August 16, 2021

In-Depth Issues:

Afghans Tell of Executions, Forced "Marriages" in Taliban-Held Areas - Saeed Shah (Wall Street Journal)
    Afghans pouring into Kabul and those still in Taliban-held areas say they have witnessed unprovoked attacks on civilians and executions of captured soldiers by the Taliban.
    In addition, they say, Taliban commanders have demanded that communities turn over unmarried women to become "wives" for their fighters.

U.S. Airstrikes in Middle East Plummet - Rachel Cohen (Air Force Times)
    The pace of U.S.-led airstrikes on the Taliban, Islamic State and other militias in the Middle East has slowed considerably in 2021. Reconnaissance flights are tapering off as well.
    Lt.-Gen. Gregory Guillot said: "We'll go through several days... in both Afghanistan and in Iraq and Syria, with 50 strikes in a row, and [then] it'll quiet down."

Morocco, Israel Agree to Open Embassies in Two Months - Safaa Kasraoui (Morocco World News)
    Israel and Morocco have agreed to establish full diplomatic relations.
    Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said both countries agreed to open embassies in the next two months, during his visit to Morocco on August 11-12.

Iran's Health System Reeling from Covid Surge - Farnaz Fassihi (New York Times)
    In Iran, the aggressive Delta variant of the coronavirus has led to record numbers of deaths and infections.
    Hospital medics are triaging patients in cars parked on the roadside. Lines stretch for blocks outside pharmacies. Taxis transport corpses from hospitals to cemeteries.
    The official virus death toll is 500 to 600 people a day, but Iran's state television said that one Iranian dies every two minutes - at least 720 a day. Frontline doctors say the real death toll was closer to 1,000 a day.
    Medical personnel are furious over a dearth of vaccines, which Iran's leaders refused to purchase in time or in sufficient quantities.
    They banned vaccines made in the U.S. and Britain, even rejecting donations, because Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said they had been designed by the West to "contaminate other nations."
    When experts from the World Health Organization visited to assess Iran's needs and offer help, medical personnel were ordered to portray the country as self-sufficient and cover up real death tolls.

Hamas Rocket Fire a War Crime, Human Rights Watch Says (BBC)
    The firing of rockets at Israel by Palestinians in Gaza during the conflict in May "flagrantly violated" the laws of war and amounted to war crimes, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.
    More than 4,360 rockets and mortars were fired, Israel says, killing 13 people. Some fell short, killing Palestinians in Gaza.

"Pay to Slay" Is the True Face of the "Peace Process" for Israelis and Palestinians - Editorial (New York Post)
    In the two decades since the Sbarro pizza-shop bombing in Jerusalem, murdering 15 people and wounding 130 others, the Palestinian Authority's "pay to slay" program has paid the seven terrorists who helped orchestrate the atrocity nearly $2 million.
    The suicide bomber's family has received $53,000, while the bomb maker has pocketed $213,000.
    That's the true face of the "peace process."

Israel to Supply More IED Jammers to Spain (JNS)
    Israel's Netline Communications Technologies announced on Monday that it will deliver 87 improvised explosive device (IED) jammers to the Spanish Ministry of Defense in November 2021. Netline delivered 51 of the C-Guard RJ systems in 2020.

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Afghan Army Routed by the Taliban
    Taliban fighters have taken control of Kabul as the Afghan army has collapsed. Washington spent $83 billion in its effort to create a modern army in Afghanistan. Airplanes, helicopters, drones, armored vehicles, night-vision goggles: the U.S. spared no expense in equipping the Afghan army.
        But in a country lacking the infrastructure to support cutting-edge military equipment, the Afghans were unable to mount a serious resistance against a less-equipped and ostensibly badly outnumbered foe. John Sopko, the U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction (SIGAR), reported to Congress last week that "advanced weapons systems, vehicles and logistics used by Western militaries were beyond the capabilities of the largely illiterate and uneducated Afghan force."
        Pentagon officials insisted on a numerical advantage held by the Afghan forces - supposedly with 300,000 men in the army and the police - over the Taliban, estimated to number some 70,000. But the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point estimated that only 185,000 troops were under Defense Ministry control, and barely 60% of those were trained fighters. A more accurate estimate of the army's fighting strength was 96,000. The SIGAR report said the Afghan army had to replace 25% of its force each year, largely because of desertions.
        Ronald Neumann, a former U.S. ambassador to Kabul, noted, "We built an air force that depended on contractors for maintenance and then pulled the contractors....We profoundly shocked the Afghan army and morale by pulling out and pulling our air cover."
        Moreover, salaries of the Afghan army, which had been paid for years by the Pentagon, became the responsibility of the Kabul government. This led to numerous Afghan soldiers complaining on social media that they had not been paid in months, and their units were no longer receiving food or supplies - not even ammunition. (AFP)
  • Israel Condemns Poland Restitution Law - Vanessa Gera
    Israel on Saturday condemned Poland's approval of a law that restricts the rights of Holocaust survivors or their descendants to reclaim property seized by the country's former communist regime. The new law, signed by Polish President Andrzej Duda, establishes that any administrative decision issued 30 years ago or more can no longer be challenged, meaning that property owners who had their homes or business seized in the communist era can no longer get compensation. Both the U.S. and Israeli governments had strongly urged Poland not to pass the law. (AP)
        See also Poland Rejects Accusation that WWII Claims Law Is Anti-Semitic
    Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Sunday rejected accusations of anti-Semitism from Israel over a new law that will restrict claims on properties seized in the aftermath of World War II. (AFP)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Palestinians Oppose Making Tomb of the Patriarchs Accessible to the Disabled - Emanuel Fabian
    Palestinians briefly clashed with Israeli forces in Hebron on Friday over construction at the Tomb of the Patriarchs to make the site accessible to both Israeli and Palestinian disabled worshippers. Last month, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, "The Tomb of the Patriarchs is a sacred and historic site, and in the 21st century it is impossible for such an important site for Jews and Muslims not to be accessible to all populations."  (Times of Israel)
  • Palestinian Schools in Eastern Jerusalem Embrace Israeli Curriculum - Or Kashti
    The Alpha school in the Beit Hanina neighborhood is one of 32 schools built in eastern Jerusalem in recent years. Alpha was built with standards similar to Israeli schools. There are wide, well-lit corridors, large windows, a nice soccer field, labs, an impressive teachers' room and even a hall for parents' activities.
        Alpha opened in 2020 after an investment of $12.4 million from the Israel Education Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality. The 600 students in grades 1 to 8 study the Israeli curriculum. The change began from the bottom. It started with parents' demanding that their children study the Israeli curriculum to ensure them a better future.
        Some 13,000 students will study the program crafted and supervised by the ministry in the coming school year, compared with 5,000 five years ago. At the same time, 100,000 eastern Jerusalem students follow the Palestinian curriculum. Half of them go to private schools or schools run by Muslim organizations, churches or private NGOs.
        The number of eastern Jerusalem students at Israeli universities and colleges is no less significant. At Hebrew University, 710 such students will study this year, compared with 36 five years ago. The David Yellin, Hadassah and Azrieli colleges are also popular with Palestinian students. (Ha'aretz)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • What America and Its Allies Can Learn from the Collapse of Afghanistan - Anshel Pfeffer
    The comparisons between the fall of Kabul and the fall of Saigon are unfair to the South Vietnamese. They persevered for over two years after the U.S. military departed in 1973. The Afghan National Army melted away before U.S. troops even departed.
        America hasn't abandoned its allies. It would be grossly unfair to characterize a 20-year investment of 2,400 U.S. lives and nearly a trillion dollars in that way. It simply can't help them if they are incapable of helping themselves. (Ha'aretz)
  • Hizbullah's "Land of Tunnels" - the North Korean-Iranian Connection - Maj. (res.) Tal Beeri
    After the Second Lebanon War of 2006, Hizbullah, supported by the North Koreans and the Iranians, established the "Land of the Tunnels," a tunnel network of enormous magnitude, consisting of tens of kilometers of tunnels that connect Hizbullah's central headquarters in Beirut, its logistical backbone in the Bekaa area, and its defensive positions in Southern Lebanon.
        North Korean advisors significantly assisted Hizbullah's tunnel project and Hizbullah's model is the same as the North Korean model: tunnels in which hundreds of combatants, fully equipped, can pass stealthily and rapidly underground. At least 6 Hizbullah offensive tunnels, built with the support of North Korea and Iran, were exposed by the IDF in 2018.
        Hizbullah tunnels, like Hamas tunnels, contain shafts used to fire missiles. These shafts are camouflaged and cannot be detected above ground. They open for a short period of time to fire the missile and are then immediately shut for the purpose of reloading the hydraulic launcher. The tunnels allow carrying out an attack in a safe, protected, and invisible manner. (Alma Research & Education Center)
        See also Read the Full Report with Photos and Maps (Alma Research & Education Center)
  • The Abraham Accords - One Year On - Anjana Sankar
    Exactly a year ago, the UAE changed the course of Middle Eastern history and became the first GCC country to announce normalization of relations with Israel. A month later, on September 15, in a grand ceremony on the White House lawn, the UAE and Bahrain signed the Abraham Accords. Sudan and Morocco later followed and established diplomatic relations with Israel.
        On November 26, 2020, I boarded the first passenger flight from Dubai to Tel Aviv. What awaited us was a warm welcome that journalists on foreign soil do not usually expect. We were lucky to be on the receiving end of Israeli euphoria and optimism about the new peace deal. In the corridors of power as well as on the streets of Tel Aviv, people were thrilled that a UAE journalist was visiting them. The old Jewish couple who invited me for lunch, the young college students who took pictures with me, the taxi driver who promised to call when he comes to Dubai - I was touched by the warmth and humanity on display.
        Since my visit, both countries have opened embassies. Thousands of Israelis have visited Dubai. A flurry of business and investment deals and cooperation agreements were signed between research institutions, universities, sports clubs, and trade and cultural forums in the UAE and Israel. (Khaleej Times-Dubai)
        See also Abraham Accords: A Year of Business Ties between UAE, Israel, Bahrain - Jennifer Bell (Al Arabiya)
  • African NGO Welcomes Israel Observer Status at AU - Nicola Miltz
    African Diaspora for Development (ADD) international executive director Jean-Pierre Alumba Lukamba said last week, "As Africans, we welcome and celebrate the recent decision by the AU [African Union] to further our historical ties with the state of Israel by giving Israel observer status in the AU." Describing the decision as "a wise one," he added, "Progressive Africans are hoping that this will further help African NGOs engage with the success of Israeli ones in bettering the lives of people across the continent."
        Lukamba said there were more than 70 non-African embassies and NGOs which were part of the AU, and the accreditation of Israel "shouldn't be seen as an issue," especially after engaging with decades of Israeli aid and development in helping countries such as Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, and Nigeria, to name but a few. (South African Jewish Report)

America Must Push Back on Iran's Naval and Drone Aggression - Vice Adm. (ret.) John W. Miller (Algemeiner)
  • Iran's drone attack against the Israeli-operated Mercer Street on July 29 displayed Iran's dangerous tendency to assault ships that are peacefully and legally transiting through international waters. Iranian gunmen also hijacked a Panama-flagged tanker, the Asphalt Princess, in the Gulf of Oman on August 3.
  • With Tehran's aggression growing at an alarming pace, the United States and its partners need a strong, persistent, and cohesive response that deters and degrades Iran's ability to launch these deadly attacks.
  • Iran has designed, manufactured, and proliferated drones to proxy groups, including the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza, and Shia militias in Iraq, who are increasingly using drones to strike U.S. service members, partners, and interests this year.
  • The continued absence of significant consequences for Tehran's aggression will reinforce the idea that the international community lacks the will to challenge it.
  • Building upon the Abraham Accords, Washington should push for Israel's participation in the International Maritime Security Construct, which has escorted ships in the Arabian Gulf since 2019. The group currently includes the U.S., UK, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Albania, Estonia, and Lithuania, but could benefit from Israel's intelligence and naval capabilities.
  • Since this is likely not enough to deter the Iranians, Washington needs to develop a comprehensive approach that includes a more consistent and potent use of military force in response to Iran's naval aggression. At the same time, the Biden administration should make clear that Israel can respond independently of any joint action.

    The writer served as commander of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

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