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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
October 27, 2016

In-Depth Issues:

ISIS Failure in Kirkuk Shows Its Loss of Sunni Arab Support - Yaroslav Trofimov (Wall Street Journal)
    Last Friday, more than 100 Islamic State fighters launched a surprise attack on the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, a multiethnic city of Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.
    In the Arab areas of Kirkuk, Islamic State militants went to the mosques, using the pre-dawn call to prayer to urge local residents to rally behind them.
    But the only civilians who came out to the streets with arms were mostly from the Kurdish areas, who tried to help security forces defending the city.
    By the time the street battles died down on Tuesday, more than 80 Islamic State militants were dead.

U.S. Using Tunisia to Conduct Drone Operations in Libya - Adam Entous and Missy Ryan (Washington Post)
    U.S. Air Force Reaper drones began flying out of Tunisia in June and have played a key role in collecting intelligence on Islamic State targets in Sirte, Libya.
    For lethal strikes in Libya, the U.S. military has relied on manned U.S. aircraft based in Europe and armed drones flown out of Naval Air Station Sigonella on the Italian island of Sicily.
    The U.S. deployment in Tunisia is part of a security strategy that calls for placing drones and Special Operations teams at a number of facilities in the Middle East within striking distance of militants who could pose a threat to the West.
    The U.S. military has other drone bases on the African continent from Niger to Djibouti.

Hizbullah's Criminal Networks - Matthew Levitt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    Hizbullah criminal enterprises span the globe from drug-running and organized crime in the Balkans, to procuring false passports in Southwest Asia, to trafficking in stolen goods and money laundering in South America, and operating corporate front organizations and extorting financial support in Africa.
    In 2009, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency revealed a series of Hizbullah criminal schemes in the U.S. which ranged from stolen laptops, passports, and gaming consoles to selling stolen and counterfeit currency, procuring weapons, and a wide range of other criminal activities.
    According to U.S. investigators, following the loose threads in several recent cases led straight back to a Hizbullah representative in Iran, Abdallah Safieddine, a cousin and close associate of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
    The writer is Director of the Program on Counterterrorism and Intelligence at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Israel Assists Fiji in Post-Cyclone Rehabilitation (Xinhua-China)
    Fiji received 12 portable solar generators Wednesday from Israel to address the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston earlier this year.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Regional Powers Grow Uneasy with Palestinian Leader
    Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab states are piling pressure on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to resolve divisions in his Fatah party and with the rival Hamas movement. In a non-binding paper circulated last month, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates made recommendations for tackling the splits.
        Mouin Rabbani, a senior fellow with the Institute for Palestine Studies, said, "The primary reasons are Abbas' systematic mismanagement of such relationships, and a weakness of leadership that has opened greater opportunities for Arab and foreign interference in Palestinian internal affairs."
        In a clear signal of its growing frustration, Saudi Arabia, which normally provides around $20 million a month to the Palestinian budget, has not made any contributions since April. Palestinian officials say Riyadh is withholding the funds because it first wants to see progress on unity within Fatah and with Hamas. (Reuters-New York Times)
  • Israel: Ancient Papyrus Supports Jewish Claim to Jerusalem - Jeffrey Heller and Rinat Harash
    Israeli archaeologists have made public a fragment of an ancient text which they say is the earliest Hebrew reference to Jerusalem outside the Bible - evidence of the Jewish connection to the holy city. The 11 cm by 2.5 cm piece of papyrus, dated by the Israel Antiquities Authority to the 7th century BCE, was presented at a news conference in Jerusalem shortly after UNESCO adopted a resolution that Israel said denied Judaism's link to the ancient city. Two lines of ancient Hebrew script appear on the fragile artifact. It reads: "From the king's maidservant, from Na'arat, jars of wine, to Jerusalem."  (Reuters)
  • Iranian General Soleimani in Mosul for Campaign Against ISIS
    Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani has arrived at the Popular Forces operations room to serve as a military advisor in the campaign against ISIS in Mosul, Iraq, Arab media reported on Wednesday. Washington has been pressuring Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi not to allow the Popular Forces to participate in the Mosul operation.
        Spokesman of the Iraqi Popular Forces Ahmad al-Assadi said, "Hajj Qassem Soleimani is one of the most important military advisors of the Islamic Republic of Iran who is in Iraq at the invitation, demand and agreement of the Iraqi government." In June, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ebrahim al-Jafari was quoted as saying, "General Soleimani is in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to provide military counseling to the Iraqi forces."  (Fars-Iran)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Latest UNESCO Decision on Jerusalem Will Not Be Implemented
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday, "The UNESCO Heritage Committee passed a decision which caused disappointment among the Palestinians and several Arab countries....The UNESCO Secretary General said that if it was not passed unanimously, then the decision would not be implemented. I would like to thank the leaders of Tanzania and Croatia for demanding a vote....Because it reached a vote, it will not be implemented, because it was not unanimous. Eleven out of the 21 countries that are members of the Heritage Committee...did not support the vote."
        "We are the only ones who are scrupulously, carefully and zealously safeguarding [the holy places]....Radical Islam blows up mosques, blows up churches, blows up historic sites, slaughters Yazidis, slaughters Muslims who do not agree with them, slaughters Christians, slaughters whoever it can. Who is deserving of condemnation? Certainly not Israel."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Palestinian Children Given Knives and Sent to Attack Jews
    The Israel Defense Forces on Wednesday apprehended two Palestinian children carrying knives near the Jewish community of Migdal Oz in the West Bank. According to the Walla! news site, the two eight-year-olds told investigators, "They took us by car, gave us knives and told us to go do terrorist attacks."  (i24news)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Warning of Plots Against West, U.S. Plans Assault on Islamic State's Capital in Syria - Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt
    The fight to retake Raqqa, the Syrian city that serves as the capital of the Islamic State, must begin within weeks to disrupt planning believed to be underway there to stage terrorist attacks on the West, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top American military commander in Iraq, said Wednesday. American officials are sweeping aside objections from Turkey and moving forward with plans to rely on a ground fighting force that includes Kurdish militia fighters in Syria.
        Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish fighters, the YPG, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the Kurdish rebel group that has sought autonomy from Turkey since the 1980s. But American military officials say the YPG personnel are the best fighters they have. "The facts are these," Gen. Townsend said. "The only force that is capable on any near-term timeline is the Syrian Democratic Forces, of which the YPG are a significant portion."
        However, the Syrian Kurds do not view the recapture of Raqqa as one of their top priorities. "The Syrian Kurdish YPG do not truly desire to shed blood to capture a majority-Sunni Arab city far from their vision of their autonomous borders," said Christopher Kozak, a Syria researcher at the Institute for the Study of War. (New York Times)
        See also People in the Middle East Have Learned to Be Wary of American Promises - David Ignatius
    When the U.S. fights its wars in the Middle East, it has a nasty habit of recruiting local forces as proxies and then jettisoning them when the going gets tough or regional politics intervene. I fear this is happening again in Syria with the Kurdish militia group YPG, which has been America's best ally against the Islamic State. (Washington Post)
  • Iran Retains the Option of Renewing Its Military Nuclear Program - Rafael Ofek
    A year has passed since the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between Iran and the P5+1, intended to delay the realization of the military elements of Iran's nuclear program. The agreement enables Iran to continue the development and conduct experiments on the advanced centrifuge models it had developed, which possess an enrichment capacity 10 times as high (or even more) as the centrifuges Iran has been operating until now. These experiments include the actual enrichment of uranium.
        One worrisome aspect involves the close links between Iran and North Korea, reflected in the past mainly through cooperation in the field of ballistic missiles. There is cause for concern that in view of the restrictions the nuclear agreement now imposes on Iran, it might use North Korea as a test bed for subsequent activities associated with the Iranian military nuclear program.
        Iran continues to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads and has recently conducted several launching trials. Iran blatantly ignores UN Security Council Resolution 2231, unanimously adopted on July 20, 2015, which imposes restrictions on Iran for the next 8 years regarding its continued activities in the field of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Rafael Ofek, an expert in the physics and technology of nuclear power, served in the Israeli intelligence community. (Israel Defense)

UNESCO's Dangerous Anti-Semitic Myths - Shany Mor (Tablet)

  • While the recent UNESCO resolution on Jerusalem implicitly denies any Jewish (or, for that matter, Christian) connection to the Temple Mount, what should worry us most is its affirmation of the paranoid conspiracy theory that holds that Jews are plotting to harm Islamic holy sites. UNESCO "condemns the escalating Israeli aggressions" against "Muslims' access to their holy site Al-Aqsa," "deplores the continuous storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif by Israeli right-wing extremists," and "deeply decries the continuous Israeli aggressions" committed by "the so-called 'Israeli antiquities' officials."
  • There's a long history to Arab claims that Jews or Zionists or Israelis have threatened Al-Aqsa. Such claims are part rallying cry, part conspiracy theory, and part a transparent projection of past actions against Jewish holy sites that fell into Muslim hands.
  • The power of this lie, both in inciting violence as well as mobilizing Arab and Muslim public opinion, was first understood in the 1920s by the Mufti of Jerusalem (and future Nazi collaborator) Haj Amin al-Husseini. He saw Al-Aqsa as a way of turning a local conflict into a regional, religious, and even global conflict. The claim that Jews were seeking to harm Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem in 1928 was the pretext for a wave of Arab violence against Jews, culminating in the massacre a few months later of 67 Jews in Hebron.
  • This method served as a model for each of the future eruptions of violence following false claims of Jewish threats to Al Aqsa, which occurred roughly once a decade. What is clearly a pathology is treated instead as a possible grievance - and, in the case of UNESCO, a genuine one.
  • Immediately after conquering the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, Israel handed control of the Temple Mount to the Islamic Trust, or Waqf, and forbade any Jewish religious rite on the entire Mount (not just in the mosques), a status quo it has maintained to this day. Israel has not conducted any excavations under the Mount or the mosques on the Mount.
  • It is the visits of Jews to the Mount - but never inside the mosques - that is preposterously described in the UNESCO resolution as "storming Al Aqsa." In fact, the only worshipers regularly harassed on the Temple Mount are the few Jews who have the temerity to silently visit their faith's holiest site.

        See also The "Al-Aksa Is in Danger" Libel: The History of a Lie - Nadav Shragai (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

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