December 12, 2022

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Protester Hanged in Public as Regime Intensifies Crackdown - Jon Gambrell (AP)
    Iran said Thursday it executed prisoner Mohsen Shekari, accused of blocking a street in Tehran and attacking a member of the security forces during the country's ongoing nationwide protests, the first such death penalty carried out by Tehran.
    Activists warn that at least a dozen people so far have received death sentences over their involvement in the demonstrations.
    The Mizan news agency, run by Iran's judiciary, said Shekari had been convicted on Nov. 20 in Tehran's Revolutionary Court of "waging war against God."

Lockerbie Bombing Suspect in U.S. Custody (BBC News)
    Abu Agila Masud, a Libyan man accused of making the bomb which destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing 270 people, is in U.S. custody, Scottish authorities have said.
    Last month it was reported that Masud had been kidnapped by a militia group in Libya, leading to speculation that he was going to be handed over to the American authorities to stand trial.

Saudi Official Says Normalization with Israel "a Matter of Time" - Guy Azriel (i24News)
    Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir, a former Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, recently told a U.S. Jewish group:
    "The direction of Saudi-Israeli relations is normalization, but it will take more time and we must not put the cart before the horse.... Israel and other Gulf states have been gradually normalizing for years. The process must be allowed to mature."
    Jubeir also said the future success of normalization depends on the success of the moderate elements in the Kingdom.
    There is still significant opposition to normalization within Saudi Arabia, which will take time to overcome.

Fatah Brags It Murdered 20 Israelis in 2022 - Nan Jacques Zilberdik (Palestinian Media Watch)
    In order to convince more Palestinians to choose terror and "martyrdom-death," the PA and Fatah promote terrorists as heroes and role models for society.
    On Sep. 28, Fatah Revolutionary Council member Muhammad Al-Lahham told official PA TV that 90% of the terrorist "martyrs" of 2022 were Fatah members.
    He also credited Fatah with murdering 20 Israelis, commenting that "this is a source of honor" for Abbas' Fatah movement.
    Fatah leaders have also expressed pride in the role of the PA Security Forces. A Fatah video highlights a member of the PA military intelligence who murdered an Israeli, and a member of the PA Preventive Security Forces who shot at Israeli soldiers together with other terrorists.

U.S. Kills Two ISIS Officials in Helicopter Raid in Eastern Syria - Oren Liebermann (CNN)
    The U.S. killed two ISIS officials in a helicopter raid early Sunday in eastern Syria, U.S. Central Command said.
    "The death of these ISIS officials will disrupt the terrorist organization's ability to further plot and carry out destabilizing attacks in the Middle East," said Central Command spokesman Col. Joe Buccino.

Finnish Bishop Declares Artists' Israel-Related Boycott Is Antisemitism - Ben Cohen (Algemeiner)
    Helsinki's Lutheran Bishop on Thursday said that the 200 artists who pledged to boycott Finland's leading gallery of contemporary art because of its links with a Finnish-Israeli philanthropist had adopted an antisemitic stance.
    "If an individual Jew is held responsible for the actions of the State of Israel, or if an individual Jew is prohibited from supporting Israel, or if Israel as a state is required to do something more than other democratic states, we are guilty of antisemitism," Bishop Teemu Laajasalo told Finland's Helsingin Sanomat.

IDF Cyber Defense Unit Holds Drill with U.S. Cyber Command - Emanuel Fabian (Times of Israel)
    The IDF said Thursday that its Cyber Defense Brigade and the U.S. Cyber Command held a joint exercise over the past week in Augusta, Georgia, the seventh such joint exercise.
    The drill included training for "several real-world scenarios... with an emphasis on the Middle East."

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • Israel Threatens to Bomb Beirut Airport If Used to Deliver Iranian Weapons
    Israeli political sources said that Israel was aware of a report by Al-Arabiya about Iran's plans to use a new smuggling corridor for its weapons through Beirut after the failure of the Damascus corridor. The sources stressed that Israel will carry out harsh military strikes if Beirut airport is used for Iranian ammunition deliveries. (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)
        See also Fearing Israeli Attacks, Hizbullah Redeploys Arms and Militiamen in Syria
    Hizbullah has recently transported weapons and ammunition from its current military positions to more heavily fortified warehouses in Syria, for fear of potential Israeli attacks. Iranian-backed militiamen wear the military uniforms of the regime forces and raise the Syrian flag on their cars, with pictures of Bashar Al-Assad placed on them, as part of ongoing camouflage operations by Hizbullah and Iranian-affiliated militias. (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights-UK)
        See also IDF Issues Leaflets in Syria Warning Against Hizbullah - Tzvi Joffre
    The Israeli Air Force dropped leaflets in the Quneitra area of southwestern Syria on Sunday, warning Syrian soldiers against working with Hizbullah.
        The Syrian Capital Voice site reported that Syria and Iran have been deploying new air defense systems, including jamming and early warning systems, around Damascus in order to prevent Israeli airstrikes. The new systems were built by Korean and Chinese companies and provided by Iran. Sources said that Israel and the U.S. were likely trying to locate the new air defense systems in order to target them. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Russia and Iran Military Ties Deepening into Partnership, Biden Administration Warns - Ken Thomas
    John Kirby, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, warned Friday that "Russia is offering Iran an unprecedented level of military and technical support that is transforming their relationship to a full-fledged defense partnership" and said the two nations were considering establishing a joint production line to provide lethal drones in Russia. The U.S. said it believed Iran was considering selling hundreds of ballistic missiles to Russia.
        Kirby said Moscow had sought to collaborate with Iran on weapons development and training and may be providing Tehran with helicopters and air-defense systems. He said Iranian pilots trained in Russia during the spring to fly the Sukhoi Su-36, a Russian jet fighter, which could indicate that Iran "may begin receiving aircraft within the next year."  (Wall Street Journal)
  • Pro-Palestine Activists Attack Welsh Weapons Factory with Sledgehammers - Gareth Davies
    Sledgehammer-wielding protesters from Palestine Action smashed their way into the Teledyne Technologies weapons plant in Powys, Wales, and rampaged through the building because of its alleged links to Israel. Demonstrators tore up offices, broke computers, covered the building in red paint and began an occupation of the roof in an attempt to force the factory to suspend its operations. Four people were arrested. (Telegraph-UK)
        See also Powys Residents Condemn Palestine Protestors - Matt Jones
    Protestors who caused extensive damage on Friday to Teledyne Labtech Ltd., an American-owned weapons plant, have been condemned by locals. One man who lives near the factory said: "It's ridiculous and pathetic. How will this help them?"
        Another man told us: "I know the company makes circuit boards, but it's stupid, I don't agree with what they're doing at all....The Israelis need the radar to spot the rockets they keep launching into Israel, so I'd say it's a worthy cause (the work done at Labtech)....It's local people that are worst affected, the number of good employers around here is few and far between."
        A woman who lives nearby said: "I don't believe in what they're doing. It's a free country and I believe in protesting but there's no need for causing damage. It's the local workers who will be worst affected."  (Powys County Times-UK)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:
  • Report: Iran Halts Funds to Palestinian Terror Groups, Sparking Crisis - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Iran stopped channeling funds to a number of Palestinian factions three months ago, the Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds revealed on Sunday. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) are among the factions that depend on funding from Iran. They use Iranian money to pay salaries to their leaders and members and cover the costs of their activities. (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Pushes UN Not to Update Israeli Settlement Blacklist - Tovah Lazaroff
    A UN database of companies that operated over the pre-1967 lines, which Israel has dubbed "the blacklist," was first published in 2020 by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva in fulfillment of a request by the UN Human Rights Council. U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said on Friday, "The U.S. opposes the creation of this database...and continues to oppose any work to update it." The UN has not generated a similar list for any other countries.
        The Biden administration has argued that the UN's bias against the Jewish state makes it impossible to support the UN blacklist. "The database only serves to reinforce an anti-Israeli bias that too often finds traction in UN venues," Patel said. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Palestinian Crashed Car into Israeli Motorcyclist in Suspected Car-Ramming - Emanuel Fabian
    The Israel Security Agency is investigating a car crash in Tel Aviv last week as a terror attack, after a Palestinian man, 31, illegally staying in Israel, crashed a car into a motorcyclist, officials said Sunday. The Israeli man on the motorcycle, Gilad Tanami, said Sunday he "knew it was a terror attack. I looked up and saw a car accelerating in my direction."  (Times of Israel)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:
  • When Antisemites Sue the Jews: Lessons for Al Jazeera - Rafael Medoff
    The Al Jazeera media network has filed suit against Israel over the accidental shooting of its reporter, Shireen Abu Akleh, last May. The lawsuit filed in the International Criminal Court (ICC) could shine an embarrassing spotlight on the network itself. Al Jazeera is "a major exporter of hateful content against the Jewish people, Israel, and the United States," according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
        Al Jazeera "has sought to cast doubt upon the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people" (referring to it as "the alleged Holocaust") and "routinely glorifies violence against Israeli Jews." Al Jazeera also has a record of "providing a platform to all manner of virulent anti-Israel and even antisemitic extremists" in its commentary sections.
        The writer is founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Shireen Abu Akleh Death "Witness" Is Islamic Jihad Terrorist - Akiva Van Koningsveld
    Jenin resident Sleem Awwad, a key eyewitness in the formal complaint against Israel filed by Al Jazeera at the International Criminal Court over the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, is a terrorist affiliated with the U.S.-designated terrorist organization Islamic Jihad. HonestReporting found that Awwad's social media profiles reveal that he is a staunch supporter of Islamic Jihad, and discovered five photos of Awwad brandishing firearms, including military-style rifles with scopes.
        "The credibility of the investigations of Al Jazeera in probing Abu Akleh's death are questionable now that HonestReporting exposed their chief witness as an active member of a murderous terrorist organization," HonestReporting executive director Gil Hoffman said. (HonestReporting)
  • Call Iran's Revolutionary Guards What They Are: Terrorists - Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou and Daniel Schwammenthal
    Spearheaded by the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI), 220 legislators from across Europe, the U.S., and Canada call for more consistency to curb the "growing threat to regional and global peace posed by the Islamic Republic of Iran."
        You cannot protect Ukrainian civilians without containing Russia's key ally and weapons supplier, Iran. You cannot call for peace in the Middle East without countering the region's biggest arsonist. And you cannot say you stand by the brave Iranian women and men fighting for freedom, and then refuse to punish their torturers.
        Foreign policy is often the difficult choice between morality and interests. No such dilemma exists in the case of Iran. Weakening the regime by designating the IRGC as a terrorist organization will not only make Ukraine, Europe, and the wider Middle East safer, but above all, it will aid the long-suffering people of Iran.
        Anna-Michelle Asimakopoulou is a member of the European Parliament from Greece and president of the Transatlantic Friends of Israel (TFI). Daniel Schwammenthal is the director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute and TFI secretary general. (Newsweek)
  • Will Qatar Emerge Victorious in the World Cup Image War? - Eitan Fischberger
    The 2022 Soccer World Cup has allowed host Qatar to embark on an intensive effort to bolster its public image in the West. In response, Qatar has received a torrent of criticism for its human rights record concerning women, LGBTQ individuals, and migrant workers. Qatar has steered attention away from its own human rights abuses by allowing for pro-Palestinian messaging during the World Cup and intensifying its anti-Israel propaganda. (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)

The Iranian Challenge Intensifies, while the International System Seems Otherwise Engaged - Sima Shine and Col. (res.) Eldad Shavit (Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University)
  • In the face of ongoing stagnation in the nuclear talks, Iran continues to advance its nuclear program, while continuing to provide military aid to Russia in the war with Ukraine. Iran for the first time announced the start of uranium enrichment to 60% at the Fordow underground plant and the replacement of old IR-1 centrifuges at this facility with advanced IR-6 centrifuges, which can enrich more quickly and in greater amounts.
  • After years when the nuclear issue was prioritized over other issues related to Iran, the West is forced to formulate policy that relates to the Iranian aid to Russia and the regime's violent suppression of the ongoing protests. Even if in their view the diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue is still a priority, Iran's conduct in the other spheres will make it very difficult to progress on this. Consequently, the chance of returning to the nuclear agreement at the current time is very slim.
  • The reality, in which Iran is taking aggressive and defiant steps without facing a determined response from the U.S. and its allies, reflects an increasing sense of confidence in Tehran, which rests in part on the assessment that the agenda of the U.S. (and Europe) is focused on the war in Ukraine alongside the main conflict with China, and that Iran as an issue is not high on the list. Tehran's assessment is that it can continue its policies without fear of any harm.
  • From Israel's perspective, even if Iran is far from decided on whether to progress toward producing nuclear weapons, it is critical already now to create sufficient deterrence that will make it difficult for Iran to take further steps to advance the enrichment system and the levels of enrichment, and certainly to decide on a weapons program.
  • It is possible that Iran's defiant conduct and the protests in its territory will make it somewhat easier for Israel to enlist the U.S. administration and the international community in taking action accordingly. To this end, it is recommended that the new government of Israel maintain an environment of relations that enables discreet and practical dialogue with Washington, which will be necessary in order to coordinate the required steps.
  • It is important that Israel work to convince the U.S. of the need to create outside-the-box measures that, even without declaring red lines, will strengthen deterrence against Iran and undermine Iran's confidence regarding the possible price that will be exacted from it, if it continues to advance its nuclear program.

    Sima Shine, head of the Iran program at INSS, was head of the Research and Evaluation Division at the Mossad (2003-2007).
        Col. (res.) Eldad Shavit, a senior researcher at INSS, previously served in senior roles in Israeli Defense Intelligence and the Mossad.

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