October 28, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Islamic State Spokesman Killed in Separate U.S. Raid - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
    A day after an American raid killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a separate U.S. airstrike killed Islamic State spokesman Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, who was considered al-Baghdadi's possible successor.
    Mazlum Abdi, head of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces that fought the Islamic State, wrote on Twitter that al-Muhajir had been killed on Sunday in an operation coordinated between his forces and the U.S.

How Commandos Could Quickly Confirm They Got Their Target - Michael Crowley (New York Times)
    President Trump said Sunday that "test results gave certain immediate and totally positive identification" of the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. "It was him."
    The quick identification suggests that American forces made use of biometric tests and DNA technology.
    The latest DNA-testing machines now in use can provide a positive identification in 90 minutes, according to David H. Kaye, a Penn State Law School professor who specializes in the field.
    Rapid DNA machines can be as small as a microwave, and easily stored in a military helicopter.

Lebanon Protests Rock Hizbullah's Grip on Power - Sulome Anderson (NBC News)
    On Wednesday, I spoke with the leader of a Hizbullah tank battalion in Dahieh, a Hizbullah-controlled neighborhood in Beirut, whom I've known for six years.
    It came as quite a shock when he criticized Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
    "I support the protest movement," he told me, noting that while some Hizbullah followers have clashed with protesters, others have joined the demonstrations.
    Bilal Saab, an analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, said the widespread nature of the protests "is certainly new, and it's not good news for the organization [Hizbullah]."

Iraqi Protesters Clash with Iranian-Backed Militias - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    Iraqi protesters stormed buildings belonging to Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias and the Iranian embassy in Karbala on Saturday, Sky News Arabia reported.
    At least seven protesters were killed and 38 wounded in the city of Hilla early on Sunday when members of the Iranian-backed Badr Organization militia opened fire on demonstrators.
    On Friday, Wissam al-Alawi, a commander of the Iranian-backed Shi'ite Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq militia, and his brother were killed by protesters.
    Protesters in Baghdad's Tahrir Square chanted slogans against Iran and Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, Al Arabiya reported.

Israeli Elected to Top UN Position (Jerusalem Post)
    Natalia Nadal, an Israeli who has worked at the UN for 15 years, has been elected as chief of enabling and outreach services, overseeing the UN's business intelligence operations.
    Today, 103 Israelis work for the UN, including 29 based at UN headquarters in New York.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • ISIS Leader Al-Baghdadi Killed in U.S. Raid in Syria - Zachary Cohen
    ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "blew himself up" when cornered by U.S. forces who conducted a daring, nighttime raid on his compound in northern Syria, President Donald Trump announced Sunday in a televised address from the White House. There were no injuries to U.S. forces. Baghdadi's death marks the end of a years-long hunt to find the man who declared an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria in 2014. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN, "This is not just their leader, it's their founder...so this is a major blow to them."  (CNN)
  • How the U.S. Found al-Baghdadi - Eric Schmitt
    The information about Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's general location - in a village in northwestern Syria controlled by al-Qaeda groups - came following the arrest and interrogation of one of his wives and a courier this past summer, two American officials said. Armed with that initial tip, the CIA worked closely with Iraqi and Kurdish intelligence to identify al-Baghdadi's precise whereabouts and to put spies in place to monitor his movements. Syrian and Iraqi Kurds provided more intelligence for the raid than any single country, one official said.
        At midnight Sunday morning, eight American helicopters took off from a military base near Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. The helicopters flew all the way across Syria for 70 minutes to the Barisha area just north of Idlib city in western Syria. Just before landing, the helicopters and other warplanes began firing on a compound of buildings, providing cover for commandos with the Delta Force and their military dogs to descend into a landing zone.
        Al-Baghdadi, wearing a suicide vest, ran into an underground tunnel, taking three children with him to use as human shields. When the commandos dispatched a military dog to subdue al-Baghdadi, he set off the explosives, killing himself and the three children. The American troops were on the ground for two hours, scooping up information on ISIS operations. Once all the Americans had started the return flight to Iraq, American planes bombed the compound to ensure it was destroyed. (New York Times)
        See also Iraqi Intelligence Penetrated Baghdadi's Family - Seth J. Frantzman
    In mid-September a man appeared before Iraqi intelligence who had smuggled two of Baghdadi's wives through Turkey and two of his brothers. Iraqi intelligence penetrated Baghdadi's family and handed details to the CIA. For weeks Baghdadi was under surveillance. Three raids had to be cancelled. Finally at the end of October they had him, in a house next to the Turkish border, home to another extremist group called Hurras al-Din.
        The White House named the mission after Kayla Mueller, an American woman kidnapped by ISIS and held by Baghdadi until her death. (Jerusalem Post)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • For Israelis, Iran Is Greatest Threat - Herb Keinon
    The U.S. killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is an "impressive" intelligence and operational feat, but for Israel, Iran - not ISIS - is the main threat in the Middle East, Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, former head of IDF Military Intelligence and currently director of the Institute for National Security Studies, said Sunday. "For us Israelis, the threat from ISIS is secondary. We would like to see the U.S. act in a similar way against [Iranian Quds force commander Qassem] Soleimani, and [Hizbullah head Hassan] Nasrallah."
        ISIS does not have a nuclear program, ballistic missiles, or a project to develop precision weapons, Yadlin said. He added that while the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria will not immediately or directly harm Israel - because of Israel's capacity to deal with Iran - the increase in Iran's self-confidence and its understanding that the U.S. has been deterred could bring an Iranian-Israeli confrontation closer. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Israeli Officials Praise U.S. Raid in Syria that Killed Islamic State Leader (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Islamic State Will Not Die with Baghdadi - Ron Ben-Yishai
    According to the UN, the Islamic State still has 30,000 fighters in underground cells in Iraq and Syria. ISIS also has thousands of fighters in the Sinai Peninsula battling the Egyptian army, as well as active and murderous groups in Nigeria, Pakistan, France and Belgium. And this is only a partial list.
        While al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had delegated much of his authority to al-Qaeda's local leadership before his 2011 killing, Baghdadi was deeply involved in ISIS' daily operations. The removal of Baghdadi may affect the morale of the Sunni jihadists now concentrated in Idlib province in Syria.
        Baghdadi's death is an extraordinary success for the Americans and their ability to gather and analyze accurate intelligence and produce a commando operation in the heart of a region held by the extremist and skilled Salafi-Sunni jihadists. The writer, a veteran Israeli war correspondent, received the Israel Prize in 2018. (Ynet News)
  • Protests in Lebanon and Iraq: A Wrench in Hizbullah's and Iran's Plans - Prof. Eyal Zisser
    Mass protests have engulfed Lebanon and Iraq in recent days. It is encouraging to see that the younger generation of Arabs refuses to continue accepting a reality of failure and backwardness. Sadly, however, the protests won't catalyze any real change. Stronger than enmity and rage is their sense of loyalty to family, tribe and ethnic group, coupled with fears of rival ethnic groups. Thus, even if the government steps down, it will only be replaced by a similar coalition comprising the same corrupt dignitaries who prioritize their own well-being over that of the country.
        At the same time, the demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq have thrown Iran - and Hizbullah leader Nasrallah - off balance, even to the point of alarm. Hizbullah has been part of the Lebanese government for more than 15 years and simply cannot shirk its responsibility for the crisis. The protests are an uncomfortable wrench in Iran and Hizbullah's plans. But we can assume, regretfully, that the protests will end with a thud and the axis of evil will continue on its path to the next objective. The writer is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University. (Israel Hayom)

Jewish Unity Required to Combat Anti-Semitism - Isaac Herzog (Jerusalem Post)
  • A neo-Nazi gunman's attack in Halle, Germany, on Yom Kippur, the Jewish people's holiest day, made the mounting security threat we face that much clearer. For American Jews, the wake-up call came exactly one year ago in Pittsburgh, when the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history struck the Tree of Life building housing three synagogues. Six months later, another synagogue attack occurred in Poway, California, on the final day of Passover.
  • The physical attacks are unmistakable signs of a long-brewing worldwide epidemic of anti-Semitism. Each day brings another harrowing headline. From cyber abuse to street insults, to vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries, to intimidation and threats in public, Jews around the world are living in a constant state of fear due to the simple fact that they are Jews.
  • Anti-Semites do not discriminate when it comes to their victims. Those looking to harm us could care less whether we wear a kippah or to which synagogue we belong, if at all. In the face of this shared threat, the Jewish people must stand united in purpose and action.
  • Protecting Jewish life from hatred and bigotry is a central component of the Jewish Agency's DNA. We are combating this surge in anti-Semitism by working closely with leaders across the globe to coordinate combating hate crimes against Jews, investing in education for tolerance and understanding, and increasing security for Jewish communities in need.
  • Ultimately, counteracting this scourge of hate goes far beyond bolstered security. It starts within our own hearts and minds, through an uncompromised commitment to Jewish unity.

    The writer, chairman of the executive at the Jewish Agency for Israel, served in the Knesset between 2003 and 2018 and held several ministerial posts.

        See also Israeli President to Host Conference on Fighting Anti-Semitism - Ariel Kahana
    The President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, will host a conference in Jerusalem next week on the fight against anti-Semitism. The panel will include five prominent figures appointed by their governments to counter the scourge of anti-Semitism in their countries: Katharina von Schnurbein of the EU, Elan Carr from the U.S., Felix Klein of Germany, Lord Erik Pickles of Great Britain, and Frederic Potier from France.
        The conference will take place on Nov. 4, one week before the 81st anniversary of Kristallnacht, and will discuss different methods and tools to bolster the fight against anti-Semitism. The conference is to prepare the groundwork for a large international summit slated to convene in Israel on International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27. (Israel Hayom)