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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
March 30, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Syrian Campaign Pays Off as Moscow Lands Military Contracts (Sputnik-Russia)
    The value of contracts for the purchase of advanced arms that Russia has received in the wake of its air campaign in Syria is due to be ten times that of the operation itself, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported.
    Customers for advanced Russian military hardware, mainly aircraft, include Algeria, Egypt, Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan.

Iran Is Buying Syria (Al-Souria Net-Syrian Observer)
    Iranian traders have bought a large amount of Syrian real estate, primarily in the center of Damascus and Homs.
    Several hotels in the heart of Damascus - such as Al Iwan, Asia, Damascus International, Phoenicia and the Petra - have become the property of the Iranian embassy, in addition to shares in the luxury Semiramis Hotel.
    At Sky News, political researcher Ghassan Ibrahim said: "The [Syrian] regime has nothing to offer but real estate to Iran as guarantees in exchange for the huge amounts of money it spent to support the Assad regime."

ISIS' No. 2 Killed in U.S. Special Operations Raid - Justin Fishel (ABC News)
    Abd ar-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, ISIS' second in command and minister of finance, was killed in a clandestine raid conducted on the ground in Syria by U.S. Special Operations Forces, the Pentagon said Friday.

Israel Rejects "Delusional"' Claim Elton John Asked to Declare Loyalty (AFP)
    Israel has rejected as "delusional" a claim that superstar "Elton John was asked to sign a declaration of loyalty" to the Jewish state before an upcoming concert, after a concert organizer made the claim on Monday.
    His office pointed to a supposedly problematic clause in the visa form which reads: "I declare that I have never acted against the Jewish people or the security of the State of Israel."
    Israel's Interior Ministry denied that was anything unusual. "We are talking about a blatant lie which is meant to provide headlines for the promoter," spokeswoman Sabin Hadad said.

The Sinai Insurgency Is Spiking - Shaul Shay (Israel Defense)
    A new report of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington shows Egypt suffered more than 100 attacks on average per month from January to August 2015, compared to around 30 attacks per month in 2014.
    Until June 2013, violence was mostly contained to North Sinai, but after the ouster of President Morsi, reports of militant strikes are coming in from all over the country.
    Another report by the Regional Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo said the number of terrorist attacks in Egypt reached 617 in 2015 (including 90 in Sinai), compared with 349 in 2014.
    However, the total number of terrorist attacks in Egypt from August to December 2015 dropped significantly to 64, compared with 170 in the same period in 2014.
    See also Read the Report: Egypt's Rising Security Threat (Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S., Allies: Iran Missile Tests Were "in Defiance of" UN Resolution - Louis Charbonneau
    By launching nuclear-capable missiles, Iran has defied a UN Security Council resolution that endorsed last year's nuclear deal, the U.S. and its European allies said in a joint letter seen by Reuters on Tuesday. Iran's recent ballistic tests were "inconsistent with" and "in defiance of" Resolution 2231, adopted last July, said the joint U.S., British, French, German letter to Spain's UN Ambassador Roman Marchesi and UN chief Ban Ki-moon. Spain has been assigned the task of coordinating council discussions on Resolution 2231.
        Several diplomats said the most Iran could expect would be a public rebuke by the Security Council since the reimposition of UN sanctions would only be triggered by violations of the agreed restrictions on Iran's atomic work. (Reuters)
        See also Israel: "There Must Be Consequences for Iran's Hostility"
    Israel's ambassador to the UN Danny Danon welcomed the four countries' call for a united response to Iran. "There must be consequences for Iran's hostility towards Israel and for its complete disregard of Security Council Resolution 2231," Danon said Tuesday. "Iran's true intentions have been revealed, despite their attempts to hide behind a cloak of smiles. The international community must take action and impose sanctions against the Iranian regime."  (Times of Israel)
  • ISIS Warns: More Attacks Targeting U.S., Europe Are Coming - Rowan Scarborough
    After the March 22 attacks in Brussels, the Islamic State's media company, Al-Wafa, headlined a column on social media: "America, You Are Next." "Muslims do not accept humiliation and will not forget to retaliate," says the article, according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
        "Today we will blow up your honor, today we will eliminate your myth, today we will take your women captive and sell them at slave markets at prices reserved for the most unclean. Today we will take your children and raise them among Muslim children until they grow up, fight, and break the noses of those who remain among you."
        Another Al-Wafa article specifically threatens Europe under the headline, "Today It Is Brussels and [Its] Airport, and Tomorrow It Might Be Portugal and Hungary."  (Washington Times)
  • Pentagon Orders U.S. Military Families Out of Turkey Due to ISIS Threat - Barbara Starr
    The U.S. military has ordered military family members to evacuate southern Turkey, the Pentagon said Tuesday. A U.S. official said the evacuation decision was made because of the ongoing threats concerning possible ISIS attacks. The State Department is also ordering the departure of family members of staff at the U.S. consulate in Adana.
        The department re-issued its travel warning for Turkey, stating that, "The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. Nearly 100 people have been killed in Turkey in five separate terrorist attacks since the start of 2016. (CNN)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Amb. Shapiro: U.S. Vigorously Opposes BDS
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro told the Ynet and Yediot Ahronot anti-BDS conference on March 28: "The United States of America vigorously opposes efforts to isolate or boycott Israel. We have demonstrated this commitment for decades and continue to devote substantial resources in our government to this fight. We consider it an extension of our longstanding commitment to fight any effort to delegitimize Israel."  (Ynet News)
        See also Amb. Daniel B. Shapiro's Remarks (U.S. Embassy in Israel)
  • Netanyahu to Visiting Indonesian Journalists: Time Has Come for Official Ties - Shlomo Cesana
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Monday in Jerusalem with a delegation of Indonesian journalists visiting Israel as guests of the Foreign Ministry. Israel and Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, do not have formal diplomatic relations, but there are business ties between the countries.
        Netanyahu told them: "The time has come for official relations between Indonesia and Israel....The reasons that prevented this are no longer relevant and I hope that your visit will help with this."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Palestinian Made Up Account of Jewish Arson Attack, Police Say - Tamar Pileggi
    A Palestinian who claimed earlier this month that Jewish settlers had torched his West Bank home in al-Khader near Bethlehem was found to have fabricated the story, police said Tuesday. Police took the man's complaint very seriously and poured "considerable means" into the investigation, Israel Police spokesperson Luba Samri said. However, investigators found no flammable material or forensic evidence at the scene to corroborate the claim, and found "substantial" discrepancies between the man's account and eyewitness testimonies. (Times of Israel)
  • Armed Clashes Erupt as PA Forces Raid Nablus, 13 Wounded
    Nablus district governor Akram Rujoub told Ma'an that PA security forces were attempting to detain a suspect in a recent murder case when clashes erupted with armed men in and around the Old City of Nablus. Seven Palestinian youths and five members of the PA security forces were reportedly injured.
        Hani Halaweh, a leader in Fatah's Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, slammed the PA for the carrying out the raid and called on President Mahmoud Abbas to immediately intervene. (Ma'an News-PA)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • When the Necessary Is Impossible - Thomas L. Friedman
    Crushing the Islamic State is necessary for stabilizing Iraq and Syria, but it is impossible as long as Shiites and Sunnis there refuse to truly share power, and yet ignoring the ISIS cancer and its ability to metastasize is impossible as well. See: Belgium.
        "The problem in Iraq is not ISIS," said Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk Province. "ISIS is the symptom of mismanagement and sectarianism." So even if ISIS is evicted from its stronghold in Mosul, he noted, if the infighting and mismanagement in Baghdad and sectarian tensions between Shiites and Sunnis are not diffused, "the situation in Iraq could be even worse after" ISIS is toppled. There will just be another huge scramble over who controls these territories now held by ISIS and there is simply no consensus on how power will be shared in the Sunni areas. (New York Times)
  • The Brussels Attacks Were a Terrorist Interrogation Failure - Marc A. Thiessen
    Belgium has some explaining to do for its failure to effectively interrogate a high-value terrorist. Terrorists must be treated differently than common criminals. When Salah Abdeslam, believed to be the logistics chief for an Islamic State terrorist cell, was captured, Belgian officials provided him a lawyer, told him he had the right to remain silent and put him into the Belgian criminal-justice system. Four days later, the terrorist cell carried out bombings in Brussels that killed 35 people - including at least four Americans - and injured hundreds more.
        Astonishingly, officials did not question Abdeslam for his first 24 hours in custody. The next day he was questioned by authorities for two hours and then was not questioned again until after the attacks. And during those two hours, the Washington Post reported, "investigators did not ask...about his knowledge of future plots."
        Moreover, Belgian officials compounded that error by holding multiple news conferences in which they bragged about his arrest and boasted how well he was cooperating. This was a fatal mistake. When terrorists learn that one of their comrades is being interrogated, they rapidly begin closing vital trails of intelligence - and in this case, likely accelerated attack plans. The writer is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. (Washington Post)

Theology in Foreign Policy: ISIS in Context - Jacob Olidort (Foreign Affairs)

  • ISIS is different from the other Islamic groups in its drive to create a global caliphate. Its claims to statehood and the caliphate are part of its propaganda. Its appeal to potential recruits lies principally in its distinct apocalyptic narrative and in its promise of a purist Salafi utopia. ISIS is driven first and foremost by theology rather than state-oriented priorities.
  • It is also important to remember that ISIS' statehood is an aspiration, not a reality. The West should try to halt ISIS' progression toward statehood through physical stresses on its territorial project (cutting its access to resources and cash flows, stopping its expansion and its recruitment efforts), as well as bringing together a broad array of local and regional actors to not only fight ISIS, but to help in the rebuilding of their countries. By doing so, we not only stop the territorial expansion, but also invalidate the theological narrative ISIS promotes.
  • From a foreign policy perspective, it is highly instructive to understand the theological literature on which ISIS draws, as this could guide policymakers in understanding the group's territorial ambitions. The term "ideology" is a holdover from the Cold War and is not the same as "theology."
  • Theology has a clear spiritual aspect to it and it can exert influence beyond political and economic frameworks associated with ideology. Failure to appreciate the uniquely spiritual claims promoted by theologically-oriented groups like ISIS risks underestimating the religious hold that ISIS has over its recruits. It is much more than, say, the tenuous hold that the Communist ideology had over citizens of the Soviet Union.
  • To stop ISIS from building a state, the West must stick to breaking its hold on swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, areas central to the group's apocalyptic narrative. To invalidate the group's theological cause, the West must engage with a broad array of actors across the ethnic and religious spectrum to not only help them fight ISIS, but also reclaim and rebuild their land.

    The writer is a Soref Fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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