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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
September 24, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Hizbullah to Limit Offensive Operations in Syria - Hasan Lakkis (Daily Star-Lebanon)
    Hizbullah has informed Syrian authorities that it would not take part in any assaults on rebels inside Syria once the battle in the border town of Zabadani is over, diplomatic sources told the Daily Star.
    The sources claimed there was a joint operations room in Syria comprised of Syrian regime officials, members of Hizbullah, officers from Russia and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, and representatives of the Fatima Organization, a group established by Iran whose members are mostly from Asia.
    The sources added that Russia was providing the Syrian regime with advanced weaponry, mainly rockets, some of which have been received by Hizbullah.

Stampede Kills More than 450 at Hajj Pilgrimage Near Mecca - Faith Karimi and Schams Elwazer (CNN)
    A stampede during the "stoning the devil" ritual of the Hajj in Saudi Arabia has killed more than 450 people and left 719 others wounded.
    Hundreds have been killed in past years during the same ceremony. In 2006, a stampede there killed at least 363 people.

Pentagon Denies U.S.-Trained Rebels Defected to al-Qaeda Affiliate in Syria - W.J. Hennigan and Nabih Bulos (Los Angeles Times)
    The Pentagon said Wednesday that there is no evidence that a U.S.-trained and equipped proxy force in Syria has defected to an al-Qaeda affiliate.
    The denial comes amid a flurry of reports that a U.S.-backed commander, along with 70 fighters, had joined the Al Nusra Front after receiving training and weapons in Turkey.

France to Sell Two Warships to Egypt - Matthew Dalton (Wall Street Journal)
    Egypt will buy two warships that France originally built for Russia but refused to deliver because of Moscow's role in the conflict in Ukraine, French President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday.
    Egypt will pay $1.06 billion for the two Mistral class warships, which can carry helicopters, tanks and hundreds of troops, using a sophisticated command-and-control system to guide them in amphibious assaults.
    Earlier this year, Egypt bought 24 Rafale fighter jets, made by France's Dassault Aviation, for $5.6 billion.

Who Are the Temple Mount's Mourabitoun? - Shlomi Eldar (Al-Monitor)
    As the struggle over the Temple Mount escalates, the number of Muslim male and female recruits tothe Mourabitoun, responsible for inflaming and fanning violence at the site, has grown.
    The police and Israel Security Agency put their numbers at more than 1,000 women and hundreds of men, who are paid up to 4,000 Israeli shekels ($1,040) a month for their activism.
    The funding is provided by Islamic charities, mainly the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, headed by Sheikh Raid Salah.
    Israelisecurity services claim that Hamas also funnels money to the groups.
    When Jews arrive on the Mount, the Muslim women, dressed in black, their faces veiled, repeatedly call out in unison,"Allahu Akbar," to scare off the Jews in a type of psychological warfare.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Promises to Violate UN Resolution on Nuclear Deal - Adam Kredo
    Iranian leaders, including President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, have said that the country has "no intention" of abiding by a UN Security Council resolution that encompasses the nuclear deal and other restrictions on Tehran's rogue activities. Iran views the recent deal as separate from the resolution endorsing the deal and further prohibiting Iran from developing advanced ballistic missiles and purchasing other types of arms, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also Iran Openly Declares It Intends to Violate UNSCR 2231 - Yigal Carmon
    On July 20, 2015, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and senior negotiator Abbas Araghchi said, "We will not accept an agreement which continues the embargo on weapons and the sanctions on missile development. In the end, the Americans said, 'We will put the issue of the embargo and the missiles in the UN Security Council Resolution separate from the agreement.'"
        Araghchi added, "Just as we refrained from complying with UN Security Council resolutions, we can do so with regards to 2231 (which includes the Iran nuclear agreement)....If UNSCR 2231 will be violated by Iran, it will be a violation of the Security Council resolution and not of the JCPOA (the Iran deal), similar to what happened 10 years ago when we violated Security Council resolutions and nothing happened."
        Foreign Minister Zarif, in an August 9, 2015, interview, reiterated: "Violating the JCPOA has consequences, while violating UNSCR 2231 has no consequences."  (MEMRI)
  • Ayatollah Khamenei Denounces Evil U.S. Policies
    Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday: "The U.S.' malicious policies in this region - which have caused wars, bloodshed, destruction, displacement, poverty, underdevelopment and ethnic and sectarian rifts - in addition to the Zionist regime's the main problem of you Muslims." Khamenei stressed that the tragic events in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, the West Bank and Gaza emanate from the plots hatched by the global arrogance [the U.S.]. (Tasnim-Iran)
        See also Iran's Army Commander: "We Are Going to Destroy Israel" - Adam Kredo
    Ataollah Salehi, commander of Iran's army, said on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic would destroy Israel at all costs, according to comments reported by Iran's Fars news agency and translated from Persian. "We are glad that we are in the forefront of executing the supreme leader's order to destroy the Zionist regime," he added. (Washington Free Beacon)
  • Russia Expands Military Presence in Syria, Satellite Photos Show - Dion Nissenbaum and Carol E. Lee
    Russian forces appear to be expanding their military presence in Syria as satellite images released Tuesday revealed new construction at two Syrian military facilities near the Mediterranean coast. The images from mid-September provided by IHS Jane's show development of a weapons depot and military facility north of Latakia. Meanwhile, U.S. officials are exploring whether they could work with Moscow to ease Assad from power. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel: World Needs to See Through Abbas' "Charade" - Herb Keinon
    The international community should end the "charade" whereby PA President Mahmoud Abbas refuses to negotiate with Israel, deliberately creates a crisis, adds to the crisis through inflammatory rhetoric, and then pleads to the world to "save us," a senior government official said on Wednesday night. He said the world should finally hold Abbas "accountable" for his behavior. Abbas "has been using terrible language, inciting language that is encouraging violence," the official said. "I think that European governments that are all too quick to criticize Israel should be passing a message on to Abbas and asking if he is doing everything he can to calm things down."
        Leaders in the Arab and Islamic world who talk about a supposed threat to the Aksa Mosque are "simply conducting incitement," the official added. "There is no such threat. The Israeli government has reiterated over and over that the status quo will be scrupulously upheld."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Carrying Explosives Arrested in Jordan Valley
    IDF troops manning a post in the Jordan Valley arrested a Palestinian who approached their position carrying an explosive device, the military said Wednesday. Earlier, two firebombs were thrown at the town of Psagot in the West Bank, Israel Radio reported. Rocks were also thrown at the light rail by residents of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Shuafat. Several fires were also reported in Jerusalem during Yom Kippur, which were suspected of being arson. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Latakia Is Assad's Achilles Heel - Fabrice Balanche
    Why are Russian troops being sent to Latakia and not Tartus, site of the official Russian military base? In 2010, the population of Latakia was about 400,000 - 50% Alawite, 40% Sunni, and 10% Christian. According to the UN, Latakia is now hosting 200,000 internally displaced persons, mostly Sunnis. During July and August 2015, a rebel offensive in the al-Ghab plain threatened Latakia, and the risk of a Sunni uprising in Latakia still exists. By contrast, in Tartus, Alawites constitute 80% of the population.
        A rebel army could find strong support from Sunni residents of Latakia, many of whom have long dreamed of revenge for regime efforts to impose Alawite control over the city. Moreover, many Russians are living in Latakia. Assad's army can no longer defend Latakia and Russian troops are needed to protect the city. Nor can Assad defend Damascus without the support of Hizbullah and Iran. The writer is an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon 2. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Our Iranian Interlocutor: Ali Khamenei's Dark Obsession with Jews and Israel - Ali Alfoneh and Reuel Marc Gerecht
    Jew-hatred - not just anti-Zionism - has been a significant aspect, if not a core component, of modern Arab nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and what usually passes for critical thought among sophisticated Arab elites. References to Jews and Israel in Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's speeches demonstrate a near-pathological obsession.
        As early as his August 5, 1980, Quds [Jerusalem] Day sermon, Khamenei said: "As long as an infectious sore, a filthy tumor called the usurping Israeli state in the heart of Arab and Islamic lands exists, we can't feel victory and can't tolerate the presence of our enemy in the usurped and occupied lands." Khamenei also accused Israel of "imprisoning Muslim youth, subjecting them to torture, and even tapping their blood with syringes to save in their blood banks."
        Given that Khamenei controls the Assembly of Experts, the body designated to choose his successor, there's no reason to believe the Islamic Republic will become less anti-Semitic in the coming decade. The writers are senior fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Weekly Standard)

Israel Fears Return of Persian Empire - Ben Caspit (Al-Monitor)

A high-ranking IDF officer warned this week of the dangers faced by Israel from the developing radical Shiite axis:

  • "When I compare the Sunni radical axis with the Shiite one, it's clear to me who's most dangerous. With all due respect to Islamic State achievements, the Sunni threat is along the lines of 'more of the same.' It's something we are familiar with. But the Shiite axis, on the other hand, is based on Iran. We are talking about a regional power that dominates 25% of the world's natural gas reserves and 11% of its petroleum reserves. It has tremendous human capital, high capabilities in science, technology, infrastructure, operational abilities, cyber developments."
  • "Iran, Iraq, Syria, Hizbullah and now also Russia are closing ranks against the Sunni axis - including, to our stupefaction, even an international coalition headed by the United States - and this should worry us. Do we want Iran sitting on our doorstep? Do we want Iran, a country that de facto rules Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and enjoys Russian backup, to win in this confrontation? A country that maintains its standing as a nuclear-threshold state?"
  • With regard to Russian involvement, the officer noted, "This development is very bad for Israel; it significantly strengthens the radical Shiite axis. The Russians aren't really interested in the Shiites. What they want is to rein in the Sunni awakening that is gushing through the Caucusus. They are embroiled in Dagestan; in Chechnya, they want to halt the Sunni wave that threatens them, thus they are taking action in Syria."
  • Asked whether he was equally concerned about the Sunni axis, mainly the Islamic State, the officer answered, "No. Although it's true that the Sunni axis has scored startling achievements, they are totally isolated and not supported by any significant external power. They are facing off alone against the radical Shiite deployment that is supported by a regional power like Iran, a world power like Russia and an international aerial coalition headed by the United States."
  • "History proves that large empires coming from the East never bring good tidings to the Jewish people. What we are witnessing now is the return of the Persian Empire. The nuclear agreement between Iran and the West...allows Iran to become an empire and increase its activities and influence throughout the Middle East. From our perspective, this is bad news indeed."
  • "The Iranian adversary does not resemble any foe we have yet faced, on any scale of magnitude. The Persian civilization is much more impressive, developed and powerful than what we have today among the Arab countries. All this should worry us a lot."

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