U.S. lawmakers are increasingly calling on the Obama administration to respond to Iran’s recent arrest of a fourth American citizen. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said, “The arrest of Siamak Namazi is the latest show of contempt for America.” The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the vanguard and defenders of the Iranian Revolution, arrested Namazi, an Iranian-American businessman, while he was visiting his family in Iran. The arrest of Namazi has fueled existing momentum to take specific action against the IRGC, either through listing the organization as a U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) or by sanctioning specific individuals inside the IRGC, who are complicit in the detention of American citizens. The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) already sanctions both companies and individuals affiliated with the IRGC. In his statement on the arrest of Namazi, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) maintained that "Iran's threatening behavior will worsen if the administration does not work with Congress to enact stronger measures to push back, including renewal of the expiring Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 and targeted sanctions against Iran's Revolutionary Guard and against any Iranian official found to have participated in the unjust detainment of American citizens.” Prior to the news of Siamak Namazi’s arrest, on October 29, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas) wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization.
In his statement, Sen. Kirk declared that the nuclear deal, reached in July, is only emboldening Iran, rather than moderating it. Last week, The Wall Street Journal’s deputy editorial page editor, Bret Stephens, chronicled Iran’s increasingly aggressive behavior in the wake of the nuclear deal. Iran has test-fired a precision-guided ballistic missile in defiance of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, convictedWashington Post reporter Jason Rezaian on false charges, has increased its troop presence to Syria, and continues to export weapons abroad in support of the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the Assad regime in Syria.
Despite the negotiations in July, U.S. diplomats did not secure the release of the three Americans held in Iran. On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Rick Stengel was asked why the U.S. can’t bring them home, despite the nuclear deal that was reached. Under Secretary Stengel told host Joe Scarborough that the nuclear deal did not depend on securing their release. Scarborough then declared that Iran should have been told that if it wants billions of dollars in sanctions relief and if it wants to lose its international pariah status, then it must release the journalist that it “illegally arrested.”
Four Israelis were wounded, three seriously, during two separate Palestinian terror attacks on Monday.
Three people were stabbed on Monday afternoon in the central city of Rishon Lezion, The Times of Israel reported. Two of the victims, a woman in her 80s and a middle aged man, were seriously hurt. The third victim, a 26-year-old man, was lightly injured.
After passersby locked the door shut by placing sticks in its handles, police arrived and arrested the attacker. One of the eyewitnesses told the Times, “The terrorist got off a bus, starting running around with a knife. People shouted, ‘There’s a terrorist!’ I and five other people saw him and chased after him. We [caught him] and started hitting him in the face [while he held a knife]. We tried to stop him, but he managed to stab two people.”
Dov Tzur, the mayor of Rishon Lezion, praised the “fast work of citizens and security services, police and Magen David Adom” in stopping and apprehending the attacker.
Later on Monday, a 71-year-old man was stabbed and seriously wounded in Netanya by a Palestinian man from the West Bank, according to the Times.
The Palestinian terrorist was shot while attempting to flee from the scene of the attack. He is reported to be in critical condition.
The attacks come in the wake of an attempted stabbing on Monday morning, during which two Palestinians tried to attack a soldier at a West Bank gas station. One of the Palestinians was fatally shot, while the other was arrested. No soldiers were injured.
According to Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the emergency medical service Magen David Adom reported that Palestinians have carried out 57 stabbings, 5 shootings, and 6 car ramming attacks since the beginning of October. Thus far, eleven individuals have been killed while over 120 have been wounded. Various Israeli securityexperts and Palestinian activists have attributed the attacks to the inflammatory rhetoric of Palestinian leaders, particularly over the al-Aqsa mosque, as well as incitement on social media. Recent reports by the Middle East Media Research Institute have showcased some of the calls to violence that have been spreading on Palestinian social networks, which range from hashtags such as “Poison the Knife before You Stab” and “Slaughtering the Jews,” to anatomical charts showing potential attackers where to stab their victims.
A report published in The New York Times this October shed light on the role these posts play in encouraging Palestinians to commit acts of terror.
Micah Avni, the son of Richard Lakin, an American-Israeli teacher and peace activist who died last week after being stabbed and shot in a terror attack two weeks earlier,said that social media companies “have a social responsibility to stop this rampant incitement, and beyond incitement, instruction manuals how to brutalize people.” (via TheTower.org)
Twice every year, some 500 million birds of at least 300 different species pass through Israel on their way to and from breeding grounds in Africa, Asia and Europe. Israeli ornithologists – there are dozens of them around the country – keep a running log of sightings on the Israeli Birding Portal. In October, the blue-cheeked bee-eater made its first official appearance on that news feed in more than 50 years. “All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, a flock of some 30-40 blue-cheeked bee-eaters appeared over the Yerucham Lake Park. There was no mistaking them as their colors and calls filled the air,” writes Eyal Shochat, academic manager at Hoopoe-Yerucham Center of Ecology and Ornithology, on the birding portal. “The blue-cheeked bee-eaters are rare spring migrants at Yerucham and this was the first time ever they showed up here in fall, quite a distance from their traditional migration route in the Jordan Valley.” These colorful birds with bright green plumage happened to fly over Yerucham, a town in the Negev Desert, during a bird-ringing event. Shochat writes in his blog post that as soon as the ornithologists heard the songbirds’ cries, they played recordings of bee-eaters to attract them to the nets they had set up in order to tag other birds. They successfully caught and ringed six of these rare near-passerine birds. (via Israel21c)
The core concept of Israel’s national security strategy is and has always been its Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Put simply, it means that Israel must build and maintain a military that is qualitatively better than any other in the region. Originally formulated by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, this long standing doctrine, grounded on the reality of Israel’s small size and embattled status in the Middle East, is now facing a grave challenge as the balance of power in the region tilts increasingly toward Iran.
As Israel emerged victorious from the 1948 War of Independence, Ben-Gurion grasped that because the Jewish state lacked the territorial depth required for its population to separate itself from an attacking enemy, it could not lose a war without losing its territory. Any enemy victory would mean the physical conquest of Israel. Thus, Israel required a QME in order to prevent the catastrophic loss of Israeli life and land.
America has recognized the existential importance of Israel’s QME since 1968, when U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson sold Israel F-4 Phantom fighter jets, one year after France—which had provided the backbone of Israel’s air force over the previous two decades—imposed an embargo on weapons sales to the Jewish state on the eve of the Six-Day War. But the U.S. also recognized the QME’s irreplaceable role in creating a balance of power in the region favorable to American interests. As a result, every president since Johnson has contributed to the maintenance of Israel’s QME in one form or another, and Congress has authorized the sale and supply of the military equipment and financing required to ensure that Israel’s needs are met.
Since 9/11, Congress has become especially aggressive in pushing the Executive Branch to guarantee Israel’s QME. In 2008, Congress passed and President George W. Bush signed into law House Resolution 7177, which defined the requirements for Israel to maintain its QME. This was a critical development in American policy toward Israel, because it set a high minimum standard for U.S. military support. H.R. 7177 stipulates that Israel’s QME requires the “ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors” while
Sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors.
America’s role in maintaining Israel’s QME is not just good for Israel. It benefits America greatly, because it guarantees Israel’s status as a “Strong Horse” in the region, keeping American influence at the forefront. The Strong Horse concept was explained by journalist Lee Smith in his book of the same name, in which he argued that the Middle East has historically been dominated by leaders and countries that catapult themselves into positions of regional influence through demonstrations of military superiority. These Strong Horse leaders maintain their positions of power until they are supplanted by a militarily superior rival.
Israel’s QME has confirmed it as a regional Strong Horse, and American support has enabled the U.S. to project power and influence via Israel’s military superiority in two significant ways: First, Arab states have been dissuaded from engaging in dangerous military adventurism that would force Israel and perhaps the United States to intervene in order to keep Israel and America’s allies safe. (This, of course, required active American leadership, which has unfortunately been receding in recent years. Nevertheless, until American involvement began declining, the robust and active U.S.-Israel alliance limited what countries like Syria and actors like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps could do.)
Second, Israel has been able to do some of America’s bidding. One example of this is Israel’s ongoing contribution to protecting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan from both ISIS and Iranian interference, significantly boosting America’s need for stability and Western-allied leadership in Jordan by setting up a joint command and control center in Jordan from which its domestic and international anti-ISIS operations are run, as well as supplying Jordan with Israeli combat helicopters and its most advanced unmanned aerial vehicles.
But the Middle East is an ever-changing region, and lately the change has been for the worse. As a result of this, Israel’s military edge is being dangerously eroded at the just the time that Iran’s burgeoning QME is quickly closing the gap.
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