January 13, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

U.S. Unsuccessfully Targeted Senior Iranian Official in Yemen - John Hudson (Washington Post)
    On the day the U.S. military killed Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani last week, U.S. forces also targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, a senior Iranian military official in Yemen, but the strike did not result in his death, according to four U.S. officials.

EU Aviation Agency Warns Against Flying over Iran "Until Further Notice" (AFP)
    The EU's air safety agency on Saturday advised airlines to avoid flying over Iran, after Tehran admitted that its air defenses brought down a Ukrainian airliner, killing 176 people.

U.S. Details New Sanctions on Top Iranian Officials - Conor Finnegan (ABC News)
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin detailed new sanctions on Iran at the White House Friday targeting Iran's steel and iron industries, as well as eight Iranian security officials.
    The President also signed a new executive order that authorizes further sanctions against any sector of Iran's economy, including construction, manufacturing, textiles, and mining, threatening to shut down all of Iran's major industries and to target foreign companies and banks that do business with any of these Iranian sectors.
    "These punishing economic sanctions will remain until the Iranian regime changes its behavior," Trump said.

Sultan Qaboos of Oman Dies at 79 - Ben Hubbard (New York Times)
    Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman, 79, the longest-serving Arab ruler who came to power at age 29 in 1970 and transformed his Persian Gulf kingdom into a developed nation, has died, the Omani government announced on Saturday.
    He was succeeded by Haitham bin Tariq Al Said, 65, Oman's culture minister.
    In 2018, Qaboos welcomed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the Gulf Arab state in a visit broadcast on Omani state television.

Pro-Iran Militia Commander Gunned Down in Iraq - Keith Griffith (Daily Mail-UK)
    High-level Popular Mobilization Forces leader Taleb Abbas Ali al-Saedi, the commander of the Karbala Brigades, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Saturday in Karbala, Iraq.

A Dozen Saudi Servicemen to Be Expelled from U.S. after December Shooting at Naval Air Station - David Shortell (CNN)
    More than a dozen Saudi servicemen training at U.S. military installations will be expelled from the U.S. after a review following the killing of three American sailors in December at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.

Hamas MP: George Washington Killed Indians Because They Were Muslims (MEMRI)
    Sheikh Salem Salameh, a member of the Legislative Council and Deputy Head of the Palestine Islamic Scholars Association, said in a Dec. 26, 2019, interview on Mayadeen TV (Lebanon):
    "We warn the Muslims of what U.S. President Washington himself warned. [Washington] killed the Indians and the Muslims, because the Indians and the owners of that land were Muslims. It has been proven that they were Muslims, and that they had mosques. This is why they killed them."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Iranian Missile Hit Plane's Cockpit from Below, Ukraine Official Says
    Ukraine's National Security and Defense Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said investigators believe an Iranian missile hit the cockpit of the downed Ukraine airliner from below, killing the pilots instantly. "Very quickly as we gathered information, we understood what had happened," he said, before Iran admitted fault for shooting down the plane. "We couldn't make [the evidence] public right away. We still needed to be able to work there," Danilov said. "We already had enough to show the international community what really happened here," he said. (ABC-Australia)
  • Anger Grows in Iran after Ukrainian Passenger Plane Shot Down
    Public anger at Iran's leadership is growing after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) acknowledged it had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane on Jan. 3.  A top IRGC commander said on Saturday he had told the authorities a missile hit the plane the day it crashed, while Iranian officials had covered up the action for three days. (Al Jazeera)
        See also Ukrainian Airliner Is Iran's Chernobyl - Raz Zimmt
    The writer is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies specializing in Iran. (Ynet News)
  • Trump Tells Iranian Leaders: "Do Not Kill Your Protesters" - Zack Budryk
    President Trump tweeted Sunday: "To the leaders of Iran - DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS. Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!"
        On Saturday, Trump tweeted a message in Farsi expressing support for the demonstrations that erupted following Tehran's admission that it accidentally shot down a Ukrainian airliner. "To the brave and suffering Iranian people:...We are following your protests closely. Your courage is inspiring."  (The Hill)
  • U.S. Won't Lift Iran Sanctions Before Talks - Jonathan Swan
    White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien tells Axios that the administration would never remove U.S. sanctions as the Iranians have demanded before they begin negotiations. It's the "classic rogue regime, pariah regime negotiating position. If you want talks with us you give up something first, just for the privilege of having talks. We don't need talks. Our economy is doing fantastic....The Iranians are the ones that need talks with us. Why would we give up anything first?"  (Axios)
        See also U.S.: Iran More Likely to Negotiate Now - Margaret Talev
    White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien told Axios on Friday: "I think the chances of sitting down with the Iranians and getting to a deal have improved significantly" because Soleimani's "off the battlefield." The strike will "reset deterrence," he added. "The Iranians have realized they don't want a military confrontation with the U.S. and that the maximum pressure campaign is not going to end."
        "Soleimani's belief was he could end the maximum pressure campaign by going up an escalation ladder with the U.S., taking out drones, taking out Saudi refineries, taking ships and that sort of thing. I think those plays are over now."  (Axios)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • After Soleimani's Death, Expect Iran to Resume Its Offensive Plans in Syria - Anna Ahronheim
    Dr. Yossi Mansharof, a researcher at the Ezri Center for Iran and Persian Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa, told the Jerusalem Post that Iran's missile strike on two joint American and Iraqi military bases was not the end of the story. "I don't think this is it. Yesterday [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani declared that it's now the turn for the people of the region to punish the United States," he said.
        "The elimination of Soleimani means that for the short term, Iran's terror capabilities are damaged but, over the long term, Iran will keep with its strategy and [new Quds Force commander] Esmail Qaani along with [Hizbullah leader] Nasrallah and [Iranian-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia commander] Khazaali will resume their activities backed by Khameini and do their best to achieve the strategy of Iranian hegemony in the region."
        "For Israel, [Soleimani's] elimination doesn't change much in Syria. The Iran-led resistance axis was highly motivated already to attack Israel from the Syrian front, and they failed in previous cases so Israel showed its deterrence power. I think in any case that Iran will resume its offensive plans in Syria and we will see further clashes between Israel and Iran's military establishment in Syria."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • New Iron Dome Boasts 100 Percent Success Rate in Trials - Judah Ari Gross
    Israel's Defense Ministry on Sunday said it had conducted a series of successful interception trials with an upgraded version of the Iron Dome air defense system. "We have completed a series of tests with a success rate of 100%," said Pini Yungman, a vice president at Rafael, one of the manufacturers of the Iron Dome. The upgraded model will be delivered to the IDF shortly. The Iron Dome, introduced in 2010, has performed over 2,400 successful interceptions, with a success rate of over 85%. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Impact of Soleimani's Death Is Playing Out in Unexpected Ways - Martin Chulov
    Conversations with representatives of regional powers over the past week reveal a mix of surprise that Qasem Soleimani was killed and relief at an aftermath that, in their minds, has sharply weakened Iran's regional hand. In Syria, where Soleimani had jostled with Vladimir Putin for influence over Bashar al-Assad, Moscow now appears to hold a much easier hand. Never comfortable with Iran's view of what a post-war Syria should look like, Russia's efforts to assert its will look as though they will be relatively unimpeded.
        In Lebanon, the most significant arm of Iran's foreign projection, Hizbullah is taking stock after the loss of its main patron. Saudi Arabia, an arch foe of Soleimani, has been greatly reassured by the relative lack of comeback in the region. Turkey, too, has a freer reign in northern Syria. The regional project that Iran had so painstakingly built no longer looks as sustainable as it was. In some parts, it looks positively shaky. (Guardian-UK)
  • Soleimani's Latin America Terror - Mary Anastasia O'Grady
    By taking out Soleimani, President Trump also did Latin America a big favor. The dead general was mourned by Cuba's military dictatorship, the drug-trafficking terrorist group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, members of the Venezuelan dictatorship, and Iranian proxy networks in Brazil, Peru, Argentina, El Salvador and Mexico.
        It has been a mistake to let Iran's incursions into Latin America during the last two decades go unanswered. Iran plays the long game in its effort to undermine U.S. leadership and expand its influence. In the Western Hemisphere, the regime's Ministry of Intelligence has taken the lead by establishing "cultural centers" in many urban areas, from which it can spread propaganda, proselytize, radicalize converts and recruit locals as spies.
        There is reason to believe that the 2015 murder of Argentine federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman was an Iranian-backed operation. Nisman had been investigating an Argentine cover-up of Iran's role in the AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires in 1994 that took 85 lives. (Wall Street Journal)
        See also The U.S. Seeks to Cut Air Link between Iran and Venezuela - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Hamas Seeks Stronger Iranian Alliance - Adnan Abu Amer
    Hamas politburo chief Ismail Haniyeh was the only non-Iranian figure to speak at the funeral of Qasem Soleimani. He and his delegation met that same day with Soleimani's successor, Esmail Ghaani. Tehran is a key supporter of Hamas in terms of arms and combat equipment. (Al-Monitor)
        See also Hamas Must Choose: Egypt or Iran? - Shlomi Eldar
    The Egyptians authorized Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas' political bureau, to leave Gaza via Egypt and travel to Muslim countries for fundraising, on the condition that he not visit Iran. After traveling to a number of countries, including Turkey and Qatar, Haniyeh flew to Tehran to attend the funeral of Gen. Qasem Soleimani. This angered the Egyptians, who responded by raising the price of cooking gas piped from Egypt into Gaza. Haniyeh has become persona non grata in Egypt's eyes. He violated a commitment he made to them, and proved his loyalty to Iran. (Al-Monitor)

How the U.S. Killed Soleimani - Ken Dilanian (NBC News)
  • Armed with a tip from informants at Damascus airport, the CIA knew exactly when a jet carrying Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani took off en route to Iraq. Intelligence from Israel helped confirm the details.
  • Once the plane landed at Baghdad's main airport, which houses U.S. military personnel, American spies confirmed its exact whereabouts. Three American drones moved into position overhead, with no fear of challenge in an Iraqi airspace completely dominated by the U.S. military.
  • On large screens, U.S. officials watched as an Iraqi militia leader walked up a set of stairs to greet the leader of Iran's Quds Force as he emerged from the airplane. The drones followed as their vehicles exited the airport.
  • Signals intelligence specialists honed in on their cellphones to confirm their identities. Four missiles were fired. There were no survivors. The operation was run from U.S. Central Command forward headquarters in Qatar.
  • The U.S. has become adept at hunting and killing its enemies, particularly in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.
  • Targeted strikes represent a fundamental change in warfare, said Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "It requires a truly immense intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance effort - one which basically no other country in the world can match."