October 17, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran to Limit Inspectors' Access to Its Nuclear Facilities - Patrick Wintour (Guardian-UK)
    On Wednesday, the spokesman for the Iranian parliament's national security committee, Hossein Naghavi-Hosseini, said, "the International Atomic Energy Agency's surveillance on Iran's nuclear activities will be reduced."

U.S. Indicts Turkish Bank on Charges of Evading Iran Sanctions - Eric Lipton (New York Times)
    The U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday filed fraud and money-laundering charges against Halkbank, Turkey's second-largest state-owned bank, accusing it of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions.
    One of the bank's top executives was convicted on related charges last year.
    Prosecutors have been investigating the bank's role in what has been called the largest Iran sanctions violation in U.S. history, as billions of dollars' worth of gold and cash were illegally transferred to Iran in exchange for oil and gas.
    High-ranking government officials in Turkey "participated in and protected this scheme," with some receiving bribes worth tens of millions of dollars.
    "No business should profit from evading our laws or risking our national security," said John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security.

Female Jihadist Plotted to Blow Up St. Paul's Cathedral in London - Martin Evans (Telegraph-UK)
    Safiyya Amira Shaikh, 36, was arrested last week and charged with plotting to blow up St. Paul's Cathedral in a suicide attack on behalf of the Islamic State.

MP Louise Ellman Quits Labour Party over Anti-Semitism Concerns (BBC News)
    MP Louise Ellman, who has been a member of the Labour party for 55 years, quit the party Wednesday, saying she "can no longer advocate voting Labour when it risks [Jeremy] Corbyn becoming PM."
    Ellman, who is Jewish, said anti-Semitism had become "mainstream" in Labour under Corbyn's leadership.

Former SS Camp Guard, 93, Goes on Trial in Germany (AFP)
    Bruno Dey, 93, a former SS guard, went on trial in Germany on Thursday for complicity in the murder of more than 5,000 people at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.
    "As an SS guard at Stutthof concentration camp between August 1944 and April 1945, he is believed to have provided support to the gruesome killing of Jewish prisoners in particular," prosecutors said.
    Dey is "accused of having contributed as a cog in the murder machine, in full knowledge of the circumstances, so that the order to kill could be implemented."
    Stutthof, near Danzig (Gdansk), ended up holding 110,000 detainees, including many Jews. Some 65,000 people perished in the camp.

Anger as Israeli Official Attends Morocco Conference (Middle East Monitor-UK)
    Moroccan anti-normalization activists have expressed their anger after Moroccan-born former Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit gave a presentation at the World Policy Conference in Marrakech.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Pompeo: U.S. Policy on Turkish Attack Hasn't Endangered Israel
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox Business Network on Wednesday that the U.S. mission was "to do counterterrorism all around the world in an effective way to protect the American people. Our efforts in Syria, our efforts in West Africa, our efforts in the Philippines, all across the world, have been aimed at that singular objective."
        "Syria is a small part of this. It's a small part of our Middle East strategy more broadly....I have spoken a number of times about the world's largest state sponsor of terror, the Islamic Republic of Iran. To focus singularly on what's taking place in a part of Syria neglects the true risk to the American people."
        "The Islamic Republic of Iran is feeling the full might, the full pressure, of the United States of America....We are still fully committed to that, and I am confident that ultimately we will prevail."
        Q: "Is it your belief that Israel today is less safe as a result of this [U.S.] move?"
    Pompeo: "No." (U.S. State Department)
  • Kurdish Fighters Mount Counterattack Using Network of Tunnels - Lara Seligman
    The Syrian Kurds are using a sophisticated network of tunnels and other battlefield tactics to recapture some of the territory seized by Turkish-backed forces in northeast Syria, Foreign Policy has learned. Current and former U.S. officials who have worked closely with the Kurdish-led SDF confirmed that the group built a defensive network of tunnels beneath key towns as a contingency against a Turkish invasion. Now the Kurdish fighters are successfully using the tunnels to defend the border towns. "The Turks have been surprised by their effectiveness," said a senior U.S. official.
        In the last 24 hours, the SDF has recaptured much of the border town of Ras al-Ain and pushed Turkish proxy forces from the strategic M4 highway. The SDF said it killed 103 fighters from the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed that the SDF managed to recover the area.
        A U.S. Army officer who fought alongside the SDF in Syria noted that U.S. troops conducted several rehearsals with the group on how to coordinate in the event of a Turkish invasion. U.S. forces also trained the SDF on how to build "defense in depth" with multiple fallback lines. (Foreign Policy)
        See also Syrian Troops Fight Turkish Forces alongside Kurds
    The Syrian army and Kurdish fighters were "fighting together" against Turkey's Syrian proxies northeast of Ain Issa in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday. Syrian soldiers have also deployed in Manbij, Tal Tamr, Ain Issa and Tabqa. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Amb. Friedman on U.S. Peace Plan: No Jew or Arab Will Be Forced to Leave Their Home - Raphael Ahren
    "Having seen the experience of the evacuation of Gaza [in 2005], I don't believe that there is a realistic plan that can be implemented that would require anyone - Jew or Arab - to be forced to leave their home. We think that's just a recipe for disaster," U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Wednesday in an interview. "So we are not of the view that any forced evacuations are achievable." Friedman called uprooting settlers "an inhumane process....I think it's failed policy and it's not something we would advance."  (Times of Israel)
  • Video: The Priestly Blessing at the Western Wall in Jerusalem
    Tens of thousands of Jews from Israel and around the world gathered at the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem Wednesday morning for the traditional mass Priestly Blessing (Birkat Kohanim) during the Sukkot festival. (YouTube)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • U.S. Withdrawal in Syria Isn't Such a Wonderful Gift for America's Enemies - Yoel Guzansky and Ari Heistein
    Despite claims describing the U.S. decision to relocate U.S. special forces from areas under Kurdish control in northeast Syria as a "victory" for Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus, the reality is a bit more complex. Iran, Russia, and Syria are all urging restraint, if not outright condemning Turkey's actions. While the evacuation of U.S. troops actually represented more continuity than change in U.S. regional strategy, it elicited a large outcry in the West where public sentiment is more favorable to the Kurds.
        Turkey is now headed into a campaign on foreign soil against a well-trained adversary in which its strategic goals and exit strategy remain unclear. Turkey's military incursion and refugee resettlement program could cost it tens of billions of dollars at a time when the country's economy is contracting.
        Moscow may be enjoying its role of quite literally replacing U.S. forces in Syria, but it is also worried that this new element in the Syrian conflict might breathe new life into a war that had appeared to be drawing to a close, frustrating Russian efforts to convert its successful military campaign in Syria into a political victory.
        Yoel Guzansky, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), worked on the Iran file at Israel's National Security Council. Ari Heistein is a policy and security consultant at INSS. (Ha'aretz)
  • Putin Is the New King of Syria - Jonathan Spyer
    The Turkish offensive in northern Syria continues but has made little progress, as the U.S. is extricating its forces and moving them to the safety of Iraqi Kurdistan. Vladimir Putin is now the indispensable strategic arbiter in Syria.
        The Assad regime owes its survival to Moscow's air intervention in September 2015. Moscow has now co-opted important commanders within the Syrian security forces. Russia also has its own forces embedded in the Syrian Arab Army, notably in the Fifth Assault Corps.
        With the Americans leaving, de facto U.S. control of the skies of eastern Syria will also end. If Israel wishes to continue its clandestine war against Iranian weapons transfers and infrastructure-building in Syria, it will be able to do so only with Russian permission. Assad, the Kurds, Turkey and Israel all now depend on Moscow's approval to advance their interests in Syria. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran and Its Proxies Build Up Strength in Northeast Syria - Oula A. Alrifai
    According to Syrian anti-regime activists, Iran and its proxies currently control at least seven towns on the east side of the Euphrates River in Syria's Deir al-Zour province. This includes full military authority and executive administration exerted by nearly 4,500 armed personnel, some from Iran's IRGC, others from Shia militias such as the Baqir Brigade, Fatemiyoun Brigade, al-Hashd al-Shabi, and the various groups that call themselves "Syrian Hizbullah."
        Iran is building two new military bases in the area: one in the suburbs of Mayadin, and a larger one in al-Bukamal called "Imam Ali." Although the Shia militias in Deir al-Zour include Afghan and Pakistani factions, Iraq's al-Hashd al-Shabi serves as Iran's main financial conduit in the province, particularly in al-Bukamal. Local Syrian recruits are paid directly by the IRGC, whose financial incentives are attracting unemployed, impoverished Syrian men as well as foreign fighters. The writer is a fellow in The Washington Institute's Geduld Program on Arab Politics. (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

  • America's withdrawal from the Middle East validates the long-standing Israeli view that it must not rely on external guarantees, but rather do what's necessary to defend itself, by itself. This applies especially to the discussion over Israel's retention of the Jordan Valley.
  • Israel captured the valley and the rest of the West Bank from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War. UN Security Council Resolution 242 did not insist upon a full Israeli withdrawal to the old armistice lines. Britain's Ambassador to the UN at the time, Lord Caradon, who helped draft 242, commented on PBS: "We all knew - the boundaries of '67 were not drawn as permanent frontiers."
  • Immediately after the Six-Day War, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, who in 1948 had served as the commander of the pre-state Palmach strike force, became the architect of a string of mostly agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley and along the hills that dominate it. Today, nearly 30 Israeli communities are situated in this area. Allon's map became known as the Allon Plan.
  • The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are structured around mostly reserve units. To match the quantitative superiority of its neighbors, Israel has to mobilize its reserve forces, which requires up to 48 hours. The terrain Israel captured in the West Bank, particularly in the Jordan Valley, provided Israel with a formidable barrier for the first time that would allow the IDF to buy the precious time it needed to complete its reserve call-up. The lowest parts of the Jordan Valley and its mountain ridge form a virtual strategic wall 4,500 feet high.
  • Even after the Oslo Agreements were signed in 1993, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reiterated a vision for a final peace settlement that kept the Jordan Valley under Israel: "The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the widest meaning of that term." What he had in mind was Israel continuing to control the high ground along the eastern slopes of the mountain ridge that descended down to the Jordan River.
  • The Jordan Valley is to the West Bank what the Philadelphi Route was to Gaza. This refers to the border zone between Gaza and Egyptian Sinai. After Israel's Gaza Disengagement in 2005, Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel shot up as Palestinian terror organizations smuggled enormous quantities of rockets through tunnels under the border into Gaza. Three wars resulted from this escalation in Palestinian rocket fire.
  • Israeli public opinion has clearly internalized the importance of the Jordan Valley for Israeli security. In the last decade, as many as 81% of Israeli voters agreed that in any peace arrangement Israel must preserve its sovereignty over the Jordan Valley.

    Dore Gold is President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Previously, he served as Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations.