October 29, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Kurdish Informant Provided Key Intelligence for al-Baghdadi Raid - Richard Engel and Daniel Arkin (NBC News)
    Gen. Mazloum Abdi, leader of the Kurdish forces in Syria, told NBC News in an interview Monday that his intelligence service had a source deep in al-Baghdadi's inner circle who described a room-by-room layout of the terror leader's compound, including the number of guards, floor plan and tunnels.
    Abdi said the source was on location during the raid and left with the attacking U.S. forces.
    The source, described as one of al-Baghdadi's security advisers, provided the ISIS leader's DNA to U.S. intelligence by stealing his used underwear and later providing a sample of his blood.

Two Prisoners Captured in al-Baghdadi Raid - Corey Dickstein (Stars and Stripes)
    Army commandos captured two Islamic State fighters in the raid on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's compound in Syria, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.
    See also U.S. Recovered Valuable Intelligence in Baghdadi Raid - Nancy A. Youssef (Wall Street Journal)
    The U.S. raid on Islamic State founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's compound yielded an array of valuable intelligence from data-storage devices and other files, providing details that likely will lead to future operations, defense officials said.

Israel Opens Its Sixth Medical School at Ariel University - Tovah Lazaroff (Jerusalem Post)
    Israel opened its sixth medical school on Sunday as Ariel University welcomed its inaugural class of 70 students.
    U.S. Ambassador David Friedman said, "A new medical school has opened in Samaria. How many people had ever thought that those words would ever be spoken?"
    Friedman referenced the university's policy of accepting Jewish, Muslim and Christian students. Some 9% of its student body comes from non-Jewish homes.
    The new faculty of medicine will also include a medical center, slated to open in two years, which will treat all area residents.

Woman Named Chief Intelligence Officer for IDF Central Command - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    Col. "N" was named chief intelligence officer for the IDF Central Command on Monday, the first woman to hold such a position.
    N has served in a host of positions within Military Intelligence since joining the IDF in 2000.

Israeli Wins Gold at World Kickboxing Championships (Times of Israel)
    Israeli kickboxer Yulia Sachkov, 21, won a gold medal on Saturday at the world championships in Bosnia.
    Three other Israelis took home silver medals.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Treasury Secretary Vows More Economic Sanctions on Iran - Ilan Ben Zion
    U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pledged to increase sanctions against Iran during a meeting in Jerusalem on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We are not doing this to hurt the people of Iran, we are doing this so that Iran stops their bad activities and exporting terrorism, looking to create nuclear capabilities, and missiles," Mnuchin said. (AP-Washington Post)
  • U.S.: "Hamas Is One of the Largest Obstacles to Peace"
    U.S. UN Ambassador Kelly Craft told the Security Council on Monday: "Hamas [is] a terrorist organization that oppresses the Palestinian people in Gaza through intimidation and outright violence, while inciting violence against Israel. Hamas is one of the largest obstacles to real peace and prosperity for Palestinians, and to the resolution of this conflict....Hamas has brutally beaten peaceful protestors, raided homes, and detained organizers and journalists advocating for better living standards. I condemn this behavior. We all should."
        "Every Friday, Hamas encourages minors to join riots at the security fence, hoping that violence will erupt, and that the children will be injured or even killed as a result, thereby feeding their propaganda machine. A more cynical and shameful approach could not be devised. This is child abuse, plain and simple."  (U.S. Mission to the UN)
  • Israel: "Erdogan Has Turned Turkey into a Regional Hub for Terror" - Ben Evansky
    Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon told the Security Council on Monday that Turkish President "Erdogan has turned Turkey into a safe haven for Hamas (terrorists) and a financial center for funneling money to subsidize terror attacks. Erdogan's Turkey shows no moral or human restraint towards the Kurdish people. Erdogan has turned Turkey into a regional hub for terror."
        "As Erdogan expands his terror campaign into Syria, the UN Security Council focuses on Israel. It is a disgrace to this body's mandate that this Council continues to target Israel instead of the atrocities performed by Erdogan....Israel warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds, and calls upon the international community to take action and provide aid to the Kurdish people."  (Fox News)
  • U.S. Wants to Strengthen Anti-Islamic State Coalition after Baghdadi Death - Humeyra Pamuk
    The U.S. wants to bolster the coalition fighting Islamic State in Syria, a senior State Department official said on Monday, and will convene a meeting of foreign ministers in Washington on Nov. 14 at the initiative of France and the U.S. The official said that despite President Trump's announcement of a U.S. troop withdrawal from northern Syria on Oct. 6, "There was never an idea that we would abandon the mission of going after ISIS....This is a major effort that is continuing." The withdrawal was ordered because of the "chaotic situation." "Then as the smoke cleared, we adjusted that a little bit to make clear that we were going to keep some forces on, to continue the mission."  (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Iran Seeking to Attack Israel from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen with Precision-Guided Missiles - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
    Prime Minister Netanyahu told visiting U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Monday: "Iran is seeking to develop now precision-guided munitions, missiles that can hit any target in the Middle East with a circumference of five to ten meters. They are developing this in Iran. They want to place them in Iraq and in Syria, and to convert Lebanon's arsenal of 130,000...rockets to precision-guided munitions. They...have already begun to put that in Yemen, with the goal of reaching Israel from there too."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel Prevents Illegal Construction at Archaeological Sites in the West Bank
    On Sunday, a unique site near the Palestinian town of Jericho dating back to the Second Temple period was saved from damage and destruction, the Archaeology Unit at the Civil Administration, Israel's governing body in the West Bank, said. During a routine patrol, Civil Administration officials identified construction taking place at the archaeological site and immediately confiscated the building materials. The site is littered with burial caves of three generations of Hasmoneans - the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Hanukkah hero, priest Mattathias - who lived there a short time before the destruction of the Second Temple.
        Incidents like these are not uncommon. Last Thursday, illegal construction was also halted when a truck carrying equipment destined for a site near ancient Jewish burial caves was identified by officials. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Stabbing Attack Foiled in Jerusalem - Rachel Wolf
    A Palestinian from east Jerusalem attempted to stab Israeli border police officers at Herod's Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on Monday. The terrorist was shot and apprehended. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Cold Peace between Israel and Jordan Has Its Advantages - Ariel Kahana
    On Saturday, Israel marked the 25th anniversary of the 1994 peace treaty with Jordan. Yet the Jordanian people are generally hostile toward Israel and the Jordanian government often lambastes Israel publicly. At the same time, Israel offers Jordan the strategic backing it needs to deal with the threats it faces. It supports the preservation of Jordan as the Hashemite Kingdom, sells it natural gas at floor rates, provides it with significant water supply, and enables European goods heading to Jordan to pass through Haifa port.
        The current situation is far from ideal. But every public step King Abdullah takes to signal warming ties with Israel is met with scathing domestic criticism, to the point of rattling the throne. At a time when the Jordanian economy is faltering, Syrian refugees are flocking to its borders by the millions, Iran is breathing down the kingdom's neck, terrorist organizations are flourishing, and the majority in Jordan is Palestinian - not Hashemite, Abdullah must choose his battles. Given the regional circumstances, any collaboration with Israel is proof that peace is alive and kicking. (Israel Hayom)
  • Half of Iran's High-Income Earners Do Not Pay Taxes
    The head of Iran's Tax Organization, Omid Ali Parsa, has said information from banks indicates that half of the country's high-income tax subjects do not pay taxes, according to the government news website IRNA. Half of 300,000 people or entities with incomes exceeding $900,000 were exempt from taxes and the other half paid less than the required amount.
        All institutions, religious foundations and organizations under the direct supervision of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are exempt from taxes. Some of these are nominally charitable organizations but in reality they function as large business enterprises. Tax collection represents only 8% of total government revenue. President Rouhani has been raising the issue of tax collection as government operations face serious cash-flow problems due to U.S. sanctions. (Radio Farda)

A Battle Won in the War on Terror - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death isn't the end of ISIS. Angry, alienated and profoundly confused people will continue to find the message of ISIS and similar groups seductive.
  • Baghdadi and his lieutenants promised their followers paradise. They crafted a god in their own image - a god of genocide, violence, rape, enslavement - and claimed that this god was powerful enough to give victory in battle. It turned out they were wrong. Baghdadi's fate makes the task of recruiting fresh jihadists a little harder.
  • The fanaticism of Baghdadi and his ilk is a minority view. Most of the forces that ground the caliphate into dust came from the Muslim world; if ISIS tries to rise again, Muslims will again be on the frontlines trying to defeat it.
  • Not long ago, people in the West generally believed that we had the wisdom and the power to curb religious extremism by curing its causes. By promoting the political and economic development of the Muslim world, we thought we would reduce the appeal of radical religious ideas.
  • But those hopes were delusional. The West can help at the margins, but the cultural, social, religious and economic reform the Middle East needs will have to be enacted by the people who live there - in their own time and in their own way.
  • America won't "fix" the Middle East by killing bad guys like Baghdadi. But leaving them to flourish unmolested would be worse.

    The writer is Professor of Foreign Affairs and the Humanities at Bard College.