January 15, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Satellite Launch Fails - Nasser Karimi (AP)
    Iran on Tuesday launched a satellite but it failed to reach orbit, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.
    See also Netanyahu Says Failed Iranian Satellite Launch Was Attempt to Develop ICBM (i24News)
    See also France Tells Iran to Stop Ballistic Missile Work Designed for Nuclear Weapons (Reuters-New York Times)
    France on Friday called on Iran "to immediately cease all ballistic missile-related activities designed to carry nuclear weapons, including tests using ballistic missile technology," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said.

Iran Exploring New Uranium Enrichment - Nasser Karimi (AP)
    Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran's nuclear program, said Sunday that the Islamic Republic has begun designing a modern process for 20% uranium enrichment.
    His comments appeared aimed at telling the world that Iran would restart its enrichment program.

India's Iranian Oil Imports Slide in December under U.S. Pressure - Nidhi Verma (Reuters)
    India's oil imports from Iran fell by 41% in December to 302,000 barrels per day, ship tracking data showed, as pressure from U.S. sanctions took effect.

Iraqi Politician Calls for Peace Accord with Israel (BasNews-Iraqi Kurdistan)
    The Sunni leader of the Iraqi Ummah (Nation) Party, Mithal al-Alusi, told BasNews, "I call on [Iraqi President] Barham Salih to shoulder his responsibility and end the state of enmity between Iraq and Israel."

World Council of Churches Trained 1,800 Anti-Israel Activists, Funded by UNICEF (NGO Monitor)
    The Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is the World Council of Churches' (WCC) "flagship project" on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
    In the past 15 years, EAPPI has brought 1,800 volunteers to the West Bank for "training for advocacy upon returning to home country."
    When volunteers return home, they engage in anti-Israel advocacy, such as BDS campaigns and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.
    WCC does not run similar activities in other conflict zones.
    Since 2013, UNICEF has channeled extensive donor-government funds to EAPPI.

Carmeltazite: A New Unique Gemstone from Israel - David Bressan (Forbes)
    The International Mineralogical Association has recognized carmeltazite as a new distinct mineral. The mineral was named after Israel's Mount Carmel where it was found and the elements it contains - titanium, aluminum and zirconium.
    Curiously, the chemical formula resembles allendeite, a mineral identified for the first time in the Allende meteorite that fell in 1969 in Mexico.
    As gemstone prices are usually based on their rarity, carmeltazite "Carmel sapphire" gemstones could possibly become more expensive than diamonds.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Official in Lebanon Vows to Counter Iran's "Dangerous Activities" in Region - Fadi Tawil
    The U.S. will step up efforts to counter Iran's "dangerous activities" around the region including the financing and activities of proxy organizations such as Lebanon's Hizbullah, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs David Hale said Monday in Beirut.
        "It's unacceptable to have a militia outside the control of the state and unanswerable to all the people of Lebanon, digging attack tunnels across the Blue Line into Israel, or assembling an arsenal of over 100,000 missiles with which to threaten regional stability," Hale said after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri. "Through diplomacy and cooperation with our partners, we will expel from Syria every last Iranian boot," he added. (AP-ABC News)
  • Arab NATO Against Iran Seen as Nonstarter - Edward Wong and Ben Hubbard
    In a tour that took him to eight countries in one week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to get Arab countries to work together to roll back Iranian influence in the region and take on the militias Iran is backing. But the obstacles toward building such a coalition are formidable.
        "If you want to create a military alliance, an Arab NATO, I think it's a nonstarter," said Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former foreign minister of Jordan. "The ingredients are not there....Iran is not seen in a good light among many of the countries of the region, but that is different from participating in a military alliance against it."
        Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading the anti-Iran charge, but Egypt and Jordan do not feel directly threatened by Iran and would be hesitant to risk confronting it. Gulf states like Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman maintain diplomatic and trade ties with Iran and would be unlikely to join in hostilities against it. Iraq is dominated by Shiite Arabs and shares deep cultural, religious and political ties with Iran. (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Intelligence Infiltrates ISIS in Sinai - Yoni Ben Menachem
    In spite of the Egyptian army's success in lowering the level of ISIS terror in northern Sinai, the organization still has 2,000 fighters there. The Egyptian army's main problem is a lack of exact intelligence. According to Palestinian and Bedouin sources in Sinai, Israeli intelligence has managed to infiltrate the ranks of ISIS. The ISIS news agency Amaq and the newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported that the Israeli air force managed to successfully strike the organization's sites and command posts.
        While at first, ISIS in Sinai had a close connection with Hamas, there has been a great change over the past two years in their relations. ISIS hostility toward Hamas is now great due to Hamas collaboration with Egyptian intelligence. The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Jarida reported on Nov. 24, 2018, that, according to Egyptian security sources, ISIS fighters in Sinai took control of a large delivery of arms that had arrived from Iran and was meant for Hamas.
        According to foreign reports, Israeli intelligence has enabled the IDF to strike ISIS targets in northern Sinai, eliminating its commanders through targeted strikes. According to Egyptian sources, Israeli intelligence regularly taps the communications networks of ISIS in Sinai and monitors its movements using drones. The Egyptian army allows Israel freedom to operate militarily in the skies above Sinai. The writer, a veteran Arab affairs commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior analyst for the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • PA Thwarts Hamas Terror Attack in West Bank - Tamar Pileggi
    Outgoing IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday that PA forces seized weapons and explosives from Hamas in the West Bank several days ago, thwarting a Hamas terrorist attack, ministers attending the meeting told Channel 10. He said the PA was thwarting Hamas activities out of its own interests. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Middle East Burden Sharing - Ray Takeyh
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reasserted U.S. priorities in the Middle East in his speech last week at the American University in Cairo. Pompeo identified the U.S.' enemies as radical Islam and Iran and its chief allies as Israel and the Sunni Arab states. Pompeo said the U.S. has come to the Middle East to choose sides and not reconcile age-old adversaries. His comments were also seen as a gesture of reassurance for allies worried about the U.S. troop drawdown underway in Syria. However, the speech should be looked at as a signal of serious U.S. intent to share the responsibility of stabilizing the Middle East with its allies.
        Pompeo praised the U.S. lessening its footprint in both Iraq and Saudi Arabia since the height of the Iraq war. Neither U.S. political party is inclined to commit vast sums of blood and treasure to steady the region. This means that allies such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel will have to do much of the heavy lifting in the Middle East, such as countering the Islamic State and funding reconstruction in Iraq and Yemen.
        The U.S. will furnish arms, intelligence, and special forces to address threats in the region, but it will rely on the manpower of local actors. The writer is a senior fellow at CFR. (Council on Foreign Relations)
  • Trump's Mideast Strategy - Walter Russell Mead
    Public support for U.S. military action and democracy promotion in the Middle East has all but collapsed. Decades of engagement in the region have brought neither stability nor democracy. Moreover, as America's dependence on Middle East energy recedes, many voters see less reason to prioritize the region.
        Yet while U.S. relations with the Sunni Arab powers, Israel and Turkey are sometimes difficult, a policy based on continued cooperation with them is more feasible than subordinating their interests to chase after an improved relationship with the deeply hostile regime in Tehran.
        However, getting Turkey and Israel to work together is a hard sell. The Sunni Arab powers and the Israelis are working together more effectively than ever before because the threat from Iran is so great; unfortunately, the Saudis and Israelis hate and fear Turkish President Erdogan almost as much as they do Tehran's ayatollahs. The writer is professor of foreign affairs and humanities at Bard College. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The "Apartheid" Wall that Isn't - Stephen M. Flatow
    "Israel Opens 'Apartheid Road'" in West Bank, Al Jazeera headlined this week. The latest "Israeli racism" allegation is a highway called Route 4370, northeast of Jerusalem. There is a physical barrier down the middle of the highway. Israeli traffic goes on one side, Palestinian Arab traffic on the other. Is that apartheid? Of course not. On the Israeli side, Israeli Jews, Muslims and Christians are all permitted to drive.
        There is a good reason for the separation because on Israeli roads in the West Bank, there have been numerous drive-by shootings or stonings from passing cars by Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinian Authority has, for the past 25 years, fed its citizens a daily diet of anti-Jewish hatred and glorification of anti-Jewish violence, producing hostile and violent people. Why in the world would Israel expose its citizens to such dangers on its roads?
        The fact that Israel spends millions of shekels building roads for Palestinian Arabs is a remarkable act of unreciprocated generosity. The international community should be heaping praise on the Israelis for kindness, not harassing the Jewish state with lies about "apartheid."  (JNS)

  • The constitutionality of laws penalizing the boycott of Israel is being called into question as the Senate considers the Combating BDS Act. The act is designed to assist states and the federal government as they enforce anti-discrimination laws that focus on combating the spread of BDS.
  • These laws are similar to other anti-discrimination laws that protect women, racial minorities and LGBTQ individuals. All of these laws balance the right to free speech with the government's obligation to protect vulnerable classes of people from discrimination.
  • More than 40 years ago, in response to the Arab League boycott of Israel, laws were passed to prevent entities from imposing foreign policy in the U.S., prohibiting unauthorized boycotts against foreign nations. These laws have survived challenges in federal courts.
  • In response to the spread of discrimination against Israel perpetrated by BDS, U.S. states began enacting laws that prohibit the state from spending taxpayers' money to contract with or invest in those who engage in BDS discrimination. These state anti-BDS laws do not infringe upon the First Amendment.
  • There is a long line of Supreme Court decisions that allow states to choose who they do business with and to exclude discriminatory actions from First Amendment protection.

    The writer is the COO of Zachor Legal Institute, which oppose discrimination in all forms, including discrimination targeting Israel under the banner of BDS.