Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Gallia Lindenstrauss, Daniel Rakov and Remi Daniel analyse ‘The Ceasefire in Idlib: Turkey’s Tactical Successes alongside Political Weakness’.

“The accords reached in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 5, 2020 regarding a ceasefire in the Idlib province are almost certainly temporary, and friction between the two countries over the region’s future is likely to resurface in the not too distant future. However, Turkey’s acceptance of the Russian terms (including Erdogan’s visit to Moscow, while Putin ignored a previous invitation from Turkey) demonstrates its weak position. Moreover, although the Turkish government presented the return to the Sochi agreement of 2018 as its political and military goal, the accords reached in Moscow actually nullify them: the ceasefire in Idlib is another step toward the province’s return to the Assad regime. “

2) Noam Blum discusses ‘How Iran Became a Global Vector of Infection for COVID-19’ at Tablet Magazine.

“Iran currently has the third-worst outbreak of COVID-19 following China and Italy, with as of Friday 514 official deaths since the first reported case on Feb. 19. Speculation that the situation there is far, far worse than official accounts indicate has been bolstered by the relatively large number of Iranian upper echelons—regime officials, clerics, and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)—who have contracted the disease, some of them fatally.

Additionally, several countries have discovered cases of COVID-19 that originated with travelers from Iran in the early days of March. One of the first cases in New Zealand came from a family who had recently traveled to the Islamic Republic. At least three of the first 12 cases in Canada came via Iran, as did all 33 initial cases in Iraq. In the United States, the first confirmed COVID-19 case in New York City was a health-care worker who had returned from Iran, and Los Angeles also identified a coronavirus patient from Iran who passed through LAX. India evacuated hundreds of Indian Muslim pilgrims from affected areas in Iran, many of whom tested positive for the coronavirus.”

3) At the FDD Jacob Nagel and Andrea Stricker ask ‘As Coronavirus Hinders the IAEA, Who Will Monitor Iran’s Nuclear Program?’.

“While the Iranian regime continues to call for sanctions relief in response to the coronavirus crisis, the regime appears rather content with the pandemic’s debilitating impact on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Inspectors remain stuck in Vienna or quarantined in their hotels in Iran to avoid exposure to the virus, which continues to spread quickly throughout Iran. […]

Experts are now considering wider implementation of the remote monitoring technology installed at the Natanz enrichment plant and other Iranian facilities pursuant to the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

4) Yoni Ben Menachem of the JCPA looks at Hamas’ response to the Coronavirus crisis.

“Hamas called on the 2,667 residents of the Gaza Strip who have recently returned to Gaza through the Rafah Crossing to maintain home isolation. […]

One of the issues that will require a decision by the various terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip is the “Land Day” event that took place annually on March 31.

According to the original plan, March 31 was supposed to be the date when the “March of Return” against Israel would resume at the border of the Gaza Strip.

However, officials in the Gaza Strip believe that with the spread of the coronavirus and the possibility of it reaching Gaza, the resumption of demonstrations on the Gaza border is likely to be postponed to another date.”

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Remi Daniel and Gallia Lindenstrauss explain why ‘Erdogan’s “Crazy Project” Raises Concerns’.

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is promoting the idea of building the Istanbul Canal between the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara as a waterway parallel to the Bosphorus Strait. The idea itself is not new, but Erdogan hopes that its realization will be one of the major achievements of his presidency. Facing him, Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem Imamoglu, who was elected to the post in spite of the President’s strong support for another candidate, is one of the leading opponents of the project. The main argument against the canal is that it will cause serious damage to the environment, and troubling scenarios also foresee an impact on the countries around the Mediterranean, including Israel.”

2) Jonathan Spyer discusses ‘Syria’s Wild South west’.

“The global spotlight has currently returned to Syria because of the Assad regime’s current bloody offensive in Idlib, Aleppo and Latakia Provinces.  The regime is trying to reduce the last enclave held by the Sunni Arab rebels in the country’s north-west.  The assault has precipitated one of the worst humanitarian disasters of the bloody, nine year war.  800,000 people have left their homes to flee the advance of regime forces and the relentless, indiscriminate bombing of Assad’s Russian allies.

Far to the south of Idlib, however, and largely ignored by the global media, events are under way which may offer a clue to the future direction of Syria.  These events are of direct interest to Israel.  The regime is currently seeking to consolidate its presence in Deraa and Quneitra provinces in Syria’s south west.  Assad’s army completed its ‘conquest’ of these areas in the summer of 2018.  Observation of the current situation on the ground in these areas suggests, however, that the situation remains far from a return to the repressive and stifling order of the pre-revolt days.”

3) The ITIC analyses ‘The Tenth Round of Escalation in the Gaza Strip’.

“On February 23 and 24, 2020, there was another significant round of escalation in the Gaza Strip, the tenth since the beginning of the return marches (March 30, 2018). It was instigated by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) in retaliation for the IDF’s killing of one of its operatives who was placing an IED near the border security fence and the subsequent removal of his body with an IDF bulldozer. During the round of escalation 113 rocket and mortar shells were fired at the Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip and at the southern Israeli cities of Sderot and Ashqelon. In response the IDF attacked PIJ terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip and Syria. Two PIJ operatives were killed in the attack near Damascus; no operatives were killed in the attacks on the Gaza Strip. Near midnight on February 24, 2020, the PIJ announced it had completed its retaliation for the death of its operatives. When the rocket fire ceased the IDF stopped attacking in the Gaza Strip.”

4) The JCPA has published a collection of essays titled ‘Israelophobia and the West: The Hijacking of Civil Discourse on Israel and How to Rescue It’.

“This volume evaluates the intensifying anti-Semitism against diaspora Jewry in Western countries and the converging rhetorical assaults on “sovereign” Jews in Israel – condemning them and their nation-state as “Nazi, apartheid, racist, genocidal, war criminal, illegal, illegitimate, colonialist, and anachronistic.” This invective has been characterized and justified as legitimate political criticism of Israel in mainstream Western discourse. It has become standard practice among faculty and “pro-Palestinian” student organizations on American university campuses, the United Nations, associated international bodies such as the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, as well as European institutions and parliaments. For the first time, anti-Semitic tropes cloaked as political critique of Israel have even been voiced by several members of the U.S. House of Representatives.”

 

 

 

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Carmit Valensi, Neta Nave and Ofek Mushkat discuss ‘The Fight for Idlib’.

“Idlib province in northwest Syria remains the last significant stronghold of the rebellion against the Assad regime. The campaign that was revived recently in this area is marked by traits of the civil war now entering its tenth year: cruel and indiscriminate regime fighting backed by Russia and Iranian-run Shiite militias; a humanitarian crisis, manifested inter alia in displacement and potential refugees; a Russian effort, so far fruitless, to mediate between the sides; a danger of the situation deteriorating – militarily and diplomatically – given the multiple actors in the field. However, the campaign in the Idlib area reflects two significant changes in the balance of power between the sides: first, unusual military confrontations between Turkey and Assad regime forces, which so far have led to the downing of two Syrian military helicopters and fatalities on both sides. The second is linked to Iran’s decision to send its proxies into the fight after previously abstaining from involvement in this war theater. These developments are shaking up the already fragile balance of power among the various involved actors.”

2) Also at the INSS, Dr Raz Zimmt analyses ‘Parliamentary Elections in Iran: The Predicted Conservative Victory’.

“Official though not yet final results of the parliamentary elections held in Iran on February 21, 2020 show a landslide victory by the conservative right (200 out of 290 seats, versus under 20 seats won by reformist candidates). This victory was expected in view of the sweeping disqualification by the authorities of most of the reformist candidates. The low voter turnout (slightly over 40 percent) reflects the ongoing erosion of public trust in the political system. Over time this erosion could undermine the legitimacy of the regime, which to a large extent depends on its ability to maintain at least the appearance of popular representation in state institutions. The return of absolute control of the Majlis to the conservatives could create even more difficulties for President Hassan Rouhani in his last year of office, and is a possible preliminary sign regarding the next presidential elections, expected to be held in the summer of 2021.”

3) The Henry Jackson Society has published a report by Dr Simon Waldman titled ‘UNRWA’s Future Reconsidered’.

“UNRWA, the UN aid body established to support Palestinians, has been dogged by repeated allegations of mismanagement which led to the USA withdrawing all funding in 2018.  Following further allegations of misconduct in 2019; Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands froze funding to the body.  In contrast, the UK increased its annual contribution by over $25 million between 2017 and 2018.

Despite the UK’s continued support for UNRWA, allegations that educational materials provided by the body include extremism have dogged the organisation.  UNRWA blames the disturbing material within its schools on the local authorities whose educational ministries determine curricula within their respective jurisdictions. While UNRWA claims to routinely review its materials, the report argues that the problem is longstanding and measures to end the problem have been subsequently reversed.”

4) The ITIC reports on the Hizballah linked Lebanese organisation ‘Green Without Borders’.

“Green Without Borders is a Lebanese environmental organization dealing mostly with forestation. It operates in areas populated mainly by Hezbollah-controlled Shi’ites in south Lebanon and the Beqa’a Valley. An examination conducted by the ITIC revealed that the organization collaborates with Hezbollah’s civilian institutions, especially the Jihad al-Bina (the “construction foundation”) and the Hezbollah Association for Municipal Activity. Green Without Borders participates in Hezbollah’s campaign to glorify its shaheeds and turn them into role models for Lebanese youth. To that end Green Without Borders plants trees, some of them near the Israeli border, named for Hezbollah shaheeds, in collaboration with Hezbollah institutions and operatives. Green Without Borders’ chairman, Hajj Zuhair Nahle, a Shi’ite from Nabatieh in south Lebanon, is affiliated with Hezbollah. In his Facebook profile he refers to his loyalty to Iranian leader Ali Khamenei.”

Related Articles:

Another UN SC resolution violation goes unreported by the BBC

BBC continues to ignore Hizballah violations in south Lebanon

Weekend long read

1) David May and Varsha Koduvayur discuss ‘Trump’s peace plan and the Gulf Arab States’ reaction’ at the Hill.

“Many Arab countries initially welcomed the Trump administration’s release of its long-awaited plan in late January. Ambassadors from Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates were present at the launch event. Those that weren’t — including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Morocco — nevertheless expressed support for the administration’s efforts and praised some of the plan’s positive elements. It appeared that Israel and the Arab states were ready to move from discreet affairs to international affairs.

However, any hope of a full-fledged embrace of the plan by Gulf leaders was dashed when, just days later, the Arab League issued a sound and unanimous rejection of the entire plan, underscoring how Israeli ties to the Persian Gulf continue their delicate dance of two steps forward, one step back. Denouncing the plan as a “so-called ‘deal,’” the Arab League dubbed it a “setback” to the peace efforts undertaken in the past 30 years. The Palestinians initiated this public meeting of the Arab League, knowing they could shame the Arab states into denying their intrigue with Israel.”

2) At the INSS Orna Mizrahi analyses the situation in Lebanon.

“Despite the January 21, 2020 formation of a government of technocrats in Lebanon, presumably in response to demonstrators’ demands, protests have persisted throughout the country. In addition, there is marked popular dissatisfaction with the composition of the government and a lack of confidence in its ability to advance reforms necessary to alleviate the country’s dire situation. Nor is it clear that how long this government can survive. Since the October 17, 2019 launch of the protest, demonstrators have demanded the formation of a government composed of professionals who are not members of the corrupt, ruling political elite, in the hope they might properly address Lebanon’s deep-set problems. However, the demands met with only a partial response; although most of the 20 members of the government – including Prime Minister Hassan Diab – are academics without formal political affiliation, they are perceived as a “Hezbollah government,” because the list was effectively decided, behind the scenes, by Hezbollah and the parties in the March 8 camp. The Sunni party of former Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, along with other parties from the rival March 14 alliance, did not support the new Prime Minister and opted not to join the government. Thus while only two ministers are officially Hezbollah members, the rest represent the organization’s partners. As such, the new government in fact reflects Hezbollah’s strengthened influence over the political system in Lebanon and challenges Western countries, chief among them the United States, and the Gulf States with a dilemma regarding their economic aid to Lebanon, which is crucial for the struggling state.”

3) At the JISS Jonathan Spyer asks ‘Do Syria-Turkey clashes presage a wider confrontation in the Middle East?’.

“This week saw the first direct clashes between Turkish government and Syrian regime forces since the commencement of the Syrian civil war in mid-2011. According to a statement issued by the Turkish defense ministry, seven Turkish soldiers and one civilian were killed on Monday, February 3, in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, when their position was shelled by advancing regime forces.

Turkish forces responded to the fire, claiming to have killed 76 regime soldiers. The Assad regime itself denies that its forces suffered any fatalities. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which is opposition-associated but regarded by many news outlets as generally reliable, reported that at least 13 regime soldiers were killed by Turkish fire. […]

So does this event presage a wider confrontation between Assad and Erdogan? And what are the implications for Russian attempts to maintain a diplomatic process intended to finally bring the war in Syria to a close? Will the Turkish-Russian rapprochement which has formed a notable presence in regional diplomacy over the last year suffer serious damage as a result of ‘the week’s events?”

4) The ITIC reports on ‘Iranian support for Palestinian terrorism’.

“In late January 2020, the Al-Ansar Charity Association, affiliated with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), distributed Iranian financial support to families of shaheeds killed from the beginning of the Second Intifada (2000) until Operation Protective Edge (2014). The funds were delivered to the association by the Iranian Martyrs Foundation, which is used by the Iranians as a channel for funneling funds intended for social institutions supporting the terrorist organizations. The amount distributed in the Gaza Strip among the families of shaheeds was not specified. However, in the ITIC’s assessment, similarly to 2018, the total amount was close to $2 million, paid to about 4,800 families (each family received the sum of $300-600).”

Weekend long read

1) The IDI provides a backgrounder on Israel’s immunity law.

“Procedural immunity protects MKs from standing trial while in office, and relates to any offense for which they have been indicted. In the past, MKs enjoyed procedural immunity automatically; the Attorney General had to specifically request the Knesset to revoke it when he deemed that appropriate. In the wake of several cases in which the Knesset declined to revoke an MK’s immunity, and which triggered harsh public criticism of the Knesset and forced the High Court of Justice to intervene, the law was revised in 2005. Today, no MK enjoys automatic immunity, but he or she can request the Knesset to grant immunity on various grounds. This means that having no immunity is now the default rule; the Knesset must specifically vote to grant it.”

2) The ITIC takes a look at Turkey’s relations with Hamas.

“A Hamas delegation headed by Isma’il Haniyeh, head of Hamas’ political bureau, recently paid a visit to Turkey. The delegation was accompanied by Jihad Yaghmour, who for the first [time] was officially mentioned as Hamas’ representative in Turkey. Yaghmour is a Hamas terrorist operative from Beit Hanina in east Jerusalem who was involved in the abduction of IDF soldier Nahshon Waxman 1994. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Israel but was deported to Turkey in the Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange deal. In Turkey he liaises between Hamas and the Turkish government and the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT). At the same time, in ITIC assessment, he has also been involved in covert activities, mainly the handling of terrorist squads in Judea and Samaria. In Hamas’ perspective, his past experience as a field operative may have prepared him for the role of terrorist handler. As Yaghmour’s cover for his activities in Turkey he is president of a Turkish organization called the Association of Jerusalem and Our History.”

3) At the JCPA Michael Segall analyses Iran’s strategy in Iraq.

“Iran continues to view Iraq and the Shiite militias operating there as critical elements in its efforts to store and transfer weapons to Syria and Lebanon, particularly precision rockets and missiles, and as a way to mobilize Shiite fighters for future battles with Israel and the United States. The ongoing Israeli efforts to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria have prompted Iran to redeploy and store some of its weaponry in Iraq, thereby advancing its plans in the region with the help of the militias under its authority. This strategy has provoked widespread criticism in Iraq of this conduct, in particular, and Iran’s overall activity and presence in Iraq, in general. This resentment erupted in the ongoing demonstrations in Iraqi cities and in the attacks on the Iranian consulates in southern Iraq, along with recent calls by Iraqi demonstrators to boycott Iranian products.”

4) Jonathan Spyer explains the current situation Syria.

“North east Syria, two months after the US redeployment and the subsequent Turkish invasion, now constitutes a chaotic kaleidoscope of opposing forces. No less than eight separate armed forces may be discerned in the area. These are the SDF, the US Army, the Turkish Army, the Turkish associated Sunni Islamists of the Syrian National Army (SNA), the Syrian government army (SAA), the Russians, the IRGC-supported Shia militias and of course the Sunni jihadis of Islamic State. The Saudis, if indeed they are there, would constitute a 9th force.”

Weekend long read

1) At the INSS Gallia Lindenstrauss, Sarah J. Feuer and Ofir Winter analyse ‘The Perils of the Turkey-Libya Maritime Delimitation Deal’.

“The November 27, 2019 signing of the maritime delimitation agreement between Turkey and the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj, has heightened concerns among many countries in the Eastern Mediterranean. The deal will negatively affect Turkey’s relations with Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel; pose further challenges to the already questionable plans for the EastMed pipeline; and raise the stakes for outside actors involved in the Libyan civil war, likely prolonging the conflict there. It may, however, have a boomerang effect from Ankara’s perspective in that it strengthens Egypt’s determination to become an energy hub for the region.”

2) Writing at Commentary magazine, Jonathan Schanzer discusses ‘The new rocket threat to Israel’.

“If Israel doesn’t find a way to halt Iran’s PGM project, the very character of its wars will change. Despite a steady stream of attacks perpetrated by their enemies in recent years, the Israelis have not needed to fight long or particularly bloody wars. Instead, they have been conducting limited operations. Israel has, in fact, often been able to determine the beginning and end of these flare-ups. Iron Dome’s ability to neutralize rudimentary rockets has made that possible. But now, with PGMs in play, Israel may no longer be able to dictate the terms of conflict when its enemies want one.

And let there be no doubt: They want one.”

3) Jonathan Spyer takes a look at ‘The Riddle of Baghdad’.

“Last week, five rockets were fired at the Ayn al-Asad base in Iraq’s Anbar Province.  The base is a facility housing US troops.  Ayn al-Asad is something of a symbol for the 5,000 strong US presence in Iraq.  […]

Two days  later, Katyusha rockets were fired at the Balad airbase, 70 kilometers north of Baghdad.  Again, this is a base where US forces and contractors are stationed.

There were no casualties in either attack. They were the latest in a string of similar incidents which have taken place on US facilities in Iraq since the beginning of the year. These attacks have a number of things in common, other than that they are directed at US personnel and facilities: they appear to be intended for now to send a message rather than to cause injuries or fatalities among US troops.

They are also notable in that no force or organization has taken responsibility for them.”

4) David Hirsh argues that ‘Corbyn’s legacy is that political antisemitism has re-entered the British mainstream’ at the Fathom Journal.

“Corbyn’s movement has left behind many thousands of people who have been educated to believe that between ‘us’ and ‘socialism’ sits the formidable obstacle of Jewish power. The rage and shame that they are feeling after their humiliating defeat should not be under-estimated. For many it will be a key formative experience. Political antisemitism has re-entered the British mainstream, and it is not going to just disappear. There is reason to believe that on the populist left people who have been learning to understand the world through antisemitism will find ways to actualise that in the development of antisemitic social movements.”

 

BBC News yet again promotes conspiracy theories

Since July 2018 we have been documenting the BBC’s promotion of what just three months earlier it had itself described as “conspiracy theories”:

BBC promotes what it described in April as ‘conspiracy theories’

BBC News website readers get yet another dose of Assad’s propaganda

Amplification of Assad propaganda on BBC World Service radio

New BBC report on ‘White Helmets’ again amplifies falsehoods

BBC News amplifies Syrian and Russian propaganda yet again

A report published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on December 16th – “James Le Mesurier: White Helmets co-founder died from fall, Turkey says” – yet again gives amplification to Syrian and Russian government propaganda.  

“…the Syrian government and its allies Russia and Iran have accused the White Helmets of aiding terrorist groups – something the organisation has denied.

A week before he died, the Russian foreign ministry accused Le Mesurier of being a former agent of the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6. The UK’s ambassador to the UN said the claim was “categorically untrue”.”

The BBC knows that those accusations are nothing more than the propaganda of totalitarian regimes and yet it has continued to amplify and mainstream them for seventeen months.

The BBC media editor’s complaints (published on the same website on the same day) about “Tweets or Facebook posts that go viral, including those that espouse conspiracy theories” would of course carry more weight were his own organisation to cease engaging in the same practice from its far more influential platform.

Related Articles:

The BBC examines conspiracy theories – but not its own

BBC News avoids the term ‘occupation’ in Cyprus gas report

A report titled “Turkish drone fuels tension over Cyprus gas claims” was published on the BBC News website’s ‘Europe’ and ‘Middle East’ pages on December 16th.

The report begins by informing readers that:

“A Turkish military drone has arrived at a base in Turkish-backed northern Cyprus to help controversial gas exploration projects near the island.

A Turkish military official said the drone would escort its drilling ships. There are two – the Fatih and Yavuz – in the area, despite strong criticism from Cyprus and its EU partners.” [emphasis added]

It goes on:

“Turkey alone recognises the self-styled Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.”

Readers are provided with a similarly worded map:

Later on an attempt is made to provide some historical background:

“The Greek- and Turkish-Cypriot communities have been separated by a UN buffer zone since 1974, when Turkey invaded the north of the island in response to a military coup in Cyprus backed by Greece.”

Interestingly – but predictably – the words ‘occupation’ and ‘occupied’ do not appear anywhere in this report. As has been the case in past BBC reporting, there is no reference in the report to “illegal settlements” or “international law” despite the fact that it was Turkish state policy to facilitate and encourage the immigration of Turkish nationals to Cyrpus during the latter half of the 1970s.

In contrast to BBC coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, readers do not find any pronouncements allocating disputed territory to one side or the other in the style of the frequently employed terminology “occupied Palestinian land” and “Palestinian territory” and no mention is made of the presence of Turkish troops in northern Cyprus. Moreover, the previous BBC policy of describing northern Cyprus as being ‘controlled’ by Turkey appears to have been abandoned.

Readers are told that:

“The Republic of Cyprus, Greece and Israel are also exploring for gas.

In July [sic] a new “East Mediterranean Gas Forum” (EMGF) was launched by those three countries, plus Egypt, Jordan, Italy and the Palestinian Authority. However, Turkey was excluded.”

The EMGF was actually established in January 2019.

The background to the story includes agreements reached in late November between Turkey and the interim government of Libya which are described as follows:

“Last month, Turkey and the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya signed an agreement on maritime boundaries in the region.

The Memorandum of Understanding aims to protect the rights of both countries against any “illegal” encroachments by other players in the region.

In a separate memorandum, Turkey and the GNA agreed on military co-operation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government was “ready to provide all kinds of support to Libya”. He met GNA leader Fayez al-Sarraj in Istanbul on Sunday.”

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus adds:

“Turkey’s deal with the Libyan government in Tripoli extends Ankara’s claimed exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to touch that of Libya. This effectively cuts off Israel, Egypt, Cyprus and the Palestinians from Greece and Italy, threatening planned energy pipeline projects in the region.

Egypt objected. Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador and received support from the EU.”

Writing at the FDD, Aykan Erdemir provides a more helpful explanation:

“Turkey signed an agreement with Libya on November 27 in an attempt to redraw maritime boundaries in the volatile eastern Mediterranean. […] the Turkey-Libya deal will fuel further tensions by threatening Greek, Cypriot, and Egyptian control of their territorial waters. […]

The deal seeks to create a maritime corridor between the two countries, stretching from southwest Turkey to northeast Libya. This corridor would cut through a zone currently claimed by Greece and Cyprus, which are planning a future gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean gas fields to markets in Europe – a project that would help the continent reduce dependency on Russian gas. Ankara’s attempt to dictate new boundaries directly challenges the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Cyprus, Egypt, and Greece. […]

Tensions among Ankara, Athens, and Nicosia were already high due to Turkey’s exploration and drilling for gas within Cypriot territorial waters. Since a 1974 coup attempt led by Greek army officers, Turkey has occupied the northern part of the island, where Turkish Cypriots maintain a self-proclaimed independent state recognized only by Ankara. After the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus discovered natural gas within its EEZ, Turkey has repeatedly attempted to drill in Cypriot territorial waters. The Turkish government claims its drilling is necessary to ensure equal shares for Turkish Cypriots in gas revenues, but its incursions into Cypriot and Greek waters have escalated tensions with Athens and Nicosia, forced the European Union to consider imposing sanctions, and left Ankara with few allies in the region.”

The BBC report’s explanation of what its opening sentence described as “controversial gas exploration projects” is as follows:

“Turkey has long challenged the Republic of Cyprus government’s exclusive drilling rights in the region. Turkey is now stepping up oil and gas exploration of its own.”

And:

“The Republic of Cyprus argues that Turkey has no right to drill for hydrocarbons off its coast.

Turkey says its drilling operations are taking place inside its continental shelf, and therefore comply with international law.”

That ‘he said-she said’ portrayal of the dispute clearly does not provide BBC audiences with the “depth of analysis” required “to build people’s understanding” as required by the corporation’s public purposes.  

Related Articles:

Not all ‘occupied territories’ are equal for the BBC

When the BBC News website reported an enduring conflict without a narrative

BBC double standards on disputed territory in evidence again

 

Weekend long read

1) The FDD reports on ‘The Consolidation of the Turkey-Qatar Axis’.

“On June 5, 2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) severed diplomatic ties with Qatar, enacting a land, sea, and air blockade. Qatar’s neighbors charged the country with supporting terrorists, collaborating with Iran, and sowing the seeds of chaos around the Middle East. The sudden move closed Qatar’s only road link to foreign markets, through which it received nearly 40 percent of its food requirements. Qatari residents panicked, picking clean supermarket shelves. But the panic subsided less than 48 hours later, as Turkey began sending cargo planes with food and other goods.

Turkey’s assistance was not simply a humanitarian gesture. Rather, it was the most visible sign of Ankara and Doha’s strategic convergence. This was also evident when Qatar was one of the few actors, alongside Hamas and Pakistan, that supported Turkey’s cross-border operation into northeast Syria in October 2019.”

2) The ITIC analyses ‘Hezbollah’s Position on the Wave of Protests in Lebanon’.

“When the wave of protests began in Lebanon, Hezbollah avoided criticizing them, possibly assuming they would wane of their own accord, not expecting them to pose a significant threat. However, as the demonstrations continued, the more they posed a challenge to the Lebanese government, the more Hezbollah openly came out against them. Hezbollah was concerned that they might spin out of control and threaten its political power, and possibly even erode the foundations of Lebanon’s sectarian regime, of which Hezbollah is an integral part.

Hezbollah’s propaganda accused the demonstrators of causing chaos and possibly leading the country to a civil war. Hezbollah supporters threatened the “thugs” and “terrorists” who blocked the roads leading to Beirut’s southern suburb (the Dahia), and the highway linking Beirut to the south, thereby imposing a “siege” on the [Shi’ite] population living there. Hezbollah also initiated a campaign claiming that the United States and its allies were behind the protest demonstrations, which automatically delegitimized them. On the ground there were instances in which road-blocking demonstrators were attacked by Hezbollah (and Amal) supporters, but no prolonged frontal confrontation developed.”

3) At the Times of Israel, David Horovitz ponders ‘Why Israel’s third elections might not be such a disaster, after all’.

“Elections are designed to be decisive. We don’t have time to run our democracies ourselves, so we have systems designed to install a new batch of competent people every few years to do so on our behalf. Clearly, that hasn’t been working for us in the past year — even though, in Israel, we have an electoral system that so purely and accurately represents the will of the voter. It’s not like America, where only a few states are really in play. It’s not like in Britain, where parties can win millions of votes and get no seats in parliament. It’s a system where every vote counts. Undiluted proportional representation.

But rather than look at round three of elections as proof of that system’s failure and paralysis, perhaps, in its purity, it is enabling the electorate to work through the hugely sensitive decision of who should lead this country, and thus how and where it should be led, a little more protractedly than is the norm. Perhaps our system is actually working for us rather than against us.”

4) The Tel Aviv Review of Books carries ‘Our Men in Al Sham: An Interview with Seth Frantzman and Jonathan Spyer’.

“The Americans haven’t totally left. They have no real strategy, but as long as they’re there, the Kurds in Syria will be happy to work with them, because the alternative is not working with them. So even if they’re furious about what’s happened, they’re going to carry on working with the Americans.

As for the future, it’s fascinating. Contrary to the impression we had, that the regime is rolling in and it’s all over, on the ground remarkably little has changed. The Kurdish internal security forces are still responsible for security in all the urban areas. Right now a journalist can go through the Kurdish-controlled border crossing with Iraq at Faysh Khabur down to Qamishli on the Turkish border without ever coming across a regime roadblock or even seeing a regime soldier. That’s because the regime is decrepit. I spent some time with the regime forces on the border in a place called Tell Tamer, and they are in lousy shape. I personally witnessed a regime medical officer petitioning an American medical NGO for medical equipment: “I don’t have any aspirin for my boys,” it was like that, you know. People tell me that they’ve seen regime soldiers asking SDF guys for food. The regime has won the war because of Russia and Iran, not because of any strength of its own. And that has implications for them taking control of the whole area.”

Weekend long read

1) The ITIC looks at the Palestinian Authority policy of rebuilding the houses of terrorists demolished by Israel.

“On the night of October 24, 2019, the Israeli security forces demolished a building under construction in the al-Am’ari refugee camp near Ramallah. The house belonged to the family of Palestinian terrorist Islam Abu Hamid, who killed an IDF soldier in May 2018. Following the destruction Palestinians rioted and clashed with the Israeli security forces. Senior Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah figures rushed to announce that the PA would rebuild the house demolished by Israel. The rebuilding of terrorists’ houses demolished by Israel is a pattern that repeats itself, part of the PA’s consistent policy of providing benefits to terrorists and their families. The PA policy is also a way to challenge the deterrent message Israel tries to convey by demolishing the houses.”

2) Also at the ITIC: analysis of the appointment of a new ISIS leader.

“Beginning on November 2, 2019, in the wake of Al-Baghdadi’s death and the new spokesman’s call to pledge allegiance to ISIS’s new leader, pledges of allegiance from the various provinces and individual operatives and supporters began to appear. It is to be expected that additional pledges of allegiance will be published in the near future.

The first province to issue a pledge of allegiance was the Sinai Province. Operatives of the province posted two photos on Telegram documenting a group of operatives pledging allegiance to ISIS’s new leader (November 2, 2019). A few hours later, a photo was posted documenting another pledge of allegiance from the Bangladesh Province. On November 4, 2019, a photo was published documenting operatives of the Somalia Province pledging allegiance to the new leader.”

3) At the JNS Yaakov Lappin discusses the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip.

“PIJ wishes to position itself as the “authentic” jihadist organization in the Strip at the expense of Hamas, which unlike PIJ has to balance out its considerations as a government with its commitment to armed conflict and terrorism. […]

It is more than willing to use its rocket arsenal, which is larger than that of Hamas, to upset the security situation. Iranian funding and rocket-production know-how has helped make PIJ a significant terror army, with some 15,000 armed operates (compared to Hamas’s 25,000-strong military wing).”

4) Emily B. Landau and Shimon Stein of the INSS analyse “Turkey’s Nuclear Motivation”.

“Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently complained about the unfair situation whereby some countries are free to possess nuclear tipped missiles, while others are not – a situation he cannot accept. What might be motivating Erdogan not only to raise the nuclear issue at this time, but for the first time to threaten to develop his own capability? If Erdogan decides to go down the nuclear path, this decision will have implications for Turkey’s relations with NATO/EU, the nuclear nonproliferation regime, and the Middle East.”