April 12, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Israel: Iran Testing Nuclear-Capable Missiles - Ariel Kahana (Israel Hayom)
    Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps has been testing nuclear-capable missiles for several months in violation of the 2015 nuclear deal, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and the UN Gilad Erdan revealed last week in a letter to the UN Security Council and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
    In January, Iranian forces tested missiles including the Sejjil and Qader, which are capable of carrying a 650 kg. (1,400 pounds) warhead and have a range of 2,000 km. (1,200 miles).

How Iran Smuggles Arms to Hamas - Adnan Abu Amer (Al-Monitor)
    An arms smuggler who deals with Hamas in Gaza told Al-Monitor that Iranian weapons are first shipped to Sudan or Somalia, "then to Egypt, where smugglers transport it by land to Sinai, and from there, Bedouins who specialize in smuggling deliver the shipment to Gaza through tunnels."
    "The second route is through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who send weapons through the Suez Canal all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, where Iranian ships dock off the coast of Gaza in Egyptian territorial waters. When night sets in, Hamas frogmen transport the weapons in closed containers."

Israel's New High-Tech Gaza Security Barrier - Brig.-Gen. (res.) Jacob Nagel and Jonathan Schanzer (RealClearDefense)
    Israel is close to completing the underground component of its new security fence around Hamas-controlled Gaza and the above-ground elements are 80% complete.
    Israelis understood the need for such a barrier during the 2014 Gaza conflict after uncovering several commando tunnels from Gaza into Israel.
    In addition to an above-ground physical layer, an upper hi-tech layer will include detection devices like robots, drones, unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs), and more. They are all equipped with visual, electronic and intelligence equipment and powered by artificial intelligence.
    The underground component includes a high-tech cement wall extending tens of meters beneath the ground, equipped with a multi-dimensional sensor net to detect any activity near, at, or under the barrier.
    Jacob Nagel served as Israel's acting national security advisor and head of the National Security Council. Jonathan Schanzer is a senior vice president at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Pothole Politics rather than Palestine Now Top the Agenda for Arab Israelis - David Rosenberg (Ha'aretz)
    The decision by many Arab Israeli political leaders to abandon their old stance as parties of protest in favor of pragmatism has deep roots in the changes underway in Arab society.
    The Bank of Israel estimates that 22.6% of Arab Israelis had middle class incomes in 2016-2018, up from 15.9% in 2007-2009. Another 6% belong to the upper-middle class.
    In the last 12 years, the share of Arab students enrolled at Israeli colleges and universities has nearly doubled to 17.2%. Arab Israeli representation in the tech workforce has also doubled.
    Arab Israelis have better opportunities than they could expect in nearly any Arab country.

Israeli Paralympic Rower Wins Silver at European Championships (Times of Israel)
    Israeli Moran Samuel, 38, won a silver medal in the women's Paralympic 2,000-meter race at the European Rowing Championships in Lake Varese, Italy, on Sunday.
    She had been a member of Israelís national basketball team until 2006, when she suffered a spinal stroke and became paralyzed in her lower body.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Explosion Destroys Power System at Natanz Uranium Enrichment Site - Ronen Bergman
    Two intelligence officials said a large explosion at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment site on Sunday completely destroyed the internal power system that supplies the underground centrifuges that enrich uranium. Officials said it could take at least nine months to restore Natanz's production.
        Iranian experts dismissed speculation that a cyberattack caused the power loss. The Natanz complex has its own power grid, multiple backup systems and layers of security protection. The intelligence officials said it was indeed a detonation of explosives. (New York Times)
        See also Iran Blames Israel for Sabotage at Natanz Nuclear Site - Jon Gambrell
    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh on Monday blamed Israel for a sabotage attack on its underground Natanz nuclear facility that damaged the centrifuges it uses to enrich uranium there. "The answer for Natanz is to take revenge against Israel," Khatibzadeh said. (AP)
        See also Strike on Natanz Planned Long Before Vienna Nuclear Talks - Yonah Jeremy Bob
    The strike on Iran's Natanz nuclear facility was in the works long before the Vienna nuclear talks between Iran and world powers, the Jerusalem Post has learned. The covert war against Iran is ongoing and constant and focused on preventing it from getting close to the nuclear threshold. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Willing to Lift Sanctions on Iran that Are "Inconsistent" with 2015 Nuclear Deal - Karen DeYoung
    The Biden administration has offered to lift sanctions against Iran that are "inconsistent" with the 2015 nuclear deal, and also those that prevent Iran from accessing broader economic benefits under the agreement, according to a senior State Department official. "That doesn't mean all of them," the official said, adding that "some" are "legitimate," including sanctions related to Iran's terrorism sponsorship, support of proxy wars, and development of ballistic missiles. "If Iran sticks to the position that every sanction since 2017" must be removed, the talks will remain at an "impasse," the official said. (Washington Post)
  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Austin Reaffirms U.S. Alliance with Israel
    U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met with Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz on Sunday during a two-day visit to Israel. "We addressed a broad range of defense issues, to include Israel's long-term planning for defense acquisitions, and regional security challenges, and U.S. support for efforts to normalize relations between Israel and Arab and Muslim-majority nations," Austin said. "I'm committed to continuing our close consultations on threats posed by Iran and to strengthening Israel's security," Austin tweeted on Sunday. (VOA News)
        See also Joint Statement by U.S. Secretary of Defense and Israeli Minister of Defense (U.S. Defense Department)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Israel Tells ICC It Has No Jurisdiction to Probe Alleged War Crimes - Judy Maltz
    Israel told the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Friday that it has no jurisdiction to investigate alleged Israeli war crimes against Palestinians in the West Bank, eastern Jerusalem and Gaza. "Israel vehemently rejects the claim that it is committing war crimes and stresses its unequivocal stance that the ICC has no jurisdiction to open a probe against it. This stance has been made clear to the ICC through other countries and world-renowned experts," the Prime Minister's Office said. Moreover, "Israel is a law-abiding country that is capable of carrying out its own investigation."  (Ha'aretz)
  • Restoration of U.S. Aid to Palestinians Delayed in Congress - Lahav Harkov
    Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and lead Republican of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have put a hold on $75 million of newly reinstated U.S. aid to the Palestinians, sources in Washington confirmed on Thursday. Risch and McCaul said, "resuming assistance to the West Bank and Gaza without concessions from the Palestinian Authority undermines U.S. interests."
        "The PA is spending millions annually to compensate terrorists while the international community pays for the well-being of the Palestinian people....The Biden administration should use all available leverage to secure behavior changes from the PA, including ending terror payments."  (Jerusalem Post)
  • Coronavirus in Israel: Serious Cases Continue to Fall after Vaccination Campaign
    137 new cases of coronavirus were reported in Israel on Sunday, the Israel Health Ministry said Monday. There were 3,484 active cases, with 253 in serious condition (compared with 635 on March 14) and 133 on ventilators. 4 people died on Sunday (compared to 27 on March 14). 53% of the population have had two vaccinations. (Jerusalem Post-Israel Ministry of Health-Hebrew)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • Israel Fears Iran Could Become the Next North Korea - Ron Ben-Yishai
    As Iran tries to obtain nuclear capability, Israel attempts to stall it for as long as possible. The damage to the Natanz facility has certainly delayed the use of the new centrifuges unveiled just days ago - and older centrifuges used for enriching uranium were also impacted. Coincidently, Saturday was National Nuclear Technology Day in Iran, and President Rouhani announced three new types of centrifuges being developed at Natanz that were able to enrich uranium 10-50 times faster.
        Rouhani's statement shows Iran aims to be able to reach the nuclear threshold within months. It is striving to quickly have the technological capabilities and knowledge to produce nuclear weapons before reaching any agreement with the U.S.  Israel fears the Iranians will achieve this goal, following in the footsteps of North Korea. (Ynet News)
        See also Iran Marks National Nuclear Day, Signaling Defiance of the U.S. - Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • The Iranians Initiated the Shadow Sea War - Yaakov Lappin
    Israel did not take responsibility for the April 6 attack on an Iranian ship used by the Revolutionary Guards for surveillance and naval military operations in the Red Sea, says Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and the former head of the research division of IDF Military Intelligence. "This ship is known to be serving the IRGC. The target has been damaged. We've seen many reports on Iranian ships smuggling weapons and oil, but this is the first time that a naval ship has been attacked."
        Israel "wouldn't hit any Iranian ship if they didn't endanger Israel in the sea arena. They're reportedly moving weapons to Hizbullah - Israel is obligated to stop this....It is the Iranians that initiated the shadow sea war. Israel is responding." Israel, "of course, has no interest in escalation," said Kuperwasser.
        "Every side wants to be sure that it has deterred the other and wants to be the last side to respond. If the Iranians respond, Israel might have to respond, too. Hence, even if the sides do not want an escalation, there is no mechanism at this time that is able to prevent it."  (JNS)
  • Iranian Spymaster Ran Agents in 22 European Cities - Jake Wallis Simons
    Documents found by German police in a car used by Iranian spy chief Assadollah Assadi, who in February was sentenced to 20 years in prison for masterminding a failed bomb attack in Paris in 2018, disclosed a network of regime agents in 22 cities in 11 European countries, along with plans for terror attacks using explosives, acid and toxic pathogenic substances. Assadi, 48, was a senior officer in Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and Security, where he worked in Department 312, responsible for international assassinations. He was appointed third secretary at Tehran's embassy in Vienna in 2014.
        Police officers discovered a notebook containing handwritten bomb-making and fieldwork instructions, and another recording trips to 289 locations across Europe to meet agents over four years. Investigators also recovered documentation disclosing the workings of the espionage network, including receipts of expenses for reimbursement, records of monthly and quarterly spy salaries, and details of computers issued to agents. Also found were four mobile phones used to contact spies, a laptop, external hard drives and USB sticks containing intelligence training manuals.
        "This will have no impact whatsoever on the nuclear discussions in Vienna," said Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser, former Director General of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs. "European powers are in the palm of Tehran's hand on the nuclear issue. The Iranians know that the Europeans will take no retaliatory action, so they just do whatever they like in Europe."  (Jewish Chronicle-UK)

How Israel Helps Defend American Interests in the Middle East - Michael Makovsky and John Hannah (National Interest)
  • Israel plays an indispensable role in helping defend American interests in the Middle East, serving as a stabilizing bulwark in a dangerous region that remains vitally important to the U.S.
  • Israel's determination to prevent a nuclear Iran represents significant leverage for American diplomats in negotiations with Tehran. If wielded skillfully by American negotiators, this leverage can play an essential role in pressuring Iran to dramatically curb its nuclear ambitions.
  • Should talks fail and Iran's march toward the bomb continue, Israel's ability to act decisively is a unique strategic asset - one that the Biden administration should have every interest in preserving and ensuring is as effective as possible.
  • Israel also has taken the lead against Iran on the ground. In Iran's shadow wars across the region, Israel alone has mastered gray-zone combat, conducting more than 1,000 strikes against Iranian-related targets in Syria, Iraq and the surrounding seas, almost single-handedly crippling Tehran's master plan to turn Syria into an IRGC fortress and forward operating base.
  • For the U.S., it's hard to put a price on the value of having a local partner with the power and skill to operate so effectively.

    Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official, is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).
    John Hannah, JINSA's senior fellow, is a former national security advisor for Vice President Dick Cheney.

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