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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
August 24, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

The Catalonia Terrorist Attacks - Ely Karmon (Jerusalem Post)
    The 500 Muslims of Ripoll, Spain, are 5% of its population and they live in no ghetto. The 12 terrorist cell members, all born in Morocco but with Spanish nationality, apparently were integrated into the life of the community and played on the local soccer team.
    Abdelbaki Es Satty, the imam of the Annur Muslim community in Ripoll, most probably acted as the leader of the group. He died in the explosion at their headquarters in Alcanar.
    The Catalan cell was most probably a local one, based on family (four pairs of brothers), and personal relations.
    It seems they didn't have serious previous training, which explains the "work accident" with explosives. They apparently didn't have access to firearms.
    Before the Barcelona attacks, 51 suspected jihadists had already been detained in Spain this year.
    The writer is a senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT).
    See also Offline, Spain Terror Cell Evaded Detection - Marie Giffard (AFP)

Israel Provides Food Aid to South Sudan (Times of Israel)
    Six tons of food aid were distributed to residents of a village in a drought-stricken area of South Sudan, the Israel Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

Hamas Denounces Sudanese Minister's Call for Normalization with Israel (Sudan Tribune)
    Hamas on Wednesday expressed deep regret over statements by Sudan's Investment Minister Mubarak al-Fadil al-Mahdi, who called to normalize Sudan's relations with Israel.
    In an interview with Sudania 24 TV on Sunday, al-Mahdi said the Palestinians bear significant responsibility for what happened to them.
    Sudan's Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour has also said his country wouldn't mind considering the possibility of normalizing ties with Israel.
    In recent years, Sudan has cut relations with Iran and moved closer to Saudi Arabia and the moderate Arab camp.

Did Iran Poison Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman? - Editorial (Wall Street Journal)
    Argentine federal criminal prosecutor Ricardo Saenz announced Monday that a new toxicology analysis on the body of the late Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman has discovered the drug ketamine. It is highly unlikely Nisman would have voluntarily ingested such a drug.
    He had been investigating Iran's role in the 1994 bombing of a Buenos Aires Jewish community center when he was found dead in January 2015.
    In 2006 Nisman indicted seven Iranians and one Lebanese-born member of Hizbullah for the bombing, which killed 85.
    See also Iranian Terror and Argentine Justice: The Case of Alberto Nisman, the Prosecutor Who Knew Too Much - Gustavo D. Perednik (Jewish Political Studies Review)

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: We Are Not Going to Specify the Solution for Israeli-Palestinian Talks
    State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert was asked on Wednesday about committing the U.S. to a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians. Nauert responded: "We want to work toward a peace that both sides can agree to and that both sides find sustainable. Okay? We believe that both parties should be able to find a workable solution that works for both of them."
        "We are not going to state what the outcome has to be. It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that's the best view as to not really bias one side over the other, to make sure that they can work through it. It's been many, many decades, as you well know, that the parties have not been able to come to any kind of good agreement and sustainable solution to this. So we leave it up to them to be able to work that through."  (State Department)
  • Palestinian Authorities Escalate Attacks on Freedom of Expression
    "The last few months have seen a sharp escalation in attacks by the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza on journalists and the media in a bid to silence dissent," said Magdalena Mughrabi, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. "By rounding up journalists and shutting down opposition websites, the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip appear to be using police state tactics to silence critical media and arbitrarily block people's access to information."  (Amnesty International)
        See also Palestinians: Taking Journalists Hostage - Khaled Abu Toameh (Gatestone Institute)
  • Egypt Angered by U.S. Aid Cut over Human Rights Concerns - Hamza Hendawi and Matthew Lee
    Egypt reacted angrily Wednesday to the Trump administration's surprise decision to cut or delay nearly $300 million in military and economic aid over human rights concerns. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry called the U.S. decision a "misjudgment" that "reflects a lack of careful understanding of the importance of supporting the stability and success of Egypt."  (AP-Washington Post)
        See also Washington's Decision on Aid to Egypt - Eric Trager
    Washington's decision on August 22 to delay or cancel nearly $300 million in aid to Egypt caught Cairo by surprise. The Egyptian government had assumed that the warm rapport between U.S. President Donald Trump and Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was sufficient to ensure strong bilateral relations after years of uncertainty under the previous administration. Most of the affected funds might ultimately be disbursed, but the way in which Washington made and announced its decision has significantly undermined the Trump administration's credibility with Cairo. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu Tells Putin: Israel Opposes Iran's Entrenchment in Syria
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Sochi, Russia, on Wednesday: "Iran is increasing its efforts to establish its military foothold in Syria. That is dangerous for Israel, the Middle East and, I believe, the whole world. Iran is already in advanced stages of taking over Iraq and Yemen, and in effect it also controls Lebanon."
        "We are all defeating ISIS in a concerted international effort, and that is welcome. What is not welcome is Iran moving in everywhere ISIS moves out. We do not forget for one minute that Iran continues to threaten Israel's destruction every day; it is arming terrorist organizations and is itself instigating terrorism; and it is developing intercontinental missiles with the goal of arming them with nuclear warheads. For all these reasons, Israel continues to oppose Iran's entrenchment in Syria. We will defend ourselves in any way against this threat."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Why Netanyahu Went to Meet Putin - Barak Ravid
    A senior Israeli official said the main topic Netanyahu wanted to discuss with Putin was the cease-fire in southern Syria, the conditions of which have not been finalized. "There is really no agreement, but only understandings regarding areas where there will be a cease-fire between the Syrian army and the rebels who do not belong to ISIS or al-Qaeda. All the rest of the details are still coming together."
        "Therefore, this is the time to exert an influence and we want to make a quick and urgent effort to ensure that our security interests are protected." The official said Israel believes that any arrangement between Russia and the U.S. must ensure that anyone who is not Syrian leaves the country. (Ha'aretz)
  • Israel Detains 72 Palestinians for Temple Mount Riots
    Israeli police arrested 72 Palestinians in the past week who were involved in violent protests against Israel over the Temple Mount last month. Of those arrested, 43 have been charged so far for engaging in violent acts such as throwing rocks and firebombs and shooting fireworks at officers. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • The Iranian Threat in Syria - Brig. Gen. (res.) Udi Dekel and Carmit Valensi
    Israel views Iran's consolidation in Syria with concern. In southern Syria, Iran might deploy Hizbullah and other Shiite proxies at a distance that allows quick access to the Golan Heights. This would generate another front in a potential conflict between Hizbullah and Israel, in addition to the Lebanese front. Moreover, Syria could be turned into an Iranian logistical center, with infrastructures for the manufacturing of weapons, providing logistical support, and arming Iranian proxies throughout the region.
        Iran may also establish a Syrian Hizbullah by incorporating local Alawite units with Iraqi and Afghani Shiite militias, which would then seek to "liberate" the Golan Heights through guerilla activities along the border. Udi Dekel, managing director of INSS, was head of the Strategic Planning Division of the IDF General Staff. Dr. Carmit Valensi is a research fellow at INSS. (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • Bashar Assad's Pyrrhic Victory in Syria - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah
    Syrian President Bashar Assad has managed to survive the war at a huge economic cost, with almost half a million people killed, millions injured and handicapped, half the population displaced from their homes, and more than two million refugees in neighboring countries and Europe. The regime is in control of barely 40% of the country.
        Syria is now an Iranian-Russian satellite whose existence as a state depends on the military presence of its patrons. If Assad considers these developments to be a victory, then it can only be defined as a Pyrrhic one. The writer, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center, was Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • French Terrorism Expert Explains What Drives Young Europeans to Jihad - Davide Lerner
    Olivier Roy, one of France's top experts on Islamic terrorism, says, "An estimated 60% of those who espouse violent jihadism in Europe are second-generation Muslims who have lost their connection with their country of origin and have failed to integrate into Western societies." The result is a dangerous "identity vacuum" in which "violent extremism thrives." "Third generations are normally better integrated in the West and don't account for more than 15% of homegrown jihadis."
        "The large majority of al-Qaeda and Islamic State jihadis...commit suicide attacks not because it makes sense strategically from a military perspective or because it's consistent with the Salafi creed. These attacks don't weaken the enemy significantly....These kids seek death as an end-goal in itself."  (Ha'aretz)

The New Iranian Threat in Enriching Uranium Exposes the Weakness of the Nuclear Agreement - Alexandra Lukash and Nir Cohen (Ynet News)

  • Iran said Tuesday it needs five days in order to ramp up its uranium enrichment to 20%.
  • "If the Iranians can actually reach enriched uranium at 20%, it means that within a few weeks they'll be able to reach a reasonable amount at an even higher percentage - and then we'll have a problem," says Dr. Emily B. Landau, head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies.
  • "From the beginning, the (Iran nuclear) agreement was problematic. It is a weak agreement full of loopholes, and its problems are being exposed one by one. We now understand that in a few weeks or months they'll be able to stock up (on enriched uranium), so what did this agreement accomplish?"
  • "The attitude toward Iran's behavior must be changed: missile tests, increased presence in Syria, the transfer of weapons to Hizbullah, and the establishment of missile manufacturing plants in Lebanon and Syria. All these things must be answered with determination."
  • "Iran is acting in a way that allows us to predict its moves. The fact that it is rational does not mean that it is not aggressive, or that it does not have an agenda of regional hegemony. We slowly see how it expresses these (points). It spreads out, so that wherever anyone else leaves - Iran enters. We see this in both Iraq and Syria."

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