August 14, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

New Defense Budget Bill Foresees U.S.-Israel Counter-Drone Cooperation - Seth J. Frantzman (Defense News)
    The fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law on Monday, includes a section on U.S.-Israel cooperation in countering unmanned aerial systems.
    The bill envisions funding for research and development modeled on previous successful collaborative efforts including on missile defense and anti-tunneling initiatives.

Argentina Blames Gaza Violence on Palestinians (JTA)
    The Argentine Foreign Ministry issued a statement Friday expressing its "deep concern" over the violence in Gaza which it said was "caused by the launch of rockets towards Israel."
    Relations between Argentina and Israel have warmed significantly since the 2015 election of President Mauricio Macri.

Argentina, Paraguay Target Hizbullah's Tri-Border Area Terror Finance - Emanuele Ottolenghi (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center)
    On July 13, Argentina's Financial Intelligence Unit froze assets of 14 Lebanese nationals and residents of the Tri-Border Area of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay who were part of a criminal organization linked to Hizbullah and associated with the Barakat clan, a powerful Lebanese Shi'a family whose leader, Assad Ahmad Barakat, was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2004.
    Argentina's move follows closely Paraguay's arrest of two Lebanese nationals suspected of ties to Hizbullah.
    The writer is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Israeli Swimmers Win 2 Gold Medals in European Paralympic Championship - Michael Bachner (Times of Israel)
    Israeli swimmers won two gold medals Monday in the European Paralympic championship held in Dublin, Ireland.
    Inbal Pezaro, 31, came first in her 200 meter freestyle final, while Ami Dadaon, 17, won the 100 meter freestyle race.
    Pezaro, who has been paralyzed since birth in her lower limbs, has represented Israel at the Paralympic games since 2004 and has won a total of four silver medals and five bronze medals.

Israeli Startup Helps Keep Food Fresh - Tomer Hadar (Calcalist)
    Israeli startup Timeless Foods makes disposable plastic containers for vacuum packaging of delicate foods, significantly prolonging their shelf life without requiring freezing or even refrigeration.
    "Our first packaging was developed for pizza and can keep it fresh for eight weeks," said Timeless Foods founder and chairman Michel Habib.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Senators Urged to Back Bill Targeting Hamas and Hizbullah for Using Human Shields
    AIPAC and the ADL are urging lawmakers to co-sponsor a Senate bill introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) targeting Hizbullah and Hamas for using human shields. AIPAC said, "Terrorist groups - including Hamas, Hizbullah and ISIS - are blatantly violating international law by placing their terrorist infrastructure among civilian populations and hiding behind innocent civilians as they carry out armed attacks."
        ADL said, "We strongly agree that the use of human shields by terrorist groups is illegal, harms innocent civilians, and impedes necessary efforts at self-defense by democracies such as the United States and Israel." Also backing the bill are B'nai B'rith International and the Orthodox Union. (JTA)
  • Netanyahu Blasts Corbyn for Honoring Munich Massacre Terrorists - Benjamin Kentish
    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn deserves "unequivocal condemnation" for attending a memorial service for the Munich massacre terrorists after pictures emerged of Corbyn attending a 2014 event in Tunisia at which wreaths were laid for the terrorists.
        Netanyahu wrote on Twitter: "The laying of a wreath by Jeremy Corbyn on the graves of the terrorist who perpetrated the Munich massacre and his comparison of Israel to the Nazis deserves unequivocal condemnation from everyone - left, right and everything in between."  (Independent-UK)
  • Russia, Iran Reach Agreement on Caspian Sea Oil and Gas - Oliver Carroll
    On Friday, the Kremlin announced that an agreement had been reached between Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan - the five states bordering the Caspian Sea - after 22 years of talks. The Caspian, the largest enclosed body of water in the world, contains 48 billion barrels of oil and 9 trillion cubic meters of natural gas in proven offshore reserves.
        Is it really a sea or a lake? If it is designated a lake, development rights are divided up equally, with each nation receiving 20%. However, if it is deemed to be a sea, it is split between the nations in proportion to each one's share of its coastline, making Iran the major loser. (Independent-UK)
        See also Iran's Rouhani: Division of Caspian Seabed Will Require Additional Agreements - Olzhas Auyezov (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iranians Concerned over Leaders' War Threats - Iran Desk
    With the threats from Iran's president and the leaders of the Iran Revolutionary Guard against the U.S., Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the security of the Straits of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb, many ordinary citizens in Iran are expressing deep concern regarding the possibility of the outbreak of war. Anti-war hashtags have been trending in recent days. An open letter written by a young Iranian to Gen. Qasem Soleimani, stating that if the general wants to drag Iran into war, he should not rely on the writer to join in, became the most discussed subject on Iranian social media.
        Iranian citizens are filming demonstrations, protests, strikes, and calls against the regime, and posting the clips on social media every day. Every city is experiencing power and water outages. Iran has halted sales of electricity to Iraq and Afghanistan, which caused demonstrations in both countries against the Iranian regime. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Seeing Saudi Changes Up Close - David Pollock
    During a visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last month, I was able to get a glimpse into the Saudi social landscape and found that Saudi society was much less culturally conservative than it once was. This transformation is social rather than political. While the Saudi monarchy is allowing, and even promoting, the expansion of some personal freedoms, political freedom remains absent.
        Neither Saudi authorities nor Saudi public life are now as fundamentalist as they appeared to be just a few years ago. Extremists exist, I was told, but they are now scattered and unpopular. The religious police have been severely reined in; the clerical establishment mostly co-opted; and the hardline dissidents dismissed, blocked from social media, or even imprisoned in a few cases.
        Whereas a few years ago only non-Saudi men worked at hotel or business lobbies and reception desks, nowadays these jobs are filled by Saudi women, many of whom are fluent in English and comfortable interacting with members of the opposite sex. Yet almost all the Saudi women I saw in public are still fully covered. The writer is a fellow at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Palestinian Anger in Gaza Could Turn Against Hamas - Yossi Mekelberg
    The anger of the Gazan population, which for now is mainly directed at Israel, could at any point turn against Hamas too, and its leadership is well aware of it. A party elected as a protest against the failings of Fatah is beginning to resemble those it came to overthrow. In the 12 years since it came to power, its armed struggle against Israel has achieved no tangible results.
        A poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research suggests that the worsening situation in Gaza is now attributed by Gazans not only to Israel, but to the Palestinian Authority and Hamas as well. The writer is professor of international relations at Regent's University London and an associate fellow at Chatham House. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)

Israel's Interest in the U.S.-Backed Enclave in Eastern Syria - Dr. Jonathan Spyer (Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies)
  • The Syrian civil war is now in its closing stages. The largest area of Syria now outside of regime control is the 30% of the country under the control of the U.S.-supported, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SPD). If the U.S. chooses to quit eastern Syria, the SDF will have little choice but to negotiate their surrender with Damascus.
  • In July I traveled to the SDF enclave, which strikes a visitor as relatively peaceful and orderly. I visited all parts of Syria during the war (except for ISIS areas). Rebel areas were always characterized by chaos.
  • There are 2,000 declared U.S. Special Forces personnel in the SDF-controlled area. The real number is probably twice that. Yet SDF leaders remain skeptical regarding U.S. long-term plans.
  • Israel's interest in the maintenance of the eastern Syria enclave and the U.S. base at al-Tanf is clear. It represents a substantial physical obstacle to the Iranian hope for a contiguous "corridor." It would also prevent an overall Iranian triumph in the war and give the West a place at the table in any substantive political negotiation over Syria's future.
  • As the strategic contest between Iran and its allies and the U.S. and its allies moves into high gear, it is essential that the West maintain its alliances and investments, and behaves and is seen to behave as a credible and loyal patron and ally.

    The writer is a fellow of JISS.