March 27, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

French Police Say Holocaust Survivor Was Murdered in Anti-Semitic Hate Crime - Adam Nossiter (New York Times)
    Mireille Knoll, 85, who as a child narrowly escaped France's wartime roundup of Jews, was murdered in Paris last week in what authorities are calling a hate crime.
    Her body was found on Friday in her apartment. She had been stabbed 11 times, and her body was partly burned after her attackers set fire to the apartment.
    By Monday, two men in their 20s had been arrested, one a neighbor who knew her well. The principal suspect was of North African origin.
    Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said that "to attack a Jew is to attack France, and the values that are the very basis of the nation."

Iran Currency Hits Record Low (AFP)
    The Iranian rial fell to a record low on Monday after losing a quarter of its value in the past six months.
    The collapsing currency will serve as another deterrent to potential investors, said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder of the Europe-Iran Forum, a business network.

U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Heads Congressional Delegation to Israel (Israel Hayom)
    U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) landed in Israel on Sunday, heading a delegation of 11 Democratic lawmakers on a five-day visit to Israel and Jordan.
    "There is no greater political accomplishment in the 20th century than the establishment of the State of Israel," Pelosi said.

2,000-Year-Old Coins from Jewish Revolt Against Rome Discovered in Jerusalem - Jonathan Weber Rosen (Jerusalem Post)
    Dozens of bronze coins dating from the Roman-Jewish War (66-73 CE) were discovered by Hebrew University archeologists in a cave near the south wall of the Temple Mount on Monday, according to the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority.
    The coins are decorated with Jewish symbols such as the four species, a palm tree that symbolized the tribe of Judah, and a cup used in the Temple.
    Dr. Eilat Mazar, who heads the archaeological dig at the site, said, "The discovery of dozens of coins in the center of ancient Jerusalem, bearing the inscription 'to freedom/to save Zion,' is of special importance during this period, when the Jewish state is preparing to celebrate Passover and the freedom of the Jewish people 2,000 years later."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Sanctions Iranian Cyber Actors Who Targeted Hundreds of Universities
    On Friday the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated one Iranian entity and 10 Iranian individuals who engaged in the theft of valuable intellectual property and data from hundreds of U.S. and third-country universities and a media company for private financial gain.
        "Iran is engaged in an ongoing campaign of malicious cyber activity against the United States and our allies. The IRGC outsourced cyber intrusions to The Mabna Institute, a hacker network that infiltrated hundreds of universities to steal sensitive data," said Treasury Undersecretary Sigal Mandelker. (U.S. Treasury Department)
        See also U.S. Busts "Massive" Iranian Hacking Scheme - Eric Geller
    "The government of Iran systematically and methodically hacked into our country's computer networks," Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Friday. Over four years, hackers working for the Mabna Institute stole at least 31 terabytes of data from 144 American universities, totaling $3.4 billion in intellectual property. The group also cracked into 176 foreign universities. The hackers compromised these systems by sending emails to professors, posing as other professors, who tricked targets into giving up their login credentials.
        Additionally, Iranian hackers cracked into five U.S. government agencies, including the state governments in Hawaii and Indiana, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, which oversees the energy industry, and the Department of Labor. They also infiltrated the UN. (Politico)
  • Iran Builds Facilities in Syria Close to Russian Bases to Avoid Being Attacked
    Iran is building military facilities and bases very close to Russian forces in Syria to keep them from being attacked by Israel, Israeli security sources said. Israel has learned that the Russians do not favor this activity and it is not being coordinated with Russia, as it potentially turns the nearby Russian forces into de facto human shields. The facilities were built under the guise of residential buildings for civilians, but were facilities to accommodate Iran's Shiite terrorist arm deployed in Syria. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • IDF Arrests 3 Armed Palestinians Who Infiltrated from Gaza - Anna Ahronheim
    Israeli forces detained three Palestinians carrying knives and hand grenades who had infiltrated 20 km. into Israel from Gaza on Tuesday. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Intelligence Chief Warns: Iran's Mideast Actions Growing Bolder since Nuclear Deal
    Iran is "growing bolder in its missile [development] and the support it gives terrorism in our region" since the 2015 nuclear deal, IDF Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Herzl Halevi warned Sunday.
        He said the current momentum from U.S. moves to revise the nuclear agreement "poses the best chance for actual change." Halevi said that getting Iran to change its conduct cannot be achieved only by way of negotiations, and "only an economic, political, or some other kind of crisis" will lead to change. "The more the world can project a united front, the greater the chance of a change."  (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Rejects UN Demand for Compensation for 2014 Gaza War Damage - Tovah Lazaroff and Herb Keinon
    "On 22 March, the UN submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel a claim for reimbursement for the losses that the UN had sustained in seven incidents [during the Gaza war] in 2014," UN spokesman Farhan Haq told the Jerusalem Post. Israel says Hamas hid weapons in UN facilities and attacked its forces from or near those facilities.
        Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon called the UN demand "unacceptable," saying, "Everyone knows our intention was to protect our citizens, and not harm anyone else, while Hamas uses UN facilities to hide behind....The blame should go on Hamas."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran's Facing a Mutiny from within the Mosque - Geneive Abdo
    There is an increasing belief across Shiite communities that the consolidation of all powers in one person is antithetical to the Shiite tradition and that the position of supreme leader should be reformed or dissolved altogether. On March 6, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps detained Ayatollah Hussein Shirazi who, together with his influential father, Grand Ayatollah Sadiq Shirazi, are fierce opponents of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's rule.
        Hussein Shirazi reportedly called the supreme leader "the pharaoh" during a recent lecture, providing the pretext for his arrest. Iran's special clerical court initially sentenced him to 120 years in prison, but there are unconfirmed reports that Iranian authorities released him on March 18. His father has a vast presence online: his lectures are broadcast on 18 television channels and three radio stations across the Muslim world. (Bloomberg)
  • Hamas Is Using the "Great Return March" to Help Take Over the PLO - Ehud Rosen
    Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood affiliates across the globe are playing a leading role in supporting and promoting the "Great Return March" campaign, to begin on March 30, 2018. According to Israeli TV, Hamas spent $10 million behind the scenes to fund and organize the march to Gaza's border with Israel. For the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, this march is part of a wider mobilization to implement their long-held aspiration to take over the PLO. This report reviews the organizations leading the "70th anniversary of the Nakba" campaign. The writer is a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center and teaches at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

  • The Israeli airstrike on the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007 helped to confirm the regional sense of Israeli military power after the failures of the war against Hizbullah in 2006, and undoubtedly also convinced both Washington and Tehran that Israel would consider using military force to prevent Iran from acquiring nukes.
  • This, in turn, informed the negotiating strategies of all of the parties to the JCPOA, which continues to govern Iran's relations with the international community.

    The writer is a Senior Lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky.
    See also Israel Acts to Defend Itself, By Itself - Daniel R. DePetris (National Interest)
  • Israel has illustrated throughout its history that it has no hesitancy in taking offensive measures to preserve its security and maintain its military superiority in the region. In 1982, despite loud opposition from the international community and rising anger from President Ronald Reagan, Israel bombed Beirut to flush out Yasser Arafat's Palestine Liberation Organization.
  • A year before, Israel bombed Saddam Hussein's nuclear facility in the Iraqi desert; the fact that the world would likely condemn such a raid (which it did in a UN Security Council resolution with Washington's support) was seen as minor in relation to the security gains that would result from a destroyed Iraqi WMD facility.
  • Throughout the Syrian civil war, Israel has conducted dozens of strikes on weapons convoys, Syrian army bases, and an Iranian base to prevent advanced weapons from being transported to Hizbullah.
  • The 2007 operation against a nearly finished Syrian nuclear plant is one more case of Israel defending itself, by itself. When a danger is viewed as imminent or existential to the very presence of the state, Israeli prime ministers will authorize military force - even if the U.S., its most important ally, decides to stay away from the action.