March 5, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

White House Accuses Russia of Killing Civilians in Syria - Phil Stewart (Reuters)
    The White House on Sunday said Russian military aircraft took off from Humaymim Airfield in Syria and carried out at least 20 daily bombing missions in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta between Feb. 24 and Feb. 28 in defiance of a UN ceasefire.
    "Russia has gone on to ignore (a UN ceasefire's) terms and to kill innocent civilians under the false auspices of counter-terrorism operations," a White House statement said.
    Government shelling and air strikes have killed 659 people in Eastern Ghouta since Feb. 18, while rebel shelling of Damascus has killed 27, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Palestinian Diplomat Hails Iran's Stance Against U.S., Israel (IRNA-Iran)
    Palestinian Ambassador to Iran Salah Zawawi said the stance of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei against the U.S. and Israel is "a source of pride."
    Zawawi said he is proud to live in a country which is keen on annihilation of the Zionist regime.
    He added that Israel is a "cancerous tumor" that should be removed.

Report: Hizbullah "Stopped Hamas from Building Military Base in Lebanon" (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
    Ma'ariv intelligence commentator Yossi Melman reported Saturday that Hizbullah has stopped Hamas from building "a military base in southern Lebanon to fire rockets at Israel without Hizbullah's knowledge."
    Hizbullah leaders were concerned about an escalation that would drag it into a military confrontation with Israel.

Pro-ISIS Teacher Tried to Recruit Children for Attacks in London - Michael Holden (Reuters)
    A British supporter of Islamic State was found guilty on Friday of trying to recruit children he was teaching into an "army" of jihadists to help carry out a wave of attacks across London.
    Umar Haque, 25, showed the children beheading videos and other violent militant propaganda, and made them role-play attacking police officers.
    Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said, "He tried and he did, we believe, radicalize vulnerable children from the ages of 11 to 14."
    Haque used the guise of teaching Islamic studies to groom 110 children into becoming militants at the Lantern of Knowledge, an Islamic school in east London.
    Haydon told the children he was part of ISIS and threatened that they would suffer the same fate as those in the militant videos he showed them if they told their parents or teachers.

Charges Dropped Against Lebanese Actor Accused of Spying for Israel - Shoshana Kranish (Jerusalem Post)
    Lebanon's Interior Minister announced on Friday that Ziad Itani, a Lebanese actor accused of spying for Israel on behalf of the Mossad, had been cleared of the charges against him.
    Lebanon's Internal Security Forces are investigating a former intelligence official who reportedly fabricated evidence that was used to arrest Itani, according to the Lebanese news site An-Nahar.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Video - Jerusalem Mayor: U.S. Embassy Move "Is Right Thing to Do"
    Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was asked on Friday if he was concerned about a rising tide of violence if the U.S. Embassy is moved to Jerusalem.
    Barket: "We're not concerned about doing the right thing - and the Americans announcing and actually moving the embassy is the right thing to do....We've learned that if we would be scared to do the right thing, there would never be Israel and there would never be a united city of Jerusalem....We're actually excited about the move and everybody is going to be very, very happy in Israel."
        "Everywhere you put a shovel in the ground in Jerusalem you find Jewish roots. The fact that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish people - you just read the Bible and you get it. So the fact that the United States recognizes this and moves the embassy is a very simple American decision to make and, with all due respect to everyone else, it's the United States' decision to make. The Congress made that decision decades ago, and they're just executing it. It's a very simple thing."
        "Unfortunately, some of our neighbors don't like us, and it's a tough neighborhood to be in. We know how to defend ourselves and we're not moved by threats."  (MSNBC)
        See also Video - Israeli Amb. Dermer at AIPAC: U.S. Decision to Recognize Jerusalem Punctures the Lie that Jews in Israel Are Foreign Colonists
    Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer told AIPAC on Sunday: "President Trump, in making his decision [to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital], punctured this great lie that the Jewish people are foreign colonialists in the Land of Israel....It means that the Jewish people are in our homeland by right, not simply by might."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Guatemala to Move Its Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May - Joe Sterling
    Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales told AIPAC on Sunday that his country will move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in May, two days after the U.S. moves its embassy. "It's important to be among the first, but it is more important to do what is right," Morales said. "We are sure that many other countries will follow in our steps."  (CNN)
  • Israel Seeks Stricter Sanctions on Iranian Missiles - Barak Ravid
    Israeli officials say Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to raise the issue of Iranian missiles at a meeting at the White House on Monday with President Trump. As part of "fixing" the nuclear deal with Iran, Israel says new sanctions and limitations should be placed on Iranian missiles with a range of more than 180 miles (300 km.) - including the precision missiles Iran is providing to Hizbullah.
        Israeli officials told me they were surprised to learn that the potential sanctions on the Iranian missile program being discussed concern only missiles with a range beyond 1,200 miles (2,000 km.) that can hit Europe and the U.S., and not with Iranian missiles that can hit Israel from Iran or from Lebanon and Syria via Hizbullah. Israel has conveyed its concerns to the U.S. and the Europeans.
        Israel's ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer told AIPAC on Sunday of the need "to make sure that these missiles are a part of any agreement, or at least are addressed. That would mean that if Iran continued to develop these missiles, that you would have crippling sanctions on Iran. Crippling sanctions mean sanctions on oil and sanctions on the financial sector. Those were the sanctions that actually created a huge problem for Iran. So if Iran is going to continue to develop its missile program we need to put those sanctions on." The writer is diplomatic correspondent for Israel's Channel 10 news. (Axios)
        See also France: Iran Risks New Sanctions over Missile Program
    France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Iran needed to address international concerns over its ballistic missile program or it risked new sanctions. "There are programs for missiles that can travel several thousand kilometers, which are not compatible with UN Security Council resolutions and which exceed the needs of defending Iran's borders," he told the Journal du Dimanche. (France 24)
        See also Iran Says It Will Negotiate on Missiles If West Dismantles Nuclear Arsenal
    Iran's state-run IRNA news agency on Saturday quoted armed forces spokesman Gen. Masoud Jazayeri as saying, "The precondition for negotiation over Iran's missiles is the dismantling of the U.S. and Europe's nuclear weapons and long-range missiles."  (AP-Military Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Three Israeli Security Forces Wounded in Car-Ramming Attack in Acre - Noa Shpigel
    In a car-ramming attack on Sunday in the northern Israeli city of Acre, a jeep hit a Border Police officer near the city market, then drove on and struck two IDF soldiers near the railway station. The driver, an Israeli Arab, was shot and is in critical condition. (Ha'aretz)
  • Video: Hamas Siphoning Off Electric Power in Gaza - Yoav Zitun
    Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai uploaded footage to his Facebook page showing Hamas operatives hooking up illicitly to a Gaza power line Saturday in order to siphon electricity. "The Hamas terror group continues stealing from the people of Gaza," Mordechai wrote. "This power was intended for hospitals and schools, but Hamas is uninterested in the populace and even exploits it. Watch the daylight robbery."
        "Only a week ago it was published that Hamas is stealing fuel brought into the strip for the Palestinian public, and selling it on the private market to the highest bidder."  (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Threat to Israel of Iranian Entrenchment in Syria - Ron Ben Yishai
    While the Syrian civil war is winding down, fighting will not conclude in 2018. The military image on the ground is nevertheless coming into sharper focus. Russia, Iran and their proxies have succeeded in reinstating Bashar Assad, who butchered his own people across what's left of Syria.
        Iranian entrenchment in Syria will significantly increase the threat posed to Israel by Lebanon and also create a serious threat to aerial and maritime traffic both to and from Israel and its offshore gas rigs. In other words, the country's economic well-being and energy independence are at stake here.
        Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force Qasem Soleimani intends for the Iranian bases in Syria to be close enough to the Israeli border to enable forces to reach the Golan Heights boundary within a single night in order to steal across it and raid Israeli communities. Journalist Ron Ben-Yishai won the Israel Prize for 2018. (Ynet News)
  • North Korea's Cairo Embassy Doubles as Regional Arms Dealership - Declan Walsh
    Egypt has purchased North Korean weapons and allowed North Korean diplomats to use their Cairo embassy as a base for military sales across the region, violating international sanctions, U.S. and UN officials say. A North Korean freighter intercepted off the coast of Egypt in 2016 was found to be carrying 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades to Egypt's main state weapons conglomerate.
        Egyptian officials said they were cutting military ties to North Korea, reducing the size of its Cairo embassy and monitoring the activities of North Korean diplomats. But UN inspectors and North Korean defectors say the Cairo embassy doubles as a regional arms dealership for covert sales of North Korean missiles and cut-price Soviet-era military hardware across North Africa and the Middle East. (New York Times)

The World Must Unite to Stop Iran - Jose Maria Aznar and Stephen Harper (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Israeli military was forced last month to engage an Iranian drone launched into Israeli airspace from Syria. There will be more such incidents if Tehran is permitted to continue projecting force throughout the Middle East. North America and Europe must join Israel in stopping Iran.
  • Iran is a revolutionary theocratic state committed to spreading religious extremism throughout the Islamic world. It projects political and military power from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and Red Seas. To support its ambition, Iran has illegally pursued nuclear weapons and fought wars using terrorist proxies.
  • Iran's leaders have threatened Israel time and again with total destruction, and now, Iranian power has arrived at Israel's border.
  • The first objective must be to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. The Friends of Israel Initiative, of which we are members, has always maintained that, rather than preventing Iran's nuclear ambitions, the 2015 nuclear agreement gave the regime a road map to achieving them.
  • Predictions that the agreement would de-escalate tensions and improve cooperation have proved wrong. Since signing the agreement, Iran's aggression and hostility have increased.
  • But fixing the agreement and stopping Iran from going nuclear would not eliminate the threat. The U.S. and its allies must also roll back Iran's aggression and influence throughout the Middle East. If left unchecked, Iran's aggression will ultimately threaten Europe and North America as well.

    Mr. Aznar is a former prime minister of Spain. Mr. Harper is a former prime minister of Canada.