July 10, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Tanker with Iranian Oil Seized by Egypt in Suez Canal (Jerusalem Post)
    A Ukrainian oil tanker carrying Iranian oil was seized 10 days ago by Egypt while crossing the Suez Canal, according to the Iranian Fars news agency.
    See also Egypt Sentences Six over Spying for Iran (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Egypt's Supreme State Security Criminal Court on Sunday sentenced five defendants to 25 years in jail and another to 15 years on charges of espionage for Iran.
    Defendant Alaa Moawad, an Al-Azhar professor, attended the trial, while the other five Egyptian defendants were tried in absentia.
    See also Egypt Is Against War with Iran - Dina Ezzat (Al-Ahram-Egypt)

U.S. Sanctions Hizbullah Officials Accused of Supporting Iran - Alan Rappeport (New York Times)
    The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three senior Hizbullah officials in Lebanon on Tuesday - parliament members Amin Sherri and Muhammad Hasan Ra'd, and security official Wafiq Safa.
    "Hizbullah uses its operatives in Lebanon's Parliament to manipulate institutions in support of the terrorist group's financial and security interests, and to bolster Iran's malign activities," said Sigal Mandelker, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.
    Senior administration officials said the sanctions were meant to emphasize that the U.S. saw no distinction between the political and military wings of Hizbullah.

Report: Israel Foreign Minister Flies over Saudi Arabia to Reach UAE (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz flew through Saudi airspace with the kingdom's consent while making his way to an official visit to the UAE capital Abu Dhabi last week, according to Arab48.

Palestinian Terrorists Take Credit for Death of Israeli Woman in Ashkelon (Elder of Ziyon)
    The Times of Israel reported that Rivkah Jamil, 89, of Ashkelon, who fell and injured her spine while seeking cover from Gaza rocket fire, died of her injuries Sunday.
    Palestine Today, a media arm of Islamic Jihad, reported that a "settler" died "after being wounded by shelling of the Quds Brigades of the occupied city of Ashkelon during the Battle of Bahr al-Badr on May 5."
    They claim she was injured by their rockets, fail to mention her age, and are proud that they can add the death of another "Zionist settler" to their accomplishments.
    There is no honor in an elderly woman dying from a fall, but Islamic Jihad believes there is great honor in killing Zionist civilians, since they tell their people there is no such thing as an Israeli who is not an "illegal settler."

Google Buys Israeli Cloud Storage Company Elastifile - Meir Orbach (Calcalist)
    Google has agreed to acquire Israel-based cloud storage company Elastifile Ltd., Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian announced Tuesday, in a deal estimated to be valued at $200 million.
    Elastifile develops data fabric storage technology for large data centers.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Wants Military Coalition to Safeguard Waters Off Iran, Yemen - Phil Stewart
    The U.S. hopes to enlist allies in a military coalition to safeguard waters off Iran and Yemen, where Washington blames Iran and Iran-aligned fighters for attacks, Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday. The U.S. would provide command ships and lead surveillance efforts, while allies would escort commercial vessels with their nation's flags.
        "We're engaging now with a number of countries to see if we can put together a coalition that would ensure freedom of navigation both in the Straits of Hormuz and the Bab al-Mandab," Dunford said. "Over the next couple of weeks we'll identify which nations have the political will to support that initiative and then we'll work directly with the militaries to identify the specific capabilities."  (Reuters)
  • Europeans Warn of Formal Complaint Against Iran - Rick Gladstone
    In a joint statement Tuesday, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Britain, plus the top foreign policy official of the EU, expressed "deep concern that Iran is pursuing activities inconsistent with its commitments" under the nuclear accord. The statement was their strongest response yet to at least two Iranian violations of the agreement in recent days: exceeding the stockpile of uranium it is allowed to keep, and raising the enrichment level above the purity required for civilian use.
        They exhorted Iran to return to full compliance "without delay" and said a joint commission for resolving disputes under the accord "should be convened urgently." The convening of a joint commission amounted to a warning that the Europeans are moving closer to a formal complaint against Iran. (New York Times)
  • Eastern Mediterranean Crisis Balloons as Turkish Drill Ships Multiply - Amberin Zaman
    Amid sharpening tensions over drilling rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkey dispatched a second drill ship, the Yavuz, which arrived Monday off the northernmost tip of Cyprus. The area was "licensed" by the Turkish Cypriots to the state-owned Turkish Petroleum company.
        The move prompted a rebuke from the Cypriot presidency which called the move "an escalation by Turkey of its repeated violations of Cyprus' sovereign rights based on the UN Law of the Sea." EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini warned that the EU would respond "in full solidarity with Cyprus." Russia called for "restraint" and respect for Cyprus' sovereignty.
        America's ExxonMobil and Noble Energy, France's Total and Italy's Eni are among a slew of companies drilling in blocks licensed to them by the Republic of Cyprus that are caught in the middle as Turkey continues to wade in with its own drilling vessels, shored up by military escorts and bellicose rhetoric. (Al Monitor)
        See also U.S. Urges Turkey to Halt Gas Drilling off Cyprus (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Intelligence Foiled 50 ISIS, Iranian Terror Attacks in 20 Countries
    Israel's Mossad intelligence agency and IDF Military Intelligence supplied information that thwarted 50 attacks in 20 countries over the past three years, Channel 12 reported Tuesday. One country able to foil attacks based on Israeli intelligence was Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a fierce critic of Israel. (Times of Israel)
  • Hamas Conducts War Drill in Gaza Against IDF Incursion - Daniel Siryoti
    Hamas' al-Qassam Brigades and its various security branches simulated an IDF ground incursion as part of a military drill held in Gaza on Tuesday. Fighters deployed in various sectors, halting civilian traffic and closing border crossings. Fishing was stopped and a curfew was declared on some streets. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Plan Against Iran Is Working - Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
    The imposition of sanctions is pushing Iran into intransigence. It will go back to uranium enrichment and lose the support of the rest of the states that signed the nuclear deal. By increasing its uranium enrichment, Iran has increased the threat against it, not the other way around.
        Moreover, Iran's situation in Syria is very bad, as Israel continuously attacks its military presence. Iran's forces and militias have retreated outside of Damascus. Russia allows Israel to target the Iranians in Syria.
        Iran wants to push things toward ending or curbing U.S. sanctions, but this will never happen. The sanctions will not be lifted and negotiations are the only solution. The writer is former general manager of Al-Arabiya television and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Getting Iran Out of Syria Is No Easy Task - Jonathan Spyer
    Israel has undertaken at least 200 air raids against Iranian targets in Syria since 2017. But air power is applicable only to certain tasks. The Iranian project in Syria is deep and multifaceted. Iran is engaged in a broad effort designed to merge the structures under its command with the Syrian state itself, intending to implant a "deep state," under its control, within the existing state machinery.
        Will Russia seriously undertake to secure Israel's objective of a complete Iranian exit from Syria? Almost certainly not. It is also questionable whether the Russians (or Assad) even have the ability to uproot the entrenched Iranian presence in Syria. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Opportunity the Palestinians Choose to Miss - Zalman Shoval
    The Palestinian leaders' true intention is to thwart in advance any Israeli or international initiative that would put them on the road to genuinely and ideologically accepting the existence of the State of Israel, which could be interpreted as confirmation of the Jewish people's right to a state in any part of Palestine.
        It is more important for PA President Mahmoud Abbas to go down in Palestinian history as one who stood firm against this eventuality rather than to take practical measures that would ease the hardships of his own people.
        The recent meeting in Bahrain had a precedent: the Casablanca Conference following the Oslo Accords. There, too, politicians and businesspeople gathered from all over the world, including a few Arab countries. The Israeli delegation prepared detailed plans for economic cooperation with all the parties, the Palestinians first and foremost.
        But the unofficial Palestinian representatives (there were no official ones) announced right from the start: "No cooperation with Israel." Thus, Shimon Peres' vision of the "New Middle East," the main project of that conference, died before it was born. The writer served twice as Israel's ambassador to the U.S. (Jerusalem Post)

Iran's Strategic Depth Expands from Yemen and Africa to the Mediterranean Coast - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Ayatollah Ebrahim Raeesi, head of Iran's judiciary, said in June 2019, "Today the Iranian border is what the Islamic Republic defines as its "strategic depth" - Yemen and Africa are (our) strategic borders." Mohammed Reza Nakdi, vice-commander of the Revolutionary Guard for coordinating forces, stated that the Revolutionary Guard "reaches as far as the shores of the Mediterranean Sea."
  • Hossein Salami, present commander of the Revolutionary Guard, stated in January 2018 that Iran has managed to wage war on its enemies far from its geographic borders, and countries like Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as contested areas in Yemen, have become Iran's first line of defense. This was the "skill of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard," which managed to "tie up its enemies on many, varied fronts....And as the Revolution expands, its level of friction with its foes proportionally grows."
  • In accordance with this perception, Iran is continuing to arm the Palestinian terror organizations in Gaza and Hizbullah to wear Israel down through incessant conflict. According to the Iranian strategy, this will weaken Israel's ability to respond militarily.
  • The current harsh sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Iran and its leadership and the ongoing erosion of its oil profits have not significantly affected Iran's continuing assistance to its cohorts in the Middle East. It appears that Iran has even increased its aid, primarily through expanding the operations of the Houthis against Saudi Arabia and the UAE and providing assistance to the Palestinian organizations and Hizbullah.
  • Recent statements on "strategic depth" and military operations (attacks on tankers, missiles fired at Saudi Arabia, targeted attacks in Iraq, continued support for Hamas and Islamic Jihad) are evidence of Iran's perception of national security - as a regional power acting to protect its borders.

    The writer, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center.