. or its forces in Iraq, making him a continued and imminent threat who could not be captured.
    For the Israelis, among numerous attacks, Mughniyeh was involved in the 1992 suicide bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires that killed four Israeli civilians and 25 Argentinians, and the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in the city that killed 85 people.
    During the operation, the CIA and Mossad had a chance to kill Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Quds Force, as he and Mughniyeh walked together. "At one point, the two men were standing there, same place, same street. All they had to do was push the button," said one former official. But the operatives didn't have the legal authority to kill Soleimani, the officials said. There had been no presidential finding to do so.

    See also Behind the Leaked Reports of the Mughniyeh Killing - Yossi Melman (Jerusalem Post)
    Whoever leaked the details of the 2008 joint Mossad-CIA killing of Hizbullah operational chief Imad Mughniyeh to the Washington Post wanted the U.S. to take the lion's share of the credit for it.
    In contrast to what was written in the report, Mughniyeh was not killed shortly after finishing dinner at a Damascus restaurant, but rather after meeting with his mistress.
    Israel's role in the mission was likely larger than that of the U.S., but there is no battle over credit in this joint operation.
    The report can serve Israel's security interests, sending a message to Hizbullah and Iran: Your conflict is not only with Israel, it is also with the U.S.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Revolutionary Guard Commander: Iran Must Strengthen Foothold in West Bank
    Brig.-Gen. Iraj Masjedi said Saturday that Iran must try to increase its military power in the West Bank as well as in Gaza. "We must contain that it never dares to speak about a missile attack on Iran, we must reinforce our power in the West Bank and Gaza," said Masjedi, who serves as top advisor to the commander of IRGC Quds Force. "The Palestine Liberation Organization must know that what brings them victory is not political negotiation but only resistance and (military) power, and this is what Hizbullah and Hamas have been doing."  (Press TV-Iran)
  • Houthis Attempting to Control Yemen's Bab El-Mandeb Strait - Arafat Madabish
    Recent advances by Yemen's Houthi movement are part of an attempt to take control of the strategic Bab El-Mandeb strait off the Yemeni coast, military sources in the country said on Saturday. On Friday armed Houthis attempted an attack on the Al-Khoukha military camp just south of the coastal city of Al-Hudaydah, close to the strategic waterway.
        Yemeni Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Mohsen Khasrouf said the group "has its eyes firmly on the Bab El-Mandeb strait....The Bab El-Mandeb strait is not just related to Yemen's security but to the security of the whole region." He said that Iran was acting through the Houthis and attempting to gain control of the strait, which in addition to Iranian control of the strait of Hormuz, would give the Islamic Republic a strategic maritime advantage on the Arabian Peninsula's surrounding waterways. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • ISIS Executes Second Japanese Hostage
    Authorities in Tokyo have confirmed that a horrific video from ISIS posted online shows the barbaric execution of a second Japanese hostage, journalist Kenji Goto. (ABC News)
        See also ISIS Tactics May Have Backfired, Particularly in Jordan - Rod Nordland
    ISIS' threat to kill a captive Jordanian air force pilot (and their failure to produce evidence that he was alive) did not achieve the intended effect of undermining support for Jordan's role in the international coalition bombing of the Islamic State. Now even skeptical Jordanians have begun rallying around their government's position and denouncing the extremists.
        "From Day 1 of Jordan joining the coalition against ISIS, part of our people believed it's not our war," said Oraib al-Rantawi, director of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies in Amman. Naif al-Amoun, a member of Jordan's Parliament, said the treatment of captured Jordanian pilot 1st Lt. Moaz al-Kasasbeh has "backfired against ISIS. Instead of dividing Jordan, Jordanians are more united behind their government."  (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Officials: Obama Has Agreed to 80 Percent of Iran's Demands in Nuclear Talks
    Israeli officials told Israel Channel 10 TV on Friday they are convinced the Obama administration "has given the Iranians 80% of what they want" in the negotiations over Iran's nuclear program. Jerusalem officials appear alarmed at the prospect that the U.S. will soon strike a deal that will leave the Iranian regime with a "breakout capacity." Iran will be permitted to keep over 7,000 centrifuges, enough to produce enough enriched material to sprint toward the bomb within a matter of months.
        These developments have apparently fueled Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's sense of urgency in traveling to Washington and addressing Congress. "We are in a continuous struggle with Iran which is opening new fronts against us, which is engaged in terrorism in the Middle East and throughout the world," Netanyahu said Friday. "This is the same Iran that the world powers are now working toward an agreement with that would leave in its hands the ability to develop a nuclear bomb."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF: Kornet Missiles, Attack Tunnels, Have Radically Altered the Danger from Hizbullah - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    Days after an IDF unit was hit by a Kornet missile fired by Hizbullah from a significant distance, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz warned Sunday that Israel's northern border villages must be better defended from similar threats as well as from attack tunnels. Advanced missiles like the Kornet and attack tunnels have radically altered the danger Hizbullah can pose to border villages with virtually no warning. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu: UNIFIL Failing to Report Weapons Smuggling
    In a conversation with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu charged Sunday that the UN was failing to implement Security Council Resolution 1701 and that UNIFIL soldiers were "not reporting on the smuggling of weapons into southern Lebanon." Resolution 1701, passed in August 2006, called for the disarmament of all groups, including Hizbullah, and the ban on all armed forces except UNIFIL and the Lebanese Army in southern Lebanon, two stipulations that were never implemented.
        Netanyahu also told Ban the international community was ignoring Iran's efforts to "export terrorism around the world," accusing Tehran of being behind the Hizbullah attack on the Israel-Lebanon border that killed two IDF soldiers last week and of trying to establish a new front against Israel in the Golan Heights. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran and Hizbullah Mourn Mughniyeh and Plan Revenge Worldwide - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), came to Lebanon immediately after the deaths of five Hizbullah officers and an Iranian general who were killed near Kuneitra on Jan. 18. A picture of Soleimani sitting by the grave of his favorite disciple in Lebanon, Jihad Mughniyeh, son of former Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh, was widely disseminated.
        Soleimani met with Hizbullah leaders to make sure that Hizbullah's response to the Kuneitra operation would be of limited scope. Iran does not want Hizbullah to use its strategic missile force, which it built in Lebanon to deter Israel from attacking Iran's nuclear facilities. At the same time, a new front in Syria, where "Hizbullah Syria" has been created, must be constructed as a continuation of Iran's line of defense in Lebanon.
        According to Supreme Leader Khamenei's assessment, Iran is on the way to signing a nuclear agreement with the U.S. that is favorable from Iran's standpoint. At the same time, Iran is now concentrating its intelligence efforts on harsh retaliation against Israeli or Jewish targets outside of the region. The commander of the IRGC, General Ali Jafari, hinted at this by saying, "Israel should expect a powerful response anywhere in the world."  (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Looking Beyond the Interim Deal - Ariel E. Levite
    The contours of an achievable deal with Iran now seem clear. The U.S. and its partners have gone very far to accommodate Iran's preferred terms regarding enrichment capability and gradual sanctions relief. Moreover, while the plutonium route to an Iranian nuclear weapon has been slowed down at a minimum, Iran's indigenous enrichment capabilities have not been meaningfully reduced and are unlikely to be reduced later.
        Tehran will likely be subjected to a far more intrusive verification regime following an agreement, but the chances are slim that it would accept the kind of airtight, open-ended arrangement allowing for wide-area monitoring and regular inspections of its military facilities that would dramatically reduce the risk of a clandestine rush to the bomb. The writer is a senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Prior to 2008, he held senior positions in Israel's Ministry of Defense, Atomic Energy Commission, and National Security Council. (Arms Control Association)

Israeli Ambassador: Netanyahu Never Meant to Disrespect Obama - Jeffrey Goldberg interviews Ambassador Ron Dermer (Atlantic)

  • Dermer: "The prime minister's visit to Washington is intended for one purpose - to speak about Iran, that openly threatens the survival of the Jewish state. The survival of Israel is not a partisan issue. It is an issue for all Americans because those who seek Israel's destruction also threaten America. America and Israel have to face this threat together."
  • "Israel's policy is not merely to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon today; it is also to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon in the future. And Israel is very concerned that a deal will be forged that will not dismantle Iran's nuclear-weapons capability. We are concerned that it would leave Iran with an advanced nuclear infrastructure...and in the foreseeable future enable Iran to have an industrial-sized nuclear program, as the timeframe for this agreement runs out and all sanctions are removed. That is an outcome that is unacceptable to Israel."
  • "I would hope that everyone would appreciate what it means to us to see that the deal that is emerging would pose a threat to the survival of Israel....I know that people are trying to turn this into a personal or a partisan issue, but for Israel, it is neither. It is about an issue that affects the fate of the country....I do think the prime minister has a moral obligation, as the leader of Israel and in living memory of an attempt to annihilate the Jewish people, to speak up about a deal that could endanger the survival of the one and only Jewish state."
  • "Iran's regime is not only committed to Israel's destruction, it is working towards Israel's destruction. It has used Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other proxies to fire thousands of rockets and threaten Israel from Lebanon, Gaza, the Sinai, and the Golan Heights."

        See also Background on Invitation to Prime Minister Netanyahu - Rep. John Boehner
    Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted Speaker Boehner's invitation to address a joint meeting of Congress. A handful of media reports have claimed that the Israelis "orchestrated" the invitation. This is flat-out wrong.
        As Speaker Boehner has said, the Congress is a separate and co-equal branch of government. It was the Speaker's right to invite the Prime Minister of Israel, and he did so, so the Prime Minister could speak about one of the most important issues facing the Middle East and the world - the stakes regarding Iran.
        The process was a coordinated effort between Speaker Boehner's office and Senate Majority Leader McConnell's office. Discussions began on the staff level late last year. On Jan. 20, we informed Israeli Ambassador Dermer of our intent to issue the invitation and our intent to notify the administration of the invitation.
        On Jan. 21, after notifying the administration, the Speaker issued the invitation to the Prime Minister and announced it to the public. "In this time of challenge, I am asking the Prime Minister to address Congress on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life."  (Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives)

        See also U.S.-Israel Relationship Is Too Big to Fail - Aaron David Miller
    Israel - the only country in the region where we could absolutely predict that U.S. aircraft could be guaranteed the right to land 24 hours from now - is obviously a key ally in a region where the U.S. needs such a base badly. The writer is vice president for new initiatives at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. (Politico)

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