Israel’s Nuclear Strategy: Enhancing Deterrence in the New Cold War
By Louis René Beres, Strategy Bridge: “In the future, any continuing policy of complete ambiguity could cause an already nuclear enemy state to overestimate the first-strike vulnerability of Israel's nuclear forces.”
Israel’s Nuclear Strategy (Part II)
By Louis René Beres, Strategy Bridge: “Although not readily discernible or predictable, these significant impacts upon enemy rationality could themselves be derived from the ever-changing dynamics of Cold War II.
Proving Ground: Iran’s Operational Strategy in Syria
By Nicholas Hargreaves-Heald, Small Wars Journal: “Over the past thirty-six years, Iran has sought to accomplish two integrally linked strategic goals: weaken Western, Israeli, and Saudi influence in the region, and improve Iranian influence across the globe.
Dead Drop: May 25
By Anonymous, The Cipher Brief: “TAKING COMMAND OF WHAT, EXACTLY: Lt. General Scott Miller has been nominated as the next commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, which would make him the 9th U.S. General in 17 years to take the post and the first one appointed under President Trump...”
U.S., AFGHANISTAN: U.S. Strike Hits Taliban ‘Command and Control Node’ in Helmand
By Bill Roggio, FDD's Long War Journal: “The U.S. military says it struck “a command and control node for high-level Taliban leaders” overnight in the Taliban-controlled district of Musa Qala in Helmand province via an artillery system.”
What the Long, Corruption-Enabling, Mostly Failed Afghanistan-Stabilization Effort Tells Us
// Caroline Houck
It's about managing expectations: ours about the timeline, the foreign population's about governance.
Mohamed Galal Mostafa writes: The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is driven by several factors: ethnic, national, historical, and religious. [...]What is less often appreciated, however, is how much religion impacts the identity of actors implicated in this conflict, the practical issues at stake, and the relevant policies and attitudes -- even of non-religious participants on both sides. - Washington Institute
[Read Emily Estelle’s analysis of Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Haftar, one of the four leaders who agreed to the Paris declaration: “The General’s Trap in Libya” and “Libya Update: Exit the General?”]
[Read CTP’s latest Yemen Crisis Situation Report for more background on the Red Sea offensive.]
“The Future of Iran’s Security Policy”
for additional insight on the Iranian regime’s national security doctrine.]
AEI MAPS & CHARTS online.
On 67th anniversary, Pakistan-China relations entering new era
This Monday, May 21, marked another anniversary in the history of China-Pakistan relations. The formal diplomatic relationship was established on that date in 1951, but the history of the relationship goes back thousands of years, to the time when ancient Chinese traders traveled to Europe via what is now Pakistan. Pakistan was an important station on the ancient Silk Route. And more than 2,000 years ago, famous Chinese monks such as Fa Xian and Xuan Zang...
The Crown Prince of Riyadh vs. the Crown Prince of Jihad: Al-Qaeda Responds to Mohammed Bin Salman’s Reforms
by Jesse Morton and Amarnath Amarasingam
Yemeni forces advanced farther into southern al Hudaydah governorate with support from the UAE, operating as part of the Saudi-led coalition. The objective is likely to secure the road running through al Tuhayta town to Zabid, north of Hays. This will position coalition-backed forces for a future offensive against al Hudaydah port city. Tomas Padgett-Perez writes that this renewed offensive may also hurt efforts to renew peace talks, especially as the al Houthi leadership moves to consolidate its control in Sana’a. mapping
Daniel Henninger writes: The Iran nuclear deal is just that—a deal Mr. Obama did with the mullahs, Russia, Germany, France, the U.K. and China, with no formal instrument of ratification. But to listen to its defenders, you’d think it was the Ten Commandments. - Wall Street Journal
Eugene Kontorovich writes: By ignoring the armistice line today, the U.S. is showing that it attaches no legal significance to this outdated demarcation. Having an embassy that straddles the Green Line means recognizing as Israel’s capital a unified Jerusalem that includes the Old City and other eastern areas. It means categorically rejecting the notion that Israel has no sovereign claims across the Green Line. - Wall Street Journal
Rep. Keith Rothfus writes: Israel and her friends are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the country’s founding on Monday. Since 1948, the Israeli people have established a prosperous and democratic state in their ancestral homeland. Israel’s thriving existence is a fact, not something to be negotiated. - Washington Examiner
Latest Moves Show Trump Grasps The Realities Of The Middle East
by Russell A. Berman via The Hill
During the past week, U.S. policy in the Middle East has taken on a sharper profile due to the coincidence of two major events. On May 8, President Trump announced the withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as “the Iran deal." Less than a week later, on Monday, the American embassy opened in Jerusalem.
The Russian-Israeli-Iranian conundrum in Syria
BY M.K. BHADRAKUMAR
Moscow is playing a clever game of diplomacy and managing to maintain ties with all the major players
Afghan military identifies 7 provincial capitals ‘under pressure’
The Ministry of Defense identified six of the seven provincial centers that are threatened by the Taliban as Farah City, Faizabad in Badakhshan, Tarin Kot in Uruzgan, Kunduz City, Maimana in Faryab, and Pul-i-Khumri in Baghlan. The seventh city is likely Ghazni City or Lashkar Gah.
Taliban’s 2018 offensive encompasses all regions of Afghanistan
The Taliban appears to maintain the initiative throughout Afghanistan, while the Afghan military is forced to react to Taliban offensives, such as the latest incursion into Farah City.
Taliban's 2018 Offensive Encompasses All Regions of Afghanistan
By Bill Roggio, RealClearDefense: “The Taliban’s 2018 offensive, which it calls Al Khandaq Jihadi operations, has targeted Afghan government forces in nearly all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.”
Seize This Moment for Afghan Peace Talks
// Johnny Walsh
In spite of recent attacks, the Taliban has signaled willingness to bend from its hardline past. The Trump administration should take advantage of the opportunity
Taliban launches coordinated assault on Farah City
The assault on Farah City should put to rest claims by the US military that the Taliban is desperate and losing ground in Afghanistan. Farah has been under threat for months.
Aparna Pande writes: It is often easier to speak truth to power when you are no longer holding a position in the government. However, the frankness with which former Pakistani prime minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif has lately been speaking out on issues ailing Pakistan is to be commended. - Hudson Institute
Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, whose coalition won the largest number of seats in last month’s parliamentary elections, has announced an alliance with an Iran-backed coalition ahead of marathon negotiations to form a new government. - Associated Press
IRAQ: New Iraqi Government Will Again Require Iranian Blessing
From Al-Monitor: “If Haider al-Abadi retains the Iraqi premiership, he will have done so with Iran’s blessing.
Iraq’s Sadr meets with Abadi and pro-Iran leader to discuss new government
Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the leader of the pro-Iran Fatah bloc over the weekend as negotiations intensify to form a new government following recent parliamentary elections. Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance won the most seats but he cannot become prime minister as he did not personally run. "We agreed to work together and with other parties to expedite the process of forming a new Iraqi government … capable of providing to its citizens services, security and economic prosperity,” Abadi said at a joint press conference on Saturday.
Sadr separately met Sunday with Fatah leader Hadi al-Amiri, whose coalition came in second. “The process of government formation must be a national decision and importantly, must include the participation of all the winning blocs,” Sadr’s office said in a statement after the meeting.
Sectarianism and the Iraqi Election: Two Potential Scenarios
by Harith Hasan Al-Qarawee
Iraq Election: Weak Government, Strong Society by Amir Taheri
Iraq’s Sadr poised to play kingmaker
Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Sairoon Coalition is seeking to choose Iraq's new prime minister after winning this weekend's parliamentary elections in most Shiite provinces. Sadr himself did not run but said on Monday that his coalition is looking to form a technocratic government. Dhia Asadi, the head of the political wing of Sadr’s movement, said that Sairoon has the right to nominate the prime minister and form the government. Sadr has historically been hostile to outside powers operating in Iraq, including the United States and Iran. Read More
Iraqi election results shock political class
The preliminary results of the Iraqi elections are out, indicating a victory for the Sadrist movement and the PMU coalition.
An electoral ticket backed by the influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr emerged as the early front-runner in Iraq’s elections, according to preliminary results released late Sunday, dealing a significant blow to the reelection campaign of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi - Washington Post
Iraqis went to the polls Saturday but in lower numbers than the past, reflecting disillusionment with a political elite they blame for years of corruption and mismanagement that enabled the rise of Islamic State. - Wall Street Journal
No sooner had polls closed in Iraq’s Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya than anger at an unexpected sweep for its maligned dominant party boiled over. Gunfire between rival militias quickly erupted. - Reuters
Bilal Wahab writes: The elections come at the end of four tough years for Iraq, with the Islamic State seizing a third of the country in 2014 and the Kurds making a strong push for independence last September. Despite the turmoil, Kurdish-Arab violence has been minimal, and the numerous victors of the war against IS are all hoping to turn their battlefield triumph into votes. - Washington Institute
No, Iran didn’t win Iraq’s election
Michael Rubin | Washington Examiner
If Iraq is to succeed, it is important to take a deep breath and celebrate that Iraq may now have its fifth successful transfer of power — in a region where many other leaders aspire to rule for life. That’s good for Iraq, good for the broader region, good for the US, and a notable juxtaposition to the dictatorship suffered by Iranians.
Over the past four years, American military planning in Iraq has counted on working with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a moderate Shiite Muslim who has managed to rebuild the country’s army, restore sovereignty and partner with both the United States and Iran to defeat the Islamic State. But the results of the weekend’s national elections in Iraq have torn the American assumptions asunder. - New York Times
Fourteen years after Muqtada al-Sadr’s militias fought American troops, the United States is preparing to work hand in hand with the charismatic Shiite cleric and his movement, hoping to find common cause in curtailing Iran’s influence in the wake of an upset Iraqi election. - Associated Press
Michael Knights writes: Whatever the headlines, the United States should feel neither disappointed by nor fearful of the results thus far. A stronger public endorsement of Haider al-Abadi's moderate, progressive vision for Iraq would have been reassuring for the United States and other Western allies of Iraq, but certain realities must be borne in mind. - Washington Institute
The results of Iraq’s national elections on May 12 may have been shocking, but they should not have been surprising, writes Kenneth M. Pollack in his latest AEIdeas blog. With fewer than 45 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot, it’s clear Iraqis were frustrated with their current crop of leaders. This helps explains why Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon coalition won a plurality. But the election itself is nothing but a prologue to the real political action. The vote was just an appetizer. The main course of Iraqi politics is always the process of government formation that follows. Continue here.
Muqtada al-Sadr has accepted Iranian patronage before, but he is almost as mercurial toward the Iranians as he is the Americans, writes Michael Rubin in a Washington Examiner op-ed. Sadr’s success does not necessarily translate into an Iranian ability to dictate to Iraq, as some journalists’ early reporting of the election would suggest. Find out why else we should be optimistic about Iraq’s future here.
IRAN: Iran's Military Power: What You Need to Know
By Chase Winter, Deutsche Welle: “Global Firepower Index, an online military ranking website, ranks Iran No. 13 in the world out of 136 countries.
FALL OF PALESTINE: STATE OF FAILURE, WHAT HAPPENED TO THE PALESTINIAN MOVEMENT; SUNNI VS. SHIA VIDEO
Sunni vs. Shi'a: Iran’s strategy
Reuel Marc Gerecht | AEI video
(Photo:The new era in Palestine. The arrival of Herbert Samuel as the first High Commissioner for Palestine in 1920. Samuel had promoted Zionism within the British Cabinet, beginning with his 1915 memorandum entitled The Future of Palestine. Beside him are Lawrence of Arabia, Emir Abdullah, Air Marshal Salmond and Wyndham Deedes.)
Sisi pushes unpopular economic reforms under IMF pressure
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi doubled down on his economic reform program during a Thursday meeting with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail and the governor of Egypt’s Central Bank, Tarek Amer. Presidential spokesman Bassam Radi said Sisi called for curbing public debt and increasing cash reserves. The president also recommended an initiative to encourage small and medium businesses across Egypt to curtail unemployment and boost exports. Despite unpopular subsidy cuts, the International Monetary Fund is pushing economic reforms as part of a loan program for the cash-strapped country. Read More
Mohmoud Farouk: For years, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have been facing a regional problem that needs an international mediator. [...] The absence of the United States will not just make it easier for other players like Russia to win another international battle in expanding its presence and power in the Mideast and Africa, but will also jeopardize international trade significantly -- and the U.S. could find itself in the middle of a war between its allies. - Washington Institute
WILL U.S. LOSE PAKISTAN TO CHINA, SHARIFF'S LAST STAND & THE POLITICS OF PAKISTAN'S TERROR PROXIES AS POLITICAL GROUPS
America cannot afford to lose Pakistan to China
(The National Interest) China has aggressively courted Pakistan as a potential ally.
PAKISTAN: Pakistan's 'Name Game' Gives Terror Groups a Pass
By Madeeha Anwar & Mubashir Zaidi, VOA: “Islamist cleric Hafiz Saeed, a U.S.-designated terrorist who allegedly was the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 160 people, is perhaps the most prominent leader accused of the tactic.”
Tunisia Islamists consolidate gains with municipal elections
Tunisia’s election commission announced Tuesday that independent candidates had received the most votes in municipal elections earlier this week, with 32.2%. The moderate Islamist Ennahda party received 28.6% of the vote, while the secular Nidaa Tunis party received 20.8%. However, Ennahda claimed victory as independents are not organized in a bloc. Read More
Tunisia's military votes for first time in 62 years
Tunisian military and security personnel voted in Tunisia's first local elections since the 2011 revolution, but some are worried that this could lead to the military becoming too political.
Political crisis stymies economic reforms in Tunisia
Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi suspended negotiations on a Cabinet reshuffle and economic reforms on Monday. Tunisia’s ruling parties failed to agree on the fate of Prime Minister Youssef Chahed as the secular Nidaa Tunis party called for his removal, a proposal rejected by the Islamist Ennahda party. Officials of the two parties also failed to agree on a new economic reform plan to solve Tunisia’s economic crisis. Read More
Farzin Nadimi writes: If what Iranian sources say is true—that the main objective of the rocket strike was to deter Israel and weaken the impact of the IDF’s own deterrent efforts—then subsequent events show it has failed. The IDF responded quickly and disproportionately by attacking “almost all Iranian-operated facilities in Syria,” according to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman. - Washington Institute
Syria: The Dangers of the Chosen Path
By James M. Dubik, Strategy Bridge: “The United States, with France, and Great Britain, was right in responding to Assad’s use of chemical weapons and, in doing so, defend the Chemical Weapons Convention. America’s longer-term Middle East strategy, however, is on the wrong path.”
FOR ISRAEL, HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY: Read more by Maj. Gen. Yadlin and special assistant Ari Heistein.
Russia is not in talks with the Syrian government about supplying advanced S-300 ground-to-air missiles and does not think they are needed, the Izvestia daily cited a top Kremlin aide as saying on Friday, in an apparent U-turn by Moscow. - Reuters
Israel responds to Golan Heights attack, hitting 'nearly all' Iranian targets in Syria
(Deutsche Welle) Israel has launched a large-scale rocket attack on several Iranian infrastructure targets in Syria. The strike comes after Israel accused Iranian-backed forces of firing at their frontline troops in the Golan Heights.
Israel puts Syria on guard after strikes on Iranian targets
Israel’s security Cabinet met Thursday in Tel Aviv to discuss rising tensions with Iran following a series of strikes on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps targets inside Syria in retaliation for missile attacks on Israeli soldiers in the occupied Golan Heights. In a statement posted on his Facebook page ahead of the Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “I gave the Assad regime a clear message: Our actions target Iranian forces in Syria. But if the Syrian army acts against us, we will take action against it.”
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, penned a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, demanding that the body condemn Iran for its attack on the Golan Heights.Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi in turn condemned Israel’s attacks on its Syrian military facilities, which the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said killed 15 Iranians. Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov expressed his country’s concern about the escalation and urged both countries to show restraint. However, Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa defended Israel's “right to defend itself against the sources of military danger” in a tweet largely seen as reflecting the position of Manama's patron, Saudi Arabia.
ISRAEL, IRAN: Iran Set Back in Syria After Israeli Airstrikes
By Amos Harel, Haaretz: “This time, the intelligence assessment was spot on. The Iranian reaction to previous airstrikes attributed to Israel arrived from the direction, at the time and in the manner Israel expected.”
Netanyahu in Moscow: Israeli-Russian cooperation takes shape
BY SHAIEL BEN-EPHRAIM
The visit illustrates his herculean efforts to foster a productive personal and geopolitical relationship with Putin
Israel strikes Iranian targets in Syria
Israel struck some 50 Iranian targets in Syria early this morning after Iranian forces allegedly launched 20 missiles toward Israeli positions in the occupied Golan Heights. The exchange of fire marks the first direct Iranian attack on Israeli troops and the largest Israeli military operation in Syria to date. The Iranian targets, which included military posts and weapons storage sites, all belonged to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force near Damascus and in the buffer zone with Israel. Israel said no Israelis were hurt and the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted four missiles, while 16 others landed in Syrian territory. Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus told reporters that Qasem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, personally ordered the attack. Another spokesperson said the Iranians still retained the military infrastructure to attack Israel but that the strikes set them back by “many months.”
Prior to the attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow to discuss Iran’s presence in Syria and the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. “I presented Israel's obligation and right to defend itself against Iranian aggression, from Syrian territory,” said Netanyahu. He added, “There is no basis to think that Russia will limit Israeli military operations in the region.” Read More
Suspected Israeli strikes kill nine pro-regime forces in Damascus
Israel allegedly struck a Syrian military facility in Damascus Tuesday night, killing nine pro-regime fighters, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The watchdog group said the facility "presumably" belongs to Iran and its ally Hezbollah. Syria in turn claimed to have intercepted two Israeli missiles fired toward the area.
Israel has not taken responsibility for the attack, which came after the military ordered the opening of public bomb shelters in the Golan Heights following reports of "irregular Iranian movements" in Syria. Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman consulted with the heads of Israel’s defense establishment and spoke with US Secretary of Defense James Mattis about the latest threats. Read More
Netanyahu and Putin talk Syria in Moscow
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today for talks about the escalating tensions between Israel and Syria. “In light of what is currently happening in Syria, it is necessary to ensure the continued coordination” between the Israeli and Russian militaries, Netanyahu said before departing. The meeting comes hours after alleged Israeli strikes on Syria and US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. Read More
Trump Now Needs to Bring Iran’s Economy to Its Knees
Richard Goldberg, New York Post
US withdraws from Iran nuclear deal
President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the United States is withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal and reinstating sanctions lifted under the 2015 accord. The president, however, kept the door open to a new agreement that would address Tehran's ballistic missile program and support for proxies in the region while further restricting its nuclear program over the long term. The announcement drew mixed reactions from US allies across the world. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Trump's “bold decision … to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran,” as did Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
The European parties to the deal — France,Germany and the United Kingdom — in contrast issued a statement expressing their “regret and concern.” They vowed to stay in the deal by “ensuring continuing economic benefits to the Iranian people,” setting up a possible showdown with Washington as it reinstates so-called secondary sanctions on nations that do business with Iran. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also condemned the US decision.
Hours after Trump’s announcement, oil prices rose by more than 3%, hitting $77.20 per barrel, a three-and-a-half-year high. However, Saudi Arabia indicated today that it may raise its oil output to “limit the impact of any supply shortages” resulting from the reimposed sanctions. Read More
How to think about the end of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action
Danielle Pletka | AEIdeas
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a lousy piece of work. But what are we doing next to force Iran to limit its nuclear program, end its ballistic missile program, and stop supporting terrorism?
Trump Effect Comes to Afghanistan
By James R. Van de Velde, RealClearDefense: “The primary strategic goals in Afghanistan for all the parties involved are not zero-sum. The Taliban wants the U.S. out (but don’t want to share governance with ISIS-K); the Iranians and Russians want the U.S. out too...
Trump’s instincts on Afghanistan are right, so what happened?
(War On The Rocks) Before agreeing in April to support President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, Sen. Rand Paul said Trump “told me over and over again in general we’re getting the hell out of [Afghanistan].” Based on my experiences during two combat deployments to Afghanistan in 2005 and 2011, the president’s instincts are spot-on correct.
A Path Forward for U.S. Government Spending in Afghanistan
For more than 16 years, U.S. assistance to Afghanistan has been enormous in scale and complexity. But how effective is U.S. spending when it comes to building a stable democracy in Afghanistan? How can the United States reduce its financial commitment while mitigating risks? Read more »