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by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
December 23, 2015

In-Depth Issues:

French Carrier Strikes ISIS from Persian Gulf - Zack Baddorf (National Interest)
    The French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle launched air strikes on the Islamic State from the Persian Gulf on December 20. This followed strikes from the eastern Mediterranean in November.
    The carrier employs both Rafale and Super Etendard multi-role fighters.
    According to the U.S. Navy, escorting the carrier are the French air defense destroyer Chevalier Paul, the French anti-submarine frigate La Motte-Picquet, the Belgian anti-submarine frigate Leopold Ier, and the German anti-submarine frigate Augsburg.

The Evolving Face of ISIS - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    On Dec. 16, Islamic State launched coordinated attacks on Kurdish forces in northern Iraq. Using fog for cover, they launched suicide attacks along the hundreds of kilometers of front lines.
    Kurdish commanders noted that they had encountered Islamic State fighters from China and Nigeria.
    Capt. Hamid Majid said, "Daesh [ISIS] is much weaker compared to last year, they have foreign fighters, the local Arabs here are not prepared to fight for them anymore."

Israel's New Missile Defense System - Yossi Melman (Jerusalem Post)
    The new David's Sling system for intercepting medium-range missiles originally was intended to intercept rockets with a range up to 200 km.
    However, David's Sling has been equipped with additions and technological advancements that will enable it to intercept missiles at greater ranges and higher altitudes.
    On the other hand, while one short-range Iron Dome interceptor missile costs $70,000, each David's Sling interceptor missile costs a million dollars.

In Response to BDS, Israel's U.S. Envoy Sends Holiday Gifts Produced in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights (JTA)
    Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, sought to strike back against those advocating a boycott of Israel.
    In a letter posted to his Twitter account, Dermer said: "In response to this effort to cast a beacon of freedom, tolerance and decency as a pariah state, I have decided this holiday season to send you products that were made in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights. I hope you will enjoy them."
    See also Israeli Ambassador's Gifts Carry a Message - Karen Zraick (New York Times)
    The Israeli ambassador's holiday offerings include wine, olive oil, body cream and halvah manufactured in the territories.
    Amb. Dermer noted, "Of the over 200 unresolved territorial disputes around the world, Europe decided that only these Jewish-made products deserved to be labeled."

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Casualties Rise in Syria as Revolutionary Guards Ramp Up Role - Babak Deghganpisheh
    Experts believe Tehran may have as many as 3,000 troops in Syria. Since early October, nearly 100 Revolutionary Guard fighters or military advisers, including at least four senior commanders, have been killed there, according to a tally from Iranian websites.
        "The Iranians have increased the extent of their direct military involvement in the conflict mostly in order to make up for the heavy attrition among Syrian army units," said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut. "The SAA (Syrian Arab Army) is a gutted institution," said a Western diplomat in Beirut. "There's defections, there's fleeing." Iran and its allied militias have recently taken the lead in the fight against the opposition. The timing of Iran's increased involvement was coordinated with the start of Russia's air campaign in September.
        Despite the combat deaths in Syria, there has not been a huge public backlash against the war among ordinary Iranians. Many have accepted the government message that the Sunni Islamic State, which has threatened to carry out attacks in Shi'ite Iran, represents an existential threat. "No one wants to shed Iranian blood to save the throne of Bashar al-Assad, but everyone hates Islamic State," said Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Reuters)
  • Noted Academics Launch Effort to Counter Anti-Israel Sentiments on Campus
    A group of noted academics has launched the Academic Engagement Network, an initiative to combat rising anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity on campus, led by Mark Yudof, president emeritus of the University of California, and Kenneth Waltzer, former director of Jewish studies at Michigan State University.
        "In the face of activities aimed at vilifying Israel, AEN members will facilitate robust and civilized discussions relating to Israel on campuses, promote academic freedom and freedom of expression, stand for human rights for Arabs and Jews, and engage colleagues and students to better understand these complex issues," Yudof said. The network is preparing a manual for university administrators addressing threats to academic freedom posed by the BDS movement. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Putin, Netanyahu Agree to Coordinate Efforts Against Terrorism - Herb Keinon
    Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian President Putin discussed the war on terror, including on the Syrian front, in a phone conversation on Tuesday, the Prime Minister's Office said. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Putin Discusses Syrian Crisis, Anti-Terror Efforts with Israeli Leader
    "Russian President Vladimir Putin's telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took place at the initiative of the Israeli side," the Kremlin said. "It was agreed to maintain active dialogue at various levels, including for the purpose of further coordinating the anti-terrorist front."  (Sputnik-Russia)
  • Palestinians Stab Three Israelis at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem - Raoul Wootliff and Judah Ari Gross
    Three Israelis were stabbed by two Palestinians at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on Wednesday. Both stabbers were shot by security forces at the scene. (Times of Israel)
  • Hungary: Labeling of Settlement Goods Is Counterproductive - Raphael Ahren
    "Hungary does not consider that the indication of origin of products from Israeli settlements is effective and timely, as it weakens the position of the EU in the Middle East peace process and does not contribute to the practical solution of the conflict," the Hungarian Foreign Ministry in Budapest told the Times of Israel on Tuesday.
        Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto declared during a visit to Jerusalem on Nov. 16 that he considers labeling "an inefficient instrument" that is "irrational" and "does not contribute to a solution [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict], but causes damage."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • U.S. Administration Weighs Assad's Fate in Syria - Josh Rogin
    Last week, the U.S. endorsed a UN Security Council resolution that would establish an 18-month transition process during which Assad could stay as Syria's president and even run for elections sometime in 2017. Yet President Obama said he has been telling Russian President Putin since the beginning of the war that the Syrian people would not accept Assad's continued rule.
        There have been at least two camps inside the top levels of the Obama administration who vigorously disagree on the goals of U.S. Syria policy. Steven Simon, who served as the National Security Council senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs from 2011 to 2012, along with his two successors, Philip Gordon and now Robert Malley, have argued that the U.S. should make the fight against the Islamic State its first priority and delay the drive to oust Assad. The fear is that pushing Assad out too soon would create a power vacuum that the terrorists would fill, gaining territory.
        The other camp, led by UN Ambassador Samantha Power, insists that Assad's removal is a necessary step toward ending the war. The thinking is that unless he steps down or is removed, there is no way to defeat the Islamic State. By this logic, the best policy is to ramp up U.S. support for the rebels fighting the regime. This camp is losing ground as the Islamic State appears to be a bigger threat and as the war drags on. (Bloomberg)
  • The Reconfiguration of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt - Erez Striem
    In the summer of 2013, the Egyptian military toppled the Muslim Brotherhood-led government. In its wake, decision-making in the organization has become decentralized, so that the cells operating in the field enjoy greater freedom of action. The movement's leadership, which is almost entirely in prison or exile, is incapable of enforcing its decisions. The switch to less centralized activity has exposed the Muslim Brotherhood to the external influences of Salafi operatives and religious figures holding more extreme attitudes.
        The process of Muslim Brotherhood members slipping into various types of violent action is clear. A number of former activists have joined the Islamic State branch in the Sinai Peninsula over the past two years. Meanwhile, global jihadi groups affiliated with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are making strenuous efforts to penetrate the vacuum left by the decline in Muslim Brotherhood power and influence.
        The reported consolidation of Islamic State cells in recent months in the Cairo area and close to the Egyptian-Libyan border indicates an effort to expand the Islamic State's activity beyond Sinai to Egypt itself. The loss of direction by the Muslim Brotherhood has left a huge reserve of angry and frustrated young people eager to take revenge against the regime. (Institute for National Security Studies)

Will the West Defend Its Own Values Against Radical Islam? - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Ha'aretz-Hebrew-21Dec2015)

  • The report published by the chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) asserts that Iran lied when it claimed it had never tried to develop nuclear weapons. It is certain that Iran conducted a full and organized military nuclear program up to 2003 and continued to pursue aspects of it at least until 2009.
  • The U.S. Administration says its moves regarding Iran are aimed at helping the moderate Rouhani fight the extremists. Yet Rouhani is part of the leadership of the Islamic Republic. In the eyes of Supreme Leader Khamenei, Rouhani's whole mission is to mislead the Americans and get the sanctions lifted. At the end of the day, helping Rouhani means helping Khamenei.
  • The nuclear agreement with Iran, the recognition of Iran as a key actor in the region, particularly in Syria, and the easing of pressure on Iran's lackey, Assad, have sown despair and anxiety among Sunni pragmatists. A large portion concluded that under these conditions they had no future in Syria, and the result was the huge wave of migrants now flooding Europe.
  • The strategy toward radical Islam must begin with recognition of the threat and with preparedness to take realistic measures to counter it. The West must stop treating representatives of Islamic extremists, Muslim Brotherhood organizations, and supporters of the Iranian regime as its allies. This policy weakens the pragmatists and encourages radicalization.
  • Finally, the West must make clear that it is committed to its own values and prepared to defend them. Settling for airstrikes, while using the ridiculous excuse that ground activity is what ISIS wants, displays weakness and confusion and plays into the radicals' hands.
  • The admired Polish king and commander, John III Sobieski, went boldly into the decisive battle at the gates of Vienna in 1683, and his victory saved Europe and enabled the flourishing of Western culture. Can the West regain its resolve this time as well?

    The writer, director of the project on the Regional Implications of the Syrian Civil War at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs.

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