April 5, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Mossad Chief "100 Percent Certain" Iran Seeks Nuclear Bomb (AP-VOA News)
    Yossi Cohen, the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, told a recent closed meeting of senior officials in Jerusalem, "I am 100% certain that Iran has never abandoned its military nuclear vision for a single instant. This [nuclear] deal enables Iran to achieve that vision."
    "That is why I believe the deal must be completely changed or scrapped. The failure to do so would be a grave threat to Israel's security."
    He called the nuclear deal a "terrible mistake" that allows Iran to keep key elements of its nuclear program intact and will remove other restraints in a few years.
    "Then Iran will be able to enrich enough uranium for an arsenal of nuclear bombs," Cohen said.
    He added that the decision to lift sanctions on Iran has resulted in "significantly increased" aggression by Iran, and noted Iran's continued development of long-range ballistic missiles.

Israeli UAV Fires on Armed Terrorist at Gaza Border (i24News-Jerusalem Post)
    An armed Palestinian man was killed by an Israeli air strike as he approached the Gaza border early Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces said.
    Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for the Gaza Health Ministry, said the man was killed by a missile fired from an Israeli unmanned drone.
    Palestinians are expected to resume massing along the Gaza security fence on Friday.

Turkey Expands Operations in Syria and Iraq - Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Post)
    Turkey's entrance into Afrin in northern Syria gives it a contiguous area of control from Jarabulus to northern Idlib.
    The Turks have made clear they have no intention of handing these areas over to the Assad regime.
    Turkish aircraft have in recent days been in action over northern Iraq, bombing what Ankara claims to be PKK guerrillas in the Qasr-e area of Erbil province.
    The Turkish military is presently engaged 15 km. across the border into the Kurdish Regional Government area.
    Ankara has set as a strategic goal to destroy the Kurdish gains that resulted from the fragmentation of Syria and Iraq over the last half decade.
    The writer is a fellow at the Middle East Forum.

U.S. Fines Norwegian NGO $2M for Supporting Palestinian Terror Groups - Ray Downs (UPI)
    Oslo-based Norwegian People's Aid received several grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development between 2012 and 2016 to provide aid in developing countries in Africa.
    The U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday that before receiving the grants, NPA had provided material support to Iran, Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine - all of which are on the State Department's Sponsors of Terrorism List.
    "For years, Norwegian People's Aid obtained grant money from USAID by falsely representing that it had not provided, and would take reasonable steps to ensure that it did not knowingly provide, material support to prohibited parties under U.S. law," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said.
    The NPA provided "training and expert advice or assistance" to the banned organizations.
    Under the settlement of a civil fraud suit, NPA is required to pay the U.S. $2.025 million.
    See also Norwegian NGO Provided Material Support to Iran, Hamas (U.S. Department of Justice)

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Israel's Social Media in Arabic - Linah Alsaafin (Al Jazeera)
    On any given Friday, spokesperson for the Israeli army Maj. Avichay Adraee sends out a message to his more than 186,000 followers on Twitter.
    Sometimes the message is accompanied by a Quranic verse or a saying of the Prophet Muhammad.
    "How would you like to be remembered by people, as respected and successful or as troublemaking terrorists?" he posted last month. "The successful Mohamad Salah and Mostafa al-Agha or the cowardly terrorist Ahmad Jarrar?"
    Saleh is a popular Egyptian football player, and Agha is a Syrian presenter of a TV sports program. Jarrar, a Palestinian suspected of being behind the killing of an Israeli in the West Bank in January, was killed after a manhunt by the IDF in February.
    Adraee's Twitter and Facebook pages are among several mushrooming social media accounts in Arabic by Israeli military and government officials.
    "This constitutes the first time Palestinian citizens have direct online contact with high-ranking Israeli officials," said Nadim Nashif, executive director of the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement.

The ISIS Files - Rukmini Callimachi (New York Times)
    For nearly three years, the Islamic State controlled a stretch of land that at one point was the size of Britain, with a population estimated at 12 million people. How did the group hold onto so much land for so long?
    Part of the answer can be found in more than 15,000 pages of internal Islamic State documents I recovered during five trips to Iraq over more than a year. A team of journalists spent 15 months translating and analyzing them page by page.
    The documents show that the group realized its dream to establish its own state, a theocracy they considered a caliphate, run according to their strict interpretation of Islam.
    The militants taxed every transaction. It was tax revenue on daily commerce and agriculture - not oil - that powered the economy of the caliphate.

Al-Qaeda's Long Game - Milo Comerford (Tony Blair Institute for Global Change)
    While no public message has been heard from ISIS' senior leadership since September 2017, al-Qaeda's leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has published six speeches in 2018 alone. The latest is titled, "America Is the First Enemy of the Muslims."
    As ISIS has declined, al-Qaeda has experienced a "resurrection," according to terrorism scholar Bruce Hoffman. ISIS "can no longer compete in terms of influence, reach, manpower, or cohesion." 

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Troops to Remain in Syria a Few More Months - Julie Hirschfeld Davis
    President Trump has instructed his military commanders to quickly wrap up the American military operation in Syria so that he can bring the 2,000 troops home within a few months, senior administration officials said on Wednesday. At a meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday, Trump's top military advisers told him they had drawn up plans to pull American troops out of Syria immediately. But they also presented a plan for the forces to stay longer to clean out residual pockets of Islamic State fighters and train local forces to stabilize the liberated territory. Trump replied, "I can support that," as long as the operation lasted months rather than years.
        Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria, said that the Islamic State still held territory in the mid-Euphrates River Valley. He noted that defeating the remaining militants had proved difficult since offensive operations had all but ceased since the Syrian Kurds - America's key ally - had left the region to fight against the Turkish incursion in northwestern Syria. (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Officials: Trump-Netanyahu Phone Call Grew Tense over Plans to Leave Syria - Josh Lederman
    A phone call Wednesday between President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu grew tense because of the Israeli leader's concerns that the U.S. will withdraw and allow Israel's enemies to gain a further foothold in neighboring Syria, two U.S. officials said. (AP-San Francisco Chronicle)
  • Iran's Supreme Leader Calls on Muslims to Defeat Israel
    After Saudi Arabia's crown prince said Israelis were entitled to live peacefully on their own land, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday called on the people of Muslim countries to defeat Israel. "With an intense and planned struggle they should force the enemy to retreat toward the point of demise." Khamenei also said, "Movement toward negotiation with...[Israel] is a big, unforgivable mistake that will push back the victory of the people of Palestine." He pledged continued Iranian backing for the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Warns of Ecological Damage as Gazans Prepare to Burn Thousands of Tires at Border - Tovah Lazaroff
    Palestinians plan to engulf the Gaza border with smoke and flames from thousands of burning tires on Friday, according to a Gaza source. Videos on social media show hundreds of tires that have already been gathered.
        In an Arabic post on Facebook, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, warned, "It's the people in Gaza who will be strangled by black smoke." He warned that the smoke is carcinogenic and harmful to the respiratory and immune systems. Mordechai also wrote a letter asking the World Health Organization to intervene, saying he feared the burning tires could cause an ecological disaster by poisoning plants and animals. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Divisions Surface within Hamas - Daniel Siryoti
    Senior Palestinian sources in Gaza and Ramallah said Tuesday that Hamas is plagued with infighting that began several months ago with the resignation of Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad, who oversaw the security and intelligence apparatuses in Gaza. Hamad was for years considered a potential successor to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and was greatly offended when Izzedine al-Qassam strongman Yahya Sinwar was named as military leader in Gaza in February 2017.
        Sinwar ousted Hamad from his position of power, prompting him to leave Hamas and announce plans to found a rival organization. Hamad has reportedly been able to convince dozens of his supporters in Hamas to join his organization. Ramallah sources told Israel Hayom that dozens of Hamas security officers, including several high-ranking officials, have been arrested over the past few weeks on suspicion of aiding Hamad. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Crisis in Gaza: The Israeli Point of View - Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon
    The New York Times editorial, "A Test for Israel in Gaza" (April 4), doesn't mention, or minimizes, basic facts that led to the situation in Gaza. First, we withdrew entirely from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, removing every Israeli resident, home, factory and synagogue. We are not responsible for the well-being of the people of Gaza.
        Second, the restrictions that exist on Gaza are not the cause of the situation there but rather a result of Hamas' refusal to renounce violence. This is not Israel's condition, but rather that put forward by the U.S., EU and UN as part of the Quartet framework. If there were no terror, there would be no restrictions.
        Finally, the fence that was attacked over the last week separates a sovereign, democratic state and a murderous terrorist entity. Our security forces acted judiciously, and a vast majority of those killed were terrorists who have been identified as members of Hamas.
        These were not "peaceful protests." Every critic of Israel must ask himself how he would expect the security forces of his own country to react if terrorists armed with rifles and Molotov cocktails began to march on his country's border. It is the peak of hypocrisy for the international community to criticize Israel while ignoring the real factors causing pain and suffering to the innocent people of Gaza. (New York Times)
  • The Lessons for Israel from Gaza - Zalman Shoval
    From Israel's perspective, the main lesson from last weekend's events in Gaza is that they should be seen as a preview of what might happen in the future if an independent Palestinian state were to be established on our eastern border under the current circumstances.
        No security fence or even a concrete barrier can stop an organized mass attempt to breach the Israeli border along a much larger front than merely the Gaza border, unless the IDF maintains full control, not only of the borders of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), but inside those territories.
        Israel - with the help of the U.S. - must move ahead toward interim solutions that will remove unnecessary financial, civil and governmental limitations from the Arab population in the territories, without affecting Israel's operational freedom on matters of security. The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (Israel Hayom)
  • The Secret World of the Palestinian Authority - Bassam Tawil
    A report published last week in Ramallah by the Coalition for Accountability and Integrity (AMAN), established in 2000 by a number of civil society organizations, offers a rare glance into the secret world of the Palestinian Authority. Entitled "Integrity and Combating Corruption: Palestine 2017," the report discussed the $17.5 million "presidential palace" for Mahmoud Abbas built on a hilltop on the outskirts of Ramallah, calling it "the epitome of misuse of public funds as well as a bad example of lack of prioritization...given the urgent need to finance vital services such as health and education."
        Another PA practice of squandering public money involves paying the salaries and expenses of a non-existent airline called "Palestine Airlines." "Hundreds of employees of this company continue to receive salaries and allowances from the Palestinian Authority." The report also notes that members of the Palestinian Legislative Council also benefit from monthly salaries, despite the parliament having been paralyzed for more than a decade as a result of the dispute between Abbas' ruling Fatah faction and Hamas. (Gatestone Institute)
  • The Anguish of the Palestinians - Tarek Fatah
    The anguish of the Palestinian people seems to be a never-ending tragedy. Abandoned by their Arab neighbors Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and betrayed by the short-sightedness of their own divided leadership, they have slid further into the arms of Iran-backed Hamas and its cult of celebratory martyrdom as the ultimate honor.
        Gaza could have been a Mediterranean paradise with mile after mile of beaches that could have turned the territory into an example of Palestinian ingenuity. Instead Gaza became a laboratory of Islamic extremism where leaders of the Palestinian Authority were tortured and assassinated, thrown over the roofs of buildings, and adversaries were killed and their bodies dragged by motorcyclists.
        Palestinians today must recognize two bitter realities: Israel will never commit suicide by permitting a "right of return" to millions of descendants of the 1948 Palestinian refugees. Israel will never hand over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to Palestinians. The writer is a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress. (Toronto Sun-Canada)

  • Iran

  • Israel's Intelligence Ministry Eyes Iran - Kimberly Dozier
    "Right now, our number one goal is to prevent Iran from basing itself militarily in Syria," the director of Israel's Ministry of Intelligence, Chagai Tzuriel, said during the recent German Marshall Forum in Brussels. If the U.S. doesn't find a way to keep Iran from building military bases in Syria, Israel may well have to be the "other people" Trump referred to who will have to "take care of it."
        "If they start building air, sea and ground bases for them and Shi'ite militias, a forward base like they built in Lebanon with Hizbullah, we have made clear we will not accept the situation," Tzuriel said. "We have presented it as a red line." This is on top of the previous red lines: no transfer of advanced weapons to Syria; no violation of sovereignty of Israeli territory in the Golan Heights; and no manufacture of chemical weapons.
        Tzuriel noted that "The Russians, having had a very formidable achievement in Syria, are not interested in destabilizing their achievement. They understand that if the Iranian proxy presence in Syria is a source of friction and tension and a potential flashpoint, they can also be a constructive player and can play a limiting and restraining role vis-a-vis Iran and Hizbullah."  (Cipher Brief)
  • The IAEA's Right and Obligation to Inspect Military Facilities in Iran - Olli Heinonen
    In order for the nuclear deal with Iran to ensure the "exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear program," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) must be able to inspect all necessary locations either in the territory of Iran or under its control elsewhere, including all military sites. The absence of inspections at military sites prevents the effective monitoring of the deal, known as the JCPOA.
        Iran committed to apply the legally binding Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) as well as the Additional Protocol (AP) as part of the JCPOA. Like all other countries subject to CSA safeguards under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, Iran cannot declare any site to be a sanctuary off-limits to IAEA inspectors.
        Experience shows that Iran has often conducted nuclear R&D and manufacturing activities at military sites, so the IAEA would be remiss if it did not inspect them. The IAEA must fully exercise its rights and obligations in order to ensure the full and meaningful implementation of the JCPOA. The writer is former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and head of its Department of Safeguards. (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
  • Mismanagement Leaves Iran's Economy Vulnerable - Patrick Clawson
    On March 29, the IMF released a report highlighting Iran's economic vulnerabilities, at a time when the Iranian rial has been under sustained pressure. The IMF report discussed a host of grave dangers to Iran's banks. Their capital-to-assets ratio continues to decline (currently 4.9%), while nonperforming loans continue to grow (11.4%), and "the cost-to-income ratio for banks in Iran is amongst the highest in the world."
        The report also discussed the problem of maintaining a pension system in a country with a rapidly aging population. "The three largest [public] pension schemes (90% of the system) are insolvent."
        In short, Iran's economy is highly vulnerable to external shocks such as oil price drops or toughened international sanctions. The writer is director of research at the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Tehran's Financial Woes and U.S. Policy - Jay Solomon (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iran's Foreign Interventions - Hillel Frisch
    The Islamic Republic of Iran, which ranks only 17th in terms of economic output, is hardly a major power. Yet it is demonstrating almost daily its imperialist reach in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Gaza, and is developing ballistic capabilities to threaten Europe. While China's and Russia's assertions of power are focused on land and seas contiguous to their borders, Iran is the only country whose focus is on political, military, and terrorist intervention in areas beyond its contiguous borders against states that have not struck its homeland.
        Israel, the state it vows to destroy, never wanted a fight with the Islamic State of Iran. A strong lobby within Israel believed for many years that Iran would renew ties for mutual benefit, as it did in the days of the Shah.
        The Islamic Republic of Iran created Hizbullah in faraway Lebanon to fight Israel and threaten it with 100,000 missiles. Iran is exploiting the new dynamic in Syria to transform it into another Lebanon. Imported Shiite militias under Iranian Revolutionary Guard guidance and command are creating missile sites similar to those in Lebanon. Terrorist activity is being increased, and munitions factories and forward bases are being established inside Syria and along the border of the northern Golan.
        The writer, a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University, is a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • Other Issues

  • An Emerging Arab-Israeli Thaw - James S. Robbins
    We may be on the verge of seeing a historic normalization of relations between Israel and several major Arab states - all thanks to Iran. On March 13, representatives from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, among other countries, gathered at the White House for a meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. An Israeli delegation also attended, marking the first ever publicly acknowledged diplomatic meeting involving these countries and Israel.
        A new diplomatic paradigm is rapidly emerging. The Palestinian issue is no longer the marquee concern it once was. Iranian expansionism, nuclear and missile proliferation, and radical extremism are the critical issues pushing Israel and the Arab states together. Palestinian leaders have shown no great willingness to adapt to the new circumstances. And to the extent the Hamas faction draws closer to Iran, it puts itself on the wrong side of the peace equation. The writer is senior fellow for national-security affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council. (National Interest)

  • Weekend Features

  • Israel to Construct Wildlife Corridors through New Jordan Border Fence - Dan Lavie
    Israeli soldiers stationed near the Jordanian border have been canvassing the area to find ideal places to construct natural wildlife corridors before a new border fence is constructed. Operation Living Together is being carried out in conjunction with academic experts, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, IDF trackers, and the Jordanian army.
        One purpose of the operation is to help migrating birds and animals access drinking water. The Egyptian border fence was fitted with specially designed crossings that allow only wildlife to move back and forth. "The current operation serves as a very tangible example of how the army takes wildlife into consideration during its routine missions and helps to preserve it," said Guy Selai, founder of the "Nature Defense Forces" initiative to instill in soldiers a greater sense of responsibility for the environment in which they operate. (Israel Hayom)
  • How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World - Shoshanna Solomon
    Avi Jorisch, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said the idea for his new book, Thou Shalt Innovate, How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World, "started to germinate in 2014" when he was in Israel during the Gaza war and witnessed firsthand how Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system protected his family from Hamas rockets. Soon after that, he started noticing other Israeli innovations that were helping to make "a real difference in fostering a kinder, gentler world."
        He noticed that in traffic accidents, emergency responders riding ambucycles - motorbikes refitted as ambulances - were quick to appear; his Jerusalem gardener brought to his attention a drip irrigator that saved water; and a colleague of his with Parkinson's began undergoing deep brain stimulation to mitigate his symptoms.
        For his book Jorisch selected 15 technologies and their entrepreneurs in fields such as drugs, drip irrigation, solar power, defense, agriculture and cybersecurity that are making a difference in the world. In an appendix, Jorisch lists Israel's 50 greatest technological contributions. "I could have very easily kept going to 100, 200, 300," he said. (Times of Israel)
        See also 15 Earthshaking Israeli Technologies - Shoshanna Solomon (Times of Israel)

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot said in an interview published on March 30:
  • "On the one hand, [the Palestinians] realize that they are facing a powerful foe they cannot defeat. On the other hand, they hate us very much and want desperately to hurt us."
  • "We are able to thwart 98% of potential terrorist attacks, but still, they keep trying. Just last year, we apprehended 4,600 potential terrorists, and I have no doubt that there will be another 4,000 the coming year, and another 4,000 in the year after that."
  • "There is immense motivation to perpetrate terrorist attacks. The main problems are hatred, willingness, the culture, the religious beliefs and the profoundly painful understanding that they strongly believe terrorism is a way of fulfilling political, social and religious desires. This is something that won't change for many years to come."
  • "The hatred toward Israel isn't new....I researched and found that the first terrorist attack on record in Israel was in 1851."
  • "Anyone who thinks that they will see democracies or Western lifestyles in the Middle East in the near future must come from another planet. They are delusional."
  • "Our experience teaches us that wherever the system is overthrown, we get a far worse alternative....You end up with ISIS and a chaotic reality that will take decades to get under control."
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