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usisraelU.S.-Israel Cooperation  


The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the Israel Qualitative Military Edge (QME) Enhancement Act. The act calls for the president to issue biennial, rather than quadrennial, reports to Congress on American efforts to guarantee Israel's QME and adds assistance to Israel's cyber warfare capabilities to the definition of QME. The bill is now on the full House's schedule.


The U.S. and Israel are planning a large, joint exercise set for May 2014.


In a unique arrangement, the United States National Guard Bureau and Israel's Home Front Command maintain military liaisons at each other's headquarters in Ramle and Arlington, VA, respectively. The situation marks the only foreign posting for each organization, just another example of the exceptionality of the U.S.-Israel security relationship.


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missileMissile Defense   


Marking a major milestone, the David's Sling anti-missile system conducted its second successful intercept test late last month. Jointly developed by Rafael and Raytheon, David's Sling is expected to be operational in 2014 and will help counter short-range ballistic missiles.


Leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services committees proposed a compromise defense bill that, among other things, authorizes $173 million for Israeli missile defense programs. The measure includes nearly $34 million to improve the Arrow weapon system, $22 million for work on developing an upper-tier interceptor, $117.2 million for David's Sling, and added $15 million to establish a U.S. co-production capability for Iron Dome parts. It also requires a report on U.S.-Israeli missile defense cooperation.


In the year since Operation Pillar of Defense, only 33 rockets were fired into Israel, on track for the fewest attacks ever. Although rockets continue to occasionally be launched at Israel, the Israeli population has enjoyed its longest period of relative calm in a long time.


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oldandnewOld and New Allies 


Under an agreement finalized last month, Israel will team with India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to produce a variety of systems related to command and control, battlefield management, sensors and weapons in order to enhance the capabilities of the individual Indian soldier. The collaboration includes the joint development of portable command-and-control systems for Indian soldiers and of an advanced mobile observation system for infantry soldiers.


After closing a case against bribery allegations, India is now likely to move forward with the acquisition of 262 Barak missiles from Israel Aerospace Industries. The Barak under purchase is an anti-aircraft, anti-missile system with a range of 70 kilometers, a warhead of 52 kilograms and speed of Mach 2.


Late last month, Israel hosted a five-day aerial training exercise with the Italian, Greek, and American air forces. Dubbed "Blue Flag," the large-scale training exercise involved over 50 fighter jets and was observed by representatives from over 20 countries. 


According to the German daily Bild, the Israeli Navy has agreed to purchase two destroyers from Germany that will be used to defend Israel's offshore gas infrastructure. A Haaretz report suggests the deal may not yet be final and that Israel is still evaluating other options.


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egyptEgypt Watch     


Israel has finally completed the construction of its 245-km fence along its border with Egypt. While the majority of the fence was constructed in two years, the last 15km took an additional 18 months due to harsh terrain conditions in the area around Eilat. The fence has drastically decreased border infiltrations.


Following the suspension of most American military aid and arms, Egypt has begun exploratory talks with Russia on a large-scale arms package involving helicopters and air defense systems. Although unlikely and unable to replace Egypt's military dependence on the United States, Russia has used the opportunity to attempt to reestablish a more cooperative military relationship with Egypt.


Despite freezing most military sales to Egypt, the U.S still intends to transfer four new fast missile craft (FMCs) built in Mississippi. The first FMC was transferred last month with the next scheduled for December; the last two are expected to be delivered in 2014. Specifically designed to defend the Suez Canal, the 62-meter, stealthy, 700-ton ships are armed with eight Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles and an OTO Melara 76 mm gun.


Instability continues to roil the Sinai, including a suicide car attack that killed 11 Egyptian soldiers on the road between Rafah and el-Arish. Meanwhile, Egyptian security forces continue to destroy Hamas arms warehouses in the northern Sinai.


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gulfGulf Watch    


During a trip to Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel sought to reassure nervous Arab allies following the first-step nuclear accord with Iran. Speaking from the deck of the USS Ponce, Hagel highlighted the ship's conversion into a floating staging base for special operations forces. He was the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Bahrain in nearly three years. During his trip, the Obama Administration announced a $1.1 billion sale of nearly 16,000 tube-launched, optically tracked wire-guided (TOW) missiles to Saudi Arabia. Hagel also signed a ten-year Defense Cooperation Agreement with Qatar governing the interactions between the two militaries.


Following Secretary Hagel's urging for greater cooperation between the United States and its Gulf allies, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced the formation of a unified military command, as well as a future joint Gulf police force and strategic studies academy. Hagel had emphasized Washington's desire to sell weapons to the GCC as a block in order to better integrate and enhance collective capabilities.


Amidst signs that it might be willing to return to the UAE three Gulf islands it has occupied for the last forty years, Iran has redeployed a squadron of fighters off the largest island.


Iran unveiled what it said was its largest UAV, the Fotros, which, its defense minister said, has a range of 1,250 miles and can carry air-to-surface missiles. Iran also announced that it would deploy its first domestically built submarine, the Fateh, by March 2014. Additionally, Iran declared that it had vastly improved the accuracy of its surface-to-surface missiles.


Iraqi militants fired six mortar shells into Saudi Arabia last month near its border with Iraq and Kuwait. Although there was no damage, the incident is concerning as most of Saudi Arabia's oil fields are in the region.


Violence in Yemen between Shiite Houthi groups, Salafi groups, and the Yemeni government spiked last month, killing over 120 people. A week later, a coordinated suicide bomb and armed militant attack on the Yemeni Defense Ministry, likely by al-Qaeda, killed 52 people.


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levantLevant Watch


Lebanon continues to suffer the brunt of the violent spillover from the Syrian civil war. After continued sectarian clashes in Tripoli killed three people and a Lebanese soldier, the Lebanese government put Tripoli under army control for six months in an attempt to prevent a further deterioration of security. A twin suicide bomb attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut, carried out by Sunni militants, killed 23 people.


Hassan al-Laqqis, a senior Hezbollah commander responsible for military procurement, was assassinated in Beirut earlier this month. Although Israel denied any involvement, al-Laqqis' death marks another in a series of assassinations of senior officials involved in advanced missile procurement from Iran.


Several Syrian mortar shells fell on the Israeli Golan in recent weeks. More worryingly, two separate incidents indicated a direct targeting of Israeli forces: an Israeli patrol was targeted by sniper fire from a lone Syrian soldier and an explosive device intended to target an Israeli patrol detonated along the border fence between the two countries. While no one was hurt, the planned attacks mark the first time Israeli forces were directly targeted since the start of the Syrian civil war.


The United States intends to destroy Syria's stockpile of priority chemical weapons, including 20 metric tons of mustard gas and more than 1,000 tons of raw materials used to manufacture Sarin and VX, in a specially-outfitted U.S. naval vessel in the Mediterranean early next year. Even the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the organization tasked with implementing the U.S.-Russian deal, has warned that delays are mounting.


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techTechnology Watch 


Last month, Israel hosted the first International Convention and Expo on Autonomous Unmanned Systems and Robotics in Rishon Lezion. The expo featured 25 Israeli companies and hosted representatives from over 60 companies, air forces, and armies across the globe. A former commander of the Israel Air Force suggested that dogfights between unmanned aircraft would be the future of warfare. 


Israel announced it would host its first international cyber security conference at the end of January.


Elbit Systems announced that the Mission Training Center (MTC) for Israeli F-16 pilots was now operational. The MTC enables training in various mission scenarios in different theaters with the relevant threat environment for each theater.


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oddsendsOdds and Ends   

  • The United States is considering training 5,000-7,000 Libyan security personnel, as well as a smaller counterterrorism force, in order to help the militia-torn country regain order. The EU and NATO have already agreed to provide training missions of their own.
  • As part of the Obama Administration's bid to achieve a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Secretary of State John Kerry presented U.S. ideas about security arrangements, generated by U.S. security envoy General (ret.) John Allen, in a possible final status agreement. Reportedly, the concept would allow Israel to maintain a 10-15 year military presence in the Jordan Valley, control the border crossings with Jordan, maintain lookout posts on several hills, and jointly patrol the border with Palestinian forces. After this initial period, the situation would be reevaluated to determine whether the Palestinian Authority could assume full security control. Palestinian officials have supposedly rejected any Israeli presence whatsoever in the Jordan Valley.

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Security Digest newsletter is a monthly bulletin covering U.S.-Israel security cooperation and much more. Distributed by e-mail, Security Digest is compiled by Gabriel Scheinmann. Look for Security Digest every month in your e-mail inbox. To give us feedback, simply reply to this email.
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