July 11, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Royal Navy Fends Off Iranian Seizure of British Oil Tanker in Persian Gulf - Barbara Starr (CNN)
    Five armed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats unsuccessfully tried to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf Wednesday, two U.S. officials said.
    The British Heritage tanker was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz when it was approached by the Iranian boats and ordered to change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters.
    The UK Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose had been escorting the tanker from the rear. It trained its deck guns on the Iranians and gave them a verbal warning to back away, which they did.

Exposure of Its Tunnels Forces Hamas to Modify Its Security Doctrine - Shlomi Eldar (Al-Monitor)
    Since the IDF began using advanced technology to unearth Gaza terror tunnels, Hamas has abandoned its flagship project in which it had invested millions of dollars.
    Even if some undetected tunnels remain, Hamas would have a hard time using them and overcoming the new Israeli barrier.
    As an alternative to the tunnels, Hamas now believes it can develop an "air force" of drones, in addition to a "navy" equipped with attack vessels, and surprise Israel from the air and sea in a future conflict.
    The writer has covered the Palestinian Authority and Gaza for Israel's Channels 1 and 10 for the past two decades.

Iran's New Global Terrorist Network - Con Coughlin (Gatestone Institute)
    New evidence has emerged that highlights the Iranian regime's attempts to establish a terrorist infrastructure in Africa. Iranian cells are said to be active in Sudan, Chad, Ghana, Niger, Gambia and the Central African Republic.
    A senior Western security source recently told me, "Iran is setting up a new terrorist infrastructure in Africa with the aim of attacking Western targets. It is all part of Tehran's attempts to expand its terrorist operations across the globe."
    The writer is defense editor of the Telegraph (UK).

Firefly Aerospace Will Use Israel's Beresheet Lander Tech to Land on the Moon - Elizabeth Howell (Forbes)
    Firefly Aerospace has signed an intellectual property and engineering support agreement to use technology based on Israel's Beresheet lander.
    The U.S. company is building a Genesis Lander in fulfillment of NASA's new push to land on the moon, which includes a series of planned robotic and human missions in the 2020s.
    "Having access to flight-proven lunar lander technology, and the expertise of IAI [Israel Aerospace Industries] engineers, makes Firefly well-placed to gain a foothold in the cislunar market," said Firefly CEO Tom Markusic.
    Firefly is one of nine U.S. companies selected for the Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) program.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Accuses Iran of "Nuclear Extortion" - Steven Erlanger
    In response to Iranian moves to stockpile and enrich uranium beyond the limits set in the 2015 nuclear accord, Jackie Wolcott, U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Wednesday in Vienna: "There is no credible reason for Iran to expand its nuclear program, and there is no way to read this as anything other than a crude and transparent attempt to extort payments from the international community."  (New York Times)
        See also U.S. Accuses Iran of Secretly Enriching Uranium
    President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday, "Iran has long been secretly 'enriching' [uranium] in total violation" of the nuclear deal. "Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially."  (Reuters-New York Times)
  • Britain, France Agree to Slight Troop Increase in Syria - Lara Seligman
    The UK and France have agreed to a 10-15% troop increase in Syria to pick up the slack as U.S. troops withdraw, sources familiar with the discussions told Foreign Policy. Other countries may send small numbers of troops as well. A U.S. official said, "Overall we have been disappointed" in efforts to persuade U.S. allies to commit additional resources to the ongoing fight against the Islamic State terrorist group in Syria.
        The marginal increase of UK and French troops likely won't completely fill the gap left when U.S. forces leave. The U.S. footprint in Syria is expected to drop from 2,000 troops to 400. A second source estimated that Britain and France each has 200 to 300 troops in the country. (Foreign Policy)
  • 3 Labour Members of House of Lords Quit Party over Anti-Semitism - Harry Yorke
    Three members of the British House of Lords resigned from the Labour party on Tuesday over its handling of anti-Semitism. Lord Triesman, Labour's former general secretary, accused Jeremy Corbyn of presiding over a party that is no longer a "safe environment" for Jewish people. He was joined by former health minister Lord Darzi and Lord Turnberg, the former president of the Royal College of Physicians. Others are rumored to be on the verge of resigning.
        In his resignation letter, Lord Triesman wrote, "My sad conclusion is that the Labour Party is very plainly institutionally anti-Semitic, and its leader and his circle are anti-Semitic, having never once made the right judgment call about an issue reflecting deep prejudice."  (Telegraph-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • PA Doubles Salary of Murderer of 3 Israeli Teens - Maurice Hirsch and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    Palestinian Husam Al-Qawasmi, who planned the kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Eyal Yifrach, 19, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, in 2014, has already received over 98,000 shekels in compensation from the Palestinian Authority since his capture. Having now served five years in prison, Al-Qawasmi is having his salary doubled by the PA, from 2,000 shekels/month to 4,000 shekels/month.
        The PA also pays monthly allowances to the families of the two dead terrorists, Marwan Al-Qawasmi and Amer Abu Aisheh, who kidnapped and murdered the boys. (Palestinian Media Watch)
        See also U.S. Envoy Asks: Why Do Donor Countries Allow PA Payments to Terrorists?
    U.S. special envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt tweeted on Wednesday: "Again & again & again the PA ignores the countries that graciously donate assistance for the Palestinians by INCREASING its funding of its DESPICABLE 'Pay to Slay' program BY OVER 11% in the first months of 2019. Why do the donor countries tolerate this?"
        "What government prioritizes terrorists over police?" he asked. "PA increased pay to murderers by over 11% at the same time as they slash pay to their government workers and police."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA Payments to Terrorists Continued in 2018 - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Meet the FBI's Man in Tel Aviv - Shoshanna Solomon
    FBI assistant legal attache for cybersecurity Raysyn Roach-Vaden was recently posted to Israel to share vital information about cyber threats to public and private entities. Collaboration among governments, agencies and private companies globally are crucial to keep hackers at bay, he said. Since May he has worked on cases involving national security threats, ransomware, hackers and online fraud.
        "The U.S. is slowly building a network of partners of law enforcement agencies across the globe," he says. "For example, the U.S., Brazil and Israeli authorities worked closely together to foil the sale of drugs online, on the Dark Web."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • How to Talk about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict - Carly Pildis
    The Palestinians are not helpless people who need to be rescued. In truth, they are fighting not only against Israel's policies, but also against brutal, violent, authoritarian leaders of their own in both Gaza and the West Bank. They have agencies and form complex alliances and hold diverse opinions and don't need some well-meaning American academic to swoop in and save them from themselves.
        Israel is a place, not a parable. It's not a cartoon. It is neither a perfectly good nation nor an evil entity. It is also a place that was devastated by colonialism. Rome sought to erase Jews from the Middle East because they refused to obey a foreign imperialist power. The people of Judea fought to keep their land and eventually lost. The Romans named it Palestine.
        Attempting to kick Jews out of progressive spaces because of their Zionism and support for Israel, which many view as intrinsic to their identity, does not bring justice to Palestinians or better their lives. Instead, it entrenches the conflict and makes real peace-building conversations more difficult to have.
        Ultimately, Israelis and Palestinians need to solve the conflict. It is not for American activists to decide for them what the correct outcome should be. We can support, mediate and deescalate - but we cannot rescue. It never works. (Tablet)
  • Is Peace with the Palestinians Possible Today? - Hillel Frisch
    For Hamas, peace would mean openly acknowledging that the dream of Palestine "from the river to the sea" is no longer attainable. Peace would also mean the end of Iranian military aid, and Turkish and Qatari support.
        Peace threatens the Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas with nightmarish scenarios if the IDF is withdrawn, with a possible takeover by Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Abbas and his coterie only have to look at how Fatah supporters fare in the Hamas one-party state of Gaza.
        If Hamas takes over the West Bank, consider the fires, incendiary bombs and daily attacks along the security fence that would occur, threatening traffic on Route 6, Israel's largest highway, and Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel's major international airport. An occasional mortar volley would be sufficient to close down both key transportation arteries.
        The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. (Jerusalem Post)

Are Iran Sanctions Working? - Amir Taheri (Asharq al-Awsat-UK)
  • The pro-Tehran lobby claims that sanctions do not work. But if the aim is to persuade the Khomeinist clique in Tehran to change aspects of its behavior abroad, sanctions are working. The mullahs have started to reduce their footprint in Syria and Yemen.
  • Offices in more than 30 Iranian cities to enlist "volunteers" for "Jihad" in Syria have been closed, and the recruitment of Afghan and Pakistani mercenaries has stopped.
  • Tehran's military and diplomatic presence in Yemen has been downsized. Smuggling arms to Houthis continues, albeit at a reduced rate.
  • Cash-flow problems caused by sanctions have also forced the mullahs to cut the stipends of Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad by 10%.
  • Another claim is that sanctions strengthen hardline factions and weaken the "reformists" around President Hassan Rouhani. Since Rouhani and his associates have never said or even hinted what it is they may want to reform, it is hard to speak of a "reformist" faction.

    The writer was executive editor-in-chief of the Iranian daily Kayhan from 1972 to 1979.