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September 4, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Video: Iranian Reconnaissance Plane Films American Aircraft Carrier (MEMRI)
    On Aug. 29, 2015, the Iranian Tasnim news agency posted a video of film and still photos of an American aircraft carrier in the Strait of Hormuz taken by a Revolutionary Guards naval plane during a reconnaissance mission.
    The carrier is filmed from high above and then from alongside. The American crew is seen looking straight at the camera as the plane passes by.

Israel to Face Armed Terror Drones - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel will have to deal with armed, hostile, attack drones from Lebanon or Gaza capable of firing rockets or small missiles at Israeli targets, Tal Inbar, head of the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya, said this week.
    Both Hizbullah and Hamas have their own drone fleets.
    "We have seen armed Iranian drones," he said. "The most advanced of these is the Shahed-129."
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps boasted in 2013 that the Shahed-129 can carry eight missiles, and that its range is 1,700 km., enabling it to reach Israel.
    "Hizbullah announced that it has this UAV," Inbar said. The missiles on board the Iranian drones appear to be antitank missiles. It would take them 30 seconds to cross from Lebanon into Israel and strike an Israeli vehicle, Inbar estimated.
    Detecting the hostile drone early and shooting it down, before it has the opportunity to fire, will be a key part of any effective defense approach.
    The Assad regime in Syria has deployed Russian drones, and Egypt has purchased China's Wing Loong medium-altitude, long-endurance drone.
    "We are seeing the whole area become flooded with UAVs.... Certainly, the skies are filling up with them," Inbar said.

Israeli NGO Sending Team to Help Refugees in Europe - Tamar Pileggi (Times of Israel)
    Israeli aid agency IsraAid said Thursday that it would send a team to the European countries grappling with the influx of refugees to the Continent.
    The civilian disaster organization will provide food and supplies, as well as assisting authorities and local organizations to improve the psychosocial well-being of the refugees and assist in absorption efforts.
    "We can't not extend a hand to help the tens of thousands of asylum seekers looking for refuge after fleeing the atrocities in the Middle East and Africa," IsraAid's founding director Shachar Zehavi said.
    In recent years, IsraAid has sent teams to work with displaced populations and deliver humanitarian aid in Iraqi Kurdistan, South Sudan, Nepal, Kenya and Haiti.

Video: ISIS in Sinai Has Advanced Russian Weapons - Dov Lieber (Jerusalem Post)
    A new video produced by ISIS' Wilayat Sinai branch in Egyptian Sinai released Wednesday reveals sophisticated weaponry that the group hopes to use to launch a war against Israel.
    The video calls Sinai the "southern gates to Jerusalem," and "an opening to fight a war against the Jews."
    The video highlights the use of the latest generation of Russian Kornet anti-tank missiles against Egyptian tanks, APCs, and on one occasion, an Egyptian navy ship in the Mediterranean on July 19.

PBS Anchor Tweets Her Bias (CAMERA)
    Gloating over the news that there is enough support for the Iran nuclear agreement to avert any Senate override of an Obama veto, Gwenn Ifill, PBS Newshour anchorwoman and moderator of Washington Week, tweeted: "Take that, Bibi."
    Bibi is Benjamin Netanyahu, to whom the citizens of Israel have entrusted their security by voting to have him serve as prime minister three times.
    Gwenn Ifill does not merely mock Netanyahu; she taunts every Israeli and every Jew who dreads what Iran might do if the agreement turns out to be as flawed as its detractors claim.
    Ifill earns her living on taxpayer-supported public television.

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Next Generation Intel Skylake Processor Developed in Israel - David Shamah (Times of Israel)
    Intel on Tuesday announced its most advanced processor ever, which was developed at Intel's Haifa R&D lab.
    The new Skylake processors have more than double the performance, triple the battery life, and with graphics that are thirty times better than the most popular computers in use today - the 600 million PCs and laptops that sport a previous generation of Intel processors.
    Skylake enables users to use their devices for as long as ten hours by radically reducing energy use to single-digit wattage from the current 40 or 45 watts.

HeartWare Buys Israeli Company Valtech Cardio for $800M - Idan Rabi (Globes)
    HeartWare International has agreed to acquire Valtech Cardio Inc. in a deal that could reach $857 million.
    Valtech specializes in innovative, non-invasive surgical and transcatheter valve repair and replacement devices for the treatment of the most prevalent heart valve diseases.

China's Fosun to Buy Israeli Ahava Dead Sea Cosmetics Company - Aviv Levy (Globes)
    The Chinese investment giant Fosun has signed an agreement to buy the Ahava Dead Sea cosmetics company for $76.5 million.

Video: Israel's Beauty Captured from Above - Amit Kotler (Ynet News)
    Aerial photographer Nir Hoffman took to the air to capture Israel's beaches and other tourist destinations with a camera attached to his paraglider.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Sanctions Relief Depends on Iranian Compliance with Deal - Nasser Karimi
    White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Thursday reiterated the Obama administration's stance that it would focus on Tehran's actions and not its words. Washington has been "crystal clear about the fact that Iran will have to take a variety of serious steps to significantly roll back their nuclear program before any sanction relief is offered," he said.
        Earlier Thursday, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said "there will be no deal" if world powers insist on suspending rather than lifting sanctions. "If the sanctions are going to be suspended, then we will also fulfil our obligations on the ground at the level of suspension and not in a fundamental way."  (AP-U.S. News)
  • Iran Promises to "Set Fire" to U.S. Interests
    Lt. Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brig.-Gen. Hossein Salami on Thursday warned Israel and the U.S. that the Iranian Armed Forces will annihilate all their interests in case they take the slightest military move against Iran. "We monitor their acts day and night and will take every opportunity to set fire to all their economic and political interests if they do a wrong deed." In case of enemy action, Iran will "cut off our enemies' hands and fingers and will then send its dust into the air."  (Fars-Iran)
  • Sinai Explosions Injure 6 Peacekeepers including 4 Americans - Dan Lamothe
    Four American and two international peacekeepers with the Multinational Force of Observers were wounded Thursday in two bomb blasts in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, and required medical evacuation, U.S. defense officials said. The two international troops hit an improvised explosive device with their vehicle, and then the four Americans were hit with a second explosion on another vehicle while attempting to respond and provide help. The Pentagon is concerned about deteriorating security in northeastern Sinai, home to MFO North Camp, a base 10 miles west of Egypt's border with Israel. (Washington Post)
  • Egypt Says Zohr Gas Find Will Not Undermine Talks on Imports from Israel - Eric Knecht
    The discovery of the Zohr natural gas field off Egypt will not undermine private-sector negotiations about buying gas from Israel, Egypt's petroleum minister Sherif Ismail said Wednesday. "These negotiations and initial agreements are ongoing....We do not object to the plans of private companies operating in Egypt and looking to import natural gas from eastern Mediterranean countries." Analysts say that at least in the short run Egypt may still look to Israel's Leviathan field to fill its natural gas needs. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Foreign Ministry: Israel Tried to Raise Awareness of Perils of Iran Accord
    Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold told Army Radio Thursday that Israel had tried to raise awareness about the perils of the nuclear deal with Iran. He rejected the suggestion that Obama's success in mustering enough support to uphold a veto of an anti-deal vote was a rout for Israel. "Most of Congress is against the deal," Gold said. "The Israeli message was significant and remains significant and was well received, among the American public too." He added that the purpose was to express the deep concern by all parties in Israel, including the government and the opposition. (Times of Israel)
  • Next Steps for Iran Deal Opponents - Rebecca Shimoni Stoil
    AIPAC President Robert A. Cohen said, "The battle to prevent a nuclear-capable Iran is far from over....Ensuring the largest possible bipartisan rejection of this agreement will establish the strongest possible foundation for the Iran policy debate still to come, and will ensure a robust congressional role in that process."
        AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann emphasized that "a bipartisan majority of the American people join the bipartisan congressional majority that will soon vote to reject this deal - while many of the deal's proponents have expressed severe concerns. We believe that this strong opposition conveys an important message to the world...about the severe doubts in America concerning Iran's willingness to meet its commitments and the long-term viability of this agreement."
        Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, said that for the Iran deal's opponents, "the next steps are to convert the 60% bipartisan rejection of this deal by Congress and the deep anguish that many congressional supporters of the deal are experiencing into bipartisan legislation to target the Revolutionary Guards for its support for terrorism and regional violence."  (Times of Israel)
  • Two U.S. Tourists Wounded in West Bank Firebomb Attack - Gili Cohen
    Five American tourists mistakenly entered the Palestinian village of Jabel Juhar near Hebron on Thursday, and were attacked. The tourists were hit by stones and later their vehicle was set on fire, apparently by a firebomb. A Palestinian brought the group of Yeshiva students into his home and called Israeli security forces to rescue them. (Ha'aretz)
  • Islamic Activists Who Harrassed Tourists Banned from Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Elhanan Miller
    Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan last week banished the Murabitat from the Temple Mount during morning visiting hours between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. The group of mostly middle-aged women Islamic activists, funded by the northern branch of Israel's Islamic Movement, would disrupt the visits by religious Jews to the site with shouts of "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) and physical assaults. The Temple Mount is revered as the holiest site in Judaism.
        A spokesman for the Jerusalem Police said in a statement Thursday: "Removal orders from the Temple Mount were given to Murabitat activists due to their activities in disrupting order on the site....The Jerusalem Police operates in a determined and unbiased manner, and will not allow extremist elements intent on disrupting the existing status quo and the public peace on the Temple Mount."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):


  • Heinonen: Parchin Inspection Plan Flawed, IAEA Credibility on the Line - Raphael Ahren
    The nuclear deal's mechanism for inspecting Iran's Parchin military complex appears to be unreasonably lax, Olli Heinonen, who served as the International Atomic Energy Agency's deputy director-general, said in an interview. "The key question is: will the IAEA be present during the sample-taking or not?...It looks to me that they might be witnessing the sample-taking through some camera view, or from a distance. If that's really the case, I have a lot of reservations about the reasonability and credibility of the arrangements."
        Heinonen, who headed the agency's Department of Safeguards, explained: "You need to be present and see physically the place. Therefore, for the IAEA to do a credible job they need to get to that chamber and take independently their samples."
        Heinonen called on the IAEA to release all its agreements with Iran. "Why not make this public so we can see whether is this a good agreement or not?...I don't see any reason for secrecy here."  (Times of Israel)
  • Russian S-300 Missiles to Iran: A Game-Changer? - Michael Eisenstadt and Brenda Shaffer
    One of the early consequences of the nuclear agreement with Iran has been revived negotiations over the sale of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missiles to the Islamic Republic. The S-300 would represent a significant upgrade in Iran's capabilities, though much would depend on the model sent, numbers involved, and the technical and tactical proficiency of the crews.
        It would provide Iran, for the first time, with the ability to intercept cruise missiles (such as the Tomahawk) and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles (such as the Israeli Jericho). Tehran might also decide to transfer some S-300s to Syria. At the same time, the U.S. and Israel are on good terms with several S-300 users (Greece, Slovakia, and Ukraine), so their intelligence services are probably familiar with its capabilities and vulnerabilities. Yet the presence of such a system would make any preventive strike on Iran's nuclear infrastructure much more complicated, risky, and costly.
        The transfer of S-300s to Iran seems far from a foregone conclusion, and Russia's latest bid to resurrect negotiations over the missile system may simply be another attempt to use threatened arms transfers to achieve other goals. Although the deal may go through eventually, it seems unlikely to happen quickly. Michael Eisenstadt is director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute. Brenda Shaffer is an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel Keeps Wary Eye on Iranian Missile Buildup - Barbara Opall-Rome
    Israel is keeping a "very sharp eye" on Iran's modernized ballistic missile arsenal and will be "ready to respond" should the Revolutionary Guards attempt to export the new Fateh 313 500-km.-range missile to Lebanon- or Syria-based proxies, an Israeli defense official said. "You can be sure we are monitoring any attempt to move these out of the country by air, land or sea."
        Tal Inbar, who heads the Space Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, said the precision-delivered system would be extremely lethal in the hands of Hizbullah. "It means that from the farthest point in Lebanon, this missile can accurately hit high-value targets throughout Israel."  (Defense News)
  • Stopping an Ominous Iran - Kenneth Stein
    Iran is not Nazi Germany - at least not yet - but its history of hatred and repression combined with its economic and military might - and its willingness to use that might to expand its sphere of influence is perhaps the most dangerous in the world today. Add to that history the reality that this deal validates Iran's nuclear program, enshrines Iran as a threshold nuclear weapons state and almost guarantees it can build its own weapons unhindered by international constraints in fifteen years, and the prospects for this Iranian regime to become the Nazi Germany of the 21st century will become more real every single day. The writer is Professor of Contemporary Middle Eastern History, Political Science and Israeli Studies at Emory University. (The Hill)
  • Iran's Undimmed Passion for Annihilating Israel - Toby Greene
    Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei just published a 400-page book entitled Palestine, setting out his views on why and how Israel should be annihilated. These calls for Israel's destruction are not mere rhetoric, any more than Tehran's annual Al Qods Day Israeli flag-burning festival is just a good day out for all the family. The annihilation of Israel is deeply rooted in the Iranian revolutionary ideology.
        Iran's support for Hizbullah in south Lebanon and Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza is well known. Now Iran is exploiting chaos in Syria to open up a third front on the Golan Heights, and Khamenei speaks repeatedly about turning the West Bank into a fourth front. The writer is Director of Research for the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). (Huffington Post)
  • Anti-U.S. Billboards Still Prominent in Tehran - Elhanan Miller
    Giant billboards calling for the downfall of the United States and mocking President Obama still adorn buildings in Tehran, the capital of the Islamic Republic, a photographer for the Times of Israel found on Sept. 1. One giant billboard depicts the American flag's Stars and Stripes as skulls and falling bombs over the words "Death to America." The inscription quotes Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying: "We will not compromise with the U.S. even for one moment."
        Another huge sign bashes Obama by depicting him standing next to an image of Yazid I, a seventh century Sunni Caliph responsible for the killing of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered characters in Shiite Islam. Meanwhile, Iranian students have unveiled an anti-American plaque at the gate of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where they set fire to U.S., British and Israeli flags. (Times of Israel)

  • Arab World

  • Palestinian Views on Israel: Two States Now, One State Later - David Pollock
    Do most Palestinians hope for a small state of their own at peace with Israel, or do they still aspire to reclaim all of Palestine someday? According to a survey conducted by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion in the West Bank and Gaza from June 7 to 19, in the West Bank 81% of Palestinians say that all of historic Palestine "is Palestinian land and Jews have no rights to the land." In Gaza, the proportion is 88%. Only one-fourth of Palestinians in either the West Bank or Gaza expect Israel to "continue to exist as a Jewish state" in thirty to forty years. Given these attitudes, there is good reason to wonder if any "final status" agreement will ever truly be final. The writer is a Fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Disintegration of Syria and Its Impact on Israel - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser
    Syria's fragmentation into separate, battling enclaves is intensifying. The two main enclaves are "central Syria," controlled by the Assad regime, and the Islamic State. The Assad regime and Hizbullah, like the opposition, have been taking heavy casualties. In an unusual speech on July 26, 2015, President Bashar Assad explained that in light of a manpower shortage, the regime's army is unable to reconquer all the territories that the opposition has seized.
        The nuclear deal between Iran and the world powers has boosted Iran's capacity to support the Assad regime. The anticipated lifting of sanctions on Iran is set to enable it to funnel additional resources to this purpose. Iran and Hizbullah's attempts to create a base for terror activity against Israel from the northern Golan Heights continue, relying on released terrorist Samir Kuntar and Druze elements.
        Against the backdrop of the nuclear deal, there are increasing chances of cooperation among the U.S., Iran, and Assad, and possibly also Turkey and Saudi Arabia, in the campaign against the Islamic State. Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser is Director of the Project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center. He 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. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • ISIS Could Target Hizbullah in Lebanon - Amir Rapaport interviews Ram Ben-Barak
    "It is quite possible that the next objective of the Islamic State organization will be the Shi'ite community in southern Lebanon, namely Hizbullah. They are already fighting against one another in Syria, and if ISIS wins over there, they will advance into Lebanon," says Ram Ben-Barak, Director General of the Israel Ministry for Intelligence Affairs and a candidate to be the next director of the Mossad. "Assad's military is practically shattered at this time, and it seems that Syria is advancing toward a situation of an Alawite-dominated area, an ISIS-dominated area, and an area dominated by other rebel groups, including Jabhat al-Nusra....We need to look forward and consider the possibility of ISIS moving on to their next objective, in southern Lebanon."
        "Hizbullah will be crippled without Syria, as it will be difficult for them to take delivery of the arms shipments from Iran, and that is important for us. But it is by no means certain that the alternative will be any better....The war in Syria will stabilize eventually, and then we will once again become the common enemy. We must prepare for that."
        "With regard to the Palestinian is no coincidence that the Palestinians have not launched a third Intifada to this day. They are looking around them, they see what is taking place in Egypt, what is taking place in Syria....Overall, despite all of the problems...their situation is relatively good and they should not worsen it by staging another uprising."  (Israel Defense)
  • Making Sense of ISIS - Shirin Lotfi interviews Michael Weiss
    Q: How could we defeat ISIS?
    Weiss: Syria is where the war should begin. Syria is a Sunni majority country. Most of the Sunnis don't want to work with ISIS; they've cut pragmatic deals with ISIS because of the lack of any alternative. They certainly don't want to be ruled by Assad, and the Free Syrian Army has proven to be corrupt and illegitimate in the eyes of many.
        The U.S. has air superiority in northern Syria. Why not put that to even better use by stopping the Syrian Air Force from dropping barrel bombs and chlorine gas on the heads of mostly Sunnis? If they did that, then suddenly the local population in Syria says, "Oh, America does care after all, so maybe we do have a partner here."
        Q: And why do you think the U.S. is not doing this?
    Weiss: The excuse given is that if we engage Assad in Syria, then Iran will turn the Shia militias in Iraq against U.S. soldiers - some partner, huh! If we threaten their ally and their proxy, they're going to kill us. Michael Weiss is the co-author with Hassan Hassan of the New York Times bestseller ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror. (Fathom-BICOM)

  • Weekend Features

  • Young Israelis Volunteer in Poverty-Stricken Countries - Itamar Eichner
    A non-profit organization called Fighters For Life encourages Israeli soldiers who are completing army service and are about to embark on the traditional post-army trip to do volunteer work in poverty-stricken areas worldwide. So far some 7,000 young Israelis have signed up to volunteer.
        Even before leaving to go on their trip, the young Israelis volunteer with at-risk youth in Israel. Then, during the first two weeks of their trip, they volunteer in aid missions abroad. After that, they each go their own way. (Ynet News)
  • The IDF's Mixed-Sex Combat Battalion - Judy Maltz
    In a military exercise, several dozen soldiers charge up the hilltops. Amid the deafening explosions and with the help of a grenade-generated smokescreen, other soldiers evacuate fake casualties from the battlefield. Most of the combat soldiers taking part in this drill are women.
        The Caracal Battalion of the Israel Defense Forces, the first mixed-gender combat battalion in the Israeli army, began as a pilot project 15 years ago. It attracts women who say they want their army service to be "meaningful and challenging." In Caracal, women undergo the exact same training as their male counterparts. Women in Caracal undergo four months of basic training, followed by another three months of advanced training. Women serving in noncombat positions usually do just three weeks of basic training.
        Ultimately, their job is to patrol Israel's borders. Three years ago, a female Caracal soldier killed a terrorist that was trying to cross the border from Sinai. (Ha'aretz)

Fighting a Bad Deal - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)

  • The White House has secured the backing of 34 senators - the minimum needed to survive a vote of disapproval on the Iran deal in Congress later this month. Some are claiming it was a mistake to launch a losing battle in the first place. We strongly disagree.
  • Netanyahu and other political leaders in Israel and in the U.S. who recognize the danger of a deal that enables the Islamic Republic to become a threshold nuclear state have a moral obligation to speak out. Failing to do so is a dereliction of duty.
  • The State of Israel was created in large part as a result of the lessons of the Second World War, one of them being that the Jewish people cannot rely on other nations for its protection and continuity. Rather they must be given the political and military means to protect themselves and determine their own destiny.
  • Opposition to the deal here in Israel is a rare consensus issue. Both on the right and on the left there is agreement that a nuclear-capable Iran or a regional nuclear arms race sparked by Iran's designs for a nuclear weapon represents an existential threat to the Jewish state. This consensus should be articulated unabashedly and publicly at every opportunity on every available platform.
  • There are times in history when leaders must make a stand regardless of the chances for success. When the motives are pure, even opponents show respect.
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