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  DAILY ALERT Thursday,
December 21, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Chinese Troops Arrive in Syria to Fight Chinese Muslim Uyghur Rebels - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Chinese Army special forces from the "Night Tigers" unit have been dispatched by Beijing to Syria to fight the Uyghurs, the Muslim Chinese ethnic group in the rebel forces fighting the Assad regime, Arab media close to Assad reported.
    The Chinese military has been present in Syria since mid-2016 to train Syrian forces on Chinese-made weapons and contain the possible flow back to China of hundreds of Uyghur fighters, fully trained for guerrilla warfare.
    The writer, a special analyst for the Middle East at the Jerusalem Center, was Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

Russia Speeds Up Naval Base Expansion in Syria - Taha Abed Al Wahed (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Russia aims to transform the Tartus naval base on Syria's Mediterranean seacoast, which has been used by the Russian navy since the early 1970s, into a major hub able to host Russian fleet vessels, including nuclear submarines.

Muslim Migrants Behind Rise in Anti-Semitism - Roger Boyes (The Times-UK)
    School textbooks in Syria make uncomfortable reading. Jews, pupils are told, reject Allah's divine truth, their state is illegitimate, and Israeli occupation of Arab lands is a crime.
    A 25-year-old Syrian, whatever his views of Bashar al-Assad, will have been brought up with these unquestioned views.
    We are seeing the results of this in Europe today. Anti-Semitism is on the rise, especially in countries that took in large numbers of migrants from Arab countries.
    The Jewish community was among the first to argue the moral case for taking in Syrian refugees because of the historical memory of the flight from the Holocaust.
    Yet some frustrated refugees who thought they were heading to a better world, not a bunk bed in an old army barracks, are taking out their anger on, yes, Jews.

Egypt Struggles with "Catastrophic" Population Growth (AFP)
    With 96 million inhabitants - and 9.4 million expatriates - Egypt adds 1.6 million people every year.
    At the current rate, Egypt's population will reach 119 million in 2030, according to the UN.
    Abu Bakr el-Gendy, the head of Egypt's state statistics bureau, said, "the more poverty increases, the more the reproduction rate increases because parents consider children as a source of income," with many children joining the labor market at an early age.

Sea of Galilee to Be Replenished with Desalinated Water (Times of Israel)
    With the Sea of Galilee dropping to dangerously low levels as Israel faced a fifth year of reduced rainfall, Israel's Water Authority will begin pumping desalinated water into the freshwater lake, Hadashot TV reported Monday.
    Last year, northern Israel received just 10% of the average winter rain.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump Hints at Cutting Foreign Aid over UN Vote on Jerusalem - Louis Nelson
    President Donald Trump said at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday: "For all of these nations that take our money and then they vote against us at the Security Council or they vote against us, potentially, at the [UN General] Assembly, they take hundreds of millions of dollars and even billions of dollars and then they vote against us. Well, we're watching those votes. Let them vote against us. We'll save a lot. We don't care. But this isn't like it used to be where they could vote against you and then you pay them hundreds of millions of dollars."
        "I like the message that [UN Ambassador] Nikki [Haley] sent yesterday at the United Nations." Trump said he had received "a lot of good comment on it" and promised that "we're not going to be taken advantage of any longer."  (Politico)
  • Haley: We Must "Expose and Hold Accountable the Iranian Regime's Hostile Actions"
    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council on Tuesday: "The Secretary-General's fourth report on the Iranian regime's lack of full compliance with Resolution 2231...makes the case that Iran is illegally transferring weapons. I know many Member States put a lot of effort into the nuclear agreement with Iran. But that should not allow us to look the other way at the very serious non-nuclear items like sales of arms, ballistic missile testing, and support for terrorism."
        "This report...points to evidence of the Iranian origin of missiles fired from Yemen into Saudi Arabia this year. It notes that arms seized by the United States from a ship in the Gulf of Oman were identical to those previously seized by France, which the UN had concluded were of Iranian origin."
        "Iran's destabilizing behavior is only growing. It will continue to grow unless we raise the cost of defying the international community. International peace and security depend on us working together to expose and hold accountable the Iranian regime's hostile actions....We must not allow ourselves to be held hostage to the nuclear agreement or treat Iran any different than we would any other country violating a resolution."  (U.S. Mission to the UN)
        See also Trump: Iran Enabled Missile Attack on Saudi Arabia
    President Donald Trump spoke Wednesday with King Salman of Saudi Arabia following the ballistic missile attack against the king's official residence, al-Yamamah palace, on Dec. 19 - an attack enabled by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. (White House)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Terror Cell Planned to Kidnap Knesset Member, IDF Arabic Spokesman - Itay Blumenthal
    A Hamas terror cell arrested by the Israel Security Agency planned to kidnap Likud MK Yehuda Glick and IDF Arabic-language spokesman Maj. Avichay Adraee, according to indictments filed against three Palestinians on Wednesday. After researching their targets, they later changed their plans and decided to try to kidnap an Israeli soldier or civilian instead.
        Glick survived an attempt on his life on October 30, 2014, after he was shot and seriously wounded in Jerusalem by Islamic Jihad member Mutaz Hijazi. Maj. Adraee is one of the more well known figures in the Arab media with more than 1 million followers on Facebook. (Ynet News)
  • IDF Trains Soldiers to Deal with Provocations by Palestinian Civilians - Yoav Zitun
    After a video went online showing two Palestinian women hitting and kicking IDF soldiers in an effort to provoke a reaction out of them, a senior IDF officer explained Tuesday the challenges soldiers serving in the West Bank face on a daily basis while dealing with the Palestinian population. The two young women were later arrested, and the army has instructed its forces to arrest such provocateurs on the spot.
        "The video doesn't show what happened before that - the soldiers were there because there was violent rioting," the officer said. "The soldiers' response should be praised for the way they acted: professionally and ethically." Soldiers now participate in workshops that include simulations of such incidents and the results can be seen in the field. Since January 2017, troops in Hebron have arrested 58 Palestinians carrying knives without firing a single shot. "There are dozens of incidents in the different sectors, provocations done by radicals on all sides, sometimes a few times a day," the officer said. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • Will Saudi Arabia Push Abbas to Curb Campaign Against Trump? - Ben Lynfield
    PA President Mahmoud Abbas met on Wednesday with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, seeking support for his efforts to reject President Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital. But Israeli analysts say the Saudis, given their close alliance with the U.S., are likely to press Abbas to halt his campaign against Trump's move and show openness to American ideas for peacemaking.
        Gabriel Ben-Dor, a Middle East scholar at the University of Haifa, said, "The Saudis want Abbas to lower the flames and stop inflaming everyone against the U.S. and the recent pronouncement on Jerusalem. The Saudis want peace and quiet, they want the U.S. to play a prominent role in the Middle East, they want to weaken the radicals in the region, and the last thing they are interested in is the kind of rabble-rousing Abbas has been engaged in."
        "The Saudis have made a major decision to take on the Iranians in the fight for mastery of the Middle East, and they want to be allied with the U.S. in this huge effort, and everything else is subservient to this goal which is the primary force driving Saudi foreign policy today." Israel is seen by Riyadh as a "surreptitious strategic partner in the struggle with Iran. They would like to quiet down the entire Israeli-Palestinian issue to mobilize Arab support for standing up to Iran."
        Joshua Teitelbaum, a Saudi specialist at the BESA Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, said, "The Saudis are probably telling [Abbas] he should put the Jerusalem issue behind him and play ball with what the Americans are cooking up now; that there's no other game in town. That it's us and the Americans who are the only ones who can move the Israelis."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Reimagining a More Realistic "Peace Process" - Clifford D. May
    A "two-state solution" implies two states for two peoples - a Palestinian state and a Jewish state, peacefully coexisting. PA President Mahmoud Abbas, despite all these years of peace processing, hasn't accepted that premise.  Which is why, instead of negotiating, he has been orchestrating a campaign on the international stage to delegitimize Israel, to wage economic warfare against Israel (through the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions, or BDS, movement), and to cast doubt on whether the Jewish people has any historical connection or claim to Jerusalem. His goal has been to win recognition for a Palestinian state that would continue to battle Israel indefinitely, funded largely by European and American taxpayers.
        To be realistic, the peace process must start - not end - with Palestinians agreeing that Israel has a right to exist, that the Jews won't be driven from Jerusalem again. Until and unless Palestinians are led to the conclusion that the extermination of Israel is an impossible dream, they will not be willing to settle for less. The writer is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (Washington Times)

The Growing Risk of an Israel-Iran Confrontation in Syria - Brig. Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • In Israel, much attention has centered on Iranian plans for the establishment of a sphere of direct influence stretching from its borders to the Mediterranean, and the consolidation of a military front against Israel in Syria and Lebanon.
  • Iran strives to build and permanently deploy in Syria a sizable proxy army. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force built and increasingly leaned on semiregular militia forces including 100,000 Syrians in the locally based National Defense Forces, fashioned after the Iranian paramilitary Basij forces.
  • No less important are the non-Syrian militias of 20,000-25,000 Shia fighters belonging to Lebanese Hizbullah, Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces elements, the Afghani Fatemiyoun brigade, and the Pakistani Zainabiyoun brigade - all commanded by an Iranian contingent of 1,000-2,000 military personnel.
  • Iran is now working to establish a "Syrian Hizbullah," comprising tens of thousands of mostly Shia and Alawite members.
  • Israel views Iran's moves in Syria as a major long-term strategic threat. If realized, they would not only turn Syria into an Iranian protectorate, but also entrench Iran - a regime sworn to Israel's destruction - in a neighboring country, thereby enabling it to transform Syria into a terrorist and military front against Israel.
  • In a possible future military confrontation in its north, Israel will face not only an active Lebanese front but a Syrian one as well, where Israel expects to encounter battle-hardened Hizbullah and other "Shia legions," along with a rehabilitated Syrian army. These forces will all rely on the Iranian military presence, military infrastructure, and a substantial rocket arsenal, adding to Hizbullah's current arsenal of 120,000 rockets in Lebanon.
  • Countering Iranian plans in Syria would be much better served if Israel's deterrent actions fit within a broader, proactive U.S. strategy to block Iran in the region, rather than Israel shouldering most of the burden alone.

    The writer, a Fellow of The Washington Institute, is a former chief of staff to four Israeli ministers of defense.

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