Iran Enters Iraqi Fight for Key Oil Refinery - Robert Burns (AP)
Iran has entered the fight to retake the Beiji oil refinery in Iraq from Islamic State militants, contributing small numbers of troops - including some operating artillery and other heavy weapons - in support of advancing Iraqi ground forces, U.S. defense officials said Friday.
U.S. officials said Iranian forces have taken a significant offensive role in the operation in recent days, in conjunction with Iraqi Shiite militias, operating artillery, 122mm rocket systems, and surveillance and reconnaissance drones.
Eight Nations Learn about Israeli Successes in Anti-Rocket Defense - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
Israel last week hosted a three-day, closed-door conference attended by eight top NATO air defense commanders and senior staff, said Israel Air Force Brig. Gen. Shachar Shohat, commander of Israel's air defense forces.
Countries represented included Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, the UK and the U.S.
They were briefed on Israel's air defense activities in last summer's Gaza war, when Iron Dome anti-rocket batteries had an interception rate of nearly 90%.
"Our achievements in Operation Protective Edge sparked keen interest around the world, and people wanted to come here to hear our experiences and exchange data at the professional level," Shohat said.
Iraq Is Bankrolling ISIS - Howard J. Shatz (Politico)
Iraq continues to fund ISIS by continuing salaries to the many Iraqi government employees who live in ISIS-controlled territory.
ISIS skims the money Iraq continues to pay these public employees, estimated to total hundreds of millions of dollars each year.
Yet ending payments to employees, effectively cutting off money to ISIS, would create a humanitarian problem.
It would also give ISIS a propaganda victory, signalling to the largely Sunni recipients in ISIS-controlled areas that the largely Shia government in Baghdad is abandoning them and that ISIS is their only protection.
The writer is senior economist at the RAND Corporation.
World Bank: Turkey Fails to Honor Pledge to Gaza - Deniz Arslan (Zaman-Turkey)
A World Bank report published on May 21 indicated that Turkey has so far delivered only 0.26% of the aid it pledged to Gaza during a donors conference in Cairo last October.
Turkey had pledged $200 million but has provided only $520,000, according to the report.
Israel Emerges as Global Cyber Superpower - Amitai Ziv (Ha'aretz)
Israel has emerged as a cyber superpower, with Israeli companies accounting for 10% of global sales of computer and network security technology, according to Israel's National Cyber Bureau.
Israeli companies sold $6 billion of cyber technology in 2014 out of total global sales estimated at $60 billion.
The number of Israeli cyber companies with a commercially available product or service doubled in the past five years to 300 in 2014.
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- In Targeting ISIS, U.S. Holds Back to Shield Civilians - Eric Schmitt
American intelligence analysts have identified seven buildings in downtown Raqqa in eastern Syria as the main headquarters of the Islamic State. But the buildings have gone untouched during the ten-month allied air campaign out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians. But many Iraqi commanders, and even some American officers, argue that exercising such prudence is harming the coalition's larger effort to destroy the Islamic State. Islamic State troops are taking advantage of restrictions on the coalition bombing campaign, with militants increasingly fighting from within civilian populations to deter attack.
Only about one of every four air missions sent to attack the extremists have dropped bombs. The rest have returned to base after failing to find a target they were permitted to hit under strict rules of engagement designed to avoid civilian casualties. "In most cases, unless a general officer can look at a video picture from a UAV, over a satellite link, I cannot get authority to engage," the pilot of an American A-10 attack plane said. "It's not uncommon to wait several hours overhead a suspected target for someone to make a decision to engage or not." (New York Times)
See also Obama Under Pressure to Send U.S. Target Spotters to Iraqi Front - Terry Atlas
Islamic State's seizure of Ramadi has revived a debate in the Obama administration about whether to send U.S. military spotters to target airstrikes on the extremists. (Bloomberg)
- Islamic State's Capture of Ramadi Reveals New Prowess on Battlefield - Margaret Coker
Islamic State's battlefield performance in seizing Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, suggests the terrorist group's tactical sophistication is growing. Islamic State commanders executed a complex battle plan that outwitted a greater force of Iraqi troops as well as the U.S.-trained special-operations force known as the Golden Division, which had been fighting for months to defend the city. Islamic State commanders evaded surveillance and airstrikes to bring in reinforcements.
IS also converted captured U.S. military armored vehicles into formidable new weapons, megabombs with payloads equal to the force of the Oklahoma City bombing. Over three days, IS launched at least 27 such vehicles that destroyed Iraq security forces' defensive perimeters and crumbled multistory buildings. (Wall Street Journal)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
- Report: Al-Qaeda Affiliate Nearly Gone from Southern Syria - Elhanan Miller
While Islamic State forces have been gaining control of territory in northern and central Syria, the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front has all but disappeared from the southern provinces of the country, an opposition Free Syrian Army spokesman said Monday. He said "a large number of them defected and joined other opposition factions," meaning that the number of Nusra fighters in the provinces of Quneitra and Daraa, adjacent to the Israeli and Jordanian borders, has diminished in recent weeks from 3,000 to no more than 700. He added that 80-90% of Nusra's fighters are locals, as opposed to the Islamic State which is mostly composed of foreign fighters.
(Times of Israel)
- Israeli Cooperation with Nuclear Treaty Diplomats Helped Prevent Bad Outcome - Yaakov Lappin
Diplomats involved in efforts to set up a regional dialogue over weapons of mass destruction helped Israel avoid a bad outcome during a UN conference last week, arms control expert Emily Landau said on Monday. Landau, head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, said, "Thanks to the U.S. are certainly in order as it stood by Israel and its principles in a very noteworthy manner. But in addition, I would highlight that U.S. support this time was made easier because of the cooperative approach that Israel had adopted over the past few years."
Israel, which is not a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), has spent the past two years cooperating with UN attempts to establish a regional dialogue on weapons of mass destruction. "U.S. officials over the past year had praised Israel's cooperation regarding the informal meetings, and this most likely strengthened their ability to argue against the new resolution that was changing the terms mid-course," Landau said.
- Congress Can Fight the Boycott Israel Movement - Peter J. Roskam
The U.S. has a strong history of taking action to dismantle economic boycotts against Israel. In response to the Arab League boycott that started in 1948, Congress enacted legislation in 1976 and 1979 banning U.S. companies from participating. It worked. The boycott had a marginal impact on Israel's economy, and the U.S. Commerce Department still maintains an office to ensure that American companies live up to the law.
A leaked document last year revealed high-level discussions among EU member states working to develop economic sanctions intended to pressure Israel to accept political concessions such as ending the blockade of Gaza irrespective of terrorism from Hamas.
Congress is currently debating bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) legislation, which stipulates key American objectives in free-trade negotiations with the EU. Included is language I co-authored with Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) instructing U.S. negotiators to discourage our prospective European trade partners from participating in boycott, divestment and sanctions. If these countries want free trade with the U.S., they can't engage in politically motivated boycotts against Israel. These same principles were successfully negotiated into U.S. free-trade agreements with Bahrain and Oman in the mid-2000s, prompting both countries to end their boycotts of Israel.
We must not be fooled by those marketing BDS as anything but blatant discrimination against the Jewish state. And we must seize the historic opportunity to push back forcefully against the BDS movement to ensure the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
The writer is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (R-Ill.).
(Wall Street Journal)
- It Would Take a Miracle to Save the Assad Regime - Eyal Zisser
Last week, Islamic State seized the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the Syrian city of Palmyra.
The advances Islamic State has made in Iraq are disturbing, but it is doubtful the group is seeking to overrun Baghdad and the Shiite areas in southern Iraq. Essentially, all that is left of sovereign Iraq is the Shiite people, who enjoy the backing of the U.S. and the assistance of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. They have come together to fight Islamic State over the Shiite territories in southern Iraq, but have neither the interest nor the ability to defend northern Iraq from the jihadi group.
In Syria, however, Islamic State fighters view the regime of Syrian President Assad as easy prey. Assad has virtually no military forces fighting for him. What is left of the Syrian army is a group of exhausted soldiers who are outnumbered and unmotivated. Control of Palmyra affords Islamic State a springboard toward Damascus and Homs. At the same time, Assad must also contend with the Nusra Front, which is backed by Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. In this reality, the assistance Hizbullah lends the Assad regime is a drop in the bucket. Prof. Eyal Zisser is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
UN Security Council Resolution 242 Established that Israel Was Entitled to Defensible Borders - Dore Gold (Facebook)
- As the 48th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War approaches, many continue to demand that Israel retreat to the lines that existed on the eve of the war. Let us say clearly: Israel cannot, should not, and will not withdraw to indefensible borders. In taking this position, Israel is fully within its rights under international law.
- The pre-war boundaries with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria were armistice lines from 1949 that reflected where Israel halted the invading Arab armies in the War of Independence. Shortly after Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, Gaza from Egypt, and the Golan Heights from Syria in a defensive war in June 1967, the Soviet Union tried to brand Israel as the aggressor and press for full Israeli withdrawal. That effort failed.
- Instead, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, which defines the principles of Arab-Israeli diplomacy to this day. The resolution calls for Israeli withdrawal "from territories" captured in the war and not "from all the territories" - an intentional phrasing that was defended at the time at the highest levels of the U.S. government, including by President Johnson himself.
- Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin specified in his last Knesset address in October 1995 that Israel would never withdraw to the pre-1967 lines. He stressed that Israel would have to retain control of the Jordan Valley, the geographic barrier that has secured Israel's eastern front since the Six-Day War. Most importantly, Rabin made clear that Jerusalem would remain united under Israeli sovereignty. He made this proclamation about Israeli policy two years after the signing of the Oslo Accords with the PLO, and after the peace treaty with Jordan.
- Israel's rights as a nation-state have their origins in the Allied powers' decision to allocate the territories of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the First World War, when the historical connection of the Jewish people to their homeland was acknowledged. From then (and even in the years before the war), the Zionist movement worked to turn the dream of a state into reality.
- But undoubtedly, it was the diplomacy that followed the Six-Day War, and especially UN Security Council Resolution 242, that helped establish that Israel was entitled to "secure and recognized boundaries" - or defensible borders - that would replace the fragile 1949 armistice lines in any future Arab-Israeli negotiations.
The writer, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has been named director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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