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August 31, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah Enlisting Former Fatah Operatives for Terror Attacks Against Israel - Yasser Okbi (Maariv Hashavua-Jerusalem Post)
    Hizbullah has been working intensively to enlist former operatives from Fatah's Al Aksa Brigades to carry out terror attacks against Israeli targets in the West Bank and inside Israel, the Saudi daily Okaz reported Sunday, quoting a Palestinian security source.
    "Among those Hizbullah members involved in the operation is Kayis Ubayid, who was behind the kidnapping of Col. (res.) Elhanan Tannenbaum in 2000."
    The source said that the matter was a security challenge for the Palestinian Authority, which is also acting against Hamas' efforts to revive its military wing, the Kassam Brigades, in the West Bank.

Huge Undersea Natural Gas Field Discovered Off Egypt (AP-New York Times)
    The Italian energy company Eni announced Sunday it has discovered a natural gas field off Egypt it describes as the "largest-ever" found in the Mediterranean.
    The discovery well is 190 km. from the Egyptian coast, and is at a depth of 1,450 meters.
    "The discovery, after its full development, will be able to ensure satisfying Egypt's natural gas demand for decades," Eni said.

Turkish Delegation to Visit Israel for First Time since 2010 (Ma'an News-PA)
    A Turkish political delegation will visit Israel on Monday for the first time since the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010.
    Israeli news website said the delegation will meet with Deputy Minister of Regional Cooperation Ayub Kara to discuss establishing a new industrial zone in the Jenin district of the West Bank.
    See also Turkey, Israel to Discuss West Bank Industrial Zone - Emine Kart (Hurriyet-Turkey)
    "The main focus is the new industrial zone in collaboration with the U.S.," Israeli diplomatic sources said. Customs-free export to the U.S. from the industrial zone is planned.

Report: ISIS Beheads 39 of Its Own Members (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights can document the execution of 91 people in Syria between July 29 and August 29 by Islamic State.
    Those executed include 32 civilians, including 2 women; 39 of its own militants, including a journalist; 11 fighters from the rebel and Islamist factions; and at least 9 members from regime forces and allied militiamen, most of them beheaded.
    The executions were carried out for sorcery, insulting God, sodomy, adultery, banditry, joining and cooperating with the awakening movements, cooperating with the Crusader coalition, mischief on earth, and cooperating with the Nusayri (Alawite) regime forces.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Obama Tries to Soothe Jewish Community on Iran Deal - Jonathan Weisman
    In an Internet broadcast from the White House on Friday, President Obama defended his nuclear accord with Iran as in the security interest of both the U.S. and Israel, in an interview conducted by Stephen Greenberg, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Michael Siegal, chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America. "A president 15 years from now will not be in a worse position to respond" if Iran tries to quickly obtain a nuclear weapon after much of the accord expires, Obama said. "He will be in a better position, or she will be in a better position to respond."
        He pledged that the vitriol surrounding the Iran debate would pass quickly as the U.S., Israel and allies in the Middle East move toward confronting Iranian aggression beyond its nuclear ambitions. "We're all pro-Israel, and we're all family," he said. Obama also expressed sympathy for American and Israeli Jews who are worried about Iran's continuing anti-Semitic statements, Holocaust denial and vows to wipe out Israel. (New York Times)
  • Iranian President Rouhani Blasts Israel
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani blasted Israel on Monday for its crimes against the Palestinians. Referring to "the fake Zionist regime in the Palestinian territories," Rouhani said, "The (Israeli) government and regime basically started its job based on intimidation, terrorism and occupation and today it is continuing the same anti-human path."  (Fars-Iran)
  • Syria: The Gutting of a Nation - Liz Sly
    Syria's population was estimated to be 22.4 million in 2011 when the uprising against the Assad regime began. In 4 1/2 years, more than half the population has been killed, displaced or fled the country. Those reaching Europe represent a small percentage of the 4 million Syrians who have fled into Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq, and the realization is dawning that most won't be going home anytime soon.
        Destitute refugees throng the streets of Beirut, Istanbul, and Amman. Mothers clutching children sleep on traffic circles, under bridges, in parks and in the doorways of shops. Families pool their savings and borrow from friends to pay smugglers who pile them onto boats crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. But Europe is an option available only to those with the means to pay the $5-6,000 demanded by smugglers.
        "You can't have 25% of your country full of another citizenry and not have problems. There are going to be problems in Lebanon, and the same with Jordan," said Rochelle Davis, an associate professor in the Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel's Knesset Speaker Invites Arab Counterparts to Meet Him in Jerusalem - Lahav Harkov
    Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, addressing the World Conference of Speakers of Parliament at the UN in New York on Sunday, turned a speech about the environment into an invitation for dialogue with Israel's neighbors in the Middle East. "My friends and neighbors in the Middle East," he said, "let us talk, people to people, parliament to parliament. Come to Jerusalem. Come to the Knesset. Meet with me. Sit with me. Talk with me."
        "We can lay the foundations for any future peace by fostering international and regional cooperation on issues that transcend national borders," he stated. "Let's talk water. Let's talk clean air. Let's talk prosperity. Let's talk partnerships."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Drive-By Shooting Wounds Israeli in West Bank - Tovah Lazaroff and Yaakov Lappin
    A Palestinian terrorist shot Ronen Edri in the arm as he drove in the West Bank on his way to work Sunday morning. A car pulled alongside his and a Palestinian shot at Edri through the window, spraying bullets at the side of his car. "This could have cost me my life," said Edri, a father of four and a volunteer ambulance driver. "You are driving down the road and all of a sudden they shoot at you."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Soldiers Escape Car Ramming Attack near Hebron - Lilach Shoval
    A Palestinian driver swerved his vehicle toward four IDF soldiers on foot patrol near Hebron on Saturday night. The car ran over the foot of one of the soldiers, who opened fire as the driver fled toward Hebron. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • On the Iran Nuclear Deal, Here's What Congress Should Do - Richard Haass
    The agreement to constrain Iran's nuclear capacity, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which the U.S. Congress will vote on next month, places significant limits on Iran's nuclear program for a decade or longer. At the same time, the accord allows Iran access to resources that will enhance its ability to carry out a worrisome agenda throughout much of the Middle East. In addition, the agreement in no way resolves the problems posed by Iran's nuclear program. To the contrary, these problems could well grow as most of the restrictions on centrifuges and enriched uranium run out after 10 and 15 years respectively.
        The U.S. should adopt policies and positions that supplement and clarify the JCPOA to address many of the legitimate questions and concerns in a manner that would protect U.S. interests and position the U.S. to deal with the Iranian challenge for the long haul. The writer is president of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Using Financial Sticks to Control Iran - Juan Zarate and Chip Poncy
    As Congress considers the Iranian nuclear deal, it should also prepare a strategy to use U.S. financial and economic power aggressively against a broad array of Iranian threats. The risks from an enriched, emboldened Iran should not be accepted as an unavoidable cost of the deal.
        Congress should put in place a new strategy, preserving and strengthening our ability to confront Iran's rogue activity through the use of financial power. We should adopt an economic constriction campaign focusing on the Revolutionary Guard and core elements of the regime engaged in terrorist financing, proliferation and providing support to destabilizing proxies.
        The administration has assured that "non-nuclear" sanctions were not on the table and has admitted that Iran's aggressiveness will increase. It cannot be that the leading state sponsor of terrorism has secured reintegration of its economy and immunity to avoid the aggressive use of U.S. financial measures. Juan Zarate was the first-ever assistant treasury secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes, and deputy national security adviser for combating terrorism. Chip Poncy served as the strategic policy director for Treasury's office of terrorism and financial intelligence in the Bush and Obama administrations. (Washington Post)
  • Islamic State Has Given Jordan New Life - Tobin Harshaw
    Just a decade ago, the tiny, oil-poor kingdom of Jordan had all but slipped off the West's radar, no longer needed as a forward bulwark against Saddam Hussein. Today, Jordan is a pivotal member of the anti-jihadist coalition, with a vibrant economy and a military being armed to the teeth by the U.S. and regional allies. The Arab Spring uprisings all but passed Jordan by, burnishing the kingdom's reputation for political stability. Overall U.S. aid for each of the next three years has been boosted to $1 billion, from $660 million in 2014. Jordan is one of the two sites where the Pentagon is spending more than half a billion dollars to train Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State.
        New financial aid from Persian Gulf allies and elsewhere has pushed GDP growth to near 3.5% since 2013, despite the loss of Syrian trade and a refugee crisis at its northern border. The global collapse in oil prices has helped too, since Jordan imports its energy.
        Jordan's military has more than 100,000 active-duty troops, 750 tanks and 250 aircraft, and its 14,000-man special forces are considered among the best in the region. Over three days in February, Jordanian pilots carried out 56 bombing raids on Islamic State targets, and a UAE fighter squadron is now operating out of Muwaffaq Salti airbase. (Bloomberg)

Vital Points on the Iran Deal: Major Flaws and Positive Elements - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser and Amb. Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The nuclear agreement with the main world powers is set to enable Iran safely, legally, and without economic hardships or changes in its rogue policies, to overcome the main obstacles on its way to possessing a nuclear weapons arsenal and becoming a regional hegemonic power.
  • The agreement will legally provide Iran with the capability to shorten the time required to produce such an arsenal within the next 10-15 years (including the production of fissile material, weaponization, acquiring delivery systems, and improved military capabilities to protect the military nuclear program), so that it would be practically impossible to stop it.
  • This is in exchange for a questionable and barely verifiable Iranian commitment to avoid producing arms and some limited restrictions on its nuclear program for 10-15 years.
  • Reliance on Iran's open reaffirmation in the agreement that it will not seek, develop, or acquire nuclear weapons is untrustworthy and even naive, given Iran's past record of concealing its nuclear activities, its periodic declarations of hostility vis-a-vis the U.S. and Israel, and its regime's messianic aspirations.
  • In short, the agreement unilaterally and unconditionally grants Iran everything it has been seeking without any viable quid-pro-quo from Iran to the international community.
  • Above all, it should be obvious that no possible sympathetic statement by the U.S. Administration, or even military or other compensation, could logically stand against paving the route to a nuclear arsenal by a state that repeatedly declares its commitment to obliterate Israel.

    Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research and Analysis and Production Division of IDF Military Intelligence.
        Amb. Alan Baker participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel's ambassador to Canada.

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