January 2, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Relying on Israeli Armor to Protect Its Battle Vehicles from Antitank Missiles - Ben Kesling (Wall Street Journal)
    High-powered antitank guided missiles (ATGMs) have flooded the battlefields of the Middle East, highlighting a gap in U.S. military preparedness.
    The U.S., Russia and Iran armed and trained proxy fighters, and sent them antitank missiles.
    A U.S. program begun in mid-2013 provided weapons including ATGM missiles to rebels fighting the Assad regime in Syria.
    President Trump later canceled the program, saying it allowed weapons to fall into al-Qaeda hands.
    "There is absolutely the possibility that the U.S. may face some of the same ATGMs it has delivered in the past to the Middle East," said Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst with the defense-intelligence firm Stratfor.
    The U.S. Army is now fast-tracking a program to equip combat vehicles with advanced armor designed to counter the ATGM threat.
    Israel has become a world leader in devising protection against these weapons, fielding active protection systems that use sensors to detect an incoming missile and shoot back at it, destroying the threat midflight.
    In 2009, the Pentagon mothballed a multibillion-dollar Army program and eventually came to rely primarily on an Israeli armor system for its top-tier battle vehicles.
    While the Army works on a homegrown solution, the U.S. military continues to rely on commercial systems, particularly from Israeli companies, for its active protection needs.

Israeli Startups Raised $6.1 Billion in 2018 - a New Record (Globes)
    Israeli startups raised a record $6.1 billion in 2018, easily surpassing last year's record of $5.24 billion.
    This sum includes over $400 million raised in December.

The Islamic State inside Iraq: Preserving Strength? - Michael Knights (Combating Terrorism Center at West Point)
    It has been a year since Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory over the Islamic State, yet ISIS did not disappear.
    In the first 10 months of 2018, the movement mounted 1,271 attacks. 762 were explosive events, including 135 attempted mass-casualty attacks and 270 effective roadside bombings.
    ISIS attempted to overrun 120 Iraqi security force checkpoints or outposts and executed 148 precise killings of specifically targeted individuals such as village mukhtars, tribal heads, district council members, or security force leaders.
    As Hassan Hassan has documented, the Islamic State had readied "a calculated strategy by the group after the fall of Mosul to conserve manpower and pivot away from holding territory to pursuing an all-out insurgency" - to return to the attritional struggle against the Iraqi state and Sunni communities that it executed so successfully in 2011-2014.
    The writer is a senior fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pompeo Says Cooperation with Israel over Syria and Iran to Continue - Mary Milliken
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the United States would continue to cooperate with Israel over Syria and in countering Iran in the Middle East, even as President Donald Trump plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. Pompeo said the decision "in no way changes anything that this administration is working on alongside Israel. The counter-ISIS campaign continues, our efforts to counter Iranian aggression continue and our commitment to Middle East stability and the protection of Israel continues in the same way it did before that decision was made."  (Reuters)
        See also Secretary of State Pompeo Meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu in Brazil
    Deputy State Department Spokesperson Robert Palladino said Tuesday: "Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today in Brasilia, Brazil. They discussed the unacceptable threat that regional aggression and provocation by Iran and its agents poses to Israeli and regional security. The Secretary reiterated the United States' commitment to Israel's security and unconditional right to self-defense. The Secretary and Prime Minister reaffirmed their commitment to deepen bilateral cooperation."  (State Department)
  • Nikki Haley Slams UNESCO as U.S., Israel Quit UN Agency - Amy Lieu
    On Tuesday, one day after the U.S. and Israel officially quit UNESCO over anti-Israel bias, exiting U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted, "UNESCO is among the most corrupt and politically biased UN agencies. Today the U.S. withdrawal from this cesspool became official." Israel has been infuriated by UNESCO resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites. (Fox News)
        See also below Commentary - Former Israeli Envoy: UNESCO Is Led by the Arab Extremists - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Upgraded Naval Barrier between Gaza and Israel nears Completion - Anna Ahronheim
    A 200-meter naval barrier lined with seismic detectors meant to stave off Hamas infiltrations from the sea is nearing completion. The upgraded naval barrier was decided upon after five Hamas frogmen tried to infiltrate Kibbutz Zikim during the 2014 Gaza War and Hamas then significantly expanded its naval commando unit. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egyptian General Visits Israeli Youth Village to Apologize for Stray Cross-Border Fire
    An Egyptian general who commands the country's military forces along the border arrived in Israel on Sunday to inspect damage from stray bullets fired by his troops toward an Israeli youth village. Large 0.5-inch bullets were discovered on Dec. 20 inside a trailer at the educational youth village in Nitzana The fire was accidental, resulting from incorrect aiming during a live-fire exercise, Hadashot TV reported. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Former Israeli Envoy: UNESCO Is Led by the Arab Extremists - Benjamin Kerstein
    David Kornbluth - who served as Israel's UNESCO envoy from 2005-2009 - told Algemeiner on Tuesday why Israel pulled out of UNESCO on Jan. 1 in coordination with the U.S. "It was bad then," Kornbluth said of his tenure. "It's really nasty being attacked all the time, but was more manageable. But things got worse and worse, it just goes on and on and on, and politically it becomes just a bit disgusting."
        "The Israel-bashing thing has been going on forever, but the United States is staunchly with Israel....Since the United States and Israel came out two years ago with the intention to withdraw, UNESCO has moderated itself a bit towards Israel, but not sufficiently."
        "It's very, very uncomfortable to be there as ambassador and you see all these people sort of enjoying their quasi-anti-Semitic discussions. It's really unpleasant. And you have to fight it and you have to negotiate against it."
        "It's very, very inappropriate when they come up with these sort of anti-Israel resolutions all the time. Denying the relationship with Jerusalem or Hebron or things like that. And they bash away at it. I mean it becomes part of what UNESCO believes or teaches....They're led by the Arab extremists who have nothing to do with wanting peace or wanting good relations with Israel."  (Algemeiner)
  • HSBC's Divestment from Elbit Is on the Wrong Side of History - Editorial
    London-based HSBC, Europe's largest bank and the 7th largest financial institution in the world, announced it would divest from Elbit Systems, an Israeli defense contractor engaged in the production of advanced drones. The UK-based Palestinian Solidarity Campaign said on Dec. 27 that HSBC decided to liquidate its holdings due to public pressure orchestrated by the BDS movement, following a year-long campaign that included regular demonstrations in front of the bank's 40 branches in Britain and emails from 24,000 people.
        The PSC said that "HSBC confirmed to campaigners that it has fully divested from Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems, which sells weapons to the Israeli military used in attacks on Palestinians." According to PSC, Elbit has also provided equipment for the construction of Israel's security barrier.
        So HSBC has decided to divest from Elbit because its technology is used in IDF drone surveillance of Palestinian terrorists who launch attacks against Israel and was used in the building of the security fence that prevents terrorists from attacking Israelis. HSBC, if this is your final decision, you will go down on the wrong side of history. Do you understand that Israel is using Elbit technology to protect itself against Palestinian terror, and not to undermine the rights of the Palestinian people? (Jerusalem Post)
  • Former Israeli Chief Justice Aharon Barak Supports Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People - Dr. Emmanuel Navon
    On Dec. 17, 2018, former Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Aharon Barak discussed Israel's Nation-State Law at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. "This is an important law," Barak said, adding that he supports the idea that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people.
        Barak drew a distinction between national rights and civic rights: "The recognition of the minority rights of Israel's Arab citizens does not grant them a national right to self-determination within the State of Israel. They are a minority whose identity and culture must be protected, but if they want to realize their right to national self-determination they can only do it in a state of their own, not in Israel." The writer is a senior fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum. (Jerusalem Post)

The "Princes" of Iran Speak Out as Regime Fears Collapse - Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Hassan Khomeini, grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the architect of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, has warned that the political system used in Iran is about to collapse. Khomeini's words join other statements heard among the religious establishment, according to which there has been considerable erosion of legitimacy of the Islamic regime as it approaches its fortieth year.
  • Hassan Khomeini stated that there is no guarantee that the Islamic regime will continue to exist if it does not take into account several basic problems that require urgent attention. Khomeini specifically pointed to the issues of tolerance, meritocracy, easing repression, and hypocrisy as matters that the regime must take care of and repair its ways before it is too late.
  • He added, "Anyone who does not adhere to human rights has no guarantee that he can remain in government, and in the end he will lose the confidence of the people." Some of Iran's newspapers published his statements under prominent headlines such as, "No Guarantee that We Will Remain."
  • Several days earlier, Faezeh Hashemi, a former member of parliament and daughter of former President Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, told Mostaghel that the ideology of the Islamic Republic has totally collapsed. Even though the regime is still strong, the only reason it remains in power is the lack of a suitable alternative that could gain the support of the nation.
  • "Wherever we look, there is a definite lack of efficiency and a lack of leadership and logic. Everything is neglected, and no attempt has been made to find a solution to the problems. Worst of all - the situation is only getting worse and there is no sign of any improvement."
  • The severity of the criticism of the regime and the Islamic system of government is unusual, and it is increasing as the economic crisis in Iran deepens. The criticism from the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini and the daughter of Rafsanjani indicates that some of the impediments that existed in the past to anything related to criticism of the Islamic system of government have been removed.