Rebooting US Foreign Policy in the Middle East: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 2, 2017— The Obama years were a curious blend of isolationism and limited interventions.
Arab Upheaval and Trump: Prof. Eyal Zisser, Israel Hayom, Apr. 4, 2017— The Arab pilgrimage to the White House is now officially underway, following Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's meeting with U.S. President's Donald Trump in Washington on Monday.
The Coming Middle East Crisis After ISIS is Gone: Ralph Peters, New York Post, Mar. 12, 2017 — The Islamic State caliphate is dying a well-deserved death.
Israel, Escalation, and a Nuclear War in the Middle East: Louis René Beres, Israel Defense, Mar. 14, 2017 — Left to themselves, neither suitably deterred nor adequately disarmed, enemies of Israel could one day bring the Jewish State face-to-face with the measureless torments of Dante's Inferno, "Into the eternal darkness, into fire, into ice."
American Re-Engagement in the Middle East 3.0: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2017
Will Obama’s Foreign Policy Wizards Save Trump?: Lee Smith, Tablet, Mar. 15, 2017
How Middle East Terrorism Affects India (Video): Daniel Pipes, India Foundation, Mar. 15, 2017
Know Thine Enemy: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2017
Jerusalem Post, Apr. 2, 2017
The Obama years were a curious blend of isolationism and limited interventions. American troops were not pulled out of Afghanistan and there was a relentless fight against terrorist organizations in the Middle East by way of drones and bombing raids. Small groups of elite forces were dispatched to Syria and Libya for intelligence gathering and advisory purposes only. What was missing was a global strategy which could have stopped the Middle East descent into chaos. The vacuum thus created gave free rein to Iran’s both open and stealthy penetration efforts; it also brought back Russia.
Moscow has now almost regained the positions held by the Soviet Union in Syria and Egypt and is strengthening its hold on Libya. A similar lack of decisive American resolve allowed China to adopt increasingly aggressive tactics in South China Sea and enabled Russia’s annexation of Crimea and division of Ukraine. The question is whether the Trump administration is willing and able to embark on a policy of active intervention, especially in the Middle East, to defuse threats and bring a measure of stability. It might be too late, however, to dislodge well-entrenched intruders that timely measures would have kept out.
America has a long history of vacillating between isolationism and aggressive foreign policy, and yet its intervention was decisive in ensuring the triumph of democratic regimes in two world wars, as well as in the lengthy Cold War. This was not Obama’s way. He mostly shunned active intervention, often at the price of losing the American power of dissuasion. Yet during his presidency, the Middle East went through one of its most violent periods since the end of World War I and the emergence of new states following the Sykes-Picot Agreement. A revival of radical Sunni Islam rivaled Iran’s efforts to export its Shi’ite revolution and led to gradual destabilization, a process escalated by the Arab Spring in 2011.
What started as the spontaneous demand for freedom and democracy ended in the strengthening of Islamic extremism, bringing about the demise of Arab nation states that had formed the backbone of the region. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and, to a lesser measure, Lebanon are no longer functioning. America was strangely absent while its allies in the region were bearing the brunt of the devastating process, leading to its inability to act as an effective deterrent on the world stage and the very real risk of a rogue state or organization making use of weapons of mass destruction, such as the chemical weapons used in Syria.
Obama refused to help the Green Movement, which took to the streets throughout Iran in 2009 to protest massive fraud in the presidential election. He did nothing while the regime gained back control of the nation using extreme brutality, ultimately defeating the people, tightening its grip on the country and putting an end to any hope of change. Although Iran is busy promoting its Shi’ite revolution and threatening the stability of Sunni regimes while calling for the destruction of Israel, Obama entered into a nuclear agreement with Tehran that will not prevent the country from creating weapons after the terms of the accord expire, and it does not address the ongoing development of missiles that could be equipped with nuclear warheads.
In Egypt, Obama abandoned Mubarak, his longtime strategic ally, and called on him to resign, transferring his support to the Muslim Brotherhood, although he knew, or should have known, that they were bent on setting up an Islamic dictatorship – a goal they achieved with disastrous results that the present regime is still fighting to correct. He encouraged Europe to get rid of Muammar Gaddafi, promising to “lead from behind” and supplying weapons and ammunitions for bombing raids – and then left Europe to deal with the shambles: a civil war in Libya and a stream of refugees from Africa, as well as Russian penetration that could threaten southern Europe.
He refrained from giving his support to the Syrian uprising in 2011, though arming the moderate Sunni insurgents before Jihadi groups moved in might have toppled Assad, cutting off Iran from its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon. Indeed, he let Assad get away with breaching a succession of so-called “redlines” – including the use of chemical weapons.
The premature withdrawal of American troops from Iraq made it possible for ISIS to establish itself while the Iraqi army crumbled. Setting up a coalition of Western and Arab countries to fight the terrorist organization by means of sending planes to bomb its forces was taking the easy way out, to avoid putting boots on the ground. It was obvious from the very beginning that it was imperative to destroy ISIS while it was still too weak to resist, and the fighting today in Mosul and Raqqa, and the toll on the civilian populations, clearly display the price to be paid by not acting in time…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
Prof. Eyal Zisser
Israel Hayom, Apr. 4, 2017
The Arab pilgrimage to the White House is now officially underway, following Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's meeting with U.S. President's Donald Trump in Washington on Monday. Jordan's King Abdullah will then arrive in Washington on Wednesday, followed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas later this month. One would be hard-pressed to overestimate the value in these meetings. After all, el-Sissi avoided visiting the White House during Barack Obama's presidency, or more precisely, Obama did not invite him to visit. No wonder, then, that Egypt rejoiced Monday in light of what has been described by Cairo as "Trump's sun shining anew on Egypt-U.S. relations after many years of darkness."
Thus Washington returns to playing a central role in the Middle East, as befits a world power with a significant military presence in the region that provides billions of dollar in assistance to many Arab states. This also serves to insert order and proportion to the Middle East map, which Russia has relied on Iran to help reshape. After all, Russia cannot truly compete with the U.S. for the hearts and minds of the Arab states. It does not have Washington's economic resources, nor its military power or presence. And besides, Moscow carries substantial Iranian baggage.
The Arab leaders visiting Trump this week do so immediately after attending the Arab League summit in Jordan. Following years of paralysis, the result of the Arab Spring and the collapse of a number of Arab states that ensued, the summit's greatest accomplishment was the fact that it even took place to begin with. But just because Arab leaders attended the summit does not mean they have taken a unified approach, let alone reached anything resembling a genuine agreement on the matters at hand. The Arab states disagree on the question of Syria, Iraq and Yemen, and find it difficult to formulate a unified line on Iran. As a result, conference participants preferred to pay lip service to the only subject on which they are in agreement — the Palestinian issue.
But while Abdullah spoke pompously of the Palestinian question as the central and in fact sole issue for the Arabs, he did so after making the interesting choice of hosting the talks not in the Jordanian capital of Amman, but at an isolated tourist spot on the shores of the Dead Sea. This was, of course, on account of the threat of an attack by the Islamic State group. As everyone knows, this is the central threat the Hashemite kingdom faces, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On the eve of el-Sissi's meeting with Trump, extensive media reports indicated that the Arab leaders had decided to work together to press Trump to restart peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, on the basis of the Arab framework for peace. But it is doubtful there is any credence to the reports. For further proof, one need only reference the official statements from the government in Cairo, which reiterated that el-Sissi was in Washington to discuss Egyptian interest, such as the war on terror, Egypt's struggling economy and Iran.
Faced with all these challenges, Israel's importance as a loyal and valued strategic partner with whom Egypt already maintains close cooperation is obvious. Both Egypt and Jordan are interested in ensuring, and even promoting and deepening, their strategic cooperation with Israel. The U.S. has an important role in establishing regional cooperation, along the lines of the strategic alliance that is slowly forming in the region over the common threats that Israel and the Arab states face. Such an alliance could help advance talks between Israel and the Palestinians, as long as they are not taken hostage by the whims of the Palestinians…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
New York Post, Mar. 12, 2017
The Islamic State caliphate is dying a well-deserved death. This spring, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in what used to be Syria will fall. Across the summer, remaining outposts will be purged of the Islamist movement’s remnants. Isolated terror attacks will continue, but the physical caliphate will be erased. And after ISIS itself, the biggest loser will be the United States.
Defeating ISIS is a worthy goal, but the rivalries of blood and faith that will poison the post-caliphate landscape are emerging. Turks alternately confront and accommodate Russia. Our most-effective combat partners, the Kurds, infuriate Turkey and worry local Arabs. Arab factions fight among themselves (as do the Kurds on occasion). Alphabet-soup minorities suffer and flee. Russians kill and watch. Iranians kill and wait. Their client, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, has amassed a tally of war crimes that makes his survival “unthinkable.” Yet he’s likely to retain power.
With ISIS defeated, we won’t be needed. We’ll be shown the door — except, of course, for aid money. Uneasy coalitions will collapse. Iran — a k a Persia — will have a client state on the Mediterranean for the first time since the Classical Age. Turkey’s Islamist strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, dreams madly of a renewed Ottoman empire (which no Arab desires). And Vladimir Putin is set to reap a huge return on a minimal investment.
Fifty million Kurds, longing for independence and freedom, will be embattled on multiple fronts — and, perhaps, deserted by the United States to serve Foggy Bottom fantasies of preserving obsolete states (Iraq and Syria) that have outlived their old and unjust purposes. Meanwhile, our military serves our enemies by applying our power against ISIS without a practical vision for the day the caliphate falls. In the Levant and Mesopotamia, history’s the quarrelsome neighbor forever banging on the door. The Arab-populated expanse was ruled, brutally and incompetently, by the Turkish Ottomans for centuries. When that empire collapsed after World War I, control fell to British and French schemers. The British sought security for the Suez Canal, their lifeline to India. And they wanted that strategic commodity, oil.
The French wanted to keep up with the British. So the two powers split the Middle East, drawing artificial borders that ignored local demographics and old hatreds. The Brits carved out Iraq and Jordan for their puppets and acquired the Palestine Mandate (where Israel would be reborn, a rare instance of justice). The French got control of Lebanon and Syria. The Kurds were cheated, the Armenian genocide ignored and the Shia overlooked, while lesser minorities didn’t even register.
The result was the emergence of phony states that crammed together peoples and confessions that hated each other while dividing groups (such as the Kurds) who yearned for unity, freedom and independence. And when the European empires faded, only dictators could hold the unnatural states together. By committing ourselves to the maintenance of those deadly, dysfunctional borders, the United States leapt flat-footed into the quicksand. In 2003, in Iraq, we had the chance to begin dismantling those phony states in favor of justice and common sense, but inertia and short-term fears defined our diplomacy. We didn’t liberate Iraq — we perpetuated it. Now, 14 wretched years later, we continue to pretend that, magically, Iraq can achieve political health and that Syria should be preserved with a new head of state.
We have taken the side of dead empires and injustice. What should we do? Discard our preconceptions for a start. Why shouldn’t dysfunctional borders change? In fact, they’re changing themselves. How many American lives is it worth to serve the vision of dead Europeans and grisly Arab dictators? We need not act to change those borders, but we shouldn’t stand in the way.
The destruction of the ISIS caliphate won’t end terrorism, but the Islamists will suffer a powerful practical and psychological blow. The terrorists eventually will adapt, but their appeal will be weakened: Angry young men want to join a winning team, not a bunch of losers. Still, the rise of ISIS was unnecessary. Enchanted by the neocons, the George W. Bush administration made Iraq far harder than it had to be simply by not planning for the worst. Then President Barack Obama threw away our hard-won progress in Iraq and, tragically, cowered and prevaricated while the all-but-doomed Assad regime recovered its balance in Syria.
Now we face a new Iranian empire, an expansionist Russia, a treacherous Turkey, an Iraq lost to Iran and the prospect of years to come of ethnic cleansing, massacre and violent uprisings on which terrorists will again piggyback. Can the Trump administration design and execute a Middle East strategy that actually works to our benefit and makes sense? If so, it would be the first since the Truman presidency.
Louis René Beres
Israel Defense, Mar. 14, 2017
Left to themselves, neither suitably deterred nor adequately disarmed, enemies of Israel could one day bring the Jewish State face-to-face with the measureless torments of Dante's Inferno, "Into the eternal darkness, into fire, into ice." It is essential, therefore, that Israel's strategic planners and political leadership now accelerate their basic obligation to strengthen the country's nuclear security posture, and to take all necessary steps to ensure that any conceivable failure of nuclear deterrence could not ignite a nuclear war. Significantly, any such failure would not necessarily be the result of some conspicuous "bolt-from-the-blue" enemy nuclear attack, but could also represent the unanticipated outcome of aggressive crisis escalations.
Now is the time for a detailed and precise enumeration of relevant scenarios. Accordingly, among the most plausible paths to nuclear warfighting in the Middle East are: (1) enemy nuclear first-strikes against Israel (not a present possibility, unless one were to include non-Arab Pakistan as an authentic enemy); (2) enemy non-nuclear WMD first-strikes against Israel that would elicit an Israeli nuclear reprisal, either promptly, or as an inadvertent consequence of escalation processes; (3) Israeli nuclear preemptions against pertinent hard targets in selected enemy states with manifestly recognizable nuclear assets (also not a present possibility, unless Pakistan were included as an enemy state); (4) Israeli non-nuclear preemptions against relevant hard targets in enemy states with operational nuclear assets that elicit enemy nuclear reprisals, either promptly, or incrementally via escalation (again, excluding Pakistan, not a present possibility); and (5) Israeli non-nuclear preemptions against military targets in enemy states without nuclear assets, that would elicit substantial enemy biological warfare reprisals, and, reciprocally, Israeli nuclear counter-retaliations.
Still, other more-or-less plausible paths to nuclear warfighting in the Middle East include accidental, unintentional, inadvertent, or unauthorized nuclear attacks involving Israel and certain identifiable regional foes. The very last scenario offered here – "unauthorized" enemy nuclear attacks – should bring to Israeli analytic consideration an always-possible Jihadist coup d'état in Islamic Pakistan.
Jerusalem must also bear in mind the potentially dire and starkly unpredictable prospect of a major escalation arising from any specific instance of WMD terrorism against Israel. In this connection, Israeli strategists will not only need to consider their terrorist adversaries as singular or isolated actors, but also as prospective members of possible "hybrid" combinations, ones fashioned with other sub-state terror organizations, and/or with certain likeminded states.
Already, Israel has had to deal with a distinctly unique form of nuclear terrorism in the form of enemy attacks upon its Dimona nuclear reactor. While never given any genuine public attention – most obviously, perhaps, because both attacks were actual operational failures – the significant fact remains that Dimona came under enemy missile or rocket fire in 1991, from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and again in 2014, from Hamas. It is not at all unreasonable to expect that in the future, a more determined and capable adversary could produce some calculable breach of nuclear reactor containment, and thereby initiate a perilous spiral of potentially lethal escalation.
As long as Israel remains determined to survive at all costs, its leaders must be prepared to identify and catalog all those specific circumstances wherein the country could become enmeshed in an actual nuclear exchange, or in nuclear warfighting. These fearful circumstances will obtain as long as (a) pertinent enemy first-strikes against Israel do not destroy Israel's second-strike nuclear capability; (b) enemy retaliations for an Israeli conventional preemption do not destroy Israel's nuclear counter-retaliatory capability; (c) Israeli preemptive strikes involving nuclear weapons do not destroy enemy second-strike nuclear capabilities (not a present concern); and (d) Israeli retaliations for enemy conventional first-strikes do not destroy enemy nuclear counter-retaliatory capabilities (also, not a plausible concern at present).
From the plainly vital standpoint of Israel's nuclear security requirements, this all means that Jerusalem must now prepare to do absolutely whatever is needed to ensure the likelihood of (a) and (b) above, and also the corollary unlikelihood of (c) and (d). Among other things, Israel needs its presumptive nuclear weapons to preempt enemy nuclear attacks. This does not mean that Israeli preemptions of such obviously intolerable attacks would necessarily be nuclear themselves – more than likely, they would be entirely non-nuclear – but only that they could conceivably be nuclear. Moreover, both Israeli nuclear and non-nuclear preemptions of unconventional enemy attacks could, at least in principle (and also in the future) produce some form or other of nuclear weapons exchange.
The actual outcome here would depend, in large part, upon the effectiveness and breadth of Israeli targeting, the surviving number of enemy nuclear weapons, and the demonstrated willingness of enemy leaders to risk an Israeli nuclear counter-retaliation. Arguably, especially in reference to a still-nuclearizing Iran, the actual likelihood of some nuclear exchange would be greatest wherever Israel's relevant foe were allowed to continue its overt or covert nuclear weapons development without suffering any preemptive military interference. Still, over time, and the July 2015 Vienna Pact on Iran notwithstanding, a truly nuclear Iran is perhaps already a fait accompli. Israel, therefore, will need to figure on how best to live with a nuclear Iran.
Leaving tactical details aside, this suggests prudent Israeli preparations for long-term nuclear deterrence, buttressed by increasingly advanced forms of cyber-warfare and ballistic missile defense. Always, for Israel, recognizable preparations for strategic dissuasion must be augmented by similarly observable preparations for denial.
For Israel, the sole military alternative at this point, an eleventh-hour defensive first strike against Iranian nuclear assets, would almost certainly carry unacceptable risks, both physical and political. Moreover, at this late operational date, it would prove exceedingly difficult for Jerusalem to make the necessarily supportive jurisprudential argument that its utterly massive preemption was a proper expression of "anticipatory self-defense." All things considered, Israel will have to forego any last-minute preemption against Iran, and rely, however reluctantly, upon some still-promising forms of protracted deterrence and mutual coexistence. In the final analysis, Israel's most significant risks of a nuclear exchange or nuclear war will arise from certain predictable kinds of crisis escalation. These are "locked-in" competitions wherein Israel's core national obligation to avoid recklessness could be rapidly and irremediably overtaken by the presumed imperatives of "winning" through "escalation dominance."
American Re-Engagement in the Middle East 3.0: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 14, 2017—Do US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believe that the “Middle East is and will remain a region of strategic importance to the United States,” as Richard Fontaine and Michael Singh wrote in The National Interest?
Will Obama’s Foreign Policy Wizards Save Trump?: Lee Smith, Tablet, Mar. 15, 2017—After excoriating Barack Obama’s foreign policy, including his realignment in the Middle East, Trump has yet to nominate any officials below the cabinet level at the State Department or the Pentagon, which means there is no one to formulate Trump’s own foreign policy, never mind implement it.
How Middle East Terrorism Affects India (Video): Daniel Pipes, India Foundation, Mar. 15, 2017—Establishes some of the ways in which violence coming out of the Middle East (or West Asia) has a negative impact on India. The talk is 11 minutes long.
Know Thine Enemy: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 16, 2017—There are iron rules of warfare. One of the most basic rules is that you have to know your enemy. If you do not know your enemy, or worse, if you refuse to act on your knowledge of him, you will lose your war against him. This basic truth appears to have eluded Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.