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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
September 13, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Threatens to Shoot Down U.S. Planes in Persian Gulf - Barbara Starr (CNN)
    U.S. Navy aircraft were threatened over the weekend by Iran as they were flying in the northern Persian Gulf in international airspace, a U.S. defense official said.
    The Iranians made a radio call to the planes, warning them not to enter Iranian airspace or risk being shot down, the official said.
    See also below Commentary: Deterring Iranian Provocations at Sea - Cmdr. Jeremy Vaughan (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

3 Syrians, Believed Sent by IS, Arrested in Germany (AP-New York Times)
    Three Syrian men believed to have been sent to Germany last year by the Islamic State were arrested in raids on Tuesday, part of efforts to root out extremists sent to Europe amid the migrant influx.
    One of them, Mahir Al-H., joined IS in Raqqa, Syria, and received weapons and explosives training, prosecutors said.
    The three were provided with passports by IS and were given a "high four-figure sum" of cash in U.S. dollars as well as cellphones with a pre-installed communication program.

Israel Meets Facebook Officials over Incitement (AP-VOA News)
    Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked met with Facebook officials on Monday to discuss how to tackle incitement on the social media network.
    Shaked said that over the past four months Israel submitted 158 requests to Facebook to remove inciting content and another 13 requests to YouTube.
    She said Facebook granted 95% of the requests and YouTube granted 80%.

Iran Sentences Iranian-British Charity Worker to Five Years in Prison - Asa Fitch (Wall Street Journal)
    Iran has sentenced an Iranian-British charity worker to five years in prison, after detaining her while on a trip to see family on April 3, her husband said on Friday.
    Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, is one of at least seven dual nationals Iran has arrested in recent months.

Iran and Saudi Arabia Argue Over Which Is the Holiest City - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Iran is redirecting Shiite pilgrims from Mecca in Saudi Arabia to Karbala, a Shiite holy site located in Iraq.
    The Saudis do not favor places of worship that are liable to compete with Mecca. This is the reason they do not allow any pledges of Arab assistance for Jerusalem.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Flow of Foreign Fighters Plummets as Islamic State Loses Its Edge - Griff Witte
    The flow of foreign fighters to the Islamic State has been cut to a trickle this year as the group's territory has shrunk. From a peak of 2,000 foreign recruits crossing the Turkey-Syria border each month, the number is down to as few as 50, according to U.S. intelligence assessments. Yet this raises questions about whether the terrorism threat is actually easing or just morphing into a more dangerous new phase in which would-be fighters choose to carry out attacks at home.
        The lack of fresh Islamic State manpower is evident on the battlefield. Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasoul, a spokesman for the Iraqi military, said that whereas the Islamic State once used foreign fighters as suicide bombers, it is increasingly tapping young Iraqi boys. (Washington Post)
  • Syrian Cease-Fire Off to a Rocky Start - Liz Sly and Karen DeYoung
    A U.S.- and Russian-backed cease-fire agreement that went into effect Monday was almost immediately violated. Residents in the besieged rebel portion of Aleppo said that Syrian government helicopters had dropped barrel bombs on one neighborhood and that loyalist forces were shelling a route intended to be used for the delivery of humanitarian aid. There were reports of airstrikes and artillery shelling in other parts of the country as well. (Washington Post)
  • Israel Strengthening Ties with Gulf Monarchies - Samuel Ramani
    The expansion of security cooperation between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states can be explained by the GCC's declining concern for the Palestinian cause and Saudi Arabia's desire to import sophisticated Israeli military technology. GCC business leaders have tacitly displayed their frustration with PA corruption. Israeli IT products and irrigation technology have been shipped to Saudi Arabia under the purview of foreign companies.
        GCC officials have signed covert deals with Israeli defense contractors. In 2011, Israeli companies sold $300 million worth of military technology to the UAE to help secure its oil wells. (Huffington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Syrian Forces Fire Missiles at Israeli Aircraft - Yaakov Lappin
    The IDF on Tuesday said Syrian forces had fired two surface-to-air missiles at Israeli aircraft after they struck Syrian targets Monday night in response to a mortar that landed in Israel's Golan Heights. The military said the Syrian missiles did not come close to the Israeli aircraft. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel, PA Reach Deal on Massive Palestinian Electricity Debt - Barak Ravid
    Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a deal to settle the Palestinians' outstanding debt of $530 million to the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), Israel's Channel 2 reported Monday. One-quarter of the debt is to be paid immediately, one-quarter is to be erased, and half is to be repaid in installments.
        The agreement requires the PA to collect unpaid electricity bills from Palestinian customers in the West Bank. Moreover, the PA will assume full responsibility for paying the IEC, which formerly had to collect from several different local electricity companies in the West Bank. Norway, which heads the forum of donor states to the PA, oversaw the negotiations. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Deterring Iranian Provocations at Sea - Cmdr. Jeremy Vaughan, U.S. Navy
    Since January 2016, surface elements from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGC-N) have harassed U.S. naval vessels in the Gulf thirty times, 50% more than during the same period last year. On at least three occasions, they closed to a distance that could make a collision more likely or could render U.S. ships nearly defenseless to a boat packed with explosives.
        This new normal in the Gulf needs to be reversed through an approach involving quiet, indirect diplomacy and, when necessary, ship action to restore a wider berth for U.S. vessels. Failure to do so could result in an accident or incident involving U.S. and Iranian naval forces.
        All U.S. forces have the inherent right and obligation of self-defense and are not required to "absorb the first round" before taking defensive measures. Washington should engage in a preemptive public diplomacy campaign to indicate that unsafe and unprofessional conduct afloat will no longer be tolerated.
        On August 24, the USS Squall fired three .50 caliber shots across the bow of the lead IRGC-N vessel harassing U.S. naval vessels. Following the warning shots, the IRGC-N vessels halted their approach and then departed. Encouraging commanding officers to take warning action, including warning shots, earlier will reset the boundaries of the U.S.-IRGC-N maritime relationship and may cause Iran to reconsider its most dangerous actions in the Gulf. The writer is a visiting military fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Serious Negotiations vs. Reality - Zalman Shoval
    With Russia's offer to host talks between PA President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu in Moscow, the more important question is: Is the ground ripe for such talks, and is there any reasonable chance they would result in a positive outcome?
        The Palestinians continue to set preconditions for any meeting: the release of prisoners and the halt to all settlement construction. Israel cannot accept these conditions because doing so would make negotiations meaningless and require Israel to make concessions on disputed issues in advance.
        Yet the cause for the most concern is that the Palestinians have announced that they have no intention of relinquishing "the right of return," are not willing to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, or show flexibility on any issue whatsoever. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (Israel Hayom)
  • In Saudi Arabia, a Revolution Disguised as Reform - Dennis Ross
    While some portray the Saudis as both "arsonists and firefighters" in the struggle with radical Islamists, having just visited Saudi Arabia, I came away feeling hopeful about the kingdom's future. There is an awakening underway in Saudi Arabia, led from the top.
        The Saudis' plans for transformation are ambitious, designed to diversify the economy, end overreliance on oil, keep capital in the country for domestic investment, and foster both transparency and accountability. Mohammed bin Salman, the deputy crown prince, was emphatic in telling us that Saudi Arabia no longer has an ideology other than national development and modernization.
        The Saudis are not imagining Iranian troublemaking in the region or their financing of Hizbullah and other terrorist groups. The Saudi leadership believes the U.S. fails to understand the threat from Iran and its use of Shiite militias to undermine Arab governments. The writer, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was a special assistant to President Obama from 2009 to 2011. (Washington Post)

D Minus Seven Years, and Counting - Ephraim Asculai (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv)

  • There is ongoing Iranian R&D on seven advanced types of gas centrifuge uranium enrichment machines, capable of much more efficient enrichment than the present, almost obsolete, IR-1 model.
  • This means that if Iran abides by the JCPOA nuclear agreement to the letter, by the eighth year, if not before, Iran can have perfected one or more centrifuge models capable of enrichment efficiency ten times that of the present model.
  • By year fifteen, Iran is officially permitted to do all it wants, including significant amounts of enrichment to military levels, with a breakout time measured in weeks.
  • Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons cannot be based only on trust. Iran has in the past disregarded its obligations under the NPT; it has also disregarded Security Council demands concerning R&D, including testing, of its missile program.
  • Had there been trust in Iran's abiding by its international commitments, there would have been no need for the verification mechanism embedded in the JCPOA. But this verification system cannot search for undeclared sites and it has no power to inspect Iran's R&D work on delivery systems.
  • There is a high probability that after ten years, Iran will proceed with the production of highly enriched uranium, and thus will have the capability to produce nuclear weapons almost at will. There should be little doubt that unless something dramatic changes in the Iranian regime or its policies, it will seek this nuclear capability.

    Dr. Ephraim Asculai, founder of Israel's Negev Nuclear Research Center, worked at the Israel Atomic Energy Commission for over 40 years and at the IAEA in Vienna.

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