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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
May 5, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Islamic State Leader Baghdadi Incapacitated after Air Strike - Martin Chulov (Guardian-UK)
    The leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains incapacitated after being injured in a U.S. airstrike in Iraq on March 18, the Guardian has learned.
    IS is now being led by deputy leader Abu Alaa al-Afri.

The Islamic State on Defense - Michael Knights and Alexandre Mello (Combating Terrorism Center-West Point)
    The Islamic State has been on the defensive in Iraq for more than eight months and it has lost practically every battle it has fought.
    After peaking in August 2014, its area of control has shrunk, slowly but steadily.
    There is nothing mystical about the Islamic State as a defensive force: it has succeeded almost entirely due to the absence of effective opposition, not because of its inherent strength.
    At the tactical level it is highly dangerous and can still win engagements, but at the operational level it lacks strategic coherence and displays a chronic inability to defend terrain.
    The core Islamic State is still a very small military movement in Iraq. It is far too small to perpetually defend the territories it currently dominates.
    It boasts many skilled and charismatic small unit leaders, but it is not a professional military institution by any measure.
    Dr. Michael Knights is a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Alexandre Mello is the lead Iraq security analyst at Horizon Client Access.

Former CIA Official Cites Failure to See Al-Qaeda's Rebound - Greg Miller (Washington Post)
    U.S. intelligence agencies ­badly misjudged al-Qaeda's ability to regain strength across the region after Osama bin Laden was killed, according to a new book by former CIA deputy director Michael Morell.
    "We thought and told policy-makers that this outburst of popular revolt [the Arab Spring] would damage al-Qaeda by undermining the group's narrative," Morell wrote.
    Instead, "the Arab Spring was a boon to Islamic extremists across both the Middle East and North Africa."
    Morell added that although the Islamic State militant group severed ties with al-Qaeda, the group is ideologically indistinct from al-Qaeda.

UK Taxpayers Fund "Pro-Terrorist" Play - Nick Craven (Mail on Sunday-UK)
    Arts Council England is handing over 15,000 pounds to producers of a play sympathizing with Palestinian terrorist groups who have murdered civilians and carried out suicide bombings on crowded commuter buses.
    The money will fund a UK tour of their play "The Siege," telling of a 2002 stand-off when Israeli troops cornered militants in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
    The production has already received cash from the British Council and the EU.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama to Suspend Iran Sanctions without Congressional Approval - Josh Rogin
    Top Obama administration officials have released new details about how they would lift most sanctions against Iran. The officials also claimed that most of the sanctions, including multilateral sanctions, could be snapped back into place if Iran cheated, and they argued that giving Iran tens of billions of dollars in cash won't dramatically increase Iran's spending on terrorism and other nefarious activities.
        Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said that President Obama planned to use his own authority to suspend sanctions against Iran's oil, banking and trade sectors after Iran complied with the initial parts of the deal and that Congress wouldn't actually be asked to lift sanctions during his presidency. "Only after many years of compliance would we ask Congress to vote to terminate sanctions, and only Congress can terminate legislative sanctions," he said.
        Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told an audience at New York University that UN sanctions would be lifted within days of an agreement being signed and that all sanctions would be permanently lifted, including Congressional sanctions, once Iran met its initial obligations. (Bloomberg)
  • The U.S. Fact Sheet's Missing Parts: Iran's Near 20 Percent Low-Enriched Uranium - David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini
    Iran continues to retain a significant portion of near 20% low-enriched uranium (LEU) in the form of oxide. The U.S. Fact Sheet does not discuss the fate of the near 20% LEU. LEU oxide powder is easily re-convertible to hexafluoride form, which can then be used in a breakout because near 20% LEU is much closer to weapon-grade uranium than 3.5% LEU. A challenge for negotiators is to remove from Iran or blend down to natural uranium most of this LEU. (Institute for Science and International Security)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Gen. Uzi Dayan: Hamas and Hizbullah Will Attack Israel Again - Yaakov Lappin
    Former Israeli national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan told the Jerusalem Post on Monday that both Hamas and Hizbullah can be expected to attack Israel again, as "they are terror organizations - terrorism is what they do for a living." If attacked again, Israel should seek to eliminate terrorist leaderships, and push hostile organizations out of their territorial bases, said Dayan.
        He also warned that both Hizbullah and Hamas would profit if Iran joins the nuclear club, as they would be able to operate under a nuclear umbrella provided by Tehran. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Islamists Target Hamas Security Headquarters in Gaza
    A bomb blast targeted Hamas' security headquarters in Gaza City on Monday, damaging a perimeter wall. "Hamas and its security forces have 72 free all Salafist (jihadist) prisoners," said a statement from a group called the Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem. (AFP-Times of Israel)
        See also Hamas Destroys Jihadist Gaza Mosque - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The Salafi jihadi group Ansar al-Dawleh al-Islamiyeh, affiliated with the Islamic State, accused Hamas of demolishing the Mutahabin mosque in Deir el-Balah in Gaza on Sunday night. Sources close to Hamas said the structure that was bulldozed was not a mosque but an office that served as a meeting place for jihadists. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also The Islamic State and Hamas Compete for Gaza - Siobhan L'Grady (Foreign Policy)
  • That Moment You Meet a Survivor Trapped under the Rubble - Yotam Polizer
    IsraAID's search and rescue team has been working on the ground or, more accurately, under the ground for the last few days in the heart of the devastated Gongabu district of Kathmandu. We set out on the gruesome task of trying to search and rescue any remaining survivors and bodies at one site where 22 people were thought to be buried under the rubble. Five days on, I admit, I wasn't feeling very optimistic.
        We're suddenly told that a sound was heard coming from under the rubble. Someone may be alive and trapped inside. We immediately call for additional support and for the next 5 hours we work into the night, leading and coordinating an incredible team of over 130 international search and rescue experts in cooperation with the local authorities. A group from Mexico and Norway work closely with us. A French team joins in and brings a "life scanner." We are amazed to find, it detects a heartbeat!
        We carefully remove stone after stone with the help of hundreds of local volunteers. I call out, "Is anyone there?" I am utterly stunned to hear a woman's voice cry back, "I'm hurt." We finally get a glimpse of a young woman. We call for a medic who carefully inserts an IV to help rehydrate and stabilize her condition. Krishna Devi Khadaka is 24 and was working at the local guesthouse when the earthquake struck. Inbal Bustan, 24, from Jerusalem, stayed by Krishna's side for the next few hours, reassuring her that everything would be over soon. The writer is the Asia Director for IsraAID. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iran Is Reaching Its Limits in Syria - Alan Philps
    The Syrian rebels appear better armed and more united, while the regime forces are suffering the attrition of four years of war, with repeated call-ups of young men testing the loyalty of families in regime-held areas. The foreign militias mobilized by Iran in support of the Syrian regime have been depleted by Iraqi Shia volunteers leaving to fight against Islamic State at home.
        The Iranians make no secret how important their alliance with Syria is. By providing a supply route to Hizbullah in Lebanon and bringing their forces face-to-face with Israeli troops on the Golan Heights, it elevates Iran from a peripheral power in the region to a central actor.
        More foreign fighters cannot compensate for the regime's inability to mobilize its own defense. The 7,000-8,000 foreign fighters that Iran has mobilized have saved the Syrian regime, but even double that number would not turn the tide to reconquer the lost part of the country. (National-UAE)
  • Escalation in Syria - Yoni Ben Menachem
    Iran is very concerned about the situation in Syria. The military assistance it gives the Assad regime for its war against the rebels has turned out to be insufficient. Nor has Hizbullah's role in fighting alongside the Syrian army stopped the rebels' progress toward Damascus and the city of Latakia on the northern Syrian coast. If the rebels' advance toward Damascus from the east and north continues, Iran will have to intervene even more significantly to save Bashar Assad's regime.
        According to various sources, Qatar has been able to persuade the new Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, to forge a new alliance with Turkey and Qatar that will strongly support the Islamist rebel coalition against the Assad regime. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Preserving Assad Is a Top Iranian National Security Priority - Aaron David Miller
    The Atlantic Council's Fred Hof, formerly President Obama's special advisor for the Syrian transition, told me: "During two years' worth of track-two discussions with influential, non-official Iranians, I've been consistently told that preserving Assad personally is a top Iranian national security priority. Iran sees him as utterly compliant in supporting Iranian efforts to keep Hizbullah's anti-Israel missile and rocket force at a high state of combat readiness. Although the domination of Syria is, on its own merits, a hegemonic feather in Tehran's cap, the Assad-Hizbullah connection is deemed by Iran to be vital in a practical sense. The Iranians fear - perhaps with good reason - that with Bashar Al-Assad gone the regime will collapse, and that no successor would subordinate Syria to Iran in the way Assad has."  (Foreign Policy)

Ignoring Crucial Issues with Iran - Majid Rafizadeh (Al Arabiya)

  • Spending too much political capital on Iran's nuclear file and ignoring other threats imposed by Iran's military will neither completely contain the Iranian nuclear threat, nor moderate Iran's expansionist foreign policies in the region.
  • Viewing Tehran only from the prism of nuclear proliferation will assist Iranian leaders and senior officials of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to be more emboldened in extending their geopolitical and military influence in the Middle East.
  • The strategy of viewing Tehran from the prism of nuclear negotiations rather than of its regional policies falls right into the interest of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and Iran's army establishments.
  • Even if a nuclear deal is reached, the Islamic Republic's regional hegemonic ambitions will not fundamentally be altered due to the ideological tenet of Iran's foreign policy.
  • While President Obama and many others believe resolving Iran's nuclear threat will alter the Islamic Republic's expansionist policies, as long as one crucial pillar of Iran's foreign policy remains ideological, Iranian leaders will not change their regional ambitions, revolutionary principles, or be less assertive in extending their military influence in the region.

    The writer is an Iranian-American political scientist and scholar at Harvard University.

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