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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
May 27, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Amnesty International Says Hamas Tortured, Killed Palestinians - Batsheva Sobelman (Los Angeles Times)
    Hamas, which controls Gaza, arrested and tortured dozens of Palestinians and executed at least 23 during the war against Israel in Gaza last year, Amnesty International said in a report released Wednesday.
    Hamas exploited the fighting against Israel in July and August to "ruthlessly settle scores," including with members of Fatah, the rival political faction, Amnesty said.
    Hamas carried out "spine-chilling actions, some of which amount to war crimes.... Torture and cruel treatment of detainees in an armed conflict is a war crime. Extrajudicial executions are also war crimes."
    See also "Strangling Necks": Abductions, Torture and Summary Killings of Palestinians by Hamas Forces during the 2014 Gaza/Israel Conflict (Amnesty International)

Al-Qaeda's Syrian Arm Shifts Tactics in War - Raja Abdulrahim (Wall Street Journal)
    Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, and Islamic State both seek to establish a state governed by a strict reading of Islam.
    Yet Nusra is seeking to win a degree of consent from those it rules and has voiced an interest in governing with other rebel groups, while Islamic State has relied on violence or the threat of violence.
    Islamic State "is in a rush to success and a rush to impress," said Charles Lister, a fellow at the Brookings Doha Center. "Al-Qaeda has always played a more longer strategic game."
    The Syrian Network for Human Rights said Nusra is responsible for the deaths of 282 civilians, including 60 women and 32 under age 18, and for the disappearances of 44 others.
    Against this history of ruthlessness, longtime observers of Syria's rebel factions are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward Nusra's apparent shift in direction.

Israel's Unemployment Rate Drops to 4.9 Percent - Zeev Klein (Israel Hayom)
    Israel's jobless rate in April was 4.9%, an all-time low, the Central Bureau of Statistics said Monday.

Moroccan Authorities Take Down Israeli Judo Team (Times of Israel)
    The seven-member Israeli judo team that traveled to the World Masters Judo Tournament last weekend in Rabat, Morocco, were not initially allowed into the country and kept in a room with no chairs, food or water for nine hours.
    Marius Vizer, the president of the International Judo Federation's executive committee, intervened and threatened to cancel the entire competition unless the Israeli team was released.
    At the competition, the Israeli flag was absent, prompting a representative from the International Judo Federation to demand that all the flags of the participating countries be taken down.
    At the tournament, spectators waved Palestinian flags, shouted "We're going to kill you," and booed each time a member of the Israeli team appeared.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • France: Iran Nuclear Deal Unlikely by June 30 - Arshad Mohammed
    French ambassador to Washington Gerard Araud told the Atlantic Council think tank on Tuesday that an Iran nuclear deal is not likely by June 30 because technical details remain to be defined. "It's very likely that we won't have an agreement before the end of June or even (right) after," he said. Araud said it could take a few weeks of July to complete the technical annexes envisaged under an agreement, if one can be reached.
        German ambassador Peter Wittig added, "Iran needs some time to start the implementation of this agreement, so in the best case sanctions relief would not happen before the end of this year."  (Reuters)
        See also Russia, U.S. Bridging Differences over Iran "Snap-Back" Sanctions - George Jahn
    Moscow and Washington are close to agreement on a formula that bridges differences over U.S. demands to quickly re-impose UN sanctions on Iran if Tehran violates its commitments under a nuclear deal, officials said Tuesday. France's ambassador to Washington Gerard Araud said Tuesday that no structure was yet in place for snapping back sanctions, but the basic premise would entail a majority vote of the five permanent Security Council members rather than the usual rule of consensus. (AP)
  • Russia Says It Is Not "Right Time" to Deliver Missiles to Iran - Kathrin Hille
    Russia says it will not deliver high-end, S-300 air defense missiles to Iran in the near future, despite last month lifting an embargo on delivering such weapons. "The right time to make such deliveries has not yet come," Yevgeny Lukyanov, deputy head of Russia's security council, said on Tuesday.
        Iran's defense minister Hossein Dehghan said on a visit to Moscow last month that he expected the S-300 contract to be reviewed within a month and deliveries to happen before the end of this year. But Sergei Ryabkov, Russia's deputy foreign minister, said talking about a schedule would be "not just premature but very wrong."
        Oleg Bochkaryov, deputy head of Russia's military-industrial commission, said that Moscow would not supply S-300 missiles to Iran from its stocks but build new ones instead. "That means a delay to be measured not in months but possibly in years," said a person close to the defense ministry. (Financial Times-UK)
  • Foreign Aid Scandal: UK Money Is "Still Going to Convicted Palestinian Terrorists" - Anil Dawar
    The Palestinian Authority has taken 130 million pounds in foreign aid from the UK Department for International Development over the past five years. The public cash is being used to help it fund its estimated 84 million pound annual wage bill for convicted terrorists locked up in Israel. Palestinian Media Watch claims that Britain may have been "intentionally misled" by the PA which last year claimed to have stopped the controversial payments but was later discovered to be channeling the cash through another political group.
        MPs Friday called for the Government to suspend all aid to the PA until payments to convicted terrorists cease. In a joint statement, Tory MPs Guto Bebb, James Morris and Andrew Percy said: "British taxpayers will be appalled to discover that the Palestinian Authority is handing their hard-earned money to convicted Palestinian terrorists. The PA should be strongly condemned for deceiving well-intentioned donor countries into thinking that it had ended this shocking practice."  (Daily Express-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • In Response to Palestinian Rocket Fire, Israel Strikes Gaza Targets - Matan Tzuri
    The Israel Air Force struck four targets in Gaza early Wednesday in response to rocket fire at Israel Tuesday night. An IDF Spokesperson confirmed that one rocket fired from Gaza had landed near Gan Yavne. A resident from the area said, "We heard a really loud explosion, so loud that the walls of our house shook. It was really scary."  (Ynet News)
        See also When Two Gazans Fight, Israel Suffers - Avi Issacharoff
    The rocket that Islamic Jihad launched at Israel on Tuesday came out of an internal conflict between sector commanders. In a personal conflict between the incoming and outgoing commanders of the northern Gaza Strip - that included the kidnapping of activists close to the dismissed commander - close associates of the latter fired rockets at Israel. Two Gazans fight one another, and the chips fly at Israel. (Times of Israel)
        See also Hamas Arrests Gaza Rocket Launchers - Elior Levy (Ynet News)
  • Assad Regime Retreating on Multiple Fronts - Amos Harel
    Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah called on Saturday for a general Lebanese mobilization against Islamic State, attesting to the difficulties Hizbullah and the Assad regime are having in finding enough people to fight on all the fronts where they are engaged. In eastern Syria, Islamic State has captured the ancient city of Palmyra and apparently massacred Syrian soldiers there. In northwest Syria, Sunni rebels this weekend captured a hospital compound in Jisr al-Shughur where Assad loyalists had held out for weeks.
        Islamic State is bombarding Damascus on a daily basis and has seized positions in the capital's eastern neighborhoods. Israeli defense officials now see a reasonable chance that sometime in the coming months, Assad will decide to abandon Damascus and focus on defending the Alawite enclave in the north. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • UN World Health Organization Votes to Condemn Israel over Health Rights - Hillel C. Neuer
    As Israeli hospitals continue to save the lives of escalating numbers of wounded Syrians, the annual assembly of the UN World Health Organization voted by 104 to 4, with 6 abstentions, on May 20, 2015, to condemn Israel regarding "health conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan." Voting against the resolution were Australia, Canada, Israel, and the U.S.  Countries voting to condemn Israel included China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, and Britain.
        The UN should single out Israel because if you walk into any Israeli hospital or clinic, you will see it replete with Palestinians receiving world-class medical treatment. The UN should single out Israel because its doctors have created the "Save A Child's Heart" program, which has provided life-saving cardiac surgery to more than 3,400 children from 48 countries. About half the patients are Muslims from the West Bank, Gaza and other Arab countries. The UN should single out Israel because it was a world leader in responding to the deadly earthquake in Nepal, sending a 260-member army team of medics and search and rescue experts who treated 1,600 victims. (UN Watch)
  • Iran's Secret Trial of a Journalist - Editorial
    Ten months after his unjustified detention, Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post's well-respected, American-born reporter in Iran, had his first day in court on Tuesday in closed-door legal proceedings. "The fate of a good, innocent man hangs in the balance," Martin Baron, the Post's executive editor, said in a statement. "Iran is making a statement about its values in its disgraceful treatment of our colleague, and it can only horrify the world community."
        The case against Mr. Rezaian and his wife has been a travesty from the start. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, should step in to end the unjust prosecution and release Mr. Rezaian. (New York Times)
        See also A Washington Post Reporter Goes on Trial in Tehran - Adam Chandler (Atlantic)

A Policy to Defeat Both ISIS and Iran - Samuel Berger, Stephen Hadley, James Jeffrey, Dennis Ross and Robert Satloff (Politico)

  • There are two main external threats to the Middle East state system. The Islamic State has declared a caliphate designed to replace existing states. The Islamic Republic of Iran uses its militia proxies to undermine states and deny them authority throughout their territory, a process that has already given Tehran leverage over four Arab capitals - Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa.
  • On ISIS, U.S. strategy ultimately depends on building a broad coalition of partners in support of Arab-based efforts to defeat it. Iran will surely fight to prevent ISIS' domination in Syria and Iraq, an arena in which our objectives converge. But the Iranian strategic view of the region is fundamentally at odds with ours.
  • We need to judge Iran on how it acts. The most powerful elements in Iran today still see the U.S. as their enemy because they see America as the main impediment to their domination of the region.
  • Ultimately, if the U.S. hopes to mobilize Sunni Arab populations of Iraq and Syria in opposition to ISIS - an essential element to marginalizing it - Iran cannot be seen as a presumed ally.
  • A comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran could make sense if it allows Iran a peaceful nuclear energy program but denies it the capability of becoming a nuclear weapons state. Every conflict that Iran touches today would be much more difficult and more dangerous in the future should Iran acquire a nuclear weapons capability.

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