Prepared for the
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
May 19, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran FM Zarif: No International Inspection of Military Sites (Mehr-Iran)
    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Monday dismissed the possibility of inspection of Iran's military sites as part of the deal with Western powers.

The Plight of the Middle East's Christians - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)
    The Christian communities of Syria and Iraq have survived 2,000 years of tumult and war, but now tremble on the brink of destruction.
    Almost 1.5 million Christians lived in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and 3/4 are believed to have fled since 2003. Of the 300,000 Christians remaining in 2014, some 125,000 have been driven from their homes within the past year.
    In Syria, hundreds of thousands of desperate Christians have fled the current civil war, along with millions of their Muslim fellow citizens.
    Other Christian populations in the Middle East have been almost entirely wiped out or displaced. In 1900, most of Constantinople's residents were Christian; today, fewer than 150,000 of Istanbul's population identify with any faith other than Islam.
    The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College and professor of American foreign policy at Yale University.

IDF to Disband Druze Battalion - Mitch Ginsburg (Times of Israel)
    The IDF on Monday decided to disband its Druze battalion in light of the Druze community's desire to "integrate into the army," the IDF spokesperson announced.
    The battalion, which was established in 1974, will be shut by September after only 5% of Druze recruits asked to serve in the unit.
    Today, when the commander of the Golani Brigade, Col. Ghassan Alian, is a Druze, as is President Reuven Rivlin's military attache, Brig. Gen. Hasson Hasson, there appears to be no need for a segregated unit.

Israeli Professor's Baby-Friendly Policy Earns Admiration - Daphne Sashin (CNN)
    Jerusalem psychology professor Sydney Engelberg, 67, became a viral sensation last week for a photo showing him in mid-lecture, holding a baby.
    The professor, who teaches graduate courses in organizational behavior at Hebrew University, picked up the restless baby of a student during a lecture and walked around so everyone could continue learning.
    The idea that a professor would be so understanding toward a young mother earned Engelberg kudos from parents everywhere.

Hamas Operative Dies in Gaza Tunnel Collapse (Maan News-PA)
    Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades said Monday that one of its fighters, Mahmoud Adel Ghaban, 25, was killed in a tunnel collapse in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.
    In August 2014, Al-Jazeera reported as many as 400 deaths inside the Gaza tunnels.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Former Defense Secretary Gates on Iran: The Alternative Is Not War, There Is a Potential for a Better Deal - Bob Schieffer
    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who worked for eight U.S. presidents, was asked about the nuclear deal with Iran on "Face the Nation" on Sunday.
        Gates: "First of all, getting the Iranians to the negotiating table in the first place was a success for U.S. foreign policy. They didn't come to the table out of goodwill. They came to the table because their economy was being strangled and the leadership was afraid they might get overthrown."
        "I have several concerns that I hope can be addressed in the negotiations between now and June: the first is the timing of the lifting of the sanctions. Are they going to be lifted right away as long as the Iranians agree to implement the agreement. Or will they be phased over time based on performance, which has been our position all along."
        "The second is verification. Unless we have sort of on-demand inspection at all facilities, including military facilities, I think there is a great potential to cheat. Third, I think that the idea of being able to have these snapback sanctions, that sanctions could be re-imposed once lifted, is very unrealistic."
        "I think that the pursuit of the agreement is based on the president's hope that over a ten-year period with the sanctions being lifted that the Iranians will become a constructive stakeholder in the international community...that they will abandon their ideology, their theology, their revolutionary principles, their meddling in various parts of the region. Frankly, I believe that's very unrealistic."
        "I don't think the alternative is war. One alternative is a better deal....You reinforce the sanctions, and you basically say, here are the additional things we need for this agreement to work and to be worthwhile, and an agreement that reassures our allies or at least doesn't scare them half to death. If they choose not to come back to the negotiations, but to race to a nuclear weapon, well, my guess is that will show that they intended to do that all along."  (CBS News)
  • Islamic State Solidifies Foothold in Libya to Expand Reach - Dion Nissenbaum and Maria Abi-Habib
    Islamic State leaders in Syria have sent money, trainers and fighters to Libya in increasing numbers, solidifying its foothold there. "ISIL now has an operational presence in Libya, and they have aspirations to make Libya their African hub," said one U.S. military official. "Libya is part of their terror map now."  (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Syria's Assad Faces Growing Rebel Pressure - Amos Harel
    Over the past two months, the rebels have earned a great many victories in northern Syria and continue their advance westward: From Aleppo to Idlib, and from there to Jisr al-Shughur, and then onto the Nebi Yunis ridge - from which they can shell Latakia in the heart of the Alawite territory. This pressure, around the areas of Damascus and the Alawite region, threatens the stability of Assad's rule.
        A great deal of media attention is being focused on the battle in the Qalamoun Mountains, where the Syrian army and Hizbullah are trying to reestablish control of the corridor through which weapons and troops are funneled between Syria and Lebanon. Hizbullah has loudly trumpeted its successes in that campaign, but in reality it has taken over mostly open areas that the Sunni rebels chose to leave. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF: If Israel's War Crimes Probes Are No Good, All of the West's Are No Good - Yonah Geremy Bob
    Referring to the International Criminal Court, IDF Deputy Military Advocate-General Col. Eli Baron said Monday that "if others say that our investigations" into war crimes allegations are insufficient, then "the entire Western world" must realize that their investigations will be declared insufficient. Baron predicted that Israel would have significant support from other Western countries which are impressed with the IDF's efforts to avoid civilian casualties in war and to investigate itself. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S. Opposes PA Moves Against Israel at ICC - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro spoke out on Monday against Palestinian efforts at the ICC. The U.S. opposes the PA move and will "use all tools at its disposal to combat delegitimization against Israel," Shapiro said. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What's Behind Saudi Arabia's New Muscularity - Taylor Luck
    The Saudi public not only supports Saudi Arabia's new war in Yemen, but also its new role as Middle East "policeman," filling the void left by American reluctance to intervene in the region. Less than five months after it went through a transition of power from King Abdullah to his brother King Salman, a bolder, more assertive Saudi Arabia is trying to expand its geopolitical footprint in the Middle East.
        Yet Riyadh's mounting cold war with Iran - coupled with the endless conflict in Syria, Islamic State's presence in Iraq, and the escalating violence in Yemen - has enmeshed the country in several simultaneous theaters of war. Since 2005, Riyadh has channeled an estimated $30 billion to tribes and militias in Lebanon, Iraq, and Bahrain, creating a wide network of Sunni movements linked and directed by Saudi intelligence services.
        In January 2015, Shiite Houthi militias took control of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and drove out the Saudi-backed government. In Riyadh's eyes, Iran and its agents for the first time were approaching Saudi soil. "All the great historic Arab powers - Iraq, Syria, and Egypt - are all in chaos," says Jasser al Jasser, managing editor of the Saudi daily Al Jazirah. "There is a need for a great Arab power in the region, and Saudi Arabia under King Salman is now stepping up to become that power."  (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Why the Rate of PTSD in the IDF Is 1 Percent - Sebastian Junger
    PTSD is a natural response to danger. From an evolutionary perspective, it's exactly the response you want to have when your life is in danger: you want to be vigilant, you want to react to strange noises, you want to sleep lightly and wake easily, you want to have flashbacks that remind you of the danger. It's almost unavoidable in the short term and mostly self-correcting in the long term.
        The American military now has the highest PTSD rate in its history - and probably in the world. PTSD claims to the Veterans Administration have reportedly risen 60% to 150,000 a year. Anthropological research from around the world shows that recovery from war is heavily influenced by the society one returns to, and there are societies that make that process relatively easy.
        Israel is arguably the only modern country that retains a sufficient sense of community to mitigate the effects of combat on a mass scale. Despite decades of intermittent war, the Israel Defense Forces have a PTSD rate as low as 1%.
        Two of the foremost reasons have to do with national military service and the proximity of the combat - the war is virtually on their doorstep. "Being in the military is something that most people have done," I was told by Dr. Arieh Shalev, who has devoted the last 20 years to studying PTSD. "Those who come back from combat are re-integrated into a society where those experiences are very well understood."  (Vanity Fair)

The Lessons of the Syrian Chemical Weapons Discovery - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • In early May, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) reported that they had located traces of sarin-type chemical weapons and ricin-type biological weapons in at least three sites in Syria which the Assad regime had not reported. This came following verification of the regime's extensive use of chlorine in barrel bombs dropped on heavily populated areas controlled by the opposition. These developments and Western reactions carry ramifications that go beyond the Syrian context, with direct implications for the planned nuclear deal with Iran.
  • So long as the extent of supervision is dictated by the supervised party's declarations regarding its facilities, and so long as that party's intention is to retain prohibited capabilities, that party can conceal facilities or surreptitiously transfer assets to other sites relatively easily. In this context, Iran has made clear yet again that it refuses to allow unlimited access to its military facilities or those of the Revolutionary Guard, which obviously could hide crucial components of the nuclear program.
  • Once problematic information emerges, no matter how grave, the West makes no quick decision, let alone taking the required action. The lack of political will to be drawn into a conflict with the party under supervision leads to foot-dragging; the issue is sidelined and its importance downplayed. The chlorine-gas attacks on the Syrian population, for example, have become a humdrum matter that interests no one and is barely mentioned, let alone spurring a response.
  • The West's commitment to act on these issues only within the framework of a broad international coalition creates total paralysis. In the Iranian context, the Russians have already made clear that they will oppose a snapback of the sanctions even if Iran violates the nuclear agreement, if and when it is signed.
  • Whoever wants to defend against the threats embodied in Iran's behavior must have an independent capacity to act - even if one enjoys a deep strategic security relationship with the U.S. What the Saudis have been demonstrating in Yemen shows that they have already reached this conclusion.

    The writer is Director of the Project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center. He was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research and Analysis and Production Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

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