January 25, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Turkish Attacks on Kurds in Syria Could Reinvigorate Islamic State - Shelly Kittleson (Al-Monitor)
    With the Islamic State still in possession of bases in the vast Iraqi desert, counterattacks are of growing concern to the Iraqis.
    Security sources deployed to the area said that with the recent military campaign launched by Turkey in northern Syria against the Kurdish YPG, there is a risk that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), dominated by the YPG, might withdraw from their positions in eastern Syria to assist their fellow Kurds to the north.
    Such a development could make it easier for remaining ISIS forces in Syria to cross the border and cause trouble in Iraq.

Turkey's Expansionist Military Policies in the Middle East - Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Turkey's projection of its military presence in the Middle East has become a source of worry. There are Turkish forces deep inside Syrian and Iraqi territory.
    Turkey's military intelligence had been blamed by Egyptian authorities for being involved in the Sinai insurgency, siding with the Islamists, while Lebanese sources have mentioned the activities of Turkish agents in destabilizing Lebanon.
    In 2014, Turkey deployed a 4,000-strong military contingent in Qatar.
    In 2018, Turkey completed constructing a $50 million training base in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu to be run by the Turks for 5,000-10,000 recruits from Somalia and other African countries.
    Moreover, the Sudanese government agreed to lease the port of Suakin, along the Red Sea shore, to Turkey for restoration as a major military and civilian port. Suakin was once the naval headquarters of the Ottoman fleet in the Red Sea.
    The writer, an analyst for the Jerusalem Center, was Deputy Head for Assessment of Israeli Military Intelligence.

Arizona Attorney General Defends Israel Anti-Boycott Law - Howard Fischer (Payson Roundup-Arizona)
    Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is defending a 2016 law designed to prevent public dollars from going to firms that engage in boycotts of companies that do business with Israel.
    Brnovich said Arizona lawmakers have a legal and moral right to ensure that companies receiving public funds do not discriminate based on national origin.
    "When you have a close ally of the United States, where you have a key trading partner to the state of Arizona that has been under, quite frankly, constant attacks since 1948, I think the state does have a role. I think we do have a right to say, 'We stand with Israel.'''
    He said the state has acted reasonably to prevent commerce from being used as an economic weapon against Israel.
    "This is particularly true as the effect - and often goal - of BDS boycotts is to strengthen the hand of the Palestinian Authority at the expense of Israel.''

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump Warns Turkey Against Military Strikes in Syria - Gardiner Harris
    President Trump and Turkish President Erdogan spoke by phone on Wednesday as Turkish forces attacked Kurdish militias in Syria. Trump "urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces," the White House said.
        The Pentagon has maintained its support for the Kurdish militias fighting ISIS in eastern Syria. Without logistical support from Kurdish forces, the 2,000 American troops in Syria would be unable to continue in almost any effective role, according to senior military officials. (New York Times)
  • "We Are in Your Home": After Losses, ISIS Steps Up Campaign to Inspire Attacks - Joby Warrick
    Internet posts have been purporting to show Islamic State operatives casing landmarks in Western cities and urging followers to carry out attacks wherever they are. "It is time to harvest the heads," the narrator in one such video states.
        The Islamic State's propaganda machine remains very much alive three months after the fall of its capital in Raqqa, Syria. While the caliphate has been reduced to a handful of villages in the Syrian desert, the "virtual caliphate" fights on, a diminished but still formidable presence.
        Last week, the Islamic State's Amaq news agency issued its first English-language communiques since mid-September, just before the fall of Raqqa. The first weeks of 2018 have also seen a sharp rise in traffic on pro-Islamic State social media accounts compared with previous months. "The Islamic State is now showing the first signs of a regrouping media operation," said Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group that monitors jihadist content. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: U.S. Reexamining All Aid to Palestinians
    The State Department is reexamining the entirety of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority after an announced $100 million cut to UNRWA, Hadashot news reported Wednesday. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley reportedly wants the Palestinian leadership to pay for its attitude toward the U.S. government and President Trump. The U.S. gave $700 million to the Palestinians last year. (Times of Israel)
        See also Video: U.S. Right to Raise Questions about UN Refugee Agency for Palestinians - Dore Gold interviewed by Shannon Bream
    Former director-general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dore Gold said Tuesday, "There are a lot of people who have observed that UNRWA is not working. How many refugees were there at the end of World War II in Europe? Tens of millions. How many refugees are there today? Zero."
        "Take Palestinian refugees just a few years later. How many were there? Six hundred thousand? Today how many are there, according to UNRWA? Five million. This has to do with the fact that UNRWA has different "accounting" rules than any other refugee organization in the world. The United States has a right to raise questions like that."
        "In previous Israeli operations in Gaza - which came about because there were rocket attacks on us - what did we find in various UNRWA facilities? We found Hamas weapons. That's unacceptable. There are standards for how organizations like UNRWA should be run. Meet the standards and get the money."  (Fox News)
  • Arab Leaders Favor Resumption of Peace Talks despite Jerusalem Controversy - Gideon Kouts
    Arab leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, expressed optimism Wednesday about the possibility of renewing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. King Abdullah II of Jordan told Maariv that he would rather see the glass half full and focus on how relations with Israel can promote peace. Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir told Maariv that "[we] must wait for the American initiative. If it will have components that both parties can accept, it will be possible to renew negotiations."  (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Britain Needs to Wake Up to the Threat from Hizbullah - Gen. (ret.) Lord Richard Dannatt
    On Thursday, the House of Commons will debate the proscription of Hizbullah in its entirety. Abandoning the false distinction between the organization's "political" and "terrorist" wings would go a long way toward assuring our national interest.
        A few months ago, I completed a study of Hizbullah's military capabilities with a number of senior colleagues drawn from across Western militaries.  The terrorist group has gone to great lengths to expand and enhance its offensive capabilities, most notably through the acquisition of advanced rockets from Iran.
        Worse, in the south of the country, village after village has been turned into a permanent military compound, complete with tunnels, munitions holdings, and armed personnel. UNIFIL, the international peacekeeping force designed to prevent this outcome, is thoroughly outmatched. Moreover, the independence of the Lebanese Armed Forces has been eroded through infiltration by and co-operation with Hizbullah. The writer is a former Chief of the General Staff of the British Army. (Spectator-UK)
        See also Poll: Britons Support Full Hizbullah Ban by 44 to 10 - Justin Cohen (Jewish News-UK)
  • Should Ahed Tamimi Be Released on Bail? - Lt. Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch
    Should Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian female who was indicted for three counts of assault, slingshotting stones at law enforcement officers, and calling for the commission of terrorist attacks including suicide bombings, be released on bail?
        International law does not mandate the release of minors. In reality, international law recognizes that minors who commit violent offenses can be denied bail (see Article 37(b) of the Convention of the Rights of the Child).
        When juvenile judges consider granting bail, they take into account whether the event was a "first time offense" or was part of a continuous criminal pattern and whether the defendant is likely to pose a threat to society. The reality is, as noted in the indictment, that Ahed Tamimi is a serial offender, inciting to more violence. ("Whether it is a stabbing attack or suicide bombing or throwing rocks, everyone needs to do something.") These factors would, in most legal systems, warrant the denial of any bail.
        Tamimi's father was previously convicted of organizing the children of his village to violently ambush Israeli soldiers. Her mother has also been indicted for similar crimes. The writer served for 19 years in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps and was Head of Military Prosecution for Judea and Samaria (West Bank). (Times of Israel)

  • In a speech to the PLO last week, PA President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the British, Dutch, French, and Americans for having conspired, ever since the 1650s, to create a Jewish colonial outpost. He then cursed both President Trump and the U.S. Congress: Yehrab beitak ("May your house be razed").
  • These are the same things that Yasser Arafat and the PLO leadership have always believed. It is a worldview that reflects an abiding hatred for the West, blaming Christians and Jews not only for the founding of Israel but for every calamity that has befallen the Muslim and Arab world for centuries.
  • American administrations have sought to make a peace partner out of the PLO since President Ronald Reagan announced a dialogue with it in 1988. President Trump, Vice President Pence, and UN Ambassador Haley are pioneering an alternative policy, which can be summed up in Haley's words: "We're not going to pay to be abused."
  • For decades, Washington has crafted policies based on the tacit assumption that America needs the PLO if it is to bring peace to the Middle East. In its effort to "balance" the demands of this extremist organization against Israel's concerns, American policy inflated the PLO's importance, and it learned to tolerate and even embrace an organization whose views have always been profoundly anti-Western, not to mention anti-Semitic.
  • These policies did not bring peace to the Middle East. But they severed the ties between American diplomacy in the region and common sense - to the point that more than a few U.S. officials ended up believing that not only the PLO, but even Iran, whose parliament regularly curses the U.S., could be made a peace partner if it were paid handsomely enough.
  • In the relations between nations, it matters who blesses you and who curses you.

    The writer is president of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem.