September 24, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Arrests Hundreds in Crackdown on Anti-Government Protesters - Sudarsan Raghavan (Washington Post)
    Egyptian security forces have arrested 370 people after anti-government protests broke out in Cairo and in 14 provinces Friday and Saturday, demanding the removal of Egyptian President Sissi.
    The crackdown came after a former government contractor and part-time actor, Mohamed Ali, issued a new video calling for Egyptians to stage a "million-man march" this Friday.
    Over the past three weeks, Ali has posted a string of videos online from Spain, alleging corruption by Sissi and his generals.

Five French Women on Trial in Paris for Car Bomb Plot (BBC News)
    Five French women have gone on trial in Paris for trying to detonate a car bomb near Notre Dame cathedral in September 2016.
    Five gas canisters in the vehicle, which had been doused in diesel fuel, failed to explode when a cigarette was thrown at them.
    The defendants are all Muslim converts. A defense lawyer said the women had been brainwashed on the Internet.
    The women planned the attack on the instructions of Rashid Kassim, an ISIS handler, who is thought to have been killed in a drone strike in Iraq in 2017.
    They are believed to have been planning other attacks in the Paris area.

The Saudi Campaign Against Hamas - Dr. Adnan Abu Amer (Al Jazeera)
    Since April, dozens of Palestinians, Jordanians and Saudis have been arrested in Saudi Arabia and accused of belonging to and supporting Hamas by collecting donations for the group.
    Some have been deported, while many have had their assets frozen and their financial transfers monitored. Strict controls on remittances to the Palestinian territories have been imposed.
    In 2017, Hamas started to reach out again to Iran. This was underscored in an official visit by a Hamas delegation to Iran in July 2019.
    In May, the Saudi newspaper Mecca published a list of 40 Islamic figures who it characterized as terrorists influenced by Muslim Brotherhood ideas. Among them were Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, former leader Khaled Meshaal, current leader Ismail Haniya, and its military commanders Mohammad al-Deif and Yahya al-Sinwar.
    The writer is head of the political science department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza.

Israel's Security Posture Remains Strong - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Prof. Jacob Nagel (Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
    While Israel faces internal political uncertainty, it has a professional military that functions independently from the political realm.
    Moreover, when Israeli lives are at stake, Israel's other security agencies including the Mossad, the Israel Security Agency, and the police operate with a clear mandate to conduct military and intelligence operations, no matter who is prime minister or which party leads the political coalition.
    The writer served as head of Israel's National Security Council.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: World Must Hold Iran Accountable for Attack on Saudi Arabia
    U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Monday: "The world needs to diplomatically isolate Iran for violating Saudi sovereignty, for repeated attacks on freedom of navigation....[I] called on the EU to match our sanctions on Iran's missile program so that we can help restore deterrence in the Middle East."
        "We have put in place a policy of economic pressure and diplomatic isolation because we have to deny revenue to the world's leading sponsor of terrorism....Iran crossed the line in its attack on Saudi Arabia....It's important that the world hold Iran accountable."
        "Iran has a demonstrated 40-year history of creating conflicts and then pretending to be the peacemaker. And that's happening here again.... They continue to conduct attacks around the Middle East and in Europe. And it is important that we not let Iran get away with it again."  (CNN)
  • Britain Calls for New Accord with Iran, Breaking with France and Germany - Robert Hutton
    UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Sky News on Monday that it's time to strike a new nuclear deal with Iran, breaking ranks with France and Germany, which are still trying to preserve the 2015 agreement. Johnson also said it's "plainly" clear that Iran was responsible for attacks this month on key oil facilities in Saudi Arabia. (Bloomberg)
  • UN Report Highlights Uptick in Anti-Semitism - Talia Kaplan
    The UN on Monday released a report, "Combating Antisemitism to Eliminate Discrimination and Intolerance Based on Religion or Belief," which stressed that the "prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes and the risk of violence against Jewish individuals and sites" is significant and appears to be increasing.
        The report was released by the UN Human Rights Council's special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed. It notes the "growing use of anti-Semitic tropes by white supremacists including neo-Nazis and members of radical Islamist groups"; an increase in "anti-Semitic narratives or tropes in the course of expressing anger at policies or practices of the government of Israel"; and "the objectives, activities and effects of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement."   (Fox News)
        See also Text: UN Report on Anti-Semitism (UN Watch)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • UK Labour Party Backs Anti-Israel Agenda - Robert Philpot
    Britain's Labour party on Monday called for a future government led by Jeremy Corbyn to back a boycott of Israeli settlement goods and vowed to reject trade agreements with the Jewish state which "fail to recognize the rights of the Palestinians." The party also appeared to endorse a Palestinian "right to return" and reaffirmed its opposition to British arms sales to Israel. The anti-Israel motion was passed nearly unanimously as Palestinian flags were unfurled amid chants of "Free Palestine."
        Labour Friends of Israel director Jennifer Gerber called the result "another dark day in the history of the Labour party. Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party is the home for anti-Jewish racists and Israel haters....With Corbyn now uniquely singling out the world's only Jewish state for boycotts, it's no wonder the Jewish community fears the prospect of him becoming prime minister."  (Times of Israel)
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Meets Arab Counterpart at UN
    Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted that he met with his counterpart from an Arab state with which Israel has no relations, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The two discussed "how to deal with Iran" as well as ways to advance regional cooperation, Katz said. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Don't Rule Out War with Iran - Walter Russell Mead
    America is certainly tired of "endless wars." The president understands and shares that concern. America's steady move toward energy independence also reduces public concern about the Middle East. Yet Tehran has been inching closer to America's red lines.
        Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told me in a recent interview that the Iranian regime is trapped. Tehran is frantically seeking an escape as the pain of sanctions intensifies. The Financial Times estimates its economy will contract 9.3% in 2019. As administration insiders see things, the driving force shaping the confrontation is Iranian impotence rather than American vacillation.
        If Tehran continues to escalate its provocations, it will deepen its international isolation. On Monday, France, Germany and the UK blamed Iran for the Saudi attack. If Iran launches an unprovoked attack against American troops to Saudi Arabia who are conducting a necessary and lawful defensive mission, Washington's calculus could change in a heartbeat. The writer is professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College. (Wall Street Journal)
  • U.S. Sanctions on Iran Are Working - Holman W. Jenkins, Jr.
    One of the many benefits of the U.S. domestic oil resurgence is that we don't have to overreact to lesser disruptions of the oil flow from every regional spat. The world economy remains adequately supplied. If prices go up a bit, the U.S. now benefits as a major producer, offsetting some of the damage on the consumer side.
        There is no reason to oblige the Iranians in how we respond to the attack in Saudi Arabia. The Iranian goal is to lure the U.S. into a confrontation that Washington would eventually be wiling to pay to get out of, presumably by lifting sanctions and resuming the Iran nuclear deal payola.
        Sanctions have cut Iran's oil exports by 90% since April 2018. The regime is plodding toward a domestic crisis that Iran's leadership hopes it can escape by initiating provocations meant to suggest a wider war unless the U.S. backs down. Though more provocations may be coming, these would only make it tougher for any future president to cancel the sanctions and reinstate the nuclear deal. It's hard to see a way out of Iran's sanctions trap except by meeting U.S. demands to curb its obnoxious regional behavior. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Ireland Ignores Palestinian Textbooks that Encourage Hatred of Israelis - Ruth Dudley Edwards
    I was surprised and genuinely shocked to learn that the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs has turned a blind eye to the toxic indoctrination of Palestinian children who are being fed a hate-filled version of their history. In 2010 a new initiative was launched between the Palestinian Authority and five European states to support the education sector. Ireland was to focus on curriculum development and basic education as the lead nation on textbook development. The result is that the bad old PA curriculum is now much worse.
        The Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-SE) monitors school textbooks to see how they measure up to UNESCO and UN standards for peace and tolerance. What emerged from the Palestinian Ministry of Education was filled with violent wording and is openly anti-Semitic: Jews control the world and are corrupt, there is no possibility of peace with Israel, martyrdom and jihad are the most important things in life, and "dying is better than living." Killers classified by the UN as terrorists are glorified as role models and heroes to be emulated.
        Marcus Sheff, chief executive officer of IMPACT-SE, has been astounded by the silence of Ireland. "The Irish Government is involved in these textbooks to a greater extent than any other donor government," he noted. (Belfast Telegraph-UK)

Video: Iran Moves Against the Saudis, Dropping the Pretense of a Proxy War - Dore Gold (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Why has Iran's proxy war evolved into direct action against Saudi Arabia with the September 14 attacks on two Saudi Arabian oil facilities? Because no one has stopped Iranian escalation in recent years.
  • Since 1979, when the Iranian Islamic regime came to power, its policies have been motivated by the doctrine known as the export of the revolution "beyond the frontiers of Iran," as articulated in the preamble of the Iranian Constitution.
  • Consequently, Iran's regional role has been increasing across the Middle East. Iran has established itself as the dominant power around the Strait of Hormuz, the naval chokepoint affecting the movement of ships from the Persian Gulf into the Indian Ocean. The Yemen War is giving Iran a position along a second choke point, Bab al-Mandab, controlling movement of ships from the Indian Ocean into the Red Sea and the Suez Canal.
  • The collapse of Syria has given Iran the option of penetrating the Middle East from another end, constructing a land bridge from its border with Iraq, across Syria and Lebanon, to the Mediterranean.
  • Iran has began to network with the Polisario through Algeria, providing weapons and training for its war against Morocco. The Iranian-supported Al-Ashtar Brigades claimed responsibility for bombing a strategic oil pipeline connecting Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
  • During the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s, Western shipping came under Iranian attack in the Persian Gulf, including oil tankers. After a period of restraint, the U.S. unleashed its military strength, sinking or damaging half of Iran's operational navy. As a result, the U.S. bought quiet for a number of years. But thirty years have passed since then. Unless Western deterrence of Iran is restored, Iranian expansionism is only likely to get worse.

    Amb. Dore Gold, former director general of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center.