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October 16, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Says U.S. UNESCO Pullout Means "New Era" at UN (AFP)
    Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon said Thursday that Washington's decision to pull out of UNESCO marked "a new era" at the UN and showed there was a "price to pay for discrimination against Israel." 
    See also U.S. Quitting UNESCO "Sends Warning to Other UN Bodies over Granting Palestine Membership" - Tom Powell (London Evening Standard-UK)
    President Trump's decision to pull the U.S. out of UNESCO has sent a warning to other UN bodies over the "massive headache" accepting Palestinian membership could cause them, said Prof. Hugh Lovatt, an Israel/Palestine Project Coordinator at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Iran Blamed for Cyberattack on British Parliament (Telegraph-UK)
    Iran was responsible for a cyberattack on Parliament that hit dozens of MPs, including Prime Minister Theresa May, Whitehall sources said.
    The unprecedented cyberattack in June lasted more than 12 hours and compromised 90 email accounts.
    Intelligence officials have now concluded that Iran was responsible. In total, 9,000 email accounts were affected.

What Not to Expect from a Palestinian Unity Deal - Dalia Hatuqa (Atlantic)
    Several other reconciliation agreements have been signed over the past decade between Hamas and Fatah. This is a movie Palestinians have seen before. The agreement is signed, but not implemented on the ground.
    Abbas is aware that the PA's self-rule runs on the goodwill of Israel and on the financial support of the international community, which considers Hamas to be a terrorist group.
    Since the 1990s, the PA has morphed into a bloated bureaucratic patronage network on which a large cross-section of the Palestinian population depends for its livelihood.
    In its current incarnation, it's difficult to see a U.S. and EU funding mechanism for a unity PA that includes Hamas.

How Long Will the Latest Fatah-Hamas Reconciliation Agreement Last? - Alex Fishman (Ynet News)
    Israel views the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement signed on Thursday as having no chance of being realized, so there's no reason for Israel to waste energy on trying to sabotage it.
    Hamas retains its tunnels, labs, weapons factories, drones, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and naval commandos.
    There has been some talk of Hamas agreeing to halt its terror activity, but there is no mention of this in any joint Hamas-Fatah document, and the Israel Security Agency has detected no decline in the activity of Hamas' West Bank militant cells, quite the opposite.

Austrian Students Reject "Anti-Semitic" Boycott of Israel - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
    The Austrian National Union of Students on Friday passed a motion against BDS, saying that the boycott movement targeting Israel is anti-Semitic, and that its demands recall the Nazis' economic war against Jewish businesses.
    The resolution calls for not giving BDS any space or supporting funds. The resolution passed with no opposing votes and only one abstention.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iraqi Forces Begin Attack on Kurdish-Held City of Kirkuk - David Zucchino
    Iraqi state television said Monday that Iraqi forces had begun an operation to seize the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk and its surrounding oil fields. The Iraqi military operation would be the first use of military force by the government in Baghdad in response to an independence vote last month by the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
        Both the Iraqi Army and Kurdish peshmerga have been trained and equipped by the U.S. as part of the coalition battling Islamic State. Kurdish leaders vowed to fight any attempt by Iraqi forces to reclaim control of the Kirkuk area. The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, offered on Sunday to negotiate with Baghdad without conditions. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said he will not negotiate unless the Kurds annul the referendum results. (New York Times)
        See also Kurds Report Casualties in Iraqi Army Assault on Kirkuk
    Iraqi Kurdish officials said Monday that federal forces and state-backed militias had launched a "major, multi-pronged" attack aimed at retaking Kirkuk. Brig. Gen. Bahzad Ahmed, a spokesman for Kurdish forces, said that Iraqi troops had "burned lots of houses and killed many people" in Toz Khormato and Daquq, south of Kirkuk. (AP-Times of Israel)
        See also Iraq Orders Arrest of Kurdistan Election Officials over Independence Vote (BBC News)
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: "The Iran Agreement Does Not Achieve the Objective" - Jake Tapper
    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday: "What the president wants is a more comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran in its totality....We want to deal with the nuclear agreement's weaknesses, but we really need to deal with a much broader array of threats that Iran poses to the region, our friends and allies, and, therefore, threats that they pose to our own national security....Everywhere you look in the region, Iran's activities destabilize the region and threaten others."
        "This is not about the Iranian people. This is about the regime in Iran, this revolutionary regime that, ever since it came to power, has been intent on killing and harming Americans and harming others in the region."
        "We want to take the agreement as it exists today, as I said, fully enforce that agreement, be very demanding of Iran's compliance under the agreement, and then begin the process of addressing these flaws that we see around the absence of addressing ballistic missiles, for instance, the concerns we have around the sunset provisions, this phase-out of the agreement....The issue with the Iran agreement is, it does not achieve the objective. It simply postpones the achievement of that objective."  (CNN)
        See also UN Amb. Nikki Haley: U.S. Will Stay in Iran Nuclear Deal "Right Now" - Kailani Koenig
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, "I think right now you are going to see us stay in the [Iran] deal....It's not that we're getting out of the deal. We're just trying to make the situation better so that the American people feel safer."
        "What we're trying to say is, 'Look, the agreement was an incentive. The agreement was for you to stop doing certain things. You haven't stopped doing certain things.' So what do we do to make Iran more accountable so that they do?"  (NBC News)
        See also below Observations: A New U.S. Strategy to Address Iran's Destructive Actions - President Donald Trump (White House)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast: Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Palestinian Unification Must Honor Palestinian Commitments - Amb. Alan Baker
    One aim of Palestinian unification must be to enable a responsible and unified leadership, speaking with one voice and duly empowered, to further the peace negotiation process. This aim must be publicly declared and acknowledged by all Palestinian factions. If, to the contrary, the aim of the unification is to enhance and consolidate Palestinian opposition to peaceful coexistence with Israel, then this unification will undermine international efforts at reconciliation and negotiation.
        Such unification must also openly reaffirm the already existing and valid Palestinian commitments vis-a-vis Israel and the international community as set out in detail in the Oslo Accords. Above all, these commitments require dismantling all terror groups and infrastructures, together with a return to economic and security cooperation and a positive negotiating mode.
        Before blindly welcoming any such inter-Palestinian unification, international leaders should insist that the basic components for positive unification are included in any such agreement.
        The writer, a former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • How to Fix But Not Nix the Iran Deal - Robert Satloff
    It is wholly false for advocates of the Iran nuclear deal to argue that the JCPOA has halted, frozen, or suspended Iran's nuclear-weapons program. Critical aspects of the program are moving ahead, deal or no deal. Two years into the agreement, Iran's relentless pursuit of more effective ballistic missiles - one leg of a nuclear-weapons program - underscores its strategic decision to pursue the weapons option.
        One of the biggest flaws in the JCPOA was the expiration of all restrictions on Iran's enrichment of nuclear material 15 years into the agreement. To be sure, Iran argues that it remains forever bound by its commitment not to produce a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But if anyone believed that promise, there would have been little reason to negotiate the JCPOA in the first place. The writer is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (Atlantic)

A New U.S. Strategy to Address Iran's Destructive Actions - President Donald Trump (White House)

President Trump reviewed U.S. strategy toward Iran in an address from the White House on Friday:

  • "The regime remains the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks. It develops, deploys, and proliferates missiles that threaten American troops and our allies. It harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and in the Red Sea. It imprisons Americans on false charges. And it launches cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure, financial system, and military."
  • "Given the regime's murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future. The regime's two favorite chants are 'Death to America' and 'Death to Israel.'"
  • "In recognition of the increasing menace posed by Iran...I am announcing a new strategy to address the full range of Iran's destructive actions."
    • "First, we will work with our allies to counter the regime's destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region."
    • "Second, we will place additional sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror."
    • "Third, we will address the regime's proliferation of missiles and weapons that threaten its neighbors, global trade, and freedom of navigation."
    • "And finally, we will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon."
  • "The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act...requires the certify that the suspension of sanctions under the deal is 'appropriate and proportionate.' Based on the factual record I have put forward, I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification."
  • "Key House and Senate leaders are drafting legislation that would amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to strengthen enforcement, prevent Iran from intercontinental ballistic missile, and make all restrictions on Iran's nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law."
  • "As we have seen in North Korea, the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes. It is why we are determined that the world's leading sponsor of terrorism will never obtain nuclear weapons."

        See also Sen. McCain: Iran Has "Literally Been Getting Away with Murder" - Josh Delk (The Hill)

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