July 29, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Leaked Report Accuses Top UNRWA Officials of Corruption - Ian Williams (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs)
    In June, a file landed on my desk, a devastating expose of the top management of UNRWA.
    The confidential report, compiled by the ethics office of the agency, cited "credible and corroborated reports" that members of the "inner circle" at the top of UNRWA have engaged in "abuses of authority for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives."
    They "have engaged in sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation... and other abuses of authority."
    In the face of questioning from myself and Al Jazeera to whom I took the story, three people named in the report have resigned.

Iran to Restart Activities at Arak Heavy Water Nuclear Reactor (Reuters)
    The head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, told lawmakers on Sunday that Iran will restart activities at the Arak heavy water nuclear reactor, Iran's ISNA news agency reported.
    Heavy water can be employed in reactors to produce plutonium, a fuel used in nuclear warheads.

Turkey's Erdogan: Whoever Is on the Side of Israel, We Are Against Them (Press TV-Iran)
    "Whoever is on the side of Israel, let everyone know that we are against them," Turkish President Erdogan told AKP party officials in Ankara on Saturday.
    See also Erdogan Adviser: Normalization with Israel Is "Treason"  (Al Arabiya)
    Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Erdogan, accused Saudi Arabia and the UAE of "treason" over what he called "normalization" with Israel, despite the Gulf countries having no diplomatic ties with Israel.
    See also Survey: U.S., Israel Seen as Greatest Threats to Turkey (Bianet-Turkey)
    81% of Turks consider the U.S. a threat to Turkey, while 71% see Israel as a threat, according to a 2019 survey of Turkish foreign policy public perceptions conducted by Kadir Has University in Istanbul.

Most Arabs in Israel Identify Themselves as "Israeli" - Salman Masalha (Ha'aretz)
    46% of Arab Israeli citizens defined themselves as Israeli Arabs, 22% as Arabs, 19% as Israeli Palestinians and only 14% as Palestinians, according to a survey commissioned by the Local Call (Sicha Mekomit) website before the April 2019 elections.
    In other words, 65% affixed the term "Israeli" to the way they define themselves.

Nazi Ideology No Longer to Appear in Google Search Results in Spain - Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman (Jerusalem Post)
    Material promoting Nazi ideology and denying the Holocaust will no longer appear in Spain's Google search results, according to the Lawfare Project, which filed several take-down notices after Jews identified content in Google search results that included extreme and defamatory racism against the Jewish people.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel, U.S. Test Arrow-3 Missile Defense in Alaska
    U.S. and Israeli officials say tests in Alaska of the jointly developed Arrow-3 missile defense system have been successful. Arrow-3 interceptors are designed to hit long-range missiles in space at an altitude that would safely destroy any nuclear warheads.
        In 2017, then-U.S. Missile Defense Agency director Navy Vice Admiral James Syring said that due to significant range constraints in the Mediterranean, "one of the better places to test [Arrow-3] is in Alaska, from Kodiak (Island)." Launching an Arrow-3 interceptor from Kodiak would enable it to fly over the more expansive waters of the Pacific. (VOA News)
        See also Netanyahu: "The Missile Hit the Missile All Three Times...Metal Hit Metal"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "In recent weeks we have carried out three pioneering secret experiments of the Arrow-3 missile. These experiments were held in the U.S. - in Alaska - in full cooperation with our great ally, the U.S. They were successful beyond any imagination. The Arrow-3 - with complete success - intercepted ballistic missiles beyond the atmosphere at unprecedented altitudes and speeds. The execution was perfect - all precise hits."
        "Today Israel has the ability to act against ballistic missiles that could be launched against us from Iran or anywhere else....I would like to make it clear here that metal hit metal; it was not just a proximity detonation. The missile hit the missile all three times."  (Prime Minister's Office)
        See also Video: Watch the Arrow-3 Interceptions (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Iran Tests Medium-Range Missile - Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger
    Iran fired a Shahab-3 medium-range missile on Wednesday, a U.S. military official said. It flew 1,100 km. (680 miles) inside Iran. Israel and a number of Western experts say a nuclear weapon can be fashioned to fit in the Shahab-3's nose cone. (New York Times)
  • Iran Says European Naval Mission in Gulf Would Be "Provocative" - Amir Havasi
    Iran on Sunday slammed as "provocative" a British proposal for a European-led naval mission to escort tankers in the Gulf. Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said, "The presence of foreign forces will not help the region's security and will be the main source of tensions."
        Britain on Thursday ordered its navy to escort UK-flagged ships through the Strait of Hormuz. France said it was not willing to send extra military assets to the Gulf, but would coordinate its currently deployed assets. (AFP)
        See also Britain Rejects Idea of Tanker Swap with Iran
    Britain on Monday rejected the idea that it could release an Iranian oil tanker captured by British forces near Gibraltar, accused of violating sanctions on Syria, in exchange for a British-flagged vessel seized by Iran in the Gulf. "There is no quid pro quo," Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told BBC Radio. "This is not about some kind of barter. This is about international law and the rules of the international legal system being upheld and that is what we will insist on."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. House Passes Bill to Sanction Financial Supporters of Hamas - Omri Nahmias
    The House of Representatives approved the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act on July 23, sponsored by Reps. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). The bill imposes financial sanctions on people or agencies identified as assisting "Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or any affiliate." The bipartisan bill was supported by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX). (Jerusalem Post-Insider NJ)
  • Palestinians Skeptical about Abbas' Move to Halt Agreements with Israel - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinians expressed skepticism that the Palestinian Authority would proceed with its intention to suspend signed agreements with Israel as announced on Thursday by PA President Mahmoud Abbas. "In the past, they have formed at least eight committees to look into ways of ending the agreements with Israel," a Ramallah-based Fatah official said. "We never heard about the findings of these committees. That's why it's hard to find any Palestinian who is taking Abbas' announcement seriously....No one believes Abbas when he talks about suspending agreements with Israel."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • An English Misunderstanding of Iran - Amir Taheri
    Former UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's new book, The English Job: Understanding Iran and Why It Distrusts Britain, may best be described as a misunderstanding of Iran today. Perhaps caused by his "absolute infatuation" with his imaginary Iran, Straw thinks that because Iran is an ancient civilization, it deserves indulgence for its weird activities such as hostage-taking, hate-mongering, human rights violations, and the export of terror in the name of revolution. It is like granting Stalin indulgence because one appreciates Tchaikovsky.
        Straw believes that the Khomeinist ruling elite includes a "reformist" faction that desires close relations with Western democracies. The trouble is that Straw is unable to cite a single reform proposed, let alone carried out, by his "reformist" faction. He forgets that there have been more executions and political arrests under "reformist" Presidents Khatami and Rouhani than during the presidency of the supposedly "hardline" Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
        Straw offers no evidence that any deal made with the Islamic Republic in the past 40 years has had a long-lasting impact on the Khomeinist strategy and behavior. The Khomeinist rulers of Iran have perfected the art of diplomatic cheat-retreat-advance. Whenever pressured, they offered some concessions, which were subsequently withdrawn once the pressure ceased. The writer was executive editor-in-chief of the daily Kayhan in Iran from 1972 to 1979. (Gatestone Institute)
  • U.S. Defense Experts Analyze Iranian Behavior - Ariel Ben Solomon
    With inflation reaching record highs, the economy contracting and Iranians feeling the squeeze, it is no surprise that Iran has begun to lash out at the U.S., the UK and Europe, said Dr. Harold Rhode, a former adviser on Islamic affairs in the U.S. Department of Defense. "The Iranian regime feels increasingly pushed into a corner, like being checkmated."
        Former Pentagon official Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said, "Let's stop making excuses for Iranian behavior. Every diplomat, every analyst, every member of the media needs to repeat to themselves: 'It is not acceptable to seize hostages, hijack ships or conduct terrorism.'"  (JNS)
  • U.S. Targets Iranian Public with Information Campaign - Sune Engel Rasmussen and Michael Amon
    The U.S. is trying to win over the Iranian public with an information campaign, with hashtags, YouTube videos and traditional pro-U.S. media outlets blaming the country's economic hardship on its leaders. For example, it has used Persian-language social media to blame deadly floods this year on government mismanagement. American officials say U.S.-sponsored radio stations including Voice of America now reach more than 14 million Iranians inside the country each week - 23% of the nation's adults.
        U.S. officials say they have ramped up efforts in response to Iran's own disinformation campaign. Iran's operatives have impersonated major media outlets and research institutes and flooded social media with fake accounts sharing false articles critical of the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Jason Greenblatt, the president's point man on peace in the Middle East, told Fox News in an interview: "We want tremendous lives for the Palestinians. We want lives that mirror the lives of Israelis as long as we can keep everybody secure. We are not going to get there with slogans."
  • The administration sponsored a "Peace to Prosperity" workshop in Bahrain on June 25 to bolster the Palestinian economy. "Not only did the Palestinian Authority boycott the conference themselves, they tried to undermine the conference by asking others not to go. What a tremendous opportunity that they missed."
  • "Nobody is here to force something on them that doesn't work, but we are also...direct enough to say what you've been promised is probably not achievable."
  • "Nobody can force a deal on either side but, similarly, the deal that you want is just not there, so the only way you are going to get better lives is by sitting down directly with the Israelis."
  • "None of us can get the Palestinians and the Israelis to agree on a deal if they don't want to do that deal. It's not for America, it's not for the European Union, it's not for anyone who is interested in this conflict to make decisions for the Israelis or the Palestinians."
  • "We don't live there, we don't suffer there, we don't fight there, we don't die there. It's really up to the two sides to do [a deal]."