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August 21, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Trying to Move Yakhont Missiles and SA-22 Air Defense Systems to Hizbullah - Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran is trying to transfer state-of the-art weaponry, including the SA-22 air defense system and the Yakhont anti-ship cruise missile, from military storehouses in Syria to Hizbullah, Israel Foreign Ministry director-general Dore Gold told the Jerusalem Post on Thursday from Berlin.
    Gold said that he briefed German officials on the continued subversive efforts of the Iranians in the Middle East, including efforts over the last six months to set up a new Hizbullah front against Israel on the Golan Heights.
    "When the sanctions on Iran are lifted, and they get a cash bonus of up to $150 billion, Iran will then be equipped to radically increase its destabilizing activities along Israel's borders," he said.

Egypt Intercepts Hamas Naval Commandos En Route to Training in Iran - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Four Gazans intercepted by Egyptian intelligence operatives while traveling from Rafah to Cairo airport on Wednesday were senior Hamas naval commandos who were apparently headed to Iran for training.
    According to media reports, the commandos have acquired underwater scooters that can travel relatively long distances, potentially enabling access to targets deep inside Israel.

Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Car Bombing in Cairo - Erin Cunningham and Heba Habib (Washington Post)
    The Islamic State claimed Thursday it carried out a car bombing that targeted Egyptian security forces in Cairo, injuring 29 people including six policemen in a predawn attack on a branch of the National Security Agency, the country's domestic spy service, in a Cairo suburb.

Israel Pressures Hamas on Israelis Held in Gaza - Stuart Winer (Times of Israel)
    Israel denied a request by former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh for his sisters to be permitted to visit Gaza to take part in a wedding, linking the decision to Hamas' apparent detention of two Israelis.
    IDF Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai said Israel would not take Haniyeh's humanitarian needs into consideration because Israel's own "humanitarian issues" in Gaza were not being taken into consideration by Hamas' leadership.
    Hamas also holds the remains of deceased IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, who were killed in Gaza during the 2014 fighting.

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Exterminating Christians in the Middle East - Robert R. Reilly (Wall Street Journal)
    Christians are being wiped out in the Middle East.
    On his recent trip to Latin America, Pope Francis said, "Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus."
    "In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place."
    Christians are being exterminated by Islamic State simply because they are Christians. Christian homes are marked with the Arabic letter "N" for Nazarene.
    Today's persecuted Christians have nowhere to go. After 1948, when the Jews were purged from the Arab Middle East, they could at least go to Israel. There is no equivalent for Middle Eastern Christians.
    The writer is director of the Westminster Institute.

Consequences of the Global Oil Bust - Fareed Zakaria (Washington Post)
    We are witnessing a historic fall in the price of oil, down more than 50% in less than a year.
    Supply is up substantially because a decade of high oil prices encouraged producers throughout the world to invest vast amounts of money in finding new sources.
    Russia's economy is projected to shrink by 3.4% this year. Oil and gas revenue make up half the government's income.
    Iraq, where oil makes up 90% of government revenue, faces a massive drop in available funds.
    The International Monetary Fund estimates that Iran needs prices to be almost $100 a barrel to balance its budget. In the medium term, it will face pressures just like the others.
    See also No End in Sight for Oil Glut - Russell Gold (Wall Street Journal)

Video: Meet Sgt. Yanina, a Combat Soldier in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)
    Sgt. Yanina Jatemliansquy was born in Argentina and immigrated to Israel two years ago, drawn by her lifelong dream to protect the country.
    See also Video: Meet Sgt. Dvir, a Combat Soldier in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Secret Agreement between Iran and IAEA to Let Iranians Conduct Inspections Themselves - George Jahn
    Iran would collect its own environmental samples at the Parchin site and carry out other work usually done by IAEA experts. The document on Parchin will let the Iranians themselves look for signs of the very activity they deny.
        Faced with more than a decade of Iranian resistance to IAEA attempts to probe the allegations of past weapons work at Parchin, there may be a willingness to settle for an agency report that is less than definitive - and methods that deviate from usual practices. The IAEA appears to want to close the books on the issue. (AP)
        See also Text of Draft Agreement between IAEA and Iran
    This is the original draft agreement between the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and Iran covering inspections at the Parchin military site. Two officials confirmed that this draft does not differ from the final, confidential agreement between the IAEA and Iran:
        "1. Iran will provide to the Agency photos of the locations...taking into account military concerns. 2. Iran will provide to the Agency videos of the locations...taking into account military concerns. 3. Iran will provide to the Agency 7 environmental samples....4. Activities will be carried out using Iran's authenticated equipment."  (AP)
  • Obama Tells Congress U.S. Will Still Press Iran - Jonathan Weisman
    President Obama wrote in a letter to Congress Thursday that the U.S. would unilaterally maintain economic pressure and deploy military options if needed to deter Iranian aggression, both during and beyond the proposed nuclear accord. Mr. Obama pledged to use the multinational commission policing the accord to block Iranian procurement of nuclear-related technology, and pledged "to enhance the already intensive joint efforts" of the U.S. and Israel in the region. "Should Iran seek to dash toward a nuclear weapon, all of the options available to the United States - including the military option - will remain available through the life of the deal and beyond," Obama wrote.
        He pledged to increase missile defense funding for Israel, accelerate co-development of missile defense systems, and boost tunnel detection and mapping technologies. He also vowed to increase cooperation with Israel and Persian Gulf allies to counter Iran's efforts to destabilize Yemen, its support for Hizbullah in Lebanon, and its efforts to preserve the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria. (New York Times)
        See also Text of Obama Letter to Congressman Jerrold Nadler (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Strikes Syria in Response to Rocket Fire - Gili Cohen
    Israeli artillery and planes struck 14 sites in an area under Syrian regime control in the Golan Heights on Thursday after four rockets were fired at the Galilee and the Golan Heights from Syrian territory. The IDF Spokesman said "the army sees Syria as responsible for the fire," which was "deliberate and orchestrated."
        The IDF said Palestinian Islamic Jihad fired the rockets "with Iranian funding and direction." The rocket fire was planned by the chief of the Palestinian department in the Iranian Quds Force, Sayyid Izdi. A senior IDF officer said Izdi was involved in arms smuggling in Syrian and Lebanon. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF: Islamic Jihadists Responsible for Rocket Attack Killed in Second Airstrike in Syria
    The IDF struck in Syria for a second time on Friday morning, killing 4 or 5 members of the Islamic Jihadist group responsible for the rocket attack on northern Israel on Thursday, an IDF official said. The airstrike hit a vehicle 15 km. inside Syrian territory in the Golan Heights. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Demands Publication of All Secret Agreements with Iran - Barak Ravid
    Following the AP report on Wednesday of a draft agreement between the IAEA and Iran that Iranian officials would inspect the Parchin military site without UN inspectors, who would be barred from the site, Israel demanded on Thursday that the world powers and the IAEA publish all the secret agreements with Iran, along with their appendices, regarding the investigation into possible military dimensions of its nuclear program. Senior officials in Jerusalem said that only publishing all the details would clarify the doubts that have arisen regarding the UN inspection's effectivity and reliability.
        National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee several weeks ago that the powers refuse to brief Israel fully on the agreements between the IAEA and Iran. "The more we learn of the agreement, the more we see that our concerns are justified," an Israeli official said Thursday. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Drawbacks of the Iran Deal - Shai Feldman and Ariel E. Levite
    The Iran nuclear deal yielded neither a verifiable Iranian commitment to restrict its nuclear endeavors to the parameters of a peaceful energy program nor a mechanism that reliably prevents Iran from funneling the enormous unfrozen funds provided to it to all the wrong causes. Moreover, Iran has already begun to set limits on the access rights of the IAEA to its facilities and to violate with impunity the ban on arms transfers to and from Iran. And Iran's Supreme Leader continued his virulent attacks and relentless diatribes against the U.S. and Israel.
        Shai Feldman is director of Brandeis University's Crown Center for Middle East Studies and a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center. Ariel E. Levite, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was the principal deputy director general for policy at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission from 2002 to 2007 and head of the Bureau of International Security and Arms Control in the Israel Ministry of Defense. (National Interest)
  • The Folly of Removing Sanctions on Iran's Ballistic Missiles - Behnam Ben Taleblu
    UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which enshrines the Iran nuclear agreement, stipulates that restrictions on Iran's ballistic missiles will expire eight years after the deal's implementation. This expiration date is a strategic blunder. This will allow Iran to reinforce its deterrent capacity and to redouble the offensive threat it poses to the region.
        Iran has become home to the largest and most diverse ballistic missile arsenal in the Middle East. The more confident Iran feels that its inventory will deter retaliatory strikes, the more likely it is to engage in conflict by proxy throughout the region. Concessions on the missile issue were directly against the advice of Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff: "Under no circumstances should we relieve pressure on Iran relative to ballistic missile capabilities and arms trafficking."
        The negotiators' overriding commitment to curb - even if just temporarily - Iran's ability to build nuclear weapons led them to concede on the very means by which those weapons could ultimately be delivered. The writer is an Iran research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (National Interest)
  • Iran Agreement Makes War More Likely - J.B. Pritzker
    In the negotiations on ending Iran's nuclear threat, U.S. objectives were to reduce the threat to the homeland, to American interests abroad and to our allies in the region. Regrettably, the Iran deal reduces all our leverage upfront, giving Iran billions of dollars in sanctions relief, in return for permitting it to maintain its advanced nuclear program and the infrastructure of a threshold nuclear state.
        A financially bolstered hard-line Iranian regime will result in increased terrorism abroad and even more repression at home. Given Iran's atrocious human rights record, we risk compromising our progressive values if we eliminate sanctions and prop up this reactionary regime.
        By legitimizing Iran's nuclear program, removing the pressure of economic sanctions and allowing it to obtain conventional weapons and ballistic missiles, this agreement makes the prospect for war more likely, not less. The writer served as national co-chair of Hillary Clinton for President in 2008. (The Hill)
  • Iran's Nuclear Deal Raises Serious Questions - Irwin Cotler
    In 2010, as part of the UN Human Rights Council's first Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran, the Iranian government committed to implementing 126 of the 212 recommendations made to it by the international community. In the five years since making those commitments - on matters ranging from women's rights, to freedom of religion and expression, to the humane treatment of detainees - the human rights situation in Iran has worsened in many respects. The persecution, imprisonment and torture of human rights defenders, members of minority groups, journalists and many other leaders of Iranian civil society has intensified, while the execution rate in Iran - already the highest in the world - has almost doubled under the supposedly moderate President Hassan Rouhani.
        Given the Iranian regime's appalling track record of bad faith and duplicity when it comes to international commitments - as well as its standing violation of international treaties to which it is a party and its wanton violation of the human rights of its own citizens - there are serious questions to be asked about the nuclear agreement. The writer, a Member of Parliament in Canada, co-chairs the Inter-Parliamentary Group for Human Rights in Iran. He is a former justice minister and attorney general, and emeritus professor of law at McGill University. (Montreal Gazette-Canada)
  • Only Fools Play Tag with the Iranian-Islamic Dragon - Dr. Sima Goel
    I was born in Iran, but fled when I was 17. Although I love Iranians, I love the freedom and choices offered in the West more, and I want to protect them. The decision to facilitate nuclear production under the Iranian-Islamic government puts us all at risk. The nuclear deal is not good for the Iranian people, the region or the world. It gives the mullahs power to suppress opposition and encourages them to continue to incite global terror.
        I understand too well the dragon that rules Iran. I have suffered its fire and I have seen how this predator brings down its prey. I know what the Iranian-Islamic government stands for and to what extent it will go to promote its ideology. When they say, "Death to England!" "Death to America!" "Death to Israel!," they really mean it. This is not a fringe group. By facilitating Iran's nuclear capacity, we are feeding the dragon.
        Documents alone do not make for peace when the signatories have a history of showing no faith, nor any tolerance for beliefs other than their own and they morally believe in the legitimate use of deception to achieve their long-term goals. Further, they insist on exporting their ideology to the region and the world at large. It is not "live and let live," but "I live and you die." We would not try to pacify a bully by giving him a loaded gun, so why are we permitting and encouraging Iran's nuclear capability? The writer is the author of Fleeing the Hijab: A Jewish Woman's Escape from Iran. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)

  • Other Issues

  • What Are Palestinians Doing with U.S. Money? - Khaled Abu Toameh
    During the past 20 years, the U.S. has invested $4.5 billion in promoting democracy among the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian economic analysts estimate that the PA has received a total of $25 billion in financial aid during the past two decades, but this has not created democracy for the Palestinians. On the contrary, what the Palestinians got from the start was a mini-dictatorship run by Yasser Arafat and his PLO and Fatah cronies.
        The refusal of the international community to hold Arafat accountable was the main reason a majority of Palestinians were driven into the open arms of Hamas. Palestinians lost faith in the PA and its leaders, mainly as a result of the PA's corruption. Hamas promised them change, reform and an end to financial corruption.
        The $4.5 billion the Americans invested in promoting Palestinian democracy went down the drain or ended up in secret Swiss bank accounts. The Palestinians do not have a functioning parliament or a free media in the West Bank or Gaza. And for Palestinians, presidential and parliamentary elections remain a remote dream. (Gatestone Institute)
  • Corruption in Palestine: A Self-Enforcing System - Tariq Dana
    Embezzlement of public funds, misappropriation of resources, and nepotism are an outcome of longstanding corruption embedded in the underlying power structure that governs the Palestinian political system and that were rooted in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) prior to the Oslo process.
        Kinship and familial ties together with political ties provide the ruling elite with a strategic tool to control constituents and expand the network of supporters by redistributing public resources in order to buy political loyalties. This contributes to the climate of corruption by favoring incompetent loyal political constituents and excluding skillful people on an arbitrary basis.
        The PA has managed to secure loyalties among constituents largely by offering access to resources for economic survival rather than by persuasion for its political, economic and social programs. In particular, the large PA public sector - which currently employs over 165,000 whose salaries are guaranteed by international aid - has been a vital instrument for creating dependency and securing loyalties. If employees express criticism of PA policies, they are likely to be forced into early retirement, denied salary payments, or arbitrarily removed from their posts. The writer is a senior research fellow at Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies, Birzeit University. (Ma'an News-PA)
  • Why We Shouldn't Be So Upset that Matisyahu Got the Boycott - Jared Samilow
    BDS overplayed its hand. Openly discriminating against an American Jew would not fly in front of a broad public. Such garish anti-Semitism might cut it among certain benighted precincts, but was bound to get the cold shoulder from ordinary concert-goers and the political elite. BDS activists are acutely aware that their bizarre fixation on Israel will be tolerated only if it remains possible to convince the mainstream that it is not anti-Semitic.
        That diaspora Jews are the Jewish state's most natural allies is not an awkward coincidence, but an expression of the Jewish people's affection for its motherland. Boycotting half of the world's Jews will inevitably lead to isolating and discriminating against the other half. Jared Samilow, 19, participated last year in the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs Fellowship in Israel-Arab Studies. (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)

Reform Jewish Movement Responds to Iran Deal (Union for Reform Judaism)

  • On Aug. 19, the leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism issued a statement concluding that the movement would not take a position for or against the Iran deal.
  • In addition, they noted "five principal areas of concern: deterrence, Iran's support of terror, inspections, human rights and religious freedom, and the United States' standing in the world."
  • On deterrence: "We call on President Obama to issue an unequivocal statement that at no point will the U.S. accept a nuclear-armed Iran. The Administration must state clearly that in the short term, and more importantly, 15 years from now when key provisions of the JCPOA expire, the U.S. will take no option off the table when it comes to preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons capability. We also call on the U.S. to provide Israel with the support necessary, including advanced weaponry and the means to deliver it, to further deter Iran, protect Israel's security, and maintain Israel's qualitative military edge."
  • On Iran's support of terror: "Iran's longstanding and persistent threats against Israel, the U.S. and others, as well as its record of support for international terror organizations including Hamas and Hizbullah, are not addressed by this agreement. We urge the Administration to work with our European allies to ensure that harsh international sanctions will be adopted if Iran leverages its newfound resources to further fund terror activity. The U.S. should also commit to leading a broader international effort designed to eliminate Iran's support of international terror."
  • On inspections: "We call upon the Administration to commit to imposing significant additional consequences if Iran challenges the inspections regime, in addition to the "snap back" sanctions."
  • On human rights and religious freedom: "Iran remains one of the world's great violators of human rights and religious freedom. The Administration has committed to keeping the sanctions related to human rights fully intact after this agreement and must further commit to marshaling international pressure on Iran to make improvements in expanding human rights, religious freedom and the development of democratic structures."
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