July 2, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Mass Rally in Paris Demands Regime Change in Iran (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)
    Tens of thousands of supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) called for democratic change and the overthrow of Iran's ruling clerics at a mass rally in Paris on Saturday.
    Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told the rally: "This president does not intend to turn his back on freedom fighters."
    Former U.S. ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson said: "The end is near....Is there an alternative to the mullahs? Yes, it's the resistance."
    Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: "The protests in the streets... will rise until the regime is gone."

Trump Mideast Envoys Have Low Expectations for Peace Plan - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    Trump administration officials believe the likelihood of a successful rollout of its upcoming Mideast peace plan are very low, three sources told Israel Hayom.
    As a consequence, Senior Adviser to the President Jared Kushner and Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt are reportedly reconsidering the proper timing for the plan's unveiling.
    See also Palestinians Planning Mass Protests Against U.S. Peace Plan - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The new campaign is seen as the PA leadership's response to the Hamas-sponsored "March of Return" demonstrations on the Gaza border.

2,000-Year-Old Coin from Jewish Revolt Found in Jerusalem - Ruth Schuster (Ha'aretz)
    A rare coin minted in the year 69 CE, the fourth year of the Jewish revolt against Rome, was found last week in debris from the sewage system in the City of David in ancient Jerusalem, Reut Vilf of the City of David Foundation said.
    The coin bears the words "For the Redemption of Zion" in ancient Hebrew lettering, and a depiction of a chalice.
    Its other side depicts the "four species" and the words "Year Four" - taken to refer to the final year of rebellion against the Romans.

Israel Wants Adversaries to Know It Has Stealth F-35s - Sebastien Roblin (National Interest)
    On May 22, Israeli Air Force commander Amikam Norkin announced that its F-35I stealth fighters had flown on two combat missions on "different fronts."
    The first nine F-35s entered operational service in December 2017. Six more should arrive in 2018.
    Norkin's announcement was as much a part of Israeli strategy as the actual deployment of the fighters.
    Israel wants potential adversaries (chiefly, Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah) to know that its fighters have already proven capable of infiltrating the airspace of neighboring countries, and that its stealth jets could at any moment launch an attack that may go undetected until the first bomb strikes a target.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Bolton Says Removing Iran from Syria Trumps Deposing Assad - Michael R. Gordon
    Appearing on CBS on Sunday, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said Syrian President Assad's hold on power wasn't a strategic issue for the U.S. and that President Trump hoped to secure Russia's help in evicting Iranian forces from the country.
        Skeptics question whether the Kremlin has sufficient leverage to induce Tehran to withdraw its forces from Syria. Maintaining a military presence in Syria has been a top priority for Tehran. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran Proxies and Partners Heavily Involved in Assad Offensive in Southern Syria - Hanin Ghaddar and Phillip Smyth
    Iran has been redeploying its Shia militia proxies to south Syria since April. Many of these fighters are simply merging with Assad regime forces. Hizbullah units have integrated with the army's 4th Division and Republican Guard, while fighters from militias such as Liwa al-Fatemiyoun have been spotted within the Tiger Forces under the leadership of Syrian general Suhail al-Hassan, even adopting their uniforms and insignia.
        Iran's proxies and partners are heavily involved in the latest Deraa offensive. They are also deploying around the Deir al-Adas area of Quneitra, 15 km. from the Golan Heights. Can Russia guarantee the departure of Iranian forces and proxies from the south? And can Assad's forces stop Iranian proxies from infiltrating and controlling the border?
        Iranian forces have withdrawn and redeployed many times in many places in Syria, and any move they make to appease Russia would no doubt be temporary. The return of Assad's forces to the south would serve as a conduit for Hizbullah and other militias to quietly redeploy there anytime they like. The writers are fellows of the Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Australia Ends Direct Aid to Palestinian Authority
    Australia has ended direct aid to the Palestinian Authority because it says its donations could increase the PA's capacity to pay Palestinians convicted of politically-motivated violence. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Monday that funding to a World Bank trust fund was cut after she wrote to the PA in May seeking assurance that Australian funding was not being misspent.
        She expressed concern that providing further funds allows the authority to use its own budget to spend on activities that "Australia would never support." Australia's $7.4 million donation would now be re-routed to the UN Humanitarian Fund for the Palestinian Territories, which aids in health care, food, water, improved sanitation and shelter. (AP-ABC News)
        See also Text: Reallocation of Aid to the Palestinian Authority (Minister for Foreign Affairs-Australia)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Warns It Will Only Allow Regime Forces near Syrian Border - Yaniv Kubovich
    Israeli defense officials have said they will allow only President Assad's forces to enter the area near the Syrian-Israeli border. Israel will not allow other forces and various militias to take control of the area or join together with the Syrian army. In the past few days, messages have been conveyed at senior levels as to Israel's red lines regarding fighting near the border.
        Israel made clear that it expects the 1974 cease-fire agreement to be kept and the demilitarized zone maintained free of military forces and heavy weaponry. (Ha'aretz)
  • 24 Fires Caused by Incendiary Balloons and Kites from Gaza on Saturday - Matan Tzuri
    Palestinians in Gaza caused 24 blazes in Israel on Saturday using incendiary balloons and kites. (Ynet News)
        See also Palestinians in Gaza Cause 12 Fires in Israel on Sunday - Yoav Zitun and Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • How the PA Encourages Attacks on Israeli Civilians - Yossi Kuperwasser and Sander Gerber
    The Palestinian Authority has a legal and bureaucratic infrastructure with 550 full-time employees who reward indiscriminate Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians. In 2017 the PA rewarded 36,000 families with monthly payments totaling $360 million for participation in violence against Israel, while allocating only $210 million in welfare for 120,000 needy families.
        In 2013, PA President Mahmoud Abbas signed an executive order granting additional salaries and benefits to Palestinians in jail for attacking Israelis - amounts based on the severity of the crime, and which included bonuses for terrorists who were Israeli Arabs or Jerusalem residents, as well as lifetime pensions to women for two-year prison terms.
        Abbas' website features numerous photos of released terrorists and martyrs' families being greeted at the presidential compound. It also offers downloads of Abbas' book that claims Zionists cooperated with Nazi Germany.
        Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser was formerly Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs and head of the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence. Sander Gerber is a former vice chairman of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Both are Fellows of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Differences in U.S. and Israeli Legislation Against PA Payments to Terrorists - Gil Hoffman
    The Knesset is scheduled to vote on Monday on legislation to deduct the amount of money being transferred by the Palestinian Authority to terrorists and their families from the taxes and tariffs Israel collects for the authority.
        Shurat Hadin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who has sued the PA on behalf of many terror victims, explained how the Israeli legislation differs from the Taylor Force Act, which passed in Congress in March and cuts U.S. aid to the PA until it stops paying terrorists and their families.
        "The Taylor Force Act can take away money from the PA if it continues funding terror because it deals with U.S. aid that is entirely at the Americans' discretion. In [Israel's] case, it's the PA's money, not Israeli money. It's from taxes they don't have a mechanism to collect, so we do it under the Oslo accords' tariff agreement. We can take the funds for punishment and deterrence but it's still their money."  (Jerusalem Post)

  • A new Syria is emerging from the rubble of war. In Homs, the Muslim quarter still lies in ruins, but the Christian quarter is reviving. In their sermons, Orthodox patriarchs praise Assad for saving the community.
  • Like all of the cities recaptured by the government, Homs now belongs mostly to Syria's victorious minorities: Christians, Shias and Alawites. These groups banded together against the rebels, who are nearly all Sunni. More than half of the country's population of 22 million has been displaced inside Syria and abroad. Most are Sunnis.
  • The authorities seem intent on maintaining the new demography. Four years after the government regained Homs, residents still need a security clearance to return and rebuild their homes. Few Sunnis get one.
  • In Damascus, the Iranian-backed Shia militias that fight for Assad have expanded the city's Shia quarter into Sunni areas. Portraits of Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Hizbullah Shia militia, hang from Sunni mosques. Advertisements for Shia pilgrimages line the walls.
  • Many men have left, many fleeing the draft and their likely dispatch to the front. As in Europe after the First World War, Syria's workforce is now dominated by women. There are female plumbers, taxi-drivers and bartenders.
  • The country has been led by Alawites since 1966, but Sunnis held senior positions in government, the armed forces and business. Even today many Sunnis prefer Assad's secular rule to that of Islamist rebels. The country's chief mufti is a Sunni, but today there are fewer Sunnis serving in top posts.
  • Iran has resisted Russia's call for foreign forces to leave Syria. It refuses to relinquish command of 80,000 foreign Shia militiamen. Skirmishes between the militias and Syrian troops have resulted in scores of deaths, according to researchers at King's College in London. Having defeated Sunni Islamists, army officers say they have no wish to succumb to Shia ones. But Assad still needs his backers. Though he rules most of the population, about 40% of Syria's territory lies beyond his control.