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  DAILY ALERT Tuesday,
December 12, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Preparing for War with Israel from Syria - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Iran is laying the groundwork to absorb tens of thousands of fighters of the Shiite Legion as they wind up the war against the Islamic State in Syria, in order to build a military infrastructure to pursue its jihad against Israel on the Lebanese and Golan Heights borders.
    During Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Day celebrations in June 2017, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah proclaimed that in the next war with Israel he would open Lebanon's borders to tens of thousands of fighters from Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and Iraq, so that they can fight Israel.
    On Dec. 9, 2017, it was reported that Qais al-Khazali, commander of the Iraqi Shiite militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq (League of the Righteous), toured the Lebanese-Israeli border accompanied by Hizbullah commanders.
    Al-Khazali was arrested in Basra in 2007 by the British SAS but was released in 2010 in a hostage exchange.
    Before U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq in 2011, Asaib Ahl al-Haq was involved in attacks that inflicted heavy casualties on allied forces.
    The writer, a senior research associate at the Jerusalem Center, served as military secretary to the Prime Minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff.

Iran Seeks to Institutionalize Its Militias in Syria - Alex Vatanka (Foreign Affairs)
    The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has established a strong presence in Syria over the last seven years through its various militias and local proxies.
    The IRGC's goal is to eventually turn the Syrian militias currently under its control into semi-state actors that will become permanent instruments of Iranian influence in Syria, akin to how Hizbullah operates in Lebanon.
    Moreover, IRGC commander Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari has claimed that IRGC-controlled economic enterprises, which can work directly under the protection of IRGC-controlled militias, are the best candidates to manage reconstruction projects in Syria.
    From a broader Syrian perspective, however, it is hard to see how enduring peace can return to the country if armed local groups answerable to an aggressive, ideological foreign organization such as the IRGC continue to play a critical role in the political process.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and the Jamestown Foundation in Washington.

Iranian Leaders Vow to Back Hamas in Fight Against Israel (Times of Israel)
    Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Monday, as Iran vowed to back the terror group in fighting Israel.
    Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' Quds Force, also spoke Monday with Hamas military leaders, reassuring them that Iran will back Palestinians in their "resistance" to Israel, Iran's Press TV reported.

Saudi Arabia Lifts 35-Year Ban on Movie Theaters - Nicolas Parasie (Wall Street Journal)
    Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Culture and Information said Monday that commercial cinemas will start operating in early 2018, ending a ban imposed in the early 1980s.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • ISIS-Inspired Suicide Bomber Strikes New York City - Sarah Maslin Nir and William K. Rashbaum
    A would-be suicide attacker detonated a pipe bomb strapped to his body in the passageway connecting the Times Square and Port Authority subway stations in New York City on Monday. But the bomb failed to fully detonate and the attacker himself was the only one seriously injured. Three other people had minor injuries. The attacker, Akayed Ullah, 27, told investigators that the bomb was in retaliation for U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere. Ullah, from Bangladesh, arrived in the U.S. in 2011. (New York Times)
  • ICC Reports Jordan to UN Security Council for Not Arresting Sudanese President Bashir
    The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Monday it would refer Jordan to the UN Security Council for failing to arrest Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he visited Amman in March. The court issued arrest warrants for Bashir in 2009 and 2010 over his role in war crimes including genocide in Sudan's Darfur province. Jordan, as a member of the ICC, is obliged to carry out its arrest warrants. (Reuters)
  • Number of Salafists in Germany Increasing
    German domestic intelligence chief Hans-Georg Maassen said on Sunday that the number of people adhering to the fundamentalist Islamic ideology had "risen to an all-time high," with the German intelligence agency BfV saying there were 10,800 Salafists in Germany today compared with 9,700 in December 2016.
        The BfV said the movement's recruitment drives have left the streets and mosques, and that Salafists were instead being radicalized in small conspirative groups on the internet. The agency also pointed to the growing number of women's networks. Maassen also said Islamists from the North Caucasus region represented a major threat to security in Germany, with 500 extremists from Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia now thought to be living in Germany. (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • EU Will Not Advance Its Own Mideast Peace Initiative - Rina Bassist and Herb Keinon
    The EU will not be initiating a peace proposal of its own, but will wait to see where the U.S. proposals go, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was told during his meeting with EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said that while some are talking about a European initiative, "we are not looking at multiplying initiatives. There is no peace initiative, or attempt to restart peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, that can happen without engagement from the United States."
        Netanyahu later said that Europe must "stop pampering the Palestinians." He said that while the EU is constantly raising with him the question of settlements, he asked them how often they raise with the Palestinians the question of their failure to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Intercepts Rocket Fired from Gaza at Ashkelon - Yoav Zitun and Matan Tzuri
    Israel's Iron Dome missile-defense system intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza at the city of Ashkelon on Monday. In retaliation, Israeli tanks and planes attacked Hamas military positions in northern Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • Video: Palestinian Ambulance Seen Transporting Rioters
    A Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance has been filmed dropping off several rioters at a demonstration in Ramallah on Monday. IDF Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, wrote to the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross: "A Red Crescent ambulance was documented aiding Palestinian rioters in Ramallah, under the guise of providing medical treatment. I view this with the utmost severity and demand the incident be investigated."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Trump's Declaration on Jerusalem Violates No International Norms - Oded Eran and Robbie Sabel
    The Trump declaration on Jerusalem contains no violation of (non-binding) UN resolutions and no deviation from traditional U.S. policies. Trump stated, "We [the U.S.] are not taking a position of any final status issue, including the specific boundaries of Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem or the resolution of contested borders." He carefully refrained from making any declaration as to the status of east Jerusalem or of the Muslim holy places. The declaration simply recognized the reality that Jerusalem, without defining its territorial extent, is Israel's capital.
        Heads of states, including those of Arab states and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, have been received by their Israeli counterparts in Jerusalem. Ambassadors from Jordan and Egypt have presented their credentials to Israel's president in Jerusalem.
        In the last 70 years, the only UN resolutions passed concerning Jerusalem referred to the status of "east" Jerusalem. No UN resolution has questioned Israeli sovereignty over west Jerusalem, or of Jerusalem as being Israel's capital. Hence, President Trump's declaration was not violating any international rule or norm, and was reflecting a legal and physical reality.
        Dr. Oded Eran was Israel's ambassador to Jordan (1997-2000), ambassador to the EU (2002-2007), and head of Israel's negotiations team with the Palestinians (1999-2000). Prof. Robbie Sabel was Legal Advisor to Israel's Foreign Ministry (1985-1993) and an Israeli representative to peace talks with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians. (Ha'aretz)
  • Why the "Arab Street" Didn't Explode - Ralph Peters
    In the wake of President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the "experts" predicted strategic calamity: vast, violent protests and a wave of terror would sweep the Muslim world. Rather than waves of protest, the waiting world got tepid statements of disapproval from otherwise-occupied Arab governments and demonstrations in the West Bank and Gaza of a few thousand activists. An act of justice for Israel did not ignite Armageddon.
        The regional ambitions of Iran, Israel's top enemy, have ironically made it Israel's unintentional benefactor. To the Arabs, yesteryear's Israeli boogeyman now looks more like Caspar the Friendly Ghost. And blame the Palestinians, not Israel, for their lack of statehood. Since the failed 1948 Arab assault on newly reborn Israel, the Palestinians have had literally dozens of opportunities for an advantageous peace.
        Will there be more terrorism? Sure. As there would have been more terrorism, anyway. Terrorism isn't about us, it's about them. If Arab leaders refuse to let the "Palestinian question" shape their policies, why should we allow it to deform ours? (New York Post)
  • Fears of Arab Violence over Jerusalem Are Overblown - Haisam Hassanein
    We have heard all the talk about violence when the U.S. acknowledges Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The coming days and months will prove those warnings to have been overblown. Yes, there will be protests, but Arab governments criminalize free speech and right to assemble. Any protests, the ensuing violence, and rioting are likely to be staged or permitted by Arab governments to blackmail the U.S. policy community into following their views, which unfortunately previous U.S. administrations have tolerated.
        The more likely reality is that, in this Arab Spring world, Arab citizens are less likely to protest and die for the cause of Palestinians. They would rather focus on making a living. Those who do protest will be driven by a political agenda that denies Israel's right to exist outright and are fundamentally hostile to the U.S.  Moreover, many of the protests are likely to be led by Iranian proxies in Arab states. We cannot let the Iranian-led axis dictate U.S. foreign policy. The writer is a Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. (New York Daily News)

The Sunni Arab States Are Tired of the Palestinians' Refusal to Negotiate with Israel - Tom Gross (Mideast Dispatch Archive)

  • President Trump's move regarding Jerusalem, far from ending peace talks - which in any case have hardly been going anywhere for years - will more likely revive them.
  • The Arab governments in particular have had enough of Palestinian intransigence. They are much more concerned now about the Iranian threat and their own domestic problems, and many want to be rid of the Palestinian issue which is no longer as politically useful for them as it used to be. Speak to them in private as I do, and you will hear this time and again. The Sunni Arab states want and need cooperation with Israel and are tired of the Palestinians' refusal to even negotiate with Israel.
  • Nowhere in world history, to my knowledge, has the party that lost militarily (and in this case it would be the Palestinians) been allowed to dictate the terms of the peace. Israel should be generous to the Palestinians so the peace will hold, but I believe it is the international community that has done a disservice to the Palestinians by encouraging them to believe that they can dictate the terms of peace and therefore not compromise.
  • Can you imagine the Tibetans, or Kurds, or Chechens saying "no" if they were offered independence on 98% of the land that they said they wanted. And yet the Palestinians have said "no" and walked away from negotiations when they have been made similar offers by Israel.
  • President Obama, who was generally well disposed to the Palestinian cause, pleaded with them to negotiate, as did his secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. Yet in those entire eight years, President Abbas agreed to sit down for only about four hours with the Israelis.

    The writer, a British-born journalist and human rights campaigner, is a former Jerusalem correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph.

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