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June 23, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iran's Khamenei: There Is No Doubt We'll Witness Israel's Demise (Jerusalem Post)
    "There is no doubt that we will witness the demise of the Zionist entity [Israel]," Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei posted on his Twitter account Thursday ahead of the Iranian-initiated "Al Quds Day" on Friday which protests Israel's existence.
    See also Destruction of Israel Is Muslim World's Top Priority (Tasnim-Iran)
    Iranian people attending nationwide demonstrations on International Quds Day stressed that attempts to eliminate and destroy Israel - the region's cancerous tumor - remain "the Muslim world's top priority."
    On Friday, demonstrators also described efforts to liberate the holy city of al-Quds [Jerusalem] as one of the Islamic Revolution's primary goals.
    See also Photos: Quds Day Rallies in Tehran (Press TV-Iran)

Iran Missile Strikes in Syria Reveal Its Potential Military Weakness - Farzin Nadimi (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    On June 18, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired six Zolfaqar medium-range missiles 600 km. across Iraqi territory at Islamic State targets in eastern Syria.
    Iranian media have released five video clips supposedly recorded by overflying drones showing two missile impacts - actually near misses - north and south of the town of Mayadin in Deir al-Zour province.
    None of the targets appeared to sustain direct hits, although impacts seem to have occurred 50 and 150 meters away.
    According to a Syrian source quoted in the Times of Israel, the missile strikes caused no casualties.
    According to Israeli military sources, several of the Iranian missiles actually landed in the Iraqi desert, with three other missiles missing their targets entirely and only one or two coming close, indicating serious reliability problems.
    The missile strike shows Iran is probably grappling with serious quality-control issues.

Iranian Funding for Anti-Israel Terror Groups Revealed - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.- Gen. Herzl Halevi revealed Wednesday that Iran is funding Hizbullah with $75 million a year, while paying $50 million to Hamas and $70 million to Islamic Jihad.

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Why Israel Is Saving Syrian Rebels - Terry Glavin (Maclean's-Canada)
    On a hospital bed at the Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Israel, a Syrian rebel called Ramadan told me:
    "All my life I was told Israel is my enemy. I grew up like that, to believe that Israel is the devil. But all the world is against us, and only Israel is our friend. The world is killing us. Israel is saving us."
    More than 3,000 Syrians have been taken in by Israeli hospitals over the past four years.
    When the Syrians are discharged from hospital and brought back to the Syrian border, great care is taken to conceal the Israeli origin of everything in the "care packages" they're given. No Hebrew lettering on medications. No evidence of Israeli origin on anything.

An Arab Paramedic in Jerusalem (Magen David Adom-CAMERA)
    Magen David Adom Paramedic Muhammed Abd Elrhaman, who has already witnessed many terror attacks during his years of service, fought to save the life of Sgt. Hadas Malka, who had been stabbed by a Palestinian terrorist at Damascus Gate in Jerusalem.
    He said, "Each time that we see the scene of a terror attack we run in, when logic dictates to run away to survive. But this is who we are, this is what we know, and this is what we must do."

How Big Data Is Preparing the IDF for 21st-Century Combat - Yaakov Lappin (
    In the not-too-distant future, as an Israel Defense Forces battalion commander surveys a Gazan neighborhood, the locations of enemy gunmen hiding in apartments will be visible, marked in red by the augmented reality military glasses he's wearing.
    He will pass on the coordinates of these threats to Israel Air Force aircraft hovering overhead, which will promptly destroy the targets.
    Or with the push of a button on the screen of a tablet-like device, the commander could order an Israel Navy missile ship miles away to launch a precision strike on the target.
    Maj. Assaf Ovadia, head of the IDF's Combined Operations Department, said, "Our ability to handle big data means we can bring information very rapidly to the end user in the field."
    During the 2014 conflict with Hamas, a terrorist naval commando cell from Gaza swam north and landed on Zikim beach on Israel's southern coastline.
    "An observations soldier saw suspicious activity on the beach. She transmitted data in real time to ground and air units. Then, a dialogue began between a tank commander and the air force. The units coordinated their firepower against the targets."
    The network allows the military to identify and destroy a target in far less time.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Gets North Korean Expertise in Building, Testing and Hiding Its Ballistic Missiles - Rowan Scarborough
    Iran has increased production and testing of ballistic missiles since the 2015 nuclear deal with the U.S. while playing permanent host to scientists from North Korea, which has the know-how to build and launch atomic weapons, a leading opposition group said Tuesday. The National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a white paper that identifies and documents work at 42 missile centers operated by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. A dozen sites had never been disclosed before.
        North Koreans have shown Iran how to dig tunnels and build "missile cities" deep inside mountains to prevent destruction by airstrikes. "The IRGC's missile sites have been created based on North Korean models and blueprints. North Korean experts have helped the Iranian regime to build them. Underground facilities and tunnels to produce, store, and maintain missiles have also been modeled after North Korean sites and were created with the collaboration of the North Korean experts."
        "Delegations of the IRGC's aerospace [industry] constantly travel to North Korea and exchange knowledge, information and achievements with North Korean specialists. North Korea's experts constantly travel to Iran."  (Washington Times)
  • ISIS Setting Up Support Networks to Move Terrorists to Europe, Asia - Bill Gertz
    The Islamic State is setting up networks to support the systematic movement of terrorists from the Middle East to Europe and Asia, according to U.S. defense officials. "ISIS has several facilitators in place that assist the flow of fighters to Europe," said one official. Many of the fighters are returning nationals who joined ISIS several years ago and received training and experience. These fighters are regarded as hardened jihadists who will seek to infiltrate society and prepare for future attacks.
        A June 7 report by the State Department's Overseas Security Advisory Council noted that in the past six months, Islamic terrorists have conducted seven attacks in Germany, France, Sweden, and the UK, causing more than 50 deaths. While authorities in Europe have prevented a number of attacks since the beginning of the year, "the frequency and reach of terrorist activity affirms that the threat persists throughout the region," the report states. (Washington Free Beacon)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Tells UN: Hizbullah Set Up Observation Posts under Guise of Environmental NGO - Itamar Eichner
    Hizbullah has set up a network of observation posts along the Israel-Lebanon border under the guise of a civilian organization called Green Without Borders, according to intelligence Israel has passed on to the UN Security Council. The Hizbullah-funded group's declared goal is to raise awareness to environmental protection. In April, a group of civilians denied the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) access to an observation post belonging to Green Without Borders. Israel's letter to the UN included photos of the observation posts and maps detailing their exact locations.
        "This evidence proves Hizbullah is working along the Blue Line under the guise of civilian activity, while violating UN Security Council Resolutions 1701 and 1559," Danon wrote. "Hizbullah continues to grow its strength in southern Lebanon and is threatening the stability of the entire region. The international community must not turn a blind eye to these dangerous threats." He called on the Security Council to demand that the Lebanese government dismantle the observation posts immediately. (Ynet News)
  • Hizbullah Setting Up Weapons Industry in Lebanon with Iranian Help - Gili Cohen
    Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi, director of Israeli Military Intelligence, told the Herzliya Conference, "Over the last year Iran has been working to set up independent production facilities for precise weaponry in Lebanon and Yemen. We cannot remain indifferent to this and we don't."
        Halevi also criticized the performance of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), saying: "With all due respect to the force, which does important work, it claims it isn't seeing a Hizbullah entrenchment in south Lebanon."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

    Peace Process

  • U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt Came to Listen More than to Lecture - Steve Inskeep
    Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem, described his meeting with U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt on Wednesday. "Unlike emissaries from Washington that we're used to receiving here in the Middle East, Jason Greenblatt came to listen more than to lecture. It was quite refreshing, and he's meeting with a wide range of Israelis and Palestinians from across the political spectrum....He wanted to know what I thought the realistic options were for an agreement."
        Asked what the Trump administration can do to promote peace, Halevi said, "Expand Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to the region. Bring in the Arab countries. This is not going to be a bilateral agreement. This can only work in the context of Arab states supporting a peace agreement and normalizing relations with Israel, accepting Israel as an indigenous part of the Middle East."  (NPR)
  • Trump's Team Faces Reality in the Middle East - Herb Keinon
    After President Donald Trump's Mideast point man, Jared Kushner, Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, and Ambassador to Israel David Friedman met Wednesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House issued a statement saying: "The United States officials and Israeli leadership underscored that forging peace will take time and stressed the importance of doing everything possible to create an environment conducive to peacemaking." It is a sign that after five months of meetings with everyone, the Trump Mideast team has hit the shoals of reality. The statement was a clear indication that the Trump team now realizes things are going to take a lot longer than first expected.
        The U.S. is probing the sides to see what they are - and are not - willing to give, and then trying to see if there are ways to bridge the gaps. And it is doing this all very much behind closed doors, without megaphone diplomacy and without public threats of laying down an American blueprint. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Policy Will Not Change - Bassam Tawil
    U.S. envoys who met this week in Ramallah with PA officials to discuss reviving the peace process discovered what previous U.S. Middle East envoys learned in the past two decades - that the PA has not, cannot, and will not change. During their meeting in Ramallah with PA President Mahmoud Abbas, the U.S. emissaries were told that the Palestinians will not accept anything less than an independent state along the pre-1967 lines with east Jerusalem as its capital.
        Abbas also made it clear that he has no intention to make concessions on the "right of return" for Palestinian "refugees" - which would flood Israel with millions of Palestinian "refugees" and turn it into another Palestinian state. Abbas reiterated his demand that Israel release all Palestinian prisoners, including convicted murderers with Jewish blood on their hands.
        Abbas' position reflects accurately the policy of the PA leadership over the past two decades - a policy that has been regularly relayed to all previous U.S. administrations and successive Israeli governments. Moreover, Abbas knows that any move toward peace with Israel would end his career, and very possibly his life. Abbas does not wish to go down in Palestinian history as the leader who "sold out to the Jews." Abbas also cannot halt anti-Israel incitement, he cannot stop payments to convicted murderers and their families, and he cannot accept Jewish sovereignty over the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Gatestone Institute)

  • Iran

  • The ISIS Attack on Iran's Parliament - A Challenge to Rouhani - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the coordinated simultaneous terror attacks on Iran's parliament and on the tomb of Iran's first Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, on June 7, 2017, that killed 13 people and wounded more than 40. In March, the group issued a video that called on Iran's Sunni minority to form terror cells and carry out attacks against Shiite forces.
        It is possible that, as the Islamic State loses land in Syria and Iraq, its fighters will make their way eastward toward Iran and Pakistan. Terror of the Islamic State variety will probably aim for a sympathetic response from Iran's many ethnic minorities.
        The Islamic State attack in Tehran will add considerably to the difficulties of President Rouhani. Elected to a second term on promises of reform in the domain of individual and citizens' rights, the security forces will exploit the incident to beef up security measures, and will crack down harder on any show of opposition to the Islamic regime by the reformist camp. The writer is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also How Iran Fights the Islamic State - Dina Esfandiary
    The writer is a Centre for Science and Security Studies fellow in the War Studies Department at King's College London. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran's Islamic State Problem Isn't Going Away - Alex Vatanka
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute. (Foreign Policy)
  • Book Review - Iran: Theocracy vs. Democracy - Reuel Marc Gerecht
    Misagh Parsa's Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed analyzes the titanic struggle underway in Iran between theocracy and democracy. Along the way, the author shows why gradual reform - the leitmotif for Western supporters of "pragmatic" Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and of the Obama administration's nuclear deal - is unlikely. The book is a comprehensive refutation of the Obama administration's hopes that increasing commerce with Iran would moderate the regime and that it was safe to put an expiration date on the regulation of Iran's nuclear program.
        Parsa, a professor of sociology at Dartmouth, argues convincingly that Iran is moving toward greater internal oppression and foreign wars. At the same time, a theocratic regime has made Shiites less observant: Few attend the ever-shrinking supply of functioning mosques where fewer and fewer young men want to become clerics. In 1980, 60.7% of the deputies in the Majles (parliament) were clerics. After the 2016 elections, their number had declined to 5.5%. The writer┬Ł is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Other Issues

  • U.S. Should Push PA to Stop Payments to Terrorists - Elliott Abrams
    As the administration publicly embraces the Palestinian Authority as a peace partner, it risks confrontation with Congress over the Taylor Force Act, now supported by the Israeli government. Memorializing a U.S. soldier murdered by Palestinian terrorists while touring Israel, the act would defund the PA for making payments to terrorists and their families.
        At a time when a growing number of Western governments (e.g., Britain, Norway, Denmark) are willing to openly criticize the PA's incitement and terror glorification, it is important for Washington, at the very least, to take this position and squeeze the PA, whose survival depends on foreign aid, to desist from this reprehensible practice. The writer, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, handled Middle East affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2001 to 2009. (Middle East Forum)
        See also Palestinian Authority: Allowances to Convicted Security Prisoners Will Continue - Y. Yehoshua and C. Jacob (MEMRI)
  • U.S. Strategy and Israel's Stake in Eastern Syria - Jonathan Spyer
    The defeat of Islamic State as an entity controlling territory is clearly only a matter of time. The actions of the Assad regime (and the Iranian and Russian interests that dominate it) equally clearly reflect their determination to confront and defeat all other armed elements within Syria.
        The U.S. is currently backing certain armed elements in Syria for the purpose of defeating Islamic State. At a certain point, Washington will need to decide whether it wishes to abandon its allies to destruction at the hands of the regime, Iran and Russia, or to help to defend the forces it has armed and trained.
        If the U.S. and its allies are eclipsed in eastern Syria, the result will be the establishment of a contiguous land link from Iran, across Iraq and Syria, to Lebanon and the Israeli border. Over the last half decade, a coalition of Tehran-aligned militias has acted in a coordinated fashion on behalf of Iranian allies and interests. Thus, the prevention of the emergence of this direct land route through eastern Syria is a direct Israeli national interest. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Rubin Center for Research in International Affairs, IDC Herzliya. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Trump Is on a Collision Course with Iran - Dennis Ross (Politico)
  • Assad Still Must Go - Michael J. Totten
    The U.S. is getting more involved in the Syrian war. Eventually, one way or another, Assad has to go. Assad, after all, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. The Syrian war triggered the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. And if it weren't for Assad, ISIS wouldn't even exist.
        The strongest case, though, is on national security grounds. Replacing the Assad regime with just about anything but a radical Islamist terrorist state will make the U.S., Europe, the greater Middle East, and even most of the world safer places than they are now. Destroying ISIS in both Iraq and Syria is our first priority. That's not going to change. The last thing the U.S. should do, though, is partner with the Assad regime that is allied with Iran.
        Support for ISIS among the general public in the Arab world is in the low single digits. The only reason terrorist armies like ISIS and the Nusra Front are tolerated by civilians right now in Syria is because so many perceive Assad as the greater of evils. Hardly anyone in Syria would even temporarily support ISIS' and the Nusra Front's deranged revolution if there were no one in Damascus to revolt against. (The Tower)
  • Israel's Pivot to Asia - Michal Wojnarowicz
    Israel sees developing cooperation with the Asia-Pacific region as one of its top priorities. Asia accounted for 26% of Israeli imports and 22% of its exports in 2016, compared with the EU's share of 43% of Israeli imports and 29% of its exports in the same period. Trade with Asia rose to $33 billion from $23 billion in 2010.
        Israel is negotiating free-trade agreements with China, India, South Korea and Vietnam. It also is trying to meet Asia's increasing demand for advanced technology in sectors such as agriculture, water management and high tech.
        In 2016, bilateral trade with China amounted to $16 billion, with intense cooperation developing in advanced technologies. Israel has joined the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which supports China's "Belt and Road" initiative. China is involved in major infrastructure projects in Israel, including the construction of the Eilat-Ashdod railway and the expansion of the ports of Haifa and Ashdod. (Polish Institute of International Affairs)

Gaza's Humanitarian Crisis Is Fake News - Hillel Frisch (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • One of the most widespread myths about Gaza is that it is wallowing in poverty and forever on the verge of a humanitarian crisis as a result of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade. But indicators such as life expectancy, growth in imports, and electricity demand suggest that the Gazan standard of living is rising, not declining.
  • Life expectancy in Gaza is above both the world average and the average in the Arab states.
  • Even with the blockade imposed on Gaza, in 2016, 14,460 trucks of produce crossed from Israel into Gaza every month.
  • Even the electricity crisis in Gaza points to a rising standard of living. According to Muhammad Abu Amarayn, the spokesperson of the Gaza Energy Commission, there is a need for 450 MW of electricity in Gaza. The UN estimated peak demand in Gaza in 2010 at 280 MW. This means that demand for electricity in Gaza has increased by 60% in six years.
  • The answer to any humanitarian crisis would be for the world community to join forces with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and by now most of the Gaza inhabitants to force Hamas to dismantle its military infrastructure and spend its money on human welfare rather than terrorism.
  • The worst thing that can be done is to increase humanitarian aid before the disarming of Hamas.

    The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the BESA Center.
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