Headlines – Wednesday, August 23, 2017

In-Depth Issues:

Iran Extends Reach with Fight for Land Link to Mediterranean – Bassem Mroue and Qassim Abdul-Zahra (AP-Washington Post)
Thousands of Iranian-backed fighters in Syria’s central desert region are advancing east, bringing Tehran closer to its goal of securing a corridor from its border, through Iraq and all the way to the Mediterranean.
Such a land route would facilitate movement of Iranian-backed fighters between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well as the flow of weapons to Damascus and Hizbullah.
“The aim is for a geographical connection between Syria, Iraq and the axis of resistance,” Syrian Information Minister Ramez al-Turjuman said in a TV interview.
U.S.-backed Syrian fighters had aimed to move north along the Iraqi border from southeastern Syria to block pro-Iranian forces’ moves to link up. But in June, Assad’s forces reached the border first, cutting them off.
Now the American allies are preparing to try from the other direction, moving south along the border from the northeastern province of Hassakeh.

European Secretariat Halts, Investigates Funding to Radical Palestinian Group (NGO Monitor)
The Swiss Government confirmed Monday that the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Secretariat - a joint funding mechanism of the governments of Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, and The Netherlands – is suspending funding to the Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC).
The decision follows WATC’s role in inaugurating a women’s center in the West Bank named after Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who murdered 38 Israeli civilians in a 1978 terror attack.
The Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung noted that WATC received $530,000 in core funding from 2014-2016.
See also Switzerland Stops Funds to Palestinian NGO over Terrorism Connection – Benjamin Weinthal (Jerusalem Post)

Unemployment in Israel Falls to 4.1 Percent (Globes)
Israel’s unemployment rate fell to 4.1% in July, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, down from 4.3% in June.

Video: Israeli Innovation in Africa – Luba Mayekiso (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
Israel’s story is not just political, it is also a story of innovation and overcoming unique obstacles. The benefits of Israeli innovation aren’t just local – they’re global.
While other countries have selfishly exploited South Africa, Israel has established itself as a partner rather than a colonizer.
Luba Mayekiso, the National Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in South Africa, explains how Israeli innovation can revolutionize Africa.

News Resources – North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • U.S. Wants UN Atomic Watchdog to Inspect Iranian Military Sites – Michelle Nichols
    The U.S. wants to know if the UN atomic watchdog plans to inspect Iranian military sites to verify Tehran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said Tuesday. Haley will meet with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials in Vienna on Wednesday. “There were already issues in those locations, so are they including that in what they look at to make sure that those issues no longer remain?” she asked. “They have the authority to look at military sites now. They have the authority to look at any suspicious sites now, it’s just – are they doing it?”
    Iran’s top authorities have flatly rejected giving international inspectors access to their military sites, and Iranian officials said any such move would trigger harsh consequences. “Why would they say that if they had nothing to hide? Why wouldn’t they let the IAEA go there?” Haley said. (Reuters)
  • Trump Adviser Kushner in Cairo for Talks on Mideast Peace – Menna Zaki
    White House adviser Jared Kushner arrived in Cairo on Wednesday, the latest stop on his Mideast trip exploring the possibilities of reviving the long-dormant Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. No major breakthroughs are expected. (AP)
    See also Saudi Crown Prince Holds Talks with U.S. Officials on Israeli-Palestinian Peace
    Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met senior U.S. officials, including presidential adviser Jared Kushner, in Jeddah and discussed efforts to bring about peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, the state Saudi Press Agency reported. (The National-Abu Dhabi)
    See also U.S. Delegation Arrives Once Again to Reignite Diplomatic Process – Herb Keinon (Jerusalem Post)
  • U.S. Holds Up Military Aid to Egypt over Human Rights Concerns – Carol Morello
    The State Department is withholding $195 million in military aid for Egypt and has completely withdrawn $96 million in other aid over human rights concerns and a new law placing strict restrictions on aid groups working in the country. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson notified Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of the decision in a phone call Tuesday, State Department officials said. Egypt has received $80 billion in U.S. military and economic aid over the past 30 years. (Washington Post)

News Resources – Israel and the Mideast:

  • Netanyahu, Putin to Discuss Israel’s Red Lines in Syria – Herb Keinon
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on Wednesday to discuss Iran’s efforts to establish a permanent military presence in Syria. Netanyahu said Tuesday that Iran’s accelerated attempt to establish a military presence in Syria “attests to Iran’s aggression, which has not lessened in the wake of the nuclear agreement. This also presents a problem not only to Israel, but rather to all the nations of the Middle East and the entire world.”
    Former Israeli National Security Council head Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror said the prime minister’s primary objective during his talks with Putin should be to let him know how Israel is likely to react if Tehran tries to set up a permanent military presence in Syria. “Israel is not coordinating with the Russians, but it’s very important for Israel that the Russians understand where Israel stands,” Amidror said.
    “It should be well understood all over, mainly in Moscow, that Israel will do whatever is needed not to let the Iranians build these bases [that will serve as a launching pad against Israel in the future], and not to let Hizbullah get these [game changing] weapons systems.”  (Jerusalem Post)
    See also Why Israel Is Concerned about American-Russian Understandings on Syria– Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)
  • Israeli Border Police Thwart Weapon Smuggling to West Bank – Udi Shaham
    Israeli Border Police seized a truck loaded with weapon parts at the Ein Yael checkpoint in southern Jerusalem on Tuesday, which was on its way to the West Bank. While checking a garbage truck, IDF inspectors found dozens of M-16 rifle parts among the trash. (Jerusalem Post)

Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • Israel Cannot Place Its Security in the Hands of Putin or Trump When Iran’s Shadow Looms Near – Prof. Eyal Zisser
    Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war turned Russia into Israel’s neighbor along its northern border. Israel has been working in recent weeks to ensure that the cease-fire deals concocted by the Russians will keep Iran and Hizbullah away from the border with Israel, and that Iran will not be allowed to build military bases or facilities in Syria to pose a threat to Israel.
    The Russians are willing to listen to Israel; they are not hostile as they were in the past. Moscow, though, has its own interests in Syria, and in its view Israel must learn to live with Iran and Hizbullah. It is clear that Israel cannot place its security in the hands of Putin or Trump when Iran’s shadow looms near. The writer, vice rector at Tel Aviv University, is former director of its Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies. (Israel Hayom)
  • Europe Adopts Israel-Style Security Measures – Anna Pazos
    European streets are looking more and more like Israel’s, with concrete barriers protecting pedestrians and around famous monuments, more bag searches, and a beefed-up police presence. “When it comes to counterterrorism, Israel and Europe have intense relations,” said Jose Maria Gil, a Spanish security analyst. “They are discreet, but very efficient.” “Almost every European country has sent a delegation to Israel,” said Ely Karmon, a senior researcher at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya. (Ha’aretz)
  • Was the Barcelona Attack Preventable? – Soeren Kern
    On Dec. 20, 2016, one day after a Tunisian jihadist drove a truck into a Christmas market in Berlin, killing 12 people and injuring 56, Spanish National Police ordered police departments to “implement physical security measures to protect public spaces” to prevent jihadist attacks “in places with high numbers of people.” The circular advised “installing large planters or bollards [vertical poles] at access points to hinder or prevent the entry of vehicles.”
    The measures were never implemented in Barcelona because the leaders of the Catalan independence movement did not want to be seen as taking orders from the central government in Madrid. After receiving the directive, Catalan police accused the central government of “alarmism” and insisted that it would not order municipalities in Catalonia to implement this “indiscriminate measure.”
    In June, “the Central Intelligence Agency warned Catalan police of a threat to Las Ramblas,” Spain’s El Periodico reported. (Gatestone Institute)


Kissinger’s Flawed Analysis of ISIS and Iran – Amir Taheri (Asharq Al-Awsat-UK)

  • Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warns that destroying ISIS could lead to an “Iranian radical empire.” He seems to think that the Khomeinist regime in Tehran and the ISIS “caliphate” in Raqqa belong to two different categories. The truth, however, is that they are two versions of the same ideology.
  • What is the difference between Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claiming “supreme leadership of all Muslims throughout the world” as “Imam” and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s similar claim as “Caliph”? And aren’t both regimes claiming to have the only true version of Islam with a mission to conquer the entire world in its name?
  • The choice is not between helping the Khomeinist regime and going to full-scale war against it. The least that Western democracies could do is not to help the Khomeinists out of the holes they constantly dig for themselves.
  • True, the Khomeinist regime has enough power to cause a great deal of trouble in the region, and is doing so. But this doesn’t mean it is capable of building an empire, something that requires a strong home-base – which the present Iranian regime no longer has, if it ever did.
  • The Khomeinists have difficulty recruiting Iranians to become martyrs in foreign wars, and are forced to hire Lebanese, Afghans, and Pakistanis.
  • Without cash-injections by the U.S. and allies, the Khomeinists will also be hard put to pay salaries, let alone finance empire-building projects.The writer was formerly editor of Iran’s premier newspaper, Kayhan.