February 6, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Israeli Airstrikes Kill 12 Iran-Backed Fighters in Syria (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
    Israeli airstrikes near Damascus early Thursday targeted army positions as well as Iran-backed fighters, killing 12, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
    The airstrikes hit the Mazzeh military air base in Damascus as well as the Scientific Research Center in Jamraya.
    Israel says its goal is to end Tehran's military presence in Syria.

Report: Iran Trains Shia Militia Proxies in Iraq to Wage War on U.S. - Seth J. Frantzman (Jerusalem Post)
    Iranian proxies in Iraq are training for war against the U.S. and will continue to fire rockets at U.S. forces in Iraq until the U.S. leaves, says a new report by the Lead Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. intervention against ISIS.
    The report says Iran's activity has hindered the U.S. ability to fight Islamic State in Iraq.
    The Iranian-backed groups have gunned down hundreds of Iraqi protesters and are loyal to Tehran more than Baghdad.
    See also Text: Report on Operation to Combat ISIS (U.S. Defense Department Office of Inspector General)

U.S. Halts Secret Drone Program with Turkey over Syria Incursion - Humeyra Pamuk (Reuters)
    The U.S. has indefinitely suspended a secret military intelligence cooperation program with Turkey that for years helped Ankara target Kurdish PKK militants, in response to Turkey's cross-border military incursion into Syria in October, four U.S. officials said.
    The U.S. late last year stopped flying the intelligence collection missions that targeted the PKK using unarmed drone aircraft flown out of Turkey's Incirlik air base.
    However, a Turkish official said, "In recent years, Turkey has not been struggling to obtain the information it needs through drones it produces itself."

Anti-Semitic Incidents in Britain Hit New High - Harriet Sherwood (Guardian-UK)
    A record 1,805 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in the UK in 2019, a 7% increase on 2018, the Community Security Trust (CST) reported Thursday.
    There were 158 violent assaults, a 25% increase on the previous year, and 88 incidents of damage and desecration to Jewish property.
    Louise Hay, vice-chair of the all-party parliamentary group against anti-Semitism, said: "It is shameful the Jewish community has been subjected to another year of racist abuse. We are beyond a stage of saying that more has to be done. We require immediate action."
    See also Anti-Semitic Incidents Report 2019 (Community Security Trust-UK)

Record Israeli Tourism Continues in January (Globes)
    309,000 tourists came to Israel in January 2020 compared with 285,000 tourists in January 2019, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Supreme Leader Says Iran Will Back Palestinian Armed Groups as Much as It Can
    Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Wednesday: "We believe that Palestinian armed organizations will stand and continue resistance and the Islamic Republic sees supporting Palestinian groups as its duty, so it will support them however it can and as much as it can."
        Referring to the U.S. peace plan, Khamenei said, "The welcoming and clapping from a few traitorous Arab leaders who are worthless and dishonorable among their own people has no importance."  (Reuters)
  • Sudan Army Agrees: Netanyahu Meeting Will Boost Security
    Sudan's military said Wednesday it backed a surprise meeting between the country's leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Uganda on Monday, saying the opening would help boost national security. (AFP-France 24)
        See also Sudan Agrees to Allow Overflights to Israel
    Sudan has agreed to allow commercial aircraft heading to Israel from South America to cross its airspace, a military spokesman said on Wednesday. The African air corridor would also include Egypt and Chad. (Reuters)
        See also Meeting of Sudanese, Israeli Leaders a "Very Big Deal" - Israel Kasnett
    Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS the meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sudanese Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Burhan was the "crowning achievement" of the prime minister's visit to Uganda.
        "This week is a week in which the Arab world is being mobilized by the PLO to oppose the Trump plan," he said. "And if you are going to expect anything this week, it would be Arab states pulling back from Israel. What is so ironic with the Sudanese move is that Israel is being embraced by Sudan precisely at a time when the Arab League is pulling back. That also makes this into a very big deal."  (JNS)
  • U.S. Backs Cyprus amid Tensions with Turkey over Gas Drilling - Memelaos Hadjicostis
    U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Energy Francis Fannon said Wednesday his government supports Cyprus' right to develop its energy resources and for proceeds to be divided between Greek and Turkish Cypriots. The remarks come amid Turkey's aggressive push to search for natural gas in waters where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights. Turkey doesn't recognize Cyprus as a state. (AP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • 12 IDF Soldiers Wounded in Terror Car-Ramming in Jerusalem - Judah Ari Gross
    At least 12 soldiers were wounded, including one seriously, in a terrorist car-ramming attack near the First Station in Jerusalem at 2 a.m. on Thursday ahead of an early morning swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall. The soldiers were standing on the sidewalk when the car rammed them suddenly at high-speed. The car was later found abandoned close to Bethlehem. (Times of Israel)
        See also Israeli Border Police Officer Stabbed at Temple Mount in Jerusalem
    An Israeli Border Police officer was stabbed in the hand by a Palestinian attacker near the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem on Thursday. The terrorist was shot by security forces. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Shot as He Threw Firebomb at Israeli Troops - Judah Ari Gross
    Mohammed al-Haddad, 17, was shot dead by Israeli security forces as he threw a firebomb at Israeli troops during clashes in Hebron on Wednesday. (Times of Israel)
  • Conference of Presidents: "U.S. Jewry's Sense of Security Has Been Penetrated" - Jeremy Sharon
    American Jews' feeling of personal safety has been seriously harmed by the recent spate of severe, violent anti-Semitic crimes in the country, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. He added that the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh in 2018 was "the end of the age of innocence" for American Jewry. "People feel insecure....Their sense of security has been penetrated."
        Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff noted, "In the past, government was a mechanism for enslaving and killing Jews. Today, government at all levels in the U.S. is with the Jewish community, marching with us, and speaking out against anti-Semitism." Daroff also discussed the U.S. peace plan, saying, "It is a starting point, but the key is the Palestinians coming to the table. The ball is in their court. They're losing support in the Arab world and they have to come to terms with reality."  (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Where Is the Palestinian Vision of Peace? - Yossi Klein Halevi
    The long history of Palestinian rejection of peace offers, sometimes followed by waves of terrorism, has left Israelis deeply skeptical of Palestinian intentions. Israelis across the political spectrum fear that a West Bank Palestinian state could fall to the radical Islamist Hamas, which would launch rockets and other terror attacks against Israeli cities, as it routinely does from Gaza. With Iranian forces in Syria and pro-Iranian terror groups entrenched on Israel's northern and southern borders, a hostile Palestine would complete the country's encirclement.
        Given the region's instability, few Israelis are prepared to risk that option anytime soon. To once again commit to a resolution of the conflict, Israelis need to hear an unambiguous Palestinian vision of peace. The writer is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. (Times of Israel)
  • Behind the Turkish-Syrian Clash in Idlib - Zvi Bar'el
    In the most violent confrontation between Turkish and Syrian forces in recent times, six Turkish soldiers and a civilian working for the army were killed by Syrian government shelling Monday in Syria's Idlib province, which was followed by Turkish attacks on several Syrian military bases. Idlib, considered the final obstacle in the way of Bashar Assad's quest to regain total control of Syria, contains 50-70,000 rebel fighters from across Syria. Most belong to radical Islamist groups, and they include fighters from the Caucasus. None of the sides involved in the war have a feasible solution for how to get rid of these armed groups.
        Russia and Turkey signed an agreement in September 2018 according to which Russia and Syria were to abstain from comprehensive military action in Idlib. But Russian and Syrian forces have begun advancing on Idlib in a recent offensive, capturing key towns and villages. Turkey understands that a military campaign against Syrian forces could put it on a collision course with Russia, which has become its only superpower ally after its rift with the U.S.  Russia is keen on ending the war in Syria quickly, so it can cut its outlays and transfer full control to Assad. (Ha'aretz)

  • Unlike the Iranian army that protects Iran's borders, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is mandated to pursue "an ideological mission of jihad in God's way; that is extending sovereignty of God's law throughout the world."
  • Since its inception in 1979, the Guard has emerged as the principal organization driving the Iranian regime's revolutionary Shia Islamist ideology, within and beyond the regime's borders. It has been linked to terrorist attacks, hostage-takings, maritime piracy, political assassinations, human rights violations and the crushing of domestic dissent across Iran, most recently with the bloodshed in November 2019, leaving 1,500 people dead in less than two weeks.
  • The IRGC is providing arms, training and funding to sustain Hizbullah's hostile presence against Israel and its grip on Lebanese society. Modeled on its support for Hizbullah, the IRGC has prepared an estimated 200,000 fighters - from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan - to support a cause that is built on hostility towards global powers and their allies.
  • The IRGC trains recruits and Shia militias in an expansionist and divisive worldview, encouraging them to give their lives in favor of a cause that seeks to correct injustice towards Muslims beyond Iran's borders. It identifies enemies - from the West, to Christians and Jews, to Iranians who oppose the regime - and advocates jihad in the name of exporting Iran's Islamic Revolution.
  • In April 2019, the U.S. designated the IRGC as a foreign terrorist organization. This places the Guard on a list alongside groups such as Hizbullah, Hamas, ISIS, and al-Qaeda. The uncovering of an Iranian-linked London bomb factory in 2019 and a chain of IRGC terror plots across European cities from 2017 and 2018 suggests the Guard's footprint and interests extend far beyond the Middle East.