October 22, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

American Troops Leaving Syria Will Conduct Anti-ISIS Operations from Iraq - Lolita C. Baldor (AP-Military Times)
    All U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the American military will continue operations against Islamic State, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday.
    Between 200 and 300 U.S. troops will remain at the southern Syrian outpost of Al-Tanf.

Syrian Kurds Flee to Northern Iraq - Bernard Smith (Al Jazeera)
    Syrian Kurds fleeing the fighting in northeast Syria are starting to arrive in northern Iraq.
    Plans are being made to accommodate the new arrivals, but the priority for the Kurdistan Regional Government is to prevent fighters from the Islamic State from infiltrating the crowds of refugees.

After Hurricane, Israel Provides Bahamas with Water Technology (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
    After Hurricane Dorian made the vast majority of water reservoirs in the Bahamas salty and unusable in September, Israel sent a mobile water distribution station as a gift.
    A senior hydrologist from the Israel Water Authority was sent to assist in the restoration of the water reservoirs.
    See also Video: Israel Helps Restore Clean Water in the Bahamas (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

PA Blocks 59 Critical Websites - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    A Palestinian Authority court in Ramallah issued an order on Oct. 17 to block 59 websites deemed critical of the PA and its leaders.
    The court said the websites have published articles and photos that "threaten national security and civic peace."
    Most of the websites are affiliated with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas rival in Fatah.

Southern Israel to Rely on Solar Energy - Tara Kavaler (Media Line-Jerusalem Post)
    The Arava region of southern Israel, which includes the city of Eilat, will become 100% reliant on solar energy during the daytime by 2020.
    "Solar is around one-third the price of natural gas," said Yosef Abramowitz, CEO of Energiya Global and a pioneer of the solar-energy industry in Israel.
    He added that "the cost of storage necessary to keep consistent power when the weather is uncooperative and for use at night" is also on the decline.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iran Again Fails to Enact Anti-Terror Finance Measures - Mengqi Sun
    The Financial Action Task Force, the body that sets standards for anti-money-laundering and counterterrorism financing rules, on Friday extended until February a deadline for Iran to implement certain measures or face further restrictions. The FATF last week asked countries to introduce enhanced processes for reporting financial transactions concerning Iran. It also called for other countries to step up audit requirements for financial institutions that have branches or subsidiaries in Iran.
        "For more than three years, Iran has repeated empty promises to the international community to stop financing terrorism and fix its corrupt and opaque financial system," said Marshall Billingslea, assistant U.S. Treasury secretary for terrorist financing and financial crimes. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Senior Israeli Official Attends Bahrain Security Meeting on Iran
    The head of the Israel Foreign Ministry's counter-terrorism department, Dana Benvenisti, attended a maritime security conference in Bahrain on Monday in another sign of Gulf Arab nations and Israel focusing on a perceived common threat from Iran. The U.S. is trying to build a global maritime coalition to secure vital trade channels following attacks on tankers in Gulf waters in May and June. (Reuters)
        See also Bahrain Hosts Regional Maritime Security Meeting - Simon Henderson (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
        See also Hamas Decries Israel's Participation in Bahrain Meeting (Anadolu-Turkey)
  • Egypt Frees 80 Jailed Members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad - Shlomi Eldar
    80 members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad were released from an Egyptian jail in October following a meeting between Islamic Jihad officials and Egyptian intelligence officials. Islamic Jihad, which is under total Iranian control, has some 6,000 fighters and 8,000 rockets in Gaza.
        The Egyptians are seeking an arrangement with Islamic Jihad leader Ziad Nahala, who replaced Abdullah Ramadan, who had suffered a stroke. Egypt wants to persuade Islamic Jihad to accept the understandings brokered with Hamas to bring about an extended calm in Gaza. (Al-Monitor)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Arab Jerusalem Resident Seriously Injured by Firebomb Thrown by Arab Rioters - Stuart Winer
    An Arab resident of eastern Jerusalem was seriously injured early Tuesday after his car caught fire when it was hit by a firebomb thrown at police in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya, the Israel Police said Tuesday. Officers pulled the man from the burning vehicle and took him to the hospital. Police entered the neighborhood after firebombs were thrown at vehicles traveling on the Jerusalem-Ma'ale Adumim highway. (Times of Israel)
  • Knife-Wielding Palestinian Killed at West Bank Checkpoint
    Israeli security guards shot and killed a knife-wielding Palestinian man who ran toward them at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Tulkarem on Friday. (Times of Israel)
  • IDF Nabs 7 People Crossing into Israel from Jordan
    The IDF caught seven infiltrators crossing into Israel from Jordan on Saturday. Channel 13 reported that they were Turks looking for work, and that this was the third such infiltration in recent months. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Pompeo: Israel Has the Right to Act in Syria - Yaakov Katz
    "Israel has the fundamental right to engage in activity that ensures the security of its people. It's at the very core of what nation-states not only have the right to do, but an obligation to do," U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Jerusalem Post on Friday in an interview. Pompeo held a two-hour meeting on Friday morning in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Mossad chief Yossi Cohen.
        Pompeo dismissed the possibility that the U.S. pullout from Syria will strengthen Iran, saying that the administration remained committed to stopping Iranian aggression and preventing it from obtaining nuclear weapons. "America is committed to countering the threat from Iran," he said. "We view it as the fundamental destabilizing force inside the Middle East, and we are determined to push back against that."
        "We will flow additional forces and resources into the kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a very significant way in the next handful of weeks, aimed at deterring Iranian aggression. We have made significant commitments to counter the threat, not only the threat to Israel but to the Middle East and the world, that emanates from the ayatollah and his fellow clerics and kleptocrats that are running that revolutionary regime."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Decision-Making in the Islamic Republic of Iran - Afshon Ostovar and Ariane M. Tabatabai
    To see Tehran as riven with antagonistic factions is misguided. Western policymakers must accept the reality that Iran conducts its security policy as a unified state actor. There is little doubt that the Rouhani administration was fully aware of the Aramco attacks before they took place. The sophistication of the attack suggests that the IRGC was in charge of the operation, and it would not have acted without the unequivocal endorsement of the supreme leader.
        The regime now enjoys a new internal unity in the face of the U.S. maximum pressure campaign. The more appealing narrative may be to see two camps within Iran struggling over the future of its relations with the U.S., and that Washington need only find ways to bolster the position of the moderates. However, in matters pertaining to national security, the regime acts in unison. To try to empower moderates is naive. Washington should strive to deal with Iran as it is, not as Washington wishes it were.
        Afshon Ostovar is a Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and an Assistant Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School. Ariane M. Tabatabai is an Associate Political Scientist at the RAND Corporation and an Adjunct Senior Research Scholar at Columbia University. (Foreign Affairs)

Moscow's Growing Control over the Middle East - Raphael Ahren (Times of Israel)
  • Last week, Russian troops arrived at military bases in northern Syria that the American army had left just days earlier, in what might be regarded as a handover of regional hegemony.
  • Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, head of Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies, noted the main reasons that "motivated Russian President Vladimir Putin to get involved in the Middle East." They included making Russia an influential power and allowing it to control ports and air bases, to try out new Russian weapons, to save its Syrian ally Bashar Assad, and to fight jihadists in Syria and not in the Caucasus.
  • Yadlin noted that "All pairs of enemies in the Middle East enjoy reasonably good ties with Russia: Saudi Arabia and Iran, Israel and the Palestinians, the Kurds and the Turks, Israel and Iran, Egypt and Turkey."
  • Russia should not be seen as a regional hegemon, Yadlin stressed. Rather, that title should be shared by Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. And even the Americans still have more forces in the Middle East than the Russians.
  • "The Russian success stems from their ability to use very few forces with determination and rules of engagement that only they can allow themselves, with a veto at the UN Security Council and a patriotic audience at home."
  • Israel must come to terms with the fact that the balance of power in the Middle East has fundamentally changed, warned Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. "We have relied for the last 45 years on a Pax Americana that no longer exists. I am not saying that the U.S. won't come to our assistance [in case of war] but we can't be certain of it anymore. We have to internalize that that's the situation."
  • The U.S. is an ally; Russia is not, Oren stressed. "It's useless for us to pretend that Russia is going to be an ally, but we don't have to make them enemies either. We can reach a modus vivendi with them."

Today's issue of Daily Alert was prepared in Israel on Isru Chag.