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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
August 31, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Rapid Deployment of S-300 to Fordow Reveals Importance of Site - Yaakov Lappin (Jerusalem Post)
    Iran's decision to quickly set up its recently received, Russian-made, S-300 advanced air defense system at the Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility is an indication of how important the site is, Tal Inbar, head of the Space and UAV Research Center at the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya, said Tuesday.
    He described the Iranian action as "poking a finger in the eyes of the West," a provocative move that signals high Iranian confidence.
    "Fordow is not just another site. It is where the Iranians developed mechanisms for nuclear detonation."
    Regarding the threat posed by the S-300, Inbar asked, "What would prevent Iran, when they receive a few more [batteries], from flying them to Syria or Lebanon?"
    Should Iran decide one day to deploy the S-300 to Syria or Lebanon, it could become an offensive weapon to be used to try to limit Israeli air activity in the region.
    See also Iran's Telling SAMs: Tehran Fortifies Its Fordow Nuclear Site - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
    As sanctions expert Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies points out, "If Fordow is such a peaceful facility, why do the mullahs need the S-300 to protect it?"

Russia Has No Plans to Host Palestine-Israel Summit (TASS-Russia)
    Russia supports the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, but there is no specific agreement on holding a meeting of the sides' leaders in Moscow, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

California State Legislature Passes Anti-BDS Bill (JTA)
    The California State Assembly voted 60-0 on Tuesday to send a bill opposing boycotts of Israel to the governor for approval, after the Senate passed it in a 34-1 vote on Aug. 24.
    See also California Assembly Sends Anti-BDS Bill to Governor - Eitan Arom (Los Angeles Jewish Journal)

Islamic State Deploys a Dozen Suicide Bombers in Libya (AP)
    At least 38 Libyan forces were killed as the Islamic State dispatched a dozen suicide bombers to defend their last major bastion in Sirte, officials said Monday.
    Reda Issa, a media official with the anti-IS operation, says IS set off 12 suicide car bombs on Sunday, with three hitting their targets. He said the militants are cornered in two neighborhoods.

Turkey Seeks Israeli Deals - Ya'acov Zalel (Natural Gas Europe)
    A delegation of Turkish businessmen headed by Ahmet Zorlu, a billionaire with interests in the energy sector, visited Israel last week in the wake of the two countries' reconciliation agreement.
    Zorlu Group is already involved in the Israeli energy market through a 25% holding in Dorad, a new gas-fired generation plant, in partnership with Israeli Edeltech.
    Zorlu, regarded as an ally of Turkey's president Erdogan, said that Turkey was waiting for Israeli natural gas, according to Yediot Ahronot.
    According to another report, a Turkish consortium has offered $2.5 billion to finance a 500-km. sub-sea gas pipeline from Israel's Leviathan field to Turkey.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Commands 60,000 Fighters in Syria - Jake Wallis Simons
    Iran runs operations on the ground in Syria from a five-floor monolith near Damascus airport and commands a huge covert army in support of Assad, according to leaked intelligence reports from Iran's Revolutionary Guards provided by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The Iranian HQ has vaults packed with millions of dollars in cash flown in from Tehran. 1,000 Iranians work at the HQ, while Revolutionary Guard bases have been established in 18 locations throughout Syria.
        Iran now commands about 60,000 Shia troops in Syria, while Assad's army has been reduced to just 50,000 soldiers. Iran has 16,000 Iranian troops (6,000 regular army plus 10,000 Revolutionary Guards). Last year, just 5,000 Iranians were in action in the country. They command 45,000 Shia mercenaries from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon (10,000 Hizbullah troops), as well as Palestinians and Baluchis, a minority group from Afghanistan.
        One security source noted: "You're talking about a very orchestrated, emboldened and well-planned Iranian presence. They are thinking very clearly and wisely, and are putting down deep roots, creating pockets of power in places with strategic importance....Iran is getting itself into a position where whether Assad stands or falls, Tehran is in the best position to dominate whatever comes next."  (Daily Mail-UK)
  • Israel's UN Ambassador: West Bank Settlement Criticism Shows "Complete Disconnection" to Facts - Ed Adamczyk
    After Nicolay Mladenov, the UN's Middle East envoy, referred to "Israeli settlement expansion" as eroding the possibility of a two-state solution, Danny Danon, Israel's UN ambassador, called the remarks a "complete disconnection from the facts on the ground."
        "Israel will continue to build in its eternal capital of Jerusalem, just as the nations of the world will continue to build in their capitals without asking the permission of the United Nations. The UN should concentrate on the main obstacle to a solution in the region, which is the Palestinian refusal to condemn terrorism and return to the negotiating table."  (UPI)
        See also Israel: UN Mideast Envoy "Distorting History" with Claims about Settlements
    Israel on Tuesday accused UN Mideast envoy Nicolay Mladenov of "distorting history" in labelling Israeli settlement-building as a main hindrance to peace with the Palestinians. David Keyes, spokesman for Prime Minister Netanyahu, said, "It is not the presence of Jews, who have lived in the West Bank and Jerusalem for thousands of years, that is a barrier to peace. Rather, it is the unceasing efforts to deny that historical connection and a refusal to recognize that Jews are not foreign to Judea."
        "The Palestinian demand to ethnically cleanse their future state of Jews is outrageous and should be condemned by the United Nations instead of being embraced by it."  (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Defense Minister Lieberman: Abbas' Corrupt Reign Main Bar to West Bank Development - Amos Harel
    Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman says Palestinian President Abbas' "reign of corruption" is the main obstacle to improving the Palestinian economy in the West Bank. The defense minister views Abbas as a bitter enemy of Israel and says that Abbas' policies have eliminated any possibility of advancing the peace process.
        "We've met dozens of economists and businessmen from the Palestinian Authority, and when you ask what's most important for the Palestinian economy, they all reply that the most important thing is to get rid of Abu Mazen [Abbas]," Lieberman said recently. "He has imposed a reign of corruption that encompasses everything. He has people in every economic sector - in real estate, the fuel market, the communications market. Abbas' people take a tithe from every deal, and aside from the people in the inner circle, the PA leadership doesn't allow anyone there to develop economically. That's why it's so important for him to go. As long as Abbas is there, nothing will happen."
        Lieberman said he didn't think Israel should actively work to end Abbas' rule, but at the same time, it shouldn't blame itself for the situation in the West Bank. "Not everything depends on us," he said. "As long as the PA's corrupt and ineffective management continues, the economic situation there won't improve."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Saudi Media Soften Hostility toward Israel - Michael Wilner and Herb Keinon
    Saudi state-run media appear to be softening their reporting on Israel, running unprecedented columns floating the prospect of direct relations, quoting Israeli officials, and running fewer negative stories on Israel's relationship with the Palestinians. One column called for Saudis to "leave behind" their "hatred of Jews," and another said that talks between the two nations should be direct, based on Saudi national interests.
        Saudi conservative Islamists view Iran, the Shi'ites and Hizbullah as "much worse than the Jews," noted David Pollock of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Palestinian Elections: Repeating the Mistakes of the Past - Elliott Abrams
    The unpopularity of the Palestinian Authority and the ruling Fatah Party due to corruption, incompetence, and growing repression helps explain why West Bank voters might choose Hamas in the municipal elections scheduled for Oct. 8. Voters may also prefer Hamas' Islamism to Fatah's secularism, or may prefer Hamas' manifest desire to kill Israelis over Fatah's and the PA's tamer stance.
        In the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections, most of these same conditions existed and the result was a narrow Hamas victory in the popular vote (44 to 41%) that produced a much larger Hamas majority in parliament (74 to 45).
        The most fundamental similarity to 2006 involves allowing a terrorist group, Hamas, to contest the election without the slightest nod to stopping its terror or giving up its rule of Gaza. This is wrong for many reasons. First, Hamas may win power in a number of West Bank cities but Fatah will not be able to contest elections as freely in Gaza. Second, those who wish to contest elections should be forced to choose between bullets and ballots.
        This is what happened in the Northern Ireland agreements, where the IRA had to end its terrorist war and could then run for office. It is a mistake to allow terrorist groups to run for office but continue their violent activities. That was the mistake we made in 2006, and it is being repeated. The writer, a senior fellow at CFR, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • The Russia-Israel Romance - Ariel Bolstein
    Israeli fruit and vegetables have become a common sight in Moscow, and even in the country's periphery. The many Russians who have visited Israel since the visa requirement was canceled have changed the way Israel is viewed by the Russian public. Almost anyone you meet in Moscow has a friend, relative, or acquaintance who recently visited the Holy Land and came back with tales of its wonders. If in certain Western circles the IDF is seen as deserving of criticism, the Russians see Israel's military strength as something to be admired.
        Just this week, three major events are underway in Moscow: an exhibition of giant photographs of Israeli landscapes; the Israeli Film Festival; and the IDF band's appearance at an international festival of military bands. When the Russian media mentions Israel, the consensus is largely favorable. The Russian government has such tight control over the state media that it's clear that the affection for Israel feeds off the sentiment of the "commander."  (Israel Hayom)

Nation-Building in the Middle East Is an Illusion - Amitai Etzioni (National Interest)

  • The notion that the U.S. can engage in nation-building in the Middle East is a sociological illusion.
  • The U.S. sank half a trillion dollars into nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq over fifteen years. Afghanistan has a regime that cannot protect itself or pay for itself. In Iraq, the military and police trained and advised by the U.S. are often used by the Shia government to kill and harass Sunnis.
  • The U.S. did succeed in stabilizing Germany and Japan and turning them into democratic societies, but different conditions existed in these two countries.
  • They included a full cessation of all hostilities before any nation-building, a high level of domestic security, and local acceptance of the foreign occupation and the democratization drive. In addition, these nations had strong national unity, competent government personnel, and a low level of corruption.
  • Furthermore, they had strong economic fundamentals, including strong industrial bases, established infrastructure, educated populations, and vigorous support for science and technology, corporations, business and commerce.
  • Their cultural values included hard work, high levels of saving, and other forms of self-restraint and capacity to defer gratification, essential for democratic development.
  • Not even one of these conditions exists in the contested nations in the Middle East.

    The writer is professor of international affairs at George Washington University.

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