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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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February 9, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Bolsters Ties to Jordan as ISIS Looms - Elise Labott and Jeremy Diamond (CNN)
    The crucial security relationship between Jordan and Israel is gaining new meaning after the brutal execution of a Jordanian pilot at the hands of ISIS.
    Israel has already flown drone sorties over the Jordanian-Syrian border to help Jordan thwart potential attacks from ISIS.

New York Times' Correction on "Breach of Protocol" - Liel Leibovitz (Tablet)
    On Jan. 30, the New York Times published a correction to a story it ran the previous day:
    "An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner's invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before."
    The premise of the Times' original reporting was that Netanyahu had failed to notify the White House before accepting Speaker John Boehner's invitation to address Congress on the Iranian nuclear program.
    Only now it turns out that - according to the Times - the story wasn't true at all.

The Houthis Have Officially Taken Over Yemen - Joshua Keating (Slate)
    The apparent coup in Yemen last month, when President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi resigned after Houthi rebels occupied his palace, is now official.
    After the failure of UN-brokered power-sharing talks, Hadi and his cabinet are being held under house arrest.
    Mohammad al-Houthi, the brother of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, is now the country's de facto leader.

Erdogan's Right-Hand Man Hakan Fidan Blew Cover of Mossad Network - Fulya Ozerkan (AFP)
    Turkey's powerful spy chief Hakan Fidan, who has resigned to stand for parliament, has carved himself out a key role as right-hand man to President Erdogan. Press reports say he may be given a top government job such as foreign minister after the June polls.
    Fidan is seen as an unfriendly figure by Israel. A U.S. media report in 2013 accused Fidan of blowing the cover of a network of Mossad-run Iranians operating on Turkish soil in what was branded an "act of betrayal" in Israel.

The Return of Fatah-Sponsored Terrorism - Nadav Shragai (Israel Hayom)
    After leading the waves of terrorism in the West Bank during the Second Intifada and masterminding mass terrorist attacks inside Israel before being dissolved in 2007 by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and having allegedly laid down arms and having even been granted an official Israeli pardon, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are reinventing themselves.
    For the past year, their fingerprints have been all over a string of shooting attacks in the West Bank. They were also involved in firing rockets into Israel during the 2014 Gaza war.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Kerry Rules Out Extension of Iran Nuclear Talks - Carol Morello
    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, "If we're not able to make the fundamental decisions that have to be made over the course of the next weeks, literally, I think it would be impossible to extend" nuclear negotiations. "I don't think we would want to extend at that point." Kerry has met several times in recent weeks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, including twice this weekend in Munich. State Department officials say they are making progress but that large gaps remain. (Washington Post)
        See also Western Officials See Slow Progress in Talks, Iran Resists Key Demand on Enrichment - Laurence Norman
    A final deal to curb Iran's nuclear program remains elusive after the latest talks, with Tehran refusing to move on a central demand to significantly curtail uranium enrichment, Western officials said Sunday. On the central Western demand that Iran agree to a significant reduction in its current enrichment program for the coming years, one senior Western diplomat said Sunday that Tehran isn't budging. "I'm pretty pessimistic.…Unless the Iranians change their position dramatically," there is little chance of a deal, the diplomat said. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Jordan Conducts 56 Air Raids in Three Days Against Islamic State - Suleiman Al-Khalidi
    Gen. Mansour al-Jbour, head of the Jordanian airforce, said on Sunday his country's jet fighters had conducted 56 bombing raids in three days against Islamic State militants in northeast Syria, targeting key bases and arms depots. Jordan stepped up its bombing of the jihadist group in response to the brutal killing by Islamic State of a captured Jordanian pilot. Jordan has carried out nearly a fifth of the sorties of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Syria to date, Jbour said. (Reuters)
        See also Video: Jordan Steps Up Airstrikes Against ISIS (CNN)
        See also UAE to Resume Anti-ISIS Airstrikes "In Solidarity with Jordan" - Scott Neuman
    The United Arab Emirates, which briefly suspended its participation in Arab airstrikes against the Islamic State, says it will rejoin the effort. The UAE has sent a squadron of F-16 jets to Jordan so that its pilots can fly sorties alongside those from Jordan. In rejoining the airstrikes, UAE's official news agency said the emirates "reaffirms unwavering and constant solidarity with Jordan."  (NPR)
  • At Diplomatic Conference, Turkey-Israel Rift Worsens - Sebnem Arsu
    The Turkish foreign minister withdrew at the last minute from a high-profile international security conference in Munich on Friday, after learning that Israeli diplomats might take part. Yuval Steinitz, the cabinet minister who is heading Israel's delegation to the conference, said he was surprised by Mevlut Cavusoglu's decision to withdraw, saying it would cast a shadow on Turkey's future and identify the country with Islamic extremism.
        Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Friday that there was no chance of rehabilitating relations with Turkey as long as the current Turkish leadership remained in power. Yet despite the diplomatic tensions, Israel and Turkey remain major trading partners, and the flow of goods has been growing in both directions in recent years. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Official: Netanyahu "Determined to Go" to Washington to Make Case Against Iranian Nuclear Deal - Herb Keinon and Sam Sokol
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "determined to go" to Washington on March 3 to address the U.S. Congress and make the case against an Iranian nuclear deal, a senior government official said Sunday. Netanyahu seems to feel that the speech against an Iranian nuclear deal cannot be delayed until after the March 17 Israeli election and the establishment of a new government because by then it would be too late. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Syrian Rebel Document Confirms Iranian-Hizbullah Military Presence in Syrian Golan Heights - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    The interrogation of an Iranian citizen apprehended by the Free Syrian Army reveals the military and terrorist infrastructure that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hizbullah have built on the Syrian Golan, which, according to the IDF's intelligence branch, is also directed at Israel. According to a Free Syrian Army document, there are sleeper cells trained in the use of explosive devices by Hizbullah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that are deployed in Daraa and in Kuneitra.
        Hizbullah operatives have constructed explosive devices and precisely define the targets to be attacked. Suicide attack car bombs are prepared at Syrian security bases and then parked in public places at the busiest hours, such as at the market and the mosques during Friday prayers. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Army Destroys Gaza Tunnel Discovered During Summer War
    Israeli forces have destroyed the remains of a cross-border tunnel from Gaza into Israel, the IDF said Monday. The army said it found "a cache of weapons and explosives" in the tunnel, which had an opening near Kibbutz Nahal Oz and reached the Shejaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The U.S. Has Basically Agreed to Iran Becoming a Nuclear Threshold State - Alex Fishman
    The Iranians have no intention of giving up their nuclear ability. The leaks about remarkable progress and gap bridging originate in Tehran and are designed to exert a bit more pressure on the American administration: Look how close we are. You've anyway lost your shirt, so put a bit more effort into it. The American president is making a huge effort to convince the Iranians to sign. But he has already put all the cards on the table. The Iranians have hardly budged while the Americans have reached the limit of concessions.
        The Americans have agreed that Iran will continue to hold onto the major part of the centrifuges, but are demanding that the West will control the uranium enrichment products. That means that the U.S. has basically agreed that Iran will become a nuclear threshold state, only the supervision will be tighter in the first years. The moment the Iranians decide to seize the opportunity, they will break through with a bomb very quickly. England, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and especially France, are unhappy with the agreement that is taking shape. (Ynet News)
  • State of Palestine? Now Is Not the Time, Say Peers - Marcus Dysch
    "The practical result of a premature state of Palestine would simply be to free up the import of arms into the new state. The aim underlying this move is the takeover of Israel," Baroness Deech has warned, speaking against a House of Lords motion for a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood. "Why is there no preparation by the Palestinians for statehood? There is no governance structure, no independent administration, no industrialization and no negotiation of trade agreements with its neighbor, Israel?" "Let there be a two-state solution by all means if the Palestinians will...lay down their arms and be a country of peace."
        Labour's Lord Mendelsohn said, "We need a re-energized peace process.... However, the current process of Palestinian unilateralism will not do it." Liberal Democrat Lord Palmer added: "I do not believe that there is any alternative to those two nations, with the support and pressure of the outside world, sitting down and settling their differences in negotiations." Conservative Lord Leigh said, "Unilateral recognition of statehood would reward the Palestinian Authority, at a time of heightened terrorism and official PA incitement against Israel, for choosing Hamas as its partner."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)
  • ISIS Barbarians Face Their Own Internal Reign of Terror - Jamie Dettmer
    Internal quarrels over a range of issues point to a lot of trouble beneath the surface of the ISIS terror army. Commanders in the Aleppo Operations Room, a center coordinating activities of the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army and other factions, say there has been an increase in defections from ISIS ranks, especially among militants who have been selected for suicide-bomb missions.
        On Friday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that an ISIS cleric in Aleppo province who dared to criticize the immolation of the Jordanian pilot has been removed from his post by the "caliphate" leadership and will be put on trial. (Daily Beast)

Iran's Real Aims in the Persian Gulf - Anthony H. Cordesman (Reuters)

  • It is time the West takes a hard look at exactly why Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are so concerned about the Iranian threat.
  • The governments of Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states do not see an Iranian threat to Israel; they see a nuclear threat to the Arab world. If Iran can acquire nuclear warheads, this would radically shift the balance against Arab states that lack nuclear weapons. It would greatly increase the threat Iran can pose.
  • The Arab Gulf states also see a major Iranian build-up in air, missile, anti-ship missile patrol boats and forces, smart mines, submarines, and other threats like Iran's Marines and Special Forces to shipping in the Gulf, and their offshore and coastal facilities. Iran's forces can now reach out into the Gulf of Oman and the Indian Ocean.
  • This Iranian threat is as real and serious to the Arab Gulf states - and to the flow of petroleum exports to the global economy - as its nuclear threat.
  • Iran poses a far more complex mix of threats than simply its nascent nuclear capabilities, and most will remain in place regardless of the outcome of the P5+1 negotiations.

    The writer, who holds the Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has held senior posts in the U.S. Department of Defense.

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