April 27, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Airstrikes Target Iranian Sites in Syria - Tzvi Joffre (Jerusalem Post)
    Syrian media reported airstrikes from Lebanese airspace targeting Iranian sites south of Damascus early Monday.
    The strikes targeted headquarters and sites belonging to Iranian forces, Hizbullah, and militias loyal to Iran and Hizbullah, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.
    See also Four Iran-Linked Militiamen Reported Killed in Syria Strike - Judah Ari Gross (Times of Israel)
    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says at least four pro-Iranian militiamen were killed in an airstrike outside Damascus early Monday.
    It also said three civilians were killed by shrapnel, though this could have come from Syria's own air defense projectiles.

Iran's Evolving Approach to Asymmetric Naval Warfare - Farzin Nadimi (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
    This study of Iran's naval activities in the Gulf, which includes maps, tables, and other graphics, offers a sober take on Iran's capabilities and intentions.

Israel Slams Egyptian TV Show Predicting Its Destruction - Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post)
    An Egyptian television series depicting a future in which Israel was destroyed by Arab states is unacceptable, the Israel Foreign Ministry said Sunday.
    The first episode of the Ramadan drama "The End" features children in a classroom in the year 2120 learning about "the war to liberate Jerusalem."
    The teacher says the war "brought about the destruction of the Zionist State of Israel" and "most of the Jews in Israel ran away and returned to their countries of origin in Europe."

PFLP Terror Group Facing Bankruptcy - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) is on the brink of bankruptcy after PA President Mahmoud Abbas cut funds to the secular Marxist organization, the second largest group in the PLO after Abbas' Fatah.
    The PFLP does not recognize Israel and opposed the Oslo Accords. In the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections it won 3 of the 132 seats.
    PFLP Secretary-General Ahmad Sa'adat is serving a 30-year sentence in Israeli prison for his role in the assassination of Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze'evi in Jerusalem in 2001.
    In December 2019, the Israel Security Agency dismantled a 50-person PFLP cell that was behind a string of deadly attacks.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S.: Iran's Space Program Is Dangerous, Not Peaceful
    Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Saturday: "This week's launch of a military satellite by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, makes clear what we have said all along: Iran's space program is neither peaceful nor entirely civilian."
        "This satellite launch vehicle and others launched before it incorporate technologies identical to, and interchangeable with, ballistic missiles, including longer-range systems such as intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). No country has ever pursued an ICBM capability except for the purpose of delivering nuclear weapons."
        "All peace-loving nations must reject Iran's development of ballistic-missile capable technologies and join together to constrain Iran's dangerous missile programs. As a start, nations should support extending the UN conventional arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire this October. The world's leading state sponsor of terrorism and anti-Semitism should not be allowed to buy and sell conventional weapons."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also U.S. Concerned about Iranian Rocket that Launched New Satellite - Richard Sisk
    The Iranian rocket that carried a military satellite into space is an immediate concern for the U.S. military because of its implications for the regime's plans to develop long-range missiles, Air Force Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday. The U.S. has long suspected that Iran's efforts to put satellites into orbit are a cover for development of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
        "We watch every rocket and missile that comes off the face of the Earth, and we track it and characterize it very precisely," Hyten said. "We did that with the most recent Iranian launch. I won't tell you exactly what the intelligence says [about the rocket], but what I can tell you is it went a very long way....We want to make sure they can never threaten the United States."  (Military.com)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Jerusalem Court Orders NIS 500 Million to Be Collected from Palestinian Authority in Civil Damages for Terror Attacks - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The Jerusalem District Court on Friday ordered that NIS 500 million be collected from the Palestinian Authority in civil damages for terror attacks during the Second Intifada (2000 to 2005). The court had ruled that the PA was liable for these damages back in July 2019. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Israel's Coronavirus Death Toll Is 202
    Israel's coronavirus death toll is 202, up from 193 on Friday, the Israeli Health Ministry said Monday morning. 129 are in serious condition (down from 139 on Friday), including 96 on ventilator support (down from 107 on Friday). There are 383 coronavirus patients receiving treatment in hospitals (down from 421 on Friday) and 1,775 in specially designated hotels (down from 2,501 on Friday). 6,796 have recovered (up from 5,685 on Friday). (Ynet News)
  • Poll: Isolated by Pandemic, Israelis Have Record-High "Sense of Belonging"
    Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a survey conducted on April 22-23 and published Sunday by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) traced a surge in the number of Israelis who identify with the state and view its problems as their own. 90% of Israelis - 92.5% of Jews and 77% of Arabs - answered that they feel they are an integral part of the state and share a common destiny "very much" or "quite a lot." It is the highest figure recorded for a decade. Last year, just 42% of Arab Israelis said they felt part of the state. (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Iran's Gamble of Military Provocations for Concessions Is Not Working - Michael Pregent
    Iran's recent military provocations against the U.S. and its Western allies in the Gulf are straight out of Tehran's old strategic playbook: provocations for concessions, and military adventurism designed to prop up the regime's image at home while deliberately stopping short of an escalation that would lead to a devastating response from the U.S. and its allies.
        The regime wants to look strong in confronting the U.S., while at the same time making sure that it is not presenting a serious military threat that would require an allied response. An inspection of the maritime harassments show that the Iranian gunboats have men in bright orange vests manning weapons that are clearly in the safe position - with their muzzles up and no ammunition feed into the heavy machine guns.
        Iran was hoping its provocations might cause enough nuisance that Western powers would grant sanctions relief on the grounds of the coronavirus pandemic. But instead, Trump is calling the regime's bluff. Sanctions relief is not coming, and a military response is more likely if Iran does not head Trump's warnings. The writer is a former intelligence officer in Iraq and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. (Al Arabiya)
  • Israel's "Security-Oriented" Character Was an Advantage Against the Coronavirus - Ori Wertman and Christian Kaunert
    In Germany and Italy, only after the first death had occurred did the leadership began to realize that the coronavirus poses a security threat. In Israel, the government began to view the coronavirus as a security threat 28 days before it even registered a case of corona infection in the country, imposing home isolation for returnees from "hot" countries.
        Just 11 days after the first case of infection had been discovered in Israel, and before the first death from the virus, the Israeli government began to implement extraordinary measures. Israel's "security-oriented" character was a substantial advantage against the coronavirus.
        Ori Wertman is a PhD candidate and research assistant at the International Center for Policing and Security at the University of South Wales. Christian Kaunert, director of the center, is a professor and Jean Monnet Chair of EU counter-terrorism. (Jerusalem Post)

  • Iran's most successful satellite launch took place last week. Iran managed to put four satellites into orbit in the past, but they were short-lived. Iran tried 13 times, 9 of which failed completely. This time it seems Iran's new military spy satellite will likely last years before disintegrating.
  • Dr. Uzi Rubin, former head of Israel's Missile Defense Organization, explained, "The space launcher and the satellite are assembled and fueled inside an underground shelter in a horizontal position. Once assembled and fueled, it can emerge and drive to any roughly prepared patch of ground, be erected, launch and quickly retreat to the shelter."
  • The new space launcher seems to have the same capabilities as the Safir: a small orbiting satellite with a payload of up to 50 kg. The combination of its low altitude and small payload bars Iran's satellite from being equipped with sophisticated cameras. Its smaller cameras can only send low-resolution imagery, similar to that of Google Earth.
  • But Iran has demonstrated that it is quickly closing its technological gaps. For Israel, the launch sends a clear message that despite U.S. objections, Iran is making headway in its plans to upgrade its long-range missiles, making them capable of delivering nuclear warheads.