Iran's Effort to Infiltrate Israel, Recruit Spies and Sow Terror
- Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner
Iran has been engaged in a years-long effort to infiltrate Israel, set up terror cells, and carry out terror attacks, Israeli news site Walla
reported on Sunday.
The effort began with the 1997 appointment of Qassem Soleimani as head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force.
The report detailed a litany of Iranian and Iran-sponsored attempts in recent years to infiltrate Israel.
In January 2018, the Israel Security Agency uncovered an Iranian intelligence infrastructure in the West Bank. In 2019, a major Iranian attempt to recruit agents in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza was uncovered that operated from Syria.
In March 2020, an Israeli civilian was arrested on charges of spying for Iran. In June 2020, the ISA busted a terror squad from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that was funded and trained by Iran and Hizbullah.
Iranian Spy Chief behind Bomb Plot in Paris "Had Contacts all over Europe"
- Marco Giannangeli (Sunday Express-UK
Assadollah Assadi, the Iranian diplomat in Vienna accused of masterminding a bomb plot in Paris, was found with a notebook detailing 289 places across 11 European countries where he is believed to have made contact with agents of the regime.
He was Europe bureau chief for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and is accused of personally transporting 500 grams of TATP explosives for a planned 2018 attack on a Free Iran political rally in Paris.
U.S. Airstrike Kills Top ISIS Leader in Iraq
- Jane Arraf (New York Times
American airstrikes in a joint mission with Iraqi forces on Wednesday killed a top Islamic State leader in Iraq, Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan al-Issawi, 43, and 9 other ISIS fighters near Kirkuk, American and Iraqi officials said Friday.
Iraqi officials described al-Issawi as the second in command of ISIS.
An ISIS attack on a Baghdad market last week killed 32 Iraqis and wounded more than 100.
Palestinian with Knife Attacks Soldier in West Bank
- Elisha Ben Kimon (Ynet News
A Palestinian man attempted to stab IDF soldiers at Gush Etzion Junction in the West Bank on Sunday, the IDF Spokesperson Unit said.
Video surveillance shows the man pulling a weapon from his waistband and begin charging at the soldier, who had his back turned.
The soldier turned around, realized the imminent danger, and shot the attacker.
Canada Probes UNRWA Funding over Textbooks Promoting Hate
- Lahav Harkov (Jerusalem Post
Canada will investigate its contributions to UNRWA following a report that the refugee agency for Palestinians uses textbooks that incite hatred and violence, Canada's International Development Minister Karina Gould announced
on Jan. 23.
Canadian officials plan to "reinforce UNRWA's corrective actions, monitoring and oversight in the future," Gould said. Canada pledged $24 million to UNRWA in 2020.
The Australian government announced an investigation into UNRWA as well.
News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
- Iran Rejects Talks on Nuclear Deal
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Saturday rejected any new negotiations or changes to the participants in Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers, after French President Emmanuel Macron said any new talks should include Saudi Arabia. "The nuclear accord is a multilateral international agreement ratified by UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which is non-negotiable and parties to it are clear and unchangeable," he said.
See also Israeli Official: If Pressure Is Lifted Prematurely, One Can Expect No Concessions from the Iranians - Lahav Harkov
"It is clear the Iranians are playing hardball, which is why the pressure on them cannot let up," said an Israeli official. "There's only a hope the Iranians will compromise if they believe that's the only way the pressure will be lifted. If pressure is lifted prematurely, one can expect no concessions from the Iranians whatsoever." (Jerusalem Post)
See also below Observations: Why Israel Is Right to Doubt that New Negotiations with Iran Will Work - Amb. Dore Gold (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
- Biden's National Security Adviser Suggests Fast Timeline to Rejoin Iran Deal - Anne Gearan
President Biden is eyeing an urgent restoration of the nuclear deal with Iran, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday. "We are going to have to address Iran's other bad behavior, malign behavior, across the region, but from our perspective, a critical early priority has to be to deal with what is an escalating nuclear crisis as they move closer and closer to having enough fissile material for a weapon. And we would like to make sure that we reestablish some of the parameters and constraints around the program that have fallen away over the course of the past two years." (Washington Post)
- Biden Pledge to Reopen PLO Mission in Washington Faces Legal Hurdles - Rami Ayyub
President Biden's plan to reopen the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington could be held up over a law that exposes Palestinian officials to U.S. anti-terror lawsuits, officials say. Under an anti-terror amendment passed by Congress and signed into law in 2019, the Palestinians would become liable for $655.5 million in financial penalties against them in U.S. courts if they open an office in the U.S. Moreover, the Taylor Force Act, passed by Congress in 2018, restricts some aid until the Palestinians end payments to people jailed by Israel over violent crimes.
While Biden can reverse some measures through executive orders, others involve laws passed by Congress and are not as easily changed. A U.S. State Department official told Reuters: "In administering aid, the Biden-Harris Administration will fully comply with U.S. law including the Taylor Force Act." (Reuters)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
- Israel's Wish List for a New Iran Deal - Lahav Harkov
Fully and effectively preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is the first priority for Israel, before stopping Tehran's ballistic missile program and malign actions throughout the Middle East, senior Israeli officials involved in formulating Israel's strategy said last week.
If the Biden administration enters into talks with Iran, Israel will seek to ensure the weak points of the 2015 nuclear agreement are not part of the new deal. Those include removing the sunset clauses on uranium enrichment and including "anywhere, anytime" inspections of Iran nuclear sites, as opposed to Tehran being forewarned as the deal currently requires.
Those are far more important to Israel than stopping Iran's ballistic missile program and malign activities in the region.
Israel is not looking for a fight with Biden, but a senior Israeli official noted, "In 2013 to 2015, the Americans deliberately misled us....There was no serious dialogue, and we were presented with a fait accompli. Israel was responding to what we considered to be American bad faith." Former national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror added: "Those who say we lashed out at Obama are wrong. The Americans tricked us. In conversations between us, they hid the negotiations...with Iran." (Jerusalem Post)
- Israel to Deliver Corona Vaccine to Palestinian Healthcare Workers in West Bank - Yaniv Kubovich
Israel will deliver 5,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to the West Bank this week for Palestinian healthcare workers, following a recommendation from the Defense Ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. PA Health Minister Dr. Mai al-Kaila said last week that agreements with four foreign vaccine companies will provide enough doses to inoculate 70% of the West Bank.
- Coronavirus in Israel: January Saw Highest Death Toll
The Israel Health Ministry said Monday that 1,433 people passed away in January, comprising 30% of the total pandemic death toll of 4,796.
5,140 people tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday. 1,140 patients are in serious condition, of whom 315 are ventilated. 31% of those in serious condition are below age 59. There are 68,331 currently active patients. At the same time, 3.1 million have been vaccinated, including 1.8 million who have received both doses. (Ynet News)
A military task force on Monday reported a reduction in the number of new cases and serious patients over the age of 60, attributed to the widespread vaccination campaign in that age group.
(Times of Israel)
- 59 Percent of Arab-Israelis Age 60+ Have Been Vaccinated - Cody Levine
Israel's Health Ministry reported Sunday that 59% of Arab-Israelis above the age of 60 have been vaccinated, part of 229,466 Arab-Israelis who have been vaccinated. The Health Ministry has established 80 vaccination stations and 28 mobile stations to facilitate vaccinations in the Arab community.
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
- U.S. Rejoining the Iran Nuclear Deal Will Make the Middle East Less Stable - Dr. Uzi Rubin
President Biden undertook to rejoin the Iran nuclear deal as is, with no preliminary negotiations on extending and strengthening it or on other issues of concern. It means the U.S. will lift Trump's sanctions in return for a rollback of Iran's violations. Critics believe that a new and improved nuclear deal is required, that will extend its duration, impose limitations on Iran's missile programs, and require Iran to moderate its regional policies.
In the June 2021 presidential elections in Iran, all five contenders belong to the Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It is not unlikely that an Iranian president who hails from the IRGC will flatly refuse to promise or even hint at any further negotiations once the U.S. has lifted sanctions.
Ever since the September 2019 devastating attack by Iranian UAVs on Saudi Arabia's oil installations, the awareness has grown among many observers that Iran's threat is not limited to its nuclear ambitions. Therefore, what is needed are limits on Iran's conventional capabilities too, including its entire spectrum of destabilizing weapon programs like ballistic missiles and UAVs.
A U.S. return to the Obama nuclear deal, with no substantial correction of its weaknesses, will justifiably be regarded by the Ayatollahs as a historic victory. Iranian prestige and standing in the region will be enhanced immensely, and Iranian coffers will overflow with income from oil exports and renewal of international trade. Iran will be stronger and more dangerous, posing a growing existential threat to Israel and other Middle Eastern countries - even if its nuclear program is delayed for a while.
The writer was founding director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, which managed the Arrow program. (Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security)
- Is Israel in Secret Contact with Syria? - Lt.-Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Reports have appeared about secret contacts between Israel and Syria.
On Dec. 23, 2020, Israeli journalist Majdi Halabi published an interview on the Arabic website Elaph with an officer of the IDF General Staff. The officer said: "Assad brought the Iranians into Syria so they would solve the problem of ISIS and the civil war, but once ISIS was defeated...Iran, which was a big plus for Syria, turned into a burden for both Syria and Russia."
The Syrians "need money to pay the Iranians to get out of Syria, and they want to solidify their regime. Assad sees the reality, and he wants to forge ties with the Sunni axis so that he can pay his debts to Iran and get them out of Syria. He sees that Israel can help him with the U.S. on the one hand and with the Gulf axis and the Sunni axis on the other. The Russians, too, see us as a bridge to the U.S., to the Gulf, and to the Sunni axis."
"Assad...is now prepared to talk with us so as to shore up his rule, defray the financial debt to Iran, and create a situation of non-belligerency with Israel....The important thing is that there's a possibility of breaking up the radical axis, the Iranian axis."
The writer, a senior research associate at the BESA Center, served for 25 years in IDF military intelligence.
(BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
- Pieces of U.S. Foreign Policy Worth Keeping - Dennis Ross and Juan Zarate
Some Trump administration approaches to foreign policy should not be reversed reflexively. For example, the recent establishment of formal relations between Israel and four Arab countries - the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco - creates new realities in the Middle East. It reflects a strategic convergence between many Arab states and Israel, not just on threats but also on their common interest to promote more technologically driven economies and to address water and food security needs.
Normalization with Arab nations will not produce Israeli-Palestinian peace in the short run, but it can be a means to break the stalemate and reestablish a sense of possibility.
Dennis Ross, counselor at The Washington Institute, served in senior national security positions in four U.S. administrations. Juan Zarate, chairman of the Center on Economic and Financial Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, was deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration.
(Washington Institute for Near East Policy)
- In August 2002, the Iranian opposition disclosed previously unknown Iranian nuclear facilities. The U.S. at the time was busy with the weapons of mass destruction programs of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, so it left the Europeans to do the heavy lifting on Iran. The EU-3 powers (Britain, France, and Germany) struck deals with Iran in 2003-4 that would allow Iran to build more centrifuges.
- The father of the Iranian diplomatic approach was Hassan Rouhani, today the president of Iran, who served as national security adviser and later as head nuclear negotiator with the EU-3. Rouhani said in 2003: "When we were negotiating with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan." The negotiating process, in short, allowed Iran to steadily advance with its nuclear program.
- The Islamic term used by the Iranians for what they were doing was Taqiya, a theological idea used by Shiite Muslims to engage in deception for self-preservation. It became a diplomatic instrument that the Iranians employed in their arms control talks with the West.
- Currently, there is no evidence that Iran has really changed, nor is Iran about to alter its behavior. In the meantime, it continues to be a dangerous power with both an advanced nuclear program and expansionist policies across the Middle East.
The writer, former Director-General of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Israeli Ambassador to the UN, is president of the Jerusalem Center.