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April 17, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

What Does Iran's Acquiring the S-300 Mean? - J.E. Dyer (Liberty Unyielding)
    Russia's selling the S-300 air defense missile system to Iran is bad.
    The mobile S-300 could dramatically complicate the air space picture for strike planners, with the missile launchers moving around to evade reconnaissance.
    Iran could also lose a launcher and quickly deploy another one to fill the gap. It has nothing approaching this capability today.
    The S-300's range and mobility will make an attacking force work much harder, and probably take more losses, to fight through to its targets.
    No defensive system makes an attack impossible, but the S-300 makes an attack cost more.
    Defeating the S-300, in order to give a meaningful thump to the Iranian nuclear program, would not require a conventional ground invasion. But it would require considerably more tactical air forces than the U.S. has in a ready status today.
    Israel will have to get creative. The S-300 poses a significant problem. Israel actually has more strike-fighters combat ready and available for an Iran attack today than the U.S. does.
    But there's no option of flying into an S-300 network once it goes active. It must be degraded - blinded, immobilized to some level - before the first main-target attack aircraft shows up.
    The S-300 forces a decision on the Israelis about what their threshold is: at what point do they decide they can't do enough damage after the S-300 is deployed, and must strike before it's deployed.
    There is a force sufficient to punch holes in the S-300 and do meaningful, extensive, cost-effective damage to Iran's nuclear program - the combined attack assets of the U.S. and Israel.
    The writer is a retired U.S. Naval Intelligence officer.
    See also U.S.: Military Option in Iran "Intact" Despite Russian Missiles (Reuters)
    Despite Russia's decision to deliver its S-300 missile defense system to Tehran, "We've known about the potential for that system to be sold to Iran for several years and have accounted for it in all of our planning," General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Thursday.
    "The military ensure that Iran doesn't achieve a nuclear weapon is intact."

Italian Police: Muslim Migrants Threw Christians Overboard - Hada Messia (CNN)
    Muslims from the Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal who were among migrants trying to get from Libya to Italy in a boat this week threw 12 fellow passengers from Nigeria and Ghana overboard - killing them - because the 12 were Christians, Italian police said Thursday.
    Italian authorities have arrested 15 people on suspicion of murdering the Christians at sea, police in Palermo, Sicily, said.

Al-Qaeda Seizes Airport and Oil Depot in Yemen - Saeed al-Batati and Kareem Fahim (New York Times)
    Al-Qaeda's branch in Yemen - AQAP - took control of the Riyan Airport and the Dhabah oil export terminal on the Arabian Sea coast on Thursday, two weeks after it seized the nearby city of Al Mukalla and emptied its bank and prison.
    Al-Qaeda fighters are now developing relations with Yemeni tribal leaders who share antipathy for the Houthis, said Jamal Benomar, a UN diplomat.
    In Washington, Pentagon officials acknowledged that Saudi airstrikes on the Houthis have created more space for al-Qaeda to gain territory.

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Israeli Drone Maker Has $6 Billion Backlog - Gabrielle Coppola (Bloomberg)
    Israeli defense company Elbit Systems has been shifting its focus to fast-growing markets in Asia and Latin America.
    Demand from those regions helped push up its backlog of orders to $6.3 billion at year-end, an 8% jump from 2013.
    Elbit is succeeding with niche products and services, like upgrading aircraft systems and enhancing cyberwarfare capabilities.
    Elbit's chief financial officer, Yossi Gaspar, said in March that demand for drones, homeland security and electronic warfare systems from Latin America and land fire control systems from Asia drove an increase in the share of revenue from the regions.

Indian Company to Set Up Research Center in Israel - Tova Cohen (Reuters)
    India's information technology group Tech Mahindra, part of the $16.5 billion Mahindra conglomerate, is partnering with U.S.-Israeli Comverse Inc. to set up a research and development center in Israel.
    Tech Mahindra, which employees over 98,000 people in 51 countries, will take on about 400 Comverse workers, up to 300 of them from Israel, for product management and sales.

The Israel Factor - Gary Rosenblatt (New York Jewish Week)
    The rebirth of modern Israel is one of the great success stories of the 20th century.
    It's about an ancient people reviving the Hebrew language and setting out to fulfill its dream of recreating a state for all Jews.
    It's about establishing a safe harbor in a turbulent world, a vibrant democracy where religious tradition and cutting-edge innovation can coexist, not always easily, but with great energy and potential.
    And all of this taking place in a tiny land surrounded by those hostile to the very concept of a Jewish state in the region.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • No Breakthrough between Iran and UN Nuclear Watchdog
    The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said that in discussions it had with Iran this week there was no sign of a breakthrough on aspects of its nuclear program that the agency says Tehran has failed to fully address. In any final deal, the IAEA would play a major role in monitoring Iran's compliance. (Reuters)
  • UN Security Council Sees Video Evidence of a Chemical Attack in Syria - Somini Sengupta
    Dr. Mohamed Tennari, 35, from the Syrian town of Sarmeen, described the events of a night in March to the UN Security Council on Thursday The sound of helicopters, then a thud, then the smell of bleach, overpowering, followed by a surge of wounded to the local hospital. Dr. Tennari showed a video taken at the hospital that he ran. In it, two children are piled on their grandmother's body. A third, a baby, is on the next bed. Their mouths are open. All three children, ages 1 to 3, died. Their parents, too.
        The U.S., along with Britain and France, has accused the Syrian government of dropping chlorine-filled bombs - "only the Assad regime has helicopters," Samantha Power, the American ambassador to the UN, said Thursday - though Russia says there is insufficient evidence.
        As many as 120 injured people poured into the hospital that night, Tennari said. The family of the three children lived in a basement apartment which became "a gas chamber" when toxic gas seeped in through a vent, he said. (New York Times)
  • Palestinian Women Join Effort to Keep Jews from Holy Site - Diaa Hadid
    The women, covered face-to-toe, surrounded the Jewish group walking through the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and shouted: "The army of Muhammad is coming!" "We are guardians for the sake of God," said Mona, 57. "Everybody must protect Al Aqsa so the Jews don't take it." The compound is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest place in Islam.
        In 2010 the Israel-based Islamic Movement began busing in thousands of Palestinians for prayers, encouraged school excursions, and started study circles, paying participants to keep vigil all day. The circles were opened to women in 2012. Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said that in recent weeks the women have progressed from chanting at Jewish visitors to chasing them; some who are barred from the site stand outside the gate and shout at Jews as they exit. (New York Times)
  • Israeli Researchers: Attacks Against Jews Spiked in 2014 - Ariel David
    Anti-Semitic attacks around the world rose by 38% in 2014, according to a report released Wednesday by Tel Aviv University. Researchers recorded 766 incidents - ranging from armed assaults to vandalism against synagogues, schools and cemeteries - compared to 554 in 2013. The researchers said the increase in attacks on Jews was partly linked to last summer's conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, as well as to a "general climate of hatred and violence" fostered by the rise of Islamic State in the Middle East.
        However, researchers stressed that attacks had been on the rise before the summer and the controversy over Israel's operation was used as a pretext to attack Jews. "Synagogues were targeted, not Israeli embassies," said Dina Porat, a historian who edited the report. (AP-ABC News)
        See also Dutch Chief Rabbi: Attacks Against Jews Have Risen 71 Percent - Joe Millis (International Business Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Lapid: EU Call to Label West Bank Settlement Products Is "Irresponsible" - Tovah Lazaroff
    A call by 16 EU foreign ministers to label West Bank settlement products is irresponsible, Yesh Atid party head Yair Lapid said Thursday as he spoke by telephone with EU foreign policy chief Frederica Mogherini. "This is a de-facto call to boycott Israel," he said. "There is no difference between products which are produced over the Green Line and those that are produced within the Green Line. This is an irresponsible call that could wreak havoc on the Israeli economy. This kind of call is a stain on the EU, and the State of Israel has to fight to prevent this kind of initiative."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Suspicions Grow that Jerusalem Crash Was Terror - Roi Yanovsky
    Police said Thursday there is a growing suspicion that terrorism was behind the incident on Wednesday when Shalom Sharki and Shira Klein were hit by Palestinian Khaled Kotina while waiting at a bus stop in Jerusalem. Sharki was killed and Klein remains in serious condition. "The interrogation [of the driver] and initial findings strengthen suspicion this was a terrorist incident," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. (Ynet News)
  • In Egypt, Dangerous Stalemate Against Islamic Terrorism - Zvi Mazel
    Egyptian President Sisi is fighting for his country's survival - and his own. Despite the army's all-out effort to defeat Islamist insurgency in Sinai, there is no end in sight. F-16 fighter planes and Apache helicopters have joined the campaign, security forces have killed or wounded hundreds of terrorists - but more keep coming. Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis gunmen, who have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, continue making daring raids against police stations and other security targets, leading to loss of life. Islamic State dispatches terrorists and weapons to Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in Sinai from Libya, where there is an unlimited supply of both.
        The situation has reached a stalemate, though the army has managed to contain the terrorists in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. However, there are still sporadic terrorist attacks in Cairo and other parts of the country. Egypt is going it alone, still waiting for the West to understand that Cairo remains its best ally against the rising tide of terrorism. The writer is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt, and Sweden. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Killing Americans and their Allies: Iran's Continuing War against the U.S. and the West - Col. (ret.) Richard Kemp and Maj. (ret.) Chris Driver-Williams
    Iranian military action, often working through proxies using terrorist tactics, has led to the deaths of well over a thousand American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade and a half.
        Throughout the course of the Iraq campaign, a variety of weapons flowed into the country through direct purchases by the government of Iran. These included Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), a shaped charge designed to penetrate armor. These weapons - often camouflaged as rocks - were identical to those employed by Hizbullah against Israeli forces. In 2006, the British Telegraph revealed that three Iranian factories were "mass producing" the roadside EFP bombs used to kill soldiers in Iraq.
        In 2007, American troops discovered over 100 Austrian-made Steyr HS50 .50 caliber sniper rifles in Iraq. These high-powered rifles, which fire Iranian bullets, can pierce all in-service body armor from up to a mile and penetrate U.S. armored Humvee troop carriers. The rifles were part of a larger shipment legally purchased from the Austrian manufacturer under the justification that they would be used by Iranian police to combat drug smugglers.
        Iran paid Taliban fighters $1,000 for each U.S. soldier they killed in Afghanistan. The Sunday Times reported that a Taliban operative received $18,000 from an Iranian firm in Kabul as reward for an attack in 2010 that killed several Afghan government troops and destroyed an American armored vehicle.
        Iranian President Rouhani's so-called "moderation" was displayed when he appointed Brig.-Gen. Hossein Dehghan to be minister of defense. Dehghan played a key role in the October 1983 suicide bomb attacks in Beirut in which 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers were killed. Meanwhile, inside Iran, Rouhani has presided over a rise in repression, including executions, torture of political prisoners, and persecution of minorities.
        Col. Richard Kemp served as Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan. Maj. Chris Driver-Williams served as a bomb disposal operator in specialist counter-terrorism units. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Iran's $300 Billion Shakedown - David Rothkopf
    It is one thing to relieve sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country giving up its nuclear weapons program. That was the purpose of imposing the sanctions in the first place. But the Obama administration and the other parties to the interim nuclear deal with Iran now seem to be saying they are willing to release to Iran between a third and a half a trillion dollars over the next 15 years in order for Iran not to give up the program, but to freeze it. In other words, Iran is not permanently and irreversibly accepting international standards; we are just renting its restraint.
        The Iran deal sets a new standard. The major powers will only impose sanctions on countries that get very, very close to having nuclear weapons, but so long as those countries' nuclear weapons programs remain in the state at which we are willing to freeze Iran's, then those countries are still free to go about their business. Leaving Iran one year away from a weapon sends a message to every potential adversary without such a weapon that this is precisely where they must be.
        In other words, this deal is not an antidote to proliferation; it is a road map and an impetus to the spread of near proliferation. Consequently, this deal could actually enhance the risk of proliferation. Moreover, it is extremely risky to prize the nuclear deal so highly that we do not take appropriate steps to blunt the greater regional threats posed by Tehran's leaders - who seize every opportunity to remind us that neither their ideology nor their regional ambitions are showing any signs of changing. (Foreign Policy)
  • Is Any Deal Better than No Deal? - Michael Gerson
    The State Department issued an interpretive fact sheet on Iran's nuclear framework before the deal was actually sealed. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei quickly denounced the fact sheet as "incorrect and contrary to the substance of the negotiations." Why would the Obama administration claim victory in the middle of a sensitive negotiation, in a manner that prods the other side to harden its demands and encourages the unraveling of sanctions?
        No one believes that Obama would use force against Iran. And this means there is no theoretical limit to the concessions that could be justified to avoid conflict. The argument of "concessions or war" is another way of saying that any deal is better than no deal. (Washington Post)
  • Legitimizing Iran's Exterminationist Anti-Semitism - Lee Smith
    For 36 years now, Iranian officials have threatened to annihilate Israel. There may be different centers of power throughout the regime, but everyone agrees with the Supreme Leader that Israel - the "Zionist cancer" - has got to go.
        President Obama called American Jewish leaders to a meeting at the White House on Monday. "It was one of the tensest meetings I can ever remember," said one participant who has been invited to many White House sit-downs over the years. "Lots of people challenged him very strongly, like about taking the threats of dictators seriously when Khamenei says death to America, death to Israel, death to the Jews. The president said he knows what the regime is, which is why he is trying to take away their weapons. He didn't dismiss what the Iranians say, he just didn't really address it."
        Who knows if the Iranians actually mean to make good on their threats against Israel? After all, say the experts, Iran is not irrational. Of course Iran is irrational. It is irrational in its very essence, for anti-Semitism is the form that unreason takes in modern political life. Disregarding the regime's anti-Semitism is to willfully ignore the nature of the regime. To strike a deal with such a regime is willfully perverse and doomed to failure. (Tablet)
  • Israel Experts View Iran Nuclear Deal - Charlotte Alfred
    Meir Javedanfar, who lectures on contemporary Iranian politics at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, said, "Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the Iranian regime has been calling for the elimination of Israel and has been supporting Israel's enemies. The relationship took a psychological dive when Iran denied the Holocaust....When Iran holds a Holocaust cartoon contest...Israelis do not trust the Iranian regime."
        Meir Litvak, director of Tel Aviv University's Alliance Center for Iranian Studies, noted that "Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, held very strong anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist views....Most recently, Supreme Leader Khamenei declared that the only solution to the Middle East crisis is the elimination of Israel. Since the early 1980s, Iran has also supported organizations such as Hizbullah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which have fought Israel and called for its elimination." "Most Israelis feel that the U.S. had given the Iranians too much, and they fear that the U.S. will make more concessions in the upcoming negotiations."
        David Menashri, founding director of the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies and a visiting fellow at Princeton, said that "Israel's concerns are real. The possibility of a country with such a radical ideology having nuclear arms is something very, very difficult to live with."  (Huffington Post)

    Other Issues

  • Palestinians Too Honest in their Hatred to Hold Our Sympathy - Alex Ryvchin
    The documentary "Pitch Battle" chronicles the journey of the Palestine football team to the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia. Amr Hannoun, the team's media officer, has a jovial disposition and radiant smile. But soon Hannoun reveals his true nature. He defends suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. "We have to kill them," he flashes. "We need our land back from the river to the sea," Hannoun insists. He demands all of the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, meaning the annihilation of Israel. No Jewish State in any borders.
        The other leading man in the film is the head of the Palestinian Football Association, Jibril Rajoub. FIFA must expel Israel, he tells the media. Israelis mustn't be allowed to play soccer with other countries. It is not enough for the Palestinians to achieve full-member status in FIFA. They demand Israel's expulsion.
        The Palestinian cause fails again and again to achieve its goals because it is predicated on destruction rather than creation, on denying the rights of others rather than establishing rights for themselves. The writer is public affairs director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. (Australian Jewish News)
  • Islamic State Atrocity Videos Violate the Laws of War - David Fidler
    The videos disseminated online by the Islamic State contain evidence of the commission of war crimes under international law. But these videos themselves violate the law of armed conflict and constitute war crimes. International humanitarian law (IHL) prohibits acts that humiliate, degrade or otherwise violate a person's dignity. Making videos that record the execution of individuals and groups, and putting the videos online, represent outrages on the personal dignity of those killed.
        International criminal tribunals have also charged and convicted individuals of war crimes for perpetrating acts or threats of violence, the primary purpose of which was to spread terror among civilian populations. Under this jurisprudence, posting the Islamic State videos online can be interpreted as threats of violence intended to terrorize civilians and, thus, a war crime. The writer is Professor of Law and a Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research at Indiana University. (Council on Foreign Relations)

    Weekend Features

  • Chinese Invest $5M in Israeli App that Teaches You to Play Music - David Shamah
    Chinese Internet giant Baidu on Tuesday announced it was investing $5 million in Israeli start-up Tonara, which makes interactive apps to help prospective musicians learn how to play. Baidu is China's biggest web services firm and has plenty of uses for Tonara's technology, said Peter Fang of Baidu.
        Tonara is a digitized sheet music platform which follows music as it is being played, identifies notes, and shows the sheet music and specific notes (currently, it works with piano, violin, cello and flute). The app changes pages in the sheet music score as needed, speeds up or slows down the display in response to the way a piece is played, accounts for mistakes (highlighting a missed note) - all automatically, even under noisy conditions.
        Tonara also developed an app called Wolfie to help piano students practice effectively. The apps fit right in with Baidu services which provide instruction and tutorials in a wide range of areas. Tonara CEO Guy Bauman said, "Tonara's mission is to redefine the way music is taught, learned and practiced around the world by bringing music education into the digital age....We're thrilled to cooperate with Baidu in reaching out to the Chinese audience."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israel's DogTV Now Seen in Nine Countries - Stuart Dredge
    DogTV, the world's first TV channel for dogs, is no joke. Launched in Israel in 2009, it now has TV distribution deals in nine countries, is reaching a global audience through YouTube and its own apps, and has "millions, maybe tens of millions" of viewers. The content is scientifically researched to appeal to dogs, helping them pass the day while their owners are at work or school. "We can use the TV to help these animals that are depressed and bored, founder Ron Levi explained.
        Levi stresses the science behind DogTV's content designed to stimulate dogs' brains, chill them out, and expose them (gently) to things they may find frightening in the real world, from fireworks and traffic to vacuum cleaners. "The colors that we have are very specific to dog-vision, the sound frequencies, the's all patented," says Levi. To avoid harming the sensibilities of its viewership, cats are banned. (Guardian-UK)

The Nuclear Deal with Iran Needs Work - Lots of It - James A. Baker III (Wall Street Journal)

  • There are substantial misunderstandings about the tentative agreement to curb Iran's nuclear-weapons program, a deal the administration has hailed as "an historic understanding." Iranian leaders quickly disputed key points about the White House's description of the terms of the agreement.
  • There remain serious questions about more than the phasing out of sanctions. These include verification mechanisms, the "snapback" provisions for reapplying sanctions, and Iran's refusal so far to provide historical information about its nuclear-enrichment program so that there is a baseline against which to measure any future enrichment.
  • Experience shows Iran cannot be trusted, and so those weaknesses need to be addressed and fixed.
  • Iran backed away from its pledge to send a large portion of its uranium stockpile to Russia. If we can't trust Iran to stick to its promises during negotiations, we cannot trust that it won't resume its nuclear-weapons program after a final deal is reached.
  • Let Iran and the world know that we have reasonable specific demands they must meet. If Iran balks at such an arrangement, then it will be that country's fault that the talks broke down.

    The writer is a former U.S. secretary of state.
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