August 13, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Pilgrims in Mecca Chant: "Death to America! Death to Israel!" (MEMRI)
    On August 10, 2019, IRINN TV (Iran) reported on a ceremony held by Iranian pilgrims in Mecca.
    During the ceremony, a message from Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was read and the pilgrims chanted: "Death to America! Death to Israel!... America is the enemy of Allah! Israel is the enemy of Allah [and] should be erased from the face of the Earth!"

German Exports to Iran Halve in 2019 as U.S. Sanctions Bite (Reuters)
    German exports to Iran fell by nearly half in the first six months of 2019, data showed on Monday, after the U.S. reimposed sanctions on Iran.
    "German companies are forced to choose between their market activities in Iran and the United States, so it's clear which market is preferred," the BGA trade association said.

British Warship Sets Sail for Tanker Escort Mission in Gulf - Connor Boyd (Daily Mail-UK)
    The Royal Navy frigate HMS Kent left Portsmouth Naval Base on Monday to take over duties to protect British-flagged vessels in the Strait of Hormuz from the HMS Duncan.
    Kent's commanding officer Andy Brown said: "We are committed to upholding freedom of navigation and reassuring international shipping."

Multinational Naval Exercise Simulates Aftermath of Major Earthquake - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    The recent five-day "Mighty Waves" multinational naval exercise off the Haifa coast simulated the aftermath of a major earthquake.
    The drill also focused on the recovery of casualties, including those underwater, and the transfer of humanitarian aid.
    Hundreds of troops participated on ships from Israel, the U.S., Greece, and France, along with five helicopters. Cyprus, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Britain and Chile, as well as NATO, sent observers.

New Israeli Satellite Aims to Deepen Understanding of the Universe - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    The Weizmann Institute of Science has partnered with the Israel Space Agency to launch a new scientific satellite in 2023 to "help us answer some of the big questions in astrophysics," said ULTRASAT principal investigator Prof. Eli Waxman.
    Key areas of research will include the formation process of dense neutron stars that merge and emit gravitational waves, how super-massive black holes rule their neighborhoods, how stars explode, where the heavy elements in the Universe come from, and the properties of stars that could have habitable planets.
    Constructed entirely by Israeli scientists and engineers, Israel Space Agency director Avi Blasberger said the satellite will place Israel "at the forefront of a global movement to explore the Universe with small, affordable satellites."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel and Jordan Cast Wary Eye toward Syria - Taylor Luck
    Russia pledged to both Israel and Jordan that security arrangements for southern Syria would keep Iranian forces 70 to 80 km. from their borders. Israel and Jordan took that pledge to include Iran's proxies, especially Hizbullah. But one year later, Hizbullah has become increasingly entrenched in the area. "Russia promised that the Iranians and militias would be driven out from southern Syria, and Russia did not deliver the goods," says Ely Karmon, senior research scholar at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in Herzliya, Israel.
        According to security sources, Hizbullah has 7,000 to 10,000 forces across Syria, with another 8,000 to 12,000 Shiite fighters loyal to Iran from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen that coordinate with it. But the sources say Hizbullah's presence in southern Syria has grown dramatically - with 1,000 fighters in the Daraa region near Jordan and in Quneitra, facing Israeli forces on the Golan.
        Former Free Syrian Army rebels who have returned to their hometowns in southern Syria after an amnesty agreement with the regime say Hizbullah is effectively "governing" several towns and villages. Hizbullah and Shiite militias patrol areas dressed as uniformed Syrian regime forces in order to avoid being hit by Israeli airstrikes, they say, and deploy former rebel fighters to patrol areas and provide intelligence directly to the Iran-backed group. "Either you answer to Hizbullah, or you leave," says Abu Mohammed, a former rebel.
        Multiple Syrians also report their homes and entire neighborhoods have been taken over by Shiite militias and their families - part of a planned "demographic change" in the south. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Federal Court Overturns Ruling to Seize Iran-Linked Skyscraper in Manhattan - Jonathan Stempel
    A jury verdict allowing the U.S. government to seize a Manhattan office tower that it said was effectively controlled by Iran was thrown out on Friday by a federal appeals court. The Department of Justice had hoped to sell the 36-story building at 650 Fifth Avenue for $1 billion and distribute proceeds to victims of bombings and other attacks linked to Iran. (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Syria's Neighbors No Longer Welcome Syrian Refugees - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    As the war in Syria is nearing its end, the last rebel-held stronghold is in Idlib province in the country's north. Because a great many Syrians who oppose the Assad regime found refuge in Idlib, the final stage of the war may force hundreds of thousands of Syrians to seek refuge in Turkey. However, Turkey has already declared it will not allow them entry and now, Ankara is busy trying to get rid of the two million Syrians already in Turkey.
        Egypt, too, is seeing a groundswell of antipathy toward its quarter-million Syrian refugees. In Lebanon, the rising tide of criticism against the Syrian refugees has sparked tensions that have spilled into violence. And in Jordan, there are increasing calls to force the million and a half refugees in camps in the country's north back to Syria.
        The Syrian refugees, however, have no interest in returning to the regime from which they fled or were forced to flee. The Syrian regime views these refugees as potential enemies because they hail from those areas that spawned and waged the revolt. The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • Iran Poses a Direct Threat to Israel in Red Sea - David Horovitz
    Prof. Shaul Chorev, a rear admiral (ret.) who heads the Maritime Policy & Strategic Research Center at the University of Haifa, noted that last August, Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels attacked two Saudi oil tankers in the Bab al-Mandab strait at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.
        A third of Israel's global trade is with the Far East, Chorev noted, and billions of dollars' worth of Israeli imports and exports pass through Bab al-Mandab. "We are vulnerable there" and Iran "can directly target us," he said. Israel must formulate an overall strategy to face the threat "via a naval coalition with Western forces that operate in the area, or independently."
        Chorev, 72, who from 2007 until 2015 served as director-general of the Israel Atomic Energy Commission, also warned that the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, is not capable of thwarting any country's covert nuclear weapons program, and that there can be no certainty that Iran does not already have the bomb. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Is California's Draft Ethnic Studies Curriculum Anti-Semitic? - Karin Klein
    The number of hate crimes against Jews in California increased more than those against any other group in 2018, according to the state Attorney General's Office. That doesn't include the gunman's attack on a synagogue in Poway in April. The number of hate crimes against Muslims was less than half that of those against Jews.
        But don't expect to find information about anti-Semitism in the draft of a "model curriculum" for teaching ethnic studies in public high schools in California. There's a long list of the kinds of hatred that have oppressed minority groups in California, including bigotry against Muslims and transgender people, but anti-Semitism is curiously missing.
        This curriculum makes a mockery of the very good an ethnic studies course should attempt to bring about, with its efforts to inculcate an agenda rather than encourage diversity of opinion. It encourages students to study the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement against Israel as one of various worthy social movements. Nowhere does it acknowledge that this is a controversial movement with many opponents, or that it also would cut off Israeli scholars. (Los Angeles Times)
        See also California's Proposed New Ethnic Studies Curriculum Is All-Too-PC - Editorial (Los Angeles Times)
  • Poll Shows Gazans More Moderate than West Bankers on Some Issues - David Pollock
    According to a survey conducted by the Palestine Center for Public Opinion on June 27-July 15, 68% of Gazans but only 50% of West Bank Palestinians agree that "Hamas should preserve a cease-fire with Israel." When asked, "Would you like to see Israeli companies offer more jobs inside the West Bank and Gaza?," 68% of Gazans but only 37% of West Bankers agreed. 44% of Gazans but only 29% of West Bankers agreed that "I hope someday we can be friends with Israelis."
        89% of Gazans and 72% of West Bankers agreed that "Right now, internal political and economic reform is more important for us than any foreign policy issue." 78% of Gazans and 57% of West Bankers agreed that "Right now, the Palestinians need to pay much more attention to countering extremist Islamic trends in our own society." 70% of Gazans and 60% of West Bankers agreed that "Right now, the Palestinians should focus on practical matters like jobs, health care, education, and everyday stability, not on big political plans or resistance options."
        However, 82% of Gazans and 68% of West Bankers agreed that "We should demand Palestinian rule over all of Jerusalem, east and west, rather than agree to share or divide any part of it with Israel."  (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • Trends are accelerating an emerging regional alignment between the Gulf States and Israel. First, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Israel collectively regard Iran as an existential threat to their states. The differences with Israel over the future of Palestine are less consequential than the perception of the Iranian threat and the need for a tacit collective counter-strategy.
  • Second, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel are much more confident regional actors than they were in the mid-1990s. The UAE projects immense economic strength and Saudi Arabia has similar aspirations. Aside from its regional military strength, Israel has become a technology power that is attractive to global finance, investment, and talent.
  • Lastly, the political and economic elites in the Gulf and Israel desire these deepening economic and technological ties and are creating conditions on the ground where their citizens are increasingly open to these opportunities.
  • Israel's inability to resolve its conflict with the Palestinians and its drag of regular wars in Gaza undermines its ability to assert the nation's full potential. But this potential historic Gulf-Israel alignment fundamentally changes the geo-political paradigm for the Palestinians. The region is moving beyond a "post-1948" period where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominated nation-state relationships in the Middle East.
  • The next generation of Palestinian leadership will have to adopt a new strategy - one which will be quite uncomfortable for the old PLO guard. Freed from the dogma of the last 70 years, the Palestinians could envision a very different role for themselves in the Middle East.

    The writer, managing director of the Georgetown Strategy Group, was former Assistant Administrator at USAID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, and led the USAID Mission to the West Bank and Gaza in 2014-2016.