June 28, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Has Cultivated Militias in Southern Syria to Act Against Israel - Abdulrahman Al-Masri (Cairo Review of Global Affairs-American University in Cairo)
    The Assad regime intends to retake control of southwestern Syria.
    The powers involved in the southern ceasefire zone may agree to let the Assad regime retake the region, as long as Iranian withdrawal is assured in exchange. Yet this is unlikely to produce long-term stability.
    Iran's current strategy has been to localize its presence in the southwest through local militias. Iran has been busy in the last two years building and training local groups.
    Iran's investment in these groups denotes its real approach: these groups are loyal to their patron, and they can be mobilized to open a new "resistance" front against Israel at Tehran's behest.
    As Israel vows to attack Iran in other parts of Syria, Iran's local clients in the southwest will likely engage in small-scale retaliations against Israel.

Ethnic Arabs in Iran Protest Water Shortages - Shima Silavi (Al Arabiya)
    In the past two weeks, the Arabistan region of southwestern Iran has witnessed protests against water shortages.
    The government has been transferring water from the southwestern region to Iran's central plateau for years, with the help of 90 dams and several tunnels built by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
    This policy has destroyed the livelihood of thousands of marsh Arabs. Hundreds of villages have been wiped out.
    Iran's water crisis is manmade and the result of water mismanagement for the past four decades.

Time for Abbas to Go - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
    Palestinian Authority officials slammed the U.S. administration for its efforts to improve living conditions in Gaza after working against U.S. efforts at a new peace push.
    The comments by advisers to PA President Mahmoud Abbas are part of a pattern in which the PA leadership appears out of touch with both the region and its own people.
    The PA also refuses to hold elections, preferring to govern indefinitely while billions of dollars in Western support fill its coffers.
    The aging leadership in the PA has fought against change for decades and has systematically undermined and denied a new generation of Palestinians from rising to the top.
    It is time for the PA to find new leadership who can talk about peace and give the next generation a real chance.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Reopens Uranium Feedstock Plant in Preparation to Boost Enrichment
    Iran has reopened a plant for the production of UF6, the feedstock for centrifuge machines that enrich uranium, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said Wednesday. A barrel of uranium ore (yellow cake) has been delivered to the factory, which is part of the Isfahan uranium conversion facility. The move is symbolic and permissible under the nuclear deal, which allows Iran to enrich uranium to 3.67%. (Reuters)
  • Assad Presses Offensive in Southern Syria - Louisa Loveluck
    Fighter jets bombed hospitals in southern Syria near the Jordanian border towns of Saida, Jeeza and Musayfra, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday, as pro-government forces intensified their offensive in the region. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Knesset Committee Approves Final Draft of Bill to Penalize PA for Payments to Terrorists - Ariel Kahana
    The Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Wednesday approved the final draft of a bill to deduct the payments that the PA makes to terrorists and their families from taxes and customs fees collected by Israel for the PA. The final draft states that once the deduction of Palestinian funds is enacted, the political echelon would be unable to rescind the measure.
        "This is a moral law that sends a clear message to us, to the Palestinian Authority and to the world. Israel will not be a conduit by which terrorists are funded. That's over," said committee chairman Avi Dichter. "The Palestinian Authority has to be made to understand that supporting terrorists does not pay," said MK Elazar Stern. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Seizes Hamas Funds Given to Terrorists' Families - Tamara Zieve
    Israeli security forces raided the east Jerusalem home of Hisham Hussein Abu Dhaim, who murdered eight students at the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem in 2008, and seized NIS 43,000 in cash and foreign currency on Wednesday. The raid was part of a wider operation to prevent funds from Hamas from reaching the families of terrorists who murdered Israelis. In 2017, security forces seized over NIS 300,000 from the families of seven different terrorists. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Where Next for the Iran Nuclear Deal? A View from Israel - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Michael Herzog
    While the JCPOA nuclear agreement covered only the nuclear program, the legitimacy and funding it provided Iran have emboldened Tehran to carry out more malign activities in the region in a bid to position itself as the dominant actor in the heart of the Middle East, on the ruins of the Arab Spring and ISIS.
        Once Iran resumes its nuclear program, both the U.S. and Israel will have to redefine their red lines. If Iran reaches a critical breakout point, a military response is a possibility. Israel's defense establishment has been working under the assumption that, despite the major faults of the deal, it bought Israel time. That timeframe is probably going to be shortened and the dilemma of whether to use military means in order to stop Iran from approaching the threshold might face Jerusalem once again.
        Everyone, including the Iranians, are watching the unfolding diplomatic process between the U.S. and North Korea. If there is a real agreement on the denuclearization of North Korea, including credible inspections inside the country, then this will strengthen the U.S. hand vis-a-vis Iran. The writer, a fellow of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is a former chief of staff to four Israeli ministers of defense. (BICOM)
  • The Significance of Prince William's Visit to Israel Cannot Be Overestimated - Editorial
    It always seemed odd that the region's only true democracy was off limits to the Royal Family. The unspoken rationale appeared to be that a Royal presence would give Israel kudos the British government was reluctant to bestow. The symbolism of this event, therefore, cannot be overestimated and its importance has not been lost on Israel. Seventy years after the foundation of the Jewish state, this is seen as treating Israel as a normal, established democratic nation, not an international pariah. (Telegraph-UK)
  • How Tehran Lobbyists Mislead Opinion in the West - Amir Taheri
    Successive American presidents have worked hard to persuade the Khomeinist regime in Tehran to modify aspects of its foreign policy, so far with no success. Iran's "Supreme Guide," Ali Khamenei, has said: "American rulers have always dreamed of forcing us to change our behavior, and failed. Five U.S. administrations took that dream to their graves. The present one shall have the same fate."
        As a nation-state, Iran has no problems with anybody. As a vehicle for the Khomeinist ideology it has problems with everybody, starting with the Iranian people. The Khomeinist regime makes no secret of its intense hatred for Iranian culture. To admire this regime because of Iranian culture is like admiring Hitler for Goethe and Beethoven and praising Stalin for Pushkin and Tchaikovsky.
        This regime has executed tens of thousands of Iranians, driven almost 6 million into exile, and deprived the nation of its basic freedoms. It has also killed more Americans, often through surrogates, than al-Qaeda did on 9/11. The writer was the executive editor-in-chief of the Iran daily Kayhan from 1972 to 1979. (Gatestone Institute)

Israel and U.S. Collaborate on Tunnel Detection - Seth J. Frantzman (Defense News)
  • The U.S. and Israel are continuing joint work to improve tunnel detection against Hamas and Islamic State. In 2016-2017 the U.S. contributed $80 million towards the program.
  • The anti-tunnel efforts build on previous successful collaborative efforts to develop anti-missile defenses.
  • The U.S. confronted extensive tunnel systems in Vietnam. Today, militant groups are increasingly resorting to tunnels as a way to avoid surveillance by drones. In Iraq, ISIS honeycombed cities with tunnels whose exits were inside civilian homes, hidden from aerial view. In April 2016, the U.S. uncovered a tunnel stretching half a mile from Mexico into San Diego, California, the largest of 13 uncovered since 2006.
  • Research and development funding is being used to develop technology such as acoustic-detection systems. Israel has made major strides over the last decade in engineering, intelligence and use of technology to find and destroy tunnels.
  • In March, as part of the Juniper Cobra 2018 exercise, U.S. Marines trained with Israeli paratroopers on combating the tunnel threat.
  • In March, 56 members of Congress wrote in a joint letter to the Committee on Appropriations' Defense Subcommittee that "our own nation faces similar threats [to those in Israel]. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, ISIS has used subterranean passages to smuggle weapons, avoid detection, ambush troops and launch tunnel bomb attacks." 

        See also Israeli Tunnel Detection System Wins Israel Defense Prize - Judah Ari Gross
    President Reuven Rivlin on Tuesday presented the Israel Defense Prize to the project to locate attack tunnels from Gaza, which Israel has used to destroy at least 10 border-crossing tunnels since October 2017, the Defense Ministry said.
        The system, which relies on a variety of sensors, "has no equal in the world," and "has led to a turning point in the campaign to thwart the tunnel threat," the ministry said. The system was made possible thanks to a number of "technological breakthroughs in a number of creative projects."  (Times of Israel)