November 26, 2019

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Supresses Popular Protests - Iran Desk (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
    The protests against the Iranian regime have not subsided. Radio Farda published the names of 138 dead and reported on the arrest of at least 4,800 civilians in 18 provinces.
    With the partial resumption of Internet connection, hundreds of civilians sent clips showing the regime using tanks, snipers, helicopters, and direct live-fire on the protesters.
    Videos show that in Javanrud, Kermanshah district, troops fired at demonstrators from the roof of the Department of Justice. In Meriwan in the Kurdistan Province, helicopters fired at the demonstrators.
    In Sari, protesters were seen blocking the security forces with their bodies against a Basij militia motorcycle charge.
    In several cases, the regime's armed forces are seen fleeing after they were encircled by protesters and their cars wrecked.
    Offices of Khamenei's representatives in various districts were set alight, as were a number of religious seminaries affiliated with the regime.

Syrian Army Struggles to Reassume Control in Northern Syria - Jonathan Spyer (Wall Street Journal)
    Despite the proclamation of a ceasefire last month, the Turkish army and its Syrian rebel allies are still clashing with the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Assad regime.
    The Turkish assault that began on Oct. 9 has carved out a 75-mile-long, 20-mile-deep zone of control.
    The Syrian Kurds invited regime and Russian forces into their area. The SDF remains vigorous and strong. But the Assad regime is decrepit and lacking in manpower.
    Assad's troops are poorly equipped, their uniforms threadbare. SDF fighters report that regime soldiers beg for food because their rations are so meager.
    The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis.

Turkey Offers Reward for Capture of Palestinian Leader Mohammad Dahlan - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Turkey is offering a $700,000 reward for "information leading to the capture" of former Palestinian security leader Mohammad Dahlan for involvement in the 2016 Turkish coup attempt. Dahlan lives in the United Arab Emirates.
    In October, Dahlan told the Middle East Broadcasting Center, "I consider these fabricated charges an insult to the Turkish people and the Turkish army."

IDF International Cooperation Unit Deals with Daily Challenges on Northern Border - Anna Ahronheim (Jerusalem Post)
    Brig.-Gen. Erez Maisel is retiring as commander of the IDF's International Cooperation Unit.
    All communication with UN and Lebanese armed forces (LAF) on Israel's northern border is done through Maisel.
    Tripartite meetings with the UN and the LAF have been held regularly since 2006. Maisel said, "I don't consider the LAF as my enemy, and neither do they."
    Nevertheless there are "elements of the LAF who are definitely collaborating with Hizbullah. It's not all LAF soldiers, but Lebanese Hizbullah has full dominance in south Lebanon."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Inside Iran's Plot to Attack Saudi Arabia
    Four months before a swarm of drones and missiles crippled the world's biggest oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia on Sep. 14, Iranian security officials gathered to discuss attacking high-value targets, including American military bases, according to people familiar with the meeting. Stopping short of direct confrontation that could trigger a devastating U.S. response, Iran opted instead to target oil installations of America's ally. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei approved the operation, but instructed Iranian forces to avoid hitting any civilians or Americans.
        A Middle East source said the launch site for the attack was the Ahvaz air base in southwest Iran. Rather than fly directly from Iran to Saudi Arabia over the Gulf, the missiles and drones took circuitous paths to mask Iran's involvement. Some of the craft flew over Iraq and Kuwait, according to a Western intelligence source. In one of the final meetings ahead of the Saudi attack, a Revolutionary Guards commander told senior security officials, "Start planning for the next one."  (Reuters)
  • U.S. Resumes Large-Scale Operations Against ISIS in Northern Syria - Eric Schmitt
    U.S. troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, military officials say. As American troops withdrew from northeastern Syria in early October, several hundred other troops, some with armored Bradley fighting vehicles, arrived in Syria from Iraq and Kuwait.
        On Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters conducted a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, the Pentagon said, killing or wounding "multiple" ISIS fighters and capturing more than a dozen others. "What we're talking about are the pockets of people who represent the wreckage that followed in the wake of the caliphate," said Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., head of U.S. Central Command. (New York Times)
  • Survey of 18 Countries Finds Hardcore Anti-Semitic Attitudes Remain Pervasive
    About one in four Europeans polled harbor pernicious and pervasive attitudes toward Jews, according to a new global survey on anti-Semitism commissioned by ADL and conducted between April and June 2019. The poll found hateful notions about Jews are rising in Eastern and Central Europe. Since 2015, anti-Semitic attitudes have increased in Ukraine (up 14%, Poland (up 11%), South Africa and Brazil (both up 9%), Russia (up 8%) and Argentina (up 6%).
        Muslim acceptance of anti-Semitic stereotypes was on average almost three times as high as non-Muslims in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK. In nearly all the countries surveyed, support for a boycott of Israel was less than 15%. (Anti-Defamation League)
        See also Muslim Mother Defends Jewish Children Facing Anti-Semitic Abuse on the London Underground - Nick Duffy (inews-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Unemployment Rate in Israel Hits 40-Year Low - Dror Halavy
    The unemployment rate in Israel in October was 3.4%, its lowest point since 1978, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Monday. (Hamodia)
  • 70-Year-Old Volunteer at IDF Base Acquitted of Treason by Swiss Court - Jeremy Sharon
    Swiss citizen Andre Mottet, 70, was acquitted of treason by a military court in Switzerland after serving as a volunteer with Sar-El, a nonprofit organization which runs programs for non-Israelis to provide logistical support on Israeli army bases. Swiss law prohibits its citizens from serving in foreign armies.
        During Mottet's trial, his defense attorney argued that Sar-El volunteers are not formal soldiers but civilians. In January, a military tribunal acquitted Mottet, but the military prosecutor appealed the decision to the Military Court of Appeals. On Friday, the court upheld the acquittal. Charges against two other volunteers will now also be dropped. 4,000 foreign citizens volunteer for Sar-El every year. 20% of the volunteers, like Mottet, are not Jewish. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Russia-Israel Relations: Expectations and Reality - Micky Aharonson
    Russia has sought to maintain good relations with Israel over the past few years. Particularly with regard to Syria, there is continuous coordination between Israeli and Russian armed forces. From Israel's perspective, the Russian presence in Syria creates an address to which it can turn and an entity with authority that can and will influence any future settlement. Israel's ability to serve as a spoiler for Russia's plans in Syria as a result of Israel's demonstrated willingness to operate against Iranian military entrenchment there has been well noted by the Kremlin.
        Israel expects Russia to support its primary goal of distancing Iranian military presence from Syria in general, and the Israeli-Syrian border in particular. Russia expects Israel to "pay" for Moscow's cooperative approach in regard to Israeli airstrikes in Syria. A growing discomfort of Russia's military establishment with Israel is eroding Russia's willingness to tolerate Israeli operations in the region.
        The writer was head of the foreign relations directorate of the National Security Council in the Israeli Prime Minister's Office (2006-2014). (Moscow Times-Russia)
  • Palestinian Refusal to Negotiate Dooms Peace Process - Howard LaFranchi
    Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. had revised its policy on the legality of Israeli settlements, saying the decision reflects "the reality on the ground." President Trump previously said that moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem was "nothing more, or less, than a recognition of reality."
        "People say, 'You can't do these things,' but the administration is saying, 'What has been done for so long isn't working,'" says James Carafano, director of foreign policy studies at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "The finding on settlements is consistent with what the Trump administration has done in the past, which is basically telling the Palestinians, 'Don't assume the status quo is going to be there forever that had discouraged you from getting serious on negotiations.' If you don't move the embassy, hold on to this idea that the settlements are illegal, and continue to give [the Palestinians] bucket-loads of money, where is the pressure to deal?"
        Responding to claims that the U.S. moves "threaten the peace process," Carafano says the "reality" is that "the peace process was already dead" - doomed by the Palestinians' refusal to sit down at the negotiating table. (Christian Science Monitor)
  • Most Israelis Never Thought Settlements Were Illegal - Amotz Asa-El
    Land-for-peace Israelis thought, and still think, that Israelis should avoid settling in densely Palestinian areas like Nablus or Jenin, but indeed should settle in largely empty areas, like the Jordan Valley, where Labor-led governments planted 28 kibbutzim and moshavim over the years. Yet it would be silly to expect the "international community" to consider such Israeli sensitivities before setting out to help the Palestinian strategy of equating all things Israeli with illegality.
        The juridical attack on Israel is driven not by concern for the law but by nefariousness and delusion, the delusion that peace can be delivered by harassing Israel; that lawfare can force an Israeli retreat, engineered by Europe. The U.S. formally rejected the conventional wisdom that the settlements are illegal - a reflection of the practicality for which Americans are famous. Europeans are not practical, preferring to do the right thing after exhausting all other possibilities, to paraphrase Abba Eban. (Jerusalem Post)

Confront Iran's Nuclear Violations - Emily B. Landau (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • The specific violations of the nuclear deal that Iran has chosen to commit expose dangerous flaws in the JCPOA that were apparent from the start. Iran would not be able to hike up its stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU), or enrich to higher levels, if enrichment had not been allowed and even legitimized by the deal.
  • Moreover, Iran was allowed under the deal to work on research and development on a full range of advanced centrifuges, meaning that a decision to operate them was only a short step away.
  • The heavily fortified underground enrichment facility at Fordow, now restarting operations, should not have been allowed to remain open. This facility, which was not declared to the IAEA and had been meant to be kept secret, was revealed in 2009 on the basis of intelligence information.
  • Having been caught red-handed regarding an undeclared facility, demonstrating that Iran was deceiving the IAEA regarding a facility with military applications, it made sense to demand that it be shut down. Not only was Fordow left open, but 1,000 centrifuges were left in the facility.
  • The latest IAEA report on Iran fails to mention anything about its investigation into the Iran nuclear archives - the original Iranian documents detailing its plans for producing five nuclear bombs that Israel extracted from Tehran in January 2018. These documents - which include information about scientists, facilities, and equipment involved in Iran's military nuclear program that were not known in 2015 - were turned over to the IAEA over a year and a half ago.
  • It is preferable to confront Iran's violations now, when it is relatively weak, than in 5-10 years when the deal expired and the country could achieve a quick nuclear breakout.

    The writer heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at INSS.