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

31 March 2020

It’s Time for the US and Saudi Arabia to Break Up

BY DANIEL DEPETRIS
Source Link

Riyadh’s recent crude-oil dump is the latest indication that the oil-for-security basis of the special relationship is no longer applicable.

It was only a short time ago when Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince, was assembling world leaders at conferences in the Saudi desert and impressing global investors with grandiose plans of economic and social modernization. Next month will mark the third anniversary of MBS’s PR tour around Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and New York, pressing the flesh with titans of industry like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Disney’s Bob Iger—and convincing lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Saudi Arabia under his tutelage was a country brimming with opportunity.

Much has changed in a few years. The Saudi crown prince is no longer categorized as a widely-hailed reformer of the Middle East, but as a thick-headed, rash, and impatient young autocrat whose tenure is filled to the brim with an endless list of poor decisions. MBS’s latest gamble, which involved dumping more Saudi crude into the global market to coerce Russia into returning to the negotiating table on pricing and output quotas, has caused significant strain for American shale oil companies

Iran and the Changing Military Balance in the Gulf - Net Assessment Indicators


The Burke Chair at CSIS is issuing a working draft of a new net assessment of the security situation in the Persian/Arab Gulf. This net assessment is a book length analysis entitled Iran and the Changing Military Balance in the Gulf - Net Assessment Indicators. It is available on the CSIS website here .

The assessment covers the policies and security forces of Iran, the Arab Gulf states, and the U.S. role in the Gulf. It sets out the baseline conditions now shaping the balance and addresses three major changes in the Gulf military balance:

First, the changing strategic relationship between Iran and its Arab neighbors and the uncertainty of the future U.S. role in the Gulf.

Second, Iran’s growing capabilities for asymmetric warfare in the Gulf area.
Third, the impact of Iran’s success in creating conventionally-armed, precision guided missiles and more effective air defenses.

30 March 2020

The relationship between Iraq and the US is in danger of collapse. That can’t happen

Michael E. O’Hanlon and Sara Allawi

Writing in USA Today, Sara Allawi and Michael O'Hanlon argue that as a new Iraqi government settles into power, both Americans and Iraqis need to take a deep breath and realize that, even if the last years and decades have been tough, we are much better together than apart.

Do the United States and Iraq, joined at the hip in tragic and mistake-prone war for most of the past 17 years, have a future together? As Iraq seeks to form a new government, its parliament is on record recommending that U.S. forces be expelled in the aftermath of the early January killing of Iranian terror mastermind Qassam Soleimani. Those tensions could again be inflamed by the Amerian and allied retaliation, early on March 13, for recent rocket barrages against foreign forces in Iraq by Iranian-backed militias that killed two Americans and a Brit. Over the following weekend, another round of barrages occurred, with the potential for yet more American retaliation. The partnership appears to be in peril.

It would a tragic shame if it ended. For Iraqis, the American presence is hugely beneficial as a counterweight to Iran and ISIS. Americans are also helpful with Iraqi internal politics—especially in regard to sectarian divisions in the security forces. Kurds, Shia and Sunni Iraqis may all have their issues with the United States. But few view Washington as inherently biased against them.

29 March 2020

Israel's Neighbors Never Had A Chance To Win The Six Day War


Key point: A surprise attack can go a long way.

The Israeli Defense Force’s (IDF’s, or Zahal’s) strategic invasion of the West Bank region of Jordan began at 5 pm on June 5, 1967. The assault was launched by one of two armored brigades attached to the Peled Armored Divisional Task Force (Ugdah Peled), part of Zahal’s Northern Command. Initially, the attack was aimed merely at neutralizing Royal Jordanian Army 155mm artillery fire that was striking the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF’s) strategically vital Ramat David Air Base and numerous Israeli villages and towns within range of Jordanian Samaria.

Ugdah Peled’s planning started from scratch. Absorbed for days with preparing to counter an expected all-out Arab invasion of northern Israel from the Syrian Golan Heights, the bulk of Ugdah Peled was given somewhat under five hours to figure out how to invade Samaria, and then to do it. It was not until noon on June 5 that the division commander, Brig. Gen. Elad Peled, was himself called in from a patrol along the Syrian frontier to oversee the planning.

The Junction at Jenin

It’s Time for the US and Saudi Arabia to Break Up

BY DANIEL DEPETRISFELLOW

It was only a short time ago when Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince, was assembling world leaders at conferences in the Saudi desert and impressing global investors with grandiose plans of economic and social modernization. Next month will mark the third anniversary of MBS’s PR tour around Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and New York, pressing the flesh with titans of industry like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Disney’s Bob Iger—and convincing lawmakers on Capitol Hill that Saudi Arabia under his tutelage was a country brimming with opportunity.

Much has changed in a few years. The Saudi crown prince is no longer categorized as a widely-hailed reformer of the Middle East, but as a thick-headed, rash, and impatient young autocrat whose tenure is filled to the brim with an endless list of poor decisions. MBS’s latest gamble, which involved dumping more Saudi crude into the global market to coerce Russia into returning to the negotiating table on pricing and output quotas, has caused significant strain for American shale oil companies

It would be convenient to pin all of the blame on MBS. But the truth is that Washington bears some culpability. Lawmakers are just now waking up to the fact that the underlying premise of the special relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia—oil for security—is no longer applicable. In refusing to acknowledge reality for so long, the U.S. has given the Saudis far more leverage to shape the relationship to its own advantage.

28 March 2020

How Increased U.S. Shale Oil Production Led to the Breakdown in Russia-Saudi Relations

Jim Krane 

Saudi Arabia’s decision to launch a price war in oil markets earlier this month could not have been more poorly timed, coming amid plummeting global demand for oil due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Saudi announcement sunk oil prices to an 18-year low, near $20 per barrel, after five years at more than double that price, putting further downward pressure on already troubled financial markets.

Saudi Arabia had gambled that by flooding the market and pushing down prices, it could punish Russia for refusing to cut its output, while recouping market share that had been ceded to U.S. shale oil producers. But the risky move could do lasting damage to the global economy, to oil-dependent countries and to Riyadh’s budding partnership with Moscow.

China-Iran Relations: The Not-So-Special “Special Relationship”

By: John Calabrese

Introduction

Over the years, unremitting hostility between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran has created opportunities as well as dilemmas for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, and the subsequent adoption of a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, presented mixed challenges and opportunities for the PRC. Beijing has sought to exploit the rift between Washington and Tehran without further fueling Sino-American tensions.

For the past year, Washington and Tehran have been locked in an action-reaction cycle of escalation. This dangerous spiral reached new heights with the January 2 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander General Qasem Soleimani, which was followed by retaliatory Iranian missile attacks on two coalition bases in Iraq that injured dozens of American troops. Although both sides managed to pull back from the brink of war in early January, underlying tensions remain—as does the possibility of a more direct military confrontation.

In what manner and to what extent has the current unstable situation affected China’s interests in, and relationship with, Iran? What is the likelihood that, as this latest round of high-stakes poker between Washington and Tehran continues to unfold, Beijing will seize it as yet another opportunity to profit from America’s entanglements in the wider Middle East?

China’s Not-So-Special “Special Relationship” with Iran

26 March 2020

The Coming Crisis Along the Iran-Pakistan Border

By Muhammad Akbar Notezai

The killing of Qassem Soleimani at the beginning of 2020 created uncertainty over Iran’s role not only in the Middle East, but in South Asia as well. As the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) — the unit responsible for external military and covert operations — Soleimani extensively increased Iran’s sphere of influence in the region.

Pakistan, for its part, expressed “deep concern” over potential rising U.S.-Iran tensions in the aftermath of Soleimani’s killing. Pakistan’s concern is understandable. As Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stated, geography inexorably links Pakistan’s security with stability in the Middle East. This is particularly the case in relation to Iran, due to the nearly 600 mile border shared with Iran along Pakistan’s Balochistan province. With turbulent Iran-Pakistan strategic relations over the latter’s increasing tilt toward Saudi Arabia, the Balochistan border has also been a site of conflict, with each side lambasting the other for providing sanctuaries to militant groups in their respective provinces.

Soleimani’s death is likely to increase militancy for two reasons. First, his successor, Ismail Qaani, is focused on Iran’s eastern border and on drug cartel movement in the border region. This is highly likely to escalate the tension in the region in the coming years. Second, Baloch Sunni militancy is rearing its head, and Qaani, having been looking after Iran’s priorities in the region, is likely to respond to this trend with more force than his predecessor, Soleimani.

Add Coronavirus to Other Crises, and the Middle East Faces a Catastrophe


The “Arab Spring” is remembered as the most disruptive political event to shake the Middle East since the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I. Purported presidents-for-life were pushed from office, three countries descended into civil war, and the accepted balance between the governed and their governments was turned on its head, if only for a time.

The Middle East is now on the verge of an even greater set of disruptions — ones that are likely to shake the region to its core. Irrespective of a debate in the United States of how much attention it should devote to the Middle East, these changes will rock a wide range of U.S. security interests in the region itself and around the globe.

As Iran Reels, Trump Aides Clash Over Escalating Military Showdown

By Mark Mazzetti, Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes, Alissa J. Rubin and Eric Schmitt
Source Link

WASHINGTON — President Trump was getting ready to declare the coronavirus a “national emergency,” but inside the White House last Thursday, a tense debate erupted among the president and his top advisers on a far different subject: whether the United States should escalate military action against Iran, a longtime American rival that has been devastated by the epidemic.

One group, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Robert C. O’Brien, the national security adviser, urged a tough response to rocket attacks that had killed two American troops at a base north of Baghdad, arguing that tough action while Iran’s leaders were battling the coronavirus ravaging the country could finally push them into direct negotiations.

But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pushed back. The Pentagon and intelligence agencies did not have clear evidence that the attacks, launched by the Shiite militia group Khataib Hezbollah, had been ordered by Iran, they argued, and warned that a large-scale response could draw the United States into a wider war with Iran and rupture already strained relations with Iraq.

The military’s position prevailed, at least for the time being. Mr. Trump authorized airstrikes against five militia weapons depots inside Iraq, carried out at night to limit the possible human toll. 

25 March 2020

What Is a Greater National Security Threat to the US: North Korea or Iran?

By Timothy S. Rich and Madelynn Einhorn
Sourec Link

Though North Korea has not conducted a nuclear test since 2017, the regime continues to test short-range ballistic missiles and rockets systems, with two new weapons tests in March alone. Diplomatic efforts between North Korea and the United States, defunct for months, have failed to deescalate tensions.

Similarly, U.S.-Iran relations have deteriorated since the Trump administration withdrew from a deal designed to freeze Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike killed Iran’s top military commander, General Qassem Soleimani, and Iran vowed revenge. Iran maintains a nuclear program, but Iranian officials insist the program is purely for civilian uses. However, this month the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported concerns that Iran has undeclared nuclear materials and is conducting unregistered nuclear activities.

Both nuclear programs threaten U.S. interests and regional stability, even though there are clear differences between the programs. Both Pyongyang and Tehran emphasize their right to possess nuclear weapons, while North Korea’s more developed program, one that has already produced nuclear warheads, presents the clearer challenge in the short term. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program remains a civilian one and it’s estimated that conversion for military purposes would take approximately a year, further suggesting that North Korea should weigh more heavily as an explicit, rather than potential, threat. Yet it is unclear if the American public views these programs similarly. With longstanding bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang and multiple nuclear tests, the public may have been conditioned to not expect further escalation. In contrast, Iran’s program lacks the track record to properly evaluate the associated rhetoric.

You Can’t Practice Social Distancing if You’re a Refugee

BY REBECCA COLLARD
Source Link

BEIRUT—To Khaled Abdul Razaq al-Dasher, the call for “social distancing” amid the coronavirus pandemic is a cruel joke. 

Dasher shares a tent in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley with nine family members, all of them refugees from the Syrian civil war. Around 500 people live in the informal camp. The next tent over is just 5 feet away, a foot or so short of what’s recommended by public health experts. They have sheets of tarpaulin and plastic that make the walls between them, but so much as stepping out of the tent puts them at unadvisable risk. The drum that feeds their tents running water is shared with a neighboring family, and sometimes it runs out. Instead of the frequent hand-washing being recommended globally, Dasher and his family are wiping their hands with alcohol and cleaning with chlorine. 

“But supplies are running a little low,” he said.

And the coronavirus pandemic is drawing nearer. “Social distancing is a privilege,” said Sahar Tawfeeq, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq. “There is a hashtag trending: #StayHome. They can’t do that. They don’t have a home to stay in.”

24 March 2020

9 Lessons from the Iraq War

by Robert D. Kaplan
Source Link

“Man’s real treasure is the treasure of his mistakes, piled up stone by stone through thousands of years,” according to Jose Ortega y Gasset, the great Spanish philosopher of the early twentieth century. For to remember the past in all its searing complexity is what separates us from the apes, Ortega goes on. By that logic, the Iraq War, which started seventeen years ago this month, should constitute among the crown jewels of knowledge and insight in American foreign policy circles.

What lessons do I take away from my support of the Iraq War?

Realize that things can always be worse. I reported from all over Iraq several times in the 1980s and had my passport confiscated for ten days by Iraqi authorities. I could not imagine a more frightening regime than Saddam Hussein’s. The country was nothing less than a large prison camp, bloodier and more repressive than Hafez al-Assad’s Syria. Emotionally, I had gotten too close to my story. Only when I reported from Iraq during the U. S. military occupation did I experience firsthand how anarchy—like the medieval Persian philosopher Abu Hamid al-Ghazali explained—is worse than tyranny, and how therefore the Iraq of the 2000s was even more terrifying than it had been under Saddam.

Iraq is the Prize: A Warning About Iraq’s Future Stability, Iran, and the Role of the United States


The Burke Chair at CSIS is presenting a commentary by two Iraqi experts whose biographies are summarized below. This commentary joins many U.S. experts in waring about the degree of instability in Iraq, Iran’s role in that country, and the U.S. failure to develop a working strategy and role that goes beyond the past efforts to break up the ISIS “caliphate.”

It also highlights a critical aspect of U.S. policy. Iran, not extremism, is the critical challenge in the Gulf. Moreover, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen may be the worst problems in the region, but Iraq is the strategic prize.

The United States can live with a stalemate or failure in Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen. If the United States fails in Iraq, it fails in the entire Gulf region. If it succeeds in building either a real strategic partner or in creating a strong and independent Iraq, it checkmates Iran and secures the region.

Commentary: Politics in Iraq are Completely Broken

23 March 2020

India Wins Defense Deal With Armenia in Bid to Chasten Turkey

By Shishir Upadhyaya

In a major success for India’s defense sector, India reportedly outbid Russia and Poland to win a $40 million defense deal to supply four indigenously-built military radars to Armenia. These radars, known as SWATHI, were developed by India’s Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and manufactured by Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL).

Indeed, this deal is a major achievement for the “Make in India” program in the defense sector as it could open new opportunities in Europe for the sale of India’s indigenous systems, at lower costs than equivalent European systems. It could also help the Indian defense industry to make inroads into markets in Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. But this deal has other strategic implications. It is clearly aimed at countering increasing hostility from Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan toward India.

In September 2019, speaking at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Erdogan – who has aspirations to position himself as a strong leader in the Muslim world – raised the issue of Kashmir at the behest of Pakistan. The residents of Jammu and Kashmir have been kept “virtually under blockade,” Erdogan, told the UN General Assembly, referring to the measures taken by New Delhi to maintain law and order in Kashmir following the revocation of Article 370. Erdogan also stated that the Kashmir issue has awaited a solution for 72 years and that a solution can only be found through dialogue between India and Pakistan — a position that India has strongly rejected, maintaining that Kashmir is an integral part of India.

What the G20 Must Do

PAOLA SUBACCHI

LONDON – Saudi Arabia, this year’s chair of the Group of Twenty (G20), will convene a virtual summit next week to discuss a global response to the COVID-19 crisis. The emergency meeting could not come too soon. Because global health is a collective public good, any threat to it requires a multilateral response.

The health emergency also threatens to trigger a global recession and financial crisis. As we learned in 2008, global economic crises must also be met with a multilateral strategy. Timid, uncoordinated, or unilateral actions by individual countries will be ineffective, at best, and could lead to a downward spiral of “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies.

The G20 is the obvious candidate to play the role of global coordinator. Accounting for around 90% of global GDP, it comprises the world’s largest advanced and emerging economies. And as a forum without a permanent secretariat, it is agile enough to bring the international community together quickly, as it did in November 2008, at the height of the financial crisis.

On that occasion, G20 leaders gathered in Washington, DC, to organize a coordinated response, and then met again in April 2009 in London, where they took steps to stabilize the global economy and restore confidence. It worked: a public display of collective leadership and shared responsibility averted a deeper economic collapse.

21 March 2020

China-Iran Relations: The Not-So-Special “Special Relationship”

By: John Calabrese
Introduction

Over the years, unremitting hostility between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran has created opportunities as well as dilemmas for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, and the subsequent adoption of a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, presented mixed challenges and opportunities for the PRC. Beijing has sought to exploit the rift between Washington and Tehran without further fueling Sino-American tensions.

For the past year, Washington and Tehran have been locked in an action-reaction cycle of escalation. This dangerous spiral reached new heights with the January 2 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander General Qasem Soleimani, which was followed by retaliatory Iranian missile attacks on two coalition bases in Iraq that injured dozens of American troops. Although both sides managed to pull back from the brink of war in early January, underlying tensions remain—as does the possibility of a more direct military confrontation.

In what manner and to what extent has the current unstable situation affected China’s interests in, and relationship with, Iran? What is the likelihood that, as this latest round of high-stakes poker between Washington and Tehran continues to unfold, Beijing will seize it as yet another opportunity to profit from America’s entanglements in the wider Middle East?

China’s Not-So-Special “Special Relationship” with Iran

Iran Warns Virus Could Kill ‘Millions’ Within Its Borders

By Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell

Iran issued its most dire warning yet Tuesday about the outbreak of the new coronavirus ravaging the country, suggesting “millions” could die in the Islamic Republic if people keep traveling and ignoring health guidance.

A state television journalist who also is a medical doctor gave the warning only hours after hard-line Shiite faithful on Monday night pushed their way into the courtyards of two major shrines that had finally been closed due to the virus. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a religious ruling prohibiting “unnecessary” travel in the country.

Roughly nine out of 10 of the over 18,000 confirmed cases of the virus in the Middle East come from Iran, where authorities denied for days the risk the outbreak posed. Officials have now implemented new checks for people trying to leave major cities ahead of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Friday, but have hesitated to quarantine the areas.

Playing For Higher Stakes: Saudi Arabia Gambles On Oil War With Russia – Analysis

By James M. Dorsey

With stock markets crashing and economies grinding to a halt as the world struggles to get a grip on the Coronavirus, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could not have chosen a worse time to wreak havoc on energy markets by launching a price and production war against Russia.

Saudi Arabia’s oil spat with Russia throws a spanner into the works of the Kingdom’s long-standing effort to hedge its bets, a strategy that has taken on added significance as the Gulf comes to grips with the likelihood that the region’s security architecture will fundamentally change.

Saudi Arabia, despite a primary focus on close ties to the United States, has increasingly sought to put its eggs in multiple baskets by initially forging closer military and economic relations with Britain, France, and Germany, and more recently with Russia and China.

The Saudi strategy, stemming from mounting doubts about the reliability of the United States as an ally and protector of last resort, was showcased when China opened its first overseas defense production facility in Saudi Arabia for the manufacturing of the CH-4 Caihong, or Rainbow drone, as well as associated equipment.

19 March 2020

Escalation nation: Iraq and the US-Iran rivalry

Sajad Jiyad

While Washington and Tehran appear eager to avoid a direct conflict with each other, the cycle of military aggression in Iraq could drag the country into deeper instability.

After a short lull, things are heating up again in Iraq. The United States and Iranian-allied militias are carrying out a new round of attacks against each other. This time, the United Kingdom has also been caught in the crossfire: on 11 March, a rocket attack on Iraq’s Camp Taji killed one British soldier along with two American troops. The US swiftly responded with airstrikes against Kataib Hezbollah, the Iraqi militia group it blames for the attacks.

Even as the world focuses on the coronavirus, there remains a real risk of dangerous escalation in the Middle East. With regular military clashes between US forces and Iranian proxies in Iraq – and in the absence of a direct political process between Washington and Iran – it is hard to imagine how they can sustainably de-escalate the situation.

Camp Taji hosts forces from the international coalition fighting the Islamic State group. Initial reports suggest that militias fired 107mm Katyusha rockets at the base from improvised truck launchers, with 18 of the 30 projectiles landing in the camp. Beyond the British and American fatalities, 14 coalition personnel were also injured. No group has officially claimed responsibility for the attack, but General Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said that Kataib Hezbollah had previously conducted similar operations against US forces. Shortly after, Kataib Hezbollah released a statement that seemingly denied responsibility for the attack but praised whichever group was accountable, asking it to identify itself.