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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
March 15, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Forces in Jordan Attack ISIS in Syria - Andrew Tilghman (Military Times)
    U.S. troops in Jordan launched a GPS-guided rocket artillery attack into Syria for the first time on March 4, defense officials said.
    A detachment deployed near Jordan's border with Syria used an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which is a truck-mounted, guided-missile system with a range of up to 185 miles.
    U.S. troops last year deployed HIMARS to Iraq and have fired several hundred missiles on ISIS targets there.

The North Korean Connection - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas attack tunnels in Gaza, Hizbullah's Scud D missile stockpiles, and the Iranian Fordow nuclear facility dug into a mountain, would not exist in their current form without North Korea's assistance, according to Dr. Bruce E. Bechtol, a former senior analyst for Northeast Asia at the Pentagon.
    North Korea has sold Iran Scud Bs, Cs, Ds, extended-range Scuds, and continues to ship long-range missile parts to Iran. Iran's missile program would be nonexistent without North Korean help.
    Bechtol said North Korea has in recent years been funneling weapons to Hizbullah and, to a lesser extent, to Hamas.
    Since 2003, North Korean engineers have been building underground facilities for Hizbullah.
    The assistance is nonideological. For the North Koreans, this is just another paying customer.

Israel to Double Heron UAV Recon Squadron - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    The Israel Air Force (IAF) plans to double its force of Heron TP UAVs by the end of 2016, according to the official IAF Hebrew-language monthly magazine.
    The Heron TP, known in Israel as Eitan, can carry a 1-ton payload, fly for 60 hours, perform in all weather, and conduct sensor-to-shooter networked operations and a variety of special missions.
    The German Defense Ministry announced in January that the Bundeswehr had decided to lease three to five armed versions of the Heron TP - instead of the U.S. Predator B.

Another Hamas Militant Killed in Tunnel Collapse - Jack Khoury (Ha'aretz)
    Another Hamas militant was killed in a tunnel collapse east of Gaza City on Monday.
    At least 12 Hamas members have died in similar incidents in the past two months.

Saudi Journalist: Iran - Not Israel - Is the Gulf States' No. 1 Enemy (MEMRI)
    On March 8, 2016, Saudi journalist Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh wrote in the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah that today, Iran is the No. 1 enemy of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, supplanting the historical enemy Israel.
    Arguing that Iran is exploiting the Palestinian issue as a pretext for "infiltrating deep into the Arab world, shredding its Arab fabric, and dragging Arab society into supporting its expansionary plan," he emphasized that the Palestinians should expect no salvation from Iran.
    He also warned the Gulf Shi'ites that they were mere pawns for Iran, which was using them to promote Persian national aspirations.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Putin Orders Syria Withdrawal, Saying Goals Are Achieved - Neil MacFarquhar and Anne Barnard
    President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered the withdrawal of the "main part" of Russian forces in Syria, in a move that reflected what he called the achievement of nearly all their objectives. Russia made clear it was keeping its new air base in Latakia. (New York Times)
        See also Israeli Defense Chief Sees Inevitable Syrian Collapse amid Russian Exit - Guy Taylor
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Monday that the collapse of Syria as a functioning country is inevitable, as Russian forces begin pulling out of Syria. He said the U.S. and other powers are engaged in "wishful thinking" by pursuing a strategy in which Syria remains a nation as it was before the outbreak of war in 2011. He said the only way forward is "to have a kind of federation" that includes an autonomous Kurdish "sector," even if such is opposed by Turkey. Other sectors might include an "Alawistan" led by Assad and a "Druzistan" for the nation's Druze population. (Washington Times)
  • UN Security Council Criticizes Iran Missile Tests But Takes No Action - Farnaz Fassihi and Laurence Norman
    The UN Security Council said Monday that Iran's recent ballistic missile tests disrupted the "peaceful environment" and trust between world powers and Tehran, but the council needed more technical information to determine if Iran's actions were a violation of a resolution it approved after the nuclear deal reached in July. Russia and China oppose new sanctions on Iran, while the U.S. and some of its allies are pushing for some measure of punishment. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Peace with Arab World Will Lead to Peace with Palestinians - Gil Hoffman
    Peace with Israel's Arab neighbors will lead to an agreement with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday. "The Arab world softening its views toward us will help us when the time comes to reach a real and lasting agreement with our Palestinian neighbors," Netanyahu said.
        "If someone thought earlier that a breakthrough with the Palestinians would lead to improved relations with the Arab world for us, the opposite is happening and will continue to happen." Moreover, "more and more Arab countries are realizing that Israel is not the enemy of the Arab world, but rather their partner in a joint struggle against Islamic extremists."
        Also on Monday, French envoy Pierre Vimont held talks with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold in Jerusalem to solicit support for an international conference to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Following the meeting, the Foreign Ministry said: "The Israeli side emphasized the importance of the principle of direct negotiations. There should be bilateral talks without preconditions." In addition, it added that the Palestinian Authority must fight against terrorism and incitement.
        Meanwhile, the U.S. has launched an effort to scuttle the French initiative, a Palestinian official said. "The Americans have made it clear that they don't want other parties meddling in the Israel-Arab conflict," he said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ya'alon: Why Wasn't Abbas Held Accountable for Blocking U.S. Peace Efforts? - Eric Cortellessa
    Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington on Monday that the Iranian nuclear deal has created the conditions for Iran to attain greater hegemony in the region. Iran is now "more confident, more free to act in the region today with more money as a result of the sanctions relief, violating many UN resolutions, international resolutions regarding the proliferation of arms and terror."
        While expressing gratitude to President Obama for his support of Israel's security, Ya'alon also noted that the U.S. had not held PA President Mahmoud Abbas accountable for his role in the breakdown of peace efforts. "When [Abbas] closed the door in front of both Secretary Kerry in February 2014 and President Obama in March 2014, he wasn't blamed. Why?...The most important value that is missing in the Middle East is accountability."  (Times of Israel)
  • Knife-Wielding Palestinian Escapes after Failed Attack at Tel Aviv Military Base Tuesday
    A Palestinian terrorist tried to stab a soldier at the entrance to the Sde Dov military base in north Tel Aviv on Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Palestinian Woman Arrested for Planned Knife Attack Tuesday
    Israeli Border Police officers arrested a Palestinian woman, 17, who was on the verge of committing a stabbing attack against security forces at Tapuah Junction in the West Bank on Tuesday. The officers had received prior warning about a Palestinian woman from Jenin who was on her way to attack Israelis. (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israel Foils Palestinian Knife Attacks Monday - Judah Ari Gross
    Israeli security forces discovered several knives in the belongings of two Palestinian women at a checkpoint near Jerusalem Monday. The two confessed that they had planned to carry out an attack. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Iranian Casualties in Syria - Ali Alfoneh and Michael Eisenstadt
    By summer 2015, Iran reportedly had 700 "advisors" in Syria (primarily from the Qods Force and IRGC ground forces). In early September - coinciding with Russia's military intervention in Syria - Iran reportedly launched a "surge," sending in 2,300-2,500 IRGC troops. These surge forces began redeploying to Iran in November, and nearly all returned home by February. Yet 160 Iranians were reportedly killed and 300 wounded during this brief deployment.
        Losses continue to mount among the 700 Iranian Qods Force and IRGC personnel who remain in Syria. Iran has admitted to losing more than 340 IRGC personnel in Syria overall. Earlier this month, Iran announced that members of its regular ground forces were now serving as advisors in Syria.
        Iran has never committed more than the minimum force necessary to keep Bashar al-Assad in power, so one cannot say that it has been militarily "all in" in Syria. Whenever possible, Iran will limit its own exposure and losses by fighting to its last non-Iranian proxy (Hizbullah and Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani Shiites), even when its own personnel would be more effective.
        Ali Alfoneh is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Michael Eisenstadt is director of The Washington Institute's Military and Security Studies Program. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Has the Nuclear Deal with Iran Kickstarted a New Arms Race? - Con Coughlin
    Iran's decision to test-fire two ballistic missiles emblazoned with the legend "Israel must be wiped out" in Hebrew is not the sort of reassuring conduct one would expect from a country that claims it wants better relations with the outside world.
        One of the more obvious failings of the nuclear deal is that it allows Iran, a country which the CIA says once had an illicit nuclear weapons program, to continue development work on its ballistic missiles. Washington no doubt believes there is no harm in Tehran building missiles that can strike at the heart of Europe when it does not have the means to fit them with nuclear warheads.
        But senior security officials in the Gulf say there is no guarantee that the deal will prevent Iran from continuing work on its nuclear weapons program. As one senior defense official commented: "We know the Iranians well, and we know they have no intention of giving up their ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons." Not surprisingly, the Gulf states have now embarked on developing a multi-billion pound anti-missile shield of their own. (Telegraph-UK)

Obama Is Right: America Can't Fix the Middle East - Aaron David Miller (Politico)

  • The very idea that the United States seriously believes - alone or with its partners - that it can address, much less resolve, the challenges of governance, sectarian conflict, religious divisions, hatreds, lack of respect for human rights, and the conspiratorial and irrational reasoning that afflict large parts of the Arab world is a leap of arrogance and ignorance so large that it threatens to consume what's left of American credibility.
  • America can assist in important ways. But it cannot fix, repair or transform the Middle East - especially right now.
  • Secretary of State Kerry is fond of saying regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he doubts there's anyone "who doesn't actually know pretty much what a final status agreement actually looks like." That may well be true for the peace process industrial complex, but such statements trivialize the difficulty of actually getting there.
  • The reality, as Kerry's failed 2013 initiative shows, is that neither Israel nor the Palestinian Authority agree to those terms, let alone possess the capacity and will to implement them.
  • America has infantilized the Arabs, Iranians, Israelis - and even itself for that matter - by assuming we know what's best, that we can get the locals to actually own and take possession of the things that need to be done, by lecturing, hectoring and offering up clever formulae; or worse, naively trying to scare them with the grim fate that awaits them if they don't choose another, more enlightened course when their own instincts and agenda run in the opposite direction.
  • The Middle East is littered with the remains of great powers that wrongly believed they could impose their will by force on small tribes or persuade them to accept their plans for peace and accommodation.

    The writer is vice president for new initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

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