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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
May 25, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

What's Left of the Syrian Arab Army? Not Much - Tom Cooper (War Is Boring)
    The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and National Defense Forces (NDF) under the control of the Assad government are nearly extinct.
    Because of draft-avoidance and defections, the SAA never managed to fully mobilize. Not one of its 20 divisions has ever deployed more than one-third of its nominal strength on the battlefield.
    The resulting forces were then further hit by extensive losses caused by the incompetence of their commanders.
    It's unlikely that Assad has more than 70,000 troops left under his command, while Iran oversees at least 40,000 combatants from various Shi'a militias, and the Russians have 10,000-15,000 troops in Syria.

Israeli Delegation Visits Turkey for World Humanitarian Summit (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    For the first time in five years, an Israeli delegation headed by Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold is in Turkey for the World Humanitarian Summit to present Israeli humanitarian aid throughout the world.
    Dr. Gold on Monday inaugurated the Israeli pavilion, which portrays how Israel is always one of the first countries to provide an effective response in disaster situations.
    "Israeli humanitarian involvement in the international arena reflects the ancient Jewish tradition of 'Tikun Olam,' the inspiration for Israeli teams to dispatch quickly to disaster zones from Turkey to Haiti," he said.
    See also Video - Israel: Generating Resilience (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Spanish Tribunal: BDS Is Anti-Constitutional and Discriminatory (JTA)
    Citing anti-discrimination laws, Spain's Ministerio Fiscal constitutional tribunal recommended scrapping the city of Gijon's motion calling for a boycott against Israel after the municipality was sued by ACOM, a Spanish pro-Israel lobby.
    The tribunal said in its nonbinding recommendation that the objectives of the boycott "violate the constitution as well as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights."
    The motion's clauses "jeopardize the fundamental right to equality without discrimination on the bases of appearance, ethnicity and religion."
    Israel boycott motions have passed in four Spanish municipalities and failed in five in recent weeks.

Israel's ReWalk Technology to Help Stroke, MS Victims Walk (Times of Israel)
    Israel's ReWalk exoskeleton suit was developed to enable paralyzed individuals to walk again.
    Now, a version will be used to help millions of individuals who have difficulty moving due to stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), old age, or other reasons.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Hard-Line Cleric Voted Leader of Iran's Assembly of Experts - Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell
    Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, 89, a hardline Iranian cleric who called for the execution of opposition activists and asked Iraqis to be suicide bombers against U.S. forces in 2003, was chosen on Tuesday to lead the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body that picks the country's next supreme leader. In 2009, Jannati remarked during Friday prayers that he wanted someone to shoot then-Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. (AP-ABC News)
        See also Iran's New Assembly Chair - Mehdi Khalaji
    Supreme Leader Khamenei almost certainly played a role in Jannati's victory. The outcome highlights the false hopes generated by President Rouhani's narrative. The Supreme Leader seems to be emphasizing that there will be no trace of compromise going forward. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Egypt's Allies Rally Amid Fears over Worsening Security - Tamer El-Ghobashy
    After two years of cool relations between the U.S. and Egypt, the October terrorist attack on a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai Peninsula triggered increased military aid to shore up President Sisi. Michael Hanna, an Egypt expert at the Century Foundation, said the U.S. will seek to increase support for the Sisi regime despite deep concerns about its human-rights record. The goal is to avoid having Egypt - long a U.S. ally - follow the downward spiral of Iraq, Syria and Libya, where terrorists have exploited security vacuums in recent years.
        The U.S. has offered the prospect of military and political support on top of the $1.3 billion it already provides annually. Earlier this month, the U.S. delivered - at no cost to Egypt - 762 military vehicles designed to withstand the improvised explosive devices that have become the most deadly for security services patrolling Sinai. There have been on average 70 attacks a month on Egyptian security services in north Sinai since January. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Israel, Egypt Nearing Compromise on Natural Gas Compensation - David Wainer
    Israel may agree to settle for half of the $1.73 billion fine Egypt was ordered to pay it so talks on exporting Israeli offshore gas there can go ahead, people familiar with the negotiations said. Payments would be spread over 14 years. An international arbitration court in December ordered Egypt to pay Israel damages for violating a contract to supply Israel Electric with Egyptian gas.
        Israel's willingness to compromise on the fine reflects the tight cooperation between the countries since Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi became Egypt's defense minister in 2012, then president in 2014. Egypt exported natural gas to Israel until it canceled the agreement in 2012 as its wells became depleted and the pipeline carrying it came under repeated sabotage. (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Freezes Return of Terrorists' Bodies over "Incitement"
    Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan ordered a freeze Tuesday on returning the bodies of Palestinian terrorists from east Jerusalem to their families. Police agreed to release the bodies after the families committed to hold private funerals that would not include calls for further attacks.
        On Monday night, Ynet aired footage of the funeral in east Jerusalem of Alaa Abu Jamal that showed 200 residents demonstrating outside the cemetery with cries of "Allahu akbar" and "in spirit and blood we will redeem you, martyr." Abu Jamal had plowed his vehicle into a group of people standing at a bus stop in Jerusalem. He then attacked the survivors of his car ramming with a meat cleaver. Yeshayahu Kirshavski, 60, was killed in the attack. Erdan said on Tuesday, "The police's conditions and the terrorist's family's commitments were breached."  (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Authority Media Glorify Murderer of U.S. Army Veteran - Itamar Marcus
    On March 8, 2016, Palestinian terrorist Bashar Masalha attacked civilians in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, stabbing to death American tourist Taylor Force - a West Point graduate who served in Iraq and Afghanistan - and wounding 11 others before he was shot and killed by Israeli police. Last week, Israel gave Masalha's body to the Palestinian Authority.
        Reporting on the funeral in which hundreds participated, official PA TV glorified the murderer, calling him a "martyr" 11 times. Becoming a martyr in Islam represents the highest religious achievement. The PA TV reporter explained that the funeral was "a large national wedding befitting of martyrs."  (Palestinian Media Watch)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • How the U.S. Tracked and Killed the Leader of the Taliban - Adam Entous and Jessica Donati
    U.S. spy agencies zeroed in on Mullah Akhtar Mansour while he was visiting his family in Iran. Intercepted communications and other types of intelligence allowed the spy agencies to track their target as he crossed the frontier on Saturday, got into a white Toyota Corolla and made his way by road through Pakistan's Balochistan province, according to U.S. officials.
        Then, U.S. military operators waited for the right moment to send armed drones across the Afghan border to "fix" on the car and made sure no other vehicles were in the way so they could "finish" the target. The ambush that killed Mullah Mansour represented a message to Pakistan that the U.S. would take action on Pakistani soil if necessary without advance warning.
        President Barack Obama secretly ordered the strike on Mullah Mansour after first trying to bring him to the negotiating table. U.S. officials said the Pakistanis tried and grew frustrated by Mullah Mansour's refusal to send representatives to meet with the Afghan government in February. An April 19 Taliban attack in Kabul targeted Afghanistan's secret service, killing more than 60 people and underlining for the Americans the extent to which Mullah Mansour had chosen a military course. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Swiss Parliament Launches Inquiry into Anti-Israel NGOs - Benjamin Weinthal
    According to a front-page story in Switzerland's Basler Zeitung on Monday, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has allocated funds in the millions to anti-Israel NGOs linked to terrorism and working in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. The story, headlined "Resistance in Parliament Against Money for Israel-Critical Campaigns," reported that MP Christian Imark had introduced a motion supported by 41 lawmakers from across the political spectrum calling on the FDFA to stop all direct or indirect funding to organizations that sponsor "racist and anti-Semitic actions" or are involved in BDS campaigns.
        Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, said the article "reflects the concerns of many MPs in Switzerland, who were surprised to learn of the very negative and counterproductive impact of their government's funding for radical anti-peace NGOs." Steinberg added that similar public debates on the funding of radical NGOs are now taking place in Holland, Denmark and other countries. (Jerusalem Post)

Will the U.S. Continue to Enforce Non-Nuclear Sanctions on Iran? - Mark Dubowitz (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)

  • Iran is engaged in a robust effort to legitimize its financial sector despite a decades-long rap sheet of financial crimes and illicit financial activities that it shows no sign of curbing.
  • The nuclear deal did nothing to address the full range of Iran's other illicit activities, including ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, regional destabilization, and human rights abuses.
  • When President Rouhani was elected in June 2013, there was a widespread assumption that he would shepherd in an era of greater freedoms in Iran. Yet, domestic repression has intensified.
  • During last summer's congressional review period for the nuclear deal, Obama administration officials pledged that the U.S. would continue to enforce non-nuclear sanctions and oppose the full range of Iran's illicit and dangerous activities. Congress should hold the administration to its commitments.
  • Sanctions need to target Iran's support for terrorism, ballistic missile program, support for the Assad regime in Syria and designated Shi'ite militias in Iraq, and human rights abuses.
  • These steps are not a violation of the Iran deal (JCPOA), but rather an affirmation of stated U.S. policy to "oppose Iran's destabilizing policies with every national security tool available." Iran has not addressed the underlying behavior that prompted U.S. sanctions.

    The writer is executive director of FDD. This is from his congressional testimony on May 23, 2016.

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