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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
September 29, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Syria to Give Hizbullah Soviet Tanks - Roi Kais (Ynet News)
    Hizbullah is set to receive 75 Soviet-era T-55 and T-72 tanks from Syria for use in the fight against al-Qaeda-affiliated militants, according to a report Saturday in the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai.
    The report also said that 100 soldiers from Iran's Special Forces that specialize in urban warfare have arrived in Damascus.

Obama Ignores Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in UN Speech - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    For the first time since taking office in 2009, President Obama failed to mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during his annual address to the UN General Assembly in New York on Monday.

Israel Fires at Syrian Army in Response to Mortar Fire - Amos Harel (Ha'aretz)
    Israel fired artillery shells at two Syrian army posts in the Golan Heights on Sunday after two Syrian mortar shells landed in Israeli territory in the past two days, the IDF said.
    Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Israel considers the errant fire from Syria as "crossing a red line."
    "The State of Israel has no intention of tolerating such incidents, and therefore the IDF attacked two Syrian army cannons," Ya'alon said.
    Syrian President Assad's military has in recent days renewed its campaign against rebel forces near the town of Quneitra.

U.S. Says Rebel Commander It Trained Surrendered Trucks and Ammunition in Syria - Helene Cooper (New York Times)
    The Pentagon said Friday that an American-trained rebel commander in Syria had surrendered trucks and ammunition this week to forces affiliated with an offshoot of al-Qaeda.
    The rebel commander said he surrendered the ammunition and trucks in exchange for safe passage through an area in which the Nusra Front operates.

British Army Used Israeli Tamuz Missiles in Iraq, Afghanistan - Anshel Pfeffer (Ha'aretz)
    Israel provided the British army with Tamuz missiles from its emergency stock, starting in 2007, to assist the British in fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Following their satisfactory use, the British ordered more from Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
    Even since the British withdrew from Afghanistan last year, the Tamuz continues to be part of the British army's artillery, used in conjunction with Elbit Systems' Hermes 450 drone.
    The Hermes 450 "acquires" its targets and transmits data to the operators of the Tamuz missiles, who then destroy the target.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Russia Reaches Accord with Iraq, Syria, and Iran on Battling ISIS - Michael R. Gordon
    The Iraqi military's Joint Operations Command announced on Sunday that Russia had reached an understanding with Iraq, Syria, and Iran to share intelligence about the Islamic State. The Iraqi government has also quietly enabled the Russian military buildup in Syria. While Bulgaria closed its airspace to Russian transport planes headed to Syria at the request of the U.S., Iraq has allowed the Russian flights in its airspace. (New York Times)
  • Egyptian President Sisi Calls to Expand Peace with Israel to Include More Arab Countries - Edith M. Lederer and John Daniszewski
    Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said in an interview Saturday in New York that the Mideast region needs to cooperate to defeat a worsening terrorist threat. He also said that efforts should be renewed to solve the Palestinian issue and expand Egypt's nearly 40-year-peace with Israel to include more Arab countries. The Egyptian leader also cited what he called an "improving" relationship with the U.S. (AP)
  • Iran to Purchase Russian Satellite Equipment, Superjet in $21 Billion Deal
    Tehran signed contracts worth $21 billion with Moscow for the purchase of satellite-related equipment, as well as Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft, at the MAKS-2015 international air show in Russia in August, Manouchehr Manteghi, managing director of the Iran Aviation Industries Organization, said Saturday. (Sputnik-Russia)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Urges Muslims: "Don't Be Led Astray by Anti-Israel Incitement"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recorded a special holiday greeting to Muslims on Friday marking the occasion of Id al-Adha. "Muslim citizens of Israel and members of the Islamic faith around the world, I would like to wish you all an 'Eid mubrak'," Netanyahu said. "I hope that this year will be one of peace between the religions."
        "I would like you to know that Israel is maintaining the status quo on the Temple Mount. Israel safeguards the holy places of all faiths. Don't be led astray by incitement, wild incitement that is without foundation. We respect all religions."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Netanyahu Calls on Abbas to Resume Direct Peace Talks - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
  • 4 Palestinians Arrested for Fatal Rosh Hashanah Attack
    Four Palestinians, including two minors, were arrested for the rock-throwing attack on a car in Jerusalem on the Jewish New Year two weeks ago which led to the death Alexander Levlovitz. The Israel Security Agency said Saturday that the four are residents of the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sur Baher. During their interrogation, the four admitted to attacking Israeli cars on behalf of Hamas and threw rocks at several Israeli cars before hitting Levlovitz's. (Times of Israel)
        See also Palestinians Admit Arson at Gas Station
    Majdi Galal Izzat Qawariq and Ahmad Essam Atta Abdat, two Palestinians from Awarta, near Nablus, have admitted during interrogation to setting fire to the gas station at Eli in the West Bank six weeks ago. (Ynet News)
  • Israel Identifies 30-50 Young Muslims Behind Ongoing Temple Mount Violence
    The Israel Security Agency has identified a group of some 30-50 Arab youths who are driving the ongoing riots on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Channel 2 TV said Monday. Police Spokeswoman Luba Samri said police had tried to negotiate with the Waqf - the Islamic religious authority - to call for calm, but talks failed. Palestinians threw rocks, firebombs and fireworks at police from within the mosque, Samri said, and the firebombs sparked a fire at the entrance to the holy site. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Islamic State's Frantic Response to the Wave of Refugees Fleeing Syria - R. Green
    In response to the migration to Europe of hundreds of thousands of people from Syria and other Middle Eastern countries, the Islamic State has launched a large-scale media campaign urging Muslims not to seek refuge in the West but rather to come to the territories under its control. ISIS sees the Syrian wave of migration to Europe as an acute challenge. It undermines ISIS propaganda that promotes ISIS as a burgeoning state to which Muslims are flocking. Life in the Islamic State, they say, may perhaps be dangerous, but it promises glory and honor through waging jihad. (MEMRI)
  • Hamas v. ISIS: An Islamist Civil War Simmers in Gaza - Celine Lussato
    On the concrete walls of a building in the Sheikh Radwan district of Gaza City, the graffiti features messages glorifying ISIS (Islamic State) and condemning the Hamas internal security forces. Younes Hanar, 27, once a fighter in Hamas' Al-Qassam brigades, was killed there on June 2, accused of having joined the forces of ISIS. Here and there, one can see the handprints of Hanar's relatives, dipped in his blood. Hamas does not trifle with those suspected of associating with ISIS, especially when they come from its own ranks. Hamas has been hunting down Salafist jihadists without mercy for the past few months across Gaza.
        In the family apartment, where his wife Alaa offers us a tour, the black flag of ISIS is everywhere: painted on one of the walls, on a sticker on a bedroom door, even a magnet on the fridge. When Hamas rose to power in Gaza, buoyed by its religious discourse, it claimed to defend individual rights and justice in the face of the corrupt Palestinian leaders of Fatah. Today, it is the the ISIS jihadists who accuse Hamas of corruption and taking a moderate stance towards Israel.
        Journalist Hasan Jaber noted, "There are strong sympathies for the jihadist movement within the party in power itself. Is Younes Hanar's very own mother not herself a Hamas militant? They raised a lion cub in their house. But he grew up and he won't hesitate to devour them if he has a chance."  (Le Nouvel Observateur-France-Worldcrunch)
  • ISIS Has a Cash-Flow Problem - Pamela Engel
    A widening income gap between ISIS fighters and average civilians is breeding resentment among those under ISIS control, Newsweek reports. Some of the cash crunch comes from falling oil prices and airstrikes targeting oil facilities.
        About 8 million people live in ISIS' caliphate, but a brain drain is also hobbling the ISIS economy. Moreover, with so many people fleeing, there are fewer people for ISIS to tax. Part of ISIS' revenue loss stems from the Iraqi government's decision to stop paying the salaries of government employees working in ISIS-controlled areas. ISIS made hundreds of millions of dollars by imposing taxes of up to 50% on those government salaries. (Business Insider)

The Great Game Comes to Syria - John McLaughlin (OZY)

  • Nature abhors a vacuum. Russian President Vladimir Putin clearly sensed a big power void in Syria. Although the Islamic State has rampaged through Iraq, its headquarters is in Syria.
  • Putin has sent to Syria a substantial force of tanks, armored personnel carriers, air defense systems and upward of two dozen combat aircraft over the past several weeks. Russia is also building enough housing for 2,000 people.
  • Gaining a pivotal role in the Middle East would be an important way station on the road to Putin's overarching goal - restoring Russia to great-power status.
  • Assad has been Russia's only real ally in the region. But Assad is weakening and now controls only about a sixth of the country. Russia hopes not only to increase Assad's chances of surviving but also to be in a position to influence the succession if he does not.
  • Putin genuinely wants to defeat the Islamic State. Russia says 2,400 of its nationals are fighting with IS, many from Russia's Caucasus region, which has a large Muslim population and hosts a number of separatist movements.
  • There could be scope for cooperation between Russia and the West, working first to destroy the Islamic State and then deciding what to do about the Assad regime.
  • Putin is forcing the U.S. to work with him and ensuring that he will have a large voice in determining the future of the Middle Eastern capital that means the most to Russia.

    The author was acting director and deputy director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004 and now teaches at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed Sukkot.
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