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  DAILY ALERT Wednesday,
November 15, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Russia Says Iran's Presence in Syria Is Legitimate (Tass-Russia)
    "We state the fact of our and the Iranian legitimate presence [in Syria] at the invitation of the legitimate government," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday.
    Lavrov added that the withdrawal of pro-Iranian forces from Syria was not discussed at the talks with the U.S. on a de-escalation zone in Syria's southwest.
    "Seeking non-Syrian units' withdrawal from the line of engagement in this difficult region of Syria is that what we agreed on," he explained.

Iran Building "Syrian Hizbullah" near Israel - Dr. Yaron Friedman (Ynet News)
    Iran is quietly recruiting young Syrians to establish a militia battalion just 30 km. from the Israeli border.
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guards have set up headquarters in Izra in the Daraa Governorate to recruit Shiite and possibly other members of pro-Iranian minority groups for the 313th Brigade. 313 is the number of fighters that will arrive with the Mahdi, the Shiite messiah.
    The sense of victory among the Shiite militias supporting the Iraqi and Syrian armies against Islamic State has created a sense of euphoria and an expectation for the arrival of the messiah in Shiite religious circles.
    Iran is leveraging the Shiite revival for a battle against "the Zionist enemy."
    According to reports from locals, the new recruits, currently numbering 200, are well-equipped and are trained by Revolutionary Guards officers, assisted by Hizbullah operatives.
    This is the first time Iran is directly recruiting Syrian citizens. Up until now, the Iranian militias were made up of foreigners from Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Useful Reference:

Text: U.S. Amb. David Friedman's Speech to ZOA on Sunday (U.S. Embassy in Israel)

100 Missiles Launched at Saudi Arabia from Yemen Intercepted by Patriots - Barbara Opall-Rome (Defense News)
    Saudi Arabia-based Patriot batteries have intercepted more than 100 ballistic missiles launched from Yemen since the Saudi-led war against Iranian-backed Houthis began in 2015, according to U.S. prime contractor Raytheon.
    This number is much larger than publicly available data.

UN Authorizes Israel to Expand Tech Support in Central African Republic (Xinhua-China)
    The UN on Monday authorized Israel to expand its observation systems supporting the peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic to help improve security in the country.
    See also UN Extends Israeli Security Aid to Central African Republic Peacekeepers (UN Secretary-General)
    Since 2015, Israel has contributed both static and mobile observation systems to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).
    These capacities have proven highly successful in increasing situational awareness and preventing outbreaks of violence, including during the visit of Pope Francis, the election process in Bangui (CAR's capital) and many other events associated with potential security threats.
    The Department of Field Support thanks the Government of Israel for its continued support to UN peacekeeping.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Lawmakers Urge Trump Administration to Remove Iranian Presence from Syria - Adam Kredo
    A bipartisan group of Congressmen wrote to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday to warn that Syria is falling into Iran's hands and to urge the administration to present Congress with a plan for combating the Islamic Republic's foothold in Syria. They note intelligence that Iran is using Syria to establish weapons factories that arm Hizbullah. If the U.S. does not take immediate action to combat Iran's presence in Syria, it is likely to establish a permanent military foothold in the country, which would endanger U.S. troops and allies such as Israel.
        "The United States urgently needs a strategy for Syria that includes plans to prevent Iran from encroaching on Israel and Jordan, as well as blocking Iranian arms exports to Hizbullah," said Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.), one of the letter's authors. Others who signed the letter include Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also Text of Letter by 43 Congressmen on Iranian Presence in Syria (Washington Free Beacon)
  • Saudi Grand Mufti Forbids Fighting Against Jews, Israel Invites Him to Visit
    Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, responding to a question on television, said that fighting against Israel was inappropriate and that Hamas was a "terror organization."
        Israeli Communications Minister Ayoub Kara wrote on his official Twitter account on Monday: "We congratulate Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the head of Ulema (Islamic scholars), for his fatwa forbidding the fight against the Jews and forbidding to kill them. I invite the mufti to visit Israel; he will be welcomed with a high level of respect."  (Anadolu-Turkey)
  • FBI: Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Up in 2016
    The number of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the U.S. rose 3% in 2016 to 684, from 664 in 2015, according to the FBI. Anti-Semitic incidents accounted for just over half of all religious hate crimes. Religious hate crimes against Muslims totaled 307 in 2016. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Offers Quake Help to Iran, Iraq, But Immediately Turned Down - Raphael Ahren
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday offered humanitarian assistance to the victims of the earthquake that has killed hundreds in Iran and Iraq, but was immediately rebuffed. He told the Jewish Federations of North America's annual General Assembly in Los Angeles, via videoconference, "I directed that we offer the Red Cross medical assistance for the Iraqi and Iranian victims of this disaster."
        "I've said many times that we have no quarrel with the people of Iran. Our quarrel is only with the tyrannical regime that holds them hostage and threatens our destruction. But our humanity is greater than their hatred." An official in Netanyahu's office said the offer was immediately rejected. (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Terror Victims Visit White House, Say Killer's Family Will Get Palestinian Authority Stipend - Eric Cortellessa
    Michal Salomon - whose husband, father-in-law, and sister-in-law were brutally murdered by a Palestinian terrorist who broke into their home in July in Halamish in the West Bank - met President Trump's Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt in the White House on Tuesday. Salomon "expressed dismay that the [family of the] terrorist would be receiving compensation from the Palestinian Authority for his action," a senior White House official said.
        The U.S. Senate is to vote in December on the Taylor Force Act that would significantly cut U.S. funding to the PA if it doesn't stop paying monthly stipends to families of terrorists who kill Israelis. Supporters of the move argue that the payments encourage terrorism. (Times of Israel)
  • Israel Co-sponsors Saudi Resolution Against Syria - Itamar Eichner
    Israel on Tuesday for the first time co-sponsored a Saudi resolution at the UN Human Rights Council against the Assad regime in Syria, alongside the U.S., France and Germany. The measure passed 108 to 17 with 58 abstentions. The Syrian ambassador congratulated his Saudi counterpart for the fact Israel had joined the list of co-sponsors, saying it was a demonstration of the secret alliance between the two countries.
        Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon responded that "The Assad regime, with full support from Iran, has been slaughtering its people mercilessly and with incomprehensible cruelty for years. Israel, which for years has been providing humanitarian aid to Syrian civilians hurt by these atrocities, stands together with the international community against this murderous regime."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Israeli Minister Explains Refusal to Grant Entry to Anti-Israel Activists - Josh Breiner and Jonathan Lis
    Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday explained an Israeli decision to deny entry to seven members of a delegation of anti-Israel European officials. "In principle, it is always worthwhile trying to convince people that Israel is right, unless you know in advance that these people are not just fixed in their opinions but distort the truth, lie, and spread incitement against Israel - and that is exactly this case."
        He said the group wanted to visit Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader jailed in Israel for murder, and that they were also BDS activists who have promoted boycotts against Israel. Erdan noted that other countries do not allow entry to those whose goal is to harm their country. (Ha'aretz)
  • Analysis of the IAEA's Eighth Iran Nuclear Deal Report - David Albright and Andrea Stricker
    On Nov. 13, 2017, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released its eighth report on its verification and monitoring of the Iran nuclear deal. The report is once again so sparse in detail that it is impossible to conclude that Iran is fully complying with the JCPOA.
        The IAEA still has not pushed for access to military sites in Iran where military-related nuclear activities are alleged to have taken place. The IAEA's limited interpretation of its mandate to verify the JCPOA must be viewed as a stunning reversal of safeguards practices applied in countries such as South Africa and Taiwan, where it has periodically revisited sites associated with past nuclear weapons work. David Albright is founder and president of ISIS, where Andrea Stricker is a senior policy analyst. (Institute for Science and International Security)
  • Hizbullah, Crown Jewel of Iran's Spreading Influence - Tony Gamal-Gabriel
    Lebanon's Hizbullah has grown over the three decades since its founding into a mighty army used by Iran to project regional influence. "The most important Iranian tool in the region is Hizbullah," said Hilal Khashan, political science professor at the American University of Beirut. Hizbullah has trained Iraq's powerful Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces, Khashan said, and has "operatives" in Yemen's war to back Shiite Houthi rebels.
        Hizbullah has fought ferociously in Syria to defend the government of President Bashar al-Assad, also an ally of Iran. Its intervention in Syria's six-year conflict was a major turning point that helped Assad's troops retake swathes of territory. It also helped hone Hizbullah's own combat experience, transforming it from a guerrilla movement to a powerful fighting force with offensive capabilities.
        Hizbullah has been branded a "terrorist" organization by the U.S. and Gulf countries and targeted with economic sanctions. (AFP-France 24)

Back to Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations? - Some Basic Truths - Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • Any genuine and serious peace negotiating plan for Israel and the Palestinians should naturally be seen as a welcome alternative to the present situation of impasse in the peace process. However, the American peace plan should not be overestimated or idealized by exaggerated media hype and political manipulation.
  • To succeed, there is the necessity to correct many of the existing factors that are presently feeding an atmosphere of hatred, distrust, and suspicion among the political leaderships and general publics of the two sides.
  • First and foremost, the ongoing Palestinian diplomatic offensive against Israel is incompatible with any claim by the Palestinian leadership that it desires peace with Israel or that it intends to return to any negotiating mode.
  • Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian leadership repeatedly deny both the historic rights of the Jewish people as well as the very right of Israel to exist. They cannot claim that they are willing to negotiate and live in peace with Israel, while at the same time openly denying the very right of Israel, the other party to any bona fide negotiation, to exist.
  • They cannot pretend to be open to reestablishing a neighborly relationship with Israel while, at the same time, deliberately discouraging any existing efforts at normalization of relations with Israelis. Their "denormalization" policy is anathema to any idea of developing good neighborliness between the two peoples for their mutual benefit.
  • The Palestinian-generated international BDS campaign aimed at harming and undermining Israel economically and culturally through boycotts and social propaganda is a further example of the very antithesis of any genuine intention to seek a peaceful mode of co-existence.
  • If Abbas and the Palestinian leadership genuinely intend to return to a negotiating mode with Israel, they cannot continuously and systematically alienate the Israeli public through incitement to terror and violence, false accusations, and hostile propaganda in violation of their Oslo Accord commitments.

    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.

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