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August 8, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

The Palestinian Olympic Swimming Pool-Sized Lie - Liel Leibovitz (Tablet)
    The media reported that Palestinian swimmer Mary al-Atrash didn't have access to an Olympic-size swimming pool to train in because of Israel.
    Actually, she had access to several. There is one in Gaza, one in Nablus, and one in her home town of Beit Sahour.
    Israel also offered to let her train at one in Jerusalem, which she refused to do.

Germany Suspends Funding for World Vision - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    World Vision announced on Friday that it will not receive funds from the German government because of allegations that Hamas diverted the funds, the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel reported.
    "The 3.6 million euros, which we received from the [German] Federal Development Ministry and [German] Foreign Affairs Ministry for new projects in the region, will no longer be provided until the accusations are clarified," said a spokeswoman for World Vision.
    Volker Beck, a German Green Party MP and head of the German-Israel parliamentary group in the Bundestag, said: "World Vision massively damages the trust necessary for aid work for the people in Gaza," adding that "Hamas is a terrorist organization, which should not be financed with tax-payer funds."

Munich Killer Went to Iran for Weapons Training (Mirror-UK)
    Ali David Sonboly, 18, killed at least 9 and injured 21 in a shooting rampage at a shopping center in the German city of Munich on July 22.
    It has emerged that the German-Iranian youth traveled with his father Masoud to Iran last December where he underwent weapons training, the German news magazine Focus reported.
    Sonboly, who was obsessed by violent computer games and mass school shootings in both Germany and America, bought a 9mm Glock handgun from the "dark web" for 80 pounds to commit the murders.

A Clue to Raoul Wallenberg's Fate - Neil MacFarquhar (New York Times)
    The 1945 disappearance of Raoul Wallenberg - a Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from Nazi gas chambers - ranks among the most enduring mysteries of World War II.
    Newly published diaries of the original head of the KGB, Ivan A. Serov, stated outright for the first time that Wallenberg was executed in a Moscow prison in 1947.
    The order to "liquidate" Wallenberg had come from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov.

Israel Continues to Save Syrian Lives - Yoav Zitun (Ynet News)
    Eight injured Syrians, including two children, were evacuated by the IDF to Israeli hospitals last week for treatment.
    The wounded arrived at the border fence after artillery fire hit the medical center in Quneitra, just across the border from Israel.
    Israeli medical teams performed emergency procedures such as opening up airways and draining fluids.
    Some 2,500 wounded Syrians have been treated in Israel so far.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Fallout from Turkey Coup Leaves Syria Rebels in the Lurch - Yaroslav Trofimov
    Since 2011, Turkey has served as a rear base and supplier for a variety of Syrian rebel groups. But many of the top Turkish military and intelligence officials involved in programs to assist the rebellion have been detained for alleged involvement in the July 15 putsch. "The generals who were leading the Turkey-Syria policy and the Turkish policy on Syrian Kurds are all in jail now, and we now see the crumbling of the Turkish security establishment," said Gonul Tol, director of the Center for Turkish Studies at the Middle East Institute in Washington. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran Executes Nuclear Scientist Who Was Convicted of Spying - Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell
    Shahram Amiri defected to the U.S. in 2009 while on a religious pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia. A year later, he walked into the Iranian-interests section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington and demanded to be sent home; he described being kidnapped and held against his will by Saudi and American spies. When he returned in 2010, he was welcomed with flowers by government leaders and even went on the Iranian talk-show circuit. Then he mysteriously disappeared.
        Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhosein Mohseni Ejehi said Sunday that Amiri, who "had access to the country's secret and classified information" and "had been linked to our hostile and No. 1 enemy, America, the Great Satan," had been hanged. He said Amiri had been tried in a death-penalty case that was upheld by an appeals court. (AP-Washington Post)
  • Attacker Shouts "Allahu Akhbar," Wounds Two Police Officers in Belgium
    Two female officers were attacked and wounded by a man wielding a machete and shouting "Allahu Akhbar" at a security checkpoint outside the main police station in the Belgian city of Charleroi on Saturday. The assailant was shot and killed by a third officer. Paul Magnette, the city's mayor, said the newly erected checkpoint succeeded in preventing the terrorist from reaching the building and causing more havoc. (AP-NBC News)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Rejects Obama's Assertion that Israel Now Supports Iran Accord - Raphael Ahren and Eric Cortellessa
    Israel on Friday firmly rejected President Obama's claim that its defense officials now support last year's nuclear deal with Iran. Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that Israel "has no greater ally than the United States," but Israel's position on the Iran nuclear deal "remains unchanged." What mattered most now, Netanyahu said, was to "keep Iran's feet to the fire to ensure that it doesn't violate the deal; confront Iran's regional aggression; and dismantle Iran's global terror network."  (Times of Israel)
        See also Israeli Minister Refutes Claim that Iran Deal Is Working - Itamar Eichner and Yoav Zitun
    Israeli minister Tzachi Hanegbi responded on Saturday: "There is no basis for the American government's approach according to which the full Iranian implementation of the nuclear agreement is indicative of its success....Iran has no reason to violate it during its validation period because it already serves all its purposes. Iran continues its regional subversion unabated. It arms and finances terror organizations and continues to advance its illicit production of ballistic missiles."
        "Statements made by President Obama about support by Israeli security officials for the agreement are inaccurate. The Israeli security establishment is aware of the fact that the agreement, if not violated, prevents the strengthening of Iran's nuclear capacity for at least a decade. At the same time, all of our intelligence officials have stated that when the agreement expires Iran will be free of all restrictions which were imposed upon it by the agreement, and will therefore stand on the brink of acquiring a nuclear weapon within a short space of time....Every day that passes brings us closer to this harsh reality."  (Ynet News)
  • Lebanese Olympic Team Stops Israelis from Boarding Shared Bus
    When Israel's Olympic delegation got ready to board the bus for the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on Friday, it turned out that the bus was shared with the Lebanese delegation, who were already on the bus, and the head of the Lebanese delegation blocked the entrance with his body to prevent the Israelis from boarding. The head of the Israeli delegation, Gili Lustig, said, "The organizing committee saw the rude behavior of the Lebanese delegation head and immediately provided an alternate bus."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Arrest of Gaza Aid Director Imperils Palestinian Charity Missions - Asma Jawabreh and Jacob Wirtschafter
    Israel's arrest of the Gaza director of the Christian aid group World Vision for redirecting millions of dollars in assistance to the militant group Hamas has sent shock waves throughout the Palestinian territories. Some say the World Vision case could bring a major shift in global attitudes toward aid for the Palestinians, especially those tied to Gaza and Hamas.
        "I think this case is a turning point in the struggle to deprive terrorists of the oxygen they receive in the form of aid," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of the Israeli Law Center, a group that has challenged Hamas funding via American courts. "People are beginning to understand that aid to Gaza means money to kill Jews."  (Washington Times)
  • Did Jabhat al-Nusra Really Sever Ties with Al-Qaeda? - Yoram Schweitzer
    In April 2013, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of the jihadist organization "the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS), and in a unilateral decision, attempted - unsuccessfully - to subordinate Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, to his new organization.
        On July 28, 2016, al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's deputy, Ahmed Abu al-Kheir, gave his blessing to al-Nusra's name change, to Jabhat Fateh a-Sham (Front for the Conquest of Syria), and the severance of all affiliations with any external groups, including the formal alliance with al-Qaeda. The move addressed both internal and external constraints, including reports about the imminent joint intentions of the U.S. and Russia to eliminate the organization, and certainly prevent it from taking part in any future arrangement in Syria.
        Al-Nusra's move was almost certainly coordinated with al-Qaeda in advance. At this critical phase of the campaign in the Levant, solidifying the ranks among the Muslim forces fighting in Syria to remove Assad is far more important than a suspension of the formal alliance between the two groups. The security and intelligence agencies in Israel understand that al-Nusra's rebranding and the announcement of its severance from al-Qaeda are meaningless. The writer heads the research program on Terror and Low-Intensity Conflict at INSS, following a distinguished career in the Israeli intelligence community. (Institute for National Security Studies)
  • Palestinian Blood Lust Undermines Hopes for Peace - Jonathan A. Greenblatt
    Re: "Fatah Makes Public Claim that It Killed 11,000 Israelis" - That Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas, is touting the number of slain Israelis to score points in the electorate is a deeply troubling statement of the state of Palestinian public sentiment. For there to be any hope for a two-state solution, Israelis need to believe that the Palestinians can and will be a partner for peace, motivated not by blood lust but committed to mutual security and stability. The glorification of Israeli deaths conveys the opposite message. The writer is chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League. (New York Times)

The Nuclear Deal Is a Chance to Change Iran's Behavior - Sima Shine (National Interest)

  • A key question facing Western decision-makers is how to make sure that the years gained by the nuclear agreement with Iran will be utilized to bring about a substantial change in its policy - in the regional theater, in its support for terrorism, and in its treatment of its citizens.
  • When the economic pressure generated by the sanctions and concern about their escalation became concrete, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei realized that push had come to shove, and he approved the opening of secret talks with the U.S. in Oman.
  • Some important conclusions can be drawn from this development: The ultimate decision-maker was and remains the supreme leader. He is strong enough to force acceptance of an agreement that had many opponents. And, what is particularly important, he is rational, and weighs costs against benefits.
  • While the West lacks real and immediate tools for contributing to the empowerment of the Rouhani faction, it does have tools for influencing the Revolutionary Guards which is responsible for problematic Iranian regional policies, its involvement in terror, and its violations of human rights.
  • To do so, the West, led by the U.S., needs to formulate a plan of action in every one of the theaters in which the Revolutionary Guards are active. Deny them achievements in Syria and Yemen; emphasize to investors the risks incurred in economic agreements with the straw companies established by the Revolutionary Guards, and at the same time ease the way for cooperation with legitimate companies; respond resolutely to Iran's cyberattacks and set a red line with actions, not words; take action against Iran's continued supply of weapons to Hizbullah and the Houthis; and take action against the regime's repression of journalists, artists, ethnic minorities, the Baha'is, the gay and lesbian community, and human rights in general.
  • The concern that a response to Iranian acts of defiance might cause Iran to back out of the nuclear agreement is baseless. Over the next few years the Iranian regime needs stability more than anything, which is essential to significant improvement in the Iranian economy. The years during which the nuclear agreement has kept a distance between Iran and the bomb must not go to waste without bringing about a real change in its policy.

    The writer, a senior research fellow in the Institute for National Security Studies, was until recently the deputy director general of Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs, responsible for the Iranian file.

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