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April 27, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Responds to Earthquake in Nepal (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    Following the severe earthquake in Nepal, Israel on Saturday decided to dispatch a rescue delegation including medical aid.
    Prime Minister Netanyahu informed Nepalese Prime Minister Koirala that Israel was prepared to assist in searching for the missing and in providing medical care to the injured.
    The IDF Spokesperson said a delegation numbering 260 medical and rescue crew members will depart for Kathmandu. The delegation will establish a field hospital which will be operational within 12 hours, with the capability of treating 200 wounded a day.
    The team will include dozens of army physicians in the regular army and the reserves.
    At the same time, a Magen David Adom humanitarian mission consisting of paramedics and doctors is flying to Nepal. IsraAID's disaster response team is also en route to affected areas in Nepal.
    See also Netanyahu: Aid Mission to Nepal the "True Face of Israel" (Prime Minister's Office)
    Speaking to the commander of the Israeli delegation to Nepal on Sunday, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "You are being sent on an important mission. This is the true face of Israel - a country that offers aid over any distance at such moments."
    See also Update on IDF Activities in Nepal (Israel Defense Forces)

Saudi Arabia Foils ISIS Bomb Plot Hatched in Syria - (AFP-Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Saudi authorities investigating the shooting death of two policemen in Riyadh on April 8 discovered three bomb-laden cars, foiling an Islamic State bomb plot, Saudi Arabia said Friday.
    A Saudi man has confessed that he was following orders received from ISIS in Syria, the Interior Ministry said.
    Saudi authorities also discovered bomb-making materials and tools, machine guns, ammunition, money and several mobile telephones which revealed an exchange between the attackers and "terrorist elements in Syria," the official Saudi Press Agency said.
    The shooting was the fifth attack on security forces and foreigners in Saudi Arabia orchestrated by ISIS, according to Interior Ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour al-Turki.

Hizbullah UAV Airstrip Revealed - Nicholas Blanford (IHS Jane's Defence Weekly)
    Hizbullah has constructed an airstrip in Lebanon's northern Bekaa Valley for its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), an analysis of satellite images suggests.
    Hizbullah sources have confirmed that it is using UAVs to support operations against rebel forces in Syria, particularly over the mountainous Qalamoun region on Lebanon's eastern border.
    Hizbullah has operated UAVs from Lebanese airspace since at least November 2004, when it dispatched one for a brief reconnaissance mission over northern Israel. It then attempted to fly at least three UAVs into Israel during the July-August 2006 war.
    Hizbullah said it was responsible for an Iranian-made UAV that was shot down over Israel on Oct. 6, 2012.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Report: Israeli Planes Strike Targets in Syria - Batsheva Sobelman
    Israeli planes struck military targets in Syria early Saturday, according to media reports. The strikes targeted several bases belonging to Syrian missile brigades near the Syrian-Lebanese border where long-range missiles and other strategic weaponry were reportedly kept. Also Saturday, Al Arabiya TV reported that Israeli aircraft had carried out two strikes Wednesday against Hizbullah, including one on a large weapons convoy headed for the Shiite militia. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Pentagon: Iran Moves Arms Ships Away from Yemen
    Nine Iranian naval and cargo ships that U.S. officials feared were carrying arms to Yemen sailed in the direction of Iran on Friday. "The (Iranian) ships have turned around," U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. President Obama said on Tuesday the U.S. government had warned Iran not to send weapons to Yemen. (Reuters)
        See also Does Iran's Navy Directly Arm Its Jihadist Allies? - Lenny Ben-David (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israel's Iranian Jews Don't Trust Iran - Adam Taylor
    About 140,000 Jews of Iranian descent live in Israel. "We are the Persians," said Avi Hanassab, a cook in a Tel Aviv market. "We know how to negotiate." He said he thinks his knowledge of Iran gives him reason to be fearful as an Israeli, adding that the Iranians would surely dupe the world powers. In interviews, several Iranian Jews said they believe that Iran can't be trusted to keep its end of the bargain. (Washington Post)
        See also George W. Bush Argues Against the Lifting of Iran Sanctions - Jason Horowitz and Maggie Haberman
    Former President George W. Bush told a closed-door meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition that he would not criticize President Obama, but voiced skepticism about the Obama administration's pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran. Mr. Bush questioned whether it was wise to lift sanctions against Tehran and suggested that the U.S. risked losing leverage if it did so. (New York Times)
  • Assad's Hold Looks Shakier as Rebels Advance in Syria - Liz Sly
    With a surge of rebel gains in Syria, President Assad's regime now appears in greater peril than at any time in the past three years. The capture Saturday of Jisr al-Shughour in northern Idlib province after just a few days of fighting pointed as much to the growing weakness of regime forces as to the revival of the opposition.
        Iran backs Assad, and a shift in the balance of power in Syria could have profound repercussions. "I think we are going to see an end to the Assad regime, and we have to think now about what will happen the day after, because the day after is near," said Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent Saudi journalist. The growing strains on Assad's manpower and resources "are becoming extremely obvious, and the magnitude of his losses are now too big to hide," said Emile Hokayem of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. (Washington Post)
  • Palestinian Police Begin to Patrol Jerusalem Arab Suburbs - Mohammed Daraghmeh
    Israel has allowed 90 armed, uniformed Palestinian Authority police officers to deploy in four Arab suburbs of Jerusalem - Abu Dis, Azariyeh, Ram and Biddou - which have a combined population of 130,000. These areas fell outside the jurisdiction of Israeli civil police, leaving a vacuum that drew car thieves and drug dealers. Israel has permitted Palestinian police to return to catch scores of fugitive criminals and break up the criminal activity. Local residents cheered the decision. Ram Mayor Ali Maslamani said, "We expect to see a new era in our town, an era of law and order after a long period of lawlessness."
        Israel has significantly eased restrictions on Palestinian movement imposed after the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000. Some 400,000 older West Bank residents can enter Israel and east Jerusalem without special permits, while the number of Palestinians permitted to work in Israel has expanded to 53,000. (AP-Denver Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Foils Terror Attack on Syrian Border - Amos Harel and Gili Cohen
    An Israel air force aircraft on Sunday struck a militant cell that was trying to place an explosive device on Israel's border with Syria, killing three of the four militants. (Ha'aretz)
  • Defense Minister Ya'alon: "Iran Agreement Will Provide Iranian Regime with Breathing Space" - Yaakov Lappin
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon warned on Sunday against the approaching nuclear deal with Iran, describing the agreement as "bad and dangerous." "It will provide the Iranian regime with breathing space and international legitimacy. Instead of making things harder for Iran until it stops its nuclear program, the West is allowing it to come back, through the main door, to the family of nations, to be a nuclear threshold state, and to continue to spread terrorism throughout the whole world, including in the countries of the free world, while publicly calling for Israel to be erased from the map."
        He also said Iran is in the midst of an effort to arm Hizbullah and Hamas, and that Israel "will not allow the transfer of quality weapons to terrorist organizations, chief among them Hizbullah....We will not allow Iran and Hizbullah to set up terrorist infrastructure on our border with Syria."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Five Israeli Police Officers Wounded in Spate of Terrorist Attacks
    On Saturday, a Palestinian man pulled out a knife and ran toward a Border Police patrol near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, stabbing one policeman in the face and neck. Another border policeman shot the attacker to stop him. On Saturday night, a Palestinian drove his car onto the sidewalk in east Jerusalem, wounding a policewoman and three policemen. The driver was later caught. On Friday, a Palestinian near Jerusalem approached a roadblock with a butcher knife and tried to attack policemen there. He was shot in response. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Daydreaming on Iran - Mortimer Zuckerman
    President Obama has forsaken decades of pledges to the civilized world from presidents of both parties. While repeatedly affirming that the U.S. would never allow revolutionary Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, which would guarantee a new arms race, in fact, one has already started. Credible reports suggest Pakistan is ready to ship an atomic package to Saudi Arabia, the Sunni nation that stands opposed to Shiite Iran's subversion throughout the region.
        Meanwhile, Ayatollah Khamenei continues to denounce the U.S. as the Great Satan, making clear that Iran doesn't expect to normalize relations. His speeches indicate that Iran still sees itself in a holy war with the West. So here we are, seemingly willing to concede nuclear capacity to Iran, a country we consider a principal threat. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Improving the U.S. Position in Negotiations with Iran - Avner Golov
    It is imperative to strengthen the U.S. stance in negotiations with Iran to reduce the future risk inherent in Iran's nuclear program. It is critical to incorporate a clearly defined, stringent enforcement mechanism into the final agreement that will provide Iran with incentives to uphold the agreement. Such a mechanism is currently absent from the U.S. document of principles. The writer is a research associate at INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)
  • U.S.-Saudi Differences over Iran Role in Yemen - Tony Badran
    "Iran is part of the problem in Yemen, not part of the solution," said Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., on Wednesday. Whereas the Saudi goal is to shut Iran out of Yemen, Obama sees Iran as a principal stakeholder. His officials have been in constant communication with the Iranians over Yemen, and have been pushing for a Saudi ceasefire.
        Much like the Israelis, the Saudis can no longer operate on the assumption that they will receive American support. President Obama seems to believe that by including Iranians in negotiations, he is bringing "equilibrium" to the Middle East. Seen from the perspective of Saudi Arabia and Israel, however, Obama's doctrine of "equilibrium" emboldens Iran, which - feeling the American wind in its sails - pushes home its advantage. And it leaves America's allies with no choice but to resist Iran's expansion - and Obama's doctrine, which lends it recognition. The writer is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (NOW-Lebanon)

Iran Won't Give Up on Its Revolution - Soner Cagaptay, James F. Jeffrey and Mehdi Khalaji (New York Times)

  • The announcement last month of a preliminary agreement between the U.S. and Iran has led some to believe that Tehran will now enter the international system as a responsible actor.
  • But such optimism ignores the fact that Iran's current government still bears the imprint of a long imperial history and longstanding Persian regional ambitions.
  • Iran is a revolutionary power with hegemonic aspirations. It is a country seeking to assert its dominance in the region and it will not play by the rules. It uses an assortment of terrorism, proliferation, military proxies, and occasionally diplomacy to further its dominance.
  • History offers few examples of bringing such powers into the international system.
  • Ayatollah Khamanei's legitimacy stems from the Iranian revolutionary project, and any compromise would be an admission that he does not believe in that narrative of world history.
  • Do not expect Iran to compromise its principles any time soon.

    Soner Cagaptay is a senior fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. James F. Jeffrey is the former American ambassador to Iraq and Turkey. Mehdi Khalaji is a Shiite theologian.

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