October 8, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Denies Turkey Has Begun Anti-Kurd Offensive (Reuters)
    Turkey does not appear "as of now" to have begun an expected incursion into northern Syria, a senior U.S. official said Monday.

Report: Hamas Purging Jihadists, ISIS in Gaza (i24News)
    The pro-Hizbullah Lebanese daily Al Akhbar reported that Hamas is targeting followers of the Islamic State and other Salafist groups in Gaza said to be planning attacks against security forces and top officials.
    The crackdown comes in the wake of a deadly coordinated attack on Aug. 28 that left three Hamas policemen dead.

Broke in Beirut: Currency Crisis Has Begun to Bite in Lebanon (Economist-UK)
    Over the past few weeks, customers at Beirut banks have queued for hours only to learn that they cannot access their money. One was told that his branch had less than $2,000 in the vault.
    Lebanon's currency, the pound, has been pegged at 1,500 to the dollar since 1997. Receipts are printed in both currencies and shopkeepers make change with a mix of dollars and pounds.
    Many ATMs have stopped dispensing dollars. Banks have lowered withdrawal limits to $1,000 a day and banned dollar transactions after 5 p.m. and on weekends.
    Lebanon's public debt is more than 150% of GDP, among the highest in the world.
    Fitch, a ratings agency, recently downgraded Lebanon's debt to CCC, deep into junk territory. On October 1, Moody's put Lebanon's junk status under review for a possible downgrade.

Iran's Supreme Leader: Ayatollah Khamenei - Karim Sadjadpour (TIME)
    Authority over Iran's foreign policy resides not with President Hassan Rouhani but with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, age 80.
    A 2013 Reuters investigative report revealed that Khamenei controls a $95 billion financial conglomerate, which he uses as he wishes.
    Khamenei was delivering a speech on June 27, 1981, in a Tehran mosque, when a bomb hidden in a tape recorder exploded, rendering his right hand no longer functional. The Mujahedin-e-Khalq was blamed for the bomb.
    Khamenei was made an ayatollah overnight after Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, died in 1989.
    A self-described "minor seminarian," he cultivated the support of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), making them the dominant economic force in the theocracy they defend. IRGC enterprises now account for one-third of the Iranian economy.

Israel's Elbit Systems Wins $153 Million Asian Drone Deal (Globes)
    Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems announced Sunday it has been awarded a $153 million contract to supply a multi-layered array of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to an army in a southeast Asian country.
    Elbit will supply more than a thousand THOR Multi-Rotor Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) mini-UAS, scores of Skylark LEX, Skylark 3 and Hermes 450 tactical UAS, as well as Universal Ground Control Stations.

Daily Alert will not appear on
Wednesday, October 9,
the Jewish Holiday of Yom Kippur

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House Insists U.S. Didn't Give Turkey a "Green Light" to Kill Kurds in Syria - Dave Lawler
    The White House insisted Monday that President Trump did not offer Turkey a "green light" to slaughter U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Trump warned in a tweet that he would "destroy and obliterate" Turkey's economy if it did anything he found "off limits."
        A senior administration official said the U.S. was withdrawing 50-100 special forces troops currently operating near the Turkey-Syria border, but not pulling out of Syria entirely.
        Kurdish forces are guarding camps that hold thousands of ISIS fighters and have warned they may have to abandon them to counter Turkey. The White House says Turkey would then be "responsible for maintaining the captivity of those fighters" and would bear "full responsibility" if ISIS rebounds in the area. (Axios)
  • Europeans Fear ISIS Comeback after U.S. Pullback from Syria
    European powers on Monday warned against a threatened Turkish offensive in northern Syria, saying the move would boost Islamic State and spark a new refugee crisis. European governments are particularly worried that a Turkish offensive could allow some of the 2,000 foreign jihadists being held in Kurdish prisons to scatter and provide cover for Europeans among them who want to try to slip back home.
        The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led militia that controls much of northeastern Syria, warned that surviving ISIS cells could take advantage of a Turkish operation to try to spring the extremists out of prison. In the event of a Turkish attack, the Kurdish forces "will have other things on their mind besides guarding jihadists," Michel Duclos, a former French ambassador to Syria, told AFP. (AFP-France 24)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Tens of Thousands Flock to Western Wall in Jerusalem ahead of Yom Kippur
    Tens of thousands of Jewish worshipers flocked to the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday night and Tuesday morning for prayers ahead of Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, which begins at sundown Tuesday. Israel shuts down every year on Yom Kippur, with public transportation, government services and television broadcasters ceasing operations.
        Driving is also considered taboo, and some secular Israelis take advantage of the day to ride bicycles on car-free roads. (Times of Israel)
        See also Video: Yom Kippur Eve Prayers at the Western Wall in Jerusalem (Jerusalem Post)
  • Discussion of Agreements with Persian Gulf States Seen as Positive - Herb Keinon
    After Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz confirmed that he is promoting "non-aggression pacts" with the Persian Gulf emirates, Dore Gold, former director-general of the Foreign Ministry who heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, applauded Katz's initiative. "When you go and try to develop these non-belligerent agreements, it is not a full peace, but it moves you along the route that could eventually become that....Anything that moves us down the road toward a greater diplomatic context is positive," Gold said. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Lessons from the U.S. Withdrawal in Syria - Dr. Jonathan Spyer
    If a Turkish invasion of Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria is launched, this will likely deliver the area into the hands of the Assad regime and its Iranian allies. The Syrian Kurds, if faced with a choice between Assad or the Sunni jihadi forces currently fighting under the Turkish flag, will choose Assad. He and the Iranians will suppress all independent Kurdish political and cultural activity, but they will not carry out wholesale ethnic cleansing of Kurdish populations. The Turks and their Sunni Islamist allies cleansed 200,000 Kurds from their homes in the Afrin Kurdish enclave, which Turkey destroyed in January 2018.
        The U.S. is not interested in heading an alliance of regional forces against Iranian expansionism or Sunni political Islam. Rather, it is in the business of managing imperial decline. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Israel Hayom)
  • More Lessons from the U.S. Withdrawal in Syria - Herb Keinon
    The U.S. decision to remove its troops from northern Syria must be seen within the context of the Iranian-backed attacks last month on the Saudi oil facilities, and the deafening lack of an American response. This is driving home to Israel's strategic planners that while the U.S. under a very friendly administration will support Israel at the UN; while it will offer assistance with aid for weapons; and while it will give it moral backing and defend it against international pressure - when it comes to the use of force, Israel must be willing and ready to defend itself by itself.
        There was a long-held idea that in the Middle East, there were things that the Americans would simply take care of. That may have been true once, but not lately. The Saudi and now Kurdish experience shouts: "Maybe yes, maybe no, but Israel cannot rely on this."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • How to Get Erdogan Off the Temple Mount in Jerusalem - Nadav Shragai
    Tens of millions of dollars have been funneled from Turkey to mosques, religious organizations, and dozens of projects in and around the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount in recent years. Turkey supplied the funds to refurbish the Muslim cemetery on the eastern slope of the Temple Mount, to replace the crescent at the top of the Dome of the Rock, and to rebuild a storehouse of Ottoman documents on the Mount, among other projects.
        The best way to fight Turkish President Erdogan, who is hostile to Israel and trying to buy influence in Jerusalem, is to continue to expose Turkey's ties to Hamas. For years, Turkey has served as a haven for Hamas terrorists and commanders, and terror attacks have been initiated and directed from Turkish territory. Dozens of Hamas cells handled from Turkey have been exposed over the past few years. (Israel Hayom)
  • Israel Is Quietly Rooting for Egypt's Sisi - Lily Galili
    Israeli politicians are playing down the outbreak of protests against Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, yet there is deep concern about the future of a man often labelled as "the most pro-Israeli Egyptian leader ever." Israelis also recognize that any expression of concern to that effect is bound to do Sisi more harm than good.
        "I certainly hope Sisi survives this round of protests," said Zvi Magen, a former Israeli military intelligence officer and now a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Under Sisi, military cooperation with Israel in Sinai has reached unprecedented levels, with both countries identifying Islamic State- and al-Qaeda-linked militants as a common threat. While Egyptian forces are waging the war there on the ground, Israel is providing crucial intelligence.
        Efraim Halevy, the former head of Israel's Mossad, noted, "The security of Egypt and its political system - certainly now the security of President Sisi - are a vital security interest for Israel. Egypt has the largest population in the Arab world and a long border with Israel and Sinai."  (Middle East Eye-UK)

How the Syrian War Shifted Attitudes towards Arab-Israeli Rapprochement - Hadeel Oueis (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
  • The Syrian civil war has slowly shifted the dynamic of who is considered an "enemy" in the Arab world. The war has reinforced the conviction of a broad group of Arab governments and peoples that Iran and political Islam are real enemies that pose an existential threat.
  • Arab meetings and summits still continue to focus on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But the crimes committed against Arabs by the axis of resistance - Assad's Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, Iran, and Islamic Jihad - have been far worse than the stereotypes depicted in "resistance" literature about Israel.
  • For example, more than half a million Syrians have been killed at the hands of Iranian agents and other local Syrian groups. In contrast, Israeli hospitals during this period provided displaced Syrians with health care away from Assad's barrel bombs and Iranian militias.
  • At the grassroots level, open access to the Internet has also expanded young Arabs' access to and understanding of Jews, Israelis, and Israel. Ironically, Ahed Tamimi's experience in Israeli prisons as recorded online has become a major point of comparison between Israel and youth jailed in Arab countries.
  • Moreover, Arab youth can access positive as well as negative images of Israel for the first time through social media - including the Israeli government's creative Arabic-language outreach.
  • There is an increasing recognition that "resistance" rhetoric has been a tool used to achieve political gains irrelevant to the Arab-Israeli conflict that serve instead the leaders of the resistance and their militias.