September 20, 2018

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Bolstered Its Activity in Latakia, Syria, Assuming Israel Wouldn't Attack - Daniel Salami (Ynet News)
    Iran assumed Israel would not attack in Latakia, Syria, because of Russia's heavy presence in the area, and therefore bolstered its activity there, Asharq Al-Awsat reported, citing Israeli sources.
    Iran had built warehouses and weapons development facilities as well as workshops to improve existing arms.

Volkswagen Pulls Out of Iran - Nick Wadhams (Bloomberg)
    The U.S. has persuaded Volkswagen to comply with sanctions on Iran and end almost all of its business in the country, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell said Tuesday.
    "We are pleased with this decision because Iran diverts its economic resources away from its people to spread violence and instability across the globe," he said.
    A senior State Department official said there was now no business left for the EU to protect in Iran and that the U.S. had essentially won in its battle to persuade companies to leave.
    He said that European nations and businesses are far more closely aligned with the U.S. than they are with the EU on that issue.

Palestinian Journalist: Arafat Told Me He Went Along with Oslo Accords "to Bring the PLO Back to Palestine" (MEMRI)
    To mark the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, Palestinian journalist Abd Al-Bari Atwan revealed in Rai Al-Yawm on Sep. 13 that PLO leader Yasser Arafat told him he did not believe in the Oslo path, but that he was going along with it because it was an opportunity "to bring the PLO and the resistance back to Palestine" and to drive out the Jews.
    Atwan also noted that Arafat had cooperated with, funded, and armed members of Hamas, and had coordinated with Hizbullah to dispatch ships bringing weapons to the Gaza coast.

Turkey's Economic Spiral - Aykan Erdemir and John Lechner (The Interpreter-Lowy Institute-Australia)
    Turkey's economy has been in free-fall in recent months, with the lira losing 40% of its value against the U.S. dollar this year.
    Nearly 90% of the credit that has funded the country's real estate bubble came from loans in foreign currencies. European lenders are exposed to Turkey with over $160 billion worth of loans.
    With the lira's massive devaluation in 2018, servicing that debt has become incredibly difficult for Turkish companies.
    Aykan Erdemir is a former member of the Turkish parliament and a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where John Lechner is an intern.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Putin Says Israel Didn't Down Russian Aircraft
    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, "the Israeli jet didn't down our aircraft" on Monday in Syria. "When it comes to comparing the Il-20 crash with other incidents, namely an attack on a Russian plane, when a Russian plane was downed by a Turkish military jet, this is still a different situation," Putin noted, adding that the latest incident looks like "a chain of tragic accidental circumstances."  (Sputnik-Russia)
        See also IDF: F-16s Were Already in Israeli Airspace when Syria Hit Russian Aircraft
    The Israel Defense Forces expressed regret on Tuesday over the deaths of Russian troops on Monday but put the blame on Damascus. "When the Syrian Army launched the missiles that hit the Russian plane, IAF jets were already within Israeli airspace....During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation," the IDF said. "The Syrian anti-air batteries fired indiscriminately and, from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air."  (Sputnik-Russia)
  • State Department: Iran Allows al-Qaeda to Operate Key Network Inside Iran - Thomas Joscelyn
    The State Department, in its annual Country Reports on Terrorism released Wednesday, says, "Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qaeda (AQ) members residing in Iran." Moreover, "Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran since at least 2009, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria."  (Long War Journal)
        See also U.S. Tags Iran Anew as Top Terror Sponsor
    The State Department's annual survey of global terrorism accused Iran of intensifying numerous conflicts and trying to undermine governments throughout the Middle East and beyond. "Iran uses terrorism as a tool of its statecraft," Ambassador Nathan Sales, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism, said Wednesday. He cited Iran-linked fundraising networks in West Africa, weapons caches in South America, and operational activity in Europe.
        The report specifically cited the activities of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani, noting that Iran used the Revolutionary Guard "to provide support to terrorist organizations, provide cover for associated covert operations, and create instability in the Middle East."  (AP-New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Hamas Ramps Up Pressure on Gaza Border - Elior Levy
    Sources in Gaza told Ynet Tuesday that Hamas has decided to escalate the demonstrations on the Gaza border in order to pressure Egypt and Israel. Egyptian-mediated ceasefire talks have been suspended for the past three weeks, and PA President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to end all financial support for Gaza.
        In the past two weeks, Hamas has been encouraging the public in Gaza to intensify the clashes at the border fence. Sources in Gaza said that last week a $200 grant was handed to every Palestinian wounded in the riots since the beginning of September. Sources said the funding came from Iran. Hamas has renewed the launching of incendiary balloons and has called for a series of violent confrontations almost every evening. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians Riot near Gaza Security Fence during Yom Kippur
    Hundreds of Palestinians rioted near the Gaza security fence during Yom Kippur on Wednesday, throwing firebombs, a hand grenade and an explosive device at IDF soldiers. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Arson Balloons from Gaza Cause Four Fires in Israel
    Four fires broke out in Gaza border communities on Wednesday due to incendiary balloons launched into Israel by Palestinians in Gaza. (Ynet News)
  • Palestinian Attempts to Stab Jews in Jerusalem on Yom Kippur - Elior Levy
    A Palestinian man charged at a Jewish worshiper with a screwdriver in central Jerusalem on Tuesday, shortly after Yom Kippur began, the holiest day of the Jewish year. After passersby tripped the attacker, he ran at police officers to stab them before he was shot and killed. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • There Will Not Be Peace until the Palestinians Stop Making War - Kevin D. Williamson
    This week marks 25 years since the signing of the Oslo Accords. But a peace plan isn't peace. Peace negotiations aren't peace. Peace is peace.
        There were 169 Palestinian suicide attacks between 1993 and 2016, targeting shopping malls, bus depots, and the streets of downtown Jerusalem. In 2014 alone, there were 4,500 rocket and mortar attacks on Israelis. The Palestinians still proudly celebrate their stunning military victory over a pregnant woman, seven children, and five other civilians eating pizza.
        The conflict with Israel might be settled in a million different ways, but Palestinian powers reject all of those possibilities in favor of the one outcome that the Israelis cannot accept: the elimination of the Jewish state. The Israelis cannot make peace with people who will not make peace with them. They can only try to protect themselves and look for harm-reduction opportunities.
        The fundamental raison d'etre for the PLO's existence is making war on Israel. There will not be peace until the Palestinians stop making war. (National Review)
  • Palestinian Human Rights Activist: EU Should Cut Funding for BDS Movement
    Speaking at the EU Parliament in Brussels, Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid said: "BDS is a movement which is trying to use the Palestinians in order to gain power and money....lf Europe tomorrow will cut the funding on BDS, like Trump cut the funding on UNRWA, no BDS will exist in the coming six months."
        "The majority of the Palestinians these days are people who are seeking dignity rather than identity....Dignity can be achieved only via economic prosperity....So Europe should...help the Palestinians to put an end to the so-called BDS....BDS is just using us. BDS will never ever help us. BDS will never ever want to achieve any kind of peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. BDS wants to destroy Israel, and, as a Palestinian, I don't have time for that."  (MEMRI)

Inside Israel's New Iran Strategy - Maysam Behravesh (Reuters)
  • Israel has confirmed that it has carried out over 200 air strikes against Iranian targets in Syria over the last two years, indicating a zero tolerance defense posture toward Iran's military presence in Syria. In May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed that "we believe that there is no place for any Iranian military presence, anywhere in Syria."
  • Israel's security strategy towards Iranian presence in its neighborhood is driven by three major factors:
  • First, Israel does not seem to be entirely convinced of the Trump administration's willingness to take on Iran in Syria, nor can it rely on Russia to keep Iran in check and secure Israeli interests in its backyard.
  • Second, the strategy of opposing Iranian military presence anywhere in Syria resonates strongly with the Sunni Arab bloc in the region and can bring Israel closer to Tehran's other nemeses, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE. These emerging ties, which Netanyahu calls the silver lining of the "bad" Iran deal, are very important to Israel.
  • Third, the Israeli security establishment has a deep-rooted belief that Iranian revisionism and expansionism knows no limits, and that the Islamic Republic is hell-bent on creating an aggressive empire in the Middle East and beyond.
  • The apocalyptic rhetoric of Iranian hardliners vowing "annihilation" of Israel, coupled with the much-vaunted tour of Iran-backed paramilitary commanders along Israel's border with Lebanon and Syria, have stoked these fears.

    The writer is a journalist at the TV channel Iran International and an affiliated researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University, Sweden.