April 8, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Israeli Spacecraft Completes First Maneuver around the Moon (Jerusalem Post)
    On Sunday, Israel's lunar mission Beresheet successfully performed its first maneuver around the moon.
    "During the maneuver, Beresheet's engines operated for about 271 seconds and...all the engines operated at the same time to slow the spacecraft," SpaceIL and Israel Aerospace Industries said.

Report: Iran Has Evacuated Bases, Weapons Depots near Damascus International Airport (MEMRI)
    On March 23, the Lebanese anti-Hizbullah Al-Modon daily reported that during February 2019, Iran evacuated its bases and weapons depots near Damascus International Airport. This move was based on understandings with Russia.
    While Iran would continue to send fighters, light military equipment, and logistical support via Damascus airport, precision and long-range missiles would now reach Syria via Iraq or Lebanon.
    Iran is planning to establish a new military airport near Al-Kiswah near the Syria-Lebanon border to launch drones into Israel for fighting and surveillance purposes, and as a Hizbullah intelligence base.

How U.S. F-35 Technology Would Be Compromised If Turkey Had the Russian S-400 Anti-Aircraft System (Air Force Times)
    If Turkey acquired Russia's S-400 alongside the F-35, the technology that makes that aircraft lethal could potentially be compromised and end up in the hands of the Russians.
    NATO states use a tactical data link that allows military aircraft, ships, and ground troops to share tactical pictures in near-real time. This is called Link 16.
    NATO aircraft also use Identification Friend or Foe systems, known as IFF, to identify friendly aircraft in the sky.
    An IFF and Link 16 interrogator would have to be integrated into the S-400 system to allow the Turkish F-35 to fly within its range.
    This opens up all Link 16 and IFF tactical data link equipment to be compromised.
    The S-400s are highly networked and could potentially broadcast sensitive data back to Russia.

Report: Captured Shepherd Told Israel of Islamic Jihad Kidnapping Plot - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Jerusalem-based al-Quds reported Sunday that Israeli soldiers arrested a Palestinian man herding sheep near the Gaza security fence.
    Under interrogation, he told them he was a member of the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad, and revealed that the group was planning to abduct either a soldier or a civilian worker constructing the new barrier at the border.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. to Designate Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a Foreign Terror Group - Michael R. Gordon
    The U.S. is preparing to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, following months of deliberation, officials said. The move is intended to help the U.S. crack down on businesses in Europe and elsewhere controlled by the IRGC.
        Jason Blazakis, who served until last year as director of the State Department's Counterterrorism Finance and Designations Office, said, "The designation of IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization is precedent setting. Never before has the FTO sanctions tool been directed at a state-body." The IRGC has a ground force of 100,000 and runs Tehran's ballistic missile programs. Companies overseen by the IRGC control 20% of the nation's economy, including important sectors like energy.
        "Lots of IRGC officials travel around the world," said Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. "This would make them the target of potential prosecution, either in friendly foreign jurisdictions or through extradition back in the U.S." The designation also would block any foreign representatives of the IRGC or the companies it controls from entering or staying in the U.S. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Iran Revolutionary Guards Commander Threatens U.S. Forces If IRGC Is Designated a Terror Group
    IRGC Commander Maj.-Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari announced on Sunday that if the U.S. designates the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, U.S. forces in western Asia "will lose peace and quiet."  (Radio Farda)
  • U.S. Revokes Visa of International Criminal Court Prosecutor
    The U.S. has revoked the visa of International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, her office has confirmed. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said last month that Washington would revoke or deny visas to ICC staff seeking to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere and that it may do the same with those who seek action against Israel.
        The State Department said, "The United States will take the necessary steps to protect its sovereignty and to protect our people from unjust investigation and prosecution by the International Criminal Court." The U.S. has never been a member of the ICC. (AP-Los Angeles Times)
  • Labour's Hate Files Expose Jeremy Corbyn's Anti-Semite Army - Gabriel Pogrund and Richard Kerbaj
    The British Labour Party has failed to take disciplinary action against hundreds of members accused of anti-Semitism under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, according to internal documents leaked to the Sunday Times. A hard drive of emails and a confidential database last updated on March 8 reveal how the party's system for dealing with such complaints is bedeviled by delays, inaction and interference from Corbyn's office regarding at least 101 complaints. (Sunday Times-UK)
        See also Labour Can't Sweep This Anti-Semitism under the Carpet - Editorial
    Jeremy Corbyn is presiding over a party riven with anti-Semitism, as our investigation shows. A confidential database of nearly 900 complaints about anti-Semitism reveals more than half remain unresolved. It has come to a sorry pass when the election of a Labour government is a prospect viewed with genuine fear by many in the Jewish community. (Sunday Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Top Israeli Negotiator: No True Rehabilitation for Gaza until Missing Israelis Returned
    Yaron Blum, coordinator for negotiating the return of Israelis held by Hamas, said Friday that Gaza would not see true rehabilitation until the missing men are returned. Hamas holds the remains of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, who were killed during the 2014 Gaza war. Hamas is also believed to be holding three Israeli citizens - Avraham Abera Mengistu, Hisham al-Sayed and Juma Ibrahim Abu Ghanima - who entered Gaza of their own accord.
        Hamas "must understand that there will not be comprehensive rebuilding efforts for Gaza without the release of IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, and [the] civilians," Blum told the Walla news site. (Times of Israel)
  • South Africa Downgrades Embassy in Israel to Liaison Office - Tovah Lazaroff
    South Africa has downgraded its ties with Israel, Foreign Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Wednesday. Sisulu said South Africa's ambassador, who was recalled last year, would not be returning to Israel and its embassy in Israel has been downgraded. "Our liaison office in Tel Aviv will have no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development cooperation mandate. It will not be responsible for trade and commercial activities."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Brings Home Sgt. Zachary Baumel - Bret Stephens
    Israel stood still for a moment last week to bring home the remains of Sgt. Zachary Baumel, a soldier who perished in battle in Lebanon in 1982. Anyone who has lived in Israel understands the importance of keeping faith with the fallen and bereaved. Israel is a young and improvising state resting atop an ancient civilization. At the heart of the civilization is common memory.
        The Israeli government spent 37 years tracking Baumel's remains to Syria and negotiating their recovery through Russia. The country will expend similar efforts to bring home other fallen soldiers held in enemy hands. It's the core of the Jewish state's social contract. It may not be able to keep its people safe, but it will never forget or forsake them. (New York Times)
  • The Palestinians Should Support Greenblatt, Who's Telling Them the Truth - Sander Gerber
    At a closed-door UN Security Council Meeting on March 8, 2019, U.S. Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt condemned the Palestinian Authority (PA)'s continued support for financial payments that incentivize and reward terrorism, known as "pay to slay." He said: "The Palestinian Authority's institutionalization of support for terrorism is unacceptable and must be called out" [emphasis in original]. The PA's refusal to end these programs, coupled with subsequent funding cuts by the U.S. and Israel, have plunged the PA into a self-manufactured fiscal crisis.
        In response, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat penned an op-ed in Ha'aretz claiming that the payments were social welfare. However, in reality, the maximum PA welfare-system payment is only $168 a month, or 57% less than the minimum of $392 a month that the PA pays prisoners and relatives of "martyrs." The writer is a Fellow at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. (JNS-Algemeiner)

The Floods and the Mullahs - Amir Taheri (Gatestone Institute)
  • The current nationwide floods in Iran are one of the biggest natural disasters Iran has suffered in half a century. The floods struck over 300 towns and cities in 22 of Iran's 31 provinces, affecting 18.5 million people, almost a quarter of the total. The natural disaster has also revealed some of the fundamental weaknesses of Iran's dysfunctional system.
  • The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was forced to intervene to protect some of the infrastructures it has built and runs as businesses. It was soon revealed that those infrastructures, including railway lines built in traditional flood channels and dams hastily erected in wrong places and wrong rivers, massively contributed to the floods.
  • The IRGC has built over 300 crude dams to divert waters of various rivers to land it had transferred to its officers. The IRGC has also helped many peasants cut down large tracts of forests, further raising the risk of floods.
  • Iranians watched in amazement as special units of the regular army moved to save lives, prevent floods from spreading further, reopen roads and even start repairing some of the damage.
  • The IRGC reacted by ferrying in dozens of Madaheen, professional reciters of religious chants whose patron is "Supreme Guide" Khamenei. The Madaheen jumped into the flood waters chanting, "Suffering makes us strong!" and "We are not afraid of death," while beating their chests.

    The writer was the executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979.