October 3, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Saudi Arabia Says It Has Fully Restored Oil Output after Attacks (Reuters)
    Saudi Arabia has fully restored oil output after attacks on its facilities last month, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told an energy conference in Moscow on Thursday.

Egypt Agrees to Buy More Israeli Natural Gas - Mirette Magdy and Yaacov Benmeleh (Bloomberg)
    The companies developing Israel's largest natural gas fields agreed to increase the supply to Egypt by 35%, amending a 2018 contract, according to a Tel Aviv Stock Exchange filing on Wednesday.
    The Israeli gas will start flowing to Egypt at the beginning of 2020, reaching full capacity by 2022.
    Domestic demand in Egypt for natural gas will rise about 30% over the next two decades, causing a supply shortage within five years, according to Wood Mackenzie, a UK-based energy research firm.

U.S. Sees Rising Threat from Al-Qaeda in Syria - Eric Schmitt (New York Times)
    American counterterrorism officials are voicing increased alarm about an al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria - Hurras al-Din - that they say is plotting attacks against the West.
    With 1,500-2,000 fighters, half of whom are foreign terrorists, Hurras al-Din is operating in areas in northwest Syria where Russian air defenses largely shield them from American airstrikes.
    Al-Qaeda "let ISIS absorb the brunt of the world's counterterrorism efforts while patiently reconstituting itself," said Nathan A. Sales, the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator.

Hamas Takes Action in Nepotism Case following Public Pressure - Ahmad Abu Amer (Al-Monitor)
    Every year, the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Hajj and Umra hosts for free 1,000 people from the families of Palestinian martyrs to perform the hajj in Mecca.
    After Anas Radwan, son of Hamas leader Ismail Radwan, went on the pilgrimage, activists argued on social media that he did not have the right to do so.
    To calm public anger, Hamas formed a committee to investigate the incident, which concluded that Anas was not supposed to join the pilgrims. He was fined 5,000 dinars ($7,000), to be distributed among those who were denied travel to Mecca.
    The Palestinian street is not accustomed to Hamas disclosing the details of any punitive measures against its leaders and members.

Neo-Nazis in Germany Call for Palestinian Support to Eradicate Israel - Zeev Avrahami (Ynet News)
    70 neo-Nazis marched through the German city of Dortmund on Monday, holding flags of the Third Reich and chanting, "Palestine help us, Israel still exists" and "Israel no more."

Israel Shipyards Sells Patrol Craft Worldwide - Daniel Wasserbly (Jane's International Defence Review-UK)
    Israel Shipyards has received orders for its newest patrol craft, the OPV 45, and is in discussions to sell a Sa'ar S-72 vessel, according to Noam Latsav, managing director at Israel Shipyards.
    Meanwhile, the yard is building more of its Shaldag fast patrol craft. So far 33 Shaldags have been sold around the world including in Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Opens a Second Front along Israel's Border - Jonathan Spyer
    Iran's Revolutionary Guards and their loyal proxies have laid the groundwork for a second Iranian front with Israel in the Golan Heights, in addition to the one in South Lebanon. In "The Iranian Conquest of Syria," published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, two retired senior Israeli military intelligence officers, Brig.-Gen. Shimon Shapira and Col. Jacques Neriah, explain how Iranian and Hizbullah fighters have crept methodically closer to Israel's border. Iranian elements and the local Syrians they have recruited are tightly woven into the border villages and the official Syrian security forces.
        Hizbullah has four permanent bases in southwest Syria, used to train locally recruited fighters and store short- and medium-range missiles. One base in Quneitra, 3 miles from the Israeli border, is situated within a position of the Syrian army's 90th Brigade and used mainly for intelligence gathering and eavesdropping. New Hizbullah positions have been established only 200 meters from the UN monitoring force. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also below Observations: Report - Iranian Entrenchment in Syria (U.S. Institute of Peace)
  • Iranian President Ignores Macron's Plea to Speak with Trump - Farnaz Fassihi and Rick Gladstone
    Last Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron of France made an unannounced visit to the hotel in New York where President Hassan Rouhani of Iran was staying. Macron had arranged a telephone call for Rouhani with President Trump. All Rouhani had to do was come out of his hotel suite and walk into a secure room. As Macron waited outside the Iranian leader's suite, Rouhani refused to come out of his room. (New York Times)
  • IRGC Commander Confirms Missile-Cities Hidden under Iran's Mountains
    Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC's Aerospace Force, told Iran's Documentary TV on Sep. 30, "We have to protect our arsenal in an adequate way. The idea goes back to 1984, just when we began thinking of missiles. Before the first such material was imported into the country, we had already begun digging the tunnels to hide them. Nowadays they call them missile-cities, deep beneath mountains, very sophisticated tunnels are dug deep into the ground to stockpile ammunition, and hide missile launching bases....Our enemies are worried because such locations are out of their reach."
        The National Council of Resistance of Iran released a report on ten tunnel formations across Iran that were used to stock long-range missiles, including satellite photos of all the locations. (National Council of Resistance of Iran)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • After Iran's Saudi Attack, Israel Will Upgrade Its Missile Defenses - Amos Harel and Amir Tibon
    Western intelligence services know for certain that Iran was behind the unprecedented Sep. 14 attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities which caused extensive damage. The Iranians demonstrated impressive planning and operational abilities. A combination of intermediate-range cruise missiles and drones struck the Saudi targets with devastating precision after evading American-made defense systems.
        From Israel's standpoint, the attack on the Saudi oil facilities is a formative event. A strike capability of this precision and effectiveness puts Israel's strategic infrastructure in future danger. This development will require an upgrading of Israel's deployment for protection against cruise missiles and drones. (Ha'aretz)
  • IDF West Bank Commander: Most Palestinians Not Involved in Violence - Amos Harel and Yaniv Kubovich
    IDF Brig.-Gen. Eran Niv, 49, the outgoing commander of the Judea and Samaria Division, has served as a commanding officer in the West Bank since the start of the second intifada in 2000. He estimates that only 1% of the Palestinians in the area are involved in violence against Israeli targets. A few times that number would like to be involved, but are deterred by the potentially high personal cost.
        Niv believes the relative calm in the West Bank is the result of the PA's stability, the relative sense of personal security felt by Palestinians, and their satisfactory economic situation. "The more Palestinians are outside the cycle of violence, the fewer the number of terror attacks. That's my agenda," he stresses. (Ha'aretz)
  • Report: Hizbullah, Iranian Forces Suffer from Food Poisoning in Damascus - Neta Bar
    A large number of Hizbullah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps troops were hospitalized due to food poisoning this week, Syrian state media reported Wednesday. (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • World Bank Absolves PA of Responsibility for Its Self-Inflicted Financial Crisis - Lt.-Col. (res.) Maurice Hirsch
    The Palestinian Authority's current financial crisis is a direct result of its "pay-to-slay" policy. The PA squanders millions to pay monthly salaries to terrorist prisoners and released prisoners, as well as wounded terrorists and the families of dead terrorists. Israel this year began withholding 6% of the PA tax money it collects, an amount equal to that which the PA spends on rewarding terrorists.
        The PA responded by refusing to accept the remaining 94% of tax funds, meaning that the depth of the crisis is entirely self-created. The PA then decided to cut the salaries of its public employees as a result of the financial crisis it has driven itself into.
        A new World Bank report assessing the Palestinian Authority economy failed to note any connection between the PA's economic difficulties and its "pay-to-slay" policy. Instead of clearly identifying the PA policy as the root of its financial crisis and recommending to immediately abolish this policy, the World Bank recommended that the international community continue to fund both the PA and its noxious policy.
        The writer, head of legal strategies for Palestinian Media Watch, served in the IDF Military Advocate General Corps as Director of the Military Prosecution in Judea and Samaria. (JNS)
  • Greenblatt: PA Must End "Pay to Slay" - Heba El Koudsy
    U.S. Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt told Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview: "I can't imagine a world in which a peace agreement is signed where issues like the Palestinian Authority's 'Pay to Slay' program remains - a program that rewards terrorists who murder or attack Israelis. It's a basic concept that you cannot encourage people to kill and expect a peace deal that works."
        "I can't imagine the Israeli government ever signing such an agreement. It would make no sense and it's completely antithetical to the concept of peace. To deal with that abhorrent program, the USA has cut all funding to the PA and we continuously raise awareness of this issue to other donor countries. I cannot understand how donor countries continue to donate funds knowing that some of their taxpayers' money is used to fund terrorism and the murder of Israelis."  (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
  • Do Palestinians Have a "Right" to Free Electricity? - Bassam Tawil
    Many Palestinians have refused to pay their bills to the Arab-owned Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDEC). Other Palestinians steal power from the company by directly hooking to the power line or tampering with electric meters. The JDEC purchases electricity from the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC). However, because of electricity theft and widespread non-payment, the JDEC has not been able to pay its debts. The IEC has been trying for years to collect the growing debt, but has received no payments since January 2019.
        When the IEC announced that it was cutting power to some villages and cities in the West Bank to pressure the Palestinians to pay their debt, the Palestinian Authority asked the international community to condemn Israel for daring to demand that they pay for the electricity they used.
        Apparently, Palestinians believe they have a "right" to free electricity. This is in keeping with the longstanding Palestinian perception that someone else should pay their way in the world. The controversy is yet another example of the Palestinians' unceasing search for ways to blame Israel for self-inflicted miseries. (Gatestone Institute)

Report: Iranian Entrenchment in Syria (U.S. Institute of Peace)
  • Iran's deployment of its own forces and proxy militias recruited from other countries has been decisive in the Assad regime's reversal of territorial losses to the Syrian opposition.
  • As a result, Iran now has wide latitude to pursue its own geopolitical agenda on Syrian territory, including the introduction of sophisticated weapons systems that will enable Iran to open a new front against Israel and threaten freedom of navigation in the eastern Mediterranean.
  • The Syria Study Group believes the U.S. can still influence the outcome of the Syrian war in a manner that protects U.S. interests.
  • The U.S. has meaningful tools of leverage to prevent the reemergence of ISIS and counter other terrorist groups, stop Iran from turning Syria into a forward operating base, provide relief to displaced Syrians and Syria's hard-pressed neighbors, and advance a political outcome that stops Syrian territory from serving as a net exporter of terrorism and instability.
  • The key near-term goal should be to prevent further entrenchment of Iran and its partners and proxies while raising the cost to Iran for its actions in Syria.
  • To this end, the U.S. should continue its support of Israeli air strikes; enforce sanctions aimed at undermining Iran's ability to fund its proxies and partners in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq; and maintain the U.S. military presence at the al-Tanf military base.
  • The U.S. should insist that any political settlement require the withdrawal of Iranian forces and proxies from Syria.