Sunday, November 22, 2015

Analysis: Move against Islamic Movement will not be implemented

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 18, 2015

The northern and southern branches of the movement are highly integrated into Arab society and have the support of most Muslim citizens.

Sheikh Raed Salah . (photo credit:REUTERS)

The move by the government to ban the northern branch of the Islamic Movement is unlikely to be carried out in a complete fashion, since it would require a massive crackdown on thousands of Arab citizens.

The northern and southern branches of the movement are highly integrated into Arab society and have the support of most Muslim citizens.

Even Christian MK Basel Ghattas from the nationalist Balad party came out in the movement’s support.

The Islamic Movement’s northern branch also can count on support from the more pragmatic – not moderate – southern branch, which has decided to play the political game and has the UAL party in the Knesset as part of the Joint List.

Both groups operate nationally, seeking to Islamize Arab society, and eventually the state as well, just like other Muslim Brotherhood movements.

Since the southern branch is not being banned, it will be difficult for security authorities to differentiate between low and mid-level members of each branch, allowing some northern branch members to appear as part of the legal southern branch.

The Islamic Movement is also highly intertwined with leading Arab families and its social welfare network will continue to function under the aegis of the southern movement or it will move underground or use front organizations to hide from the authorities.

Fully disbanding the movement would require a massive security operation on par with what Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has undertaken against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt – imprisoning its members, preventing their supporters from preaching in mosques, and so forth.

And even after months of security operations and killings of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group is still alive and kicking.

Elie Rekhess, a top scholar of Arabs in Israel, who is currently the crown visiting professor in Israel Studies at Northwestern University, told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that the Islamic Movement is very powerful within Arab society and banning it is going to be viewed by the Muslim community in Israel as an assault on Islam.

“This ban represents a watershed in the state’s relationship with the Arab population and will be looked back as a transformational moment,” he said.

“The move is likely going to serve as a catalyst for growing unity within the Arab political elites in Israel,” pulling together leaders from the various political and ideological streams, said Rekhess, who formerly was a research fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, heading the Konrad Adenauer program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation in Israel.

Asked if he sees the decision as wise, Rekhess responded that he concurs with previous reports that the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) had been against the move.

According to a Channel 10 report last month, the domestic spy agency believes that banning the group increases the risk of an escalation in Jewish- Arab tensions.

In addition, Rekhess noted that banning the group would drive it underground, making it more difficult to monitor.

Arik Rudnitzky, the current project manager of the Konrad Adenauer Program, said this is the third time Israel has taken a step to ban an Arab movement.

The first group outlawed by the government was Al-Ard (The Land) movement in 1964, and the next time was in 1980, when it banned the National Coordination Committee.

To read the entire article click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Analysis: ISIS made 'al-Qaida-type' mistake by attacking West

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 17, 2015

If Islamic State had simply stuck to its Middle Eastern battles, it likely would have avoided a major Western military escalation.

A FRENCH GENDARME stands along the road as he checks vehicles and verifies the identity of travelers on the A1 motorway. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Islamic State made a grave strategic error by attacking the heart of Western civilization in Paris, which undoubtedly will provoke a fierce Western military response that could devastate the group.

If Islamic State had simply stuck to its Middle Eastern battles, it likely would have avoided a major Western military escalation.

Al-Qaida’s 9/11 attack against the US evoked a ferocious response, leading ultimately to the death of its leader, Osama bin Laden, and scattering its remaining members into hiding across the globe. While the group was never totally defeated, it was greatly debilitated.

Islamic State is set to face a similar onslaught that will remove its hold of swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria, and depending on Western resolve, possibly also in strongholds in weak states such as Libya and Nigeria.

Jihadist groups are not as disciplined and pragmatic as other Islamist movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood, its Palestinian branch Hamas, or Turkey’s AKP-led government, all of which condemned the Paris attacks.

However, they all, for example, have no problem with the targeting of Israeli civilians by Hamas.

Their ultimate goal of building a caliphate to conquer the world may be the same as that of Islamic State or al-Qaida, but their methods to reach it are more complex and play along with the existing international order.

Ely Karmon, senior researcher at the Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s Institute for Policy and Strategy, told The Jerusalem Post that it appears Islamic State has changed its strategy.

Karmon cited the claimed Islamic State bombing of a Russian passenger jet in Egypt last month, which shows that the group is coordinating between people on the ground and its stronghold in Iraq and Syria.

The Israeli terrorism expert attributes the attack against the West as a sign that the group is under growing pressure on its home base, not only by the US coalition and by the Shi’ite axis, but also increasingly by Russia and even Turkey, which has been closing its border and making arrests.

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, November 16, 2015

‘French authorities have their hands tied in fight against Islamic terrorism’

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 16, 2015

Israeli expert: Radicalized Muslims are all over major cities

Police stand outside the Stade de France where explosions were reported to have detonated outside the stadium during the France vs German friendly soccer match near Paris, November 13, 2015. (photo credit:REUTERS)
An Israeli expert on radical Islam who was in Paris advising on the topic before and after Friday’s attacks in the city, told The Jerusalem Post that French officials were shocked and that security measures following the massacre were lacking.

“The French have had many threats recently, but not something actionable, and then this attack happened,” said Dina Lisnyansky, an Islamic terrorism consultant from Bar-Ilan University, who also teaches at the Hebrew University.

Lisnyansky, who is also the co-founder of the Petah Tikva-based Israeli Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, returned from Paris on Sunday after meeting with French officials about radical Islam.

According to her, French intelligence has been picking up on constant threats, mostly due to the recent wave of immigration, but these attacks came as a surprise.

“Specific people in the Muslim community have been subjected to radical propaganda and these people are all over Paris and their major cities,” Lisnyansky said.

A source familiar with French officials told the Post that French law has tied the hands of the security forces and that President Fran├žois Hollande is planning to update the legal system so it can more adequately deal with Islamic radicals.

After the attacks, Lisnyansky noticed a big increase in the number of security personnel at strategic sites in Paris, but on her departure, the government had failed to secure the airport, she said.

“The taxi that I came to the airport in was able to pull into the terminal drop-off area without any check and I entered the airport without any security check as well,” she said. “The airport could have been an easy bombing target.”

Asked if she envisions French security matching Israeli security measures – including placing guards at every public center’s entrance – Lisnyansky responded that France is not there yet.

Muslim immigrants who grew up in France have been drawn close to Islam by Muslim Brotherhood-style groups, which are performing dawa – proselytizing of Islam – outreach carried out by institutions of social welfare services, and through Koran classes and educational propaganda.

Within this framework, French Muslims are being taught that loyalty to Islam is much more important than loyalty to the state. “This has been going on for more than 20 years,” she said.

To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Analysis: Russia set to retaliate against ISIS after plane bombing, complicating Syria intervention

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 11, 2015

“They know they will have to respond. It is not pleasant, but that is the price it pays for its intervention in Syria.” former Israeli ambassador to Russia and Ukraine tells Post.

Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail (4rth R) at the remines of a plane crash at the desert in central Sinai near El Arish city north of Egypt, October 31, 2015. (photo credit:(AICF/CHRIS LEE))

Russia is likely to increase its military involvement in Syria due to the widely assumed terrorist bombing of the plane that crashed in Sinai on October 31.

However, the consequences of such an escalation in Syria and perhaps elsewhere against Islamic State in the Middle East, is going to have to be weighed against the fallout – more attempts by the terrorist group to carry out attacks against Russia worldwide.

Israel would closely follow any changes in Russia’s involvement in Syria, as it may hamper its own maneuverability in the country.

Russia could also decide to sharply increase its support for Arab states and other proxy forces fighting against Islamic State. This could include the provision of military equipment and advisers, and even improved intelligence cooperation.

Such steps to boost its action against Islamic State would further move regional forces opposing the group toward the Russian camp and away from the US, which is seen as providing weak support.

Russian communications intercepted by US intelligence agencies show Russia believed the plane was brought down by a bomb, US sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.

All 224 passengers and crew were killed when Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed in the desert on the way from Sharm e-Sheikh to St. Petersburg.

Egypt and Russia have yet to formally announce the cause of the disaster. Both countries dismissed as premature US and British assessments last week that a bomb was likely responsible.

Zvi Magen, a senior fellow with the Institute for National Security Studies, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Tuesday that Russia has been trying to avoid reality by declining to admit its plane was downed in a terrorist attack, as that fact may complicate its position.

“They know they will have to respond. It is not pleasant, but that is the price it pays for its intervention in Syria,” said Magen, a former Israeli ambassador to both Ukraine and Russia.

The worry for Russia, he said, is that if it decides to increase attacks against Islamic State, the country could suffer retaliation from the terrorist group’s supporters among its sizable Muslim population.

To read the entire article click here.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Iranian commanders refuse orders to fight in Syria, report says

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 4, 2015

October seen as bloodiest month yet of Syria war for Iranian and Afghan forces.

Members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards take part in a military parade to commemorate the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war in Tehran. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Iran’s increasing military involvement in Syria to sustain President Bashar Assad’s regime is costing more and more casualties and top commanders of the elite Revolutionary Guards force have been charged with mutiny and treason for refusing orders to fight there, a pan-Arab daily newspaper reported on Wednesday.

A source quoted by the London-based Asharq al-Awsat daily said several Revolutionary Guard generals from Ahvaz province which has a significant Arab population, have chosen to retire or go into business rather than fight in Syria.

An official investigation has been launched into the large numbers of generals from that region suddenly retiring from service, the source told the paper, which backs Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, a rival of Iran’s Shiite regime.

The source said further that a rise in deaths among the Revolutionary Guards’ special Quds force has led its leadership to recruit higher-ranking officers to fight in Syria.

Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite extra-territorial Special Forces arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The report could not be independently confirmed.

Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Washington-based think tank, told The Jerusalem Post the real number of Iranian casualties in Syria was not known and Tehran has every reason to downplay the degree of its involvement and losses there.

“My survey of open-source data collected from the Persian language accounts of funerals in Iran, shows that 165 Iranian nationals, 154 Afghan nationals, and 26 Pakistani nationals – all Shiites – have been killed in combat in Syria since January 2013,” Alfoneh said.

He estimates that Hezbollah and Iraq’s Shiite militias have suffered greater casualties than Iran.

“Ever since the first Russian military engagement in Syria on September 30, there has been a marked increase in Afghan and Iranian casualties making October the bloodiest month in the entire course of the civil war for Iranian and Afghan forces,” said Alfoneh.

Thirty-four Iranians were killed in October while Afghan combat fatalities numbered 22.

Funerals have been held for six Pakistani nationals since June 25, “though there is no report of Shiite Pakistani combat fatalities in Syria,” Alfoneh said.

The Revolutionary Guards is increasingly deploying ground forces to Syria, which is a change from an earlier deployment of the Quds Force to that battle zone, Alfoneh said.

“This indicates the Quds Force is spread thin in several regional conflicts and has suffered heavy casualties in Syria,” he said.

“Deployment of the Revolutionary Guards is blurring the functional differences between it (a traditionally domestic force) and the Quds Force, which hitherto has served as the sole expeditionary warfare force.”

He said the Guards were increasingly using Iranian commanders for the Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade.

“This may be an attempt to improve the leadership of the Afghan Shiite forces, which have suffered extremely high casualties.”

To read the entire article click here.

A 'Cold War 2.0' playing out in the Middle East

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 4, 2015

Putin's government tries to establish a security belt stretching from Iraq to the Mediterranean, expert tells the "Post."

Ariel Cohen,senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. (photo credit:Courtesy)

The US is facing a "Cold War 2.0" against Russia in places such as Ukraine, the Baltic states, and Syria as President Vladimir Putin’s government tries to establish an external security belt stretching from Iraq to the Mediterranean, a US-based expert told The Jerusalem Post.

Such a security belt would pass from Iran to parts of Iraq and Syria, and form a barrier against Sunni Islamists, Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the director of the Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security in Washington, told the Post in an interview on Tuesday.

Cohen is in Israel for the Jerusalem Leaders Summit being held in Jerusalem this week, wherePost editor-in-chief Steve Linde moderated a session on Tuesday.

The security belt would be approximately at a distance of 1000 miles from Russia’s southern border.

“Russia is in an alliance with the Shia because they are afraid of the Sunnis,” said Cohen, adding that it is a pragmatic relationship “where each side is using the other.”

Asked if Russia’s military intervention in Syria would hamper Israel’s ability to attack by air, Cohen responded that Israel's reported recent strike against Hezbollah on Friday shows that it maintains its redlines and that it advised the Russians about what they are.

Of course, noted Cohen, there is a real risk in Syria that “we could wake up one day with the headline that a Russian jet shot down a US or Israeli plane or vice versa.”

However, Russia, the US, and Israel are prepared for such a scenario as they have created emergency lines of communication.

Regarding US strategy in Syria, Cohen said that its idea of using proxies in Syria failed, and the only viable force in Syria is the Kurds.

Speaking of the future of the Syrian civil war, the logical assumption is that there will be an agreement that paves the way for a transition from the regime of President Bashar Assad, he said. The other option is that the conflict there will expand between the Shia-Russian axis and the Sunnis.

To read the entire article click here.

'Media misleading by reporting that Iran implementing nuclear deal'

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 3, 2015

MEMRI head Yigal Carmon: Not one centrifuge has been removed.

Iranian worshipers in Tehran chant slogans during a protest against Saudi Arabia after Thursday's crush that killed 131 Iranians at the haj pilgrimage. (photo credit:REUTERS)

The mainstream media are misleading the world into believing that Iran has accepted and is implementing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that was agreed upon on July 14, a prominent Middle East expert who served in military intelligence and was an adviser to two prime ministers told The Jerusalem Post Tuesday.

“The recent phenomenon in the Western media saying that Iran has accepted the nuclear deal when it has not, shows that it has completely coddled to the line in defending the Iran deal,” Yigal Carmon, president of the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), told the Post.

“This is very dangerous,” he asserted.

In an article Carmon published on MEMRI’s website on Friday titled, “The emperor has no clothes,” he wrote: “With every passing day, Iran is more and more in violation of the JCPOA. But neither the Republicans nor the Democrats, nor the media, nor anyone else will acknowledge this, for the implications are too devastating.”

On Monday, Tehran’s atomic energy chief said during a visit to Tokyo: “We have already started to take our measures vis-a-vis the removal of the centrifuge machines – the extra centrifuge machines. We hope in two months time we are able to exhaust our commitment,” Ali Akbar Salehi told public broadcaster NHK.

In a separate development that appeared to confirm that Iran had begun implementing its side of the deal, 20 hardline conservative members of Iran’s parliament wrote to President Hassan Rouhani to complain about the deactivation of centrifuges at two enrichment plants at Natanz and Fordow.

“Unfortunately, in the last two days, some contractors entered Fordow and started dismantling centrifuges... they said they could finish the job in two weeks,” Fars cited the lawmakers, among those loath to accept the nuclear deal, as saying.

However, MEMRI showed a recent report from the Iranian press that directly refuted such claims.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for Iran’s atomic energy agency, addressed the concerns of several Majlis representatives and, according to a report on Tuesday by ISNA, he said: “We are also taking care of this matter. We will promote work in a way that follows the leader’s principles and guidelines.”

“The leader’s emphasis on the steps to be taken after the possible military dimensions dossier is closed was centered on the Arak reactor and the replacement of the uranium stockpiles,” he said.

“We are carrying out the leader’s orders meticulously and currently working on receiving the necessary guarantees on this matter.

“Indeed, we have taken several steps to implement the JCPOA so that we have more time when we wish to carry out matters in effect, but no centrifuge has been dismantled, and we are currently taking preparatory steps,” Iran’s nuclear spokesman continued.

“Regarding an official document on the rebuilding of the Arak reactor, all member-states of the P5+1 Group signed the document except for one, and we are currently waiting for the opinion of this country, which should arrive today or tomorrow,” Kamalvandi said.

Commenting on this previously unmentioned report, Carmon said, “Lo and behold, the only place you will find this report alongside the other one is in The Jerusalem Post, which sticks with the principles of journalism and doesn’t hide the reality when it doesn’t fit its beliefs, whatever they would be.

“The JCPOA, as concluded and celebrated on July 14, was never approved by Iran,” he said.

“They will never violate Khamenei’s conditions,” since even Iran’s leaders have already said they would adhere to them.

Conditions set out by Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei effectively give him the power to bypass the government and cancel the nuclear deal, Carmon and the head of MEMRI’s Iran desk, Ayelet Savyon, wrote in a report last month.

To read the entire article click here.

Analysis: Erdogan victory could mean more Turkey-Israel crises

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
November 3, 2015

Former Pentagon official says to expect a new flare-up, and soon.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s resounding election victory came as bad news for Israel, which has suffered the brunt of his insults and schemes.

Erdogan’s ruling Islamist AK Party now has a free hand to continue its crackdown against the local media that criticizes its government and others that are deemed to be enemies of the state.

Erdogan, a Sunni Islamist who, along with Qatar, supports the Muslim Brotherhood regionally – including Hamas – can now become even more aggressive in pursuing its regional ambitions.

The country continues to serve as a hub for Muslim Brotherhood members expelled from Egypt after president Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, as well as for the Hamas terrorist organization, with Erdogan meeting with visiting Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal in August.

Unsurprisingly, Hamas congratulated Erdogan for his election victory.

“The chances are that the AKP will continue to pursue the same disastrous policies of the last six to seven years,” said Faruk Logoglu, a former veteran diplomat and former vice chairman for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), as quoted in Turkey’s Today’s Zaman on Monday.

“Thus, as Turkey’s regional and broader marginalization grows, the AKP might be tempted to resort to even more strident discourse and actions,” he said.

The question is not whether the new Turkish government will act against Israel’s interests, but when.

Perhaps in the near term, Erdogan’s regime will be too busy consolidating power, arresting journalists, putting down domestic strife, fighting the Kurds, and dealing with the Syrian war raging next door, than to occupy itself too much with an anti-Israel agenda.

“Expect a new crisis with Israel, and soon,” Michael Rubin, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

Rubin argued that the fact that “Israeli self-flagellation” in reaction to Turkish aggression only serves “to make Israel- bashing a no-cost option for dictators and anti-Semites the world over.”

“Erdogan is a consummate demagogue. He has targeted not only Jews, but also Kurds, atheists, women, environmentalists, and the West,” he said, adding that since he cannot win arguments on the merits, he resorts to conspiracy.