August 6, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Senior Iranian Commander: The Islamic Republic Is on Israel's Borders (Fars-Iran)
    Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brig.-Gen. Mehdi Rabbani said Sunday, "Our defensive depth has stretched to the Mediterranean Sea and our front has extended to the borders of the Zionist regime."

Syrian Militants Target Russian Air Base (Reuters-Ha'aretz)
    Syrian militants shelled the outskirts of Hmeimim air base in northwest Syria but caused no damage to the facility, Russia's Defense Ministry said Monday.

Comparing Gun Violence in Israel and the U.S. - Patty Nieberg (Ha'aretz)
    In Israel, the annual rate of gun deaths per 100,000 people in 2015 was 1.38%, with 111 deaths. In the U.S. it was 11.28% per 100,000, with 36,247 deaths.
    In Israel there are 6.7 firearms for every 100 people, for a total of 557,000. In the U.S. there are 120.5 weapons per 100 persons, or 393 million firearms.

ISIS Wives and Children Remain Loyal to Jihadists in Syrian Refugee Camp (AFP)
    Stabbing guards, stoning aid workers and flying the Islamic State's black flag, the wives and children of the "caliphate" are sticking by the jihadists in the Kurdish-run Al-Hol refugee camp in northeastern Syria.
    Swarming around an AFP journalist, women clad in black praised Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying they are waiting for orders from their leader.
    Kurdish authorities have repeatedly warned that the children of jihadists represent a "time bomb" the world urgently needs to defuse.
    Without rehabilitation and reintegration, these children could become future "terrorists," they have warned.

Mysterious GPS Disruption in Israeli Airspace Ends, Air Traffic Returns to Normal - Bar Peleg (Ha'aretz)
    The mysterious disruptions of GPS satellite navigation in Israeli airspace have ended and operations at Ben-Gurion International Airport have returned to normal, the Israel Airports Authority announced.

Standard and Poor's Affirms Israel's AA- Credit Rating (Israel Hayom)
    International financial services and credit rating agency Standard & Poor's reaffirmed Israel's global credit rating and economic outlook over the weekend, giving it an AA- score with a stable outlook.
    S&P cited the fact that the Israeli economy has grown for 15 consecutive years, the low unemployment rate, and the fact that Israel's high tech industry is enjoying peak investment.
    The fact that the Leviathan offshore gas field is expected to become fully operational in 2020 will boost the economy further.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Britain Joins U.S. Effort to Protect Ships in Persian Gulf - Benjamin Mueller
    Britain on Monday joined an American-led mission to protect ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz from Iranian threats. Britain had initially planned for a European-led mission in the area, but its efforts to create a European maritime security coalition had not been successful. No other European countries have committed ships to protect merchant shipping in the region. Britain's decision to join the American-led security effort came after Prime Minister Boris Johnson took office. Johnson has made strengthening ties with the U.S. a priority. (New York Times)
  • Car Bomb in Cairo Kills 20 - Nada Rashwan
    At least 20 people were killed and 48 injured in a blast in central Cairo on Sunday by a vehicle packed with explosives. The vehicle was being driven against traffic when it crashed into cars and exploded in front of the National Cancer Institute. Egypt's Interior Ministry said the vehicle was linked to Hasm, a group considered a violent arm of the Muslim Brotherhood that has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. (New York Times)
  • William Daroff Named CEO of Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations - Marcy Oster
    William Daroff, currently senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America, has been named as CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. He will replace Malcolm Hoenlein, who has held the position for 33 years. Hoenlein will remain as Vice Chairman of the Conference, a coalition of more than 50 Jewish organizations from across the ideological spectrum. (JTA)
        See also New CEO at the Conference of Presidents - Omri Nahmias
    Jewish voices on both the left and the right of the political spectrum said that William Daroff, 51, the next CEO of the Conference of Presidents, is a "unifier." "This is probably the single most important professional appointment in the Jewish community, and...we're very, very fortunate that we're going to have somebody of William's caliber in that position," said Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Iran Increasing Hamas Funding in Return for Intelligence on Israel - Michael Bachner
    At a meeting in Tehran with senior Hamas officials two weeks ago, Iran agreed to raise its monthly financial support to $30 million per month in exchange for intelligence on Israeli missile capabilities, Israel's Channel 12 reported Monday, citing an unnamed Arab source. A report by Ynet in August 2018, citing Palestinian sources, said Iran's payments to Hamas were $70 million per year (less than $6 million per month). (Times of Israel)
  • U.S. Congressional Delegations Head for Israel - Herb Keinon
    U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer arrived in Israel on Monday at the head of a delegation of 41 Democratic representatives. The trip - meant primarily for freshman representatives - is organized in August of non-election years by the American Israel Education Foundation, affiliated with AIPAC. A Republican delegation of similar size is to arrive on Friday, headed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
        Freshman congresswomen Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez organized online petitions to get other representatives to "skip the trip." The fact that so many Democrats decided to come is viewed as a sign that the Democratic party leadership is keen on showing that the party remains strongly supportive of Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • PA Launches an Anti-Crime Campaign - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank on Sunday launched a crackdown on Palestinians suspected of involvement in criminal activities south of Hebron in coordination with the IDF. Most of the detainees are suspected of armed robberies, car thefts and physical assaults, a senior PA police officer in Hebron said. On Sunday, residents of some of the targeted areas took to the streets in protest against the PA's anti-crime drive. Local residents said in some instances some of the suspected criminals and members of their families exchanged gunfire with police officers.
        In Yatta, leaders of local families and municipality officials offered food and soft drinks to the PA policemen participating in the security operation. "We are very happy that our police forces are finally going after the criminals and gangs here," said Mohammed Abu Sharha, a local merchant. Some Palestinians said they were worried that the PA security forces were being selective in their crackdown. "If you're a senior member of Fatah and have friends in the Palestinian Authority, you will get a free pass to break the law," said Nablus-based political activist Izzat al-Masri. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Are Saudi Arabia and the UAE Softening Stance toward Iran? - Zvi Bar'el
    The commander of the UAE Coast Guard, Gen. Mohammed Al-Ahbabi, signed a cooperation agreement on maritime security in the Gulf with Iranian Gen. Qassem Rezaei in Tehran last week. The UAE has also announced a "redeployment" of its forces in Yemen, where it is Riyadh's main partner in the war against the Houthis.
        Saudi Arabia has recently hinted that it is willing to negotiate with Iran. There are also reports that the U.S. is trying to forge its own diplomatic track with Tehran. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Rouhani: U.S. Must First Lift All Sanctions If It Seeks Talks with Iran
    "If the United States wants to negotiate, it must lift the sanctions in their entirety before anything," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday. He said U.S. sanctions amount to a crime against humanity, and "we can't talk to a criminal."  (Press TV-Iran)
  • Iran-Backed Militias Are in Iraq to Stay - John Hannah
    On July 1, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi issued a decree directing that the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias subjugate themselves to the Iraqi state. Don't hold your breath. The odds are high that there will be no meaningful curtailment in the power of those Shiite elements of the PMF allied with Iran. The order is more likely to further entrench Iran's chokehold on the Iraqi state. I know Mahdi well. I consider him to be a friend and a strong proponent of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship. But the bottom line is that Mahdi is too weak and Iran's proxies are too strong.
        The PMF numbers about 130,000 to 150,000 fighters. Groups directly answerable to the IRGC make up a significant portion of that force and are its most powerful element. In the wake of the 2003 Iraq War, several of these groups worked hand in glove with the IRGC to kill over 600 U.S. troops. Iraq now forks over more than $2 billion annually to the PMF for salaries and expenses.
        The writer, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was national security advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney. (Foreign Policy)

  • According to Jonathan Spyer, director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, "It's very important for Western policymakers to be aware that leaderships and elites throughout the Arab world today find a great deal of common ground with Israel on the issues of the Iranian and Sunni Islamist threats."
  • "To an increasing extent, they are also weary of Palestinian intransigence and see Israel as a model for successful development. Much of that, however, cannot be said openly by these leaders because this does not reflect the views of parts of the societies of the leaders in question, where Islamist and/or Arab nationalist sentiments continue to hold sway."
  • Despite some public lip service to the Palestinian cause, the Sunni Arab world knows that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at most a "side issue."
  • An Israeli military intelligence expert who had just returned from private meetings in Europe with Arab and EU officials told me that, behind closed doors, their analysis of the Middle East, including Iran, is often light years away from the public rhetoric offered by European and Arab Sunni government officials to their citizens.
  • The conflicts of the Middle East are primarily tribal and religious in nature, and the primary allegiance is not to modern states artificially constructed by the West 100 years ago. Insiders know that if there were no Israel, the Shiites would still hate the Sunnis, Iran would still aspire to hegemony, Turkey would still be an unreliable NATO ally, and Libya and Yemen would still be chaotic.
  • Some European officials, who vociferously defend the Iran nuclear agreement publicly, privately acknowledge the dangers of the Iranian revolutionary theocracy that acts against their values.

    The writer is director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network.