July 31, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Israel Working on System to Counter Hypersonic Missiles - Ron Ben-Yishai (Ynet News)
    The successful testing of the Arrow-3 missile defense system in Alaska last week proves Israel's ability to destroy a ballistic missile from Iran armed with a nuclear warhead.
    And it works not just against Iranian missiles. Any missiles fired at Israel from around the world could be brought down if Iran's atomic aspirations lead to nuclear proliferation.
    Hypersonic missiles, which travel at five times the speed of sound, are now being developed that existing missile interception systems are not capable of stopping.
    Israel is working on a new system to counter the next generation of hypersonic missiles.
    It is also working on a laser defense system to destroy multiple targets within minutes.

Iran Says Senior Revolutionary Guard Commander Killed in "Israeli Attack" in Iraq - Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    Abu Alfazl Sarabian, a senior Iranian commander in the Revolutionary Guards' Al Qods Brigade, was killed in Iraq in an attack by "Israel and the United States" on July 19, 2019, Iranian media reported.
    Iraqi sources said Sarabian was killed in an explosion in a storage area for solid fuel for missiles.
    Asharq al-Awsat reported that the "attack was carried out by an Israeli F-35 fighter jet."
    The attack appears to be another stage in the campaign Israel is conducting against Iranian presence in Syria.
    Iran is attempting to find alternative storage sites - perhaps in Iraq - for the missiles it transfers to Syria in light of the repeated attacks on its Syrian depots.
    Now, according to foreign reports, even the infrastructure Iran is attempting to establish in Iraq is vulnerable.

Iraqi Journalist: Many Iraqis Love Israel and View It as an Ally (MEMRI)
    Following media reports that Israel has attacked Iranian weapons storehouses and missiles in Iraq, Iraqi journalist Khudayr Taher, who lives in the U.S., published an article in the Iraqi daily Sot Al-Iraq under the headline, "The Courageous Israeli Army Bombed the Nest of Iran's Collaborators in Iraq."
    He praised the Israeli attack on "the Iranian forces of evil" and the "terrorist devils" among the collaborators with Iran, adding that Iran aspires to take over and destroy the Arab lands while Israel is revealed as a friend and potential ally of the Arabs.

Iran and Egypt Battle for Influence in Gaza (Al-Monitor)
    Iran and Egypt are waging an increasingly bitter fight for influence in Gaza, offering radically different paths forward.
    Iran is deepening ties with Hamas, teasing the possibility of a second military front with Israel to complement the threat already posed by Iranian allies Hizbullah and Syria in the north.
    But getting closer to Iran brings lots of risk. Neighboring Egypt is offering an alternative and more pragmatic path.
    Cairo has led a diplomatic campaign to reconcile Hamas in Gaza with the Palestinian Authority, which oversees the West Bank.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Ambassador Supports "Extended Autonomy" for Palestinians
    U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in an interview on Tuesday: "We believe in Palestinian autonomy. We believe in Palestinian civilian self-governance. We believe that that autonomy should be extended up until the point where it interferes with Israeli security."
        "We've made the point over and over again that the economic solution goes hand-in-hand with a political solution, but...in order to have a political solution you need political institutions. You need a transparent economy. You need the rule of law. You need certain freedoms - freedom of the press. You need a justice system. You need to stop concentrating all the Palestinian wealth in the political elites. That's part of what [the] Bahrain [conference] was about - trying to help the Palestinians create the institutions necessary for statehood."
        "Let's be clear. The last thing the world needs is a failed Palestinian state in between Jordan and Israel. And right now, the Palestinian government is so weak. They have no answer to Hamas. They leave that to Israel to take care of....The one thing that can't happen is the Palestinians obtain independence and in short order this becomes a failed state controlled by Hamas, Hizbullah, ISIS, or al-Qaeda. That is an existential threat to Israel. It is an existential threat to Jordan. It simply can't be."
        "The point is, we need to help the Palestinians create the institutions for autonomy and self-governance. What I'm saying is nothing new. If you listen to what Yitzhak Rabin said to the Knesset in 1995...to sell the Oslo Accords, he also was unwilling to use the term 'Palestinian state.' He preferred words like 'autonomy' and 'self-governance' because that word just creates expectations that cause everybody to retreat to their corners and it's not helpful."
        "The security issues are somewhat daunting. The world has changed a lot in the last 10-15 years. The last time people took a hard look at peacemaking, Gaza was not threatening to Israel, Lebanon was far less threatening to Israel, Syria obviously wasn't the catastrophe that it became, Iraq was less threatening and Iran was much less threatening to Israel. So the capacity of Israel to take risks has changed, the facts on the ground have changed, and we need to develop a plan for 2019."  (CNN)
  • Iran's Oil Exports Slide in July - Alex Lawler
    Iranian oil exports dropped in July to as low as 100,000 barrels per day due to sanctions, down from 300,000-500,000 bpd in June, according to industry sources and tanker data. "Some of the deliveries mostly to China are based on IOU contracts and are not new sales," said Sara Vakhshouri, an analyst at SVB Energy International.
        The July export figure is a fraction of the 2.5 million bpd that Iran shipped in April 2018. The amount held on tankers in storage had ballooned to 56 million barrels - double that of two months ago - due to a lack of buyers, said Kpler, a company that tracks oil flows. (Reuters)
        See also China's Oil Imports from Iran Down 59 Percent in Year
    China imported 209,060 bpd of crude oil from Iran in June, 59.1% lower year on year and down from a high of 792,380 bpd. The discounted oil imported in June was injected into storage tanks used for maintaining China's strategic petroleum reserves. (Hellenic Shipping News)
  • Switzerland and Netherlands Suspend Funding for UN Aid Agency for Palestinians over Graft Scandal
    The Netherlands and Switzerland announced the suspension of funding for UNRWA on Tuesday, following a damning report alleging corruption at the highest levels. (JTA)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iran Presence in Iraq Threatens Israel, Israeli Security Officials Say - Yaniv Kubovich
    Iran began bolstering its presence in Iraq after Israel stepped up attacks on Iranian targets in Syria. Israeli defense officials say Iran has shifted the bulk of its deployment of missile systems outside the country to Iraq. According to Israeli intelligence, Iran is currently providing Iraqi militias with missiles that have ranges of 200 to 700 km. and are capable of hitting anywhere in Israel. These missiles are more accurate than the ones in Hizbullah's arsenal. (Ha'aretz)
  • Palestinians Attack Israeli Soldiers in West Bank - Yotam Berger
    Two Palestinians hurled explosive devices from a car toward IDF soldiers guarding Joseph's Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday. In response, soldiers opened fire and the Palestinian attackers - Ra'id Hamdan, 21, and Ziyad Nuri, 20 - were killed. (Ha'aretz)
        See also IDF Discovers Pipe Bomb before Arrival of 1,200 Jewish Worshipers at Joseph's Tomb - Tzvi Joffre
    IDF forces found a pipe bomb near Joseph's Tomb before the arrival of 1,200 Jewish worshipers to the compound in Nablus. As the worshipers entered the tomb, Palestinian rioters burned tires and threw stones at IDF forces, who responded with riot dispersal means. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Why Iran Will Never Give Up on Nuclear Weapons - Josef Joffe
    Our good friend, the Shah, installed a small U.S.-supplied research reactor in 1967. Seven years later, he ordered four power reactors from Germany's Siemens/AEG. He then proceeded to put together a complete fuel cycle - in a country that was awash in oil. In 1974, he confided to Le Monde: "Sooner than is believed," Iran will have "a nuclear bomb." After the Shah fell and the Khomeinists took over, revolutionary fervor merely compounded the logic of Reza Pahlavi's realpolitik.
        Iraq attacked Iran in 1980 in a war that caused a million deaths by its end in 1988. Nukes were to deter Saddam Hussein once and for all. In the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the removal of Saddam, the Khomeinists found an even better reason to accelerate their nuclear arms program. Now the purpose was to deter the U.S. and intimidate Israel. As a geopolitical bonus, the nukes would also extend an umbrella over Iran's revolutionary expansionism.
        The point is that nuclear weapons are useful. What the Shah began, Allah's revolutionaries have been assiduously perfecting. So why ever give up such a valuable asset - one that provides both life insurance and an umbrella for domination? The writer, a fellow of Stanford's Hoover Institution, serves on the editorial council of the German weekly Die Zeit. (American Interest)
  • Meeting between Israel's Army Chief and Palestinian Billionaire Reflects PA's Loss of Control
    IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi held a secret meeting with Palestinian billionaire Bashar Al-Masri in Ramallah in May. The two toured Rawabi City in the West Bank, which was built by the Palestinian businessman. This reflects a trend in Israel to bypass the Palestinian leadership and meet with other figures, even if such meetings are limited to economic issues.
        The door will remain open for Palestinian-Israeli meetings, especially on economic and trade matters, as Palestinian businessmen know that solutions for their problems have to start with Israel, and not with the Palestinian Authority. These meetings are also a reflection of the PA's loss of control in the territories. (Middle East Monitor-UK)

  • News reports on incendiary balloon attacks on Israel that have destroyed more than 4,300 acres of land often fail to identify the balloons for what they are - a war crime. Traveling in Israel recently with a group of national security lawyers, I witnessed and documented some of these attacks firsthand.
  • The constant breeze off the Mediterranean Sea, which blows from Gaza to Israel, carries these incendiary devices into civilian communities in Israel, some just a few hundred meters from the border with Gaza. The attacks I saw amount to war crimes under international humanitarian law (IHL).
  • As Hamas has been using them, these incendiary balloon attacks violate numerous rules and customs of warfare - principally concerning the targeting of civilians and the use of indiscriminate weapons. The attacks also likely violate the prohibition on the use of incendiary weapons.
  • Hamas' employment of incendiary balloons violates both the principle of distinction and the prohibition against targeting civilians to spread terror. The principle of distinction in the laws of war requires that parties to a conflict must, at all times, distinguish between civilians and combatants, and that attacks may be directed only against combatants. In this case, the Israeli communities in the Gaza envelope are purely civilian communities.
  • Moreover, the 1949 Geneva Conventions provide that "acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited." The international community should unequivocally condemn the targeting and threatening of civilians.
  • Future engagement by the UN or third country intermediates who are working toward peace in the region should seek the surrender of those individuals responsible for committing war crimes to stand trial. Until impunity for war crimes ends, Hamas will likely continue to commit them.

    U.S. Army Maj. Matthew J. Aiesi is an associate professor in the National Security Law Department at the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School in Charlottesville, Va.