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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
September 10, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Russia's Declining Military Capabilities - Anna Borshchevskaya (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    In a May 2015 article, Russian economist Sergei Guriev concluded that the Kremlin cannot afford its current military expenditures.
    In addition to its strong military support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, Russia has troops stationed in Armenia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Transnistria, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
    As Russia's overall population continues to hover at 144 million, its Muslim population has reached around 21-23 million and growing.
    This expanding Muslim population is likely to have serious implications for Russia's security, armed forces, and foreign policy, as some analysts believe Muslims may soon make up as many as half of Russia's military conscripts.
    Meanwhile, Russia continues to lose its domestic battle with radical Islam, which has intensified and spread throughout the Caucasus and Central Asia.
    See also below Observations: Expanded Syria Presence Would Carry Big Risks for Russia - Michael Singh and Jeffrey White (Wall Street Journal)

Report: Russia Purchased 10 Israeli Drones - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Russia has purchased ten Searcher intelligence-gathering drones this year from Israel Aerospace Industries, the Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported on Sep. 4.

    See also Switzerland to Buy 6 Israeli Surveillance Drones (AFP)
    Switzerland's parliament on Monday voted to buy six Israeli Hermes 900 surveillance drones worth $256 million.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards Entangled in Regional Wars - Scott Peterson (Christian Science Monitor)
    Never before has Iran's Revolutionary Guards been engaged so deeply and widely abroad. They are engaged in Syria and Iraq, waving the flag in Yemen, and very influential in Lebanon.
    At least seven IRGC generals have died on the frontlines, primarily in Syria but also in Iraq.
    Each conflict has devolved largely along sectarian lines that pit Shiite Iran against its regional Sunni rivals, Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states allied with the U.S. and Israel.

Tel Aviv Innovation Festival Lures World's Tech Leaders - Inbal Orpaz (Ha'aretz)
    The Digital Life Design (DLD) Tel Aviv Innovation Festival this week is expected to host 3,000 overseas guests from 53 countries, double last year's number.
    Tech giants in attendance include Facebook, AOL, Airbnb, Samsung, Amazon, Google and Deutsche Telekom.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Leader: No Wider Talks with Washington after Nuclear Deal - Brian Murphy
    Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei insisted Wednesday that the nuclear deal with world powers will not open the way for "talks in other areas" with the U.S.  Khamenei's stance reflects the limits of the recent talks. "The Iranian nation ousted the Satan," Khamenei said on his Web site, in a reference to the U.S.  "We should not let it back through the window to penetrate" the country. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Beefing Up Protection for Sinai Peacekeepers - Robert Burns
    The U.S. is sending at least 75 additional troops as well as surveillance equipment and other assets to improve protection for U.S. peacekeepers in the northern Sinai Peninsula in the aftermath of a roadside bomb attack last week that wounded four U.S. soldiers, defense officials said Wednesday. The U.S. has 720 soldiers in Sinai as part of the multinational force, largely from the Texas Army National Guard, which has been operating there since early this year. (AP-Washington Post)
  • U.S.-Led Coalition Destroys Islamic State Hub in Iraq
    The international coalition bombed a key Islamic State command and supply hub in Ramadi, Iraq, it said Wednesday. A video of the strike showed a massive secondary explosion at a football stadium that was "used to store large amounts of homemade explosives, weapons and ammunition."  (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Embassy Reopens in Egypt after Four Years
    Israel has reopened an embassy in Cairo after four years of closure, the Israeli prime minister's spokesman to the Arab media, Ofir Gendelman, announced on Wednesday. Dore Gold, the director-general of Israel's foreign ministry, attended the re-opening ceremony along with Israel's ambassador to Cairo Haim Koren. In September 2011, a few months after the outbreak of the January 25th revolution, hundreds Egyptian protesters stormed the former premises in Giza. (Al-Ahram-Egypt)
        See also Israel Opens Cairo Embassy Inside Ambassador's Residence - Dan Williams
    Israel has opened its new Cairo embassy inside its ambassador's residence. Israel's previous embassy, in the upper stories of a sooty apartment bloc dwarfed by business towers and luxury hotels, was ransacked by a mob in 2011. Since then, Israeli diplomats have worked out of the ambassador's villa in Cairo's heavily policed Maadi district. Few Egyptians visit Israel, so the Cairo embassy's visa workload is light. Its diplomats often focus on cultural and agricultural initiatives. (Reuters)
  • Israel Outlaws Islamic Groups Who Abuse Visitors on Temple Mount - Gili Cohen
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Wednesday outlawed two Islamic Movement organizations operating on Jerusalem's Temple Mount. "The activity of the Morabiton and Morabitat groups constitutes a central cause of tension and violence on the Temple Mount, in particular, and Jerusalem, in general," Ya'alon's office announced.
        "Their activity is inflammatory and endangers tourists, visitors and worshippers at the site, leading to violence that could harm human life. The goal of Morabiton and Morabitat is to undermine Israeli authority on the Temple Mount, alter reality and existing arrangements and restrict freedom of worship, and it is tied to the activity of hostile Islamist organizations and even directed by them."
        The northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel founded the two organizations to harass Jews visiting the Temple Mount and operates a daily shuttle service for a few dozen men and women. When Jews enter the Temple Mount, they draw close, shouting and cursing at them. The paid activists earned 3,000-4,000 shekels ($771-$1,028) per month, with some of the funds coming from the Gulf States. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Let Senate Vote on Iran Deal - Joseph I. Lieberman
    As someone who has opposed the nuclear agreement with Iran, I acknowledge with regret that the deal will not be stopped by Congress. There are enough votes to adopt a resolution rejecting the agreement, but not enough votes to override the veto President Obama has promised. Yet Minority Leader Harry Reid and others are reportedly planning to filibuster the motion of disapproval and avoid a real vote on what is arguably the most important diplomatic agreement since the end of the Cold War.
        Supporting a filibuster is a separate question from supporting the agreement. It is unfair and unwise for the administration to use a procedural tactic to stop a vote on an agreement that, according to recent public opinion polls, is opposed by about 60% of the American people. The deal should be brought to a vote. The writer is a former four-term U.S. senator from Connecticut. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Europe's New Migration Era - Eyal Zisser
    The Europeans apparently don't quite understand the world they are living in. The tens of thousands of migrants banging on their door are merely the tip of the iceberg, which will fully emerge the moment millions of people in the Middle East realize that Europe is giving up and opening its gates. The real problem is rooted in the uninhibited natural growth that has occurred in the Middle East, which has not coincided with sufficient economic growth to balance it.
        While Europe's population over the past 50 years has grown by about a quarter, from 400 million people in 1960 to around 500 million at the start of this decade, the Middle East's population has grown fourfold - from 100 million in 1960 to 400 million in 2010. The problem at Europe's doorstep, therefore, is not a few million Syrians seeking refuge from war. It is the tens of millions who want to leave the Arab world - a world that offers no hope and no future - and move to Europe. Prof. Eyal Zisser is former director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • International Courtship of Hamas Shows that Terror Pays - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    Hamas has the same ideological outlook as the Islamic State; it, too, aims for the creation of a global Islamic caliphate. Hamas, however, espouses a phased approach that leaves room for diplomatic activity. The fear of Hamas' military option, its leader Khaled Mashal believes, spurs international actors to court Hamas and try to bring it into a dialogue process that will restrain it. The Hamas leadership is pleased with the talks with international emissaries, most recently former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
        Hamas, assured that the path of terror and violence pays off diplomatically, is raising the bar of its demands in return for a truce in Gaza, while continuing to fight Israel in the West Bank. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

Expanded Syria Presence Would Carry Big Risks for Russia - Michael Singh and Jeffrey White (Wall Street Journal)

  • U.S. military officials said Tuesday that Russia has moved new personnel, planes and equipment into Syria in recent days.
  • The involvement of Russian forces on the side of the regime would complicate any American military action against Assad, including a no-fly zone.
  • Like the impending sale of the advanced S-300 air defense system to Iran, it has the effect of limiting U.S. options and influence at a time when Moscow may calculate that Washington is unlikely to respond sharply.
  • However, expanded Russian military involvement in Syria seems likely to be a lose-lose proposition for the U.S. and Russia. For Washington, it would seriously complicate any contemplated military pressure on the Syrian regime, and lend Assad renewed confidence that would make more remote any diplomatic settlement.
  • Russia, meanwhile, will be further yoked to a vulnerable and needy ally. An increased Russian presence may itself become a target for Syrian opposition and jihadist elements, with resulting Russian casualties.

    Michael Singh, managing director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, worked on Middle East issues at the National Security Council (2005-2008). Jeffrey White, a defense fellow at the Washington Institute, is a former senior defense intelligence officer.

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