Elik Etzion to Be Appointed To lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments at Elron

July 1, 2021

Below is a press release by Elron, which I thought will be interesting for my readers. The company appointed Elik Etzion to lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments. Etzion to begin at Elron following 20 years of service in IDF top Unit 8200 and several years as Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at Bank Hapoalim Group. And here the press release as a Guest Post:

Elik Etzion to Be Appointed To lead the Enterprise Software and Cybersecurity Investments at Elron

Tel Aviv, Israel – July 1, 2021 – Elron, a leading Israeli early-stage tech investment company, announced a new managerial appointment. Mr. Elik Etzion has been appointed to lead the Enterprise Software and Cyber Investments at Elron. Etzion will be responsible for identifying and accompanying companies specializing in Cybersecurity and Enterprise Software spaces. He will take over the role as of July 2021.

Elron specializes in early-stage investments in cyber and software companies. The company is reinforcing its management and investment teams. Following its capital offering this past April, the company has approximately $90 million in its fund that is primarily earmarked for continued investments in cyber and software sectors, the company’s leading area of focus, alongside the maturation of its medical device portfolio companies.

Simultaneous with Etzion’s appointment, Mr. Zohar Rozenberg, who successfully spearheaded cyber investments over the past six years, will continue with the company as an active independent partner (Venture Partner). He will continue to support the activities of Elron and its portfolio companies, in which he serves as a board member and a member of the investments team.

46-year-old Elik Etzion is joining Elron’s management team to head cyber and software investments in the company after a comprehensive career of 25 years in key Elron investment sectors. He brings extensive experience in all facets of cyber and data analytics and is familiar with the digital age and the complex challenges that it entails.

Etzion, a retired lieutenant colonel, began his career at the top of the tech and cyber world in the IDF, where he gained diverse technological-operational experience and knowledge over the course of 20 years in Unit 8200. In his last positions in the IDF, Etzion served as deputy commander of the cyber division, head of the R&D Department, and Head of the Cyber operations Department.

Upon his discharge from the IDF, Etzion served as CISO and member of the Technology Division Management at Bank Hapoalim Group. He enhanced the bank’s cybersecurity posture and contributed to the cyber resilience of Israel’s banking sector, alongside being party to spearheading the bank’s digital transformation.

Etzion also served as a director in SHVA and as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Masav, specializing in payments and clearance. He brings in-depth expertise and understanding, a strategic vision of the market along, and practical experience.

Yaron Elad, CEO of Elron: “We are delighted to add Elik to the Elron family. Elik’s exceptional background following 20 years of military experience, his record in the financial sector, and his in-depth and practical familiarity with growing cyber threats and advanced information technologies will prove immensely valuable in identifying new investments and supporting and overseeing our portfolio companies. Elik will join Zohar, my partner in establishing Elron’s cyber portfolio, who will serve as an independent partner. Zohar will continue to support Elron’s specialization in the cyber sector.”

Elik Etzion: “I see a tremendous opportunity to lead the Cybersecurity and Enterprise Software investments at Elron and in helping Israeli startups grow and become global market leaders. Many vertical organizations undergo a deep transformation in their business model by leveraging disruptive technologies from different fields. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated this trend. These transformations dramatically increase the total cyber risk profile and create golden opportunities for threat actors. These Market dynamics create fascinating opportunities for seeding and investing in startups that would facilitate secured business transformation and growth.”

Elik, married and the father of 5, holds a B.Sc. in Math and Computer Science (summa cum laude) and an MBA in Business Administration, both from Tel-Aviv University.


elronElron is an Israeli investment company that specializes in early-stage investments, focusing on building Israeli technological cyber and enterprise software companies. Elron provides direct capital and assistance to startups from their early stage in accelerating team building and accelerating product-market fit. 


Guardian of the Wall vs Sword of  Jerusalem: The IDF won a Military Operation, Hamas the Political One

June 2, 2021

Operation Guardian of the Wall ended on May 21, 2021. Although the operation in Israel itself focused on Gaza, the conflict – as the Palestinian term Jerusalem Sword  describes it – has its wider political spill-over effect in Israel and in palestinian areas in West Bank. These tensions remain unresolved after the end of the armed conflict itself. The positive side is that Lebanon’s Hezbollah stayed on the sidelines and Iran didn’t attack with missiles via Yemen or Iraq as well the fact that Israel was not forced entry to land operation.

From my point of view the winners of this time’s conflict are Hamas, having achieved its political goals, and the Israeli army, which achieved its military goals. The losers are civilians from all over the region, Israeli society via escalation of ethnic tensions as this conflict sparked inter-communal clashes between Jewish and Arab Israelis in mixed cities, and the Palestinian Authority after becoming a bystander as usuall. The winner can also be Egypt, which once again mediated a ceasefire and is likely to take the lead in the reconstruction of Gaza.

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In 11 days, more than 4,360 rockets were fired from Gaza, of which 3,573 fell into Israeli territory, the rest fell either into Gaza or into the sea. The Iron Dome defense system was about 90% effective against the missiles. 12 Israeli civilians were killed in rockets and one IDF soldier due an anti-tank missile, a few hundred wounded. In Gaza, at least 243 people died, including 100 women and children, according to Hamas, and about 1,600 were wounded. The Israeli side claims to have killed 225 Gaza terrorists for all and the majority of women and children died when more than six hundred own rockets exploded or landed in Gaza.

Israeli army counterattacks with unprecedented accuracy

The IDF attacked about 1,500 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. I consider the attack on the Hamas tunnel system (“Hamas metro”) to be the most significant. In Gaza City, Rafah and Khan Yunis, the IDF destroyed more than 100 kilometers of tunnels used by Hamas leadership and terrorist organizations as hiding places and command and control centers. Several attack tunnels in the North Gaza Strip were also destroyed.

The IDF estimates that at least 50 senior Hamas and PIJ commanders and senior experts were killed. Leaders killed by the IDF included commander of the Gaza Brigade, commanders of the Northern Sector and Gaza Division, commander of the Hamas cyber division, commander of the Development and Project Division, director of arms production and other experts and military leaders. In addition to expert personnel, the Gaza arms industry, mainly missile product development and manufacturing, suffered significant losses as did arms stockpiles. As regards Hamas’ administrative structures, dozens of administrative offices, 11 internal security force buildings and five banks that provided funds for terrorist activities were destroyed. In addition, the IDF destroyed dozens of anti-tank missile groups, seven air threats (armed UAVs), and two naval threats (including unmanned submarine attacks).

Thirteen rockets were fired from Lebanon and three from Syria, as well as one drone. All were repulsed or landed in uninhabited areas or at sea.

For the Israeli military, the operation was a success in many ways. The IDF broke its previous record for precision strikes and the operation is perhaps the first in military history where one of the parties uses only (100%) precision missiles with an accuracy of one or two meters. This, as well as the attack on only the military and the military target carried out at the “Hamas Metro”, allowed a record low number of civilian casualties compared to previous similar conflicts. Of course, there were also civilian casualties in Gaza, but perhaps mainly about the 680 rockets launched into Gaza by Hamas and others and not from Israeli missile strikes.

gazaroc

A good example of avoiding civilian casualties was when, on May 15, the IDF bombed al-Jala high tower with three missiles in an in Gaza. In addition to the 60 apartments and the media offices of Al Jazeera and AP, among others, the 12-story house had electronic warfare equipment and control centers for the Hamas intelligence service. Residents were warned about an hour before the bombings, the apartment building was destroyed to the ground but no casualties were reported.

It should be added that while the fighting was still raging, Israel opened on 18.5. Erez and 19.5. Kerem Shalom border crossings to deliver humanitarian aid from Israel to Gaza.

gaza 2021

Sword of Jerusalem: Hamas’ political victory

Hamas achieved its political goals by extending its power to the West Bank at the expense of the Palestinian Authority. Demonstrators gathered in Jerusalem from across the West Bank to announce that Jerusalem is now the territory of Hamas, as illustrated by the name “Jerusalem Sword” given to this Palestinian conflict. There have also been signs that Hamas has gained a greater foothold among Israeli Arabs than before as ethnic tensions erupted in several Israeli cities.

ViolenceMapIsrael

The armed wing of Hamas suffered significant structural and human losses as a result of the Israeli counterattacks, but was nevertheless able to demonstrate its advanced strength. The attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were more severe than before, temporarily closing down, for example, international air traffic and part of the business community.

I now see the ceasefire as the most significant victory for Hamas over the years, precisely because the organization was able to significantly expand its power outside Gaza and specifically at the expense of Fatah in a situation where elections are planned for the Palestinian territories. The status and popularity of President Abbas, Fatah, and the Palestinian Authority, which ruled without legitimacy (President Abbas’s term ended on January 9, 2009, when his three-year term ended) are now at record lows and it is very possible that elections will not be held again for this reason. Already in the previous 2006 parliamentary elections, Hamas won the majority, winning 76 seats out of 132 – even now the winner might be Hamas, which could thus elevate the Palestinian Authority from its own ranks to succeed Abbas.

gazamis

Egypt’s growing role

According to unofficial information, Egypt’s aim is, firstly, to ensure a ceasefire between all parties, secondly, to maintain it for a longer period and, thirdly, to coordinate the reconstruction of Gaza. Egypt is also working to promote negotiations between the Palestinians (Hamas, the Palestinian Authority / Fatah) and Israel with a view to reaching a more lasting solution.

Egypt, the mediator, has invited both Israeli and Gaza delegations to Cairo to discuss the details of the ceasefire, and at least Israel has accepted the invitation. Egypt has taken the lead in rebuilding Gaza, allocating $ 500 million, while  the UN pledging $ 18.5 million in humanitarian aid to Gaza. Egypt will also set up a mechanism to coordinate donations and aid deliveries so that aid does not flow into corrupt regimes and Hamas armaments in the past. To ensure this, the reconstruction work is mainly carried out by companies belonging to the Egyptian army, instead of Turkish companies.

Epilogue

The ceasefire at the moment is only a mutual (Hamas / Israel) announcement to end hostilities for the time being. It will make it possible to send immediate humanitarian aid through Israel and Egypt to Gaza. Other details, such as the length and extent of the ceasefire, not to mention more permanent solutions, will be left to further negotiations.

This time the conflict over Gaza is settling on its military scale, with 1,571 rockets fired from Gaza in 2018, a total of 2,045 rockets in 2019, and now at least 4,360 rockets in 11 days. However, civilian losses on both sides were now only about 20% compared to the previous 2014 war in Gaza (Operation Protective Edge). From my point of view, the political implications of this conflict are very much greater than those of other similar Israeli-Arab conflicts in the last decade.

Sources i.a:  BICOM , Israel Defense , Jerusalem Post , The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center ,

Hudna


This article is an English version of my article Guardian of the Wall vs Sword of Jerusalem: IDF voitti sotilasoperaation, Hamas poliittisen which first appeared in my web-publication (in Finnish) Ariel-Israelista suomeksi .


Israeli Conflict 2021: Preliminary Analysis

May 15, 2021

The latest Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which began in May 2021, is escalating into a multifaceted multi-frontal war that is not yet expected to end in the coming weeks. Compared to the conflicts of the last decade, the current violence has a few specific features, including the rise of national tensions inside Israeli security wall, the use of Hamas ’advanced missile tactics to whole south and central Israel, and mass riots instead of individual terrorist attacks in the West Bank.

In addition to Gaza, the front lines now run along the West Bank, within Israel and, for the time being, also spectacularly on the Lebanese border, when Hezbollah fired a small number of its rockets at Israel. Israel has launched its operation in response to the violence under the name “Operation Guardian of the Walls” which I do not think covers the diversity of the current conflict.

Escalation of the situation

The starting point for this time of conflict can be considered a property dispute in East Jerusalem concerning the suburb of Sheikh Jarrah aka Shimon Hatzadik. The area has been Jewish-owned since 1875, in the Israeli War of Independence Jordan occupied the area, expelling the Jewish population and inhabiting it with Arabs. Israel recaptured the area in the Six Day War in 1967 and granted its Arab residents “protected tenant status” in 1982. The case returned to the courts in 1997 when a local Palestinian sued for legal ownership of the property. In response, property owners (a private Israeli NGO, Nahalat Shimon) argue that they have legal rights to that property and that tenants should be deported if tenants fail to pay rent, the courts found on the basis of documents Jewish property in the area in line with property owners ’claims. The Palestinian community claims that Israel is unfairly deporting four Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. (Background: Sheikh Jarrah: A Legal Background by The International Legal Forum )

To alleviate tensions, the Israeli Chancellor of Justice asked to postpone the eviction of Sheikh Jarrah residents, Israeli police changed the traditional route of the Jerusalem Day procession in the Old City so as not to offend the feelings of the Palestinians. However, these actions were not enough for Palestinian extremists.

The property dispute in the Sheikh Jarrah area began to turn into a more general riot in Jerusalem as police imposed gathering restrictions on Palestinians at the gate of Damascus, on the other hand, a procession by the far-right Israeli group Lehava provoked Palestinians.

The Hamas military wing, with the support of other terrorist organizations, quickly turned the Jerusalem property dispute and riot into a massive attack on Israel.

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Hamas rocket attacks this time were not, as is often the case, spectacular in the past; such attacks targeted the Israeli border region and were so reasonable that Israel did not carry out massive air strikes and counter-attacks targeted the launch sites and not against the leadership of Hamas or the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Now, instead, 137 rockets were fired from Gaza on Tuesday, May 11, 211, in about five minutes, in an apparent attempt to overthrow the Iron Dome missile defense system, and A120 rockets were also fired at central Israel. From Monday to Tuesday, November 10-11, more than 630 rockets were launched from Gaza per Israel, about 200 of which were stopped by the Iron Dome missile defense system, while 150 others landed inside Gaza, causing some civilian casualties, including at least three children — that is, Gaza’s own rockets.

In response to the missiles, IDF fighter jets and tanks struck a few days into some 130 Hamas, PIJ and other terrorist targets in Gaza. At least 16 high-ranking leaders of the armed wings of Hamas and PIJ were killed by fighter jets and drone attacks with the support of Shin Bet (Security Agency). On the enemy side, Israeli attacks targeted intelligence and communications centers, arms depots and workshops, military buildings, and two attack tunnels were destroyed. .

More than a hundred Palestinians and 9 Israelis were killed and several hundred injured. Rocket attacks cause significant harm to the Israeli civilian population: schools are closed, gatherings are restricted, companies can only be open if they provide easy and quick access to bomb shelter for customers and staff. In addition to physical danger, constant stress can cause long-term health problems. The same, of course, applies to the Gazans, who are used by Hamas as human shields.

The ongoing violence in the West Bank has been funded mainly by humanitarian aid agencies and NGOs in Europe. These grants have been transferred to operations through, among other things, fictitious projects, forged documents, invoices, quotes and excessive salaries. It is run in practice by the Palestinian Liberation People’s Front (PFLP) network in the West Bank. This in itself is nothing new and I have set it out, for example, in the article Western Donors Still Funding Terrorists .

Ethnic tensions

A special feature of the ongoing conflict is the rise of ethnic tensions within Israel – arson, mass violence between Jews and Israeli Arabs, destruction of each other’s property, threats of lynching, etc. in ethnically mixed cities and villages such as Jerusalem, Haifa, Acre, Lod, Previously, the same was last experienced in the autumn of 2000 during the so-called “al-Aqsa Intifada”.

Yes, the historical background can be found in the last century. The Palestinian-Jewish conflict began as a religious war and was led by Palestinian Arab leader Hajj Amin Hussein from the early 1920s to the late 1940s. In the 1930s and the 1948 war, support was given to the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and later the Palestinian branches of the Brotherhood: Hamas in the West Bank and Gaza, and the Islamist movement in Israel itself.

On a larger scale and roughly widespread, violence from the Arab side can be seen as war of religion, jihadism, and violence from the Israeli side as a defense against military organizations and terrorists, including Jewish extremists – such as Price tag and Lehava – seeking friction to ignite the region.

Torah scrolls, Jewish holy scriptures, are removed from a synagogue which was torched during violent confrontations in the city of Lod, Israel between Israeli Arab demonstrators and police, amid high tensions over hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants and tensions in Jerusalem May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

My view

Hamas got a major propaganda victory, as it has once again created the image of a champion and defender of Palestinian interests in relation to the Palestinian Authority and Fatah. Hamas has set the rules of the game, an agenda and a timetable for the fight against Israel, setting itself up as a defender of al-Aksa and Jerusalem and showing leadership in the Palestinian national movement.

As of this writing (15.5.21), it is unclear in which direction the current conflict is evolving. In the worst-case scenario, Hamas will continue its rocket attacks even with its best missiles, forcing Israel possibly even into a ground operation; then the number of casualties on both sides increases to the dimensions of previous wars. It would be even worse if Hezbollah, backed by Iran, were to launch an attack with all its might.

According to my own assessment, Israel had to break down the current situation into smaller parts to copy this challenge.

The biggest threat, in my view, is the ethnic tensions between people inside security barrier,  Israel.  At this point, action must be taken through the friction between the Israeli police and the young Arabs, in Israeli cities. The leadership of the Israeli Arab population must be mobilized to calm and curb extremism. At the same time also Jewish extremism must be neutralized. These actions can be taken quickly and centrally. A more lasting impact can be achieved at the grassroots level – locally, in schools, in communities – in promoting mutual tolerance and cooperation.

With regard to the West Bank, alleviation of violence can take place, in my view, by working with the Palestinian Authority, in practice with Fatah. Fatah also presumably has this interest because Hamas threatens its leadership in the West Bank. In addition to security cooperation, these include a wide range of cooperation with the Palestinian Authority, which means significant living conditions and freedoms for Palestinians, as well as cross-border projects.

Perhaps the surprisingly easiest problem area is Gaza. Israel has become well accustomed to the aggression coming from Gaza for the last decade and with the purpose necessary for defense and to retaliate. The military wing of Hamas, the PIJ and other (jihadist) terrorist organizations are loosing their top commanders as well their arsenal of weapons (rockets, more advanced missiles, anti-tank missiles, naval and underground attack tunnels, etc.) in a couple of weeks.  The Hamas political leadership then enters to scene making  a long-term ceasefire (hudna) with Israel through mediation by Egypt.

In my view, the current conflict facing Israel can be resolved by breaking it down into solvable sub-problems. The solution I propose should also make it easier for the Arab countries, that have normalized their relations with Israel, to make it easier to find a more lasting regional solution.

Sources e.g:  TimesofIsrael , INSS , IDF (real-time), IDF (IDF twitter ) , The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center .

Appendix: Hamas Rocket Arsenal: 

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This article is a short version of my article Israelin konflikti 2021: Alustava analyysi which first appeared in my web-publication (in Finnish) Ariel-Israelista suomeksi .


Israel’s new Government: Potential Creative Coalitions by BICOM

April 5, 2021

— BICOM (@BritainIsrael) March 31, 2021


TurkStream Converts to South Stream Lite

February 14, 2021

TurkStream (Russian: Турецкий поток; former name: Turkish Stream) is a natural gas pipeline running from Russia to Turkey. Russia–Turkey intergovernmental agreement for TurkStream was signed in October 2016. Construction started in May 2017 and gas from the two-line pipeline began to flow to Turkey in November 2019 and further to Bulgaria on 1. January, 2020. Bulgaria and Serbia have made new investments and renewed their pipeline networks to utilize Russian gas coming through TurkStream. Now already six countries – Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina – in addition to Turkey use TurkStream in their gas imports and Hungary will join the club as early as this autumn. Thus, the Russian South Stream gas pipeline project, which was halted by the EU in 2014, seems to be coming true with TurkStream’s follow-up projects.

 

Nord Stream 2 is more related to conflict between the US and Germany as it is about Russian gas coming to Europe, during President Trump’s term in office, relations between Washington and Berlin deteriorated:  Instead of importing energy from Russia,  US would much preferred  that Germany imported from the US.  As US made efforts to stop Nord Stream 2, the TurkStream – with extensions in Balkans – attracted hardly any attention from US Congress or those within the EU.

Compared with the controversial Nord Stream 2 from Russia to Germany, Gazprom’s TurkStream natural gas pipeline to Turkey and Southeast Europe has drawn less opposition.  TurkStream avoided the fate of Nord Stream 2 probably  because it was completed one month before the U.S. sanctions against both pipelines came into effect.

TurkStream starts from Russkaya compressor station near Anapa in Russia’s Krasnodar Region, crossing the Black Sea to the receiving terminal at Kıyıköy.  TurkStream  has two lines with a total capacity of 31.5 billion m3/a (1.11 trillion cu ft/a) of natural gas. The first line supplies Turkey and the second line transport natural gas further to South East and Central Europe. The costs of the pipeline are estimated to be  €11.4 billion. 

 

TurkStream 2 (South Stream Lite)

Gazprom began shipping gas via TurkStream to Bulgaria on 1. January, 2020, replacing supplies via the Trans-Balkan pipeline through Ukraine and Romania.

Now one year later Gazprom has begun supplying gas to Serbia, as well as to Bosnia and Herzegovina, via a new route across Turkey and Bulgaria. Gas from Russia is transmitted by the TurkStream offshore gas pipeline and further across Turkey. It is then brought via Bulgaria’s national gas transmission system to Serbia, where it is distributed among consumers in Serbia and in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Deliveries along this route were made possible through the expansion of existing gas transmission capacities and commissioning of new ones by Bulgartransgaz EAD in Bulgaria and GASTRANS d.o.o. Novi Sad in Serbia.

The new Russian pipeline through the Black Sea to western Turkey was inaugurated on  8. January 2020 in Istanbul, in the presence of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, and Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov. Credit: kremlin.ru

 

According to data from S&P Global Platts Analytics, in 2019, Bulgaria received 2.4 billion cubic meters of Russian gas via the Ukraine-Moldova-Romania Trans-Balkan route and transited 4 billion cubic meters more onto Turkey. A year later the volume received via that route fell to almost zero, with TurkStream instead supplying the Bulgarian market. Greece’s take of TurkStream gas in 2020 was up 18% on the 2.41 billion cubic meters of Russian gas it bought the year before delivered by the Trans-Balkan line, while North Macedonia’s imports were also up from the 0.3 billion cubic meters purchased in 2019, S&P Global Platts said on February 8th 2021.

On the 1st of January 2021, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić opened the Serbian section of the European leg of the Turkish Stream in the town of Gospodjinci near Novy Sad. The pipe is 403 km long and its capacity will be almost 14 bcm a year.  Serbia now receives most of its gas via the onshore extension of TurkStream at the newly created Kireevo/Zaychar interconnection point on the border with Bulgaria. In January, supplies into Serbia via TurkStream averaged 8 million cu m/d, with flows through the traditional entry point via Hungary down to just 1.5 million cu m/d. Previously, Serbia imported around 10 million cu m/d of Russian gas via Ukraine and Hungary.

As Bulgaria is an EU member, unlike Serbia,  Sofia completed its gas investments (TurkStream 2)  quietly. In Bulgaria the main contractor was a Saudi company Arkad, which is run by Russians who bought pipes produced in Russia from Russian companies.

 

TurkStream nominally becomes “Balkan Stream” when it enters Bulgarian / EU territory, from where it is off to Serbia and Hungary. Map: Bulgaria Analytica

Forwards to EU markets 

In 2019, Turkey received an average of 11 million cu m/d of Russian gas via the Trans-Balkan pipeline — or a total of 4 Bcm, according to data from S&P Global Platts Analytics. But from the start of 2020, all Russian gas flows to Turkey are carried either by the existing 16 Bcm/year Blue Stream line under the Black Sea or the 15.75 Bcm/year Turkish string of TurkStream.

TurkStream reliably transports Russian gas across the Black Sea to consumers in Turkey and already six European countries: Bulgaria, Greece, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It managed to bypass Ukraine as a transit state: the Trans-Balkan pipeline from Ukraine to Moldova and Romania has effectively become redundant and will be used in reverse for Russian gas deliveries from TurkStream to the Balkans.  And in addition Hungary  would like to import up to 6 Bcm/year of gas via TurkStream and its associated onshore infrastructure once a new link up on the border with Serbia is complete, expected in October 2021.

The further extension of the pipeline in South-East and Central European countries are responsibilities of involved countries. For the gas transport both—existing infrastructure and construction of new pipelines—will be used. For Gazprom the preferable option is to export gas from the second line to Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria.  For example there is a follow-on project called as  the Tesla pipeline, to run from Greece to North Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, ending at the Baumgarten gas hub in Austria. 

An older map showing both Nord Stream and the former South Stream gas transit pipeline project, gives Moscow’s basic idea to go around both Belarus and Ukraine. TurkStream 2 could be described as South Stream Lite. Map: Gazprom

Bottom line

During 2014 Ukraine crisis, gas supplies from Russia lifted again energy issues to the top of the European agenda and led to the creation of the EU Energy Union.  As EU developed its energy security strategy, Russia also developed its own strategy, primarily aimed at maintaining its share in the European gas market in the future. In addition Russia has been diverting all its gas transit to Europe away from Ukraine by 2020.

In mid-term – next two decades – EU gas consumption will rise as EU tries to get rid of coal powered and nuclear plants.  New sources of gas will came, such as liquified natural gas (LNG) and the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline so Russias’s market share will probably drop;  however as need for gas in Europe will rise so the volume of gas from Russia will be the same or rise also. For example Southern Gas Corridor, bringing Azeri gas to southern Europe, has an annual capacity of 18 bcm with half that taken by Turkey and less than 10 bcm available for Europe. In January alone, Gazprom exported 19.4 bcm to Europe, so the extra gas exported in January is almost equal to the annual capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor pipeline.  The fact is that Russia has the world’s biggest gas resources and is next door and also that Russia never tried to use gas as a threat – even at the height of the Cold war.  For Russia, selling gas to as many customers as possible is both good politics and good economics.

With TurkStream Gazprom skilfully bypassed the EU third energy package, and even better the EU states actually paid for it. Gazprom can now use the most important border points of Bulgarian transit pipelines, without having to pay billions of euros for their construction and without owning the pipes, as Gazprom did not formally engage in the construction of the Turkish Stream’s extensions (South Stream Lite) in Europe. Bulgaria and Serbia made the investments themselves as an expansion of their internal transit network and not publicly as a transit gas pipeline.

TurkStream has now changed the direction in which the Russian gas reaches southeast Europe, and with TurkStream’s onshore expansion, the picture is shifting once again how the Russian gas goes to EU’s market.

Sources i.a: NewEurope , S&PGlobal

 


Arrival of Sa’ar 6 Ships Marks Evolution of Israeli Naval Doctrine

January 20, 2021

The docking of the first of four German-made Sa’ar 6-class Israel Navy warships (dubbed Magen) at Haifa Naval Base marks the arrival of an advanced sea platform that will give Israel new capabilities to defend its critical offshore energy resources against a growing array of precision-guided enemy weaponry.

Source: Arrival of Sa’ar 6 Ships Marks Evolution of Israeli Naval Doctrine


Modern Roots of European Anti-Zionism

January 7, 2021

Antisemitism has a long history – 2600-3200 years depending on source – and has its influence on the political outcome of the Arab–Israeli conflict even today. Anti-Zionism is a cover for modern-day antisemitism. Israel, Northern America and (Western) Europe have shared ideals of democracy, human rights and freedom. However their views about Arab-Israeli conflict differ regularly more or less so my question is which are the roots of modern anti-Zionism and bias against Israel.

In my opinion disinformation and the power of international media coverage are the main aspects in today’s anti-Zionism. Earlier in the 1960s and 1970s Western powers were influenced by the “oil weapon”. This combination creates the roots of antisemitism and/or anti-Zionism especially in present day Europe.

Oil weapon

In the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel’s existence was threatened, France’s President Charles de Gaulle took a pro-Arab direction and instituted a weapons embargo on the Middle East. Verbal attacks against Israel were sometimes accompanied by anti-Semitic statements. However shortly after the Six-Day-War, the United States replaced France and became Israel’s unfailing ally. In his press conference on 27 November of that year de Gaulle included a much-publicized remark, calling the Jews “an elitist and domineering people.”

The 1967 Six-Days-War marked a turning point in the global oil market. In reaction to the June 1967 war, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Libya, and Algeria banned oil shipments to the United States, United Kingdom, and West Germany. But oil was abundant and cheap during this time and newly deployed “supertankers” conveyed oil to markets that needed it. The United States was the primary source of spare oil production capacity at the time. The United States increased production by about 1 mbd and Venezuela and Iran (under the Shah) were able to make up the rest, ameliorating the shortage. After the initial shock, a maximum of 1.5 million barrels per day (mbd) of oil was removed from the market from June through August 1967. In conclusion the “oil weapon” largely failed in 1967, it was ineffective and was most harmful to the oil producing countries that gave up substantial revenue during the embargo.

The Yom Kippur War 1973 gave a new understanding of the role oil could play in geopolitics. After the 1967 War there was a rapid demand growth consumed U.S. spare oil production capacity, and by 1970 net oil imports to the United States were rising rapidly; there was no longer the source of spare capacity and “security margin” in the oil market. At the same time, oil production in the Middle East was also growing quickly, meeting two-thirds of global demand growth between 1960 and 1970. The net loss of supply was 4.4 mbd by December 1973, representing 14 percent of internationally traded oil. There was simply not enough oil available to meet the shortfall.

On October 6, 1973, Egypt attacked the Bar Lev Line in the Sinai Peninsula and Syria launched an offensive in the Golan Heights, both of which had been occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War. On October 12, 1973, US president Richard Nixon authorized Operation Nickel Grass, a strategic airlift to deliver weapons and supplies to Israel in order to replace its materiel losses, after the Soviet Union began sending arms to Syria and Egypt.

The Arab oil embargo created a specific oil ban on the Netherlands, because the Netherlands supported Israel and Rotterdam was the main port for Northern Europe. The impact of the embargo was thus multiplied. As a result, oil prices in Europe rose sharply. Indeed the price rises had a much greater impact in Europe than the embargo. Europe realized how dependent it was on the Arab world.

Israel was one of the few countries unaffected by the embargo, since it could extract sufficient oil from the Sinai. But to supplement Israel’s over-taxed power grid, Harry Zvi Tabor, the father of Israel’s solar industry, developed the prototype for a solar water heater now used in over 90% of Israeli homes.

Due the “first oil shock” Western Europe began switching from pro-Israel to more pro-Arab policies. This change strained the Western alliance. The US, which imported only 12% of its oil from the Middle East (compared with 80% for the Europeans and over 90% for Japan), remained staunchly committed to Israel. Some European nations and Japan sought to disassociate themselves from United States foreign policy in the Middle East to avoid being targeted by the boycott. With the embargo in place, many developed countries altered their policies regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict. These included the UK, which refused to allow the United States to use British bases and Cyprus to airlift resupplies to Israel, along with the rest of the members of the European Community.

France supplied Mirage planes Israel had already bought to Libya; they were subsequently transferred to Egypt and used in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. French Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues was the first Western official to meet Yasser Arafat, doing so in 1974 in Beirut. A year later the PLO opened its first European diplomatic office in Paris, while its charter was calling for the elimination of IsraelFrance also supplied the Osirak nuclear reactor to Iraq. Eventually, Israel had to take exceptional military action to destroy it. This led to Iraqi Scuds being launched against Israel in the first Gulf War. Also Canada shifted towards a more pro-Arab position after displeasure was expressed towards Canada’s mostly neutral position.

On November 7, 1973, the Saudi and Kuwaiti governments declared Japan an unfriendly” country to encourage it to change its non involvement policy. It received a 5% production cut in December, causing a panic. On November 22, Japan issued a statement “asserting that Israel should withdraw from all of the 1967 territories, advocating Palestinian self-determination, and threatening to reconsider its policy toward Israel if Israel refused to accept these preconditions”. By December 25, Japan was considered an Arab-friendly state..

The percentage of US oil which comes from the nations bordering the Persian Gulf remained steady over the decades, with a figure of a little more than 10% in 2008. During last four decades the ”oil weapon” has lost most part of its influence, for example in 1974, seven of the 15 top Fortune 500 companies were oil companies, falling to four in 2014.

Palestinians as KGB project

Zionism is the main threat to the USSR and to the Soviet bloc.” (Vladimir Kryuchkov, KGB:n päällikkö 1988)

We have only to keep repeating our themes that the United States and Israel are fascists, Imperial-Zionist countries bankrolled by rich Jews” (Yuri Andropov, as KGB chairman)

In 1948, as Israel declared independence, the armies of five Arab nations attacked the new nation. The USSR’s Joseph Stalin, hopeful that Israel’s socialist roots would lead it to join the Communist bloc, instructed a country it controlled, Czechoslovakia, to provide Israel with the arms needed for defense. However, upon later learning of Stalin’s murder of 20 million people, Israeli society rejected communism. The idea of Zionism as a hostile ideology began to solidify in the post-World War II USSR in the late 1940s, once it became clear that Israel was aligning itself with the ‘imperialist camp’ rather than the Soviet Union. As a result, Moscow shifted its support to Arab dictatorships. After the Six-Day War, all members of the Warsaw Pact (apart from Romania) severed their ties with Israel.

A massive Soviet anti-Zionist campaign entered a particularly active stage in 1967.  Operation SIG (1967-1988) is the KGB operation to sow worldwide disapproval for the US and Israel. SIG is the Russian acronym for Sionistskiye Gosudarstva, or “Jewish (or Zionist) Government.” The operation started shortly after 1967, when the drive for Arab unity collapsed along with the economies of the armies that attacked Israel. The core idea of SIG was rhat Palestine is not just the name for a geographic region, but the home for a distinct and indigenous people, the Palestinian Arabs. Its Jewish citizens are colonizers from some unidentified foreign country. (More about this disinformation project in “The KGB’s Middle East Files” a which brings to light information mined from some 6,000 KGB documents smuggled to the West in the early 1990s).

KGB had trained Yasser Arafat at its Balashikha special-ops school east of Moscow and in the mid-1960s decided to groom him as the future PLO leader. First, the KGB destroyed the official records of Arafat’s birth in Cairo, replacing them with fictitious documents saying that he had been born in Jerusalem and was therefore a Palestinian by birth. The KGB’s disinformation department then went to work on Arafat’s four-page tract called “Falastinuna” (Our Palestine), turning it into a 48-page monthly magazine for the Palestinian terrorist organization al-Fatah. Jordan’s claims to represent the Palestinians were then permanently undercut by the Arab League’s declaration at the Rabat Conference that the PLO was the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

V. Judah Khaykin on Twitter: "Here are some Soviet political cartoons promoting all the ideas we find today on the anti-Zionist Left: “Zionism is racism”, Israel perpetrating genocide, Zionism is Nazism, ZionismClassified KGB documents reveal how the Soviet spy agency transformed Arab terrorists to freedom fighters. The justification for the war on terror required a framework report on Israel, on the one hand, as a racist illegal genocide, and, of course, its indigenous people. The PLO named this oppressed people the Palestinian people. The irony is that during the British Mandate in Palestine, Jews living mainly in the area were understood as distinct from the Arabs living there, whose own characterization of the area was balad esh-sham – the province of Damascus – because at that time they considered themselves South Syrians.

(More about KGB and its anti-Israel propaganda operations in publication of Informing Science Institute )

On the bottom end The West Bank has never collectively belonged to the Palestinian Arabs, to the so-called Palestinians. They only own private plots there like Jews. UN Resolution 242 of 1967 also does not recognize the “Palestinian Arab people” from whom a country would have been deported that should be returned to them. This imaginary nation was not invented until 1967.

An analysis Soviet Anti-Zionism and Contemporary Left Antisemitism by Izabella Tabarovsky gives very good backgroud USSR’s antisemitism/-Zionism campaign. She concludes her analysis as follows:

The messaging emanating from today’s far-left anti-Zionist camp is strikingly similar to the messaging of the Soviet anti-Zionist campaigns. From the claims of Zionist collaboration with the Nazis in the Holocaust, to the idea of Zionism as an inherently racist and oppressive ideology, to the concept of Israel as a settler-colonialist state that engages in genocidal behavior and apartheid – all of these ideas were part and parcel of the Soviet anti-Zionist narrative.

Anti-Zionism

“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.” ( Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1969)

Anti-Zionism is a cover for modern-day antisemitism, it may be motivated by prejudices against Jewish people, or that it creates a climate where anti-semitism is viewed as acceptable. The roots of modern antisemitism are quite well concluded by Jerome Chanes who identifies six stages in the historical development of antisemitism:

  1. Pre-Christian anti-Judaism in ancient Greece and Rome which was primarily ethnic in nature

  2. Christian antisemitism in antiquity and the Middle Ages which was religious in nature and has extended into modern times

  3. Traditional Muslim antisemitism which was—at least, in its classical form—nuanced in that Jews were a protected class

  4. Political, social and economic antisemitism of Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment Europe which laid the groundwork for racial antisemitism

  5. Racial antisemitism that arose in the 19th century and culminated in Nazism in the 20th century, and

  6. Contemporary antisemitism which has been labeled by some as the New Antisemitism

Chanes suggests that these six stages could be merged into three categories: “ancient antisemitism, which was primarily ethnic in nature; Christian antisemitism, which was religious; and the racial antisemitism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

One should note that there is also Jewish anti-Zionism which enjoyed support in the Jewish community especially before WWII; for esxample some Orthodox Jews opposed the creation of a Jewish state and the Jewish section (Yevsektsiya) of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, targeted the Zionist movement. The full knowledge of the Holocaust altered the views of many anti-Zionists as many saw Israel’s establishment as a historic necessity to provide a refuge for the surviving Jews of Europe.

Complete list of Jewish expulsions (1,043 total) can be found from Judaism.is .

From the right-wing side especially in USA the most modern version of antisemitism is “Qanon”. It is a baseless internet conspiracy theory whose followers believe that a cabal of Satan-worshipping Democrats, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires runs the world while engaging in pedophilia, human trafficking and the harvesting of a supposedly life-extending chemical from the blood of abused children. QAnon followers believe that Donald Trump is waging a secret battle against this cabal and its “deep state” collaborators to expose the malefactors and send them all to Guantánamo Bay.

QAnon also has its roots in much older antisemitic conspiracy theories. The idea of the all-powerful, world-ruling cabal comes straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a fake document purporting to expose a Jewish plot to control the world that was used throughout the 20th century to justify antisemitism.

From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free” – or “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea,” or “Palestine is Islamic from the river to the sea,” – is and forms part of, a popular political slogan used by Palestinian nationalists as well by anti-Zionist left-wing groups in Europe. It contains the notion that the land which lies between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea be entirely placed under Arab rule at the cost of the State of Israel. The slogan describes quite well modern Palestinian nationalism and its anti-Zionist aim.

Anti-Zionism has a long history of being supported right-wing and fascist (or “neo-fascist”) political views as well various Aryan / White-supremacist groups. In these instances, anti-Zionism is usually also deeply anti-Semitic, and often revolves around popular conspiracy theories even today.

Overall, Muslim antisemitism is dominant, but in Germany, right-wing antisemitism is more prevalent. The latter is also increasing overall. Left-wing antisemitism largely expresses itself in extreme hatred of Israel.

A number of sources link anti-Zionism with antisemitism. Campus research in 2016 in the United States by the AMCHA Initiative has also reported close geographical correlation between the two phenomena, accompanying a recent upsurge in anti-Semitism. Unsurprisingly, recent research has shown a close correlation between anti-Israeli views and anti-Semitic views based on a survey of citizens in ten European countries. “Anti-Zionism has become the most dangerous and effective form of anti-Semitism in our time, through its systematic delegitimization, defamation, and demonization of Israel.” (More about this e.g. in Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism: The Dynamics of Delegitimization edited by Alvin H. Rosenfeld)

 

My view

Historically, the Palestinian ‘desire for statehood’ and ‘need for liberation’ was invented in large part by the Soviet Union,” … “Palestinian nationalism is, therefore, a historical fabrication born out of a communist thirst for expansion and an Arab resentment of the existence of Israel.”( Christopher Fish writing in the Stanford Review, 2008)

Why did the Jordanian-dominated Arabs of the West Bank not demand a state or the like for their people on July 4, 1967, but began to do so a week later? I think the answer is a political and tactical need and not so much a sudden national awakening. After the leadership of the Arab countries around Israel had tried in vain to destroy Israel militarily, they concluded that terror against colonialism under disguise of freedom fight and disinformation campaign to support this idea was the only way to achieve the goal. During last years situation has dramatically changed as the MidEast conservative monarchies had grown dependent on Western support to ensure their continued survival against e.g. thread from Iran.

Palenstina GNOThe end of the Cold War eliminated a major source of financial and political support for the Palestinian cause. The PLO’s financial problems did not reach crisis proportions, however, until the Gulf War 1990/91, when Arafat’s decision to support Iraq alienated its benefactors in the Gulf, notably Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. However aid from then more pro-Palestinian Western countries has helped to cover these shortages.

Antisemitism and anti-Zionism have still wide support in Western Europe. It has deep roots in history; its modern follow-up – anti-Zionism – was based on Soviet disinformation campaign which succeeded at emptying Zionism of its meaning as a national liberation movement of the Jewish people and associating it instead with racism, fascism, Nazism, genocide, imperialism, colonialism, militarism and apartheid. After Cold War more and part of more and more increasing Muslim population in Europe is keeping this campaign alive. It remains to see how negatively will European left-wing parties campaign against Israel so as to win domestic Muslim votes and can the right-wing parties take more neutral position to conflict as the “oil weapon” does not have its previous power anymore.


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ariel Rusila blog


Timeslot 6 months for Iran Nukes

December 5, 2020

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, director of the Iranian Ministry of Defense’s research department and architect of the nuclear weapons program, was assassinated on November 27, 2020. According to the Iranian Fars news agency, the assassination took place using a remote-controlled machine gun placed on the platform of a truck that self-destructed immediately after the attack. Iran and U.S. intelligence sources claim Israel was behind the attack, although the possibility has also been raised that the Mujahideen-e-Khalq opposition group carried out the assassination, either alone or in cooperation with foreign operations. In any case, the targeted killing points to shortcomings and a possible leak in Iran’s counter-espionage and security organizations.

The killing of Fakhrizadeh may well be part of Israel’s efforts to prevent Iran from gaining access to nuclear weapons. According to current estimates, in the summer of 2021, Iran would have enough uranium to make two atomic bombs that could be deployed as warheads for Iranian missiles. This assessment represents the timeframe within which either a diplomatic (“window of opportunity”) or armed solution to Iran’s nuclear weapons program should be found.

As early as 2008, the CIA knew Fakhrizadeh had sought to build a nuclear warhead for an intercontinental ballistic missile. In addition to the leader of the nuclear weapons program, Fakhrizadeh was also the brigadier general of the Revolutionary Guard. Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Iranian leadership decided to hide its nuclear weapons program. Fakhrizadeh transferred the bomb development project to Malek Ashtar University of Technology in Tehran and established a defense innovation and research organization, which was relocated to a new location. As early as 2008, he was found to have been involved in Iran’s 111 project (loading a Shihab 3-type missile with a nuclear warhead).

The Iranian leadership also decided to separate the military nuclear program, which would remain confidential and be further developed under Fakhrizadeh, from projects that could be presented as peaceful (including uranium enrichment). The latter projects were under the auspices of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran.

The latest attack is part of Israel’s targeted killing program in Iran and its behind-the-scenes wars elsewhere because, according to Syrian media, a high-ranking officer in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was killed at the same time by drone strike in Al Qaim, Syria. operation in Tehran. A decade ago, four Iranian nuclear physicists (Majid Shahriari, 29 November 2010; Dariush Rezaeinejad, 23 July 2011; Masoud Alimohammadi, 12 January 2012; Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, 11 January 2012) were killed by motorcyclists. Of course, Iran is seeking reciprocal revenge for the assassinations, and last week, for example, three Iranians who had tried to attack the Israeli embassy in Bangkok were released from Thailand as part of a prisoner exchange.

Efforts have been made to halt Iran’s nuclear program on several occasions and often in various ways. The murders of key figures in Iran’s nuclear program are only a small part of this stopping effort. The following is a very limited list of other measures taken to end the nuclear program:

Iran’s nuclear program agreement and sanctions

The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) is an agreement between Iran and the P5 + 1 group (China, Russia, France, Britain, USA + Germany) negotiated in 2015 on Iran’s nuclear program. The U.S. withdrew from the agreement in 2018 under President Donald Trump but incoming President Joe Biden has expressed a desire to update the agreement on the basis of the Democrats 2020 party program. The key elements of the original agreement were:

The UN lifts all its sanctions on Iran

Iran limits uranium refining to 3.67% (nuclear weapons would require 90% uranium), which, however, allows for the peaceful use of nuclear fuel.

Iran reduces its uranium stockpile from 10 tonnes to 300 kg.

Iran reduces its centrifuges from 19,000 to 6,104 accelerators.

Iran converts its nuclear facilities for research and peaceful use.

IAEA inspectors will have free access to all facilities of Iran’s nuclear program.

 

Diplomatic influence

In addition to international organizations, Israel has used diplomatic influence, especially in the direction of the United States, to demonstrate the weaknesses of the JCPOA and to verify Iran’s nuclear weapons program as previously dangerous.

In April 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed to the world the existence of Iran’s secret nuclear materials – as evidenced by the 100,000 documents obtained by the Israeli intelligence service from Project Amad from the Iran’s Atomic Archives. The documents contain several details of the scope, extent and intent of Iran’s nuclear weapons development program. Contrary to the allegations made in Iran’s December 2015 report to the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is now known that:

1. Iran has a nuclear weapons development program called Project Amad.

2. An Iranian state-funded and targeted researcher (Mohsen Fakhrizadeh) worked extensively on technology designed to build a nuclear bomb.

Documents show Iran has lied to the IAEA and the world in denying that it has ever carried out nuclear weapons programs. Instead, according to the Israeli view, Iran thus had a clear and rapid path to unrestricted uranium enrichment and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

 

 

STUXNET and cyber attacks

STUXNET was a virus program by Mossad that paralyzed Iran’s nuclear program and significantly slowed down the development of nuclear weapons. Cyberspace warfare is more common today; this year, for example, a cyber attack took place on 24-25. April 2020 when Iran struck through U.S. servers on several water and wastewater management and control systems across Israel. Israel, for its part, felt Iran had crossed the “red line” in hitting civil society structures. The counterattack took place on 9 May 2020 as a sophisticated cyber attack on Iran’s largest and most modern port of Shahid Rajaee in Bandar Abbas, resulting in a sudden and unexplained stoppage of the port following the collapse of the entire logistics system.

Sabotage of production facilities

Sabotage of production facilities affects not only Iran but also Lebanon. As the country is just recovering from the August 2020 explosion at Hezbollah’s ammonia depot in the port of Beirut, Beirut precision missile plants made headlines because they pose a risk of new explosions in the middle of a civilian population.

 

 

In 2013, the Fordo nuclear power plant in Qom Province, Iran, was seriously damaged. The explosion felt strongly within a three-mile radius around Fordo and “destroyed much of the installation”. After the explosion, Iranian forces quickly besieged the facility and prevented anyone from getting 15 miles closer to it. Iran banned the blast and Israel banned sightings of Israeli fighter jets in the vicinity of the facility before the blast.

There have been a number of unexplained explosions or disruptions in Iran related to the nuclear weapons program in recent years. Some may be damage, human error, or deliberate sabotage, and for some targets, Iran may have rightly blamed Israel. I think it is clear that Israel is using all possible means to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

 

Barrier to missile technology transfers

The blocking of transfers of missile technology from Iran / Syria to Lebanon has been a major cause of Israeli air strikes in Syria and Lebanon. For example, a drone attack on 25 August 2019 at a Hezbollah base in Beirut destroyed a vertical Planetary mixer used in space and missile programs to make the high-quality fuel necessary for precision missiles under development. Even more important than the mixer is probably the destruction of the associated computerized control unit. The operation is expected to slow down Hezbollah’s targeted missile program by up to a year.

The last option

A tool that has not yet been used but has been considered several times has been an air strike on Iran’s key nuclear production facilities. Israel has agreed flight routes for the attacks via both Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan to Iran. However, no strike has been made because the deepest targets in Natanz, for example, are more than 60 meters inside the bedrock and even the most effective “bunker destroyer” missiles can not yet reach them.

Iran’s latest nuclear program facilities are at a depth of nearly 100 meters, destroying them would require a “bunker-destroyer” missile with a nuclear warhead of a megaton, but the destruction has been calculated to be too extensive, with radioactive fallout reaching as far as India. In any case, plans and calculations have been made and updated for this option as well; S-300 system arrival. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) believes it can partially circumvent the threat posed by Iran’s S-300 combat system, for example.

Of course, there is also a zero option, in which case no agreement will be reached with Iran and the program will be slowed down in the current way by various methods. Of course, development is taking place defensively, for example, by refining the Arrow 3 missile, which is designed to combat longer-range ballistic missiles, such as Iran’s Shihab-3 missiles. Similarly, both cyber defense and attack are the core areas of continuous development.

 

Breakout time window

A key factor in looking at Iran’s nuclear program is a concept called “breakout time,” which is the time required to enrich enough weapons-grade uranium (WGU) to produce at least one nuclear weapon. To produce WGU, uranium must be enriched (eg by centrifuges) to more than 90% of its fissile isotope U-235. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) determines the amount of WGU needed for one weapon at about 27 kg of uranium. Natural uranium contains only 0.7 percent of the U-235 isotope, and approximately 5,000 Separative Work Units (SWUs) are required to enrich it into a single WGU. There are currently about 9,000 operational first-generation IR-1 centrifuges installed in Iran installed at the Natanz and Fordow facilities, and another 9,000 that are not in operation. Iran also has substantial stockpiles of 3.5% enriched uranium hexafluoride (UF6), which can be used as an alternative feed, shrinking the onset period to three months.

Using a 9000 centrifuge with the latest SW-1 model at 1 SWU / year and bringing nearly 9,000 other IR-1s into the network, the time window for Iran’s nuclear program would be about three months with natural uranium feedstock and 4-6 weeks with 3.5% UF6. with the raw material. Iran has also developed a more advanced IR-2m centrifuge rated at 5 SWU / year, and if 1,000 IR-2ms units installed on Natanz were used in conjunction with all 18,000 IR-1s, the corresponding time window would be shortened by a third.

In November 2020, the International Atomic Energy Agency estimated that Iran now owns 12 times more enriched uranium than would have been allowed under the 2015 JCPOA. According to Israeli estimates, Iran, at its current pace of development, would be able to produce enough armed uranium for two nuclear bombs by next summer 2021.

 

My Conclusions

According to Israeli sources, it is clear that Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was a key player in Iran’s nuclear weapons program in terms of his authority, expertise and organization and is almost impossible to replace. However, neither this nor any of the other Israeli measures mentioned above can completely prevent Iran from carrying out its nuclear weapons program, they only slow those measures; however they show, that no part of those programs is immune to Israeli attempts to block them. There is widespread support in Iran for revenge for Fakhrizadeh’s death, but perhaps not in fear of a stronger Israeli counterattack. In any case, Joe Biden’s work to start negotiations with Iran is likely to become more difficult.

Israeli security agencies have warned as well as prepared for the possibility that Iran might plan revenge attacks against Israeli tourists visiting the United Arab Emirates, among others. It is to be assumed, however, that, once again, it is only a matter of harsh rhetoric for internal use only, or that the attacks will be so modest that there will be no danger of a wider counterattack from either Israel or the United States.

Even if Iran’s retaliation for Fakhrizadeh’s death remained only formal without escalating anything comparable to the war between Iran and Israel, I think it is reasonable to assume that Israel will do its utmost not to allow Iran a nuclear weapon; however, the actions taken so far have only been able to slow down the concretisation of Iran’s nuclear weapon. In this sense, the stakeholders have now timeslot about half a year, a window of opportunity to achieve a diplomatic solution to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the armed settlement could in many ways be very devastating.

Sources e.g: The Washington Institute ,

Earlier about topic:

Iran Nuke Deal And Israel

Iran Nuke Deal Enables The Détente

End Game Approaches on Nuclear Iran

Iran’s nuclear program at the crossroads


The Finnish version of this article first appaered in Ariel – Israelista suomeksi    website.


Final Solution for Western Sahara?

November 19, 2020

Western Sahara is the last colony in Africa. It has been today’s silent conflict for decades, but on 13th November 2020, Morocco launched a military operation against peaceful protesters in Guerguerat, near the Mauritanian border; It accused the Polisario of blocking the highway, which is key to trade with the rest of Africa. On 14th November, the SADR declared war on Morocco. By its actions, Morocco violated the 1991 ceasefire agreement with the Western Sahara Liberation Movement Polisario, which ended a 15-year war.

Western Sahara has fought for more than 40 years for its sovereignty under international law. The Sahrawis of this time have lived geographically dispersed in refugee camps in Algeria, the the conflict remains unresolved and Western Sahara remains occupied. Rabat controls around three quarters of the Western Sahara, a vast swathe of desert on the Atlantic coast, including its phosphate deposits and its lucrative ocean fisheries. The Polisario controls the rest. 

The Sahrawi

The Sahrawi culture is a mix of Berber, Black African and Arab elements. It shows mainly Berber people core characteristics with Arab cultural elements. Sahrawis are composed of many tribes and are largely speakers of the Hassaniya dialect of Arabic. Sahrawi population is ~570,000 – in Western Sahara there still lives some 160,000 Sahrawi, ~250,000 Sahrawi live in Algeria, of them nearly 100,000 in refugee camps and part of the diaspora in neighboring countries, Europe or even Cuba.

The Polisario

The Polisario, the national front for the liberation of Western Sahara, was founded in 1973 to demand independence from Spain, which ruled the region for nearly a hundred years. In 1974, Spain granted autonomy to the region and announced that it would hold a referendum on sovereignty. The referendum never materialized.

The aim of the Polisario movement, which originated in the student movement, was to put an end to Spanish colonialism in the region; this goal was achieved, but at the same time the neighbors – Morocco and Mauritania – conquered the area where Polisario wanted autonomy and possible independence. The Polisario declared the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) born in Bir Lehlou, Western Sahara, on February 27th, 1976. A war broke out.

Western Saharan separatists parade to mark 40 years of conflict (MEE/Massina Benlakehal)

The Conflict

Morocco Air Force bombed Western Sahara with napalms and phosphorus bombs and much of the indigenous Sahrawi of Western Sahara fled across the desert to Algeria. Mauritania withdrew from the region in the summer of 1979 after signing the so-called Argel’s agreement. The agreement recognizes the right of the Sahrawi people to self-government, while Mauritania waives all territorial claims in Western Sahara. The Moroccan army took over the territory ruled by Mauritania, but Mauritania recognized the SADR on 27 February 1984.

The 1991 UN-assisted peace agreement ended 15 years of fighting between Morocco and the Western Sahara Polisario. The peace treaty included a promise to hold a referendum on independence. Morocco has systematically blocked the terms of the peace agreement. The UN peacekeeping operation in Western Sahara, MINURSO, has failed to address violations of the peace agreement.

Occupation vs Intependence

Morocco has been occupying Western Sahara illegally since 1975. From the point of view of international law, Western Sahara has the right to independence, but for years Morocco has prevented a referendum. According to a 1975 report published by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, there is no historical evidence that Morocco ruled the region. Morocco continues to violate human rights in Western Sahara. Sahrawi are widely discriminated against in employment and education. The display of one’s own national symbols in the Occupied Territories is strictly forbidden and any action to promote independence is suppressed.

Algeria has supported the independence of Western Sahara since 1975 with the withdrawal of Spanish troops and recognized the independence of the SADR in 1976. The SADR is a founding member of the African Union and since 1982 the AU has supported the right of the Sahrawi people to self-government.

The EU supports the UN line, which in turn advocates a just and lasting solution that safeguards the sovereignty of the Sahrawi people. However, among other things, the EU has a fisheries agreement with Morocco, which applies to the resources of Western Sahara, contrary to the wishes of the Sahrawi people. The controversy over Western Sahara is also strongly economic. In addition to rich fishing waters, Western Sahara has extensive phosphate reserves and iron ore deposits.

The UN Security Council has adopted more than 100 resolutions in support of this. As of 2017, the independence of the SADR had been recognized by 84 UN member states, but 44 of them have either suspended or revoked the recognition. However, several states that do not recognize the independence of the SADR consider the Polisario to be the legitimate representative of the people of the region but not the refugee government of the independent state.

Morocco regards the Polisario as a separatist movement and the SADR as a puppet state used by Algeria against Morocco. Morocco considers Western Sahara to be a historical part of it, but according to a report published by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in 1975, there is historical evidence that Morocco has never ruled the region. As a result, the conquest of the area was contrary to the 1960 Declaration of Sovereignty of the Colonial Powers. A protest movement has also sprung up among Moroccans, as the country is ruled by a small elite. Morocco has successfully frozen protests by censoring the internet, obstructing the work of journalists and disseminating false information.

Bottom line

Contrary to the position of the International Court of Justice that Western Sahara is a non-autonomous region, will continue to occupy the region and exploit its natural resources.  Morocco has also relocated 350,000 civilians and 20,000 troops to Western Sahara, despite international humanitarian law governing armed conflict prohibiting the occupying state from relocating its civilian population to its occupied territories. An estimated 20,000 people have died as a result of the illegal occupation and the war that ensued. The disappearance of thousands of Sahrawis by Morocco remains unexplained and unpunished.

The fighting between the Western Sahara Liberation Movement Polisario and Morocco ended as early as 1991, but it has started again as Morocco launched its a military operation against peaceful protesters in Guerguerat, on November 2020. It remains to see if the conflict will be solved by violence or would international community finally take actions leading justified peace and independent SADR.

Visio 2026 by Sahrawia

 


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ariel Rusila blog

 


Peace Process by Economic Approach

September 19, 2020

The road to Arab-Israeli peace no longer runs through Ramallah.” (Avi Mayer)

The US-brokered Israel-UAE normalization agreement in August 2020 was swiftly followed by a similar agreement between Serbia and Kosovo, as well as an Israel-Bahrain agreement. The Israel vs. Arab perception is rapidly changing to an Israel-Arab vs. Iran perception. White House announced the Serbia-Kosovo normalization agreement only 22 days after it announced the groundbreaking Israel-UAE normalization agreement, and an Israel-Bahrain normalization agreement was announced shortly after the Serbia-Kosovo news.

Kosovo’s normalization with Israel makes it the fifth Muslim country to normalize or sign a peace agreement with Israel following the peace agreements with Egypt in 1977, Jordan in 1994, Lebanon in 1983 after the Israeli invasion the previous year, and the UAE in 2020—and since the announcement they have been joined by a sixth, the Gulf State of Bahrain.

Critics accuse Trump of seeking a quick foreign policy success to tout ahead of his bid for re-election in November 2020. This might be true. However in my opinion the recent MidEast (peace) process is moving fast forward. Previous peace process implemented last two decades has been moderate at most; the goal Utopian or delusional and the roadmap towards aim has been dead for years. The new partly implemented – out of the box – approach is from my perspective based facts on the ground, the progress is made by economic side first instead of political and the approach is more regional one than bilateral especially related to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Widening anti-Iranian coalition

And, you know, if you want to have peace in the region, you have to create peace with Israel. This is the first step. This is the strong message.” (Tri Ali Rashid al Nuaimi/UAE)

The decision by the United Arab Emirates to sign an agreement toward normalization with Israel was hailed by Egypt, Oman, Bahrain, Sudan and Mauritania. It was severely criticized, however, by Islamist forces and the Palestinian Authority. For many years, and particularly over the last decade, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has striven to disseminate a religious-political doctrine that defines peace as an Islamic value and a fundamental element of national identity. It poses this stance as an ideological alternative to the radical concepts of political Islam advocated by the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafi-jihadist forces in the region. Those who formulated it named it the Abraham Accord, in honor of the father of the three monotheistic religions.

UAE-Israel deal is very significant also to Iran. The Iranian investments in the Emirates are estimated to total in about 300 billion dollars. The Emirates are home to a large community of hundreds of thousands of Iranians. According to various estimates, 454,000 Iranians lived in the Emirates in 2018 (about five percent of the UAE’s population), most of them in Dubai (Iran Migration Outlook, 2020). In addition, about 8,000 Iranian traders operate in the UAE, along with thousands of Iranian-run businesses. There is also a social-cultural Iranian club in Dubai, Iranian schools and an Iranian hospital. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, airlines operated about 200 flights on a weekly basis from various cities in Iran to the UAE, which brought in about 100,000 Iranian tourists into the country on an annual basis.

Serbia/Kosovo

On September 4th, 2020, President Donald Trump hosted Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic and Kosovo PM Avdullah Hoti at the White House to sign an economic normalization agreement that will i.a lead to the establishment of air, rail, and motorway links between Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, and Kosovo’s capital, Pristina. However on the economic front, Serbia and Kosovo are also at odds over the Trepca lead and zinc mining complex, energy supplies, the Gazivode/Ujmani reservoir and trade barriers.

Kosovo broke away from Serbia in 1999 when NATO bombed for 11 weeks Serbia. It declared independence in 2008 with the backing of the major Western powers and over the fierce objections of Serbia and e.g. its big-power ally Russia. The EU, with the backing of the US, has spent years trying to prod the two sides towards what diplomats call a ‘normalization of relations’.

As part of normalization deal Belgrade and Pristina have both vowed to establish relationships with Israel. They plan to open embassies in Jerusalem by 2021, which will make them the first European countries to do so. Significantly, Pristina’s will be the first embassy of a Muslim-majority state in Israel.

Despite normalization agreement I still think that Kosovo’s secession from Serbia, as well as its hasty recognition as an independent state, was a mistake – in my view Kosovo is failed state or even captured state by organized crime clans –Albanian mafia. Links between drug trafficking and the supply of arms to the KLA Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA aka UÇK) were established mid-90s during war in Bosnia. In West KLA was described as terrorist organization but when US selected them as their ally it transformed organization officially to “freedom” fighters. After bombing Serbia 1999 KLA leaders again changed their crime clans officially to political parties. This public image however can not hide the origins of money and power, old channels and connections are still in place in conservative tribe society. (More e.g in Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi Indicted for War Crimes )

 

Bahrain

Bahrain agreed to establish formal relations with Israel in advance of Tuesday’s [15th Sep. 2020] anticipated historic signing in Washington of an accord to normalize ties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. It is likely that a second accord could be signed Tuesday between Israel and Bahrain.

Israel is now “working toward the opening of an Israeli embassy in Bahrain,” according to a Foreign Ministry official. Already on Saturday [12th Sep. 2020] Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi spoke with his Bahrain counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid al Zayani. “I look forward to deepening and strengthening the relations between our two countries. Together we will work towards peace and stability in the Middle East,” Ashkenazi tweeted.

On Friday [11th Sep. 2020] Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that more agreements with Arab states would follow the Bahrain agreement, and the one arrived at with the UAE in August. To underscore the speed with which events are unfolding, Netanyahu noted on Friday that it took 26 years, from the signing of a peace deal between Israel and Jordan in 1994, for there to be an existing deal, such as the one with the UAE. After that, he said, it was only another 29 days to make a fourth deal. “This is a new era of peace,” Netanyahu said in a video message, in which he underscored that what is occurring now is “peace for peace” and “economy for economy.”

After Trump’s announcement, the US, along with Israel and Bahrain issued a joint statement.

This is a historic breakthrough to further peace in the Middle East. Opening direct dialog and ties between these two dynamic societies and advanced economies will continue the positive transformation of the Middle East and increase stability, security and prosperity in the region,” it said.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan had a conversation with Bahrain’s ambassador to the UN, Jamal Fares Alrowaiei. Israel’s Mission to the UN called the conversation “warm” and said that the two congratulated each other. The two reportedly “also agreed to meet to discuss cooperation in the UN on issues of innovation and economic development for the benefit of the two countries.

Expanding the circle of peace in the Middle East can lead to a change at the UN as well,” Erdan said. “We are entering a new era in which we can publicly work together on security issues and the economic prosperity of Israel and the Arab countries. Together, we will face the challenges that threaten stability in the Middle East.”

 

Qatar

According to London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, Maj.-Gen. Herzl “Herzi” Halevi, IDF’s Southern Command chief, flew to Doha/ Qatar late August along with other officials from the IDF, Shin Bet, Mossad, and National Security Council to reduce tensions with the Gaza Strip and restore a sense of quiet to the South and to prevent a military escalation.While Egypt has been playing the main role in mediating the crises, the report said the IDF wants to see Qatar play a larger role in mediating, and not just send financial aid to the group. Halevi made a similar visit in February with Mossad Chief Yossi Cohen.

Qatar is the main financial provider to Gaza, periodically sending millions of dollars to Hamas every month for the past two years with Israel’s approval to pay for fuel for the Strip’s power plant, as well as to pay the salaries of the group’s civil servants and provide aid to tens of thousands of families. Doha first began sending $5 million per month, later increasing it to $10m. and then to $20m. This year it started sending $30m. According to reports, Hamas is demanding another increase, $40m. every month in cash on a regular basis, to extend to a “pre-determined long-term period of time.”

 

Splitting Arab League

the triumph of money over dignity” (Senior PA official Hussein al-Sheikh)

In blow to Palestinians, Arab League refuses [9th Sep. 2020] to condemn normalization deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, proposed by the Palestinian Authority. Senior official says foreign ministers were not in agreement on Palestinian issue, after PA foreign minister criticizes body for failure to show unity in backing its cause. Palestinian politicians condemned the deal as soon as it was announced in mid-August by US President Donald Trump, with many calling it “a stab in the back” by an Arab ally. Palestinian Liberation Organization chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said that if Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit could not condemn the treaty, he ought to resign.

https://youtu.be/18NtyF-ZEWA

Furthermore, the Arab League wasn’t in any rush to discuss the issue. Palestinian officials had originally called for an emergency meeting of the pan-Arab body against the deal when it was announced, but said they were told to wait nearly a month, when a regular meeting had already been scheduled. The event also exposes the profound schism in the current Arab and Muslim world between the pragmatic axis, centered in Egypt, Jordan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia, and the radical axes, led by Turkey and Iran.

From historical background it might be worth to mention that on May 15, 1948, the seven founding member states of the Arab League launched what the body’s then-secretary general, Azzam Pasha, called a “war of extermination and a momentous massacre” against Israel, which had been established the previous day. Following Israel’s resounding victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, the League gathered in Khartoum and issued its notorious “three ‘no’s”: “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

 

Incapable EU and Delusional Palestinians

I call on the Palestinian leadership to understand the reality, to be responsible, to play a leadership role — as the UAE and Bahrain have done — and to return to the negotiating table,” ( Gabi Ashkenazi. FM/Israel)

The Serbia-Kosovo deal surprised the European Union, which has been leading complex talks between Serbia and its former territory of Kosovo on improving their long-strained relations.The European Union has warned Serbia and Kosovo that they could weaken their chances of gaining membership in the bloc by opening up respective embassies in Jerusalem. Brussels has long maintained that Jerusalem’s final status should be determined through Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, although there is no longer a consensus due to Israel having made diplomatic inroads with numerous European countries, primarily those located in the eastern part of the continent.

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi was recently the host of his German counterpart, Heiko Maas, whose countries currently assumes the EU presidency. The discussions between FM’s were related to the new situation after UAE-Israel agreement and freezing of Israel’s plan to extend its sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) as part of the accord. Several EU foreign ministers have reportedly called for the renewal of the EU-Association Council which has not held a formal meeting since 2012. Now in the framework of the recent US-brokered agreements there might be time for normalization also Israel-EU relations.

El Al Flight 971 to the UAE awaits departure from Ben-Gurion Airport, August 31 | Photo: Menahem Kahana/Pool via AP

In another setback for those hoping that the Palestinians be given veto power over Israel’s relations with other countries, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain have agreed to make their airspace available to flights flying eastwards out of the Jewish state. The development, will drastically reduce flight times between Israel and the Far East. That knocks down a barrier that’s been up for 72 years.

One can easy understand Palestinian and Iranian concern about the impact of the agreements on the balance of power in the region as a whole and the Persian Gulf in particular. I hope that White House ceremony (signing for peace agreements) could serve as a wake-up call to Palestinians who have long been led to believe that Arab leaders will sacrifice their own national interests on the altar of Palestinian rejectionism. That is clearly no longer the case. Avi Mayer hits the nail on the head concluding that the road to Arab-Israeli peace no longer runs through Ramallah.”

 

My conclusion

An improved economic situation was]“a necessary precondition to resolving what was previously an unsolvable political situation,” (Jared Kushner)

Foreign policy has not figured prominently in the election campaign, but President Trump is eager to present himself as a peacemaker, his pro-Israel moves have been seen as an effort to bolster his appeal to evangelical Christian voters, an important segment of his political base. Elections might be the cause for timing of these deals but in my opinion they are implementing parts of ”Deal of Century” (DoC) aka ”Trump peace plan” – a long waited Mideast peace plan by the White House – officially known as ”Peace to Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People, which is a proposal to resolve the Israeli–Palestinian conflict.

DoC is “out of the box” plan made by by the Trump administration is a reaction to political realities in MidEast, instead of previous UN’s, EU’s etc high flown statements and utopias. DoC is the United States’ redefinition of the parameters for definitively resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as an updated version to sc ”Clinton parameters” – created during Oslo process – which were the framework some two decades for negotiations between Israel and Palestinian authority.

And this plan seems to be working on the ground. Today many leaders in the MidEast recognize that the approach that’s been taken in the past hasn’t worked and they realize that there are people who want to see a more vibrant and exciting future.  In my opinion the recent MidEast (peace) process is moving fast forward. Previous peace process implemented last two decades has been moderate at most; the goal Utopian or delusional and the roadmap towards aim has been dead for years. The new partly implemented – out of the box – approach is from my perspective based facts on the ground, the progress is made by economic side first instead of political and the approach is more regional one than bilateral especially related to Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Main sources: AP , JerusalemPost , EuropeanJewishPress , TimesofIsrael , IsraelHayom , JerusalemPost , BESA .

“The shameful agreement between the Emirates and the phony Zionist government is the greatest betrayal of Jerusalem’s hopes” (Tasnim, August 15, 2020)


This article first appeared in Conflicts by Ari Rusila blog