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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
May 21, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Syrian Rebels Thwart Islamic State Attempts to Reach Israeli Border - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Two attempts by Islamic State in Syria to take up positions along the Golan Heights border with Israel have been thwarted in the past two weeks.
    Two weeks ago, Syrian rebels overcame an armed group from the IS-affiliated Jaysh al-Jihad south of Quneitra.
    Two days ago in the southern Golan Heights, the Free Syrian Army, in cooperation with Jabhat al-Nusra, overpowered IS loyalists from the Shuhada al-Yarmouk Brigades.
    Israeli security officials said the Jabhat al-Nusra fighters operating in the Golan are local residents who benefit from the group's logistical and financial support.

ISIS Seizes Ancient Syrian City of Palmyra (AP-NBC News)
    Islamic State extremists seized the ancient Syrian town of Palmyra on Wednesday after government defense lines there collapsed.
    Palmyra is famous for its 2,000-year-old towering Roman-era colonnades.

Palestinian Forces Fighting Alongside the Syrian Regime (MEMRI)
    In addition to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Lebanese Hizbullah, and Shi'ite Iraqi, Afghani, and Pakistani militias, Palestinian forces are also fighting alongside the Syrian regime.
    The main Palestinian forces included the 60,000-strong Palestinian Liberation Army - "the military wing of the PLO" - and Liwa Al-Quds, led by Muhammad Sa'id, which comprises several thousand residents of Palestinian refugee camps near Aleppo.
    In recent days, a new Palestinian group has emerged, the Galilee Forces (Quwat Al-Jalil) or Galilee Brigade (Liwa Al-Jalil). This group is the military wing of the Palestinian Youth Return Movement, and is led by Fadi Al-Mallah.

Imagine North Korean Nuclear Subs Off California - Uzi Rubin (Defense News)
    On May 9, a beaming Kim Jong Un watched his country's first sub-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) leaping out of the water after being launched from a submerged North Korean submarine.
    The thought that a rogue regime like North Korea's might eventually send nuclear ballistic missile submarines to patrol the shores of Japan and the U.S. surely sends shudders down the spines of Western analysts.
    The writer is founder of Israel's Missile Defense Organization.

Report: Iran Stops Funding Palestinian Islamic Jihad - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran has stopped funding Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Palestinian daily Al-Quds reported on Wednesday.
    A dispute erupted after the group refused to issue a statement supporting the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
    PIJ has been unable to pay salaries for the past four months and its leader, Ramadan Shallah, has moved from Iran to Lebanon. Moreover, PIJ has been forced to close its TV station, Palestine Today, due to the financial crisis.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Wants 24-Day Notice Prior to Inspections of Nuclear Sites
    Iran wants 24 days' notice before international inspectors could visit its nuclear sites, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Thursday. Fabius cautioned that "a lot of things can disappear" in 24 days. (AP-Miami Herald)
  • Bin Laden Raid Documents Disclose Terror Plots Aimed at Westerners, Jews - Nicole Gaouette and David Lerman
    The U.S. on Wednesday released a trove of documents seized from Osama bin Laden's hideout in Pakistan in 2011 that underscored his preoccupation with attacking U.S. and Western targets. A document labeled "Report on the external operations" said the priority is "putting the Jews first" as targets and that there was progress in "cooperating with two groups who are working in the same fields."  (Bloomberg)
  • White House Steps Up Warnings about Terrorism on U.S. Soil - Brian Bennett
    Alarmed about the growing threat from Islamic State, the Obama administration has dramatically stepped up warnings of potential terrorist attacks on American soil. U.S. authorities also have raised defenses at U.S. military bases, put local police forces on alert and increased surveillance at the nation's airports, railroads, shopping malls, energy plants and other potential targets.
        U.S. officials estimate the Sunni Muslim group has drawn 22,000 foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, including about 3,700 from Western nations. About 180 Americans have gone, or tried to go. James B. Comey, the FBI director, warned this month that "hundreds, maybe thousands" of Americans are seeing recruitment pitches from Islamic State on social media. "It's like the devil sitting on their shoulders saying, 'Kill, kill, kill,'" Comey said. (Los Angeles Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu to EU: "I Support the Vision of Two States for Two Peoples"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told visiting EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini on Wednesday that Israel wants "a peace that would end the conflict once and for all." "I support the vision of two states for two peoples - a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Arab Terrorist in Jerusalem Car Attack Affiliated with Hamas - Daniel K. Eisenbud
    Amran Abu Dhein, 41, the Arab terrorist who drove his vehicle into three Border Police officers in Jerusalem on Wednesday, "is affiliated with Hamas' military wing and is related to Alaa Abu Dhein, who gunned down eight yeshiva students from the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Kiryat Moshe in March of 2008," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Defense Minister Insists West Bank Bus Plan Not Segregation
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon insisted Wednesday that a pilot plan he initiated which would have prevented Palestinians from traveling on buses with Israelis into the West Bank does not amount to segregation, and was justified on security grounds. "There is no separation between Arabs and Jews on public transportation," Ya'alon said. "Every state has the right, and particularly in our delicate security situation, to check those who are coming in and out. This is what it is, and nothing more."
        At a Knesset hearing last October, Ya'alon cited a State Comptroller report criticizing lack of Israeli oversight on illegal Palestinian day laborers entering the country. Ya'alon said at the time, "You don't have to be a security expert to realize that when you have 20 Arabs in a bus driven by a Jew, and maybe two or three other [Jewish] are guaranteed a terror attack."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Saudi Arabia Takes the Initiative Against Iran - Mudar Zahran
    Saudi Arabia's war on Iranian loyalists in Yemen, the Houthis, will have a major influence on the region. For the first time in this century, an Arab state took the initiative to attack Iran's interests. Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister Muhammad bin-Salman, 34, convinced the Saudi monarchy to fight Iran.
        Iran has been verbally threatening everyone in the region in recent years, but Salman has slapped Iran in the face without worrying about any consequences. Iran's loyalists have never been in a more fragile position - not because of Saudi Arabia's military might, but because Saudi Arabia has public Arab support for its military operations in Yemen. In fact, Arab social media has been overflowing with praise for Salman and Saudi Arabia.
        Before the Saudi operations began, many called Israel crazy for wanting to counter Iran's hostility with military action. Now Saudi Arabia has set an example of possibly the best method to silence Iran. Also, Salman has established himself as a man willing to take the fight to Iran rather than just await Iran's actions. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ramadi Is Only Part of the Problem with Iraq - Anthony H. Cordesman
    The U.S. urgently needs far more realism in shaping its military efforts. The U.S. cannot focus on the Islamic State as if Iraq and Syria were not failed states with far deeper problems. The Iraqi defeat at Ramadi is a warning, but no more of a warning than the supposed Iraqi "victory" at Tikrit last month. Tikrit was a defeat because it was fought by an Iraqi Army that had to rely on Shiite militias.
        The Obama administration's limited U.S. effort did keep Americans from suffering casualties, but they also did more in Iraq to empower Iran than win support for the U.S. The Iraqi Army and Ministry of Defense are still broken, unmotivated, and incompetent. A U.S. military effort cannot work unless Abadi's government becomes strong enough to heal the gap between Arab Sunni and Arab Shiite, and limit the role of Shiite militias and Iran. Moreover, there is no solution to Iraq without a solution to Syria. The writer holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Defense One)
  • Why the Iran Nuclear Deal Could Be Catastrophic for Israel - Emanuele Ottolenghi
    The Islamic Republic openly calls for Israel's destruction while investing considerably in those who fight Israel at its borders. Iran possesses dangerous capabilities and proven intentions to use them.
        Last October, Iran organized an international gathering of Western Holocaust deniers. This month, Tehran is hosting the second international Holocaust cartoon contest. In September 2013, when CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour confronted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani over Holocaust denial, he dodged the question by pontificating that the Holocaust deserves more historical scrutiny to determine what really happened. What would cause Iranian leaders to defame the memory of the Holocaust so obsessively, other than deeply malevolent intentions? The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Tablet)

UN Failure in Southern Lebanon Will Lead to Future Civilian Casualties - Dore Gold (Facebook)

  • In recent days, the New York Times and other major media ran stories detailing how Hizbullah was building up a vast military arsenal in hundreds of Shiite villages just north of the Israeli-Lebanese border.
  • After the Second Lebanon War in 2006, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1701, which established in southern Lebanon - between the Israeli-Lebanese border and the Litani River - "an area free of any armed personnel, assets and weapons" other than those of the Government of Lebanon or the UN. In other words, Hizbullah was supposed to be kept out of this area - not only its fighters but also its thousands of rockets aimed at Israel.
  • Today, Hizbullah - supplied, trained, and funded by Iran - is building new military strongholds in Lebanese border villages. By doing so, Hizbullah has turned Lebanese civilians into human shields - much like Hamas did in Gaza. Hizbullah's rearmament is a blatant violation of Resolution 1701. Is anyone stopping this?
  • UNIFIL, the UN force in Lebanon, was supposed to oversee the implementation of Resolution 1701. But does anyone think UNIFIL is going to enter a Shiite village in southern Lebanon and remove rockets stored in houses?
  • The UN is thus leaving Israel with a horrible choice if war breaks out again: Either the IDF will have to destroy the weapons now being stored in southern Lebanon, or let Hizbullah fire thousands of rockets into Israel.
  • Under the laws of war, Israel will have every right to destroy a house that has become a legitimate military target. Shouldn't the UN avert this outcome by taking action now? Don't hold your breath.

    The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

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