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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
May 18, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Hamas Frogmen Plotting Underwater Strikes against Israel - Tom Porter (International Business Times-UK)
    Hamas is preparing to strike Israel using commando divers, IDF Lt.-Col. Asaf Hamami has told Israel's Army Radio.
    During the July 2014 conflict between Israel and Hamas, four Hamas frogmen were killed at Zikim Beach on the Israeli coast north of Gaza.
    In response, in February 2015 Israel put in place the Aquashield defense system which uses underwater cameras and sensors.

Iran Cracking Down on Protests, Ramping Up "Morality Police" - Struan Stevenson (UPI)
    Acknowledging the serious "threat" posed by recent demonstrations and mass protests involving teachers, truck drivers, street vendors and trade unionists, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei told security officials this week that further repressive measures throughout the country were now a "high priority."
    7,000 additional plain-clothes "morality police" have been deployed in Tehran alone to clamp down on women accused of "bad hijab" and other breaches of morality.
    Meanwhile, demonstrations have continued in central Tehran and other cities denouncing the detention of trade union leaders and political prisoners and demanding job security and labor rights.
    There are daily complaints and protests about the vast level of theft and embezzlement involving high-ranking government officials.
    Since President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013, at least 2,300 men and 66 women have been executed in Iran, many of them hanged in public.
    The writer, a retired Conservative MEP representing Scotland, is president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.

Fighting among Syrian Rebels Kills More than 50 (Reuters)
    Fighting between insurgent groups east of Damascus killed more than 50 people on Monday, bringing to more than 500 the number of people killed in rebel infighting since late April, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
    The fighting pits Jaish al-Islam, which has 7,000 fighters, against rival faction Failaq al-Rahman, with 2,000 fighters, for dominance in Eastern Ghouta just outside Damascus.

ISIS Sets Off Earthquake by Blowing Up Major Gas Field in Syria - Richard Spencer (Telegraph-UK)
    Islamic State jihadists blew up the pumping stations at the Shaer gas field in eastern Syria on Monday, setting off a minor earthquake in nearby Palmyra.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Wants U.S. to Pay for 63 Years of "Spiritual and Material Damage" - Bijan Hosseini and Steve Almasy
    The Iranian Parliament is demanding compensation from the U.S. for its involvement in "spiritual and material damage" for the past 63 years, Iranian state news reported Tuesday. The Parliament cited U.S involvement in the coup of Iranian Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953, America's support of Iraq in its war with Iran from 1980 to 1988, and the destruction of oil platforms in the late '80s.
        The Iranian compensation bill passed by 174-7, according to the Tehran Times. Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs Majid Ansari said Iranian courts have ruled the U.S. owes $50 billion for hostile actions. (CNN)
  • Iran Orders Hizbullah to Target Saudi Arabia - David Hearst
    Hizbullah has been instructed by Iran to suspend operations against Israel and to target Saudi Arabia instead, in the wake of the apparent assassination of Mustafa Badreddine, its military commander in Syria. According to well-informed sources in Lebanon, the order was conveyed in person by Qasim Soleimani, the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who came to Beirut to give his condolences. Soleimani also named Badreddine's successor and his two deputies.
        Badreddine's replacement is Fuad Shukr, 55, whose nom de guerre is al-Hajj Mohsen. Shukr comes from the core group which started Hizbullah along with Imad Mughniyeh, Badreddine, and Mustafa Sahadah. Shukr was responsible for operations against Israel, including the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. His two deputies are Ibrahim Aqil and Talal Hamiah. The appointments are unprecedented, as previous appointments have been an internal matter for Hizbullah.
        Shukr's appointment contradicts an earlier report in Asharq al-Awsat that Badreddine's nephew Mustafa Mughniyeh would be named as his successor. Iran's order to Hizbullah appointing a successor confirms the significance to Iran of Badreddine's death. (Middle East Eye)
  • Hizbullah's Many Enemies - Joyce Karam
    The guessing game continues on who might have killed Hizbullah's military leader Mustafa Baddredine in Syria last week. Beyond Hizbullah's 800-1,000 casualties since 2013 in Syria and the toll on its finances, Syria's most costly burden on Hizbullah has been the losses in its senior ranking leadership and key operational strategists. From Fawzi Ayoub in 2014 to Baddredine in 2016, Hizbullah has lost 10 senior leaders in the Syrian war.
        Hizbullah does not have the power and control or local support in Syria that it enjoys within the intelligence, military and security structures inside Lebanon. This creates a major vulnerability. In Syria, Hizbullah is confronted by a very long list of enemies. Syrian rebels, Jabhat Nusra, ISIS, and Israeli, Turkish, Arab, European and U.S. intelligence are all present in Syria and have a stake in taking out Baddredine. The writer is the Washington bureau chief for Al-Hayat. (Al Arabiya)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Egyptian President Al-Sisi: Solving Palestinian-Israeli Conflict Will Make Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty "Warmer"
    "If we are able to solve the issue of our Palestinian brothers, [Egypt] will achieve warmer peace" with Israel, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said on Tuesday, adding that Egypt is ready to mediate to end the conflict. "I say to our Palestinian brothers, you must unite the different factions in order to achieve reconciliation, and quickly. We, as Egypt, are prepared to take on this role. It is a real opportunity to find a long-awaited solution."  (Daily News-Egypt)
        See also Netanyahu Welcomes Sisi's Remarks on Peace between Israel, Palestinians
    Responding to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's remarks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday: "I welcome Egyptian President El-Sisi's remarks and his willingness to make every effort to advance a future of peace and security between us and the Palestinians and the peoples of the region. Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region. I appreciate President El-Sisi's work and also draw encouragement from his leadership on this important issue."  (Prime Minister's Office)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Anti-Israel Poisoning Starts Young - Micah Lakin
    My father, Richard Lakin, a 76-year-old retired elementary-school principal from Connecticut, was on a bus in Jerusalem last October when two young Palestinian men boarded and began shooting and stabbing passengers indiscriminately. He had been shot in the head and stabbed multiple times in the head, face, chest and stomach - and died two weeks later. Two other passengers were killed and 15 injured. My father grew up a fighter for civil rights in America. He took those values with him in 1984 when he emigrated to Jerusalem, where he taught English to Arabs and Jews. He dedicated his life to promoting peaceful coexistence.
        Yet Palestinian newspapers praised Baha Alyan, one of the terrorists who murdered my father, as a "martyr and intellectual." PA President Mahmoud Abbas met with the families of the attackers and praised them as "martyrs."
        Muhammad Alyan, the father of Baha Alyan, recently spoke about his son the "martyr" to children at Jabel Mukaber Elementary School in east Jerusalem, about half a mile from where my father lived. I asked school officials if I could come and share my father's message of peace and coexistence. My offer was rejected. By encouraging hatred, Palestinian leaders distance all of us from the love and belief in peaceful coexistence for which my father stood. (Wall Street Journal)
  • "Sykes-Picot" and Israel - Zalman Shoval
    100 years ago this week, Britain's Sir Mark Sykes and France's Francois George-Picot reached a secret agreement for carving up many of the lands then under the rule of the Ottoman Empire into British and French spheres of influence and domination once World War I ended. The agreement also predetermined the general borders of Mandatory Palestine and, at least in part, those of the State of Israel.
        During the war, Arab leaders, such as the Hashemites, threw in their lot with the British in order to gain domination over most of the Arab lands to be taken after the war from the Turks, but as their contribution to the war effort was practically nil, the promises made to them by the Allied powers were largely ignored after the war.
        Sykes was a committed British Christian Zionist who saw in the reestablishment of a national home for the Jewish people in its ancient homeland a moral and historical obligation - a sentiment shared at the time by another British Zionist, Winston Churchill. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (Jerusalem Post)

Essential Middle East Truths - Aaron David Miller (RealClearWorld)

  • The U.S. has made many mistakes in the Middle East, but the lion's share of the responsibility for the state of the broken, angry, and dysfunctional Middle East lies with the locals themselves.
  • There's a reason this region seems impervious to positive, progressive change. The elements required to catalyze that change do not presently exist.
  • Unless the U.S. plans to go it alone in a region where it has vital interests, enormous challenges, and a lot of enemies, it's going to have to make do with the friends that it has - think of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel.
  • The odds of pushing these imperfect partners to see things the American way on issues that are dear to them are pretty slim. No matter how hard we insist, they have more at stake on these issues than we do. Good luck trying to impose a deal with the Palestinians on the Israelis, or telling the Egyptians or Saudis to democratize.
  • Why the U.S. thinks it can impose its dreams and schemes on small tribes, where other great powers have failed, is not entirely clear.
  • We cannot end Syria's civil war or put Iraq back together. We cannot bring democracy to the Arab world, nor solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

    The writer, a vice president at the Woodrow Wilson Center, served as a Middle East negotiator.

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