February 14, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Revives Secret Program to Sabotage Iranian Missiles - David E. Sanger and William J. Broad (New York Times)
    The U.S. has accelerated a secret program to sabotage Iran's missiles, according to current and former administration officials.
    Two failed Iranian attempts to launch satellites in the past month were part of a pattern. Over the past 11 years, 67% of Iranian orbital launches have failed, compared to a 5% failure rate worldwide for similar space launches.
    U.S. officials described a far-reaching effort, created under President George W. Bush, to slip faulty parts and materials into Iran's aerospace supply chains.

Weapons Smuggling from Jordan into the West Bank - Pinhas Inbari (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Fatah's Tanzim military arm in the West Bank has been purchasing weapons smuggled from Syria through Jordan.
    Iran and Hizbullah are also attempting to smuggle arms into the West Bank to strengthen Hamas and Islamic Jihad there.

Former U.S. Intelligence Agent Charged with Spying for Iran - Adam Goldman (New York Times)
    Monica Witt, 39, a U.S. Air Force counterintelligence agent who had studied Farsi, carried out covert missions in Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. She became enamored with Persian culture and converted to Islam.
    An indictment made public on Wednesday accused Witt of defecting to Iran in August 2013 to work with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in betrayal of the U.S. She is believed to still be in Iran.
    Investigators said she provided the Iranians with secret details about American intelligence operations. She knew the identities of Iranian informants whom American intelligence agencies were using.

27 Revolutionary Guards Killed in Iran Bombing (BBC News)
    A suicide attacker driving a car filled with explosives targeted a bus in Sistan-Baluchestan province in southeastern Iran, killing at least 27 Revolutionary Guards and wounding 13 others.
    The Sunni Muslim militant group Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) said it was behind the bombing.

Germany Arrests Syrian Intelligence Officers Accused of Crimes Against Humanity - Nick Cumming-Bruce (New York Times)
    German authorities announced the arrest on Wednesday of a former high-ranking Syrian intelligence officer and two subordinates suspected of crimes against humanity by torturing thousands of victims in detention centers run by the Assad regime.

Hamas Used Al-Aqsa TV to Coordinate Terror Attacks - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Israel Security Agency said Wednesday that Hamas used its Al-Aqsa TV station to pass clandestine messages to Hamas operatives in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
    Presenters conveyed messages from Gaza by placing a cup of tea on a desk or reciting a quote from the Quran.
    Five Palestinians in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem recruited by Hamas have been arrested since December for planning terror attacks.
    The station's messages were a key factor in the IDF decision to bomb Al-Aqsa TV headquarters in Gaza in November.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pompeo: Middle East Peace Means "Confronting Iran" - Carol Morello and Anne Gearan
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday in Warsaw that "pushing back" against Iran is essential to tackling other problems in the region. "You can't achieve peace and stability in the Middle East without confronting Iran. It's just not possible."
        Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted, "The Israeli prime minister and foreign ministers of leading Arab countries stood together, and spoke with unusual force, clarity and unity against a common threat of the Iranian state."  (Washington Post)
        See also Iran's Expansion into Syria Is Israel's Biggest Concern - David E. Sanger and Marc Santora
    At a meeting of five dozen nations in Warsaw focusing on Middle East security, Iran's expansion into Syria is Israel's biggest concern, said Dore Gold, former director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry. The Warsaw meeting could help persuade others that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not exaggerating the threat. "It's not Israel in the front row, and Arab states secretly promoting an agenda to get Iran out of Syria," Gold said. "It's overt, public, and only strengthens the case that Israel's been making over the last year."
        Countering the American-led gathering, President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced a summit meeting with the leaders of Iran and Turkey in Sochi on Thursday. (New York Times)
        See also Prime Minister Netanyahu Meets with U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Palestinians: Warsaw Summit Is a Huge U.S. Conspiracy - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
  • Ayatollah Khamenei: The Next Challenge Is "Mighty Iran's Presence at the Borders of the Zionist Regime" - A. Savyon
    On Feb. 13, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei released guidelines for the next 40 years of the Islamic Revolution, saying: "Today the challenge is mighty Iran's presence at the borders of the Zionist regime, and expelling America's illegitimate influence from the Middle East....Today the problem of the West is to prevent the transfer of advanced Iranian weapons to the resistance forces [in the region]."  (MEMRI)
  • U.S. House of Representatives Approves Motion Condemning Anti-Semitism - Juliegrace Brufke
    The U.S. House of Representatives approved a motion on Wednesday condemning anti-Semitism in a 424-0 vote. The motion states: "It is in the national interests of the United States to combat anti-Semitism at home and abroad. With an unfortunate rise in anti-Semitism and attempts to delegitimize Israel, the United States House of Representatives must emphasize the importance of combating anti-Semitism and reject all movements that deny Israel's right to exist."  (The Hill)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Arab Message from Warsaw: No PA Veto over Contact with Israel - Herb Keinon
    The foreign ministers of Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Morocco are in Warsaw to take part in the U.S.-Polish sponsored meeting on Mideast peace and security. The mere fact that so many Arab states decided to attend the conference is significant because the Palestinians asked them not to come. This shows that much of the Arab world is no longer comfortable in handing veto power to the Palestinians over their ties with Israel. The long-held assumption that the Arab world would not deal with Israel until the Palestinian issue is solved has proven empty. (Jerusalem Post)
  • IDF Believes Iran Pulling Forces in Syria Away from Israel Border Due to Strikes - Judah Ari Gross
    Israeli airstrikes in Syria have driven Iran to move the bulk of its troops and bases away from the Israeli border, according to IDF Military Intelligence assessments released Wednesday. However, some pro-Iranian forces remain on the border and have established observation posts to monitor Israeli military activities.
        The IDF does not believe Syrian troops have yet been fully trained to operate the advanced Russian S-300 air defense batteries, but the military is prepared to destroy it the first time an S-300 battery fires at Israeli aircraft.
        The IDF believes the return of American sanctions is causing Iran serious problems and that Tehran has scaled back its financial support for militias in Syria and Iraq. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why Palestinians Oppose an Anti-Iran Coalition - Khaled Abu Toameh
    For several weeks now, the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) has been waging a campaign against a U.S.-Polish conference scheduled for Warsaw this week. U.S. and Polish officials said the conference will include sessions on Syria, Yemen, missile development, terrorism and illicit finance and cybersecurity, as well as "Iran's destructive policies in the region." But the Palestinians have somehow convinced themselves that the main purpose of the conference is to bring the Arab countries closer to Israel, though neither the U.S. nor Poland has mentioned the issue of normalization as being on the agenda.
        PLO Executive Committee member Ahmed Majdalani said, "This is an attempt to change the priorities in the Middle East so that confronting Iran would become the main issue instead of ending the [Israeli] occupation," and called on Arab countries to boycott the conference. Several Arab countries now consider the Iranian "threat" their main priority and believe that it should take precedence over the Palestinian dispute.
        Even if the conference is aimed at creating a coalition against Iran, one would expect the PA to be the first to join it. In the past few years, the Palestinian leadership has repeatedly charged Iran with meddling in the internal affairs of the Palestinians, especially by supporting Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Recently, a senior Palestinian official accused Iran of being behind the weekly March of Return demonstrations, saying, "Iran is financing these marches."  (Gatestone Institute)
  • Why China Phobia Is Not a Strategy for Israel - Oded Eran
    Chinese companies have purchased ports in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Oman, Djibouti, Turkey, Greece, Italy and Spain to expedite the movement of its goods and reduce dramatically the cost of transportation. Greece's Piraeus port is totally owned and operated by a Chinese company.
        While it is claimed that U.S. Sixth Fleet ships will avoid Israel's ports because of the Chinese presence, in 2018 the USS Carney visited the port of Valencia, Spain, where the Chinese government-owned China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO) controls 51% of the port. Also in 2018, the USS New York visited the port of Piraeus, owned by COSCO. Moreover, important branches of the U.S. Navy are located in the port of Seattle, where Terminal 18 is operated by COSCO.
        If spying on the Israeli navy or the Sixth Fleet is the Chinese purpose, that could be done more easily and cheaply by Chinese agents armed with cameras and bugging devices on the Carmel Mountain overlooking the port of Haifa. The writer is a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies and a former Israeli ambassador to Jordan and the EU. (Jerusalem Post)

The Progressive Assault on Israel - Bret Stephens (New York Times)
  • Last month in Detroit, pro-Palestinian demonstrators seized the stage of the National LGBTQ Task Force conference and demanded a boycott of Israel. Conference organizers did nothing to stop the disruption or disavow the demonstrators, who were met with sustained applause by the audience.
  • What's unsettling is that anti-Zionism - rejection not just of this or that Israeli policy but also of the idea of a Jewish state itself - is becoming a respectable position among people who would never support the elimination of any other country in any other circumstance. And it is churning up a new wave of anti-Jewish bigotry in its wake.
  • Israel's enemies were committed to its destruction long before it occupied a single inch of Gaza or the West Bank. In proportion to its size, Israel has voluntarily relinquished more territory taken in war than any state in the world. Israeli prime ministers offered a Palestinian state in 2000 and 2008; they were refused both times. Nearly 1,300 Israeli civilians have been killed in Palestinian terrorist attacks in this century: That's the proportional equivalent of about 16 Sept. 11s in the U.S.
  • Israel is now the home of nearly nine million citizens, with an identity that is as distinctively and proudly Israeli as the Dutch are Dutch or the Danes Danish. Anti-Zionism proposes nothing less than the elimination of that identity and the political dispossession of those who cherish it, with no real thought of what would likely happen to the dispossessed.
  • To say that Jews are "colonizers" in Israel is anti-Semitic because it advances the lie that there is no ancestral or historic Jewish tie to the land. To claim that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, when manifestly it is not, is anti-Semitic because it's an attempt to Nazify the Jewish state. To insist that the only state in the world that has forfeited the moral right to exist just happens to be the Jewish state is anti-Semitic, too.
  • But the most toxic assumption is that Jews, whether in Israel or the U.S., can never really be thought of as victims or even as a minority because they are white, wealthy, powerful and "privileged." Jews in Germany were economically and even politically powerful in the 1920s. And then they were in Buchenwald. Israel appears powerful vis-a-vis the Palestinians, but considerably less so in the context of a broader Middle East saturated with genocidal anti-Semitism.