July 22, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Trying to Arm Syria, Hizbullah by Sea - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Israeli observers believe that attacks designed to prevent Iran from entrenching itself in Syria and transferring equipment to Lebanon have led the Iranians to prefer shipping a portion of the weaponry by sea.
    See also Israel Prepares to Fend Off Maritime Threats - Yaniv Kubovich (Ha'aretz)
    Amid increasing Iranian attacks on shipping in the Gulf, Israeli defense officials are preparing to address potential threats at sea, not only in the Eastern Mediterranean, but also to Israeli vessels passing through the Straits of Tiran in the Red Sea.
    A marine barrier was recently erected at the naval base in Eilat to protect against an attack by fast boats.

Iran Welcomes Hamas' Deputy Leader (Tehran Times-Iran)
    Kamal Kharrazi, chairman of Iran's Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, on Sunday told Saleh al-Arouri, the deputy leader of Hamas, that the liberation of Palestine, and especially Jerusalem, is among the greatest causes of Iran.
    Arouri praised Iran's position in supporting the Palestinians.

British Airways Suspends Flights to Cairo amid Security Concerns - Greg Wilford and Tim Wallace (Telegraph-UK)
    British Airways announced Saturday it has suspended flights to Cairo for seven days amid security concerns.
    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said there is a "heightened risk of terrorism" against flights from the UK to Egypt and that "terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks in Egypt."

U.S. Offers $7 Million for Hizbullah Agent Wanted for Argentina Attack (AFP)
    The U.S. State Department on Friday offered a $7 million reward to find Hizbullah operative Salman Raouf Salman, accused of masterminding a deadly 1994 attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires, on the 25th anniversary of the attack.
    The U.S. Treasury Department said Salman masterminded the 1994 attack and "has directed terrorist operations in the Western Hemisphere for Hizbullah ever since."

Retired Syrian Christian Woman Tortured and Murdered by Islamists (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)
    Suzan Dirkerkur, 60, a retired Syrian-Armenian schoolteacher living in the Christian village of Yacoubiya in the opposition-held Syrian province of Idlib, was found murdered last week.
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, "Her body was found with marks of torture on it. And according to forensic medicine, the woman had been tortured for about nine hours before she was stoned to death."
    Christian groups have blamed former al-Qaeda-linked elements from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which controls Idlib province.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Seizes British Tanker in Strait of Hormuz - Aresu Eqbali
    Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces seized the British oil tanker Stena Impero in the Strait of Hormuz on Friday. The ship was empty and heading to Saudi Arabia to pick up its cargo. No British citizens were on board. The British government said it is "deeply concerned about Iran's unacceptable actions" that "represent a clear challenge to international freedom of navigation."  (BBC News)
  • U.S. Downed Iranian Drone with New Technology - Nancy A. Youssef and Dustin Volz
    The U.S. brought down an Iranian drone near the USS Boxer in the Strait of Hormuz on Thursday using new technology that had just been added to naval defenses, defense officials said. The new counterdrone system, known as the Marine Air Defense Integrated System, or MADIS, sits atop a Marine vehicle, allowing it to be transported onto a ship or to front lines. It consists of radars and jammers that identify if a drone is a threat, and, if so, can jam the drone's communications to the ground. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also Iran Is Becoming a Drone Superpower - Seth J. Frantzman (The Hill)
  • Drone Targets Base for Iran-Backed Militia in Northern Iraq - Khalid Mohammed
    A drone dropped two grenades half an hour apart on a base belonging to Iran-backed paramilitary forces in Amirli in northern Iraq on Friday. The first attack targeted the headquarters of advisers from Iran and Lebanon, wounding two Iranians. The second attack hit a weapons depot, causing a large fire. An Iraqi official said ISIS was most likely behind the attack. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israeli Arab Hamas Supporter Planned to Bomb Ashdod Hotel - Anna Ahronheim
    Adel Abu Hadayeb, 20, from the Israeli Bedouin city of Rahat, has been indicted for planning a terrorist attack against an Ashdod hotel, the Israel Security Agency announced Sunday. Hadayeb, a Hamas supporter, was arrested in June with five hand grenades and a Carlo sub-machine gun. He had tried to prepare a bomb for the attack on the hotel that he had known from his work as a gardener nearby. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel to Allow Tlaib-Omar Visit "Out of Respect for Congress" - Amir Tibon
    Israel will allow Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) to enter the country, despite anti-boycott laws which have been used to prevent the entry of Israel-boycott supporters, Israel's Ambassador to Washington Ron Dermer said Friday. "Out of respect for the U.S. Congress and the great alliance between Israel and America, we would not deny entry to any member of Congress into Israel."  (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • As Iran-U.S. Tensions Rise, Hizbullah Deploying for War with Israel - Jesse Rosenfeld
    Hizbullah's forces, battle-hardened in the Syrian civil war, have begun redeploying toward the Israeli border, not only in Lebanon, but in Syria opposite the Golan Heights. "The [U.S.] sanctions now have us preparing for dealing with the Israeli front," says Commander Samir, a Hizbullah officer in charge of 800 fighters on Lebanon's border with Israel.
        Samir underscores the importance of Hizbullah's positions in the Syrian-controlled part of the Golan, giving it the ability to open a second front there against Israel, and boasts about drone capabilities and new anti-aircraft and anti-naval weapons acquired in Syria. He said that while the pre-war Assad regime placed limits on Hizbullah activity in the Golan, "now there are no red lines." He noted that the sanctions have forced a large reduction in Iran's financial support for Hizbullah. Salaries for Hizbullah fighters have been halved, according to three fighters.
        "Assir," a seasoned Hizbullah fighter in Syria, says that like the many fighters coming back to Lebanon, he is not being demobilized but rather redeployed south to the Israeli border. "People who finish their mission in Syria go to the south," he says. "There are some units in Syria but a lot go back to Lebanon or to the Golan. Thousands have come back."  (Daily Beast)
  • Israeli Security Analyst Ehud Ya'ari: Iran Is Losing Against the West - Benjamin Kerstein
    Writing for Israeli news website Mako, veteran Israeli journalist Ehud Ya'ari said Iran "has left no room for doubt that it has no desire to absorb military blows....It is true that the Iranians are heating the waters of the Persian Gulf as they groan under the weight of the sanctions, but they will not bring things to a boiling point."
        "What is really happening [is] the opposite of escalation." Iran, he noted, has stopped attacks on Saudi Arabia by the Yemenite militias it controls, and has done the same in Iraq. It has also pulled back on its provocations along Israel's northern border. (Algemeiner)
        See also Is Iran Considering Renewed Negotiations? - Zvi Bar'el
    Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif has declared that his country would be willing to add a clause to the nuclear accord in which it would commit to allowing more extensive and tighter monitoring of its nuclear facilities if sanctions were lifted. Zarif is presenting an official Iranian position which could be the opening gambit in renewed negotiations. Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has shown in the past that in times of distress he tends to adopt a policy of "heroic flexibility."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Hamas Under Fire for Failed Policies - Yousef Alhelou
    Palestinians in Gaza are increasingly expressing frustration with Hamas for failing to provide solutions to their problems. Palestinians are questioning why Hamas has stayed in power but is unable to provide a decent life for Gazans.
        Those who want to work in the governmental sector in Gaza must be a Hamas loyalist or at least a supporter. Priority to receive food aid also depends on how well a person is connected to the Islamic movement. Housing for those whose homes were destroyed in wars with Israel are also prioritized by level of loyalty to Hamas.
        Mass migration is taking place from Gaza to settle in Europe. Activists and journalists have left because they were unable to express themselves or report without intimidation. The writer is a Palestinian journalist living in London. (Arab Weekly-UK)
        See also Thousands of Palestinians Are Fleeing Gaza and Heading to Turkey - Rami Almeghari (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed-UK)

Israel Is the One Stabilizing Element in the Middle East - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu interviewed by Boaz Bismuth and Amnon Lord (Israel Hayom)
  • Asked about how he views the period since he first became prime minister in 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu said, "We discovered that we can leverage the basic characteristics of this people into exceptional strength in economics, defense and security, and diplomacy. We've proved that it is possible to turn Israel from a small country in a corner of the Middle East into a central world power."
  • "It's obvious that the lack of stability here [in the Middle East] is the result of the struggle between the Dark Ages and modernism - between the tyranny of radical Islam and the forces of freedom. That's the most important battle. That is what is destabilizing everything."
  • "Standing up to the fundamentalist Islam that wants to take over first the Middle East and then the entire world [is important]. If there's one element that is stabilizing the Middle East and fighting radical Islam here, it's Israel."
  • "[I told Russian President Vladimir Putin] that I would have to take action in Syria, that I wasn't willing to allow Iran to bring its army to our borders. They [Iran] announce their intention of annihilating us. 'What would you do?' I asked him. I told him that I was sure he would do the same as me."
  • "The [2015] nuclear deal...wasn't conditional on any change in [Iran's] behavior. The argument was that if Iran received millions as a result of the sanctions being lifted, it would become a moderate state. Today, we can judge....Right now, their policy is to quietly pursue nuclear weapons while also conquering the Middle East with the money that the eased sanctions sent flooding into Iran's coffers."
  • "You need to increase power, not maintain it. My outlook is built on bolstering our strengths. Without strength, we won't survive. The weak don't survive. A strong people forges alliances. So from the first moment, the main question about Israel's existence was whether we would be able to develop the strengths to not only confront our enemies but also be accepted by the rest of the world. The simple fact is that what makes the world accept you is, first and foremost, your strength."