February 4, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Chanting "Death to America and Israel," Iran Celebrates 40 Years of Revolution - Kay Armin Serjoie (AFP)
    Thousands of Iranians packed the mausoleum of the Islamic Republic's founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran on Friday to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the revolution that overthrew a centuries-old dynasty.
    Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the influential experts assembly which appoints Iran's supreme leader, said, "America's power is on the decline, we should not be afraid of America," as the crowd shouted, "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."

Malaysia Set to Lose $1 Million over Israel Boycott - Liam Morgan (Inside the Games-UK)
    Malaysia will reportedly lose over $1 million after the country was stripped of this year's World Para Swimming Championships because of its refusal to allow Israel to compete.
    The hotel industry is expected to bear the brunt of the loss as some 600 athletes were set to stay in hotels.
    Other industries hit include travel agencies, restaurants, airlines, transport companies and shopping centers.

Britain's Chief Rabbi Defends Israel's Right to Host Eurovision - Chris Hastings (Mail on Sunday-UK)
    Britain's Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said Sunday, "Whereas peacemakers seek dialogue and common ground, for more than a decade the BDS movement has pursued a campaign of division and demonization."
    "Calls for the Eurovision Song Contest to be moved from Israel will ultimately harm, and not help, the cause of peace. I call upon those advocating for BDS to turn their efforts towards collaboration and reconciliation."
    Israel won the right to host this year's event, due to take place in May, because it won last year with Netta Barzilai.

Egypt to Keep Gaza Border Crossing Open (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Egyptian authorities have pledged to increase commercial trade with Gaza and keep the Rafah border crossing open, regardless of the absence of Palestinian Authority staff, Hamas sources said Saturday.
    However, the Egyptians also stressed that Hamas must maintain calm and slow the Great March of Return, including preventing the burning of tires and cutting the Israeli border fence.

France Demands Sovereignty over the Tombs of the Kings in Jerusalem - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    The ancient compound known as the Tombs of the Kings in the eastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah has been under the administration of the French Consulate for the past 150 years owing to international agreements dating back to the Ottoman period.
    Scholars believe the tombs date back to the Second Temple Period.
    The French Consulate has claimed the site cannot be reopened until its renovations there are completed, but Israeli authorities note that the renovations appear to have been going on for about a decade.
    According to sources at the Israel Foreign Ministry, France wants Israel to recognize French sovereignty over the site, a demand that Israel has rejected.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Trump Calls for Keeping Troops in Iraq to Watch Iran - Eric Schmitt and Alissa J. Rubin
    President Trump plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq to monitor and maintain pressure on neighboring Iran, committing to an American military presence in the region as he moves to withdraw forces from Syria and Afghanistan. "I want to be able to watch Iran," Trump said in an interview aired Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation." "We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do."
        The U.S. has quietly been negotiating with Iraq for weeks to allow perhaps hundreds of American commandos and support troops now operating in Syria to shift to bases in Iraq and strike the Islamic State from there. (New York Times)
        See also Iranian-Backed Militias Threaten U.S. Forces in Iraq - Seth J. Frantzman
    Members of Hashd al-Shaabi, an Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia in Iraq, can be seen confronting U.S. troops on patrol in eastern Mosul in a video posted over the weekend. Iran's Press TV boasted on Saturday that "Hashd al-Shaabi stops U.S. military patrol in Iraq's Mosul."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Urges New Lebanese Government Not to Support Hizbullah - Vivian Yee and Hwaida Saad
    Lebanon's newly formed government gave the Islamist movement Hizbullah key posts, including the Ministry of Health, which has the fourth-largest budget in the government. American officials are concerned Hizbullah will use the ministry to provide state-subsidized health care and patronage jobs to its supporters and possibly even its fighters. "We call on the new government to ensure the resources and services of these ministries do not provide support to Hizbullah," State Department spokesman Robert Palladino said on Friday. (New York Times)
        See also Lebanon Forms Government with Three Hizbullah Ministers - Joseph Haboush (Telegraph-UK)
  • Two Americans Honored by Israel for Helping Police Officer during Jerusalem Terror Attack - Barney Breen-Portnoy
    Two American men were honored at a ceremony at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., on Thursday for the aid they provided to a police officer during a May 2017 terrorist attack in Jerusalem. After praying at the Western Wall in the Old City, Simche Czin and Mordechai Lichtenstadter - both Jewish residents of Brooklyn's Borough Park neighborhood - came upon an assailant stabbing policeman Naaman Fares. Lichtenstadter pulled the terrorist off of Fares, who shot the attacker dead. Czin used his tallit to stem Fares' bleeding.
        "It's fitting that the first non-Israelis to ever receive this citation would be two Americans," said Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer. "America has been the Good Samaritan among nations. There is no nation that has been a greater force for good in the world than the United States of America. And the Jewish people have been blessed that this great and powerful and just country has been by our side."  (Algemeiner)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • President Rivlin Explains Jewish Connection to Jerusalem to Visiting UN Ambassadors - Greer Fay Cashman
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told 40 visiting ambassadors to the UN on Sunday that he could not understand how UNESCO could pass a resolution denying the Jewish connection to Jerusalem when Jews prayed for 2,000 years to return there, besides the fact that there is ample archaeological proof of the Jewish connection to the city.
        Rivlin said that he was certain that many Palestinians prefer peace over war, but emphasized that even though Israel would like see an improvement in the standard of living of the two million Palestinian residents of Gaza, this is not yet feasible because they are being held hostage by 55,000 terrorists. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel: Dozens of Hamas, PFLP Members Hold Senior Positions in Pro-BDS NGOs - Lahav Harkov
    Israel's Strategic Affairs Ministry has found more than 100 links between the internationally-designated terrorist organizations Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the BDS movement. More than 30 members of Hamas and PFLP hold senior positions in BDS-promoting NGOs.
        Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the new report "reveals the true nature and goals of the BDS movement and its connection to terrorism and anti-Semitism....BDS rejects Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state within any borders. They want to see Israel wiped off the map. Promoting boycotts is [just] a different means to achieve this goal."
        "I am calling on all governments, EU institutions, philanthropies, banks and fundraising platforms to end all support for organizations linked to terror."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Three German Organizations Finance Palestinian Group Employing Terrorists - Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Report - Terrorists in Suits: The Ties between NGOs Promoting BDS and Terrorist Organizations (Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • In 2014 War, Gaza Rockets Killed More Palestinians than Israelis - Sebastien Roblin
    The U.S. Army plans to request funding from Congress to procure two advanced Iron Dome air-defense batteries from the Israeli firm Rafael. Since 2011, the Israel Defense Forces have used the Iron Dome to shoot down over 1,700 rockets and mortar shells launched by militants in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza against Israeli communities. Though initially a purely Israeli defense project, in 2011 Washington began providing funding in exchange for access to Iron Dome technology. 70% of the components in its Tamir interceptor missiles are built by Raytheon in the U.S.
        In 2014, Gaza militants launched 4,600 rockets and mortar shells at Israel, 1/4 of which were projected to land near areas populated by Israeli civilians. Iron Dome downed 735 and failed to intercept around 70, consistent with a 90% success rate. Palestinian rockets killed five Israelis and one Thai civilian and injured 80. Additionally, nearly 300 militant rockets landed short inside Gaza, killing 13 Palestinian civilians, most of them children. (National Interest)
  • The Popularity of Hamas - Hillel Frisch
    The photos and videos of Hamas' 31st anniversary commemoration in Katiba Square in Gaza evoke vivid impressions of a vibrant, extremely popular movement. The speeches and the skits - one of which featured an Israeli soldier cowering under his guards - were well-orchestrated. Yet, the event teaches very little about the popularity of Hamas.
        Hamas refrained from holding its commemoration in Gaza's largest square, choosing instead a venue one-third the size near the Islamic University, a Hamas stronghold. Clearly, the number of those participating in the event could not have exceeded 42,000. The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center for Strategic Studies. (Jerusalem Post)

  • The U.S. has spent 70 years and tens of billions of dollars training Arab militaries - with almost nothing to show for all the effort. The U.S.-trained Egyptian Armed Forces performed miserably in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. The U.S.-trained Iraqi Army collapsed when attacked by a couple thousand Islamic State zealots in 2014. The U.S.-trained Saudi military fell flat when it intervened in Yemen in 2015.
  • In recent years, Americans have begun to eye an exit from the Middle East, but few want to walk away and have Iran, Hizbullah, the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, or other U.S. enemies take over. In an ideal world, America would leave behind strong Arab allies, able to defend themselves from their common foes. But that seems far away today.
  • A series of problems have haunted Arab armies throughout the modern era. The Arab world never really industrialized, and this meant that many Arabs came to the military without much understanding of advanced machinery.
  • As a result, Arab personnel often failed to get the full potential out of their weapons and invariably failed to maintain them properly, with the result that the real numbers of tanks, planes, and artillery pieces they could field were far fewer than what they had purchased.
  • Generations of U.S. military personnel who went off to the Middle East to try to teach one or another Arab army to fight like the U.S. armed forces can attest to the stubbornness of these problems.
  • Because the problems they were trying to fix stemmed from these societal factors, I heard the same complaints over and over again, from country to country and decade to decade.

    The writer, a former CIA intelligence analyst who served on the National Security Council staff, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.