September 20, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Arrests Hizbullah Agent Who Scouted Boston for Targets - Lisa Kashinsky (Boston Herald)
    Alexei Saab, 42, of Morristown, N.J., was charged in federal court Thursday, accused of scouting and photographing potential terrorism targets for Hizbullah in 2003-06 - including Fenway Park and Quincy Market.
    Prosecutors say Saab has been part of Hizbullah since 1996 and has extensive training in firearms and bomb-making.
    See also Hizbullah Agent Tried to Kill Israeli Spy - Larry Neumeister (AP)
    Hizbullah agent Alexei Saab tried to murder a suspected Israeli spy in Istanbul, Turkey. According to the federal complaint, he pointed a weapon at the individual at close range and pulled the trigger twice, but the firearm did not fire.
    See also Man Indicted for Terrorist Activities on Behalf of Hizbullah (U.S. Department of Justice)

Ben-Gurion University Study Says Injuries to Diplomats in Cuba Caused by Pesticides - Aaron Reich (Jerusalem Post)
    What was previously believed to be the result of acoustic attacks on U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba, the "Havana Syndrome," is now thought to be the result of pesticides, according to a new study by Dr. Alon Friedman of Ben-Gurion University and the Dalhoisie University Brain Repair Center in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    In 2017, U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba began to report a diverse array of health problems, including loss of balance, lack of sleep, difficulties in concentration and memory retention, and headaches.
    Using 26 Canadian participants, the study identified the specific regions of the brain involved.
    "We followed the science," said Dr. Friedman.
    "Pinpointing the exact location of where the brain was injured was an important factor that helped lead us to perform specific biochemical and toxicological blood tests and reach the conclusion that the most likely cause of the injury was repeated exposure to neurotoxins."

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Dutch Army Installing Israeli Protection System on 150 Combat Vehicles - Udi Etsion (Calcalist)
    The Royal Netherlands Army has selected European defense contractor BAE to integrate Israel's Elbit Iron Fist active protection system (APS) into 150 Dutch CV90 combat vehicles, BAE announced Tuesday.
    Iron Fist uses independent optical sensors, tracking radars, launchers, and munitions to detect, track, and neutralize incoming threats to protect the vehicle.
    In July, Elbit announced its subsidiary Cyber Intelligence Ltd. will be providing the Dutch National Police with a cyber intelligence system.

Israel's Enlight Inaugurates Largest Wind Farm in Serbia - Radomir Ralev (RenewablesNow)
    Israel's Enlight Renewable Energy opened the 104.5 MW Kovacica wind farm in Serbia, the country's largest, on Sep. 19, Serbian Energy Minister Aleksandar Antic said.
    The wind farm will supply electricity to 68,000 households.

The Rescue of Jewish Culture after the Holocaust - Diane Cole (Mosaic)
    In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the U.S. and Allied armies deployed a team, popularly known as the Monuments Men, to locate and restore to their rightful owners huge caches of European art and cultural works that had been looted by the Nazis.
    This group was also assigned to salvage the material artifacts that had survived the Nazi destruction of European Jewish culture: nearly three million books, manuscripts, art works, archives, Torah scrolls, ritual objects, historical records, letters, and other documents, some of them centuries old.
    In A Mortuary of Books: The Rescue of Jewish Culture After the Holocaust, the German scholar Elisabeth Gallas unfurls the saga of how a consortium of Jewish organizations and individuals helped deal with this material.

A Long-Forgotten Holocaust Diary - Rick Noack (Washington Post)
    As the Nazis strengthened their grip on Europe in 1939, Renia Spiegel, a 14-year-old Jewish girl in Poland, began to keep a diary.
    For more than three years, Renia documented her life in more than 650 handwritten and densely filled pages.
    On July 30, 1942, Renia, then 18, was executed by the Nazis after they discovered her hideout in the city of Przemysl.
    Her translated diary - long kept locked in a vault - is to be published in the U.S. on Tuesday as Renia's Diary: A Holocaust Diary.
    "Przemysl was attacked. We had to flee. The three of us escaped: me, [my sister Elizabeth] and Grandpa," she wrote. "Granny stayed behind."
    In the subsequent three years, Renia documented their family's transfer into a ghetto, along with thousands of other Jews who were given only 24 hours to move.
    As the Nazis were preparing to transfer thousands of Jews to a death camp, Renia's boyfriend, Zygmunt Schwarzer, arranged a desperate attempt to rescue the sisters. He survived and preserved Renia's diary.

Estonia, Israel Mark 1944 Massacre of 2,000 Jews (AP)
    Estonian and Israeli officials on Thursday marked the 75th anniversary of a massacre of 2,000 Jews from Hungary, Latvia and Lithuania at the Nazi's Klooga forced labor camp, just three days before the Soviet Red Army liberated it.
    On Sep. 19, 1944, Nazi troops rushed to evacuate the camp and a special Waffen-SS commando shot the Jews in a single day.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Military Presenting Range of Options to Trump on Iran - Eric Schmitt and Edward Wong
    Senior U.S. national security officials met on Thursday to refine a list of potential targets to strike in Iran, should President Trump order a military retaliation for missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabian oil fields last weekend. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are to present the updated options to Trump at a National Security Council meeting on Friday.
        Saudi Arabia is said to fear that any military response could lead to further attacks against its vulnerable oil facilities. (New York Times)
        See also Trump Sees Many Options Short of War with Iran after Attacks on Saudis - Jeff Mason and Stephen Kalin
    President Trump said on Wednesday there were many options short of war with Iran after its attack on U.S. ally Saudi Arabia's oil sites. "There are many options. There's the ultimate option and there are options that are a lot less than that," Trump said. "I'm saying the ultimate option meaning go in - war."  (Reuters)
        See also below Commentary: Operating in the "Gray Zone" to Counter Iran - Michael Eisenstadt (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iranian Ayatollah Khamenei: Death to America - May This Come True Soon
    Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sep. 1 in a broadcast on Channel 1 TV (Iran): "Forty years have passed since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution. [In that time,] America and its lackeys, collaborators, and mercenaries have been conspiring against the Islamic Republic."
    Audience: "Death to America! Death to America! Death to America!"
    Khamenei: "Allah willing, the slogans you chant against America, the Zionist regime, and the arrogant enemies will be realized in the not-so-distant future. Allah willing, you will succeed."  (MEMRI)
  • U.S. Official: Iran Is "Testing Its Strength" - Michelle Nichols
    The U.S. and Saudi Arabia blame Iran for the attack on the world's biggest crude oil processing facility and have said they will present evidence to back that up. A senior U.S. official suggested, however, that the tensions were manageable. "Iran has a long history of testing its strength. But they never climb too high up the escalation ladder. At a certain point, when the world says enough, they come back down."
        An Iranian official close to Ayatollah Khamenei said, "Eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. They think by sanctions they can back us into a corner. Wishful thinking. As long as they pressure Iran, we will push back. Iran is a big country with lots of resources and can survive without oil money."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • The Israeli Electorate Has Spoken in Its Many Voices - David Horovitz
    In elections Tuesday for the 120-member Knesset, neither Netanyahu nor Gantz was claiming victory this time. Voting nine parties with wildly diverse agendas into the 120-member Knesset, the Israeli electorate bequeathed its politicians a dizzying array of possibilities.
        Both Netanyahu and Gantz spoke of unity, and a partnership dominated by their two parties would easily command a Knesset majority. The Israeli electorate has spoken in its many voices, reflecting its wide and often conflicting priorities and concerns. (Times of Israel)
        See also List of Members in the New Knesset (Times of Israel)
  • The Egyptian Army Is Making a Fortune in Sinai - Zvi Bar'el
    Egyptian President Sissi said tens of billions of Egyptian pounds had been allotted to develop the Sinai Peninsula. The government now realizes that restoring the Sinai economy, especially in the northern peninsula, may create jobs for the many Bedouin who joined terror groups or helped them as a way to support their families. So Sinai residents are starting to see change brought about by the new policy.
        In southern Sinai, particularly in the tourist areas along the Red Sea coast, the president gave the army control over 47 islands in the Red Sea and over hundreds of thousands of acres along the shore. In some places the military will build resorts and sports facilities, while some of the already operating tourist sites will now be managed by the National Services Projects Organization, a subsidiary of the armed forces. Egypt is expecting 12 million tourists this year, most of them at the Red Sea resorts. Most of the profits will go to the military. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:


  • Operating in the "Gray Zone" to Counter Iran - Michael Eisenstadt
    The combined drone/cruise missile strike against key Saudi oil facilities on Sep. 14 marks the most audacious in a series of Iranian asymmetric "gray zone" operations since May, all intended to counter Washington's "maximum pressure" policy. If Washington does not impose a military cost on Tehran for such actions, the regime will continue to escalate, with negative repercussions for the U.S. economy, American credibility, and regional stability.
        Pursuing a gray zone strategy of its own represents Washington's best chance of avoiding significant escalation while buying time for its pressure campaign to work. Plausible deniability works both ways. The U.S. should respond in-kind to Iranian actions, using nonlethal ripostes to impose material costs.
        Just as the Abqaiq strike demonstrated the vulnerability of Saudi oil facilities, Iran's own oil industry is vulnerable to sabotage, cyberattacks, and precision strikes. 90% of its oil exports go through a single terminal, Kharg Island. The U.S. should ensure that Tehran gets worse than it gives in these exchanges.
        An effective U.S. gray zone strategy could help blunt Iran's counter-pressure campaign, constrain its ability to engage in destabilizing regional activities, and dissuade it from eventually attempting a slow-motion nuclear breakout. Conversely, failure to pursue such a strategy could embolden Tehran on all of these fronts. More fundamentally, if the U.S. does not operate successfully in the gray zone against a third-tier power like Iran, this will raise questions about its ability to counter much more capable actors like Russia and China in the years to come.
        The writer is director of the Military and Security Studies Program at The Washington Institute. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • Iran Entrenches Its "Axis of Resistance" across the Middle East - Robin Wright
    In 2016, Iran's Revolutionary Guard started shipping kits to convert Hizbullah's short-range rockets into longer-range missiles, with precision guidance systems capable of hitting strategic targets in Israel, from an electricity grid to an airport or a desalination plant. "That's what's called a game-changer," said Uzi Rubin, the former head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization. "They converted a weapon of terror into a military weapon for war. They'd only need two hundred to stop Israel's ability to wage its own war."
        By early 2018, the Revolutionary Guard had deployed at 40 military facilities in Syria, with their own headquarters, drone-control rooms, and training centers. At least a third were deployed to target Israel, Israeli defense officials said. The Iranians are not visible. They dress in Syrian military uniforms.
        Iran's so-called axis of resistance - which totals more than a hundred Shiite militias - has become entrenched across the Middle East, right up to Israel's borders with Syria and Lebanon. Iran's network spans half a dozen countries and has fundamentally altered the region's strategic balance. (New Yorker)
  • The West Cannot Ignore Iran's Attacks - Editorial
    Iran is the greatest threat to the West. It has worked for decades to undermine moderate Arab regimes in the Middle East, to develop and acquire nuclear weapons, and to arm and support some of the worst terrorist organizations known to man: Hizbullah, Hamas, and the Houthis.
        Israel has single-handedly been fighting Iran along its different borders for years. Israel's conflict with Hamas and Hizbullah is, in reality, against Iran. Both groups are Tehran's proxies. The world cannot let Iran continue to get away with its attacks. The time has long come for Tehran to pay a price for its violence, support of terrorism and nuclear violations.
        If Iran can get away with attacking the U.S., attacking Saudi Arabia, and violating restrictions on its nuclear program, what will stop it from building a nuclear weapon one day and then using it against Israel or another Western country - especially when some of their leaders have made no secret of their intentions to do just so? If Iran's attacks go unanswered they will only intensify. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Other Issues

  • Israel's Gantz Would Likely Maintain Netanyahu's Foreign-Policy Stance - Felicia Schwartz
    If he becomes Israel's next leader, retired Gen. Benny Gantz, 60, would likely follow the same path as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Gantz served as the head of Israel's military from 2011 to 2015, while Netanyahu was the prime minister. President Trump has described Gantz as a good person and said Wednesday that the U.S. relationship is with Israel, not any one leader.
        Gantz has said he thought the Obama administration could have reached a better nuclear deal with Iran in 2015. He has wholeheartedly supported Netanyahu's campaign against Iran, as Israel has launched strikes against Tehran's positions and those of its allies in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. "I am standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the fight against Iran's aggression," Gantz told the Munich Security Conference earlier this year.
        Gantz has said he would put any Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank up for a public vote and would look to take unilateral steps if a peace deal can't be reached. "If it turns out that there is no way to reach peace at this time, we will shape a new reality," he said. After Netanyahu pledged to apply Israeli sovereignty to the Jordan Valley, Gantz called the area "a part of Israel forever." Many Israelis, including Gantz, consider that area on the Jordan border essential to Israel's security. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Who Is Benny Gantz? - Ruby Mellen
    With a parliamentary election producing a deadlock, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called for a unity government with his opponent, Benny Gantz, leader of the Blue and White alliance. Born in Israel to Holocaust survivors, Gantz entered the armed forces in 1977 at age 18 and steadily climbed the ranks in a military career that spanned 38 years.
        In 1989, he oversaw an operation that airlifted 14,500 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. A decade later, he served as the commander of Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and then oversaw Israel's withdrawal from the region. While chief of staff, the IDF fought two wars in Gaza in 2012 and 2014. In January he ran a campaign ad taking credit for the 1,364 terrorists the IDF says it killed in the 2014 war. (Washington Post)
  • Proposal for a Narrow U.S.-Israel Defense Pact
    Under the leadership of former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Adm. (ret.) James Stavridis, JINSA released a report recommending policies to bolster the U.S.-Israel security relationship to meet the growing Iranian threat. This included consideration of a bilateral U.S.-Israel mutual defense treaty similar to, but more narrowly defined than, existing U.S. arrangements with 50 countries on five continents.
        The primary purpose of a U.S.-Israel mutual defense pact is to add an extra layer of deterrence to Israel's strategic position, and to America's position in the Middle East, and ultimately a last line of defense. We envision a narrow formal treaty alliance which, unlike existing U.S. defense treaties stating unequivocally that an attack on one is an attack on all, would cover only a defined set of exceptional circumstances that would place either country in extreme peril.
        These would include the threat or use of weapons of mass destruction; major armed attack by a powerful regional or global power, or coalition of powers; an assault threatening vital lines of air and sea communication; an attack undermining Israel's qualitative military edge; or an urgent request from either government.
        While balancing each country's concerns about freedom of action and overextension, and committing no American troops to Israel, we believe a narrowly defined mutual defense pact would advance U.S. interests and help prevent an extraordinary conflict that could threaten Israel's strategic and economic vitality and viability. (Jewish Institute for National Security of America-JINSA)
        See also A U.S.-Israeli Defense Pact: How to Ensure that Its Advantages Outweigh Its Disadvantages - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Lebanon Is Fully Under the Control of Hizbullah and Iran - Tony Badran and Jonathan Schanzer
    The U.S. continues to treat Lebanon as a friend, even as the difference between its government and Hizbullah has become hard to discern. The institution receiving the most U.S. support, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), has worked hand-in-hand with Hizbullah nationwide.
        UN Security Council Resolution 1701 in 2006 called for Lebanon to disarm Hizbullah. Instead, the LAF looked the other way when Hizbullah dug cross-border attack tunnels into Israel. The LAF allowed the import of technology, flown in by Iranian planes, to upgrade Hizbullah missiles.
        The problem isn't only a lack of control - it's collusion. Israel recently exposed a Hizbullah precision-rocket facility in eastern Lebanon that is a short drive away from an LAF base. Hizbullah and its allies hold the majority in Parliament and dominate Lebanon's security and foreign policies. Tony Badran is a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, where Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Anti-Semitism

  • Report: Anti-Semitic Harassment at U.S. College Campuses Hits Historic Levels - Adam Kredo
    Anti-Semitic harassment on college campuses aimed at pro-Israel students jumped by 70% from 2017 to 2018, according to a new study by the AMCHA Initiative, that monitors anti-Semitism on more than 400 college campuses. It has recorded 2,500 anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. since 2015. AMCHA found there had been a major spike in students being targeted with hate speech and violence due to their open support for Israel.
        "Anti-Semitic acts involving the singling out of Jewish and pro-Israel students and groups for personal vilification more than doubled," including a 147% increase in incidents of the students being linked to "white supremacy." "Attempts to exclude" Jewish and pro-Israel students "from campus activities more than doubled, with expressions calling for the total boycott or exclusion of pro-Israel students from campus life nearly tripling."
        The findings are a sign that hatred toward Jews and pro-Israel students is primarily coming from activists aligned with the BDS movement, rather than classic anti-Semitic motivators. (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also The Harassment of Jewish Students on U.S. Campuses (AMCHA Initiative)
  • UK Councils and Universities Face Being Named and Shamed in New Anti-Semitism Crackdown - David Maddox
    Local councils and universities that refuse to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism will be named and shamed, in a move due to be announced by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick after a record 1,652 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in the UK in 2018.
        "Councils have a duty to stamp out anti-Semitism wherever they find it so it's troubling that, in some cases, we're seeing the reverse. I am also concerned with some of the stories coming out of our universities - Jewish students whose experiences on campus are not the same as everyone else's....These organizations are recipients of public money. Failure to act is simply unacceptable," Jenrick said. (Sunday Express-UK)

  • Saudi Arabia, the planet's third-highest defense spender, fell victim to a drone and missile attack on the world's largest oil facility. The kingdom's defenses are designed for entirely different threats. The low-flying and relatively cheap drones and cruise missiles used in the attack are a fairly new challenge that many nations are not prepared to counter. It also doesn't help that massive oil plants are just easy targets.
  • "Saudi oil assets are vulnerable for the simple reason that when flying over them at night, they stick out against the desert background like a Christmas tree," said Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute. "This means that enemies don't need high-tech GPS-guided drones, even though they might have them, but can also use relatively lower technology drones."
  • Saudi Arabia boasts an arsenal of sophisticated and expensive air defense equipment. They have the American-made Patriot, German-made Skyguard, and France's Shahine mobile anti-aircraft system.
  • But, as Jack Watling, a land warfare expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told CNBC, "The track record of Patriot engaging missiles of any kind is pretty awful, they very rarely hit the target."
  • The other issue, he says, is that it's designed for shooting down high-altitude ballistic missiles, not cruise missiles and drones. "These were low-flying cruise missiles. They were coming in far below the engagement zone for Patriot."
  • "The Saudis have a lot of sophisticated air defense equipment. Given their general conduct of operations in Yemen, it is highly unlikely that their soldiers know how to use it," Watling said. He added that Saudi forces have "low readiness, low competence, and are largely inattentive." 
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