Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arab World. Show all posts

23 July 2017



Israel urgently needs a strategic plan to maintain the technological advantage over nations dedicated to wiping out the Jewish state.

MILITARY INTELLIGENCE chief Maj.- Gen. Herzl Halevi bears a heavy burden. This “philosopher general,” as a New York Times journalist once called him, is responsible for tracking the deeds, words and even thoughts of Israel’s foes, alerting political and military leaders to potential threats. Halevi’s undergraduate degree is in philosophy.

He told the The Times, “Through the years, I used philosophy much in a practical manner… philosophers spoke about how to balance, how to prioritize...this is something I find very helpful.”

In an unusual closed lecture he gave on October 29 for Tel Aviv’s College of Management, the usually reticent and understated general, formerly head of the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit and tabbed as a leading candidate to become the next chief of staff, said, “If you ask me whether we’ll have a war with Iran over the next 10 years, I’ll give you a surprising answer. We are already at war with Iran. We’re having a technological war with Iran. Our engineers are fighting Iranian engineers today and it’s becoming increasingly significant.”

Here are 6 of the Toughest Battles Still to be Fought Against the Islamic State

The battle of Mosul is over, but the war against the Islamic State is far from done. The militants have lost some 60 percent of the territory they controlled at the peak of their expansion, but that leaves a sizable area, mostly in Syria but also Iraq, to be recaptured. Much of it is uninhabited desert, but significant towns and cities in both countries, and almost a whole province in Syria, remain in the militants’ hands. Among them are staunch Islamic State strongholds, located in some of the most remote terrain of the war. In some instances, it isn’t yet clear which forces will undertake the battles, and potential local and international flash points lie ahead as competing powers vie for the chance to control territory.

22 July 2017

Iran Dominates in Iraq After U.S. ‘Handed the Country Over’


BAGHDAD — Walk into almost any market in Iraq and the shelves are filled with goods from Iran — milk, yogurt, chicken. Turn on the television and channel after channel broadcasts programs sympathetic to Iran.

A new building goes up? It is likely that the cement and bricks came from Iran. And when bored young Iraqi men take pills to get high, the illicit drugs are likely to have been smuggled across the porous Iranian border.

And that’s not even the half of it.

Across the country, Iranian-sponsored militias are hard at work establishing a corridor to move men and guns to proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. And in the halls of power in Baghdad, even the most senior Iraqi cabinet officials have been blessed, or bounced out, by Iran’s leadership.

When the United States invaded Iraq 14 years ago to topple Saddam Hussein, it saw Iraq as a potential cornerstone of a democratic and Western-facing Middle East, and vast amounts of blood and treasure — about 4,500 American lives lost, more than $1 trillion spent — were poured into the cause.

This Group Hopes to Push America toward Regime Change in Iran

Ted Galen Carpenter

American policymakers and pundits have an unfortunate history of embracing odious foreign political movements that purport to be democratic. During the Cold War, embarrassing episodes included Washington’s support for the Nicaraguan Contras and Jonas Savimbi’s National Union for the Total Independence of Angola. The post–Cold War era provides ample evidence that influential Americans have not learned appropriate lessons from those earlier blunders. The Clinton administration made common cause with the Kosovo Liberation Army, which proceeded to commit numerous war crimes during—and following—its successful war of secession against Serbia. Both the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations allied with Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress (INC). The INC’s false intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction, which the New York Times and other prominent media outlets reflexively circulated, was one of the major factors that prompted the United States to launch its ill-starred military intervention in Iraq.

There is mounting danger that the Trump administration is flirting with committing a similar blunder—this time in Iran. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked explicitly by Rep. Ted Poe whether the United States supported a policy of regime change in Iran when he testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee in June 2017. Poe argued that “there are Iranians in exile all over the world. Some are here. And then there’s (sic) Iranians in Iran who don’t support the totalitarian state.” Tillerson replied that the administration’s policy toward Iran was still “under development,” but that Washington would work with “elements inside Iran” to bring about the transition to a new government. In other words, regime change is now official U.S. policy regarding Iran.

Exclusive: Iran's Foreign Minister Warns Donald Trump That Tehran Can Abandon the Nuclear Deal

Mohammad Javad Zarif

TNI’s Jacob Heilbrunn just sat down with Tehran’s top diplomat—and he was not happy with the Trump administration.

Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the National Interest, spoke with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister in an interview in New York on Monday, July 17, 2017. The following is a lightly edited transcript.

Jacob Heilbrunn: Yesterday you were on Fareed Zakaria’s show. And if, as you alleged, the Trump administration is indeed violating the spirit—if not the letter—of the Iran nuclear accords, what do you think your response will be to the Trump administration?

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Well, we’ve taken a route that has been prescribed within the nuclear deal, taken it to the joint commission, and we will discuss that in the joint commission to make sure that the shortcomings by the United States are remedied. This has been the subject of an ongoing debate within the joint commission, not only during the Trump administration but also during the previous Obama administration, when it took the United States, for instance, several months to clear the purchase of airplanes. It took the U.S. longer to clear the purchase of Airbus airplanes than it took for the purchase of Boeing airplanes. But nevertheless for Airbus it took about nine months and for Boeing it took about four months. Which in our view was too long, so we took the issue to the joint commission. And some parts of it were remedied, some parts of it were not, and this is the avenue that is open to us now.

21 July 2017

ISIS Was a Symptom. State Collapse Is the Disease

The collapse this month of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, has been greeted with joy and relief in many quarters, especially among the millions of civilians who directly suffered the extremist group’s rule. Much of the predictable analysis has focused on long-term trends that will continue to trouble the world: the resonance of extremist jihadi messaging, the persistence of sectarian conflict, the difficulty of holding together disparate coalitions like the clumsy behemoth that ousted ISIS from its strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul.

But jihadis and sectarians are not, contrary to popular belief, the most important engines of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups. Nor are foreign spy services the primary author of these apocalyptic movements — as many around the world wrongly believe.

No, the most critical factor feeding jihadi movements is the collapse of effective central governments — a trend in which the West, especially the United States, has been complicit.

An overdue alliance of convenience mobilized against the Islamic State three years ago, but only after leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had taken over enough territory to declare statehood. The ISIS caliphate was as much as a state — for as long as it lasted — as many other places in the Middle East. Most of the coalition members detested ISIS, but only the local members from Iraq and Syria whose families were dying or suffering under Islamic State rule were fully invested. For the rest of the anti-ISIS coalition, fighting the caliphate was one of many other priorities.

The glacial, slow-moving, coalition united against ISIS but bound by little else. It is sure to dissolve quickly now that the emergency is over…

20 July 2017

Why Obama's Iran Nuclear Deal Will Live On

Farhad Rezaei

The Trump administration should focus on pressuring Iran on missiles and support of terrorism.

On July 14, 2015, Iran signed the historic Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement along with P5+1 countries China, France, Germany Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. After an unprecedented lobbying campaign, Congress approved the deal following an acrimonious debate between Republicans who vehemently opposed the agreement and Democrats who sided with the Obama administration. President Donald Trump has been highly critical of the deal, but so far no changes have been made to the situation.

On April 18, 2017, the Department of State certified Iran as being in compliance with the agreement as required by the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson noted that “Iran remains a leading state sponsor of terrorism” and that the administration would conduct a comprehensive review of the Iran policy. The review “will evaluate whether the suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national-security interest of the United States.” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, recently complained that Iran violated the spirit of the agreement by conducting tests of a missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads prohibited under Security Council Resolution 2231. Hailey also noted that Iran violated the JCPOA provision of the arms embargo on Iran, which was further elaborated upon in paragraph five of Annex B of Resolution 2231.

19 July 2017

What Really Matters in the Middle East

By Jacob L. Shapiro

The fight against the Islamic State appears to be going well. On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Mosul after the city was finally retaken. The same day, the United States and Russia agreed to a cease-fire in southwestern Syria, ostensibly giving government forces and Syrian rebels a freer hand in fighting the Islamic State – not that the rebels have ever fought IS. Then on July 10, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead, as had been rumored a month ago.

These are welcome developments for the enemies of the Islamic State. But the fight is far from over.

A Broken City, a Hydra

Let’s take a look at each of these developments, starting with the liberation of Mosul. It took nearly nine months to dislodge IS from the city despite the fact that Iraqi security forces significantly outnumbered IS forces and were backed by the United States. (By comparison, it took IS only two weeks to take Mosul.) The difficulties of urban warfare surely account for the length of the battle of Mosul, but only up to a point. The Islamic State simply could not have lasted as long as it did without a fair amount of local support. Losing Mosul is ultimately a symbolic but tolerable defeat.

18 July 2017

How Saudi Arabia Botched Its Campaign Against Qatar

By Bassima Alghussein and Jeffrey A. Stacey

The diplomatic and economic blockade of Qatar by its neighbors has plunged the Middle East into further discord. On June 5, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates announced a complete boycott of Qatar, accusing the country of aiding regional terrorist groups. However, the primary reason for the condemnation is Qatar’s relationship with Iran.

The conflict has rapidly come to a head. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) gave Qatar a deadline of July 2 for meeting 13 demands, ranging from ending relations with Iran to closing down the Al-Jazeera TV station. Not one of the demands was ever likely to have been met; in fact, many of them were based on false premises about Qatar’s behavior to begin with.

Because Qatar complied with none of the GCC’s demands, the gambit’s lack of coherence is being laid bare. Without a plan B, immediate escalation is unlikely to transpire. Instead, it is probable that both sides will go forward for the time being in a state of mutual diplomatic paralysis. The GCC may apply additional token “sanctions,” but neither side is likely to back down soon; the stare-down will continue apace.

17 July 2017

Qatar: Big lessons from a small country

Qatar's experience reminds Singapore of the need for small states to behave like small states, and to cherish regional and international institutions.

As a long-time student of geopolitics (for over 46 years), I am rarely surprised by geopolitical developments. There is an almost inevitable logic to them.

Let me cite an example. Many Western observers reacted with shock and horror when Russia seized Crimea in violation of international law. Yet, this was an almost inevitable blowback from the reckless Western expansion of Nato onto Russia's doorstep. Geopolitical follies have serious consequences.

Against this backdrop, one recent geopolitical development didn't just surprise me. It shocked me. This was the decision of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to break off diplomatic relations with Qatar.

They didn't just break off relations. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, the Maldives, Libya and Yemen have closed their airspace for landings and take-offs between their countries and Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE have also closed all transport links by air, land and sea. This has caused some suffering for Qatar because as much as 40 per cent of its food comes over the Saudi border.

16 July 2017

The Battle For Iraq Doesn’t End With Mosul—Or ISIS

Rathna K. Muralidharan

As the battle of Mosul reaches its end, President Trump must decide how to proceed in Iraq. Both the U.S. and Iraqi governments’ rhetoric indicate American troops will withdraw after Mosul has been recaptured. However, that would leave the country vulnerable to Iranian influence. U.S troops should remain in Iraq to secure its territory and government from external threats.

Iran has tried to increase its influence in Iraq since the withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2011. Tehran has extended its reach through Shi’a militias loyal to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei. These militias have fought alongside Iraqi security forces and Kurdish troops against ISIS to claim territory, not help civilians, and many of them have political wings that seek to align Iraq’s government with Iran’s political and religious structure.

Since 2016, the U.S. has invested over $10 billion and an additional $4.83 billion in the fiscal year 2017 budget to combat ISIS. Currently, there are more than 5,000 U.S. troops and 3,500 coalition advisers to train 65,000 Iraqi soldiers, police, Kurdish troops, and Sunni tribal fighters. The U.S. should continue to support the Iraqi government as it rebuilds. This will help regional partners and the U.S. protect their interests. If the U.S. withdraws, Baghdad may become a puppet of Tehran, making the rest of the region susceptible to Iranian control.

What Really Matters in the Middle East

By Jacob L. Shapiro

The fight against the Islamic State appears to be going well. On July 9, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory in Mosul after the city was finally retaken. The same day, the United States and Russia agreed to a cease-fire in southwestern Syria, ostensibly giving government forces and Syrian rebels a freer hand in fighting the Islamic State – not that the rebels have ever fought IS. Then on July 10, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was dead, as had been rumored a month ago.

These are welcome developments for the enemies of the Islamic State. But the fight is far from over.

Let’s take a look at each of these developments, starting with the liberation of Mosul. It took nearly nine months to dislodge IS from the city despite the fact that Iraqi security forces significantly outnumbered IS forces and were backed by the United States. (By comparison, it took IS only two weeks to take Mosul.) The difficulties of urban warfare surely account for the length of the battle of Mosul, but only up to a point. The Islamic State simply could not have lasted as long as it did without a fair amount of local support. Losing Mosul is ultimately a symbolic but tolerable defeat.

15 July 2017

** After ISIS: Creating Strategic Stability in Iraq

Anthony H. Cordesman

The United States, its allies, and international organizations are just beginning to come to grips with the civil dimensions of "failed state" wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. In each case, any meaningful form of "victory" requires far more than defeating the current extremist threat in military terms. The insurgent threat exists largely because of the deep divisions within the state, and the past and current failures of the government to deal with such internal divisions, and the chronic failure to meet the economic, security, and social needs of much of the nation's population.

In practical terms, these failures make the host government as much of a threat to each nation’s stability and future as are Islamic extremists. Regardless of the scale of any defeat of such extremists, the other internal tensions and divisions with each country also threaten to make any such “victory” a prelude to new forms of civil war, and/or an enduring failure to cope with security, stability, recovery, and development. They also require a different approach to stability operations and civil-military affairs.

Iraq provides a critical test case, and is the focus of a new Burke Chair analysis entitled After ISIS: Creating Strategic Stability in Iraq . This analysis is now available on the CSIS website at It provides a detailed picture of the challenges Iraq must meet, drawing on material from a wide range of sources—such as World Bank, IMF, CIA, UN, Transparency International, Institute for the Study of War, and IISS—to address the deeper critical challenges that Iraq must address over time if it is to achieve any degree of lasting strategic stability.

Why Victory in Mosul Is Overblown

Daniel L. Davis

U.S. leaders seem to believe that America can kill its way out of this mess—and that’s totally wrong.

The battle for Mosul is all but completed, and any question about the strategic significance of its conclusion has yet to be answered by military leaders. That being so, it is time to start asking the difficult questions, such as why the current administration—which ran and won on the promise to change American foreign policy—continues to follow the path of its two previous predecessors in embarking on tactical combat missions that do not contribute to U.S. national security nor the accomplishment of strategic objectives?

The next tough question: Why does Washington continue expending the lives and limbs of its service members and hundreds of billions of dollars on lethal military operations that not only fail to enhance American security, but arguably diminish it?

Brig. Gen. Andrew Croft, deputy commanding general for Air, Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command, Operation Inherent Resolve, claimed that the battle to liberate Mosul would be completed “within days,” and then heaped effusive praise on the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). Their accomplishment, he boasted, “would challenge the best military in the world,” and that the nine-month struggle in Mosul was “like Stalingrad, but it's 10 times worse.”

What the Islamic State is saying about its loss of Mosul

By Amanda Erickson

In Mosul right now, families are cheering, singing as they clutch the Iraqi flag. Drivers are blasting their horns. All because in their city, the Islamic State has been ousted.

On Monday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared “the end of the ISIS statelet” in his country. It's being celebrated as a major, national victory for embattled Iraq, one that has brought dancing revelers into the streets in Baghdad and fireworks over the southern city of Basra.

That's not the story you'd get, though, if you follow the Islamic State on social media. Since it lost Mosul, the terrorist group has been working to counter "persistent narratives of its gradual defeat by characterizing its current situation as a heroic, action movie-esque last stand,” explains Rita Katz, a terrorism analyst and co-founder of the Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Intelligence Group. Katz pointed to a July 10 communique that read in part: “The soldiers of the Caliphate continue to record epics until they achieve one of the two good ends, either victory or martyrdom.”

The Islamic State also described the loss of Mosul as a loss for all Muslims against the Shiites and the “Crusader coalition.”

“Describing things in this way is not only an attempt to save face amid a major symbolic loss, but also to capitalize on the developments in a way that energizes the group’s base,” Katz wrote in an email.

Is Baghdadi Dead? For ISIS, it May Not Matter

By Paul D. Shinkman

The U.S. government on Tuesday said it could not verify increasingly widespread reports that Russian forces had killed Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a move that many hope would not only rid the extremist network of its charismatic so-called caliph but also undercut its ability to recruit.

"We cannot confirm this report but hope it is true," a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. headquarters fighting the Islamic State group, tells U.S. News. "We strongly advise ISIS to implement a strong line of succession. It will be needed."

Moscow's claim on Tuesday marks at least the third time its state media has reported that Russian forces killed Baghdadi, stemming from a supposed air strike somewhere outside the Islamic State group's capital of Raqqa, Syria, in May. This time, the U.K.-based non-governmental organization Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the report.

The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, has been actively targeting and killing top leaders since the war began three years ago and, within Iraq and Syria, has been quite successful. Army Col. Ryan Dillon told U.S. News last month about these high value targets, saying, "There was an 'org chart,' if you had Baghdadi and his lieutenants and deputies, any HVTs we strike nowadays are typically people who are on the fourth or fifth string."

12 July 2017

What Comes After ISIS?

By Elliott Abrams
The Islamic State stands on the brink of a twin defeat. Mosul, the largest city under its control, has almost entirely fallen from its grasp, and Kurdish-led forces are advancing into its de facto capital of Raqqa. Now, as the saying goes, comes the hard part. The Islamic State’s territorial setbacks have introduced new questions about the basic future of the Middle East. Foreign Policy has assembled a group of policymakers and regional experts to answer them.

The defeat of the Islamic State as a “state” will leave two serious questions facing the United States. The first is: Who will fill the spaces from which the jihadi group is driven? There is a clear effort by the new Iran-Hezbollah-Shiite militia-Russia coalition to reply: “We will.”

That is an answer the United States should reject. Such a development would cement an anti-American coalition in place, threaten Jordan and Israel, and leave Iran the dominant power in much of the region. To reject this challenge verbally would be a joke, however; it must be resisted on the ground, through the use of force by a coalition that must be built and led by the United States.

The conflict in Syria has destroyed any possibility of an easy formula for putting that country back together, but in the medium term, one can envision a discussion with Russia of how our interests and theirs can be accommodated while bringing the violence down to a level that allows many refugees to return home. But that discussion will achieve nothing unless American power first gains Russian respect and the Russians come to realize that compromise is necessary.

11 July 2017

ISIS, Despite Heavy Losses, Still Inspires Global Attacks


BEIRUT, Lebanon — Three years ago, a black-clad cleric named Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi ascended a mosque pulpit in the Iraqi city of Mosul and addressed the world as leader of a new terrorist state.

The announcement of the so-called caliphate was a high point for the extremist fighters of the Islamic State. Their exhibitionist violence and apocalyptic ideology helped them seize vast stretches of territory in Syria and Iraq, attract legions of foreign fighters and create an administration with bureaucrats, courts and oil wells.

Now, their state is crumbling.

In Syria, American-backed militias have surrounded Raqqa, the group’s capital, and breached its historic walls. Across the border, Iraqi forces have seized the remains of the Mosul mosque where Mr. Baghdadi appeared and besieged the remaining jihadists in a shrinking number of city blocks.

10 July 2017

*** What the largest battle of the decade says about future war


The bloody battle to wrest Mosul from ISIS was the world’s largest military operation in nearly 15 years. 

Here’s how Western-backed Iraqi soldiers helped break the Islamic State’s grip on a city of more than 1 million people — and what we can learn from it. 


The Mosul offensive began on October 17, 2016, when a variegated body of more than 100,000 troops—local volunteers, regular soldiers, elite Iraqi and Western special forces—collapsed on the country's second-largest city. The force, believed to overmatch ISIS 10-to-1, moved under the cover of airpower provided by a half-dozen nations.

Advancing from the south, east and the north, Baghdad and its allies needed just 14 days to make it to Mosul’s doorstep. Iraqi special forces raced about 15 miles in those two weeks, and became the first to knock on that door. But such large-scale, coordinated assaults would prove much more difficult in the months to come. 

9 July 2017

Qatar Stands Up to the Neighborhood Bullies


A fence at the border between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. CreditValeriy Melnikov/Sputnik, via Associated Press

My country, Qatar, is a nation under siege. For the past month, its borders and airline routes have been closed off by a regional bloc consisting of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The authorities in the neighboring Gulf states have forced the repatriation of Qatari citizens, regardless of age and health.

The bloc has issued a list of wild accusations against Qatar. They include the hosting of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps in our capital, Doha; the funding of the pro-Iranian Lebanese militia organization Hezbollah; and support for the Islamic State terrorist group. This hardly makes sense since Hezbollah and the Islamic State are sworn enemies, at war with each other in Syria.

Other claims are equally spurious. Qatar stands accused of supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Yet, until this blockade started, my country participated in the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and lost soldiers fighting the Houthi rebels. This accusation is an insult to their memory.

The Gulf bloc also came up with a list of purported terrorist groups and individuals whom Qatar supposedly hosts or sponsors. One of them is, in fact, a Yemeni Salafist leader who lives in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. Others named do not live in Qatar and have no connection to Doha.