June 18, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi Dies during Trial (BBC News)
    Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, 67, a top figure in the Muslim Brotherhood who was ousted by the military in 2013 after one year in office, collapsed in a courtroom on Monday and died of a heart attack.

U.S. Sending 1,000 More Troops to Middle East amid Tensions with Iran (U.S. Defense Department)
    Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan on Monday authorized 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East.
    "The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region," he said.

Iran Is Playing with Fire - Prof. Eyal Zisser (Israel Hayom)
    Washington is slowly strangling the Iranian economy, and the ayatollahs are finding it difficult to find a way out of the noose they feel tightening around their necks.
    The Iranian economy has collapsed faster than officials in Tehran thought it would, and the budget hardships forced Iran to slash the generous aid it provided to its various satellites including Hizbullah and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
    With the recent attacks against oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, the Iranians have decided to turn up the flames. But Iran is a paper tiger.
    While it is capable of making its neighbors' lives miserable and spreading terrorism throughout the region, when it is confronted directly and red lines are drawn - and when other nations are poised to strike - Iran falls back.
    That is what happened in Syria, where Israel managed to check Iranian attempts to entrench itself in a position to face off against Israel.
    The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

Cambridge Audience Laughs at Anti-Semitic "Joke" by Malaysian Prime Minister (Telegraph-UK)
    Footage has emerged of a Cambridge Union debating society audience laughing at "flagrantly anti-Semitic" comments by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Sunday.
    The Union of Jewish Students said: "It is chilling to see a crowd of students laugh off flagrantly anti-Semitic comments. Freedom of speech is not a joke when it incites hatred against one people."

New Zealand Government Website Wipes Israel Off the Map - Henry Benjamin (JTA)
    Immigration New Zealand, an official government website, published a fact sheet with a map of the Middle East that showed "Palestine" but not Israel, and identified east Jerusalem as "the designated capital of the State of Palestine."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House: Iran "Nuclear Blackmail" Must Be Met with International Pressure
    "Iran's enrichment plans are only possible because the horrible nuclear deal left their capabilities intact," U.S. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said Monday. "President Trump has made it clear that he will never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. The regime's nuclear blackmail must be met with increased international pressure."  (Reuters)
  • U.S. Releases New Images of Oil Tanker Attack - Amanda Macias
    The Pentagon released declassified images Monday showing the sustained damage from one of the oil tankers attacked last week and maintained that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy was responsible. An IRGC patrol boat "was observed and recorded by a U.S. Navy MH-60 helicopter removing the unexploded limpet mine from [the Japanese tanker] Kokuka Courageous," the Pentagon said in a statement Monday. "Iran is responsible for the attack based on video evidence and the resources and proficiency needed to quickly remove the unexploded limpet mine."  (CNBC)
  • Iran's Elite Defense Force Finds New Funding Sources - Benoit Faucon and Sune Engel Rasmussen
    Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is maintaining support for armed groups in the Middle East and finding new sources of funding, defying U.S. efforts to curb its activities abroad. New sources of revenue include recently-signed infrastructure contracts in Syria and Iraq as well as expanded smuggling networks.
        The Guard continues to send bags of cash by plane to the group's Lebanese proxy Hizbullah in Syria, said Hanin Ghaddar, a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The wages of Iraqi militias hostile to the U.S. - some trained by the Quds Force - are funded by the Iraqi government, so they aren't affected. Senior Guard commander Gholam Ali Rashid told parliament last month that when Iran fought Iraq in the 1980s, it was on its own. "Now it has allies all over the region," he said. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Step Up Sanctions If Iran Exceeds Enriched Uranium Limits
    Prime Minister Netanyahu said Monday: "Israel stands at the forefront with the U.S., with moderate Arab countries and with other countries, in opposition to the Iranian aggression. Today Iran threatened to enrich uranium to higher levels beyond that which is permitted by the nuclear agreement....Should Iran make good on its current threats, and violate the nuclear agreement, the international community will need to immediately impose the sanctions regime that was agreed upon in advance, the 'snapback sanctions.' In any case, Israel will not allow Iran to achieve nuclear weapons."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Fatah Expels Mayor after Jews Attend Son's Wedding - Khaled Abu Toameh
    The ruling Palestinian Fatah faction has decided to expel Radi Nasser, the mayor of Deir Qaddis, a town 16 km. west of Ramallah in the West Bank, and has called on the Palestinian Authority to launch an investigation against Palestinians who were seen celebrating together with Jews during the wedding of the mayor's son. Four Jews were brought to the wedding by Palestinians who work with them in a car repair garage. Pictures from the wedding that appeared on social media showed the Jews being carried on the shoulders of Palestinian men.
        The mayor and his son were accused of treason on Palestinian social media, while the names of the Palestinians who brought the Jews to the wedding were delivered to the Palestinian security forces so they could face legal measures. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Jewish Israelis Dancing with Palestinians at a Wedding Is a Cause for Celebration - Editorial (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Bahrain Workshop on Palestinian Economy Is the Opportunity of a Generation - Jason D. Greenblatt
    This is exciting - an opportunity of a generation. The June 25 and 26 workshop in Bahrain for the benefit of Palestinians is a pivotal opportunity to convene government, civil society, and business leaders to share ideas, discuss strategies, and galvanize support for potential economic investments and initiatives that could be made possible by a peace agreement. The results of those discussions could lead to significant investment in the talented Palestinian and regional population.
        Saeb Erekat, the lead Palestinian negotiator, claims we are trying to buy the Palestinians. We know that won't work. We fully recognize that our economic plan cannot be successful without a political agreement, just as a political agreement would have little chance without an effective economic plan.
        Saeb also is making claims that the Arab countries who are attending the workshop have no right to negotiate for the Palestinians. On that point, we agree. No one is suggesting that anyone other than the Palestinians have such a right. But those attending sincerely want to help the Palestinians. Those countries who are participating should be praised and thanked by Saeb and the Palestinian Authority.
        It is disheartening to see the supposed leaders of the Palestinians attack Palestinian entrepreneurs and Palestinian supporters in general for supporting a better future for their people. Supporters of this workshop want only the best for the Palestinians and the region. For masked, armed gunmen to threaten Palestinians against support of a better future, as seen on official Fatah social media sites and in refugee camps, is despicable. The writer is an assistant to the U.S. president and special representative for international negotiations. (CNN)
        See also Israeli Government Officials Not Invited to Bahrain Conference
    Israeli business people, but not Israeli government officials, will be invited to attend the upcoming Palestinian economic workshop in Bahrain in order to keep the event apolitical, a senior administration official said on Monday. (Reuters)
        See also U.S. Decision Not to Invite Israeli Officials to Bahrain Was Coordinated with Israel - Itamar Eichner (Ynet News)
  • Iran Defying Financial Action Task Force - Toby Dershowitz, Saeed Ghasseminejad, and Serena Frechter
    On June 16, the 36-nation Financial Action Task Force (FATF) convened in Orlando and will decide whether Iran has met the body's requirements. While Iran has been encouraged to reverse course, Tehran continues to defy FATF. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has declared that Iran had "utterly failed to meet its commitments under the Financial Action Task Force action plan that it had agreed to." Consequently, FATF should maintain Iran on its blacklist of high-risk jurisdictions and reimpose increased due diligence protocols.
        In 2016, Iran agreed to complete a 10-item plan to meet FATF standards by January 2018. More than a year after the deadline, Iran has failed to complete seven of the 10 items. Hossein Mozaffar, a member of the Expediency Council, said he opposes complying with the action plan. "The kind of transparency that FATF seeks...is to find out our ways for bypassing sanctions," he said. There should be consequences for Iran's continuous attempts to circumvent FATF's standards.
        Toby Dershowitz is senior vice president of government relations and strategy at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Saeed Ghasseminejad is a senior advisor on Iran and Serena Frechter is a government relations analyst. (The Hill)

Ayatollah Khamenei Warns of Using "Military Tools" to Beat the U.S. - Farzin Nadimi (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The increasing momentum of the U.S. "maximum pressure" policy has prompted Iran to react more aggressively of late. In a May 29 speech, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared that the "only way" to gain strategic leverage over America is to beat Washington at its own game of pressure - not through negotiations but rather through "our own tools of leverage," including "military tools."
  • He promised to use more such tools if the regime's recent threat to resume certain nuclear activities did not yield the desired result of easing sanctions and helping Iran's economy. Given such rhetoric, it is difficult to view the latest attacks as anything but the regime doing just what Khamenei said it would.
  • The Japanese-owned Kokuka Courageous was sailing from the Saudi port of Jubail to Singapore with a cargo of methanol when it was hit by a sabotage attack. The Kokuka Courageous is a chemical tanker clearly marked to carry products that pose severe environmental and safety hazards.
  • A premeditated attack against such a vessel shows complete disregard for the significant environmental and human damage that spilling such products could cause.

    The writer is an associate fellow with The Washington Institute.