June 24, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Launches Cyberattack on Iran's Revolutionary Guards - Tami Abdollah (AP)
    U.S. military cyber forces launched a strike against Iranian military computer systems on Thursday in response to Iran's downing of a U.S. surveillance drone, U.S. officials said Saturday.
    The cyberattacks disabled Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps computer systems that controlled rocket and missile launchers, officials said.
    [Another U.S. cyberattack targeted the Iranian intelligence unit behind the attacks on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf. - Ha'aretz]
    The action by U.S. Cyber Command was a demonstration of its more aggressive cyber strategy focusing on persistently engaging with adversaries in cyberspace and undertaking more offensive operations.
    In recent weeks, hackers believed to be working for Iran have targeted U.S. government agencies, as well as sectors of the economy, including finance, oil and gas.

    See also U.S. Working on Additional Covert Plans to Counter Iranian Aggression - Julian E. Barnes (New York Times)
    American intelligence and military officers are working on additional clandestine plans to counter Iranian aggression without escalating tensions into a full-out war.
    The goal is to develop operations similar to the cyberattacks conducted on Thursday.
    Intelligence and military officials have told White House policymakers that without an additional American response, Iran will continue to destabilize the region.
    One former American military commander said there was a range of options that the Pentagon and the CIA could pursue that could keep Iran off balance but that would not have "crystal-clear attribution" to the U.S.

    See also Leveraging Iran - Franc Milburn (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
    To pressure Iran and bolster deterrence, the U.S. should consider psy-ops, cyber warfare, economic warfare, and covert action.
    The last of these could include instigating and supporting rural and urban insurgency with lethal aid for anti-regime groups, assassination of regime figures, and sabotage of critical infrastructure.

Arson Balloons from Gaza Cause Multiple Fires in Israel (Jerusalem Post)
    Incendiary devices flown from Gaza into Israel sparked multiple fires on Sunday.
    KKL-JNF reported four fires in the western Negev, while the fire department reported six.

U.S. Economic Plan Stirs Thought among West Bank Palestinians - Avi Issacharoff (Times of Israel)
    Due to the strong opposition of the Palestinian leadership to the U.S. plan, the Americans tried to offer an aid package fat enough to ignite the imaginations of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
    They may have succeeded. Not all Palestinians were on board with the leadership's rejection of the plan.
    At a time when the PA is paying only 50% of its employees' salaries and when stories of corruption by high-ranking PA officials are breaking every day, the public is rather pessimistic about the chances of establishing a Palestinian state.
    For this reason, talk of economic improvement and the billions of dollars in investment is stirring a great deal of thought among many West Bank residents, who wonder if, in light of the political stalemate and the absence of worthy Palestinian leadership, it is time to focus on the here and now and aim for economic improvement.
    But it is doubtful that moderate public pressure to give the American proposal a try will change the leadership's stance.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Unveils $50 Billion "Economic Vision" for Palestinians in First Part of Peace Plan - Gabby Orr
    The White House on Saturday released the first of a two-part Middle East peace plan, outlining an "economic vision" for Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab countries ahead of a diplomatic conference in Bahrain. The proposal calls for a $50 billion investment in Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza from private companies and donor countries to jumpstart local economies and boost conditions in Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, which would each receive a portion of the funds.
        The $50 billion would come from a mix of grants, subsidized loans and private investments, and would be put toward infrastructure projects as well as initiatives involving telecommunications, tourism and healthcare. The U.S. claims that Palestinian gross domestic product will double over the next decade if the plan is implemented, in addition to creating substantial job growth and reducing poverty by 50%. (Politico)
        See also Israel Will Consider U.S. Mideast Plan, Palestinians to Boycott (Reuters)
        See also Text: Peace to Prosperity - The Economic Plan: A New Vision for the Palestinian People (White House)
        See also Text: Peace to Prosperity - The Economic Plan: Programs and Projects (White House)
        See also below Observations: U.S. Ambassador to Israel: Bahrain Workshop Will Create Momentum - Interview with David Friedman (Al Jazeera)
  • Bolton Warns Iran Not to Mistake U.S. "Prudence" for Weakness - Aron Heller
    U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Sunday in Jerusalem that Iran should not "mistake U.S. prudence and discretion for weakness," after the U.S. abruptly called off military strikes against Iran in response to the shooting down of an unmanned American surveillance drone. President Donald Trump says he backed away from the planned strikes after learning 150 people would be killed.
        Bolton added that a new set of sanctions on Iran are expected to be announced Monday. "No one has granted them a hunting license in the Middle East. As President Trump said on Friday, our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go."  (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Netanyahu: Removing Sanctions on Iran Led to an Explosion of Iranian Terror and Aggression
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton on Sunday in Jerusalem: The supporters of the Iran deal argued that the infusion of massive cash into Iran's economy would moderate Iran. In fact, the very opposite has happened. Iran used those hundreds of billions of dollars to fund empire-building, devouring one state after another in the Middle East. Those who argue that Iran's aggression began after the recent actions are not living on the same planet.
        We in Israel saw Iran's aggression in their increased efforts to establish Iranian military bases in Syria, in their increased efforts to provide sophisticated weapons to Hizbullah, in their increased financial support for terror proxies like Hizbullah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. This increased right after the deal. With the removal of sanctions, we in Israel could see an explosion of terror and aggression. Likewise, our Arab neighbors saw exactly the same thing.
        Well before Iran's acts of aggression of recent weeks, such as the attacks on oil tankers and the downing of an American drone, Iranian forces fired dozens of rockets into Israeli territory and flew drones into Israeli airspace. Iran also fired rockets deep into Saudi Arabia, and through their proxies, endangered international shipping lanes.
        The one thing that has changed for those of us who live in the Middle East is not that Iran is attacking its neighbors or brazenly perpetrating wanton aggression. What's new is that now, thanks to crippling American sanctions, Iran is facing unprecedented economic pressure as a result of its aggression. (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Photos/Video: Netanyahu, Bolton, Friedman Tour Jordan Valley (Prime Minister's Office-Twitter)
  • Fatah Calls for Violence Against Israel over Bahrain Economic Conference - Alex Winston
    Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority, has called for days of violence against Israel in response to the Bahrain Conference this week. Palestinian leaders attended a counter-conference to Bahrain last week entitled, "The Holocaust of the Century in Bahrain."
        Palestinian Media Watch director Itamar Marcus noted, "It is outrageous that Palestinian leaders are coining a conference, whose entire purpose is to promote economic well-being for Palestinians, as a 'holocaust.'...At what point will the international community finally say they have had enough of the PA and leave them to wallow in the endless disasters they keep bringing upon themselves?"  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also U.S. Embassy Warns of Anti-American Demonstrations in Gaza, West Bank over Bahrain (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The U.S. and Its Allies Can Still Make Iran Blink - Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis
    The Trump administration's initial decision to strike Iran in retaliation for the destruction of a $130 million drone was understandable yet dangerous. There is little question that a military strike on, say, the missile battery that downed the Global Hawk reconnaissance drone on Thursday would be justified. It was clearly a conscious call by the regime, and I seriously doubt the claim that it was in Iranian airspace. In my experience, the navigational precision of these aircraft is superb - far better than manned flights. I have never heard of a high-end drone like this being deliberately or accidentally flown into a hostile nation's territorial airspace.
        The U.S. is studying military options other than a strike, according to Pentagon leadership. Those presented to the president will likely include moves like cyberattacks on parts of the Iranian grid. The best approach for the White House right now is to declare the non-strike an effective show of America's military potential, and then assess whether the Iranians really want to further ramp up aggression.
        The problem is that it's hard to see a climb-down for the Iranians at this point. For the U.S., the key strategic effort ought to be winning over the European and Asian allies to condemn Iranian behavior. The writer, former supreme allied commander of NATO, is dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. (Bloomberg)
        See also Secretary of State Pompeo Sets Out to Build Global Coalition Against Iran - Darlene Superville (AP-Washington Post)
  • Take the Palestinians' "No" for an Answer - Eugene Kontorovich
    The only agenda at this week's U.S.-led Peace to Prosperity conference in Bahrain is improving the Palestinian economy. The plan's 40-page overview contains nothing at odds with the Palestinians' purported diplomatic goals. Given that, the Palestinian Authority's unwillingness to discuss economic opportunities for its own people, even with the Arab states, shows how far it is from discussing the concessions necessary for a diplomatic settlement. Instead it seeks to deepen Palestinian misfortune and use it as a cudgel against Israel in the theater of international opinion.
        This isn't the first time the Palestinians have said no. At a summit brokered by President Clinton in 2000, Israel offered them full statehood on 92% of the West Bank and all of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority rejected that offer and others in 2001 and in 2008. When President Obama pressured Israel into a 10-month settlement freeze in 2009 to renew negotiations, the Palestinians refused to come to the table. The Palestinians are perhaps the only national independence movement in the modern era that has ever rejected a genuine offer of internationally recognized statehood, even if it falls short of all the territory the movement had sought.
        The Palestinians can comfortably turn down once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because almost all Palestinians already live under Palestinian government. The Palestinian Authority cannot be forced to accept a peaceful settlement, but rejectionism must have consequences. The writer is director of the Center for International Law in the Middle East and a law professor at George Mason University. (Wall Street Journal)

U.S. Ambassador to Israel: Bahrain Workshop Will Create Momentum - Interview with David Friedman (Al Jazeera)
  • U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told Al Jazeera in an interview: "[The Bahrain workshop] is an attempt to jumpstart the Palestinian economy. That's the purpose and that's the focus. To improve the quality of life of Palestinians....I don't know that the Palestinian Authority is the last word on how to create a better life for the Palestinians. The Palestinians themselves should have a say in that."
  • "The Palestinians have aspirations that have to be addressed. The Israelis have issues that have to be addressed. This conflict needs to be resolved on a political level. But in order to create a momentum...we need significant improvement in the economy. That is the only way that people on both sides will have faith that there is the opportunity for real peace."
  • He added that focusing on the economic rather than political aspects of the peace plan first could help create an environment conducive to successful negotiations. "We've said this over and over again, it's not intended to be a replacement for a political discussion."
  • Friedman said the U.S. was unlikely to support political independence for the Palestinians within the current political climate. "The last thing the region needs, whether it's Israel, Jordan or Egypt, is a failed Palestinian state between Israel and the Jordan River. It could be overtaken by Hamas, ISIS or al-Qaeda. It is an existential threat to the State of Israel, possibly to Jordan as well."
  • "We've seen what's happened to Gaza. There's not a single Jew living in Gaza. Israel controls the entire perimeter, whether on the land or the sea. Somehow, there are still rockets and missiles being fired. Israel has to be 100% sure that the Palestinians in the West Bank don't turn it into the Gaza Strip. There's no margin of error."
  • Friedman said Washington still hopes to alleviate some of the economic and humanitarian hardships in Gaza. "The same beautiful beach you see in Tel Aviv that has brought so much tourism, investment and development is exactly the same beach that exists 60 miles to the south in Gaza. There's no good reason that Gaza can't have all that and more. Hamas is keeping it from happening."