July 5, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

EU Lawmakers Back Plan for European Investment Bank to Bypass U.S. Sanctions on Iran - Robin Emmott and Alissa de Carbonnel (Reuters)
    The European Parliament gave approval on Wednesday for the European Investment Bank (EIB) to do business in Iran.
    To circumvent the reimposition of U.S. sanctions on Iran in order to maintain business links with the Islamic Republic, the EU's strategy includes EIB lending, a special measure to shield EU companies from U.S. secondary sanctions, and a European Commission proposal that EU governments make direct money transfers to Iran's central bank to avoid U.S. penalties.

Why the U.S. Army Chose Israel's Trophy System to Protect Its M1 Abrams Tanks - Dave Majumdar (National Interest)
    The U.S. Army has awarded Leonardo DRS a $193 million contract to equip the service's M1 main battle tanks with the Israeli-developed Trophy active protection system (APS).
    Developed by Israel's Rafael Systems, Trophy is designed to defeat modern rocket propelled grenades such as the tandem-charge RPG-29 and anti-tank guided missiles such as the Russian Kornet and Chinese HJ-8.
    "Aboard [Israeli] Merkava tanks, the system has proven 100% effective during multiple engagements in and around the Gaza Strip since its fielding, and especially during the Israel Defense Forces' 2014 Operation Protective Edge," Leonardo DRS said in an internal publication.
    "In dense, urban terrain and an intense electromagnetic environment, Trophy successfully defeated attacks by both short-range, tandem RPG-29 rockets and long-range Kornet missiles."
    "No tanks equipped with Trophy suffered hits, casualties or residual effects - nor did any accompanying infantry troops - during any of these engagements."
    With new precision-guided anti-tank missiles proliferating, the Army needs APS systems for all of its combat vehicles as soon as possible.

Iranian Hackers Impersonate Israeli Security Firm - Ionut Arghire (Security Week)
    A group of Iranian hackers focused on cyber-espionage recently built up a website to impersonate ClearSky Cyber Security, the Israeli firm that exposed their activities in 2017.
    The security firm exposed the link between the group and Iranian national Behzad Mesri, who was charged in November 2017 with the hacking of HBO.
    Hackers built a phishing website site impersonating ClearSky, copying entire pages from the legitimate website, but also included a sign-in option. Anyone entering credentials would have them sent to the attackers (ClearSky has no sign-in option).

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Gen. Soleimani Threatens to Block Gulf Oil Exports
    The commander of the Quds Force in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, said Wednesday that the Revolutionary Guard "is ready to implement a policy that hinders regional oil exports if the United States bans Iranian oil sales."  (Al Arabiya)
        See also Iran Revolutionary Guards Threaten to Stop Oil Exports through Strait of Hormuz - Arsalan Shahla and Ladane Nasseri
    "If Iran's oil exports are to be prevented, we will not give permission for oil to be exported to the world through the Strait of Hormuz," Esmail Kowsari, deputy commander of the Sarollah Revolutionary Guards base in Tehran, has warned. About 30% of all seaborne-traded crude oil passes through the waterway including oil produced by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi. (Bloomberg)
        See also U.S. to Keep Persian Gulf Waterway Open Despite Iran Threats
    Capt. Bill Urban, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, said Wednesday that the U.S. military and its regional allies "stand ready to ensure the freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce wherever international law allows," referring to Iranian threats to close the Persian Gulf to oil tankers. (AP-New York Times)
  • European Powers, China Set to Give Iran New Assurances - Jonathan Tirone
    Foreign ministers from China, France, Germany, Russia and the UK will convene in Vienna on Friday without the U.S. in order "to ensure the continued implementation" of the nuclear deal which granted Iran a reprieve from sanctions in exchange for limits to its nuclear program, according to an EU statement on Wednesday.
        "Austria and the European Union are ready to maintain and deepen the framework for cooperation with Iran," Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen said following a meeting in Vienna with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. U.S. threats to impose secondary sanctions violate the rights of European companies and individuals, Van der Bellen said. (Bloomberg)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iran Set Up Terrorist Infrastructure in Europe - Daniel Siryoti
    Iran has set up terrorist and intelligence infrastructure across Europe with the aim of assassinating exiled Iranian dissidents and moderate Arab leaders, intelligence experts said Tuesday. According to Israeli and foreign intelligence experts, the vast Iranian infrastructure was set up to serve the Revolutionary Guard Corps' black-ops arm, the Quds Force. One foreign intelligence official said that a prominent Arab leader had recently canceled a visit to Europe following solid information that an Iranian terrorist cell was planning to assassinate him.
        The IntelliTimes intelligence blog claimed that the Iranian terrorist infrastructure was headed by Asadullah Asadi, stationed as an attache at the Iranian Embassy in Vienna. Belgium was selected to be the logistical base of operations for Iranian terrorist cells, which comprised Iranians who had migrated to Brussels, Antwerp and Mons. (Israel Hayom)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Cause 19 Fires in Israel on Wednesday - Matan Tzuri
    Palestinians launched incendiary balloons from Gaza on Wednesday that caused 19 fires in Israeli border communities. (Ynet News)
  • Israeli President Rivlin: No Gaza Rehabilitation until Soldiers' Bodies Are Returned - Alexander Fulbright
    President Reuven Rivlin said Monday: "As long as Hamas continues to run Gaza as it does with only one purpose - the destruction of the State of Israel and attacking its citizens - and holds the bodies of our soldiers who didn't return from battle, Gaza won't be rehabilitated." He was referring to the bodies of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin who were killed in the 2014 Gaza war whose remains are held by Hamas.
        Rivlin spoke during a ceremony at Jerusalem's Mount Herzl military cemetery for Israeli troops killed in the 2014 war. "We are sorry for the Gazans who are rotting under the yoke of Hamas," he added. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran Threatens to Close Persian Gulf Oil Chokepoint - Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira
    The threats of Iranian President Rouhani and the commanders of the Quds Force mean more than just a risk to harm oil exports from the Persian Gulf; they could mean the closing of the Strait of Hormuz and undermining the freedom of navigation through the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb where Iran's Houthi proxies have already fired missiles at ships and tankers.
        The threats could also translate into terrorist operations by Iranian-backed organizations such as Hizbullah, whose forces are deployed in Yemen and Syria. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, served as military secretary to the Prime Minister and as Israel Foreign Ministry chief of staff. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The "Peace Plan" Is Coming - Shoshana Bryen
    Current Palestinian leadership believes that Jews are running a country on Palestinian land - that the Galilee, Haifa, Jaffa, Ashkelon and Beersheva belong in the Palestinian Arab state, not to mention Jerusalem. The Palestinian Authority is not participating in the preliminary talks on the U.S. peace plan because the option of agreeing that Israel gets to stay on "Palestinian land" in perpetuity is impossible.
        The Trump administration has talked about billions in Arab investment in Palestinian areas, but the problem is not a lack of money. Palestinian society must first come off its war footing and agree to harness the talent and capability of individual Palestinians with their closest and best trading partner, Israel, and with others.
        It is time to finish the 1948 war. Let the Sunni Arab states accept the legitimate and permanent presence of the State of Israel, even if it is 70 years late. Provide support for the Palestinians to build a new government committed to the economic and social health of its people. That is a plan for peace. The writer is senior director at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington. (JNS)

  • Dr. Harold Rhode, a former adviser on Islamic affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense, said in an interview that the Iranian people see the regime as reacting to recent protests from a position of fear. "The protesters have confidence because they inherently sense that the regime is weak," but will be careful and reserved as long as the regime is perceived to be strong.
  • In an article for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Iranian negotiating behavior, Rhode stated: "It is only when Iranians become convinced that either their rulers lack the resolve to do what is necessary to remain in power or that a stronger power will protect them against their current tyrannical rulers that they will speak out and try to overthrow leaders." Rhode sees the U.S. pressure and sanctions strategy as having a chance of succeeding.
  • Raz Zimmt, an Iran expert at Israel's Institute for National Security Studies, says the protests currently affect mainly the status of President Hassan Rouhani and the government and pose no real threat to the stability of the regime.
  • As the economic crisis deepens in the coming months as a result of the resumption of economic sanctions, the regime will have two choices, according to Zimmt: To agree to a compromise with the U.S., even at the price of making significant concessions, or increase its "resistance economy" and willingness to increase internal repression, if necessary, "in an attempt to gain time in the hope that by the time sanctions make a significant effect, the U.S. administration will be replaced by a more convenient administration."