News Digest — 12/16/19

Arab League Head: ‘Iran Destabilizing Middle East’

“More than ever, Iran is threatening stability in the Middle East and endangering world peace in general due to its destructive regional aspirations,” said Ahmed Abu Gheit, head of the Arab League.

Israel Hayom reports that Gheit made his comments to Arab media outlets on Sunday (15th), in which he blamed Iran for the violent events throughout the region.

Iran has been seeking to become the main regional power in the Middle East, and is achieving its aims partly by arming proxies in areas like Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.

Israel has been fighting a determined battle to prevent Iran from entrenching along its northern border in Syria.  Iran has already successfully inserted itself into Lebanon through the proxy Hezbollah, which has become a major player in Lebanese politics.

Gheit called on Arab countries to unite “to contend with these challenges and threats posed by Tehran,” Israel Hayom reports.

“The Arab League members will continue to act to block Iran’s regional ambitions and the dangers it represents for the stability of Arab countries,” Abu Gheit said.

In October, Israel’s Channel 12 reported that Israel was working toward a non-aggression pact with four members of the Arab League, Oman, the U.A.E., Bahrain and Morocco.  The agreement would call for the development of friendly relations and the prevention of hostile acts toward the signatories. The driving force behind the idea is to better counter the threat of Iran.

On September 23, at the UN General Assembly, Israel’s Foreign Minister, Yisrael Katz, held a meeting with an unidentified Arab foreign minister and said, “We discussed in depth the regional realities and ways to deal with the Iranian threat, while at the same time we agreed on a process of promoting civilian cooperation between our two countries – a new and challenging reality.”



Pompeo Warns Iran As Attacks Mount On Iraqi Bases Used By US Troops

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran Friday (13th) of a “decisive” response if U.S. interests are harmed in Iraq, after a series of rocket attacks on bases.

“We must use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attacks by them, or their proxies of any identity, that harms Americans, our allies or our interests will be answered with a decisive U.S. response,” Pompeo said in a statement.

“Iran must respect the sovereignty of its neighbors and immediately cease its provision of lethal aid and support to third parties in Iraq and throughout the region,” he said.

There have been a spate of rocket attacks on Iraqi bases used by U.S. troops.

Last week saw two such attacks, one on the Al Asad base on Tuesday (10th) and the second on the Balad base on Thursday (12th).  A total of seven rockets struck the Al Asad base, and five the Balad base.

A U.S. official at the time said the attacks were the work of Iran-linked terrorists.

Meanwhile, Iraq has been shaken by protests in recent weeks, basically over foreign influence and interference in Iraqi affairs, particularly from Iran.  The demonstrations have forced the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.



Israel’s Role In The Middle East Has Become Critically Important For The U.S. – John Hannah

→ Israel’s recent emergence as one of the world’s most powerful industrial democracies has never been more important to the U.S.  And the value to U.S. interests of Israel’s world-class military, intelligence prowess, and cutting-edge science and technology sector is only likely to grow in the future.

→ Even as the U.S. seeks to reduce its burdens in the Middle East, it still has important interests that need defending.  It wants to contain Iranian aggression, combat Islamist terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, deter the outbreak of major war, and ensure Israel’s security.  Logic dictates that doing all that with less U.S. involvement means someone else will have to step up to help fill the void.

→ That puts a premium on reliable local allies that have both the will and the capability, not just to defend themselves without the U.S. riding to the rescue, but also to act effectively on their own.  It’s patently obvious that only one country comes close to meeting those criteria today: Israel.

→ Israel has, by an order of magnitude, the most powerful and operationally effective military in the Middle East.  Its intelligence services rank among the world’s best. It’s a technological superpower with leading research and development capabilities in priority national security areas for the U.S, including cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, missile defense, space, and anti-terrorism.  Israel’s assessment of the most serious threats to Middle East security is nearly identical to Washington’s. And its government and population are unwaveringly pro-American.

→ Since at least 2017, Israel has been the only power in the world conducting regular military operations to push back successfully against Iranian forces and their expansionist designs.  Iran’s goal of replicating in Syria the same level of military power and threat that it built in Lebanon through Hezbollah has been almost completely thwarted by a sustained campaign of “discreet” Israeli military attacks and intelligence activities, all without triggering a larger war.

→ To jeopardize such a strategic asset on the altar of a Palestinian conflict that has dragged on chronically for decades, with no resolution in sight and the issue’s relative geopolitical significance in steep decline, would be a huge unforced error.

The writer, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, served as national security advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney.



Brazil Will Move Its Embassy To Jerusalem

Son of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Eduardo Bolsonaro, told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday (15th) that Brazil was committed to moving its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem in 2020.

Bolsonaro Jr. spoke during a meeting inaugurating an office of Brazil’s APEX-Brasil trade organization in Jerusalem.  He said that he had spoken with his father, the president, prior to arriving in Israel, and that “he intends to move the embassy to Jerusalem and …he will do it.”

A few months ago, reports said that Brazil had decided not to relocate its embassy in Israel due to opposition to the move in the Brazilian government.

Netanyahu said that the opening of the Brazilian trade office in Jerusalem was part of the “strengthening ties between Israel and Brazil.”

“I would like to express my appreciation for President Bolsonaro’s stances supporting Israel in international forums.  President Bolsonaro changed Brazilian policy immediately and said, ‘We stand with Israel, we stand by the truth.’ We here in Israel stand with Brazil because we stand by the truth, and we support Brazil in any way we can,” Netanyahu said.

Bolsonaro Jr. said, “Mr. Netanyahu, we will fight terrorism together.  If we want to prevent terrorist attacks, we must demonstrate strength. So sooner or later, Brazil will declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization.”

Earlier Sunday (15th), Netanyahu warned that if Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah attacked Israel, both Hezbollah and the state of Lebanon would pay a “heavy price.”



An Egyptian-Born Muslim Zionist – Dudi Caspi

Egyptian-born Muslim Hussein Aboubakr, 30, defines himself as a Zionist.  His sympathy for Israel forced him out of Egypt and in the last seven years he has been living in Los Angeles.  He said in an interview that he grew up to believe that Jews were the source of all evil, but at age 14 he began to search the Internet and “discovered that reality was totally different and that Israel has values such as tolerance and humanity.  It was a difficult moment. I discovered the moral gap between my background and Western culture, especially with respect to Israel. All of a sudden you realize there is nothing to the stories that were drilled into you, that there’s no one in Israel who gets up in the morning and thinks up ways to harm Egypt.”

After receiving asylum at the American Embassy in Cairo, he was able to leave Egypt for the U.S.  In 2018, he visited Israel for the first time. “It was the first time I was in an environment that was very similar to the one I knew in Egypt.” he said.  “For the first time, I experienced the culture I came from – the food, the smells, the atmosphere, the noise, the mentality – with an atmosphere of freedom.  It made me want to explain to the Arabs how it feels to live their lives, only with freedom. Israel is what the Arab world could be, but is unable to become,” he added.