June 20, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Shoots Down U.S. Drone over Strait of Hormuz - Erin Cunningham (Washington Post)
    Iran shot down a U.S. naval surveillance drone near the Strait of Hormuz, Iranian and U.S. officials said Thursday.
    A U.S. official said the drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile in international airspace.

Syrian Refugee Accused of Plotting Terrorist Attack on Pittsburgh Church - Alexander Mallin (ABC News)
    The Department of Justice announced the arrest on Wednesday of Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, 21, a Syrian refugee, in connection with an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack on a Christian church in Pittsburgh.
    Alowemer was accused by federal prosecutors of planning to attack the Legacy International Worship Center "to support the cause of ISIS and to inspire other ISIS supporters in the United States."
    He provided "multiple instructional documents" on how to build improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to an undercover FBI agent who he believed was a fellow ISIS supporter.
    "Alowemer also distributed propaganda materials, offered to provide potential targets in the Pittsburgh area, requested a weapon with a silencer, and recorded a video of himself pledging an oath of allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," the DOJ said.

Israeli Laser System to Protect NATO Tanker Transport Aircraft - Hanan Greenwood (Israel Hayom)
    A laser system designed by Israel's Elbit Systems to protect aircraft against infrared missiles will be implemented in NATO's Multinational Multi Role Tanker Transport Fleet (MMF) starting in 2020, the company announced this week.
    In a three-day series of flight tests at the end of May, the J-Music system functioned flawlessly.
    It successfully handled simultaneous threat scenarios and overcame head-on, tail-on and side-on threats from several ranges and at different altitudes, as NATO officials monitored the process.
    In addition, on Wednesday, Elbit announced it had been awarded a $73 million contract to provide J-Music directional infrared countermeasure (DIRCM) systems to the German Air Force.

Ancient Guard Tower from Time of King Hezekiah Discovered at IDF Paratrooper Base (Jerusalem Post)
    An ancient observation tower was discovered at an IDF paratrooper base on Wednesday dating back to the days of King Hezekiah, who ruled the Kingdom of Judah almost 3,000 years ago.
    "In the days of the First Temple, the Kingdom of Judah built a range of towers and fortresses as points of communication, warning and signaling, to transmit messages and field intelligence," according to Valdik Lifshitz and Sa'ar Ganor, directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Determined to Arm West Bank Palestinian Factions - Ahmad Abu Amer
    Iranian officials have repeatedly declared that despite the geographical and logistical challenges of delivering weapons to Palestinian factions in the West Bank, arming these groups remains a priority. Iran so far has failed to transfer missiles to Palestinian factions in the West Bank, but it's not giving up, Yahya Rahim Safavi, a senior military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced on June 6.
        Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, an adviser to Iran's foreign minister, told Al-Monitor Iran believes that to eliminate Israel all the fronts surrounding it must be armed to be effective, like the fronts of Lebanon and Gaza. "We know how to deliver weapons to the West Bank. We have already delivered weapons to other fronts," he said. (Al-Monitor)
  • EU Sanctions Iran over Planned Europe Attacks - Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen
    The EU on Tuesday froze the assets of an Iranian intelligence unit and two of its staff, as the Netherlands accused Iran of two killings on its soil and joined France and Denmark in alleging Tehran plotted other attacks in Europe. The move marks the first time the EU has enacted sanctions on Iran since the 2015 nuclear pact. (Reuters)
  • Saudi Desalination Plant Struck by Missile from Yemen - Gordon Lubold
    A Saudi desalination plant on the Red Sea was struck by a missile from Yemen on Wednesday, a senior U.S. official said. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Fatah Calls for Violence Against Israel during Bahrain Conference - Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    In response to the Bahrain Conference on economic investment in the PA, President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Movement is calling for violence against Israel on the days the conference is taking place, urging Palestinians to "escalate confrontations." Earlier this month, Palestinian leaders participated in a meeting entitled "The Holocaust of the Century in Bahrain." The director of the meeting, Dr. Yusuf Abd Al-Haq, alleged that the Bahrain Conference only pretends to seek economic prosperity for Palestinians but in reality is a cover for creating "normalization" with the Arab states. (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Israel to Process Gaza Sewage with New Pipeline
    Israel will build a new pipeline to process raw sewage from the Gaza towns of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun that has been spilling into Israel, Yediot Ahronot reported Wednesday. "For more than two years, we have been struggling with the flow of sewage from Gaza into Israel," said David Rosenberg, an engineer with the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, calling the situation "a real danger to public health." Israel will fund the $4 million sewage line by deducting the cost from the tax revenues it transfers to the Palestinian Authority. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Does Israel Abide by International Standards of Human Rights? - Jennifer Rubin
    The New York Times asked the Democratic presidential candidates the same 18 questions, including asking whether Israel abides by international standards of human rights. Here is the answer they should have given:
        You know it's weird you are asking about the only true democracy in the region. Saudi Arabia dismembered an American journalist. Egypt is run by a brutal authoritarian. Syria's Bashar al-Assad committed genocide. And yet you want to know about Israel. Why don't you focus on any of those, on China, on Russia, on illiberal regimes that have come to power in Europe?
        Now you may be referring to its policies regarding the Palestinians. Let's start with a reminder that, on multiple occasions, Israel has offered the Palestinians more than 90% of the West Bank. Currently the offer is on the table to negotiate with the Palestinians with no preconditions.
        Israel is not perfect. However, the insistence on singling Israel out for criticism is emblematic of a double standard. Criticize Israel (I do). But let's not make it No. 1 on the wanted list of human rights violators. It frankly shouldn't be on the list at all. (Washington Post)
        See also New York Times Question Assumes Israel Is Guilty - Gilead Ini (CAMERA)
  • Failing to Blacklist Iranian Banks Could Have Bigger Consequences - Jeb Bush, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mark Wallace
    Iran, the world's leading state-sponsor of terrorism, has lied to global financial policymakers at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for three years about its intention to prevent its banks from laundering money and financing terror organizations. The Iranian regime has failed to implement the plan it agreed to in 2016 and has been actively funding proxy wars, plotting terror attacks in European cities and threatening U.S. forces serving abroad.
        With a vote to blacklist Iran, the FATF, meeting in Orlando this week, would seriously disrupt Tehran's ability to move money to bad actors around the world. But if the FATF shows that it can be bullied into giving Iran more time, terror leaders will breathe a sigh of relief, more attacks will be planned and more hostages will be taken.
        Jeb Bush served as governor of Florida. Former Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) served in Congress from 1989 to 2017. Mark D. Wallace, a former U.S. ambassador to the UN for management and reform, is CEO of United Against Nuclear Iran. (Orlando Sentinel)
  • The Greatest Danger Is an Iranian Miscalculation - Walter Russell Mead
    Amid all the talk about American decline, American power in the international system has actually grown. The U.S. has developed the ability to globalize unilateral sanctions. Washington doesn't need the support of its allies to isolate Tehran economically because "secondary sanctions" can effectively compel other countries to comply with the U.S. effort.
        The recent attacks in the Gulf of Oman, together with Iran's announcements that it will exceed the nuclear deal's limits on its supply of enriched uranium this month, signal that Tehran is trying some brinkmanship of its own. However, as long as the flow of oil from the Middle East is essentially unaffected by pinprick attacks and Iran refrains from an all-out nuclear effort, there is a strong argument for military restraint in Washington.
        The status quo is weakening Iran and improving the American bargaining position. While taking all necessary action to keep traffic moving freely in international waters, the administration's best option for now is to concentrate on tightening sanctions on Iran and its proxies. The greatest danger is an Iranian miscalculation. Any attack on U.S.-flagged ships or servicemen could force a strong military response. Tehran's imperial ambitions are at the root of this conflict. The writer is professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College. (Wall Street Journal)

The Palestinian Refusal to Attend the Bahrain Economic Workshop Is Irresponsible and Self-Defeating - Amb. Alan Baker (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Palestinian leadership took upon themselves the political responsibility to negotiate peace when accepting the reins of governance and the representation of the Palestinian people under the Oslo Accords.
  • Thus, one may well ask whether their negative and obstructive position regarding the economic workshop in Manama, Bahrain, and their concerted attempt to politicize what is intended to be a non-political meeting is not, in effect, a serious violation of their international responsibilities and obligations.
  • Moreover, Palestinian insistence on paying significant portions of their budget as salaries to imprisoned terrorists and their families, as a sign of their institutional support, glorification, and encouragement of terror, is the antithesis of any concept of prudent economic governance.
  • But more notably, it is also a serious violation of accepted international norms encapsulated in counter-terror conventions prohibiting the transfer of finances to terrorists and for use by terror organizations, as well as UN resolutions and declarations calling upon states to refrain from financing terror activities.
  • It is a sad reflection on a misguided and irresponsible leadership that prefers conflict, incitement, and hostility, rather than the hope for peace and economic improvement for the Palestinian people.

    The writer, former legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians.