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August 18, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Barcelona Suspect Ranted Online Against Israel - Joshua Taylor (Mirror-UK)
    Driss Oukabir, the man suspected of hiring the van used to mow down pedestrians in Barcelona, had ranted online about Israel in a post on July 21.
    Jewish Agency spokesman Avia Mayer also posted a screen grab on Twitter, saying that Oukabir had posted an anti-Semitic video on Facebook "alleging a global Jewish conspiracy to take over the world."

Turkey to Boost Military Cooperation with Iran (Reuters)
    Turkey and Iran have agreed to boost military cooperation after talks in Ankara this week between Iranian armed forces chief of staff Gen. Mohammad Baqeri and Turkish leaders, President Erdogan's spokesman said Thursday.

Iranian Opposition Leader Ends Hunger Strike - Thomas Erdbrink (New York Times)
    Prominent Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi, 79, ended a one-day hunger strike on Thursday after the government agreed to meet some of his demands.
    The government agreed to remove the 12 guards stationed in his house and also promised to "endeavor" to realize his demand for a public trial, his son told the Saham news website.

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Video: A Warning on Iran-North Korea Missile Cooperation - Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    For at least two decades, North Korea has been acting behind the scenes to accelerate the Iranian ballistic missile program and perhaps many other parts of Iran's military-industrial base.
    If North Korea is moving toward an international ballistic missile capability, it will be foolhardy not to consider that Iran will soon be there as well.

Arab Bands Boycott Berlin Pop Festival Because of Israel - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    Musicians from Egypt, Syria and Tunisia pulled the plug on their participation in next week's Berlin Pop-Kultur music festival because of Israel's role in it.
    The festival organizers denied that Israel is either a co-organizer or a co-financier of the three-day event.
    Israel's embassy covered travel costs for Israeli artists.

U.S. Pilots Bomb ISIS in Syria from Half a World Away - W.J. Hennigan (Los Angeles Times)
    On July 18, a U.S.-backed militia in Raqqa, Syria, was pinned down and their commander requested a missile-firing Predator drone, controlled from half a world away, to take out the gunmen.
    The U.S. Air Force pilot studied the surveillance video and instructed the staff sergeant at his side to set the drone's target sights as he powered up a Hellfire missile under its wing.
    Seconds later a fireball swelled across the screen, with the airstrike delivered within 160 feet of the pinned-down troops from the Syrian Democratic Forces.
    U.S. drone pilots now routinely launch missiles at close distances to proxy ground forces fighting Islamic State in densely populated cities.
    The role of drones has expanded from targeted killings to include more airstrikes during combat and close support for advancing ground troops.
    A dozen Predator and Reaper drones hunt for targets in Raqqa each day, operated by pilots in Creech, Nevada, 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

War in the Arab World Has Devastated the Region's Heritage (Economist-UK)
    According to the UN, half of the old city of Mosul, in Iraq, and a third of the old city of Aleppo, in Syria, are rubble. Hundreds of minarets, monasteries and monuments have been toppled.
    Of the world's 38 endangered cultural-heritage sites, 22 are in the Middle East, says UNESCO.
    "It's Europe after the second world war," says Michael Danti of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR) at the University of Pennsylvania, which tracks the destruction.
    The jihadists of Islamic State have filmed themselves razing ancient temples, churches and mosques.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Terror Attack in Barcelona Kills 14, Injures 80; Second Attack Foiled - Anne-Sophie Bolon
    In a terror attack claimed by Islamic State, a van driver plowed into dozens of people at the popular Las Ramblas pedestrian boulevard in Barcelona on Thursday, killing at least 14 people and leaving 80 injured. Witnesses described running for their lives as the van driver wove back and forth, trying to hit as many people as he could. The driver escaped. A Moroccan man whose identification documents had been used to rent the van and two other vans was arrested.
        Hours later, the Catalan police said they foiled a second van attack in Cambrils, 70 miles to the south, fatally shooting five people. Six civilians and one police officer were injured during the episode. (New York Times)
        See also Israel Condemns Barcelona Terrorist Attack
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday: "Israel strongly condemns the terrorist attack in Barcelona....We again saw that terror strikes everywhere; the civilized world must fight it together in order to defeat it."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
  • How Syria Continued to Gas Its People as the World Looked On - Anthony Deutsch
    A promise by Syria in 2013 to surrender its chemical weapons averted U.S. air strikes. Many diplomats and weapons inspectors now believe that promise was a ruse. They suspect that President Bashar al-Assad's regime, while appearing to cooperate with international inspectors, secretly maintained or developed a new chemical weapons capability.
        There have been dozens of chlorine attacks and at least one major sarin attack since 2013, causing more than 200 deaths and hundreds of injuries. International inspectors say there have been more than 100 reported incidents of chemical weapons being used in the past two years alone.
        Syria's declarations about the types and quantities of chemicals it possessed do not match evidence on the ground uncovered by inspectors. Syria told inspectors in 2014-2015 that it had used 15 tons of nerve gas and 70 tons of sulfur mustard for research. Inspectors believe those amounts are not "scientifically credible," as only a fraction would be needed for research. At least 2,000 chemical bomb shells, which Syria said it had converted to conventional weapons and either used or destroyed, are unaccounted for and may still be in the hands of Syria's military. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israelis in Barcelona Report on Attack
    By Friday afternoon, no Israeli fatalities or injuries were known to Israeli authorities after Thursday's vehicle-ramming attacks in Spain. Limor Hason, who was in Restaurant Maccabi with her husband and children near the scene of the Barcelona attack, told Israel's Channel 2: "I am on holiday with my husband and children. We went to eat with another 70-80 Israelis. We were closed in there for more than an hour-and-a-half. A woman came into the restaurant and yelled 'Attack! Attack!' We realized that there was a terror attack and we shut ourselves in. We came to eat a kosher meal and this is what happened. We thought it was a suicide bomber, so we got under the tables with our children."  (Ynet News)
        See also Barcelona Attack Hits near Kosher Restaurant, Keeping Israel on Edge - Tamara Zieve
    With thousands of Israelis currently on vacation in Barcelona at the height of the summer tourism season, Jerusalem carefully monitored the situation there following Thursday’s terrorist attack, trying to track down all Israelis believed to be in the area. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to the Foreign Ministry's situation room soon after the attack to monitor developments. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Hamas Is Restoring Its Alliance with Iran - Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi
    A high-ranking delegation from the Hamas Political Bureau visited Iran in August 2017. Hamas has an interest in fortifying its relations with Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, and Islamic Jihad based on the common denominator of fighting Israel.
        By joining the Iranian axis, Hamas reveals its leadership's priorities. Liberating Palestine takes precedence over the battles between Shiite and Sunni. The Hamas leadership views Iran as a rising regional power. Thus, Hamas is distancing itself from Saudi Arabia, which regards Iran as a tangible military threat to the Sunni states.
        From Iran's standpoint, the renewed alliance with Hamas will enable it to strengthen its zones of influence along Israel's borders, including within the West Bank where Hamas and Islamic Jihad give it a foothold. The writer is a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Exploiting Islam - Dr. Reuven Berko
    Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch who was arrested this week, controls an enormous funding empire that pays mercenaries to riot on the Temple Mount, in Jaffa, and at other sites. The massive amounts of cash being pumped into the Islamic Movement come from global Islamic charities and, indirectly, from Turkey and Qatar. The global Muslim Brotherhood movement - al-Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Islamic State - all aspire to see Islam win control of the world by force and wipe out the infidels.
        Salah, who shows up at flashpoints in Jerusalem or Jaffa and gives religious speeches full of Islamic symbolism, is the one prompting these bloody clashes. He knows that in the Quran, the Temple Mount belongs to the people of Israel. He is aware of the story of the Caliph Umar, who conquered Jerusalem and said the Jewish Temple was located on the Temple Mount. He knows that the Palestinians are never mentioned in the Quran. He simply lies.
        Salah does not attend the riots to teach Islamic heritage, but to incite more bloodshed. He and his cohorts need to be put away for years, isolated from other prisoners. Dr. Col. (ret.) Reuven Berko was an adviser on Arab Affairs to the Jerusalem district police. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • This Time, Terror Hits Spain - Editorial
    Spain last suffered a major attack in 2004, when al-Qaeda killed 191 on commuter trains in Madrid. Al-Qaeda was trying to punish Spain for joining America's coalition in the Iraq war. But Spain remains an Islamist target no matter its foreign policy. The Iberian peninsula was under Islamic rule for centuries, and extremists want to reconquer it.
        Authorities warn that it could take a generation or more for extremism to burn itself out in the West. Authorities across Europe have to better coordinate their efforts to protect their public squares from mass murder. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Kurds Fear Western Sellout after They Defeat ISIS in Raqqa - Fabrice Balanche
    The Democratic Union Party (PYD) of the Syrian Kurds, who are leading the attack on Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State, knows that the U.S. guards Rojava, the Kurds' enclave in Syria, against Turkish attack. But once Raqqa is liberated, the Syrian Kurdish group will seemingly become a dispensable ally for Washington. Amid such uncertainty, the PYD has an interest in prolonging the Raqqa battle.
        The PYD today senses that the Russian presence in Syria is more durable than that of the U.S., and that when faced with a choice between Rojava and Turkey, the West will choose Turkey. This explains why the Syrian Kurds likely see a partnership with Russia as the best way to preserve their territorial gains over the long term.
        When the U.S. ended its support for Syrian rebels earlier this summer, it demonstrated bad faith to its purported allies. The PYD and Arab proxies will now be reluctant to wholeheartedly support any U.S. strategy in eastern Syria without serious long-term guarantees. The writer is an associate professor and research director at the University of Lyon 2 and a visiting fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Israel Weighs Options as a Gas Exporter
    Even by conservative estimates, the gas fields discovered off Israel's Mediterranean coast since 2009 hold enough energy to meet its domestic needs for 40 years, and the government hopes to sell the excess abroad. Jordan has already signed a deal to buy some.
        In April, Israel signed a preliminary agreement to build an undersea pipeline directly to Europe via Cyprus, Greece and Italy. But there may be a better solution next door in Egypt. Egypt is itself poised to become a major gas producer: the Zohr field, discovered off its coast in 2015, holds the largest reserves in the Mediterranean. But even that find may not be enough to meet Egypt's booming demand.
        Egypt has two liquefaction terminals which allow natural gas to be loaded onto tankers and shipped round the world. Both have sat idle for the past five years, but they could soon ramp up again, giving Israel access to European ports. Egypt could import the gas via Jordan. (Economist-UK)

  • Weekend Features

  • Border Police Field-Test Innovative Israeli Bandage - Itsik Saban
    Israel's Border Police will equip their medics in the Jerusalem area with Israeli-made Woundclot hemostatic bandages, which help save lives by making the blood flowing from wounds clot faster. The new bandages can stop bleeding from gunshot or stab wounds in 40 seconds or less, even in a wound to an artery or to the stomach.
        Medics tested the bandages during the recent wave of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem, and they proved efficient in stopping bleeding quickly and keeping victims alive while they were being transferred to hospitals. "The bandage is very effective for massive bleeding and at points where it's very difficult to stop bleeding, like the neck or internally," said Staff Sgt. Maj. Shalom Bitton. (Israel Hayom)
  • Birth of a Fighting Force for Zionism - Colin Shindler
    One hundred years ago in August 1917, the London Gazette published an official announcement that "a Jewish regiment" had been established. Its formation marked the success of attempts by Chaim Weizmann and Vladimir Jabotinsky to symbolize the rebirth of a Jewish nation. They understood that the presence of a Jewish army at the end of World War I would be a bargaining-counter in the diplomatic tussle to secure a state of the Jews.
        In 1915, the Jews were permitted to form a Zion Mule Corps which saw service at Gallipoli. In 1917, Lt.-Col. John Patterson, an Irish Protestant who had commanded the Zion Mule Corps, was appointed to head the 38th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. Someone with a considerable knowledge of the Hebrew Bible, he viewed himself as a latter-day Yoav - the biblical figure who had been appointed by King David to command his army. Jews from the UK eventually comprised almost one-third of the five battalions of the Royal Fusiliers - now known to history as the Jewish Legion. Dr. Colin Shindler is Emeritus Professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

Engaging with Islamists: What Makes Us Think It Will Ever Work? - Sir John Jenkins (Policy Exchange-UK)

  • In 2014 I prepared the Muslim Brotherhood Review, an internal review of the global Islamist movement for the British Government. Much of the British Government's policy work on the Muslim Brotherhood - and indeed Hizbullah, Hamas, the Houthis and even Iran - in recent years has been shaped by claims that we can influence the thinking of both Sunni and Shia Islamists if only we engage with them. But I cannot think of a single example where Western diplomatic or any other sort of engagement has produced any change in the position of any political Islamist.
  • Our decisions publicly to engage with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood after 2000 and in 2008 to re-engage diplomatically with Hizbullah's political wing produced absolutely no shift in their thinking. Attempts in Iraq to shape the thinking of Ahmad al Fartousi, leader of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Al Sadr's militia, and other Iraqi Shia militias failed. They gamed us instead. We have seen the same with the Houthis in Yemen and over the years with Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • People sometimes say that we need to identify moderates inside such organizations and detach them by engagement from their more extreme colleagues. Again, I can't think of a single example where this has actually happened. So-called moderates rarely represent the core of any Islamist operation. And in any case, most Islamist groups from the Muslim Brotherhood onwards have a history of expelling, not accommodating, reformists.
  • Sustained and serious Western engagement with Hamas would have encouraged them to believe they could resist international pressure. It would not have stopped them seeking funding from Iran or Qatar or Turkey: they would simply have concluded we would do nothing about it.
  • Engagement is possible, but it has to be on our terms. That means consistently asking probing questions. It means expecting proper answers, not some lecture about the past. It means making an effort to understand what Islamist equivocation disguises - the will to power.
  • It means making sure we are absolutely clear what Islamist claims to value democracy or human rights mean in practice. It means judging engagement not on fine sentiments but on practical outcomes.

    The writer became Executive Director of The International Institute for Strategic Studies - Middle East in 2015 after a 35-year career in the British Diplomatic Service. He was British Consul-General, Jerusalem (2003-06), Ambassador to Syria (2006-07), Ambassador to Iraq (2009-11), Ambassador to Libya (2011), and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (2012-2015).
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