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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
November 16, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Britain Preparing to Transfer 400 Million Pounds to Iran (Reuters-New York Times)
    Britain is preparing to transfer over 400 million pounds ($527 million) to Iran as it seeks the release of a jailed Iranian-British aid worker, the Telegraph reported Wednesday.
    Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was sentenced to five years after being convicted by an Iranian court of plotting to overthrow the clerical establishment.
    The funds are related to a disputed arms deal in the 1970s.

Rebuffing Palestinians, FIFA Says It's "Not a Playground" for Politics (Times of Israel)
    Unrelenting Palestinian efforts to have Israel sanctioned by FIFA over Israeli soccer clubs in the West Bank have deeply angered the world soccer organization, according to a Tuesday report from Israel's Hadashot news.
    FIFA President Gianni Infantino sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, saying his organization was tired of being pulled into internal political matters.
    "We are not the playground of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," he wrote.

Miss Israel and Miss Iraq Pose Together on Instagram (Times of Israel)
    "This is Miss Iraq and she's amazing," enthused Miss Israel Adar Gandelsman in her Instagram post from the Miss Universe international beauty pageant.
    Gandelsman, 19, is currently in the middle of her military service. Miss Iraq Sarah Idan, 27, now lives in the U.S. and so may be freer to associate with Israelis than other Arab contestants.
    See also Miss Iraq Defends Joint Pic with Miss Israel as Message of Peace - Dov Lieber (Times of Israel)
    Miss Iraq Sarah Idan on Wednesday defended her decision to pose for a photo with her Israeli counterpart and to post the joint selfie online, saying it was an expression of a desire for peace.

Two Ex-Nazi Camp Guards Charged over Hundreds of Deaths (AFP)
    German prosecutors investigating Nazi-era crimes said on Wednesday they had charged two former SS officers in their 90s with complicity in hundreds of murders at the Stutthof concentration camp.
    Some 65,000 people died at Stutthof, which Nazi Germany set up in 1939 outside the Polish city of Gdansk.
    The two are accused of involvement in the mass killing of 100 Polish prisoners in a gas chamber at the camp and of another 77 wounded Soviet prisoners of war.
    They are also accused of participating in the extermination of hundreds of Jews.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. House Committee Advances Bill to Limit Aid to Palestinians
    The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would sharply reduce the $300 million in annual U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority unless it stops making payments that reward violent crimes. The legislation was amended to allow exceptions such as continued funding for wastewater projects and children's vaccinations.
        The Taylor Force Act, named after an American military veteran fatally stabbed by a Palestinian while visiting Israel last year, is intended to stop the PA from paying stipends, which can reach $3,500 per month, to militants killed or imprisoned by Israeli authorities. The family of Force's attacker receives such a monthly payment. (Reuters)
  • House Panel OKs Bill to Sanction Financial Backers of Hamas - Richard Lardner
    The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee delivered a blunt bipartisan warning to Qatar on Wednesday, backing legislation that would slap sanctions on any countries or individuals providing financial and material support to Hamas. The bill specifically criticized Qatar for backing Hamas and hosting senior members of the militant group. The legislation cited a Treasury Department report that said Qatar "has for many years openly financed Hamas."
        Qatar is home to al-Udeid Air Base, the forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command where 10,000 U.S. troop are stationed as part of the campaign against Islamic State and the war in Afghanistan. (AP-U.S. News)
  • France Pursues Tough Line on Iran Missile Program - John Irish
    France said on Wednesday it wanted an "uncompromising" dialogue with Iran about its ballistic missile program. "France is concerned about the continued pace of the Iranian missile program, which does not conform with (UN) Security Council Resolution 2231 and which is a source of destabilization and insecurity for the region," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Romatet-Espagne said.
        "France wishes to examine all the diplomatic options: a frank and uncompromising political dialogue with Iran; investigations by the UN General Secretariat; if necessary, new European sanctions against Iranian entities or individuals involved in the ballistic program; and finally opening a negotiation on the subject."
        Paris has already suggested that new European sanctions against Iran could be discussed over its missile tests. On Sunday, Iran rejected a call by French President Emmanuel Macron for talks on its missiles. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Defense Minister: We Will Not Allow Syria to Become an Iranian Outpost - Anna Ahronheim and Michael Wilner
    Responding to comments made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Iran's presence in Syria was "legitimate," Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday, "We maintain absolute freedom of action, and the only considerations that guide us are the security considerations of Israel. With regard to Iran, we will simply not allow for Shi'ite consolidation and Iranian entrenchment in Syria, nor will we allow Syria to become a forward operating base against the State of Israel."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also below Observations: Southern Syria Deal Fails to Constrain Iran, Al-Qaeda (Institute for the Study of War)
  • Why Islamic Jihad Won't Attack Israel Right Now - Muhammad Shehada
    Islamic Jihad in Gaza received a green light from their top leaders in Damascus to retaliate against Israel's attack on one of their main tunnels, which led to the death of several of their leaders. Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders in Gaza, however, are convinced that now isn't the time for a direct conflict with Israel that would bring more devastation to Gaza.
        Hamas' Gaza chief, Yahia al-Sinwar, is deeply invested in the success of the delicate process of Palestinian reconciliation. Thus, Hamas leaders have exerted great pressure on Islamic Jihad to maintain self-control. The end-of-November meeting of Palestinian factions in Egypt makes it even harder for Islamic Jihad to undertake an act that would squarely put further escalation solely on its shoulders. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • What Is Wrong with the European "Iran Policy?" - Former Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Maria Terzi
    Despite multiple indications that Iran has been violating the letter and the spirit of the JCPOA, many European countries remain resistant to challenging the Iranian regime. Immediately following the Trump Administration's refusal to recertify the JCPOA on Oct. 13, 2017, European leaders, in a chorus, stood by the Iranian regime. Their calls came under the pretense of security, yet failed to recognize Iran's destabilizing aggression in the Middle East, the refugee crisis it enabled in Syria, and its continued threat to individual, regional, and global security.
        The Trump Administration's decision, though unpopular with those in Europe seeking to do business with Iran, was a necessary step toward curbing the regime. It should serve as a reality check to businesses seeking to engage Iran, sending a clear message that doing so aids and abets the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and risks isolation from the American market.
        It would be wise for European governments and institutions to undertake an in-depth review of their approach toward Iran. The writer, a senior adviser to United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), previously served as Foreign Minister of Italy, Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN, and Italian Ambassador to the U.S. and Israel. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also German Politicians under Fire for Rolling Out Red Carpet for Iranian Business - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
  • The NGOs that Wrote the House Bill on Palestinian Children's Rights
    On Nov. 14, U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) and nine others proposed legislation "to prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military's ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children." The initiative reflects extensive lobbying by prominent pro-BDS NGOs. McCollum's draft legislation is based entirely on the false reports from many of these same NGOs, most prominently Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCI-P).
        DCI-P has alleged links to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). DCI-P board members Shawan Jabarin, Nassar Ibrahim, and Dr. Majed Nassar all have alleged affiliations with PFLP, which is proscribed as a terror organization by the U.S. and the EU. (NGO Monitor)
        See also No Way to Represent a Child: Defense for Children International-Palestine's Distortions of the Israeli Justice System (NGO Monitor)

Southern Syria Deal Fails to Constrain Iran, Al-Qaeda - Genevieve Casagrande, Patrick Hamon, and Bryan Amoroso (Institute for the Study of War)

  • The "de-escalation zone" in Syria brokered by the U.S, Russia, and Jordan will ultimately allow Iran to preserve its safe haven in Southern Syria.
  • Iran and Lebanese Hizbullah initially withdrew many of their foreign forces from areas along the Syrian-Jordanian border after the zone went into effect on July 9. However, Iran left behind friendly local paramilitary groups and a small number of foreign fighters to continue to cultivate and recruit local groups not covered by the exclusion zone but ultimately subordinate to Iran.
  • Iran is also continuing its build-up on the outskirts of this zone, which places its forces less than an hour drive from the Golan Heights.
  • Israeli officials have stressed that the deal does not meet their "unequivocal demands" to bar Iran and its proxies from the Golan. The deal likewise will not prevent Iran from developing permanent military basing in Syria, another Israeli red line.
  • Al-Qaeda has exploited the "de-escalation zone" to develop a new durable safe haven along the Syrian-Jordanian border for its Syria affiliate Hay'at Tahrir al Sham (HTS).
  • The Trump Administration issued orders that will reportedly end all covert support to opposition groups in Syria by December 2017. The cutoff will lead to the cancellation of salaries for thousands of rebel fighters across Southern Syria. HTS is positioning itself to fill this vacuum.

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