November 4, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Operating Twice as Many Advanced IR-6 Centrifuges (AP-Washington Post)
    The head of Iran's nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Monday that Tehran is now operating 60 IR-6 centrifuges in violation of the nuclear deal, twice as many as previously known.
    An IR-6 can produce enriched uranium 10 times as fast as the IR-1s allowed under the accord.

Iranians Chant "Death to America" to Mark U.S. Embassy Seizure (Reuters)
    Thousands of Iranians chanted "Death to America" near the old U.S. embassy on Monday, the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the mission.
    After Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, Islamist students stormed the embassy and held 52 Americans hostage there for 444 days.
    Meanwhile, Iran's parliament approved a measure requiring schoolbooks to inform students about "America's crimes," as lawmakers chanted "Death to America."
    See also Iran Unveils New Anti-U.S. Murals at Former Embassy (AFP)

Twitter Suspends Hizbullah's Al Manar and Hamas-Linked Media Accounts (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    Twitter has suspended the accounts of Hizbullah TV station Al Manar as well as accounts affiliated with Hamas-linked media.
    On Sep. 17, four U.S. Congressmen wrote to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook demanding the sites remove material and accounts affiliated with U.S.-designated terror groups, mentioning Hamas and Hizbullah.
    When Twitter initially failed to comply, U.S. Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) tweeted: "You think you are above the law? Come testify before Congress about why you are promoting terror content on your platform."

U.S. Military Convoy Comes under Fire from Turkish-Backed Forces in Syria (RT-Russia)
    A U.S. military unit withdrawing from northern Syria toward the Iraqi border came under fire from territory held by Turkish-backed militants near Tell Tamer, Russia's Ministry of Defense said Sunday, citing U.S. sources.
    Nobody was hurt in the incident, a U.S. Central Command spokesperson confirmed.

Guard Foils Attack on Jewish School in France (Algemeiner)
    A man yelling anti-Semitic epithets tried to break into the Or Torah School in Nice, France, on Tuesday.
    Security guards at the school swiftly overcame the intruder and hauled him outside, where he carried on yelling threats until the police came.

Jewish Astronaut Posts Photos of Israel from Space (Times of Israel)
    Jewish astronaut Jessica Meir, whose father is from Israel, on Friday posted pictures of Israel taken from space.
    Israeli President Reuven Rivlin tweeted Sunday: "Dear Jessica, thank you for taking us with you on your space voyage. We are proud of you and send warm regards from Israel."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Joe Biden: "Absolutely Outrageous" to Use Israel Aid as Leverage - Sabrina Siddiqui
    Here is former Vice President Joe Biden's response when I asked him about leveraging U.S. aid to Israel for the Wall Street Journal on Thursday: "The idea that we would draw military assistance from Israel, on the condition that they change a specific policy, I find to be absolutely outrageous....No, I would not condition it, and I think it's a gigantic mistake."  (Twitter-Wall Street Journal)
        See also Democrats Rip Calls to Reshape U.S. Aid to Israel - Igor Bobic
    Democrats in the Senate aren't thrilled with proposals to link American aid to Israel's behavior toward the Palestinians. "I think that has no support here on Capitol Hill," said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who serves on the Foreign Relations Committee. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, said, "I think that people have to understand the challenges that Israel faces from Gaza."
        Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), another committee member, said he would oppose "anything that would suggest conditioning aid to Israel and Israel not being able to defend itself and not being able to be secure."  (Huffington Post)
        See also below Commentary: Top U.S. Jewish Group Defends American Military Aid to Israel (Algemeiner)
  • Iraqis Pour into Streets for Biggest Protest since Saddam - Ahmed Aboulenein
    Tens of thousands of Iraqis thronged central Baghdad on Friday demanding the downfall of the political elite in the biggest day of mass anti-government demonstrations since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Protests have accelerated dramatically in recent days, drawing huge crowds from across Iraq's sectarian and ethnic divides to reject the political parties in power since 2003. There were protests across much of the southern Shi'ite heartland. (Reuters)
        See also Iraqi Protesters Attack Iranian Consulate in Karbala (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty)
        See also 3 Iraqi Protesters Shot Dead Outside Iranian Consulate in Karbala (AFP)
  • Iran Security Forces Block Roads to Prevent Cyrus Day Gathering
    Security forces in Iran closed major routes leading to Pasargadae, the site of Cyrus the Great's tomb, in anticipation of the annual commemoration of the first king of the ancient Persian Empire. In 2016, a large crowd congregated around the mausoleum and chanted slogans in support of monarchy and national values versus religious government. In subsequent years authorities tried to prevent a gathering. Allies of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei oppose paying any homage to Iran's kings and its pre-Islamic history. (Radio Farda)
        See also U.S. Secretary of State Praises Cyrus the Great
    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday praised Cyrus the Great for his respect "for human rights and religious freedom," adding, "The U.S. stands with the Iranian people, who are blocked by the regime from celebrating his legacy."  (Radio Farda)
        See also below Commentary: The Cyrus Debate Confirms the Truth of Jewish History in Jerusalem - Rivkah Fishman-Duker (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians in Gaza Launch Ten Rockets at Israel - Amos Harel
    Palestinians in Gaza launched ten rockets at Israel on Friday evening. Eight were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. A house in Sderot was hit by shrapnel, which also damaged several vehicles. In response to the attack, Israel struck a wide range of Hamas targets in Gaza. Israel holds Hamas, the ruling power, responsible for all attacks emanating from Gaza. The Gaza Health Ministry reported one dead and two wounded in an Israeli airstrike.
        Security sources identified the commander of Islamic Jihad's northern brigade, Baha Abu al-Ata, as behind the recent rocket attacks. (Ha'aretz)
        See also Video: Gaza Rocket Strike Caught on Security Camera - Matan Tzuri
    A Palestinian rocket strike on Friday night that hit near an Israeli home in Sderot was caught on a security camera. The moment of impact can be seen as a brilliant flash of light followed by a mass of sparks. The residents of the house, a couple and their children, ran into a protected area when the sirens sounded and none were hurt. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Top U.S. Jewish Group Defends American Military Aid to Israel
    After a number of Democratic presidential candidates spoke of placing certain conditions on American military assistance to Israel, Arthur Stark, chairman, and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman and CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said on Friday, "We are deeply troubled by recent statements that would place conditions, limitations, or restrictions on the U.S. security assistance provided to Israel, so vital for the defense and security of the country, the protection of essential U.S. interests, and stability in the region."
        "The 10-year security assistance agreement, negotiated by then-President Barack Obama...sends a message to Israel's enemies of the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship. The agreement was overwhelmingly supported by both houses on a bipartisan basis. Adoption of this suggested approach would reward those who are the true obstacles to progress towards peace, engage in terrorism, and deprive the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank of the opportunities for a better life."  (Algemeiner)
  • The Cyrus Debate Confirms the Truth of Jewish History in Jerusalem - Rivkah Fishman-Duker
    Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post sets out to disparage U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's Oct. 29 tweet in praise of Cyrus the Great, who ruled the Persian Empire in the 6th century BCE. Tharoor correctly notes, "[a]ccording to sources including biblical scripture, Cyrus allowed the Judeans deported and exiled following the ravages of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II to return to their homeland." He reminds the world that the Temple was in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, and acknowledges the Jewish presence here long before Islam and the Palestinians. This runs counter to the Palestinian narrative which claims that the Jews are not the indigenous people.
        The tremendous popular response that the ancient King of Persia still evokes among Iranians stands diametrically opposed to the ideology of the Islamic Republic of Iran. But Cyrus was a conqueror and not a humanitarian, though his policies included religious tolerance. The writer is a Lecturer Emerita in Ancient Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Hizbullah Had Been Nearly Untouchable in Lebanon. But the People Are Fighting Back. - David Ignatius
    The anti-corruption protests that have swept Lebanon over the past two weeks are in open defiance of Hizbullah, the Iranian-backed militia that dominates Lebanese politics. President Michel Aoun said Thursday that he wants a new government of technocrats, as the protesters had demanded.
        "Hizbullah has been deeply wounded by what happened," said Robert Fadel, a former member of Lebanon's parliament. Hizbullah had been nearly untouchable in Lebanon until this wave of demonstrations. (Washington Post)

  • Flash points in Lebanon and Iraq jeopardize the huge amount of money, knowhow and manpower that Iran has invested for decades and threaten to erode its influence, if not smash it to bits.
  • Iran's most important base of control is in Iraq, which is controlled by a Shi'ite majority and headed by a pro-Iranian coalition.
  • Iraq, whose trade with Iran reaches about $12 billion a year, is essential for Iran to evade American sanctions.
  • Iranian Gen. Soleimani, the Quds force commander, has demanded that the Iraqi government use greater force against the protesters.
  • Iraq's senior Shi'ite leader, Ayatollah Ali Husseini Sistani, opposes the use of force against the protests and has warned against the "intervention of foreign and international powers that intend to subvert the will of the Iraqi people" - mainly referring to Iran.
  • The protesters are demanding the removal of Iranian influence in Iraq and the dissolution of the Shi'ite militias funded and supported by Iran. This position joins that of Muqtada Sadr, who headed the largest bloc in the 2018 election.