January 1, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

This Time in Iran It's Serious - Menashe Amir (Israel Hayom)
    The current protests in Iran have quickly spread while morphing into mass demonstrations. The protesters are openly calling for the leader to be removed and for the regime to fall.
    The protesters are unequivocally demanding the cessation of financial support for Hizbullah, Hamas and the tyrannical Syrian regime.
    They are shouting "Death to the dictator," "Khamenei next," "Leave Syria and take care of the Iranian people," "Let go of Palestine," and "Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I'd give my life only for Iran."
    The lifting of sanctions, which should have boosted the country's economy, has failed to do so. The protesters accuse the regime of stealing vast sums of money from the pensions of ordinary Iranians.
    The writer is former head of the Israel Broadcasting Authority's Persian language division.

Protests Spread across Iran - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Since Dec. 28, 2017, thousands of Iranians have been demonstrating across the country against the Islamic regime in the most widespread demonstrations in Iran since 2009.
    Although it is not clear at this point who is behind the demonstrations, the fact that they have "spontaneously" erupted at a number of locations suggests a guiding hand that has organized them.
    Even if the Iranian regime succeeds in suppressing the current wave of protest, the next wave is already in the making.
    The Iranian people yearn for an improvement of their living conditions, and the current Iranian regime cannot meet their demands with its adventurous foreign policy and export of the revolution.
    At the same time, the Revolutionary Guards will not give up any power without a violent struggle to preserve their share.
    The writer is a senior Iran affairs analyst at the Jerusalem Center.

Turkish Base in Sudan a Problem for Saudi Arabia, Egypt - Sami Moubayed (Gulf News-Dubai)
    Iran presently controls the strategic Al Hodeida port of Yemen, via its proxy Al Houthi militia, posing a direct threat to Saudi Arabia.
    Last October, Turkey established a military base in Somalia, months after deploying nearly 5,000 troops in Qatar - which is being used by Iran to pressure Saudi Arabia.
    Last week, Ankara was given full rights to rehabilitate the port island/town of Suakin in northeastern Sudan, with a naval dock for both civilian and military vessels on the Red Sea.
    The former Ottoman port served as a transit point for pilgrims crossing the Red Sea to Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
    The Saudis are concerned that the Iranians will use the new Turkish base in Sudan to send more arms and equipment to the Houthis, while the Egyptians see it as a base for further Turkish meddling in the affairs of Egypt through the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, which remains firmly allied to Ankara.
    See also Why Is Sudan's Suakin Island Important for Turkey? - Ali Topchi (TRT World-Turkey)

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran's Leaders Face Challenge over Mounting Protests - Aresu Eqbali and Asa Fitch
    Iran's biggest wave of street protests in almost a decade, which began Thursday, is presenting a mounting challenge to the country's leadership, as demonstrations mushroomed Sunday. Video shared on social media showed unrest Sunday in dozens of cities including Tehran, Mashhad, Shiraz, Sandanaj, Kermanshah, Isfahan, and Chabahar.
        Some videos showed large numbers of people in the streets chanting against Khamenei and in some cases clashing with security forces. The precise scale of the protests was difficult to judge because foreign media access to the country is tightly controlled.
        "We support the right of the Iranian people to express themselves peacefully," White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Sunday. "Their voices deserve to be heard. We encourage all parties to protect this fundamental right to peaceful expression and to avoid any actions that contribute to censorship."
        "It's the most antiregime event I've ever seen," said Alireza Nader, a senior researcher at the Rand Corp. in Washington. "People are not calling for reforms....Their anger is directed toward the entire establishment."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Few Ready to Pay to Rebuild Iraq after Islamic State Defeat - Susannah George and Lori Hinnant
    Mosul's Old City is a crumpled landscape of broken concrete and metal. Every acre is weighed down by tons of rubble, much of it laced with explosives and unexploded ordnance. Billions of dollars will be needed to rebuild nationwide in Iraq, but so far no one is offering to foot the bill. The Trump administration has told the Iraqis it won't pay for a massive reconstruction drive.
        The areas with the worst destruction are largely Sunni, while the Baghdad government is Shiite-dominated. Two years after Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's western Anbar province, was retaken from ISIS, more than 70% of the city remains damaged or destroyed. "We haven't received a single dollar in reconstruction money from Baghdad," said Ahmed Shaker, a member of the Anbar provincial council. "When we ask the government for money to rebuild, they said: 'Go ask your friends in the Gulf'" - a reference to fellow Sunnis.
        After the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein, the U.S. pumped $60 billion over nine years into Iraqi reconstruction. Critics say the money did little to prevent political disarray and the rise of militants in Iraq. About $8 billion was wasted through corruption and mismanagement, according to the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said the U.S. is no longer in the business of "nation-building."  (AP-Military Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Troops Face Palestinian Rioters on Gaza Border - Ron Ben Yishai
    The IDF doesn't allow the Palestinians in Gaza to approach the border fence. On the other side of the fence on Friday were hundreds of Palestinian rioters. Not far from the fence are Hamas and Islamic Jihad observation towers. The job of the armed men standing inside them is to make sure things don't get out of control. Hamas wants protests that look good on camera, but not battles that lead to escalation.
        A group breaks away from the front row of Palestinians and runs forward towards the fence to sabotage it. IDF snipers ask for authorization to fire. Only the brigade or the battalion commanders are allowed to authorize live fire. And even then, it's only at the legs.
        At six other active hotspots of clashes along the border, events are playing out based on the exact same rules: Burning tires, cries of "Allahu Akbar," Palestinians running towards the fence and trying to sabotage it and fly Palestinian flags next to it, IDF sniper fire and Israeli jeeps launching tear gas grenades. Hamas has decided not to push things too much. The number of protesters is smaller than before.
        Earlier Friday, two rockets were fired by Salafi groups towards an area where a ceremony was being held in memory of IDF soldier Oron Shaul, whose body is being held by Hamas. The Katyusha rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile-defense system. A mortar shell was also fired and it hit an Israeli home in a border community, causing damage to the structure. (Ynet News)
        See also Gaza Mortar Fire Shows More Iranian Involvement - Anna Ahronheim
    The mortars fired at southern Israel on Friday show increased Iranian involvement in Gaza, former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon told Army Radio on Sunday. "There is a rise in Iranian involvement in Gaza in support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad...and to blame Iran was correct." According to Ya'alon, Iran and Hizbullah feel more confident because of their success in Syria and have begun paying more attention to Israel.
        "Iran is the only one lending us military support," Hamas Politburo deputy chairman Saleh al-Arouri said Saturday, adding, "Our relations with Hizbullah are wonderful and there is a readiness on their part to supply everything we need for a military campaign against Israel."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Another Day in Sderot - David Farer
    The alarm in Sderot is not a siren, but rather the recording of a woman's voice, repeating "Tzeva Adom (Color Red)." This is usually followed by an almost simultaneous "Whoosh" that sounds like a Boeing jet flying through our living room as a pair of Iron Dome rockets blast off and up to destroy a missile that might well have struck our home. Often, bits of flaming metal fall on Sderot, descending on parks and streets for children to collect the next morning. Every Sderot child has a little pile of Kassam and Iron Dome remains in his playroom. These rockets have been a part of Sderot childhood for 15 years.
        These steady rocket attacks on a civilian population have a cumulative effect over a period of years. Let no one say "nothing happened" because that night's rocket hit no home. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • New Protests in Iran - Editorial
    A durable truth about dictatorships is that their surface stability disguises discontent that needs only a spark to ignite. The demonstrations have grown into a broad display of discontent with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani's repressive regime.
        One notable theme are denunciations of the Islamic Republic's foreign adventurism. Iranians are frustrated that the mullahs are spending so much of their national wealth to build a Shiite version of the Persian empire to dominate the Middle East. Religious imperialism is expensive, as is the ballistic-missile development the regime continues despite the nuclear deal.
        Iranians need to know that the world supports their demands for freedom. (Wall Street Journal)
  • How the Security Council Failed the Syria Chemical Weapons Investigators and Victims - Edmond Mulet
    A few weeks after an April 4, 2017, sarin gas attack on Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, which killed approximately 100 and injured at least 200, I accepted the job to lead the investigative team. A Syrian government aircraft was flying over Khan Sheikhoun at the time of the attack, a chemical bomb was launched over the town, and its residents began dying within minutes. Rigorous work in a laboratory proved that a sarin precursor known as DF that was used in Khan Sheikhoun was identical to the sarin component produced and stored by the Syrian government.
        On Nov. 7, I reported to the Security Council that the investigators had found sufficient evidence to identify the Syrian government as responsible for the use of sarin in Khan Sheikhoun. On Nov. 16, Russia voted against a U.S. proposal that supported our findings and would have extended the investigators' mandate for a year. By Nov. 17, Russia had cast three vetoes to block the Security Council from extending our mandate. The writer is the former head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-UN Joint Investigative Mechanism. (New York Times)

Video: The Iran-Hamas Relationship - Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman (Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories - COGAT)

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman addressed the Palestinian population of Gaza on Thursday:
  • "After the Iranians managed to totally destroy Yemen, Sudan, Lebanon and Syria, they are starting to do precisely the same thing in Gaza."
  • "The regime leaders in Tehran have no interest in the sorry state of affairs in Gaza or the children's future there. What does interest them is extremist ideology and inflicting as much damage as possible to the State of Israel."
  • "After the Iranians arrive in Gaza, no international body will invest a penny there. After Operation Protective Edge [in 2014] we allowed the international community to construct projects at a cost of billions of dollars. If the Iranians become the dominant influence, no one will put up a penny."
  • [Hamas leaders] "Yahya Sinwar, Saleh al-Aruri and others are nothing but glorified salesmen for the Shiites - for the Iranians - in Gaza. They serve the interests of Iran and of the Revolutionary Guard. Saleh al-Aruri is under the patronage of Hizbullah in Lebanon."
  • "I suggest to you: think about your children, about their future, and begin to put pressure on the leaders of Hamas to change direction. At this point in time it's a road to nowhere. If you change direction, believe me, you will build here, first and foremost, a good future for your children. Start putting pressure on the Hamas leaders."