December 7, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Report: Israel Has Tape of Fakhrizadeh Talking about Building Five Nuclear Warheads (Times of Israel)
    Israeli intelligence has a recording of Iranian nuclear chief Mohsen Fakhrizadeh speaking about his efforts to produce five warheads, Yediot Ahronot reported Friday.
    The recording was played in 2008 for U.S. President George W. Bush during his visit to Israel.
    According to investigative reporter Ronen Bergman, Israel had been compiling a dossier on Fakhrizadeh for nearly three decades.

Ex-CIA Chief: Israel Helped U.S. Kill Bin Laden - Yossi Melman (Ha'aretz)
    I asked former CIA director John Brennan whether Israel was involved in the operation to kill Bin Laden.
    "It was a U.S. operation," he replied, "but the intelligence that went into the ultimately successful raid against that compound in Pakistan was the result of many, many years. And the thousands of bits and pieces of intelligence do include some which were provided by the Israelis."
    "You know, Israel has always been one of the main providers of those puzzle pieces to U.S. intelligence." 
    See also U.S. Envoy Jeffrey: Israel Has Played a Huge Role in the Fight Against ISIS - Jacob Magid (Times of Israel)
    Veteran U.S. diplomat James Jeffrey, who served as Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, said in an interview that in the fight against ISIS, "Israel has played a huge role. Much of it is classified."

Israel Issues Travel Warning, Citing Iran Threat (i24News)
    Israel's National Security Council (NSC) warned Thursday that Iran could target Israelis abroad in Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, the UAE and Bahrain.
    The advisory also warned against travel to the Kurdish area of Iraq and Africa.

Israeli, Jordanian Foreign Ministers Meet at Border (Times of Israel)
    Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi met his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi at the Allenby Bridge border crossing Thursday.
    The Jordanian Foreign Ministry said they discussed "water rights, lifting restrictions on Jordanian exports to the West Bank, Jordanian provision of additional electricity to the Palestinian Authority, and organizing movement through border crossings in light of their closure due to the coronavirus pandemic."

UK and Israel Sign Military Agreement (BICOM-UK)
    Last Thursday, UK Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Sir Nicholas Carter and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi met via video link and signed an agreement to formalize and enhance Israel-UK defense collaboration.
    Most of the agreement is highly classified.
    The Telegraph reported that MI5 uncovered a Hizbullah bomb plot in North London in 2015 involving three tons of ammonium nitrate.
    The discovery was reportedly assisted by information from Israel's Mossad intelligence service.
    There is also what a senior UK official described as a "first-order partnership" in cyber security, as well as cooperation on the development of UAVs deployed by British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

12 Arab Israeli Doctors Enter Gaza to Provide Treatment - Aaron Boxerman (Times of Israel)
    12 Arab Israeli doctors entered Gaza Thursday for two days to provide free treatment for the chronically ill and other emergency cases whose treatment has been delayed because of the coronavirus.
    The doctors will conduct surgeries, medical training, and instruction for Palestinian medical teams.
    They will also bring medical equipment and drugs to help combat the pandemic, but will not deal with coronavirus cases.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israeli Defense Officials: A Fast-Paced Return to the Iranian Nuclear Deal Would Be Disastrous - Ben Caspit
    Both Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' Quds Force, and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the mastermind behind Iran's nuclear program, were irreplaceable strategic assets. Since Soleimani's killing by the Americans in January 2020, Western intelligence has detected an Iranian pullback from various arenas and difficulty in maintaining its hold on parts of Iraq and Syria. The level of Iran's determination in this regard has also plunged, since he was the one who constantly agitated for continued investment in Iran's regional expansion and entrenchment.
        Israel is looking ahead at Biden's administration with concern over a fast-paced return to the nuclear agreement forged in 2015. Biden's people have yet to establish an intensive dialogue channel with the Israelis that would allow them to weigh in on the existential threat from Iran. "Much has changed in the five years since the nuclear agreement was signed," said an Israeli intelligence source. "We want to update the Americans and illustrate the rare opportunity that the United States now has to take advantage of Iran's situation."
        The main U.S. mistake, Israel says, is the urgency it feels to revert to the way things were before Trump pulled the U.S. out of the deal. Such a move would be disastrous, according to high-level Israeli defense officials. "Iran is far more vulnerable these days and susceptible to powerful levers, and there is no reason to volunteer to go easy on them and return to the agreement without ensuring that real amendments can be introduced into the deal," said a top-ranking Israeli security source. (Al-Monitor)
  • Germany: New Iran Deal Must Limit Ballistic Missiles Threats - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas interviewed by Christiane Hoffmann
    German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in an interview published on Friday: "A return to the previous agreement [with Iran] will not suffice anyway. There will have to be a kind of 'nuclear agreement plus,' which is also in our interest. We have clear expectations of Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic missile program that threatens the entire region. Iran also needs to play a different role in the region. We need this agreement precisely because we distrust Iran. I have already coordinated with my French and British counterparts on this."  (Der Spiegel-Germany)
        See also Israel Has No Confidence Iran Deal Is Working - Alex Berry
    Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff expressed his government's skepticism over the new U.S. administration's plans to return to the Iran nuclear deal. "The nuclear deal, as it was drafted in 2015, has been shown to have gaps which need to be addressed. And clearly, the steps taken by the Iranian government to violently destabilize the Middle East in general, [to] continue their missile program, and violate the actual clear terms of the nuclear agreement provide us with no confidence that the agreement is working."  (Deutsche Welle-Germany)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Dore Gold in Bahrain: "Abraham Accords a Whole New Paradigm for Diplomats" - Amb. Dore Gold interviewed by Omar Shariff
    At the 2020 Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, sponsored by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Israeli diplomat Dore Gold, President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said, "The Abraham Accords represented a whole new paradigm for diplomats. It gave the Arab states the freedom to make peace with Israel, while not denying the Palestinians the right to join the process when they are ready. This new structure will make peace more likely."
        "Senior leadership in the [Iranian] Revolutionary Guards and even more importantly the senior religious leadership in Qom have spoken about the need 'to wipe Israel off the map.' You cannot wipe a country off the map without physically destroying its population. Among polite company we call that genocide."  (Gulf News-Dubai)
        See also Questions for Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal - Amb. Dore Gold
    Amb. Dore Gold asked Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal a number of questions at the 2020 IISS Manama Dialogue in Bahrain on Sunday:
        "Do we want to be caught up in the accusations of the past, many of which are false, or do we want to present the young generation in the Middle East with a positive vision and really give leadership for a better future?...Do you, Prince Turki al-Faisal, think we have something to learn from each other...with respect to the challenge Israel has faced from the north, from Hizbullah, since the early 1980s, and the challenge you face from the south, from the Houthi militants?"  (International Institute for Strategic Studies)
  • Coronavirus in Israel
    1,230 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Israel on Sunday, the Health Ministry said Monday. 331 are in serious condition, with 112 were on ventilators. 2,917 people have died. (Jerusalem Post)
  • 6 Israeli Troops, 4 Palestinians Hurt in West Bank Arrest Raid - Yoav Zitun
    Six Israeli Border Police officers and four Palestinians were wounded on Monday during an arrest operation in Qalandia, north of Jerusalem, in the West Bank. During the operation, local residents began hurling concrete blocks and washing machines at the Israeli troops from rooftops. (Ynet News)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Joint U.S.-Israeli Effort Needed to Contain Iran - Amb. Daniel Shapiro
    Israel and the U.S. should develop a common strategy to contain Iran and prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons that draws on all the tools - diplomatic, economic, covert and military - in the two nations' toolboxes. The Biden administration will need to take into account that Israel will continue to view an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat, and, like any sovereign nation, will act as it believes necessary to defend itself. On this point, Biden and his secretary of state-designate, Antony Blinken, have no illusions.
        Biden's team also understands that even if Iran's nuclear potential may be the gravest threat it poses, its other aggressive activities - developing advanced ballistic missiles; supplying regional proxies such as Hizbullah and Yemen's Houthi rebels; and attempting to encircle Israel with a ring of precision-guided missiles - must also be addressed.
        The writer, a visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, served as U.S. ambassador to Israel from 2011 to 2017. (Washington Post)
  • Iranian Security Officials Admit Intelligence Failures and Call for Cleaning House - Iran Desk and Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall
    Top officials of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are increasingly critical about the chronic weakness of the Iranian regime to safeguard senior officials and scientists, pointing to the large-scale penetration by Israeli intelligence services inside Iran with the aid of local opposition figures. Iranian security officials fear that the normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, as well as the rapprochement with Saudi Arabia, will allow Israel a more convenient springboard for operational activity inside Iran.
        As in the past, in the next few weeks the regime will publicize information that it arrested people involved in the attacks so that it can save a little of its honor. The writer is a senior research fellow at the Jerusalem Center. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
        See also Unable to Stop Infiltration, Iran's Revolutionary Credibility Is under Siege - Kambiz Foroohar (National Interest)
  • Parsing Iranian Responses to the Killing of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh - Behnam Ben Taleblu
    The outpouring of commentary in Iran after Fakhrizadeh's death helps shed light on Tehran's immediate political concerns, security imperatives, as well as prospects for retaliation and escalation. The media have casted Fakhrizadeh as another nuclear "martyr" to "sanctify" his career, thus making his life's work (and ultimately, death) in the service of the regime on par with service to Iran's official religion (Twelver Shiite Islam).
        While the Iranian parliament doesn't make nuclear policy, it approved a bill that contains a trigger should Iran not receive major sanctions relief within two months. Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif appears to understand the leverage this provides to potentially scare Washington back into the JCPOA. The writer is a senior fellow at FDD.  (Long War Journal-Foundation for Defense of Democracies)
        See also The Response to the Fakhrizadeh Killing Shows the Regime's Isolation - Prof. Hillel Frisch
    The dramatic killing of Iran's top nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, revealed just how porous is the Iranian security establishment. Dozens of well-placed Iranians appear to be willing to work with the U.S. and Israeli security services. Thirty years ago, the killing of a key security figure inside Iran would have brought hundreds of thousands into the streets. Photos of demonstrators in the streets after the Fakhrizadeh killing show hundreds at most.
        The writer is a professor of political and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at its BESA Center. (Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)

It's a Mistake to Go Back to the JCPOA - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu interviewed by Michael Doran, Dec. 3, 2020 (Hudson Institute)
  • Netanyahu: Jews have been fighting for our place under the sun for almost four millennia. And we haven't made this extraordinary odyssey for it to end by a whim of ayatollahs who are ideologically committed to destroy us. That's not something that an Israeli leadership should sit by and allow to happen.
  • Some Arab leaders have come to realize, especially in the last decade, that Israel, far from being their enemy, was their indispensable ally in securing stability, peace and prosperity in the Middle East. Some of them say so fairly openly, most of them say so quietly.
  • They're concerned with Islamic radicalism of a Shiite or a Sunni variety. They're concerned with developing their economies for the betterment of their peoples. They're concerned with countering Iran's aggression and terrorism, which is spread all over the area. And they see Israel as the power in the area that is willing to stand up, and often speak up, for something that they all agree with.
  • Far from blocking Iran's path to the bomb, the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) paved its way with gold, literally, with an enormous amount of money that was put into Iran's coffers. They promptly used it to fund an unbelievable campaign of conquest. Right after the JCPOA, you see them expanding into Iraq, into Yemen, into Iraq, seeking to establish military bases in Syria, supporting Hizbullah with greater funds, supporting the Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
  • If the idea was this tiger will be tamed, in fact, what the JCPOA did was to open the gates of the cage and let the tiger loose to a campaign of plunder and conquest that was threatening to overrun the Middle East in horrible ways.
  • Iran with nuclear weapons is a very dangerous thing for the United States. It's developing ICBMs which it wants to tip with a nuclear payload (because you don't use ICBMs for anything else) to reach America. You say that's not a real problem? Well, take North Korea, a smaller country that has a fraction of Iran's GDP. You understand what the arming of North Korea with ICBMs and nuclear weapons means to the United States. Iran is many times more dangerous than North Korea because it has a radical ideology. It chants death to America, death to Israel. They mean it.
  • We have peace breaking out now. And I think the United States has a vested interest to expand that peace, to support those countries that seek to broaden the circle of peace, and to constrain or roll back Iran and its proxies that seek to bring us back to a violent medievalism. The fact that we're willing to stand up and protect ourselves, but thereby also protect the neighborhood, our allies in peace, I think is a vital interest of the United States.

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