May 31, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Celebrate Israel Parade, New York City, June 3, 2018 (Jewish Community Relations Council of New York)
    Official partners:
    UJA - Federation of New York
    State of Israel
    Ministry of Strategic Affairs

India's Reliance Refining to Halt Oil Imports from Iran - Nidhi Verma, Alex Lawler (Reuters)
    India's Reliance Industries Ltd, owner of the world's biggest refining complex, plans to halt oil imports from Iran, in a sign that new U.S. sanctions are forcing buyers to shun oil purchases from Tehran. Reliance's move is expected to take effect in October or November.
    Reliance, an Indian conglomerate controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, has significant exposure to the financial system of the United States, where it operates some subsidiaries that are linked to its oil and telecom businesses among others. Global insurers have already warned about doing business with Iran, while some shipping lines have said they would not take new bookings for Iran.
    See also Russia's Lukoil Puts Iran Plans on Hold Due to Threat of U.S. Sanctions (Reuters)
    Lukoil, Russia's second biggest oil producer, said on May 29 it had decided not to go ahead with plans to develop projects in Iran at the moment due to the threat of U.S. sanctions, a company official said. Lukoil has been in talks with Iran over development of Abe Timur and Mansuri oil fields.

U.S. Treasury Targets Iranian Government's Human Rights Abuses, Censorship, and Enhanced Monitoring (U.S. Treasury)
    The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated two Iranian entities for committing serious human rights abuses on behalf of the Government of Iran, as well as three leaders of one of these entities, the Ansar-e Hizbullah organization.
    Additionally, OFAC designated an entity that has operated information or communications technology that facilitates monitoring or tracking that could assist or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran.
    "Iran not only exports terrorism and instability across the world, it routinely violates the rights of its own people. The Iranian regime diverts national resources that should belong to the people to fund a massive and expensive censorship apparatus and suppress free speech," said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
    OFAC is designating Evin Prison pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13553 for being responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against persons in Iran or Iranian citizens or residents, or the family members of the foregoing.
    Prisoners held at Evin Prison are subject to brutal tactics inflicted by prison authorities, including sexual assaults, physical assaults, and electric shock. Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) maintain permanent wards in Evin Prison where they hold political prisoners.

News Resources - North America and Europe:
  • Amb. Nikki Haley's Remarks at an Emergency UN Security Council Briefing on Gaza
    "Hamas' stated purpose is the destruction of Israel. That is its purpose when it fires rockets into Israel. That is its purpose when it builds terror tunnels underneath Israeli territory. And that is its purpose when it orchestrates violent protests and riots at the boundary fence calling for a 'March for Return.' All of these acts are indivisible parts of a single strategy. That strategy is to do as much damage as possible to Israel and to provoke a response in self-defense that will create international condemnation of Israeli actions.
        "It is outrageous for the Security Council to fail to condemn Hamas rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, while the Human Rights Council approves sending a team to investigate Israeli actions taken in self-defense.
        "I urge the members of the Security Council to exercise at least as much scrutiny of the actions of the Hamas terrorist group as it does to Israel's legitimate right of self-defense. To allow Hamas to continue to get away with its terrorist acts, and to somehow expect Israel to sit on its hands when it is attacked, is the height of hypocrisy. To continue to condemn Israel without even acknowledging what is actually coming from the leaders of Gaza makes me question who actually cares about the welfare of the Palestinian people."
        View video. (United States Mission to the UN)
  • UN: Kuwait Blocks U.S. Resolution Condemning Attacks on Israel - Kristina Harazim
    Kuwait has blocked a U.S.-drafted United Nations Security Council statement that strongly condemned an attack by Gaza militants on Israel on Tuesday. Kuwait said it blocked the statement to allow for consideration of a draft resolution it has put forward on the protection of Gazan civilians.
        Earlier this month, Kuwait blocked another U.S.-proposed statement that criticized Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas' remarks about Jews and the Holocaust as "unacceptable." (EuroNews)
  • U.S. Thwarted in Bid to Change UN Rights Council's Approach to Israel - Colum Lynch
    Nearly a year ago, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, issued an ultimatum to the UN: reform the UN Human Rights Council with a view to easing its criticism of Israel, or face an American walkout.
        But a diplomatic campaign by Washington to bring about such a reform ran aground this month, as key European allies said they would not support a vote at the UN General Assembly on ending the Rights Council's special scrutiny of Israel. The development increases the likelihood that the United States will withdraw from yet another international institution that enjoys the backing of Washington's key allies. (Foreign Policy)
News Resources - Israel, the Mideast, and Asia:
  • IDF Releases Satellite Images of "Significant" Gaza Targets Hit in Airstrikes - Judah Ari Gross
    The Israeli military on Thursday released satellite images and details of the more than 65 targets it struck in Gaza in response to massive mortar and rocket attacks by terror groups from the coastal enclave on Tuesday and Wednesday.
        According to the army, the satellite images show a "Hamas drone storage facility, Hamas weapons manufacturing site and a Hamas naval force base." The military said the Hamas naval force base that was targeted contained "advanced, unmanned submarine vessels, capable of maritime infiltration and carrying out maritime terror attacks." The Gaza-ruling Islamist terror group has also been suspected of possessing remote-controlled submarines for over a year. (Times of Israel)
  • In Rare Move, Russian Embassy to Host its National Day Party in Jerusalem - Raphael Ahren
    The Russian embassy in Israel is hosting its annual National Day reception in Jerusalem, in a nod to Moscow's recent recognition of the western part of the city as Israel's capital.
        Russia's incoming ambassador Anatoly Viktorov has been inviting guests to a June 14 reception at Sergei's Courtyard, a historic complex in the Jerusalem neighborhood known as the Russian Compound, which Israeli authorities handed to Russia a decade ago in a goodwill gesture. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):
  • In Iran's Water Crisis, Tehran Sows the Seeds of Its Own Decline - Tzvi Kahn
    "I have returned" to Iran, tweeted a newly appointed environmental official charged with resolving the country's water crisis, "with the hope of creating hope." Within months, however, that hope evaporated - and he found himself arrested, interrogated, and facing a government-coordinated smear campaign.
        Kaveh Madani, a Western-educated Iranian water expert, formally resigned in April in the wake of spurious charges of disloyalty to the Islamist regime. The rise and fall of the deputy head of Iran's Department of the Environment not only reflects Tehran's chronic mismanagement of its water resources. Rather, it also mirrors the years-long drought of talent in Iran, which continues to face a spiraling "brain drain" as its citizens flee the regime's repressive rule.
        Nationwide water shortages, which Madani described as "unprecedented," had generated widespread social discontent. Key rivers dried up. Millions of Iranians moved from the countryside to cities. (The Hill)
  • The Reasons Islamic Jihad Is Violating Hamas' Rules - Zvi Barel
    The mortar barrage against Israel not only relates to Jihad's power struggles with Hamas, but to internal divisions within the group regarding Iran's influence over its leadership.
        Hamas views Islamic Jihad's actions as violating the rules which have governed the conduct of the two groups since the start of the internal Palestinian reconciliation process, in particular, the rules - dictated by Egypt since it has assumed control of the talks - concerning conduct towards Israel.
        Islamic Jihad's leader Ramadan Shalah is non-functional following repeated cardiac surgery in Beirut (supervised by Iranian doctors). He lost consciousness in April, which gave rise to rumors that he'd been poisoned. His deputy, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, has been the stand-in leader since then. He is considered to be loyal to Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' Quds Force, which is giving some financial support to Islamic Jihad. Other senior members of the organization prefer ties with Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood over ties with Iran. (Haaretz)

Beyond Sanctions, How the U.S. Can Pressure Iran - Michael Makovsky (Reuters)
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivered a powerful speech that essentially defined U.S. policy objectives toward Iran by three noes: no nuclear program, no regional terrorism and aggression, and no domestic oppression. But even with Iran's currency crisis and popular discontent, sanctions can only be one tool in a broader U.S. plan.
  • A clearer declaration of a military option would send a stronger signal. By aggressively interdicting Iranian arms supplied to Syria and Yemen, threatening to knock out any Iranian ballistic missiles that are tested or fired, updating contingency plans for striking Iranian nuclear facilities, and forward-deploying missile defense ships to the Middle East, the Trump administration could better demonstrate that it is prepared for confrontation if necessary.
  • The United States should also bolster ties with, and the military capabilities of, allied states to resist Iranian aggression, including Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan. But Washington must help Israel the most, since it is most exposed and has repeatedly demonstrated a strong willingness to push back against Iran.
  • A recent report by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America recommended that the United States frontload some of the 10-year, $38 billion U.S. commitment in foreign military aid to boost Israel's capability to meet growing threats from Tehran. The report also recommends that Trump issue an executive order that raises Israel's status as a U.S. ally to that of Australia and Canada.
  • The United States should also replenish its arms stockpiles stored in Israel with precision munitions and other critical wartime supplies, and cooperate with Israel in researching and developing advanced weapons technology.

    The writer is President and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America JINSA and a former Pentagon official.