January 7, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Egypt Condemns Hamas Leader's Participation in Soleimani's Funeral - Daniel Siryoti (Israel Hayom)
    The Egyptians are outraged that Hamas politburo head Ismail Haniyeh attended the funeral of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
    A high-ranking Egyptian intelligence official said: "Haniyeh's arrival in Tehran, and his attending the funeral and his words in Soleimani's memory... was a disgrace and nothing less than a shameful attack on Egypt's national honor."
    "Qasem Soleimani is responsible for the murder of thousands of Sunni Muslims, including many Palestinians."

Saudi Arabia Condemns Turkish Escalation in Libya (Reuters-New York Times)
    Saudi Arabia condemns "the recent Turkish escalation in Libya" and the Turkish parliament's approval of a troop deployment to Libya, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.
    "The kingdom affirms that this Turkish escalation poses a threat to the security and stability in Libya and a threat to Arab and regional security, as it is an interference in the internal affairs of an Arab country in flagrant violation of international principles and covenants."

Mastercard, Visa, AmEx Agree to Block Donations to Terror Group-Linked NGO - Donna Rachel Edmunds (Jerusalem Post)
    Mastercard, Visa and American Express have all agreed to block donations to the North American NGO Samidoun after the International Legal Forum presented extensive evidence of Samidoun's ties to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
    The move follows similar action taken by Donorbox and Paypal.

Israeli Cyber Firm Armis Acquired for $1.1 Billion - Eytan Halon (Jerusalem Post)
    American private equity firm Insight Partners has agreed to acquire Israeli-founded cybersecurity company Armis in a deal valued at $1.1 billion, the companies announced Tuesday.
    Armis offers a platform to manage cybersecurity risks on the Internet of Things (IoT), such as industrial robots and medical devices.
    The platform identifies suspicious or malicious devices and quarantines them to protect critical information.

American Historical Association Rejects Anti-Israel Resolutions - Shiri Moshe (Algemeiner)
    Two resolutions targeting Israel failed to pass at the American Historical Association's annual meeting in New York on Sunday.
    AHA members previously voted against similar resolutions in 2015 and 2016.
    Opposition to this year's resolutions was spearheaded by the Alliance for Academic Freedom (AAF) which called the resolutions "part of a larger politically motivated campaign...across the scholarly associations to target Israel alone."
    AAF founding member David Greenberg, a professor at Rutgers University, said the vote made clear that "most practicing historians think this is not what the AHA should be spending its time doing."

Netflix Airs Series on Murdered Argentine Prosecutor Alberto Nisman - Cnaan Liphshiz (JTA)
    Netflix has aired a new documentary series about the death of Alberto Nisman, a Jewish prosecutor in Argentina who was murdered in 2015 ahead of his testimony about Iranian involvement in the 1994 attack on the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds.
    Nisman accused former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, who is now the vice president, of illegally helping to cover up Iran's involvement.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Secretary of State Pompeo: We Would Have Been Negligent Had We Not Taken Out Soleimani
    Secretary of State Michael Pompeo told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that Qasem Soleimani was working on plots "that were aimed directly at significant harm to American interests throughout the region, not just in Iraq....We would have been culpably negligent had we not taken this action. The American people would have said that we weren't doing the right thing to protect and defend American lives."
        "To create peace and stability in the Middle East, a key element of that is taking down Qasem Soleimani, who has been such a destabilizing force in the region for so long....The Intelligence Community presented us a set of facts that made clear that the risk from doing nothing exceeded the risk of taking the action that we took."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also below Commentary: Pompeo Explains America's Iran Policy - Walter Russell Mead (Wall Street Journal)
  • Iran TV: 35 Killed in Stampede at Soleimani's Funeral
    A stampede erupted Tuesday at the funeral procession for Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in his home town of Kerman, killing 35 people and injuring 48 others, Iranian state television reported. (AP-CNBC)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Ukraine Pulls Out of Anti-Israel UN Committee on Palestinians - Lahav Harkov
    Ukraine has left the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a decision approved by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The committee is the source of many UN General Assembly resolutions criticizing Israel. Israel's Foreign Ministry congratulated Ukraine and asked all of the friendly countries on the committee to leave it. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Will Turkey Get in the Way of Israeli Gas? - Lahav Harkov
    On Thursday, Israel, Greece and Cyprus signed an agreement to construct an undersea natural gas pipeline from Israel and Cyprus to Europe. Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and former director-general of the Israel Foreign Ministry, explained that "the EU believes they need to diversify energy sources."
        "They now depend on Algeria, Russia and Norway" for energy, he said. "Algeria could sink into a new jihadist storm. Russia depends on the nature of relations [with the EU] at any given time. It makes sense for them to obtain Eastern Mediterranean gas without cutting off what they have." With gas flowing from Israel and Cyprus, the EU could have greater energy security for its member states, and competition in the market to lower prices. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Pompeo Explains America's Iran Policy - Walter Russell Mead
    In an interview I had last month with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, he explained that with respect to Iran, the administration is confident that the combination of America's fracking revolution (which allows the U.S. to exclude Iranian oil from world markets without risking a devastating rise in prices), the dramatic, info-tech-enabled increase in the effectiveness of American sanctions, and continuing U.S. military superiority has given America the advantage.
        Iran, the administration believes, is in a box. The policy of extreme economic pressure through sanctions continues to weaken Iran's economy - and the noose will tighten further when new sanctions take effect in 2020. The International Monetary Fund estimates that Iran's GDP contracted 9.5% in 2019, and the damage could be more than twice as severe in 2020.
        Iran is seen to have three choices: It can continue to resist while its domestic economy and regional allies suffer under growing resource constraints. It can launch a large-scale attack on Americans - or initiate a dash for the bomb, which would pose a substantial threat to U.S. security - triggering a Pearl Harbor-like reaction which would sustain a massive military response. Or it can enter into serious negotiations over ending its nuclear program, its missile program, and its scheme of terror and subversion in neighboring states.
        The writer is professor of foreign affairs and the humanities at Bard College, and a distinguished fellow in strategy and statesmanship at the Hudson Institute. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Soleimani's Death Is a Huge Blow to Iran's Plans for Regional Domination - Hassan Hassan
    The killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani could prove to be the most consequential U.S. slaying of an enemy operative in recent memory. His killing came at a time when the project he had led - to create an Iranian hegemony in the region - is facing unprecedented challenges in Iraq and Lebanon. His successor is unlikely to be able to complete that mission and contain the spiral of events in countries where, only a year ago, Iran declared major victories.
        In the short term, doomsday scenarios seem far-fetched. Neither side is interested in an outright war. Crucially, nearly all of the most influential public figures in Iraq have called for a restrained response. While a future response is possible, alarmism about a spiral into confrontation between Iran and the U.S. is misplaced.
        In the long term, though, Soleimani's killing will likely mark the end of an era for Iran's attempts to further expand its influence in the region. This project has been made a lot less potent with the killing of the one man who knew well how to patiently build it.
        However, even in Iraq and Lebanon, where he had the most success, Soleimani's machine has serious glitches. Soleimani had been busy dealing with raging local challenges and the attacks on the U.S. embassy and on a military base were partly designed to divert attention from the protests. The writer is director of the non-state actors program at the Center for Global Policy in Washington. (Guardian-UK)
  • Easy Call: The Strike on Soleimani Was Lawful - Alan M. Dershowitz
    There can be no serious debate about the president's constitutional authority to order a single attack on an enemy combatant who has killed and is planning to kill American citizens. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama issued such orders.
        The targeting of Soleimani was more justified, as a matter of law, than the targeting of Osama bin Laden in 2011. The killing of Soleimani was in large part an act of prevention, whereas the killing of bin Laden was primarily an act of retaliation.
        The killing of Soleimani was also entirely legal under international law. The Quds Force commander was a combatant in uniform who was actively engaged in continuing military and terrorist activities against Americans. The rocket that killed him and a handful of others was carefully calibrated to minimize collateral damage, and the resulting death toll was proportionate to the deaths it may have prevented. The writer is a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Soleimani Is No Anti-Imperialist Hero - Malak Chabkoun
    It is inexcusable to ignore the crimes of Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and those whom they served. Syrians, Iraqis, Yemenis and other Arabs posted celebratory comments on the assassinations of two commanders they perceive as war criminals, while self-identified "anti-war" activists once again downplayed the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the region. For them, the only civilian deaths that can be acknowledged are those caused by the military intervention of the U.S. or Israel.
        It is hardly surprising that Syrians who have gone through the trauma of losing friends and family in the siege of Aleppo and the insult of seeing images of Soleimani marching through their city (which they may never be able to return to) are celebrating his demise.
        It is also hardly surprising that Iraqi protesters, who have had to drag the bodies of friends shot during attacks by Iranian-backed militias on their demonstrations, would now be cheering the demise of al-Muhandis who had been directing the crackdown. The constant presence of Soleimani in Iraq to issue orders to Iraqi officials and forces is just one of many signs of Iran's lack of respect for Iraq's sovereignty. (Al Jazeera)
  • The Demise of the Architect of Iran's Regional Ambitions - Baria Alamuddin
    Over the broken backs of Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, Qasem Soleimani desired a Greater Persia bristling with nuclear and ballistic rockets, capable of threatening America, Israel and the Arab nations on equal terms. Iran - its economy shattered by sanctions - is succumbing to the same imperial overstretch as ancient Persia. Its people are starving while warmongering leaders struggle to pay the wages of overseas proxies.
        Is the demise of the architect of Iran's regional ambitions not a lesson in the ruinous consequences of seeking to dominate far-flung territories beyond their borders? Perhaps the best form of defense is not to be an aggressor in the first place. Instead of terrorizing ourselves over the worst-possible scenarios of how Khamenei may choose to respond, we would be wise to act decisively in support of the best-possible outcome: the curtailment of Tehran's hegemonic ambitions. (Arab News-Saudi Arabia)

War with Iran Is Not Inevitable - Hussein Ibish (Bloomberg)
  • Iran may have many options for unleashing mayhem against American interests and allies in the Middle East. But it also has a powerful reason to stop and reconsider. Beyond the expressions of outrage in Tehran lies the cold reality that Iran cannot afford a war with a far more powerful opponent.
  • Any retaliation that leads to war will wreak enormous damage on the Islamic Republic. Even if it costs more American blood and treasure than President Trump imagines, the toll on the Iranian nation will be many magnitudes greater. That is an outcome the regime in Tehran has consciously been trying to avoid.
  • The leaders of the Islamic Republic like to think of themselves as strategic thinkers, with a keen understanding of their opponents and a knack for anticipating their next moves. But they clearly misjudged Donald Trump. Convinced the American president would do anything to avoid a war, they have for months been provoking the U.S. with progressively more intense provocations.
  • The Iranians can no longer be under any illusions about Trump's appetite to answer provocations with disproportionate force. Khamenei must know now "severe retaliation" by Iran could be met with an even more devastating American response.
  • If the regime is rational, as it tends to be in a crisis, it will take the opportunity for a long pause in the pattern of escalation with the U.S., and find a new strategy that does not drag everyone towards a devastating conflict.

    The writer is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.