August 13, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Taking Back Enriched Uranium It Sent to Russia under Nuclear Deal (Fars-Iran)
    Iran announced on Saturday that it will bring back a second batch of 20%-enriched uranium which has been kept in Russia under the 2015 nuclear deal.
    "When we were inking the nuclear deal, we stopped production of 20% fuel and deposited the excessive fuel in Russia in nearly 10 batches. We received the first batch nearly 7 months ago and the second batch is about to be transferred back to Iran," said Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

Syria Begins Airstrikes on Last Rebel-Held Province - Nazeer Rida and Raed Jabr (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    The Syrian regime launched a military campaign of heavy bombardment of Syrian opposition strongholds in Idlib province, paving the way for the upcoming battle to retake control of the province.
    At least 53 civilians, including 28 children, were killed by airstrikes and barrel bombs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
    Opposition sources described recent developments as "preliminary" compared to the major military campaign the regime has in store.
    See also Syrian Rebels Build an Army with Turkish Help - Khalil Ashawi (Reuters)
    A "National Army" comprised of 35,000 fighters, being set up by Syrian rebels with Turkey's help, could become an obstacle to President Assad's recovery of Idlib province.
    The Turkish military has been present on the ground in northwest Syria since 2016.

The Pan-Arab Palestinian Flag Hoisted in Tel Aviv - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Palestinian flags were waved in a demonstration by Israeli Arabs in Tel Aviv's Rabin Square on August 11, 2018.
    The Palestinian flag is based on Hashemite flags first unfurled in the 1920s in Damascus as the flag of Hashemite Syria. The Hashemite emirate in Jordan adopted the same flag, adding a star.
    The flag does not symbolize anything specific to the land of Palestine, but rather the history of the Arabs and Islam: the Umayyad caliphate - white; the Hashemites - red; the Abbasid caliphate and Mohammed - black; and Islam - green.
    The Palestinian flag symbolizes a pan-Arab and pan-Islamic movement which does not accept anyone different from themselves - neither the Kurds in Syria nor the Jews in Israel.

Afghans Leaving Iran in Record Numbers as Rial Plunges - Allison Jackson (AFP)
    A record 442,344 Afghans have voluntarily returned or been deported from Iran this year as Iran's currency has lost half of its value.
    See also Recruited by Iran to Fight for Syrian Regime, Young Afghans Bring Home Cash and Scars - Pamela Constable (Washington Post)

Israeli Gymnast Wins Silver Medal at European Championship - Itamar Katzir (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli gymnast Artem Dolgopyat won a silver medal on Sunday in the European Men's Artistic Gymnastics Championships in Glasgow.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Hopes Aid Cuts Will Pressure Palestinians to Accept Peace Plan - Colum Lynch
    The White House is seeking to withhold up to $200 million in direct aid for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank in addition to funding reductions for UNRWA, according to three diplomatic sources. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and top Middle East advisor Jared Kushner decided on the cuts in a high-level meeting last week. Congress had already appropriated $230 million in economic support funds, but the officials decided they would ask lawmakers to withhold most of the funds. Sources said the administration intends to continue funding a network of six hospitals in east Jerusalem.
        According to sources, Kushner maintained that ending the aid could strengthen his negotiating hand when he introduces his long-awaited Middle East peace plan. (Foreign Policy)
  • EU Blasts Hamas Rocket Attacks on Israel
    The EU foreign affairs spokesperson said Friday: "The rocket fire from Gaza towards communities in southern Israel as well as other violent actions and provocations against Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian militants are totally unacceptable."  (European Union External Action)
  • Congress and Jewish Groups Express Solidarity with Israel after Hamas Rocket Barrage
    Members of Congress and the American Jewish community are reacting to Hamas' firing rockets from Gaza into Israel. Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations chairman Arthur Stark and executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein said: "Since May 2018, nearly 650 rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip targeting Israeli population centers, and...[last week] over 150 rockets have been launched, representing only the latest examples of violence in Hamas' violations of international law, civic and human rights."
        "We support the measures taken by the government of Israel to protect and defend civilian lives, and hope that its actions will bring about a swift end to these indiscriminate attacks. No country would or should put up with these violations of its territorial integrity or security of its citizens."  (JNS)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Large Arson Kite from Gaza Lands on Kibbutz Power Lines
    A 4-meter (13-foot) arson kite launched from Gaza landed on high-voltage power lines near Kibbutz Sufa on Friday, causing a power outage at the kibbutz and in the surrounding area. In another community near Gaza, an arson balloon landed next to a communal dining room.
        On Friday, several thousand Gazans gathered along the border, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails at Israeli security forces. Several attempts were made to breach the security fence and a grenade was hurled at troops. In addition, incendiary devices from Gaza sparked nine fires in Israel on Friday. (Times of Israel)
        See also Gaza Arson Balloons Cause Five Fires in Israel on Saturday - Matan Tzuri (Ynet News)
  • No Rockets, But Still No Gaza Ceasefire - Tovah Lazaroff
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "We are in the midst of a campaign against terror in Gaza. It entails an exchange of blows; it will not end in one strike. Our demand is clear: a complete cease-fire. We will not suffice with less than this. As of now, we have destroyed hundreds of Hamas military targets, and in each round the IDF exacts an additional heavy price."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Has Paid $294,332 to Jerusalem Pizza Bombers - Maurice Hirsch and Itamar Marcus
    On August 9, 2001, a suicide bomber entered the Sbarro pizza shop in downtown Jerusalem, detonated his suicide vest and murdered 15 people including 7 children. 130 people were injured. The suicide bomber's family has received $50,124 from the PA as a reward. The terrorist who planned the attack and brought the bomber to Sbarro, Ahlam Tamimi, has received $52,681. The suicide belt was built by Hamas bombmaker Abdallah Barghouti, who has received $191,526 from the PA. (Palestinian Media Watch)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Jewish State's Nation-State Bill Non-Scandal - Bret Stephens
    The purpose of Israel's new nation-state bill was to codify into Israel's Basic Laws - akin to a constitution - aspects of Israeli identity long taken for granted by Israelis and outsiders alike. It can plausibly be described as a mostly symbolic codification of Israel's Jewish character in the face of persistent efforts to deny that character.
        What the bill is not is the death of Israel's democracy - it was enacted democratically. It is not the death of Israeli civil liberties - still guaranteed under the 1992 Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty. Nor is it anywhere remotely as noxious as what is happening in other Western democracies wrestling with competing claims between national identity, civil liberties and cultural pluralism.
        In Denmark, the Times reported last month, "starting at the age of 1, [immigrant] 'ghetto children' must be separated from their families for at least 25 hours a week, not including nap time, for mandatory instruction in 'Danish values,' including the traditions of Christmas and Easter, and the Danish language.'" So where are the calls to boycott, divest and sanction Denmark? (New York Times)
  • Tough Times for Palestinians Detained by Israel: Picnics, Parties, Singalongs - Liel Leibovitz
    Last December, a 17-year-old Palestinian woman named Ahed Tamimi assaulted an IDF soldier and was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison. After her release, Tamimi addressed the issue of how young Palestinians detained by Israel are treated in an interview on Al-Jazeera.
        Each day, she recalled, began with all the prisoners in her wing congregating in the yard to enjoy a potluck picnic. Then, mornings were spent studying for her high school diploma. Lunches were again a communal affair, followed by "having parties, sitting around together, singing, dancing, just passing the time, watching TV, jumping around from room to room, going wild."  (Tablet)
  • The Question of Proportionality in Gaza - Lt.-Col. (res.) Peter Lerner
    During the recent flare-up with Hamas in Gaza, several foreign correspondents raised questions of proportionality in the IDF's conduct. The IDF conducted 180 precision strikes in Gaza, in the aftermath of which the Hamas Ministry of Health announced that three people had been killed. One of the dead was announced as a Hamas terrorist. The two others were a woman and her daughter. While their deaths are tragic, they are not an indication of a disproportionate response to Hamas' bombardment of Israeli communities with 200 rockets and mortars, resulting in 28 Israelis that required medical assistance.
        The precision strikes on Hamas assets with so few deaths reflects the deep and thorough IDF planning process, its vast intelligence capabilities, and its nearly flawless execution. Kinetic diplomacy sent a clear message and that message was proportionate. Its military action proved once again that Israel does everything professionally possible in order to limit the deaths of non-combatants. The writer is a former IDF spokesperson. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Rather than investing in the country and its people, the Iranian regime is squandering its money on proxy wars and malign activities abroad. At the same time, Iran's elite is lining its own pockets at the people's expense.
  • The Iranian people deserve better. They deserve a government that cares more about improving their lives than destroying others. They need a government that pays workers, not terrorists. A government that cracks down on poverty, not peaceful protests.
  • The Iranian regime is spending billions of dollars to destabilize the region. It is backing Assad's atrocities against the Syrian people. It is launching cyber attacks against Western democracies. It is sponsoring Hizbullah terrorists in Lebanon. It is arming militants in Yemen. It has publicly stated its quest to destroy Israel.
  • The Iranian regime's behavior is a threat to the Iranian people and it is a threat to the U.S. and our partners across the globe. Ninety days ago, the U.S. president made the historic decision to terminate America's participation in the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. The UK is our closest ally and we have spent the past year working together and with other allies to try to fix the agreement.
  • It is clear that the danger from Iran did not diminish in the wake of the deal. It grew. Far from becoming a more responsible member of the international community, as we had all hoped, Iran grew bolder. It ramped up its military spending and expanded its proxy forces and terrorist networks.
  • Only by presenting a united front can we exert the maximum possible pressure on the Iranian regime, and get it to finally change course and put an end to its malign and reckless activities both at home and abroad. We want the UK by our side. We are asking global Britain to use its considerable diplomatic power and influence and join us as we lead a concerted global effort towards a genuinely comprehensive agreement.

    The writer is U.S. ambassador to the UK.