September 21, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Iranian Nuclear Archive Revealed Map of Unknown Nuclear Sites - Yonah Jeremy Bob (Jerusalem Post)
    Earlier in 2020, there was a real worry that the Islamic Republic might break out to a nuclear bomb sometime this year, but that concern in the near term has passed.
    Tehran already had enough low-enriched uranium to make one nuclear weapon since March, but it has not elevated the purity level of the uranium.
    The biggest worry until summer 2020 was that Iran had some major, clandestine site where it was secretly breaking out to a nuclear weapon. But then there were a dozen explosions at Iranian facilities, several of them likely nuclear-related.
    Already in September 2019, sources close to the Mossad said the 2018 Mossad raid on the Iranian nuclear archive produced a map of all the unknown sites.
    The power of this "map" became all too clear watching the explosions this summer.

U.S. Accuses Hizbullah of Storing Explosive Chemicals in Europe (AP)
    Hizbullah has stored chemicals that can be used to make explosives in several European countries, Nathan Sales, the State Department coordinator for counter-terrorism, said Thursday.
    Hizbullah operatives have moved ammonium nitrate from Belgium to France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in recent years and are suspected to still be storing the material throughout Europe. This is the material that exploded last month in Beirut.
    "Hizbullah put these weapons in place so it could conduct major terrorist attacks whenever it or its masters in Tehran deemed necessary," he said.

White House Says Five More Countries Seriously Considering Israel Deals (Reuters)
    White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said on Thursday that five more countries are seriously considering striking a normalization deal with Israel after the UAE and Bahrain signed accords last week.

Syria Says U.S. Sanctions behind Acute Fuel Crisis - Suleiman Al-Khalidi (Reuters)
    Syria is experiencing worsening gasoline shortages as a result of tougher U.S. sanctions disrupting crucial fuel imports, Oil Minister Bassam Touma said last Wednesday.
    "The tightening of the American siege and their barring of imports from arriving forced us to reduce distribution of gasoline by 35%," he said.
    Residents say there have been acute shortages in the capital and main cities, with long queues building at petrol stations.

UN Points Finger at Turkey over Rights Abuses in Syria - Amberin Zaman (Al-Monitor)
    The UN Human Rights Council's latest biannual report on Syria suggests that Turkey and its Sunni rebel allies are engaging in gross violations of international humanitarian law.
    The main perpetrators are factions of the Istanbul-based Syrian National Army, who are accused of organized extortion, looting, property expropriation, rape, kidnapping and murder.
    Some of the worst offenses were recorded in Afrin, the Kurdish majority enclave that was invaded by Turkish forces in January 2018.

Israel's Population Reaches 9.2 Million (Jerusalem Post)
    On the eve of the Jewish New Year, the population of Israel is 9.246 million. 170,000 babies were born, 44,000 people passed away, and 20,000 new immigrants arrived.
    The Jewish population is 6.841 million (74%). Israel's Arab population is 1.946 million (21%).

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • The Return of UN Sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran - Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo
    "The greatest threat to peace in the Middle East comes from the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose violent efforts to spread revolution have killed thousands and upended the lives of millions of innocent people. History shows appeasement only emboldens such regimes. Thus today [Sep. 19], the United States welcomes the return of virtually all previously terminated UN sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world's leading state sponsor of terror and anti-Semitism....The world will be safer as a result."
        "The United States expects all UN Member States to fully comply with their obligations to implement these measures....If UN Member States fail to fulfill their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity....Our maximum pressure campaign on the Iranian regime will continue until Iran reaches a comprehensive agreement with us to rein in its proliferation threats and stops spreading chaos, violence, and bloodshed."  (U.S. State Department)
        See also Israel Backs U.S. at UN on Iran "Snapback" Sanctions - Sarah Chemla (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S.: Iran Will Have Enough Fissile Material for Nuclear Bomb by Year's End - Steve Holland and Arshad Mohammed
    The U.S. on Monday will sanction more than two dozen people and entities involved in Iran's nuclear, missile and conventional arms programs, a senior U.S. official said. The official said Iran could have enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year and that Tehran has resumed long-range missile cooperation with nuclear-armed North Korea.
        "Iran is clearly doing everything it can to keep in existence a virtual turnkey capability to get back into the [nuclear] weaponization business at a moment’s notice," the official said. (Reuters)
  • U.S. Allies in Europe Pledge to Ignore "Snapback" Sanctions Against Iran - Carol Morello
    The foreign ministers of France, Britain and Germany rejected the U.S. position on Iran sanctions in a joint statement Sunday, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressed hope that European allies would "get on board." "They know we're right," Pompeo told Fox News. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran's Currency Plummets after U.S. Sanctions Threat - David Rose
    Iran's currency has sunk to its lowest level after the U.S. threatened to enforce the return of UN sanctions. Iran's currency has weakened 30% since June and is worth about a tenth of its value in 2015. (The Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Jerusalem Arab Suspected of Recruiting Agents for Hizbullah, Iran - Yaniv Kubovich
    The Israel Security Agency said Thursday it arrested Yasmin Jaber, a resident of east Jerusalem, who headed a cell that attempted to recruit Israelis and Palestinians to the service of Iran and Hizbullah. Jaber worked at the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem. (Ha'aretz)
  • Mosques Instruct Palestinians to Reject Peace Deals - Donna Rachel Edmunds
    Palestinians in the West Bank were told in mosque sermons on Friday that the peace deals signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain amount to high treason against the Palestinian cause, and are condemned by Allah himself. An instruction sheet disseminated by the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Religion warns that the peace deals pose a danger to those who signed them.
        It says: "There is nothing that harms Palestine and its holy sites more than making an alliance with the Jews." "What is so important to understand...is that the Palestinian Authority is rejecting the peace agreement not because it is with Israel but because it is with the Jews," said Director of Palestinian Media Watch Itamar Marcus. "Although many world leaders delude themselves that the Palestinian-Israel conflict is over territory, the PA is constantly telling its people that the conflict is against Jews because of Jews' evil nature."  (Jerusalem Post)
        See also PA: Beware "Alliance with the Jews" - Itamar Marcus (Palestinian Media Watch)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Number of Seriously Ill Is Increasing
    The Israel Health Ministry on Sunday evening reported 643 people in serious condition with 170 on ventilators. The death toll from Covid-19 has risen to 1,296. (Ynet News)
        See also Three Days into Lockdown, Covid-19 Still Spreading - Shani Ashkenazi
    51,180 people in Israel are currently ill with the coronavirus. 1,295 people are hospitalized with the disease. 3,157 medical personnel are currently in isolation at home after being exposed to a coronavirus patient, and more than 1,000 have been confirmed as being infected. In some hospitals, coronavirus wards are almost fully occupied, and new wards are being made available at the expense of other hospital departments. (Globes)
        See also Israeli Hospitals Open Underground Wartime Wards for Surge in Covid-19 Patients (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Dermer Sees Washington Peace Summit as "the Beginning of the End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict" - Jacob Kornbluh
    Ron Dermer is concluding his tenure in January as Israel's ambassador to Washington, which he began in October 2013. He said in an interview that he saw the historic peace summit between Israel and two Arab countries at the White House "as the beginning of the end of the Arab-Israeli conflict." While peace with the Arab world might not bring about a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "it definitely weakens those who reject any kind of compromise or any peace with Israel."
        There was this "theory" that creating daylight between the U.S. and Israel "will achieve results," Dermer said. Yet "these peace treaties are happening after the administration recognized Jerusalem as our capital, after they recognized Israel's sovereignty over the Golan Heights, after they put forward a peace plan that Israel can live with. And in each one of those steps, people said: 'This is going to destroy any possibility of having any peace with anybody. It's going to be a disaster.' It's not true....I think the chances of ultimately seeing an Israeli-Palestinian peace are much greater."  (Jewish Insider)
  • Iran: Normalization with Israel Accelerates the End of the Bahrain Regime - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Unlike the UAE, Bahrain is of particular historical, religious, and political importance to Iran. Bahrain was once under Persian rule (1602-1783) and as Iranian's 14th province it sent representatives to the Iranian Majlis (parliament). A Sunni minority rules the Shiite majority, and part of the population is Persian in their origin. In recent years there have been calls to restore Bahrain to Iranian rule.
        Iran has been acting to destabilize the Bahraini Kingdom and bring down the minority Sunni rule. The decision by Bahrain, with the backing of Saudi Arabia, to normalize relations with Israel is expected to lead to an increase in Iranian subversion efforts in the kingdom through local Shiite terrorist groups and the Shiite opposition parties with assistance from the Lebanese Hizbullah. Leading Iranian media, such as Kayhan, which reflect the opinions of the Supreme Leader Khamenei, have declared that Bahrain will be the first of the Gulf States to fall.
        The writer, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, is a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Palestinians Are Astonished by Normalization with Israel, Bahrain Is Threatened by Iran - Avi Issacharoff
    For decades, the Palestinians successfully imposed certain axioms on the Middle East that held that Arab countries must not do business with Israel since the Palestinian issue was the foremost issue of all Arabs everywhere. As long as there was no solution for the Palestinians, no Arab country was "allowed" to do business with the Zionist enemy. This Palestinian success has started to evaporate. Two Arab states have decided to ignore the Palestinians and establish diplomatic relations with Israel, and several more may soon follow.
        If this is the sentiment coming from some Arab countries, how can those countries and agencies that continue to call for boycotting Israel justify themselves? The Palestinians' own brothers are openly calling for full normalization. The previous axiom is crumbling before the astonished eyes of the Palestinians. The Palestinians are no longer the most pressing issue in the Arab world.
        Bahrain has a Shiite majority, and its leadership is concerned that Iran will attempt, in any way possible, to undermine its new accord with Israel. Iran is actively involved within the UAE, and even more so in Bahrain. An example is the demonstrations in Bahrain during 2011's Arab Spring that drove thousands out to the streets and that had Iranian fingerprints all over them. The Saudi monarchy sent hundreds of armored vehicles and security personnel to crush the protests. (Times of Israel)

Israel's Vulnerable New Friends - Martin Kramer (martinkramer.org)
  • The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are vulnerable and dangerously close to Iran. The UAE has a population of 9.8 million, only slightly larger than Israel's. But Arab citizens form only 12% - around a million-plus. The rest are migrants who've come to work. Bahrain is a smaller-scale version of the same dynamic. The population is 1.7 million, of whom less than half are Bahraini citizens.
  • Both countries look stable, but demography is an abiding concern. The combined citizen populations of the UAE and Bahrain probably don't come to two million. The rulers are perfectly aware of their vulnerability, so they have perfected survival strategies that work amazingly well.
  • The most important is to secure and keep the support of the West, and especially the U.S., as a counterweight to the forces of envy that surround them. The UAE, in particular, has embraced a degree of cultural and religious tolerance that has impressed the West.
  • The real attraction of normalization for the UAE and Bahrain is that good relations with Israel are the default of all enlightened Western countries. Full and normal relations with Israel raise the UAE and Bahrain to a new category: from "friendly Arab countries that sell us oil" to "best Arab friends of our own best friend, Israel." It's an upgrade, and it's become a need-to-have in a time of American retrenchment.

    The writer, founding president of Shalem College in Jerusalem, is also a fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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