February 22, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

In Syria, the Greatest War Crimes of the 21st Century - Scott Pelley (CBS News)
    March will bring the 10th anniversary of the popular uprising that began Syria's civil war. The Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad, has gassed the innocent, bombed hospitals and schools, and made thousands disappear.
    In 2013, the Syrian army shelled the Damascus suburb of Ghouta with nerve gas. 1,400 men, women and children were exterminated.
    A military photographer called "Caesar" was ordered to make a record at morgues that received the dead from Assad's secret prisons. He smuggled out of Syria thousands of photos of those who had been tortured to death.
    The Independent Commission for International Justice and Accountability, funded, in part, by the U.S. and EU, is building war crimes cases against Assad and his regime.
    Stephen Rapp, who prosecuted war crimes in Rwanda and Sierra Leone and served as U.S. ambassador for war crimes issues, chairs the commission.
    He said, "We've got better evidence - against Assad and his clique - than we had against Milosevic in Yugoslavia, or we had in any of the war crimes tribunals in which I've been involved."

Iranian Judoka Says He'll Never Forget Kindness of Israeli Team ahead of Tel Aviv Tournament - Ben Church (CNN)
    Iranian judoka Saeid Mollaei, who refused to return home after being ordered to withdraw from the 2019 World Judo Championships to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, says he will never forget the kindness he's been shown by the Israeli judo team as he prepared to compete in a major tournament in Tel Aviv.
    He was granted asylum in Germany and has become a citizen of Mongolia.
    See also Judoka Who Fled Iran Wins Silver in Tel Aviv Tournament - Rami Ayyub (Reuters)

PA Spent $156 Million on Terrorist Salaries in 2020 - Maurice Hirsch (Palestinian Media Watch)
    The Palestinian Authority paid at least 512 million shekels ($156 million) to terrorist prisoners and released terrorists in 2020, while trying to hide its expenditures by changing its accounting methods.

U.S. Deports Former Nazi Camp Guard to Germany - Devlin Barrett (Washington Post)
    Friedrich Karl Berger, 95, a former German concentration camp guard, was deported to Germany on Saturday after an index card found in a sunken ship helped prove his Nazi ties.
    Acting Attorney General Monty Wilkinson said Berger's removal shows the "commitment to ensuring that the United States is not a safe haven for those who have participated in Nazi crimes against humanity."
    Since 1979, the Justice Department has won similar cases against 70 people, but the department has no other such cases pending.

Shlomo Hillel Helped 120,000 Jews Flee Iraq - Clay Risen (New York Times)
    Shlomo Hillel, a Baghdad-born Israeli operative who in the late 1940s and early '50s used bribes, fake visas and a network of smugglers to move more than 120,000 Jews from Iraq to Israel, died on Feb. 8 at 97.
    He was 23 when the Haganah sent him undercover to Iraq where, disguised as an Arab, he helped lay the groundwork for migration.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • U.S. Offers to Talk to Iran about Nuclear Deal - Alex Ward
    On Friday, President Biden told the Munich Security Conference that "we're prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran's nuclear program." A senior State Department official said, "This is just a very first initial step," adding that it's unclear if Iran will even agree to a meeting. Mohammadali Ale-Hashem, the Friday prayer leader in Tabriz, called the U.S. move "a defeat for America."  (Vox)
        See also Israel: U.S. Paving Path to Iranian Nuclear Bomb with Push to Rejoin Nuclear Deal - Tovah Lazaroff
    Responding to the U.S. decision to push to rejoin the 2015 Iran deal, the Prime Minister's Office said Friday: "Israel remains committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons and its position on the nuclear agreement has not changed. Israel believes that going back to the old agreement will pave Iran's path to a nuclear arsenal. Israel is in close contact with the United States on this matter."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • IAEA Found Uranium Traces at Two Sites Iran Barred It From - Francois Murphy
    The UN nuclear watchdog found uranium particles at two Iranian sites it inspected after months of stonewalling and it is preparing to rebuke Tehran for failing to explain, diplomats say. The material was found during IAEA inspections that were carried out at the sites in August and September 2020, after Iran barred access for seven months. Identifying the material as uranium creates a burden on Iran to explain it, as Iran is obliged to account for all uranium and not divert any to a weapons program.
        The IAEA suspects one of the sites hosted uranium conversion work, and the other was used for explosive testing. Diplomats said Iran has also failed to explain material found previously at a third site. Israel says evidence of undeclared nuclear activities shows that Iran has not been acting in good faith. (Reuters)
        See also Signs that Iran Might Be Continuing Its Nuclear Weapons Program - Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Raphael Ofek
    The writer, an expert in nuclear physics, served as a senior analyst in the Israeli intelligence community. (BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University)
  • Israel and Syria Complete a Prisoner Swap, Mediated by Russia - Patrick Kingsley
    On Thursday, Israel and Syria participated in a Russian-mediated prisoner swap that saw an Israeli woman held by Syria exchanged for two Syrian shepherds captured by Israel, the Israeli government announced Friday. The woman, 23, previously tried to illegally enter Jordan and Gaza, and Syrian authorities quickly realized that she was a civilian rather than a spy, an Israeli official said. (New York Times)
        See also Israel Agrees to Fund Russian Vaccines for Syria as Part of Prisoner Swap - Patrick Kingsley (New York Times)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Major Oil Spill Off Israel's Coast: Thousands of IDF Troops to Assist in Cleanup
    The Israel Defense Forces said Saturday it will assist in cleaning up a major oil spill that has affected Israel's entire Mediterranean coast. This week, thousands of IDF soldiers will assist workers and volunteers for the Nature and Parks Authority in cleaning tar off beaches. Dr. Dor Adelist, a marine scientist from the University of Haifa, called the spill from an unidentified ship the worst disaster of its kind in over 40 years. (Times of Israel)
        See also Anatomy of the Oil Disaster that Closed Israel's Beaches - Sue Surkes (Times of Israel)
        See also Wildlife Hospital Cleans, Treats Animals after Ecological Disaster - Idan Zonshine
    After the toxic oil spill off Israel's shores, the Nature and Parks Authority and the Safari's Wildlife Hospital in Ramat Gan have come across many animals with complex injuries. The cleaning of the tar is done using special oils. It is a lengthy process that requires patience and an especially gentle hand. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Egyptian Energy Minister in Israel to Talk Gas Cooperation - Lahav Harkov
    Egyptian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Tarek El Molla visited Jerusalem for the first time on Sunday to discuss cooperation on natural-gas issues. Israel and Egypt are planning to connect Israel's Leviathan gas field with Egypt's liquefied natural gas facilities for export to Europe. Israel has been exporting natural gas to Egypt for the past year. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: New Cases Continue to Decline as Vaccinations Increase
    3,041 new cases of coronavirus were reported on Feb. 21, compared with nearly 9,000 new cases on Feb. 1, the Israel Health Ministry said Monday. 838 are in serious condition, compared with 1,141 on Feb. 1.  4,376,971 (47%) have had the first vaccination, while 2,997,642 (32%) have had the second. (Jerusalem Post-Israel Health Ministry)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • In Fabricating Uranium Metal, Iran Makes Public Illicit Work Already Undertaken - John Bolton
    Iran is fabricating uranium metal, the International Atomic Energy Agency told its members on Feb. 10. Uranium metal's most common use is forming the hollow sphere of highly-enriched uranium at the core of nuclear weapons. Tehran has again made public illicit work already undertaken, but previously undisclosed.
        The speed with which Iran produced uranium metal is significant. Tehran assured the IAEA in mid-December it would likely take four-five months, not less than two, to fabricate metal. This follows a pattern Jim Baker once called "cheat and then retreat": Iran admits to illicit nuclear-weapons activity only when public disclosure is imminent and inevitable, or when it seems advantageous to do so. The writer is a former U.S. national security adviser. (Telegraph-UK)
  • U.S. Can't Negotiate with Iran as Its Proxies Attack Our Troops - Josh Rogin
    On Monday, armed militants launched a 14-rocket barrage on a U.S. air base in Irbil in northern Iraq. An Iranian-linked Iraqi Shiite militia quickly claimed credit. As the U.S. commences its new diplomatic engagement with Iran, the administration must insist Tehran stop its proxies from attacking Americans.
        Washington Institute for Near East Policy scholar Michael Knights said, "You don't negotiate with people who are nudge, nudge, wink, wink, trying to kill you at the same time." If the U.S. response is too weak, Iranian proxies in Iraq will be emboldened. Meanwhile, the leaders in Tehran are acting as if they have all the leverage, making demands and escalating their nuclear brinkmanship. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. and European Government Leaders Slam ICC Investigation into Israel - Adam Kredo
    The International Criminal Court's decision to initiate an investigation into alleged Israeli war crimes is driven by groups that seek to delegitimize the world's only Jewish state, according to former senior government and military officials from the U.S. and Europe in the Friends of Israel Initiative. In a letter sent Friday, they called on the new ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan to abandon the investigation.
        Signers included former U.S.-Iran envoy Elliott Abrams, former British Army commander Col. Richard Kemp, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, former Australian prime minister John Howard, and former president of Uruguay Luis Alberto Lacalle. (Washington Free Beacon)
        See also Text: Letter to ICC Chief Prosecutor (Friends of Israel Initiative)

  • Saudi Arabia is facing more frequent and increasingly precise airborne attacks from Iran-linked groups in neighboring Yemen and Iraq. Drones laden with explosives, launched from Iraq, smashed into the main royal complex in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Jan. 23. At least one hit close to the front gate of al-Yamama Palace, the seat of the Saudi government.
  • Meanwhile, Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi rebels have escalated attacks across the kingdom's southern border, including a strike this month that hit an empty passenger jet at a provincial airport. They have also launched drones and missiles against a nearby military base and Jeddah's international airport.
  • The incidents show the expanding reach of the country's foes. They also point to the difficulties of stemming attacks by Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, which continue to present a security threat despite vows by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to rein them in.
  • President Biden is pushing a fresh initiative to end Yemen's civil war and reviewing billions of dollars in arms sales to Riyadh, and has revoked the Houthis' designation as a foreign terrorist organization.
  • A Saudi official said, "The U.S decision to revoke the terrorist designation of the Houthis was misinterpreted by them as a license to escalate and continue their barbaric behavior within Yemen and the region with support from Iran."
  • Saudi-led coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki claimed the escalation in attacks was orchestrated by Iranian Revolutionary Guard generals based in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. The coalition has recorded 860 armed drone and ballistic missile attacks against Saudi Arabia since 2015.
  • President Biden has pledged to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory. "We're not going to allow Saudi Arabia to be target practice," Timothy Lenderking, Biden's special envoy for Yemen, said Tuesday.

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