October 15, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Forces Come under Turkish Artillery Fire in Syria - Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne (CNN)
    "U.S. troops in the vicinity of Kobani came under artillery fire from Turkish positions at approximately 9 p.m. local Oct. 11," Navy Capt. Brook DeWalt, a Pentagon spokesman, said Friday. "The explosion occurred...in an area known by the Turks to have U.S. forces present."
    One U.S. official told CNN the U.S. does not believe the Turkish shelling was an accident and that it was likely designed to chase the U.S. from the area.
    See also U.S.: Turkey "Bracketed" American Troops with Artillery Fire - Dan Lamothe (Washington Post)
    Turkish forces who launched multiple artillery rounds near a U.S. Special Operations outpost in northeastern Syria on Friday have known for months that Americans were there, according to four current and former U.S. officials.
    One Army officer said multiple rounds of 155 mm fire were launched from Turkey's side of the border and that they had a "bracketing effect," with shells landing on both sides of the U.S. outpost.

U.S. Considering Removal of Nukes from Turkey - David E. Sanger (New York Times)
    Over the weekend, State and Energy Department officials were reviewing plans for evacuating 50 tactical nuclear weapons stored under American control at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, 250 miles from the Syrian border, according to two American officials.
    One senior official said those weapons were now essentially Erdogan's hostages and constitute a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago.

10,000 March in Berlin Against Anti-Semitism (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
    More than 10,000 people marched in Berlin on Sunday in support of the victims of anti-Semitic violence in the city of Halle last week.
    Similar demonstrations took place across Germany, including in Hamburg and Marburg in western Germany.

Iran Captures Exiled Dissident (Radio Farda)
    Rouhollah Zam, a Paris-based Iranian dissident, was lured in a "complicated intelligence operation" and brought to Iran, the Revolutionary Guards announced Monday.
    In a video on Iranian TV in an apparent forced confession, Zam says he regretted his media activities in exile.
    Zam played a high-profile role in covering the 2017-18 protests across Iran through a Telegram channel named "Amadnews'' with 1.4 million members, which he founded in 2015.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Syrian Troops Enter Kurdish Fight Against Turkish Forces - Michael Safi and Bethan McKernan
    Syrian troops have begun sweeping into Kurdish-held territory on a collision course with Turkish forces and their allies, a day after the Kurds agreed to hand over key cities to Damascus in exchange for protection after four days of bombardment by Turkish artillery and jets. Syrian state media said on Monday that its army was moving north to "confront Turkish aggression on Syrian territory."
        Meanwhile, at least 750 people with links to ISIS escaped from detention camps in northeastern Syria on Sunday. (Guardian-UK)
  • U.S. Sanctions Turkey over Syria Offensive
    The U.S. has imposed new sanctions against Turkish officials and institutions over the country's incursion into northern Syria, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence announced Monday. "The president of the United States called on the president of Turkey to stop the invasion," Pence said. (CBS News)
  • U.S. Sending 3,000 Additional Troops to Saudi Arabia - Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger
    The U.S. is sending 3,000 additional troops to Saudi Arabia after it accused Iran of attacks last month on Saudi oil facilities, the Pentagon said on Friday. "The troops that we are sending into Saudi Arabia and the enhanced assets are defensive," said Brian H. Hook, the State Department's special representative for Iran. "They are there to defend our interests and to help Saudi Arabia defend itself."
        Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said he was dispatching four dozen planes, as well as Patriot antimissile batteries and other air and missile defenses, to the kingdom. In response to Iranian attacks and provocations since May, Esper said the Pentagon has deployed 14,000 additional forces to the Gulf region. (New York Times)
        See also Iran's Expanded Missile Arsenal Presents Challenge for U.S., Saudi Arabia - Sune Engel Rasmussen
    Iran now has thousands of missiles, many of them able to reach Israel and into the Mediterranean. It has troops or loyal militias able to fire missiles from Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The U.S. is trying to pressure Iran into a new nuclear accord that would also curb its missile program. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • U.S. Involvement in Syria Lacked Purpose, Objective - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    American forces didn't enter Syria to end the bloody civil war there, nor did they ever purport to be the bearers of liberty and justice for the Syrian people. They also didn't go there - as Israel had hoped - to curb Iranian expansionism. The Americans' goal was to fight the Islamic State, which had seized control of nearly half of Syria and used those areas as a launching pad for terrorist attacks across the globe, including in the U.S.
        Despite the collapse of the state it established, ISIS wasn't eradicated and it still maintains a presence within the Sunni populations in Syria and Iraq. Its ideology also hasn't vanished. Turkey has never fought ISIS and views the group as a useful tool against the Kurds and against Bashar Assad and Iran. The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)
  • IDF Position in West Bank Comes under Fire
    An Israeli military position near Tulkarem in the West Bank came under fire from a passing vehicle early Saturday. (Times of Israel)
  • Keeping the Peace on the Temple Mount - Yoav Limor
    Former head of the Israel Security Agency MK Avi Dichter said in an interview: "The Palestinians will never drop the matter of the Temple Mount. It's a tool that they, and parts of the Arab and Muslim world, use to take on Israel....The Temple Mount is in second place after Mecca and Medina. No one really makes pilgrimages to the Temple Mount. There is no Hajj here....The Temple Mount is just an instrument."
        "Right now I don't see a solution in the form of dialogue with [the Palestinians]....They don't have the courage to do anything that isn't belligerent. You don't need to be brave to carry out a suicide bus bombing, you need to be a fanatic and not able to see beyond the end of your nose. Look at what they did to Sadat and Hussein, look at Arafat and Abu Mazen [Abbas]."
        "There is no Palestinian leader who'll...stand up in the Knesset and say, 'The path of terrorism is at an end.' At first, I thought that Arafat had an opportunity to be the one, but when I got to know him from close-up, I saw that he wasn't it."  (Israel Hayom)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Syrian Kurdish Commander Explains Deal with Assad and Putin - Mazloum Abdi
    The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has 70,000 soldiers who have fought against jihadi extremism since 2015. The jihadi terrorists of the Islamic State came to Syria from all over the world. We are the ones who should fight them because they have occupied our lands, looted our villages, killed our children, and enslaved our women. We lost 11,000 soldiers to rescue our people from this grave danger.
        In light of the invasion by Turkey and the existential threat its attack poses for our people, we may have to reconsider our alliances. The Russians and the Syrian regime have made proposals that could save the lives of millions of people who live under our protection. We do not trust their promises. But if we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people. The writer is commander in chief of the Syrian Democratic Forces. (Foreign Policy)
  • The U.S. Approach to the Palestinian Authority - Sander Gerber, Lt.-Gen. (ret.) David A. Deptula, and Lt.-Gen. (ret.) John Toolan Jr.
    The U.S. cannot simply wait out the current generation of PA leadership, since is not clear that the next PA president will be any more moderate than the current leader or any more inclined towards peace.
        Instead, the U.S. should model its approach on the Helsinki Accords with the Soviet Union signed in 1975. Promoting independent human rights and civil society organizations in Palestinian society should, over time, promote and enable moderate Palestinians to demand the rights they deserve.
        Since the current PA leadership has shown it won't end its incitement, there will be lasting peace between the PA and Israel only once a new group of moderate Palestinians have power. (The Hill)

  • "We know it was the Iranian air force" that attacked Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure, a former Israeli senior security official told Al-Monitor.
  • "The Americans know it too. Everyone who needs to know does. Yet that doesn't prevent [Iranian Foreign Minister] Mohammad Javad Zarif from sitting in a TV studio and stating without the slightest hesitation that Iran had nothing to do with the attack."
  • Concern soared in Israel following the attack. "It's not as if we didn't know that Iran has cruise missiles and armed drones," a former senior military official said.
  • "The problem is that...so far, Iran's performance in its clashes with Israel has been feeble at best. They tried to fire rockets at the Golan Heights a few times, but these mostly landed on the Syrian side of the border. It turns out that they are capable of much more."
  • Israel believes that if there is an Iranian attack, it will not be launched from Iranian territory. Israel has stressed that if that does happen, Israel will not allow Iran to hide behind its proxies.
  • Would a real Iranian strike on Israeli targets by Iran's proxies force Israel to respond against Iranian targets in Iran proper? The answer is yes, and Israel believes that Iran knows it.

Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Chol Hamoed Sukkot.