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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
August 26, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Saudi Arabia Holding Main Suspect in 1996 Khobar Towers Bombing (Reuters)
    Ahmed al-Mughassil, the leader of Hizbullah al-Hejaz, was captured in Beirut and transferred to Riyadh, Asharq al-Awsat reported Wednesday.
    Al-Mughassil had been indicted by a U.S. court for the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service personnel and wounded almost 500 people.
    Saudi Arabia and the U.S. have accused Iran of orchestrating the truck-bomb attack.

Report: Turkey Tipped Off Al-Qaeda Group to U.S.-Trained Fighters Entering Syria - Mitchell Prothero (McClatchy)
    The kidnapping of a group of U.S.-trained moderate Syrians by al-Qaeda's Nusra Front moments after they entered Syria on July 29 to confront the Islamic State was orchestrated by Turkish intelligence, multiple rebel sources have told McClatchy.

Palestinians Flock to Islamic State - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
    A recent report estimated that some 100 Palestinians have already joined Islamic State, mostly from Gaza, while another 1,000 are believed to be preparing to join.
    Recent public opinion polls found that 24% of Palestinians hold positive views about the Islamic State - this means more than one million Palestinians support the Islamic State.
    Commenting on the polls, Christian activist Sam Butrous wrote: "Apparently, 20% of the Palestinians have no problem with expelling their Christian brothers and destroying their churches and turning them into mosques."
    The fiery rhetoric of PA and Hamas leaders, in addition to ongoing incitement against Israel and the West, is further radicalizing Palestinians and driving them into the Islamic State's open arms.

Israel Strategy Accents Offense over Defense - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    In a comprehensive strategy document released this month, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot outlined strategic, operative and domestic considerations driving priorities and investments through 2020, with offensive capabilities being Israel's overarching military modernization priority.
    Eisenkot's definition of offense includes a full spectrum of intelligence-supported, networked-enabled attack capabilities by air, land, sea and in the cyber realm.
    He also calls for building up the IDF's ability to insert paratroopers and other infantry units for direct attacks "on the center of gravity of the enemy." Attack operations must be "simultaneous and of high intensity."
    The IDF must be prepared to wage effective, "highest intensity" attack operations "at all times" at a rate of thousands of targets per day for several days.
    If fighting lasts longer than a few days, the IDF must have the capacity to generate new targets and attack them at a sustained rate of hundreds of targets per day.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Republicans Plan New Iran Sanctions after Vote on Nuclear Deal - Josh Rogin
    Republicans in Congress are preparing several bills to sanction Iran even if the Congressional vote next month doesn't go their way. "The American people get who the Iranian regime is," said Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), one of several Iran deal critics developing new sanctions proposals. The proposals seek to capitalize on the administration's promise to keep up pressure on Iran for its non-nuclear mischief, including over its support for regional terrorism and its human rights record.
        Nuclear experts said the bills could have an effect even if they were not voted on. Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said that a debate over new sanctions legislation would send a signal to banks and companies all over the world "to basically raise the risk of premature commercial and financial engagement with Iran."  (Bloomberg)
  • Iran Parliament Advisor: "Israel Should Be Annihilated"
    The Iranian Parliament Speaker's Adviser for International Affairs, Hossein Sheikholeslam, said Tuesday: "Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan." After the reopening of the British embassy in Tehran on Sunday following four years of strained relations, Sheikholeslam said that Tehran will never forget the past and Britain's colonialist moves. (Fars-Iran)
        See also Iran Rejects Claims of "More Nuanced Approach" to Israel - Josefin Dolsten
    Iran denied British claims that it had indicated a "more nuanced approach" to Israel. Iranian spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham said Tuesday that Iran's attitude toward the Jewish state remained unchanged, the Iranian Tasnim news agency reported. On Monday, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Iranian President Rouhani had indicated a "more nuanced approach" to Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Syria's Assad: Nuclear Deal Strengthens Iran
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV Tuesday that the recent nuclear deal would strengthen Iran's role internationally, in turn benefiting Syria. "The power of Iran is the power of Syria, and a victory for Syria is a victory for Iran." He added: "We are on the same axis, the axis of resistance."  (AFP)
  • Mideast Leaders in Moscow for Arms Deals - Karim Talbi
    Russian President Vladimir Putin is to host Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Jordanian King Abdullah II, and the strongman of the United Arab Emirates, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, in Moscow this week at the Maks-2015 military salon showcasing Russia's military industry. Iranian officials are also expected in Moscow this week to finalize Tehran's purchase of S-300 air defense systems. Putin and King Abdullah are expected to discuss building Jordan's first nuclear power station, according to the Kremlin. (AFP)
        See also Iran, Russia to Cooperate on Satellites, Aircraft Industry (Mehr-Iran)
        See also Russia to Build Two Nuclear Plants in Egypt
    During his visit to Russia beginning Tuesday, Egyptian President al-Sisi may sign an agreement with Russia's state company Rosatom to build two nuclear power stations in Egypt. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Thwarts Palestinian Plot to Attack Jewish Worshippers at Joseph's Tomb in West Bank - Yoav Zitun
    The Israel Security Agency arrested four Palestinians planning to ambush Jewish worshippers visiting Joseph's Tomb in Nablus (Shechem) with a bomb and rifle fire, it was announced Tuesday. The West Bank terror cell was directed from Gaza by Islamic Jihad member Mohammed Darwish. The suspects have admitted to involvement in the plot, including conducting preliminary intelligence gathering at the site, and initial bomb training. One of those arrested, Mohammed Damiri, 23, is a Palestinian policeman. (Ynet News)
  • Hamas Official: Focus on Taking Over West Bank
    Hamas co-founder and former foreign minister Mahmoud Zahar told Hamas' Al Aksa TV on Monday that the group is currently focusing its energy on taking power in the West Bank. He said the success of the organization in Gaza should be replicated in the West Bank. Zahar also called reports that Hamas was near a long-term truce with Israel "lies that have no basis in reality."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Kerry's Leap of Faith on Iran's Self-Inspections - Editorial
    The International Atomic Energy Agency is supposed to provide the "unprecedented verification" that Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama insist is the key to the Iran deal's reliability. So total is the Secretary's faith in the agency that he agreed to let it reach its own side deals with Iran over how to inspect the regime's military sites, without him knowing the particulars of the arrangements. Last week the Associated Press got hold of a near-final draft of one of the side deals, which revealed that the agency would allow Iran to do its own inspections - with its own personnel and equipment - of the military site at Parchin.
        After the AP released the text of the agreement, defenders of the deal claimed that the issue was no big deal. But knowing what Iran might have done at Parchin is crucial to determining how much time Iran would need to build a bomb. In an April 2014 exchange with PBS News Hour's Judy Woodruff, she asked Kerry: "The International Atomic Energy Agency has said for a long time that it wants Iran to disclose past military-related nuclear activities. Iran is increasingly looking like it's not going to do this. Is the U.S. prepared to accept that?" Kerry responded: "No. They have to do it. It will be done. If there's going to be a deal, it will be done....It will be part of a final agreement. It has to be."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran's Bad Reputation Is Justified - Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
    The Iranian regime's bad reputation is the result of more than 36 years of exported conflicts, revolutions, violence and extremist and hostile ideologies against any state or movement that disagrees with it. Its reputation is a direct result of malicious acts - abductions, assassinations and explosions - as well as threats and funding groups to mobilize against several countries. This is in addition to the violent form of governance inside Iran itself.
        Arab states think that Iran wants to calm the West and end sanctions imposed on it so it may resume plans to dominate the region. Meanwhile, Israel thinks that Iran plans to resume its nuclear military program and fears that the agreement does not provide enough guarantees and will therefore not only pose a threat against its security but also against its existence. The writer is former general manager of Al Arabiya and former editor-in-chief of Asharq al-Awsat. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)

How to Put Some Teeth into the Nuclear Deal with Iran - Dennis Ross and David H. Petraeus (Washington Post)

  • If the Iran deal would block its paths to a nuclear bomb for the next 15 years and there is no obvious negotiated alternative, why are we still undecided? Put simply, because the deal places no limits on how much the Iranians can build or expand their nuclear infrastructure after 15 years. Iran's ability to dramatically increase its output of enriched material after year 15 would be significant, as Iran deploys advanced models of centrifuges starting in year 10 of the agreement.
  • In terms of the size of its nuclear program, Iran will be treated like Japan or The Netherlands - but Iran is not Japan or The Netherlands when it comes to its behavior. It is, after all, one of three countries designated by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism. While we hope that Iran may change, we cannot count on it.
  • President Obama emphasizes that the plan depends on verification - not trust. But what matters even more is that the Iranians recognize that they will pay a meaningful price when we catch them cheating. Deterrence is the key to preventing the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons. Iran must know that we will not permit it to become a nuclear weapons state ever.
  • Now is the time for the Iranians and the world to know that if Iran dashes toward a weapon, especially after year 15, that it will trigger the use of force. At that point, it would be too late for sanctions to preempt an Iranian nuclear fait accompli.
  • It is critically important for the president to state this clearly, particularly given his perceived hesitancy to use force. Indeed, were Obama to be unequivocal about the use of force should Iran violate its commitment not to seek nuclear weapons, the international community would accept the legitimacy of military strikes in response.
  • The Iranians also should know that if they produce highly enriched uranium - for which there is no legitimate civilian purpose - that we would see that as an intention to make a weapon and would act accordingly.

    Dennis Ross was special assistant to President Obama for the Middle East and South Asia from 2009 to 2011. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who commanded U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, was director of the CIA from Sep. 2011 to Nov. 2012.

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