January 14, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

FBI: Jersey City Shooters Had Powerful Bomb in Van - Mark Morales (CNN)
    The Jersey City shooters, David Anderson and Francine Graham, who opened fire inside a kosher supermarket on Dec. 10, killing three Jewish bystanders (and a police officer earlier), had an explosive device inside their U-Haul van that had the reach of five football fields, FBI Special Agent Gregory Ehrie said Monday.
    The shooters were also responsible for shooting out the back window of a vehicle driven by a Hasidic Jew close to Newark Airport, and are prime suspects in the bludgeoning and shooting death of taxi driver Michael Rumberger of Jersey City.

Iraqi Protesters Clash with Iranian-Backed Militias in Wake of Soleimani's Killing - Azhar Al-Rubaie (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    The mostly Shia protestors who have been protesting government corruption and Iranian intervention in Iraqi affairs have clashed with Iranian-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah forces inside Iraq.
    Protesters in Basra were targeted by Kata'ib Hezbollah during a march to mourn Soleimani when they refused to participate in the mourning.
    In Nasiriya, Kata'ib Hezbollah opened fire on protesters after they refused to attend Soleimani's funeral ceremony, killing one and wounding two.
    In fact, many Iraqis have welcomed the killing of Soleimani.

Iran's Grim Economy Limits Its Willingness to Confront the U.S. - Peter S. Goodman (New York Times)
    Crippling sanctions imposed by the U.S. have severed Iran's access to international markets, decimating the economy, which is now contracting at a 9.5% annual rate, the International Monetary Fund estimated.
    Oil exports were effectively zero in December, according to Oxford Economics. Inflation is running near 40%, while more than one in four young Iranians is jobless.
    Roughly half of all bank loans are in arrears, Iran's Parliament has estimated.

German Police Raid "Islamists" Suspected of Planning Attack (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
    Police carried out raids across four German states on Tuesday, targeting suspected Islamists who were believed to be "planning a serious violent act."
    Since a rejected asylum-seeker drove a truck into a Berlin Christmas market in December 2016, killing 12 people, German authorities say they've thwarted nine planned attacks with radical Islamist motives.

Iran's Only Female Olympic Medalist Defects (BBC News)
    Iranian female Olympic medalist Kimia Alizadeh, who won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the Rio Olympics in 2016, says she has defected.
    "I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran whom they've been playing for years," she wrote on social media.
    "I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Commanders at Iraqi Base Believe Iranian Missile Barrage Was Designed to Kill - Louisa Loveluck
    U.S. commanders at the Iraqi military base targeted by Iranian missiles said Monday they believe the attack was intended to kill American personnel. The missile barrage last week left deep craters and the crumpled wreckage of living quarters. At least two soldiers were thrown through the window of a meters-high tower, and several dozen U.S. troops were later treated for concussion, military officials said.
        "These were designed and organized to inflict as many casualties as possible," said Lt.-Col. Tim Garland, who was on the base that day. The testimony of witnesses and the damage seemed to indicate that the lack of serious casualties was at least partly due to luck. (Washington Post)
        See also U.S. Military Personnel Recount When Iranian Missiles Hit Their Base - Alissa J. Rubin (New York Times)
  • France, Britain, Germany to Trigger Iran Deal Dispute Mechanism
    France, Britain and Germany plan to trigger on Tuesday the dispute mechanism in the Iran nuclear deal following renewed violations by Tehran of the 2015 accord, two European diplomats said on Tuesday. The diplomats said the decision was aimed at discussing with Iran what it should do to reverse decisions it had made. Iran announced earlier this month that it would scrap limits on enriching uranium.
        "At one point we have to show our credibility," said one diplomat. "Our intention is not to restore sanctions, but to resolve our differences through the very mechanism that was created in the deal," a second diplomat said. (Reuters)
        See also Text: Europeans Trigger Iran Deal Dispute Mechanism (Foreign & Commonwealth Office-UK)
  • Journalists Quit Iranian State Broadcaster over Crash Cover-Up - Patrick Wintour
    Presenters working for the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) have announced they have quit their jobs over coverage of the shooting down of the Ukrainian jetliner. Zahra Khatami said: "Thank you for accepting me as anchor until today. I will never get back to TV. Forgive me." Her fellow anchor Saba Rad said: "Thank you for your support in all the years of my career. I announce that after 21 years working in radio and TV, I cannot continue my work in the media. I cannot." Gelare Jabbari, who quit some time ago, posted on Instagram: "Forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies."
        The Tehran-based Association of Iranian Journalists said: "The publication of false information has had a severe impact on public confidence and public opinion....This incident showed that people cannot trust official data." Reporters Without Borders ranks Iran as 170th in the world press freedom index out of 180 countries. (Guardian-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Unidentified Aircraft Strike Iranian Militias in Syria - Tzvi Joffre
    On Friday, ammunition depots and vehicles belonging to Iranian militias in Al-Bukamal in the Deir Ezzor area of eastern Syria were targeted by airstrikes. On Saturday, unknown aircraft destroyed the headquarters of Iranian militias in the villages of Majawda and al-Abbas. On Monday, Iranian militias near Al-Bukamal were hit by two airstrikes while attempting to transport arms from the Syrian-Iraqi border.
        The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that over 20 Syrian fighters defected from an Iranian-backed militia in the area of Al-Mayadin. Dozens of members of the Syrian regime forces and a pro-regime militia in Deir Ezzor defected and moved to areas controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces, a largely Kurdish force, after repeated airstrikes on their positions in Al-Bukamal. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel Condemns Ukraine's Glorification of Individuals Responsible for the Murder of Jews
    The Israeli Foreign Ministry said Monday: "Individuals responsible for the murder of Jews in the Holocaust and in pogroms, as well as anti-Semitic ideologists of the Ukrainian National movement, have recently been the subject of public glorification in Ukraine. In response to this...the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses its condemnation of these phenomena."  (Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
        See also Israel Condemns Ukraine's Celebration of Nazi Collaborators - Sam Sokol
    Earlier this month, Ukrainians marked the 111th birthday of Stepan Bandera, the wartime leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), a violently anti-Semitic organization that collaborated with the Nazis. Holocaust historians say the OUN and its military offshoot, the UPA, were responsible for the deaths of thousands of Jews and up to 100,000 Poles during the war. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • The Sinister Genius of Qasem Soleimani - Karim Sadjadpour
    After the U.S. military campaign to topple the Taliban began in 2003, Iran detained hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters fleeing Afghanistan, including members of Osama bin Laden's family and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the future leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. While these Sunni zealots hated Shiite Iran, Soleimani realized they could also be an asset and freed many of them to unleash them against the U.S.
        By August, Zarqawi and his forces conducted deadly bombings in Iraq against UN headquarters and the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad and a major Shiite shrine in Najaf. By targeting Shiite shrines and civilians, Zarqawi helped to radicalize Iraq's Shiite majority and pushed them closer to Iran and to Soleimani.
        A former U.S. military intelligence officer who served in Iraq told me, "No one in Iraq will say it publicly, at least not yet, but most Iraqi politicians hated Soleimani. They resented his heavy-handedness, his instructions of what to do and what not to do. They feared his constantly implied threat that he'd have them fired or even assassinated if they didn't toe the line....They're all saying privately: good riddance." The writer is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The Perverse Western Mourning for Soleimani - Melanie Phillips
    Faced with a military general intent on ramping up the decades-long war of conquest he had been commanding for his fanatically anti-Western regime, the U.S. liquidated him before he could murder anyone else.
        Cue outrage. Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani - the man responsible for a vast infrastructure of global slaughter and oppression, and with blood on his hands from American and British soldiers, as well as Iranians, Iraqis, Syrians, Yemenis, Jews and others - was described in the New York Times as "universally admired." The writer is a columnist for The Times (UK). (Israel Hayom)

The Restoration of Deterrence: The Iranian Example - Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (U.S. State Department)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed Stanford University's Hoover Institute on Monday.
  • "On the 3rd of this month, we took one of the world's deadliest terrorists off the battlefield for good....President Trump and those of us in his national security team are re-establishing deterrence - real deterrence - against the Islamic Republic."
  • "In strategic terms, deterrence simply means persuading the other party that the costs of a specific behavior exceed its benefits. It requires credibility; indeed, it depends on it. Your adversary must understand not only do you have the capacity to impose costs but that you are, in fact, willing to do so."
  • "You can have the greatest army in the world, but it doesn't matter if you are not prepared to use it to achieve your strategic objectives....For decades, U.S. administrations of both political parties never did enough against Iran to get the deterrence that is necessary to keep us all safe."
  • "We put together a campaign of diplomatic isolation, economic pressure, and military deterrence. The goal is two-fold. First, we wanted to deprive the regime of resources, resources it needs to perpetrate its malign activity around the world. And second, we just want Iran to behave like a normal nation."
  • "President Rouhani himself said that we have denied the Iranian regime some $200 billion in lost foreign income and investment as a result of our activities. This is money that would have in large measure gone to support the very activities that would have put you and your fellow citizens at risk."
  • "And you can see it, too. The Iranian people are increasingly angry at their own government for stealing their wealth for the sake of violently spreading the regime at enormous cost to them."
  • "The regime certainly must now understand what we will do if they ever again pose risk to American lives. If Iran escalates, we will end it on our terms."