July 25, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Pushes Against Hizbullah in Syria - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    Israel is actively attempting to foil any Hizbullah entrenchment on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
    Iran has been investing efforts in building a terror infrastructure close to the Syrian border with Israel and its forces on the ground are mostly Hizbullah operatives.
    Russian military police are enforcing an agreement banning Iran's Revolutionary Guards from setting up a presence in the area, which is why Iran has subcontracted the task to Hizbullah.
    This infrastructure includes observation posts and intelligence installations to support future attacks on Israel.

Dearborn Burger Franchise Founded in Israel Delays Opening after Threats - Anna Bauman (Detroit Free Press)
    Sam Zahr, a Lebanese-American who lives in Dearborn, said he has delayed the scheduled opening of his Burgerim restaurant there after his kids were bullied and he received threatening messages from those opposed to the burger chain's Israeli roots.
    Zahr has decided to step away from the Dearborn location since he has others - in Royal Oak, Oak Park, and Redford Township.
    Zahr said he has lost everything after pouring money into the Dearborn location by signing a five-year lease, having the electricity and plumbing installed, purchasing permits and licenses, and paying the franchise fee.
    "We're in America. You don't own Dearborn," Zahr said. "God bless this beautiful country that we all came to, to make something out of, not to have this kind of hate."

CNN Labels Overwhelming House Vote Condemning Israel Boycotts "Divisive" - Shelby Talcott (Daily Caller)
    CNN labeled the House resolution condemning anti-Israel boycotts as "divisive" in its headline, despite it passing decisively with 398 votes in favor and only 17 votes against the measure.

Israel Ranked 10th Most Innovative Country (Times of Israel)
    The annual Global Innovation Index ranks 129 world economies on 80 parameters including research, technology and creativity.
    Israel placed 10th in the latest rankings, announced Wednesday.
    Israel was 11th in 2018, 17th in 2017, 21st in 2016, and 22nd in 2015.

West Bank University Popular with Israeli Arabs - Lior Dattel (Ha'aretz)
    The Arab American University in Jenin in the West Bank, a private institution founded in 2000 in collaboration with California State University in Stanislaus and Utah State University, has 6,215 Israeli Arab students, comprising more than half of its student body.
    81% of its Israeli Arab students are pursuing degrees in health care. The language of instruction is English.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. to Escort American-Flagged Ships Facing Iranian Threats - Paul Sonne
    Newly appointed U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the U.S. will escort American-flagged ships facing threats from Iran "to the degree that the risk demands it....In some cases, that may be strictly an overhead capability....I don't necessarily mean every U.S.-flagged ship going through the strait has a destroyer right behind it."  (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Blocks UN Rebuke of Israeli Demolition of Illegal Construction - Michelle Nichols
    The U.S. on Wednesday blocked an attempt by Kuwait, Indonesia and South Africa to get the UN Security Council to condemn Israel's demolition on Monday of illegal Palestinian construction in Jerusalem, diplomats said. The ten apartment buildings, most of them still under construction, posed a security risk. The U.S. has long accused the UN of anti-Israel bias and shielded its ally from council action. (Reuters)
  • Hundreds of Islamic State Militants Are Slipping Back into Iraq to Fight - Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim
    Islamic State militants who escaped defeat in Syria earlier this year have been slipping across the border into Iraq, bolstering a low-level insurgency there, according to security officials. About 1,000 fighters have crossed into Iraq over the past eight months, mostly Iraqis who are returning home to join militant cells in rural areas. The militants carry out sniper attacks and roadside bombings several times a week. (Washington Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iranian Efforts to Recruit Israeli Arab and Palestinian Agents Uncovered
    Israeli security forces have in recent months uncovered a network to recruit people from Israel, Judea and Samaria, and Gaza for Iranian intelligence. The network, based in Syria under Iranian guidance, attempted to recruit people via contacts based on fictitious Facebook profiles and messaging apps. Those who had been recruited were asked to collect information on military bases, sensitive security installations, VIPs, police stations, and hospitals in order to prepare targets for terrorist attacks in Israel.
        The Internet activity was identified and monitored by the Israeli intelligence community. Beginning in April 2019, an extensive counter-operation was implemented, involving several Israeli citizens who are suspected of having been in contact with Iranian operatives. However, the decisive majority of Israeli citizens refused to cooperate with those who contacted them. Any Israeli who is contacted over the Internet by an element that appears linked to a hostile body or terrorist organization should inform the Israel Police. (Israel Security Agency)
  • Palestinian Journalist Describes How Hamas Brings Kids to Front Line to Die
    A Palestinian journalist has described how Hamas operatives take children in buses to protest against Israel at the Gaza border. "They bring children...and then encourage them to do whatever they can to get close to the fence....They [Hamas] exploit this to claim that Israel is killing our children."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Video: How Hamas Exploits Children during Riots on Gaza Border - Kobi Richter (Tazpit Press Service)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • EU Foreign Affairs Chief Nominee Downplays Iranian Threats to Annihilate Israel - Amb. Alan Baker
    When asked in a February 2019 media interview regarding the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, Iran's involvement in terror attacks in Europe, and repeated calls by Iran's leaders for Israel's destruction, Spanish Foreign Minister and nominee for the post of EU Foreign Affairs Chief, Josep Borrell, replied, "We will continue working with Iran….Iran wants to wipe out Israel? There's nothing new here. We have to live with it."
        This astounding statement indicates a serious lack of diplomacy and good sense and clearly does not augur well for the senior European foreign minister touted to become the EU's number one diplomat. In fact, Borrell seems to have perfected the art of expressing irresponsible statements over the past years, trivializing some of the most serious threats facing members of the international community.
        By now trivializing the oft-repeated Iranian declared intention to "wipe Israel off the map," and, as such, by giving license to a blatant call for genocide and destruction of a sovereign, member state of the international community, Borrell would appear to have crossed all accepted lines of basic decency. In light of his irresponsible statement, his candidacy to head the EU's foreign affairs department should be reconsidered. The writer served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • What the Pew Report Got Wrong about Religious Restrictions in Israel - Rabbi Avi Shafran
    A recently released Pew Research Center report about global restrictions on religion found that Jews are "harassed in 87 countries...the third-highest figure for any religion." The report also claimed that "Israel has almost as many religious restrictions as Iran." Yet the only specific description of religious restrictions in Israel contained in the 126-page report was a single sentence: "In Israel, drivers who operated cars near ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods on the Sabbath reported incidents of harassment."
        Such behavior, not sanctioned in any way by the state, does not merit Israel's inclusion among a list of countries where religious minorities are interned, as in China, or where police have raided religious minorities' homes and places of worship, as in Iran. (JTA)
  • Iran Fell into a Trap - Salman Aldosary
    When Iran's Revolutionary Guards seized the British-flagged tanker Stena Impero, it fell into a trap. The dangerous behavior of seizing the British tanker, as pirates do in the Horn of Africa, turned the European compass, which has long been neutral in the battle between the U.S. and Iran, towards an alignment with the U.S. stance. Britain immediately announced the formation of a maritime protection force led by Europe to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, and London is working to urge the EU and UN to re-impose sanctions on Tehran, which were suspended in 2016. That is in addition to the freezing of Iranian assets in the UK.
        Thus, the international position against Iran is being reshaped and is no longer seen as a U.S.-Iranian conflict with Europe on the sidelines. The European countries have gradually entered the battle after watching from afar. The writer is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

Stabilizing Iraq Is the Key to Protecting the Gulf States - Anthony H. Cordesman (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
  • If Iran blocked the Strait of Hormuz, this would end all of its petroleum exports as well as those of its Arab neighbors. Iran is already in a critical statewide economic crisis - much of which is self-inflicted by its own failed economic policies. It is far from clear whether its leaders are willing to put the nation in a position in which it will suffer far more than it does from today's sanctions.
  • Iran would have to start and keep fighting a war that it cannot possibly win, and in which it would suffer far more damage that its Gulf neighbors. Such a war would also probably threaten the postwar survival of the present Iranian regime.
  • Iran is not the natural hegemon of the Gulf, and should not have its current level of impact on Gulf security. The Gulf Arab states vastly outspend Iran on military forces, and import arms by more than an order of magnitude. They should be able to deter and defend against Iran with minimal outside aid.
  • Unfortunately, however, Arab divisions handed Iran major strategic opportunities that it could hardly resist. Iran was not particularly aggressive. It effectively walked in through a door that Arab states had opened.
  • The real prize for Iran is Iraq. A unified Iraq, with its own security forces and a reasonable level of unity, would confront Iran with a major barrier to threatening the rest of the Arab states in the Gulf and providing major military support to Syria or Hizbullah.
  • However, Iran's influence over the Iraqi government's Shi'ite elements is growing. The U.S. must recognize that a strong and independent Iraq is the most immediate key to creating a stable balance of power in the Gulf.

    The writer, who holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at CSIS, has held senior posts in the U.S. Department of Defense.