June 19, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Helps Houthis Shoot Down U.S. Drones in Yemen - Ed Adamczyk (UPI)
    U.S. Central Command confirmed Sunday that an American MQ-9 Reaper drone was shot down over Yemen on June 6 by a SA-6 surface-to-air missile fired by Houthi rebels.
    "The altitude of the engagement indicated an improvement over previous Houthi capability, which we assess was enabled by Iranian assistance," CENTCOM said.
    A week later on June 13, "a modified Iranian SA-7" missile was fired at a MQ-9 surveillance drone over the Gulf of Oman, but missed its target by about half a mile.
    See also UN Threatens to Cut Off Food Aid to Yemen amid Evidence Houthis Are Stealing It (AP-CBC)

Iran Moves Militants from Aleppo Airport following Russian Request (Zaman Al Wasl-Syrian Observer)
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard senior commander Qasem Soleimani has moved hundreds of militants from the Aleppo International Airport to the Qasioun vehicle factory a few miles away after a Russian order, to avoid Israeli airstrikes and save the airport's infrastructure, according to a well-informed source.

F-35s Take Part in Massive Drill Simulating War on Multiple Fronts (Times of Israel)
    The Israeli Air Force is holding a large-scale multi-day exercise simulating combat action on multiple fronts, the army said Tuesday, with F-35 planes taking part for the first time.
    The drill simulates simultaneous fighting in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon.
    It includes scenarios involving an enemy armed with advanced technology, such as the Russian S-300 and S-400 missile defense systems; a home front under massive missile attacks; and challenges such as damaged runways and disabled IAF communications centers.

Saudi Twitter Poll: 33 Percent Favor, 47 Percent Oppose Relations with Israel (MEMRI)
    Saudi journalist Sukina Al-Meshekhis set up a poll on her Twitter page, asking: "Do you support Gulf countries maintaining good relations with Israel and treating it as [just another] country in the Middle East?"
    After 24 hours there were 5,342 responses, with 33% voting in favor of relations with Israel, 47% voting against, and 20% choosing to "wait for the results [of the poll]."

Israeli Wins European Fencing Championship (Times of Israel)
    Israeli fencer Yuval Freilich on Tuesday won the gold medal in the European Fencing Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany.
    Freilich, ranked 40th in the world, defeated Italian Andrea Santarelli, ranked 13th, in the contest's final.
    Freilich, 24, the son of Australian immigrants, is the first Israeli fencer to win a European championship.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Calls to Unite Against Iranian Threat to Freedom of Navigation
    Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told CBS Face the Nation on Friday: "We don't want Iran to get a nuclear weapon. The previous administration put them on a pathway that virtually guaranteed that they could get there, so we withdrew from the ridiculous JCPOA and are moving ourselves towards a set of policies which will convince Iran to behave simply like a normal nation."
        Q: CENTCOM released this video - purporting to show an IRGC Revolutionary Guard patrol boat pulling up alongside these vessels and removing a mine from the hull of the ship. How certain are you that this is the IRGC?
        Pompeo: "We don't just purport. That's what that video is. This was taken from an American camera, and this is the real data....I will concede there are countries that just wish this would go away, and they want to act in a way that is counterfactual. No one disputes that this is the Islamic Republic of Iran taking these actions to deny this international waterway and the freedom of navigation that is a fundamental right of every country to travel through that....The world needs to unite against this threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran."
        "I'll remind you too, China gets over 80% of its crude oil transiting through the Strait of Hormuz. South Korea, Japan - these nations are incredibly dependent on these resources. We're prepared to do our part. We always defend freedom of navigation. We are going to work to build out a set of countries that have a deep, vested interest in keeping that strait open to help us do that."  (U.S. State Department)
  • Europeans May Be Nearing End of Diplomatic Road with Iran - John Irish
    Britain, France and Germany may be nearing the end of the diplomatic road with Iran after a series of attacks in the Gulf that the U.S. blames on Iran or its proxies, as well as Iran's threat on Monday to breach the 2015 deal's limit on its uranium hexafluoride stocks. "If they do, it's essentially game over for the EU," a senior EU diplomat said.
        Diplomats stressed the E3 are weary of Iranian demands. "We need to bring them back from the brink, but let me be clear: Our margin of tolerance on the nuclear issue is zero," said a second senior European diplomat. (Reuters)
  • EU Ministers Urge Action over Turkey's Drilling Off Cyprus - Menelaos Hadjicostis
    EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday expressed "grave concern over the ongoing illegal drilling" for gas by Turkey in waters where EU member Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. They called on the bloc's executive arm to submit possible sanctions, including cuts to financial aid that Turkey currently receives. The ministers "stress the immediate and serious consequences Turkey's illegal actions are having on the entire fabric of Turkish-EU relations." Turkey doesn't recognize Cyprus and says it is acting to protect its own rights and those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots. (AP-Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Greenblatt: How Does Boycotting the Bahrain Meeting Help the Palestinian People? - Herb Keinon
    U.S. Mideast negotiator Jason Greenblatt explained Monday in New York why Israeli government officials were not invited to the upcoming "economic workshop" in Bahrain. "If the Palestinian Authority was willing to come, of course we would invite Israel. Having them both in the room can only be positive. The Palestinian Authority, to the tremendous detriment of its people, chose to boycott it. We don't want to politicize something that still has other positive reasons to go forward with."
        "It would have been great had the Palestinian leadership showed up to give feedback. But instead, they not only decided to boycott, but they chose to undermine it by telling everyone else not to attend, or to lower the level of attendance. How does that help the Palestinian people? That is terrible for the Palestinian people."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • International Atomic Energy Agency Recognizes Palestine as a State - Yossi Melman
    International Atomic Energy Agency director general Yukiya Amano (IAEA) signed an agreement with the Palestinian ambassador in Vienna Salah Abdul Shafi to recognize Palestine as a state, as it joined the IAEA on Tuesday.
        Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Nahshon said, "This is another attempt by the Palestinian Authority to join international organizations in order to exploit them for political purposes. Israel does not recognize the attempts of the PA to join such organizations...and Israel views this as a violation of international agreements."  (Maariv-Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Only a Global Alliance Will Deter Iran from Attacks at Sea - Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis
    During a long Navy career, I have sat on the bridge of U.S. warships watching Iranian gunboats warily too many times to count. Sometimes the Iranians are very professional, and follow the standard rules of the nautical road. At other times, they can be the most dangerous of mariners, swerving close at high speed and turning on their fire control radars.
        The Iranians seem to think Washington will back down in the face of these tanker attacks. But it is far too soon to default to a purely military solution. The U.S. still has cards to play. Most importantly, Washington needs to move to a world-versus-Iran scenario. There is no global support for attacks on unarmed merchant ships, especially environmentally sensitive supertankers. Attacks on the supply chain for oil and petrochemicals will antagonize everyone. Confronting Iran must be a team sport.
        Finally, while the U.S. should work hard for a diplomatic solution, it needs to recognize that the Iranian mullahs are implacable and driven by religious beliefs. They are not inclined to compromise. That means being ready for unconventional attacks anywhere in the world that the extensive Iranian terror network (headlined by Hizbullah) can reach. The writer, a retired U.S. Navy admiral and former supreme allied commander of NATO, is dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. (Bloomberg)
  • Hamas Casts Its Lot with Iran - Prof. Hillel Frisch
    World Jerusalem Day, held this year on June 7, was created by Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. Each year, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic and Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah address the Islamic world to champion the Palestinian cause and denigrate Israel, while Sunni Arab leaders, including in the PA, ignore World Jerusalem Day.
        This year, Sunni Hamas joined in to commemorate the event, a decision that reflects its weakness. Wooing Iran will also have a negative effect on Hamas' relations with Egypt, Gaza's gateway to the Arab world and beyond. Egyptian President Sisi is aware that in the 10th century, Persian ayatollahs employed subversion to establish a Shiite dynasty that ruled Egypt for 200 years, and that Iran is intent on trying to repeat that historical event.
        The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

  • Iran said Monday that by the end of June it will exceed the limits it had agreed to on its stockpile of enriched uranium.
  • Exceeding the cap would violate the 2015 nuclear deal and force European leaders to decide if they want to acquiesce to Iran or join the U.S. in an effort to pressure Tehran to renegotiate the failed nuclear deal.
  • It turns out the U.S. has enough economic power that European companies are abiding by the new sanctions rather than risk losing access to the U.S. market. Iran is feeling the financial squeeze and is now acting up.
  • Critics are blaming the U.S. for "backing Iran into a corner," but Iran is the bad actor here.
  • Iran could have used the nuclear deal as an invitation to rejoin the world economy as a normal trading state. But it used the financial windfall to finance its missile program at home and spread terror abroad.
  • The best way to reduce the danger of a shooting war in the region is for Europe to join the U.S. in a united campaign to persuade Iran that its only path out of sanctions is to renegotiate the nuclear deal and cease its export of revolution.