March 28, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Yemen's Houthis Target Vital Saudi Arabian Infrastructure and Cities - Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    On March 26, 2018, the Houthi Shiite Muslim militia in Yemen, backed by Iran, fired seven ballistic missiles at strategic targets in Saudi Arabian territory, marking the third anniversary of the launch of military action by the Saudi-led coalition against the Houthis.
    Several days earlier, the Houthis shot "new" Badr 1 ballistic missiles at Aramco oil installations inside Saudi Arabia and the bases of Saudi special forces.
    Iran sees Yemen as a testing ground for its missile capabilities in a future conflict with Israel.
    According to the head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), Gen. Joseph Votel, "Iran achieved in five years in Yemen supporting the Houthis what it did in Lebanon with Hizbullah in two decades."
    Testifying before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 27, 2018, Votel added, "We go to China Lake to test our weapons systems. [Iranians] go to test their weapons systems in Yemen."
    The writer is a senior Iran affairs analyst at the Jerusalem Center.

U.S.: Iran Improved Houthis' Ability to Hit Arab Coalition Seapower - Joyce Karam (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    U.S. Gen. Robert Ashley, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 6 that support from Tehran has helped the Houthis "improve their military and missile capabilities, demonstrated through missile launches against targets in Saudi Arabia and Saudi-led coalition ships in the Red Sea."
    These capabilities now include "anti-ship missiles, explosive-laden boats, and mines."
    "Tehran is pursuing long-range, precision land-attack cruise missiles, which present a new type of threat in the region" and "is also developing more powerful space launch vehicles and technologies that enable development of long-range missile subsystems."
    See also Defeating Iran's Roadside Bombs in Yemen - Michael Knights (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

Israel Fast-Tracks New Security Infrastructure for U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem (Times of Israel)
    Israel's National Council for Planning and Construction, its top zoning and planning body, on Tuesday approved new construction work at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem ahead of its planned transformation into the American embassy in time for Israel's 70th independence day on May 14.
    The construction work will reportedly include paving an escape road from the compound - every U.S. embassy has one - and building a three-meter (10-foot) security wall around the site.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. May Cut Funding for UN Agencies that Single Out Israel - Bryant Harris
    According to a provision in the government spending bill President Trump signed last week, UN agencies that act against the U.S. or its allies, including Israel, could lose 5% of their U.S. contribution. The new law requires the secretary of state to consult with the U.S. ambassador to the UN to determine if an "agency or entity has taken an official action that is against the national security interest of the United States or an ally of the United States, including Israel." The law stipulates that the UN agency must take steps to change the policy in question before receiving the withheld funds. (Al-Monitor)
  • Dozens Burned to Death in Syria Attacks on East Ghouta - Arwa Ibrahim
    At least 37 people, mostly women and children, were killed and 80 others injured last week after Syrian government forces bombed an underground shelter with napalm in Eastern Ghouta, according to the White Helmets rescue group. Abul Yusr, a local resident, said the air raid hit two shelters connected by a corridor. "The air strike entered through one shelter, where it exploded and killed everyone in it. The fires spread through to the second shelter, which soon became totally engulfed in flames."  (Al Jazeera)
        See also below Commentary: In Syria, the Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the Middle East - David Kenner (Foreign Policy)
  • Saudi Crown Prince, on U.S. Visit, Urges Tough Line on Iran - Ben Hubbard
    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia told the New York Times on Monday that the Iran nuclear deal would delay but not prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. "Delaying it and watching them getting that bomb, that means you are waiting for the bullet to reach your head. So you have to move from today."
        "We know the target of Iran. If they have a nuclear weapon, it's a shield for them to let them do whatever they want in the Middle East." He said the current nuclear agreement should be replaced with one that would ensure that Iran never obtained a nuclear weapon while also addressing Iran's other activities in the Middle East.
        Prince Mohammed also spoke about his efforts to change Saudi Arabia's religious rhetoric to ensure greater openness toward other faiths. "I believe Islam is hijacked," he said, criticizing the way the Muslim Brotherhood, Islamic State, and al-Qaeda had distorted the religion. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Israel, PA, Jordan, Egypt Join Forces to Prevent Gaza March Violence - Daniel Siryoti
    Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian and Egyptian security officials have been secretly cooperating to prevent a Hamas-orchestrated march planned for Friday from Gaza from becoming violent, the UK-based, Arabic-language, Elaph website reported. A senior Palestinian official said security coordination between the Israeli and Palestinian security forces remains professional. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israeli Minister: Iran Seeking to Create New Front Against Israel; Palestinians Not Coming to Gaza Border with Good Intentions - Herb Keinon
    Iran is aiming to create a Shia arc from the Persian Gulf, through Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, Construction Minister Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yoav Gallant, a member of Israel's security cabinet and a former head of the IDF Southern Command, said Tuesday. "All of a sudden we can find ourselves in a situation where Israel and Jordan are surrounded by Iranian supporters - Shia militias, Hizbullah and others - and this will be only the first phase of Iran's general idea."
        "I am sure that in their dreams they are thinking about how to go to the next phase, how to create the collapse of Jordan, and create another 400-km. front with Israel, something that will put a new dimension on the whole situation." Israel has been saying for months that it will not allow the Iranians to establish a launching pad against it in Syria.
        Regarding Palestinian plans to march en masse to the Gaza-Israel border fence, Gallant said that Israel "cannot allow these people to cross the border" and pose a threat to Israeli communities. If people "behave peacefully" on the Gaza side, "this is their own business. But if we see that their motivation is to cross the border, we will not act only at the last second when thousands of people are destroying the fence. We will use whatever is necessary to prevent them from doing that."
        "We understand that these people are not coming with good intentions. We are willing to help the Palestinians in Gaza, but we are not willing to allow them to cross the border to sabotage the kibbutzim and moshavim" inside Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • In Syria, the Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the Middle East - David Kenner
    Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), recently visited the bombed-out suburbs of Eastern Ghouta, currently the scene of the worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle East. The Syrian government and its allies are subjecting residents to a withering siege and constant air and artillery bombardments, this time allegedly including chlorine and napalm attacks.
        The residents of Eastern Ghouta are living an "underground life," Maurer says, forced into shelters to escape the bombing. People are pale and cannot even manage the ever-growing number of dead bodies. The Syrian government periodically allows flour bags and food parcels into the area but blocks trauma kits and basic medicine, such as insulin. (Foreign Policy)
  • The Palestinian Way of War: Preparing for the "March of Return" in Gaza - Hillel Frisch
    The latest Palestinian idea to achieve international media attention is to hold a massive procession of 100,000 Gazans to storm the Israeli security fence around Gaza. The immediate objective is less to kill Israelis than to get Gazans killed, creating the graphics and funerals that will delegitimize Israel. Hamas hopes this will lead to a wide-scale intifada and self-initiated suicide terrorist acts in the West Bank and among Israel's Arab citizens.
        The Israeli army will do everything to thwart the protesters in ways that avoid bloodshed. The Palestinian organizations, from the PLO and PA downward, want the shedding of blood. The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University. (Jerusalem Post)
  • The Taylor Force Act Offers Moral Clarity - Editorial
    The Taylor Force Act, signed into law on Friday, says something simple: U.S. taxpayers' money will not be used to incentivize terrorism, including terrorism directed against U.S. citizens. There was legitimate concern among American lawmakers that its passage would destabilize the PA, so funds allocated to security cooperation and humanitarian relief were exempted.
        The Palestinians must choose. As long as Palestinian political culture prioritizes violence against Israelis above nation-building and economic development for Palestinians, there will be no peace. We praise the U.S. for its moral clarity and for taking a principled stand against the PA's intolerable conduct. (Jerusalem Post)

Gaming Israel's Future - Prof. Yisrael Aumann interviewed by Calev Ben-Dor (Fathom-BICOM)
  • Study the world champions of peace, the Swiss, who have been at peace for close to 450 years. The Swiss have peace because they are strong. The runners-up are the Romans, who had a Pax Romana which lasted for about 230 years and who had a maxim: "If you want peace, prepare for war."
  • If a country constantly sends doves into the air and says how tired it is of war, and how deeply it seeks peace, the other side picks up on it.
  • Imagine that two people are given $10,000 to divide between them, but only if they both agree. The first person - the "rational" one - says, "let's divide it equally," while the other demands $9,000 or threatens to walk out (and they'll both receive zero).
  • The first will most likely knuckle under, as he'd rather have $1,000 than nothing. So it turns out the seeming "irrational" one comes out on top.
  • The response of the first one should be, "I want $5,000 or I'm walking out. Now you decide."
  • Game theory understands this as a battle of wills, and it is essential that each player convince the other that he is serious, that he's willing to walk out unless his demands are met.

    Hebrew University Prof. Yisrael Aumann received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005 for his work on conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis.