Dalibor Rohac | The American Interest
The space between the cosmopolitan and progressive politics of the left and the vulgar nationalism of the populist right is shrinking. Dalibor Rohac's recent political experience attests to it.
Europe’s dying center-right
Dalibor Rohac | The American Interest
The space between the cosmopolitan and progressive politics of the left and the vulgar nationalism of the populist right is shrinking. Dalibor Rohac's recent political experience attests to it.
Following last month’s Slovakian parliamentary elections, Dalibor Rohac took to the American Interest to argue that the space between the cosmopolitan and progressive politics of the left and the vulgar nationalism of the populist right is shrinking. Attesting to his recent political candidacy, Rohac concludes that that there is not much of an appetite for center-right policies among the public. That makes the question of what the future holds for European People’s Party, Europe’s largest coalition of political parties, all the more urgent. Read it here.
US stocks with stable cash flows that used to trade like bonds have fallen faster than the overall market during the past few days. That’s an alarm bell for the US economy, which for the past decade has gorged on cheap leverage provided by the Federal Reserve. Investors are running away from the credit risk of seemingly safe sectors like real estate and utilities. When the safest stocks aren’t safe anymore, the world looks a lot riskier to everyone. Read More
Iran Can't Hide Its Dystopian Hellscape by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
March 14, 2020
Crisis Of The Iranian Order
by Tony Badran via The Caravan
The “transnational”: this is how Qassem Soleimani, the former head of Iran’s Qods Force, who was killed in a January U.S. missile strike in Baghdad, is described in Hezbollah-run schools in Lebanon.
The Islamic Republic Soldiering On
by Sanam Vakil via The Caravan
A look back at the past few months of tumultuous domestic events in Iran and around the Middle East might lend favour to the view that Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic is destabilising and weakening Iran alongsi
Are the Forever Wars Really Forever? with Sarah E. Kreps, Paul Miller, Will Ruger, and Ryan Evans
Erdogan turns to oil in a bid to salvage Syria policy
Turkey’s president eyes oil-related bargains in Syria after failing to achieve his stated objectives in Idlib and acquiescing to a new deal with Russia in the rebel stronghold.
Turkey seeks Syria deal with Europe as it begins joint patrols with Russia
The leaders of Turkey, Germany and France are scheduled to gather in Istanbul on Tuesday to tackle the surge in refugees fleeing Syria as the Bashar al-Assad regime presses its offensive against the last rebel bastion in Idlib province. Frustrated by what it sees as Western inaction and lackluster support in a crisis that has seen more than 1 million Syrians flee toward the Turkish border, Ankara has opened its borders to migrants seeking to enter Europe, creating a crisis for Greece and other Turkish neighbors. Ankara is requesting air defense support to back its troops in Syria and wants more European funding to help defray the costs of the 3.5 million refugees Turkey now hosts. The summit is expected to focus mainly on financial assistance, with European leaders reluctant to get more involved in the war.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may also join Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish officials said on Thursday. The coronavirus pandemic, however, may throw those plans in disarray. A German government official signaled today that the summit may be postponed as Europe copes with the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, Russia, which declined to participate in next week's summit, is set to begin joint patrols with Turkish military forces along Syria's east-west M4 highway on Sunday, in accordance with the deal struck between Turkey and Russia in Moscow last week.
Erdogan’s war in Idlib faces uphill battle on the home front
Having failed to deliver on his ultimatum to the Assad regime, Erdogan now has a serious credibility problem domestically.
Some Syrian regime fighters defecting when forced to front lines
With renewed fighting in northern Syria, regime officers are transferring conscripted young men from Daraa in the south to the front lines of the battles, leading to defections.
Intel: Despite new Idlib deal, Russia, Turkey look to strengthen leverage in Syria
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar spoke by phone with his Russain counterpart Sergey Shoigu March 10 about the progress of the bipartisan protocol over Idlib that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signed in Moscow on March 5.
‘Let them cross’: Turkey’s president defiant on Europe border crisis
Turkey's president, after meeting with EU leaders, says Greece should open its border with Turkey to migrants and then let them cross into other European countries; Russian and Turkish patrols for a new security corridor straddling Syria's M4 highway also are set.
Libyan front looks bleak for Erdogan
While struggling to achieve its objectives in Syria, Ankara has helped Damascus gain a new ally in the opponents of the forces Turkey is backing in Libya.
Islamist Parties in Turkey: A Perpetual Matryoshka by Burak Bekdil
BESA Center Perspectives
March 9, 2020
EGYPT AFTER THE ARAB SPRING & MUBARAK: Finish it here.
Europe Must Not Fall Victim to Erdoğan's Blackmail by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
March 6, 2020
Erdogan's Attempts to Blackmail Europe are Doomed to Fail by Con Coughlin
Don't Expect a Turkey-Russia War in Syria by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
March 6, 2020
Turkey launches military offensive against Syria
Turkey on Sunday launched what it called Operation Spring Shield against Bashar al-Assad's forces in northern Syria, shooting down two Russian-made Syrian air force jets. Turkey said it had destroyed several air defense systems and more than 100 tanks and killed more than 2,000 Syrian troops, including three generals, since Feb. 27 airstrikes killed three dozen Turkish soldiers in Idlib province, Syria's last rebel bastion. Turkish forces have also been hitting Syrian Kurdish positions.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said today he hopes to reach a “cease-fire agreement” with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when they meet on Thursday. That same day, US special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey will lead a delegation to Turkey for a summit on the Idlib escalation.
Iraqi prime minister-designate quits
Iraq's prime minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi withdrew his candidacy for the post on Sunday after parliament failed for the second time in a week to approve his Cabinet, deepening the political crisis in the country. President Barham Salih announced he would designate a replacement prime minister within 15 days. The country could be without a prime minister if Adel Abdul Mahdi, who had stayed on in a caretaker capacity since resigning in October, decides to step down.
Libya's eastern government visits Syria amid shared tensions with Turkey
Libya's eastern-based government sent a delegation to Syria on Sunday, the first such visit since the Syrian war broke out in 2011. Libyan officials met with Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in Damascus and agreed to reopen diplomatic missions. The officials also discussed the “Turkish aggression against both brotherly countries,” Syria’s state news agency said. The visit comes as fighting escalates in Libya between the Turkish-backed government in Tripoli and forces loyal to eastern military commander Khalifa Hifter despite a cease-fire announced last week.
Tunisia hosts Arab interior ministers summit
The Arab Interior Ministers Council began its annual meeting in Tunis on Sunday. Saudi Interior Minister Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is heading the council, met with Tunisian President Kais Saied to discuss the “deep-rooted Saudi-Tunisian ties.” The two-day meeting will discuss ways to boost joint security cooperation between Arab countries to fight terrorism and prevent crime.
There's little left of Israel’s left
By deciding to join the Netanyahu-Gantz government, Labor Party Chairman Amir Peretz put the final nail in the coffin of the party that founded the State of Israel.
The Struggle for Israel's Jewish Soul by Efraim Karsh and Gershon Hacohen
BESA Center Perspectives
March 16, 2020
Beyond Netanyahu's TriumphE
ditorial of The New York Sun | March 2, 2020
Vladimir Gelman: “An intention to preserve the political status quo and Putin’s authority is seen in the constitutional reform”
In an interview with IMR, political scientist Vladimir Gelman, professor of the European University in St. Petersburg and the University of Helsinki, discusses the origins of Russia’s bad governance, the goals of Vladimir Putin’s recent political initiatives, and the Western elite’s “jealousy.” ≫
Ireland's Political Earthquake with Timothy D. Hoyt
Storms Over the Emerald Isle K. V. Turley
On the weekend of February 8, 2020, a storm ripped through Ireland. Storm Ciara was one of the worst of its kind for many years. Its winds, snows, and driving rains caused havoc with landslides and flooding. At the same time, a political storm ripped through the Irish political landscape. Sinn Féin up-ended the political […]
One Brexit effect is that the nation from which the Anglosphere ultimately derives is reassessing many of its most important relationships. Read More »
TURKEY INVITES A NATO RESPONSE TO SYRIA? Read more here.
Turkey launches Operation Spring Shield against Syrian forces
Turkey downs two Syrian jets in launching Operation Spring Shield while also sending refugees to the Greek border.
Russia explores way to draw UAE, Saudi Arabia to its Syria policies
As relations with Turkey stall, Moscow seeks ways to engage with the Saudis and Emiratis to have them back in the Syrian game.
Idlib and the collapse of Erdogan’s foreign policy
Gambling on Russia to secure results in Syria turns out to be Ankara’s biggest miscalculation
Explaining Washington's New Pro-Ankara Policy by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
February 12, 2020
Turkey's "Defense Line": An Ideological Front
By Irina Tsukerman, February 14, 2020
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Turkey's latest moves in Libya and the eastern Mediterranean should be viewed in the context of the recent Kuala Lumpur Summit, which announced the emergence of a new ideological bloc to counter Saudi Arabia consisting of Iran, Turkey, Qatar, and Malaysia. Turkey's new geopolitical strategy is as much ideological as it is "defensive."
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Fresh currency fears loom over Turkey
Despite a series of unconventional measures to keep hard currency prices in check, Turkey appears headed for fresh currency turmoil.
AFRICAN CONTAINMENT OF MILITANTS, NOT COUNTER-TERROR IS NEW REGIONAL POLICY, WHERE TO PUT NEW INF MISSILES & THE SYRIAN REGIME HOLDS ON WITH AL-QAEDA REMNANTS
Does America Need an Africa Strategy? by Sam Wilkin
Libya: Merkel Meets With Haftar. German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with LNA commander Khalifa Haftar in Berlin on Tuesday where Merkel stressed that a political solution is important to ending the conflict between the LNA and the GNA. Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert stated, “a ceasefire and progress in the political process, in line with the decisions of the Berlin conference, are necessary.” Merkel reiterated that there can be no military solution to the conflict. Al Jazeera
Nigeria: Child Trafficking Syndicate Shut Down. Nigerian police raided a “baby factory” on Thursday saving 24 babies and four expecting mothers. The illegal maternity homes hold pregnant women and attempt to sell their babies. "In a covert operation on Tuesday, our men burst a child trafficking syndicate at Woji in Port Harcourt where 24 babies between the ages of one and two, and four pregnant teenagers were rescued," police said. News 24
Sahel Region: African Union to Deploy 3,000 Troops. The African Union said that it plans to deploy 3,000 troops to the Sahel region for about six months. "On the decision of the summit to work on deploying a force of 3,000 troops to help the Sahel countries degrade terrorist groups, I think this is a decision that we'll be working on together with the G5 Sahel and ECOWAS," head of the AU’s Peace and Security Commission said on Thursday. Many details, such as which countries will provide troops and who will fund the operation, have yet to be worked out. Al Jazeera BBC News
Senegal: Al Qaeda and ISIS Affiliates Collaborate. Al Qaeda and Islamic State groups may be cooperating in West Africa’s Sahel region and pose a threat to regional stability. “I believe that if it’s left unchecked it could very easily develop into a great threat to the West and the United States,” said U.S. Air Force General Dagvin Anderson. Military Times
With limited resources, US military shifts strategy from degrading militants in West Africa to containment
(Military Times) Violence by militant groups in West Africa has spiked 250 percent over the last two years but constrained resources and manpower has pushed the U.S. military to switch strategies from degrading terror groups to containment, according to a recent inspector general report.
Where could the US put its post-INF missiles?
(Defense One) The Trump administration said leaving the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty would allow the development and deployment of strategically and tactically new missiles in the Pacific region. But it’s not at all clear that U.S. officials will be able to persuade its allies to accept these missiles in useful locations
Pentagon Slashes Funding for Islamic State Fight
By Jack Detsch, Al-Monitor: “The Pentagon’s request would slash funding for the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to $200 million, down by a third from last year — money that will focus on “helping to provide wide-area security in liberated areas, addressing the ongoing [IS] threat, preventing [IS] re-emergence and setting conditions for long-term stability.””
Coronavirus Proves Immune to Political Correctness
By BETSY McCAUGHEY, Special to the Sun | February 12, 2020
The Political Effects of China’s Biological Chernobyl
By Bradley A. Thayer & Lianchao Han, RealClearDefense: "Much truth is revealed in a crisis. The continuing and ever-worsening effects of the coronavirus epidemic in China, and now the world, spark political facts about the true nature of the regime—how the country is really run—and why it caused a challenging problem to become a global catastrophe."
Shiro Ishii, commander of Unit 731, which performed live human vivisections and other biological experimentation
What America Can Learn From its Mistakes in Syria by Daphne McCurdy
Africa: The First U.S. Casualty of the New Information Warfare Against China by Caleb Slayton
The Grim Reality of the Cruel Seas by Claude Berub
MOSCOW'S MESS: TURKISH INCURSIONS INTO SYRIA; A REVIEW OF TRUMP'S PEACE OFFERING TO ABBAS; LOOKING AT SALIFS ON THE SUBCONTINENT AND WHO REPLACES AL-SISTANI IN IRAQ?
Turkey faces potential Russian blowback on Syria — and tomatoes are only the beginning
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finds himself in a tough spot with Russia as tensions in Syria have escalated dramatically. In a rare direct military confrontation between Turkish and Syrian regime forces, 14 Turkish soldiers and over 100 regime troops were killed in two separate clashes in Idlib over the past 10 days.
Facing Few Obstacles and Scant Pushback, Russia Keeps Advancing in Africa
By Stephen Blank, Eurasia Daily Monitor: " According to numerous analyses published by think tanks and journals in the United States and Europe, Russia lost its African adventure before it even started."
The Result of 20 Years of Putin: Russia as a Mafia State
In January, Russia has gone through a political upheaval initiated by Vladimir Putin: proposal for constitutional reform, resignation of the government, appointment of a new cabinet. The pace and scale of these events led some commentators to call them a “constitutional coup.” However, if one is to follow the logic of the regime, the president’s latest decisions should not come as a surprise.
Nataliya Bugayova writes: Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a new phase in his campaign to retain power after 2024 when his current term expires. Putin offered Russians a revised social contract. Putin is reconfiguring the balance of power within the Russian government as he seeks to carve out an optimal spot for himself. Putin is in uncharted territory, trying to create a new transition model for Russia. […]His approach is working so far, with the Kremlin’s opposition disarmed and the public unclear on the net implications of the changes. – Institute for the Study of War
Zvi Bar’el writes: So far, Russia is relating to Erdogan’s statements with cold politeness while continuing to talk about combating terror. Turkey is still an important ally, particularly in the diplomatic battle Russia is waging against the United States, but Russia is keen on ending the war in Syria quickly, so it can cut its outlays and transfer full control to Assad. If Turkey is perceived as an obstacle in Russia’s way, their alliance may be enveloped by a dangerous winter frost. – Haaretz
Gonul Tol writes: While Turkey dials up its criticism of Moscow, Erdogan, who is desperate to attract European investment in the country’s troubled economy, has welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel.[…] Despite the long list of problems in Turkey-U.S. relations, the worst that many expected in the form of U.S. sanctions has not materialized yet. And Ankara is threading cautiously to make sure it stays that way. – Middle East Institute
Daniel Pipes writes: So, while transferring the Galilee Triangle from Israeli to Palestinian control looks like an elegant and simple win-win solution, it is sadly infeasible. The Israeli government has apparently rejected it. Of course, this topic drips with irony. The same Israeli Arabs who bluster contempt for the Jewish state and praise the murderers of Jewish children (note the extremists who serve as their parliamentary representatives) also desperately hope to stay in it rather than become part of Palestine. – Jerusalem Post
David Makovsky writes: The Trump plan’s parameters on borders and Jerusalem suggest that the administration has moved the U.S. position sharply in the direction of Israel’s current government. In the most hopeful scenario, the combination of a tough new U.S. approach and the initial openness of Arab states to consider the plan as a point of departure could jolt the Palestinians to decide that time is not on their side, perhaps leading the parties to resume talks and find suitable compromises. In a less hopeful scenario, Palestinian anger toward the plan proves too strong to dispel, and unilateral Israeli annexations in the West Bank produce broad international opposition to the plan, essentially ending any near-term prospects of negotiations or a two-state solution. – Washington Institute
Ghaith al-Omari writes: All previous U.S. plans envisioned a solution for the Palestinian refugee issue consistent with the idea of two states for two peoples. […]By radically departing from certain key tenets seen in previous initiatives, the Trump administration may have undermined its ability to build an international coalition in support of its plan. This was on clear display at the aforementioned Arab League and OIC meetings, and will probably continue to shape the diplomatic discourse in days to come. – Washington Institute
Bobby Ghosh writes: Iraq’s senior-most cleric has no militia, but his huge Shiite following makes his blessing essential for any prime minister. Sistani has expressed sympathy with the protests, opposes Iranian and American influences alike, and has called for a cleansing of country’s politics. Like the protesters, he believes the country needs fresh elections. – Bloomberg
Ibrahim Jalal writes: While the GPC works to resolve intra-party divisions and the Sanaa-based branch struggles to oppose Houthi orders as per Saleh’s last statement, the Gulf countries have made their bet, viewing the GPC as useful even in post-war Yemen. […]Looking ahead to Yemen’s post-war political landscape, another party must emerge from the ashes of war, to heal the grievances of the Yemeni people that have accumulated over the last decade. – Middle East Institute
Mohammed Sinan Siyech writes: Two lessons can be derived from the comparative study of Salafists in India and Pakistan. First, no religious ideology can be considered a harbinger of violence. If this were true, then Salafists who are normally decried as conveyor belts to violence would have turned violent in India. Second, political externalities play a more potent role in radicalizing and militarizing movements than do ideologies. It is for this reason that, broadly speaking, the very same dynamics that radicalize small segments of the Muslim population in Pakistan do the same for some Hindus in India. – Middle East Institute
Suleyman Ozeren, Suat Cubukcu, and Matthew Bastug write: However, as Erdogan runs into more challenges and loses his popular support, he will likely resort to more authoritarian measures to keep a grip on power. He may also double-down on the AKP’s revolutionary Islamist agenda—with disturbing implications for the search for order in the Middle East, for the security of Europe, and for the future of Turkey itself. – Hudson Institute
Kayla Koontz writes: Despite the introduction of a new assembly in 2018, Turkey’s October invasion of northeast Syria provided ample incentives for the launch of new investigations into HDP members protesting the operation. The targeting of the HDP has set new legal and political precedents that could undermine the political capacity of the opposition coalition as a whole and create ideological divisions over the so-called “Kurdish Question.” – Middle East Institute
Brandon Wallace writes: Allawi is unlikely to gather the political capital necessary to execute reforms or fair elections. Indeed, Iraqi political parties may have agreed to his premiership precisely because they would prefer a weak caretaker prior to elections. Political elite are more likely to repress protesters with a weak PM in office. However, the designation of Allawi furthers the very conditions that protesters are demonstrating against. – Institute for the Study of War
Rockets hit US Embassy in Baghdad
Three rockets struck the US Embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Sunday, wounding one person in the first known direct hit inside the heavily fortified compound. Iraqi leaders condemned the incident and called for a quick investigation. Meanwhile, security forces shot at anti-government protesters in Baghdad over the weekend, killing at least one person and injuring dozens, while unidentified militiamen burned sit-in tents in the southern city of Nasiriya. Iraq has increasingly become a battleground between Iran and United States since after the assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani earlier this month, adding fuel to the unrest the country has witnessed since mass protests erupted in October.
Israel allows citizens to travel to Saudi Arabia
Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri signed an order on Sunday allowing Israelis to travel to Saudi Arabia in the latest sign of warming relations with the Gulf Arab monarchies. The new rules allow travel to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimages or for business trips of up to 90 days. Travelers will need an invitation from a Saudi official.
Saudi Arabia denies Israel's claim that Israelis can now visit the kingdom
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan denied Monday that Israeli citizens can enter the kingdom after Israel's Interior Minister Aryeh Deri announced Sunday that they can now travel to Saudi Arabia for religious pilgrimages and business trips. “Our policy is fixed. We do not have relations with the State of Israel, and Israeli passport holders cannot visit the kingdom at the current time,” Prince Faisal told CNN. He added that an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement must be reached first, before discussing relations with Israel.
Slain Iranian general Qassim Solemaini’s militias are secretly fighting in Syria’s final rebel stronghold, radio communications leaked to the Telegraph show. The rare recordings reveal how Iranian soldiers and Afghan mercenaries are directing military operations in Idlib, northwest Syria, in a battle they had promised not to take part in during peace talks. – Telegraph
Jeremy Hodge writes: Syrian activists report that the Assad regime has launched its most intense assault since the beginning of the war almost nine years ago. The target is Idlib, the last opposition holdout in northwestern Syria. All indicators suggest that the campaign will produce a new humanitarian disaster and be the beginning of a final confrontation between the Syrian National Army (SNA)—an alliance of Turkish-backed armed opposition forces—and Russian-Iranian-backed pro-Assad units. – Daily Beast
RUSSIA LEADS FROM BEHIND IN LIBYA, WHILE ASSAD AND HIFTER MOVES ON TO CONSOLIDATE & PUTIN'S LONG GOODBYE; israel and lebanon begin new governments
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lobbed a rare direct attack at the emirate of Abu Dhabi over its backing of Khalifa Haftar and the Russian mercenaries fighting on his behalf in Libya. – Bloomberg
Turkey is pushing a new “road map” for Libya, focusing on a conflict 1,000 km from Ankara, while a few kilometers from Turkey’s border refugees are being driven from their homes in Idlib by a Moscow-backed Syrian offensive. – Jerusalem Post
Aaron Y. Zelin writes: For all the reasons laid out here, Washington should continue to engage Tunis in addressing the range of jihadist challenges it faces. […]To thwart the reemergence of ISL, meanwhile, the United States should continue to coordinate airstrikes and share intelligence with its partners in Libya. This will help break up ISL camps and prevent an Iraq- or Syria-style resurgence, which could cut into Tunisia’s existing progress. Setting aside these challenges, the United States should publicly recognize and applaud Tunisia’s successes, thereby encouraging regional stability and stronger relations in areas of mutual interest. – Washington Institute
Russia’s 'leading from behind' strategy on Libya
Russia’s Libya policy is less about Libya and more about Europe, hence Moscow’s preference to let the Europeans take the public lead on the conflict.
What's in store for Iraq's PMU after death of top commander?
The Popular Mobilization Units will face fragmentation and division after the assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the backbone of the Iran-backed organization.
Algeria strives to regain prominence as world powers debate Libya's future
Despite Algeria's best efforts, nine years of conflict in neighboring Libya have essentially brought an international proxy war to Algiers' doorstep.
Libya’s eastern forces advance toward Misrata
Heavy clashes between Libya’s rival forces erupted Sunday as troops loyal to eastern military strongman Khalifa Hifter advanced toward the city of Misrata, threatening a shaky cease-fire. The fighting comes amid growing international diplomacy to uphold a lasting cease-fire in Libya, where Hifter has led a monthslong assault against the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
On Sunday, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune hosted his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the situation in Libya. At a press conference with Tebboune, Erdogan said Turkey is committed to stand by the UN-backed government in Libya, whose instability threatens Algeria. Erdogan next travels to Gambia and Senegal as part of a three-nation African tour.
Assad’s forces inch closer to key town in Idlib
Bashar al-Assad’s forces reached the outskirts of a key rebel-held town on Sunday, after taking control of several towns in the northwestern province of Idlib. Pro-regime media said government forces are “just around the corner” of Maaret al-Numan, through which passes a major highway linking Damascus to Aleppo. The regime’s renewed push, backed by Russian airstrikes, comes despite a Russian-Turkish cease-fire in the country’s last rebel stronghold.
Separately, at least seven people were killed and more than 20 others injured in a car bomb Sunday in the city of Azaz in northern Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The attack occurred in a busy area of the city, which is under the control of Turkish-backed rebels. No party has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, greeted to a fanfare arrival Sunday in Algiers, said the North African nation is “important for the stability of the region,” an apparent bow to Algerian efforts to play a key role in unwinding chaos in neighboring Libya. – Associated Press
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday urged international pressure to force the head of Libya’s eastern-based forces to abide by a tentative truce and said Turkey was determined to continue supporting Libya’s U.N.-backed government. – Associated Press
Rachel Avraham writes: One might ponder, how will all of this affect the State of Israel? Over the short run, it won’t affect Israel too much. Hezbollah is too busy consolidating power in Lebanon and trying to gain influence in Iraq in order to be bothered with Israel. Nevertheless, even though Hezbollah will be busy with other matters over the short run, that does not mean that Hezbollah does not pose a long-term strategic threat to Israel. […]For this reason, Israel should act now against Hezbollah when they are weak instead of waiting for them to attack once they get their house in order. – Arutz Sheva
Hanin Ghaddar and Matthew Levitt write: Against the backdrop of three months of political and economic protests, Lebanese politicians appear to have reached a deal establishing a nominally technocratic government in Beirut. […]The formation of a new Lebanese government has been a central demand of the international community and a necessary precondition for any international aid. But that is not enough. The government must quickly take action to fight corruption and enhance transparency. For a country that has run on corruption and political patronage, this will be a very heavy lift. – The Hill
Nathali Goulet writes: Lebanon’s stability concerns us all because it is an essential part of the stability of the Middle East — which is why the international community must place itself at the disposal of the new Prime Minister and ensure at the first request the implementation of its policy for recovery of stolen and misappropriated assets. – The Hill
Michael Rubin writes: Perhaps with Belgium taking a fresh look at the PKK, it is time for the United States also to reconsider the evidence that led to the PKK’s terror designation under U.S. law. It is now clear that Turkish evidence is not reliable and is often fabricated. Further, the circumstances of PKK designation in 1997 — thirteen years after its insurgency began and apparently timed to be a sweetener to a Clinton administration arms sale to Turkey — suggest that its original designation is more diplomatic than objective. – Washington Examiner
The guessing game is over. Ever since Vladimir Putin was reelected in 2018 to his final constitutionally allotted six year term of office, speculation abounded on how Putin would circumvent presidential term limits. […]Despite Putin’s in your face solution to the constitutional dilemma, the reaction aside from a handful of picket sign holders ranged from resignation to relief. – Middle East Media Research Institute
Editorial: Mr. Whether that is true is questionable. Mr. Putin’s approval ratings have been declining steadily in domestic polls; Russians perceive that the country’s economy has been stagnant in recent years, and that it lags far behind the West technologically. Many have grown weary of Mr. Putin’s foreign adventures in places such as Syria and eastern Ukraine, which have exposed the country to punishing sanctions – Washington Post
Joseph Bosco writes: But, on balance, Russia seems to prefer a change in Washington’s administration. Sanders offers an even more inviting target, given his aversion to U.S. military spending and foreign intervention and his attraction to Russian, Chinese and Latin American communist dictators. It’s no wonder, then, that both Russia and China may be exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to undermine the Trump administration during this critical election year. – The Hill
MAPPING IRAN'S BATTLE PLANS; GRAY ZONES MULTIPLY: US ENEMIES WAGE GLOBAL WAR & WHY MARKETS MATTER FOR THE LONG WAR
“New” Realities of Twenty-First Century Asymmetric Conflict
By Max G. Manwaring, Small Wars Journal: "A multi-polar world in which one or a hundred non-state and state actors are exerting differing types and levels of power, within a set of cross-cutting types and levels of power, is extremely volatile and dangerous. The security and stability of the global community is threatened, and the benefits of globalism could be denied to all. Thus, it is incumbent on the United States and the rest of the global community to understand and cope with the unconventional threats imposed by the diverse actors engaged in the destabilizing conflicts that are called asymmetric or hybrid conflict, or Grey Area Phenomena (GAP)—or what John Sullivan has called a ‘bazaar of violence’ that fuels the convergence of crime and war."
Grey zone is the new black
Too many smart people don’t grasp that a war is being waged against us
Propeller of Growth
Allison Schrager, City Journal
Technology and globalization are changing the nature of work and commerce, displacing workers, and altering the way of life for many people. In response to this uncertain economic environment, policymakers from both parties have become preoccupied with reducing risk. But many of their risk-management proposals go too far, address the wrong sources of risk, and would undermine America’s economic leadership. Read more here..
No market exists in a social vacuum, and hardly any market exists in a political vacuum.
Read More »
Iran’s Reserve of Last Resort:
Uncovering the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Ground Forces Order of Battle
By Fred Kagan, AEI: "Qassem Soleimani’s death, the prospect of further U.S.-Iranian military escalation, and the reemergence of large protests in Iran in recent months raise the question of Iran’s capacity to conduct military operations beyond its borders while suppressing dissent within them."
The end of Obama’s Middle East
Matthew Continetti | Commentary
Trump's killing of Qassem Soleimani was the death knell for the yearslong failure of Obama's attempted rapprochement with the Iranian regime.
The arc of America’s history is bent by institutions
Timothy P. Carney | Washington Examiner
Trump rejects the fake separation between Iran and its militias
No longer playing Iran's game
HOOVER DIGEST ISSUE peruse the entire issue on the Hoover website.
Despite tentative government efforts to wrestle parts of the gold industry away from Sudan’s security services and back under state or private control, questions remain about whether Sudan can truly transition to democracy while the politically powerful RSF run a parallel economy all of their own. – The Guardian
America Shouldn’t Abandon Its Allies in the Sahel by Olivier-Rémy Bel
Olivier-Rémy Bel writes: Thus, a limited but critical American investment — airlift and surveillance assets — would go a long way towards ensuring that Europe remains both a willing and able ally in the great-power game. That investment needs not be endless. Europeans are stepping up. France purchased C-130J transport aircraft and Reaper drones to fill capability gaps. Denmark and the United Kingdom have sent lift helicopters. European forces, from Estonia to Germany, the Czech Republic to Spain, Finland to Portugal, are deploying in the Sahel to an unprecedented extent, either in Barkhane, the EU’s training mission, or the UN stabilization mission. – War on the Rocks
Sanctioned by the West and spurned by China, Zimbabwe has turned to the United Arab Emirates in its latest bid to find a savior that can arrest the collapse of its economy. Zimbabwe’s government has approached the U.A.E. in hopes of selling a stake in its national oil company, according to three company and government officials familiar with the plan. It also wants companies in the U.A.E. to buy more of its gold, they said. – Bloomberg
Algeria seeks coordination with neighbors on Libya
Algeria hosted officials from Libya’s neighbors on Thursday to discuss a fragile truce in the country and ways to limit foreign influence. The meeting aimed to strengthen “coordination between countries neighboring Libya and international players to accompany Libyans in reviving the political settlement process,” the Algerian government said. Foreign ministers from Egypt, Tunisia, Chad, Niger, Sudan and Mali attended the meeting, as well as Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Berlin over the weekend hosted a summit to discuss the situation in Libya, where eastern military strongman Khalifa Hifter is leading a monthslong assault against the UN-backed government in Tripoli.
Separately, the Libyan capital’s only operational airport resumed flights on Thursday, one day after shutting down due to a rocket attack. The Mitiga airport has been repeatedly hit since the start of Hifter’s offensive last April.
Rwanda and neighboring countries in Africa’s Great Lakes region are at risk of worsening violence if the different countries back rival rebel forces to destabilize each other, according to a report by the International Crisis Group. – Bloomberg
The Sahel is facing an unprecedented wave of violence, with more than 4,000 deaths reported last year, and a bloody start to 2020. – The Guardian
Robert Burns, Abdi Guled and Cara Anna write: Islamic extremists are already exploiting possible U.S. military cuts in Africa that have caused a rare bipartisan outcry in Washington, with lawmakers stressing the need to counter China and Russia and contain a growing threat from Islamic State group affiliates. […]The Pentagon’s possible reduction of U.S. troops in Africa is part of a worldwide review by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who is looking for ways to tighten the focus on China and Russia. It is not known when a decision will be announced, but officials say Esper has made clear the U.S. will not withdraw from Africa entirely. – Associated Press
SDF commander says Kurds ready for dialogue if Ankara is sincere
In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor in northeast Syria, General Mazlum Kobane spoke on a range of issues including prospects for reviving dialogue with Turkey, President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw US troops from Syria and the impact of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani's killing in Iraq.
What we need to learn about the Mideast
Michael Rubin | New York Daily News
Libya’s warring sides to sign cease-fire deal in Moscow
The leaders of Libya’s warring parties are expected to arrive in Moscow today to sign a cease-fire agreement brokered by Russia and Turkey. The internationally recognized government in Tripoli and forces loyal to eastern military strongman Khalifa Hifter over the weekend accepted the cease-fire that went into effect on Sunday, despite reports of violations by both sides. Russia and Turkey, which support opposing sides in the conflict, have stepped up diplomatic efforts in recent weeks to end Hifter's monthslong offensive against Tripoli. Russian mercenaries back Hifter while Turkey has sent troops to support the beleaguered UN-backed Government of National Accord. Representatives of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which support Hifter, are also expected to attend the talks as observers.
Jonathan Spyer is a Middle East analyst, author and journalist specializing in the Levant and Iraq. He is the director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis (MECRA), a Research Fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Strategy and Security and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.
Robotics are making Iran’s military more dangerous than ever
Michael Rubin | The National Interes
Iran can play the long game
Kenneth Pollack | RealClearWorld
Iran responded to the killing of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani exactly as it said it would, with an overt military strike against a pair of American military targets. While the strike was perfunctory and mostly painless for the United States, we should not assume Iran’s retaliation is over.
India-Bangladesh on a diplomatic tightropeFor the current Bangladeshi regime, maintaining the stance that the formation of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the subsequent enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are India’s “internal matter” has become an increasingly difficult task. Sheikh Hasina’s government has been having a hard time assuaging the increasing number of opposing voices inside the country, who termed her reaction toward India’s controversial actions as “soft.” Faisal Mahmud has the story.
Nile Bowie here examines how global markets and oil prices have whipsawed over the last few days as Iran’s retaliatory strikes against American military bases in Iraq were followed by conciliatory statements from US President Donald Trump and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, that signaled, at least for now, that the hostilities will not spiral into full-blown war.
Christina Lin explores how China might have taken sides with Iran if all-out war had broken out. Joint war games, held at the end of December in the Gulf of Oman, sent a clear signal to the US, argues Lin, that “Iran is not isolated and has powerful allies.”
However, Stephen Bryen argues that the notion of any real military alliance among China, Russia and Iran is “questionable” and talk of any form of combined Chinese and Russian military intervention in Iran remains “unrealistic.” “Legally speaking,” writes Bryen, “neither Russia nor China has a security agreement or defense treaty with Iran.”
For MK Bhadrakumar, these military exercises ultimately “gained little” for Iran but instead helped Moscow and Beijing more, by allowing them “to thumb their noses at Washington.”
Indeed, as Christina Lin points out, the exercises may have been an attempt by Beijing and Moscow to sully American prestige in the Middle East but neither party wants all-out war. Beijing “needs Mideast stability to pursue the Belt and Road Initiative Eurasian integration plan,” writes Lin. “It has large stakes in Iran’s stability: It is the largest buyer of Iranian oil, China is Iran’s largest trading partner, and Iran is a key geographic node for the BRI.”
Lin says China has tried to balance its relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Middle East and set up a firewall between the two, “although Iran is more significant in China’s strategic calculus given the fact Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf countries are still under the US security umbrella and host US military bases."
US-Iran climbdown gives markets cause for pause by Nile Bowie
China might take Iran’s side in a war with US by Christina Lin
There’s a silver lining in a potential US-Iran war by Stephen Bryen
Iran opting for ‘total war’ against US by MK Bhadrakumar
Trump moves to de-escalate Iran crisis by Pepe Escobar
Jihadism in South Asia: A militant landscape in flux
South Asia is home to more Islamist terrorist organizations than any other region of the world, but at the turn of the decade the region's two leading global jihadist groups are facing a severe leadership vacuum following the death of ISIS’s supreme leader and caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and the killing of al-Qaeda heir apparent Hamza bin Laden.
A Guide to Getting Real on Iran by Aaron Stein
Will the killing of Soleimani be the death knell for Trump’s own Middle East strategy?
The killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis was an important tactical victory, but the crucial question is whether the Trump administration can parlay it into a wider strategic victory and avoid it becoming a strategic defeat, writes Kenneth Pollack.
In killing Soleimani, Trump enforces the red line he drew on Iran
President Donald Trump’s decision to kill Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani should have come as no surprise to the Iranian regime, explains Marc Thiessen. The administration had drawn a clear red line, warning Iranian leaders they would pay a severe price if they killed a US citizen.
Iran's Missiles and Its Evolving "Rings of Fire"
By Uzi Rubin, January 9, 2020
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning on the emergent Yemen-originating missile threat corresponds to Iran’s modus operandi of surrounding its foes with missile “rings of fire” and will enable Tehran to complete the missile encirclement of the Jewish state as a step toward its eventual demise. Israel must do its utmost to confront this new strategic threat by establishing an alert system and defense capabilities against Yemen-originating cruise and ballistic missiles, whatever the cost.
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Qods Force commander Soleimani’s carelessness put him in the U.S. military’s crosshairs
Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani became "complacent" while traveling to and from Iraq, and did not believe the U.S. would target him, U.S. military officials told FDD's Long War Journal. The military was able to reliably track his movements at times.
The Post-Suleimani View From Iran
by Abbas Milani via Project Syndicate
One hopes that Iranian leaders' domestic woes and deep desire for self-preservation will lead them to embrace symbolic acts of retaliation in response to the recent assassination of the security and intelligence chief Qassem Suleimani.
How Will the Iranians Respond?
by Seth Frantzman
The National Review
January 4, 2020
What Is The Middle East In The Middle Of Anymore?
by Victor Davis Hanson via American Greatness
The United States is trying to square a circle, remaining strong and deterring dangerous elements, but to do so for U.S. interests—interests that increasingly seem to
Why Is Russia In Syria?
by Jakub Grygiel via American Interest
Russia recently announced that it will spend $500 million to fix and update the commercial port of Tartus in Syria. In 2017 Moscow had renewed its lease over the port, signing an agreement with Damascus in a clear show of support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But Russian (and before 1991, Soviet) naval presence there dates back to the early 1970s.
Top commander's assassination leaves Iran with very few options to retaliate
Following Qasem Soleimani's assassination in Iraq, there has been heightened concern about an Iranian reaction. But due to Tehran's economic hardship, decreased support from the public in Middle East societies and international isolation, Iran isn't likely to seek revenge militarily against the United States.
What Iran lost with Soleimani’s killing
The top military commander’s influence went beyond his military prowess, and will be something that no successor can likely replicate.
The killing of Iranian Quds force commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis was an important tactical victory. But the crucial question is whether the Trump administration can parlay it into a wider strategic victory and avoid it becoming a strategic defeat, writes Kenneth Pollack in an AEIdeas blog. The killings could soon present Trump with a stark choice between getting far more involved in the Middle East to support our allies and hold back the Iranians and getting out altogether. Unfortunately, doing either right would require a skill and subtlety that Trump has yet to demonstrate. Finish reading here.
The killing of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Friday generated a predictably partisan flurry of praise and condemnation. But the context in which the decision to kill him was made is being lost in angry rhetoric, explains Fred Kagan in a New York Daily News op-ed. Only once the US stops looking for simplistic solutions and stops assigning blame either to Obama or Trump do we stand a chance of building a policy that can achieve an end to this conflict at an acceptable cost. Continue here.
Qassem Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any terrorist leader since Osama bin Laden. No one should mourn his death. In Iran, however, he was a revered figure like former US Defense Secretary James Mattis, notes Michael Rubin in a National Interest op-ed. As the second- and third-order effects of his death become clear, it is imperative that the US national security bureaucracy alongside Congress work overtime on a nonpartisan, broad strategy to contain the negative and exploit the positive. Learn more here.
The US air strike that killed Soleimani and Muhandis was not simply a sharp departure in the Trump administration’s policy toward Tehran. It also marks a larger shift in America’s response to Iranian influence and provocations in the Middle East, writes Hal Brands in a Bloomberg op-ed. President Trump has gambled that an extraordinary escalation will allow it to reset control of an intensifying US-Iran confrontation. And while it may actually work, weathering the diplomatic and military fallout will require far greater skill and competence than Trump’s team has displayed so far. Continue here.
Last week, in the context of the attacks by Iranian-backed militias on the US Embassy in Baghdad and perhaps with an intimation of the drone strike that killed Soleimani, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper pronounced, “The game has changed.” In a Detroit News op-ed, Giselle Donnelly writes that the “game” in the Middle East remains the same: It is still a multisided struggle for power in the wake of the collapse of the postcolonial and “nationalist” governments established after World War II. Learn more here.
Earlier last month, Hal Brands, Kenneth Pollack, and Steven Cook noted in Foreign Policy that President Trump sees himself as a leader who shatters generations of conventional wisdom in US foreign policy. In the case of Iran, he is right. And unless the president changes course, he will usher in a brave new era in US relations with the Persian Gulf — one that may well help Iran claim its long-sought ascendancy in that region and leave Americans longing for the good old days of the Carter Doctrine. Read more here.
Following the release of The Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers, Fred Kagan took to the AEIdeas blog to argue that contrary to the Post’s reporting, American leaders did not systematically lie to the American people about the situation in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is not Vietnam. George Bush did not lie America into this war. And he, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and their generals and diplomats did not conceal the challenges and failures the US was facing. Learn more here.
Iran Lacks Good Options
by Jonathan Spyer
The Jerusalem Post
January 4, 2020
Iraq parliament votes to expel US troops
Iraq's parliament on Sunday passed a nonbinding resolution to expel the 5,000 or so US troops in the country following the killing of Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a US airstrike at Baghdad airport. "The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason," the resolution reads. The vote comes amid intense pressure from pro-Iran militias, which have called for retaliation. Kurdish and most of the Sunni members of parliament did not attend the parliamentary session in protest of the resolution.
Meanwhile two rockets hit near the US embassy in Baghdad on Sunday, the AFP reports, hours after the Iraqi government summoned US Ambassador Matthew Tueller. NATO has called for an urgent meeting of the alliance's ambassadors today to address the fallout from the US strike after suspending its training mission in Iraq on Saturday over increased security risks.
Trump’s Iran policy spirals toward control
Hal Brands | Bloomberg Opinion
President Trump has gambled that an extraordinary escalation will allow his administration to reassert control over an intensifying US-Iran confrontation. It may actually work. But weathering the diplomatic and military fallout will require far greater skill and competence than Trump’s team has displayed so far.
U.S. Kills Qassem Soleimani
Donald Trump cuts off Iran’s terror arm in Iraq, while Israel braces for Iranian retaliation
Read More →
Libya: Turkish Forces Enter Libya following Airstrike at Military Academy. Turkish President Erdogan on Sunday announced that Turkish military units had begun moving into Libya to support Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord. “There will be an operation center, there will be a Turkish lieutenant general leading and they will be managing the situation over there. [Turkish soldiers] are gradually moving there right now,” Erdogan said. The move comes after a rebel airstrike killed at least 30 at a government-backed military academy over the weekend. BBC Reuters Al Jazeera
Turkey’s economy remains vulnerable
Desmond Lachman | AEIdeas
U.S. Kills Qassem Soleimani
Donald Trump cuts off Iran’s terror arm in Iraq, while Israel braces for Iranian retaliatio
The Unthinkable: Soleimani Executed in Iraq by Seth Frantzman
The Jerusalem Post
January 3, 2020
Soleimani Schemed Against America As His World Crumbled
By BENNY AVNI, Special to the Sun | January 3, 2020
"U.S. kills Iran’s Qods Force commander and Iraq’s deputy PMF leader in strike in Baghdad," Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, FDD's Long War Journal
Turkey: Ankara Approves Military Deployment to Libya. The Turkish parliament on Thursday approved a bill to send troops to support the UN-backed government in Libya. Egypt, who supports the Libyan government’s opposition, led by Khalifa Haftar, said the decision "negatively affects the stability of the Mediterranean region.” U.S. President Donald Trump in a phone call warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan against "foreign interference.” Al Jazeera BBC
Turkey's Ambitions in Libya and the Mediterranean Hinge on Naval Expansion
by Burak Bekdil
The Gatestone Institute
December 30, 2019
Turkish parliament approves troop deployment to Libya
In a measure with regionwide implications, the Turkish parliament approved a motion Jan. 2 to deploy forces to Libya during an extraordinary meeting before the start of its 2020 legislative session next week.
Though details remain unclear on the involvement of Turkish troops in direct combat operations, the vote established a one-year mandate for Turkish forces to transfer weapons, planes and vehicles in support of the UN-recognized Tripoli government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.
Read Full Article
Iran Can No Longer Rely on Shia Militias to Fight its Wars by Con Coughlin
How Russia is reading the killing of Qasem Soleimaini
Moscow weighs the implications of the elimination of one of the Middle East's most powerful men.
With Turkey preoccupied with Libya, Idlib slips through Ankara’s fingers
While Turkey prepares to send troops to Libya, Russia's uncompromising attitude on Idlib signals that Ankara will not get what it wants in Syria.