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Ed Webb

Israeli army launches retaliatory attack in Syria after Iranians strike Golan Heights -... - 1 views

  • the Israeli border with Syria
    • Ed Webb
       
      Absent a peace agreement, there is no Israeli *border* with Syria. There is a ceasefire line from the 1967 war. All land in the Golan Heights controlled by Israel is occupied territory according to international law, for all that Israel has announced its annexation of that territory.
  • This is the first time Israel directly accuses Iran of firing towards Israeli territory. During the Syrian Civil War errant fire struck the Golan several times; usually local organizations in southern Syria that are affiliated with Iran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime were behind those attacks
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported Wednesday that Israel has attacked targets of the Syrian military on the outskirts of Quneitra in the Golan Heights. 
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  • a Syrian report Tuesday accusing Israel of carrying out an attack on a military base south of Damascus, which was used by Iranian forces. According to reports, Israeli fighter jets entered Syrian airspace and struck Iranian missiles aimed at Israe
  • The Israeli military set out on an extensive retaliatory attack against Iranian targets and military bases in Syria early Thursday morning after Iranian forces fired 20 rockets at army outposts on the Golan Heights overnight.  
  • Israel attributes the Iranian attack to members of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. No injuries were reported as a result of the strike on Israeli territory
  • A source in the Israeli security establishment said this attack was the largest carried out by Israel since it signed on a disengagement agreement with Syria in May 1974. 
  • According to local reports in the Golan area, some of the targets attacked by the Israeli army were army posts as well as Iranian and Hezbollah militias in the Syrian Golan
  • The Israeli military further stated that the attack was specifically targeting Iranian posts in Syria and not in Lebanon
  • intelligence assessments earlier in the week anticipated that after U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he was withdrawing from the Iranian nuclear accord, Israel was likely to be targeted by rocket fire and Iran would try to retaliate
  • Tehran has issued several threats over the past month, saying that it would hurt Israel in response to a slew of attacks that were ascribed to the Israeli air force. The latest attack, carried out on May 9, claimed the lives of seven Iranians in the Syrian air force base T4.
Ed Webb

A Middle East Monarchy Hired American Ex-Soldiers To Kill Its Political Enemies. This C... - 0 views

  • “There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I was running it. We did it. It was sanctioned by the UAE within the coalition.”
  • The revelations that a Middle East monarchy hired Americans to carry out assassinations comes at a moment when the world is focused on the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, an autocratic regime that has close ties to both the US and the UAE
  • The UAE, with vast wealth but only about 1 million citizens, relies on migrant workers from all over the world to do everything from cleaning its toilets to teaching its university students. Its military is no different, paying lavish sums to eager US defense companies and former generals. The US Department of Defense has approved at least $27 billion in arms sales and defense services to the UAE since 2009.
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  • Spear Operations Group’s private assassination mission marks the confluence of three developments transforming the way war is conducted worldwide:Modern counterterrorism combat has shifted away from traditional military objectives — such as destroying airfields, gun emplacements, or barracks — to killing specific individuals, largely reshaping war into organized assassinations.War has become increasingly privatized, with many nations outsourcing most military support services to private contractors, leaving frontline combat as virtually the only function that the US and many other militaries have not contracted out to for-profit ventures.The long US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on elite special forces, producing tens of thousands of highly trained American commandos who can demand high private-sector salaries for defense contracting or outright mercenary work.
  • militarized contract killing, carried out by skilled American fighters
  • “There were guys that were basically doing what you said.” He was astonished, he said, by what he learned: “What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?” The mercenaries, he said, were “almost like a murder squad.”
  • US law makes it illegal to “conspire to kill, kidnap, maim” someone in another country. Companies that provide military services to foreign nations are supposed to be regulated by the State Department, which says it has never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country
  • with some exceptions, it is perfectly legal to serve in foreign militaries, whether one is motivated by idealism or money. With no legal consequences, Americans have served in the Israel Defense Forces, the French Foreign Legion, and even a militia fighting ISIS in Syria. Spear Operations Group, according to three sources, arranged for the UAE to give military rank to the Americans involved in the mission, which might provide them legal cover.
  • The commandos’ plans went awry, and the intelligence proved flawed. And their strike was far from surgical: The explosive they attached to the door was designed to kill not one person but everyone in the office
  • Private mercenaries operate outside the US military’s chain of command, so if they make mistakes or commit war crimes, there is no clear system for holding them accountable
  • Golan insists that he killed only terrorists identified by the government of the UAE, an ally of the US. But who is a terrorist and who is a politician? What is a new form of warfare and what is just old-fashioned murder for hire? Who has the right to choose who lives and who dies — not only in the wars of a secretive monarchy like the UAE, but also those of a democracy such as the US?
  • Golan said that during his company’s months-long engagement in Yemen, his team was responsible for a number of the war’s high-profile assassinations, though he declined to specify which ones. He argued that the US needs an assassination program similar to the model he deployed. “I just want there to be a debate,” he said. “Maybe I’m a monster. Maybe I should be in jail. Maybe I’m a bad guy. But I’m right.”
  • the country embeds foreigners in its military and gave the rank of major general to an American lieutenant colonel, Stephen Toumajan, placing him in command of a branch of its armed forces.
  • The US draws the line at combat; it does not hire mercenaries to carry out attacks or engage directly in warfare. But that line can get blurry. Private firms provide heavily armed security details to protect diplomats in war zones or intelligence officers in the field. Such contractors can engage in firefights, as they did in Benghazi, Libya, when two contractors died in 2012 defending a CIA post. But, officially, the mission was protection, not warfare
  • The people Spear did target, he and Gilmore said, were legitimate because they were selected by the government of the UAE, an ally of the United States that was engaged in a military action supported by the US. Gilmore said that he and Golan told the UAE they would never act against US interests. And Golan claimed that, based on his military experience, he could tell if a target was a terrorist after just a week or two of surveillance.
  • A little-known consequence of the war on terror, and in particular the 17 combined years of US warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, is that the number of special operations forces has more than doubled since 9/11, from 33,000 to 70,000. That’s a vast pool of crack soldiers selected, trained, and combat-tested by the most elite units of the US military, such as the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers. Some special operations reservists are known to engage in for-profit soldiering, said a high-level SEAL officer who asked not to be named. “I know a number of them who do this sort of thing,” he said. If the soldiers are not on active duty, he added, they are not obligated to report what they’re doing.
  • Gilmore said some were members of Al-Islah, some were clerics, and some were out-and-out terrorists — but he conceded he couldn’t be sure.BuzzFeed News has obtained one of the target cards. On it is a man’s name, photograph, telephone number, and other information. At the top right is the insignia of the UAE Presidential Guard.
  • During the Cold War, the CIA played a role in plots to assassinate foreign leaders, such as Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. Later in the Vietnam War, the US launched the Phoenix program, in which the CIA often teamed up with US military units to “neutralize” — or, critics say, assassinate — Viet Cong leaders. Even so, targeted killings were not a central pillar of US military strategy in Vietnam. And after Congress exposed CIA activities in the 1970s, the US banned assassinations of foreign leaders.
  • Under President George W. Bush, the CIA and the military used drones to kill terrorists, and the CIA developed covert assassination capabilities. President Barack Obama halted the agency’s secret assassination program but drastically ramped up the use of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Soon the CIA and the military were using the aircraft — piloted remotely using video monitors — to kill people whose names the US didn’t even know, through “signature strikes” based solely on a target’s associations and activities. President Donald Trump has further loosened the rules for drone strikes.
  • Only a uniformed officer can push the button that fires the drone’s missile and kills the target
  • Elisabeth Kendall, an expert on Yemen at the University of Oxford, points out that unlike al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, which try to seize power through violence, Al-Islah participates in the political process. But, she said, the US rationale for drone strikes has legitimized other countries’ pursuit of their own assassinations: “The whole very watery, vague notion of a war on terror has left the door wide open to any regime saying, ‘This is all a war on terror.’ ”
  • Golan said he models his assassination business on Israel’s targeted killing program, which has been underway since the country was founded, and which, despite some high-profile errors and embarrassments, he claims is done properly. He argues there are some terrorist enemies so dangerous and implacable — and so difficult to arrest — that assassination is the best solution.
  • Golan and Gilmore had another condition: They wanted to be incorporated into the UAE Armed Forces. And they wanted their weapons — and their target list — to come from uniformed military officers. That was “for juridical reasons,” Golan said. “Because if the shit hits the fan,” he explained, the UAE uniform and dog tags would mark “the difference between a mercenary and a military man.”
  • Gilmore acknowledged that some of the targets may have been people who merely fell out of favor with the ruling family. Referring to the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Gilmore said, “There is the possibility that the target would be someone who MBZ doesn’t like. We’d try to make sure that didn’t happen.”
  • Even though it failed to kill Mayo, the mercenaries’ bomb attack seems to have ushered in a new phase in the UAE’s war against Al-Islah. “It was the exclamation point that set the tone that Al-Islah was now going to be targeted,”
  • As 2016 progressed, those watching the deteriorating situation in Yemen began to notice that members of Al-Islah, and other clerics in Aden, were dropping dead at an alarming pace. “It does appear to be a targeted campaign,” said Gregory Johnsen of the Arabia Foundation, who in 2016 served on a UN panel investigating the Yemen war. “There have been 25 to 30 assassinations,” he said, though a few appear to be the work of ISIS.
  • One new member of the team, hired in early 2016, was the veteran of SEAL Team 6, Daniel Corbett, according to three sources and confirmed by photos. Corbett was a superb soldier, say those who know him, and had served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was still in the reserves, so the US military could deploy him at any moment; he collected a government salary; and he was supposed to report for monthly drills. And yet he was in Yemen on a private contract to work for a foreign military. It is unclear if he himself was involved in missions to assassinate anyone.
  • In a mysterious development, Corbett is currently in jail in Serbia, where he is being investigated for illegal handgun possession. The American veteran has been held there since February 2018.
  • “some variety of the future of warfare.”
Michael Fisher

Middle East News | Israel risks closing door to peace talks: Syria - 0 views

  • Syria warned Israel on Thursday it risked closing the door to renewed peace talks, a day after the Israeli parliament agreed to consider a bill that would make it far more difficult to return the occupied Golan.
  • "The current Israeli government of (Benjamin) Netanyahu is perfectly aware that Syria will not resume indirect talks brokered by Turkey unless this prime minister commits himself to a full withdrawal from the Golan," the foreign ministry said in a statement. "Syria's recovery of its occupied territory is non-negotiable as it is a right recognized by U.N. resolutions."
  • Israeli MPs passed a bill backed by Netanyahu's right-leaning government at first reading on Wednesday which would require any withdrawal from annexed territory to be approved by an absolute majority in the 120-seat parliament and then be put to a referendum within 80 days.
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  • "Through this action, Israel is once again defying the desire of the international community to achieve a comprehensive peace in the region in accordance with international resolutions and the principle of the exchange of land for peace.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Engagement is Still On," by Joshua Landis - 0 views

  • Washington’s desire to improve relations with Damascus has not come to an end, despite the claims of several Kuwaiti and Lebanese papers, which have been insisting that US engagement with Syria is over. Their false reports have been accompanied by a barrage of articles produced by Bush era diplomats proclaiming the failure of Obama’s engagement with Syria.
  • The real problem for Obama’s Mid East policy is that Netanyahu is refusing to pursue peace. The lynch pin of Obama’s Middle East policy is Arab-Israeli peace. Everything else on his agenda flows from his promise that he can deliver on a two state solution. Syria will end its support for militant groups that fight Israel if it gets back the Golan and a credible effort is made to provide a modicum of justice for Palestinians. Iran would lose much of its influence in the region as a result. Ahmedinejad’s anti-Israel rantings would lose their purchase. As it is now, almost every Arab is hoping that Iran will get the bomb – if only to counterbalance Israel’s overwhelming military superiority. It is this superiority that allows it to scoff at both Syria and the Palestinians – and, indeed, scoff at the US.
  • Netanyahu knows Obama will be paralyzed by congress. He is enjoying his power. One can only wonder whether the US president will have a better bargaining position with Israel once Iran has acquired a nuclear bomb?
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  • So long as Israel occupies the Golan Heights, Syria and Washington will remain adversaries, and engagement will be very difficult and limited. The question that hovers over Syria-US relations today is whether the Obama administration will turn to the Syrian peace track in the hopes of salvaging something of its Middle East policy. There seems to be no positive movement on the Palestinian peace track, so Obama may be forced to look north.
  • The seeming failure of America’s Palestine policy means that Damascus, while hoping for the best, will expect little. US diplomats are constantly reminding Syrian officials that it is not in their power to rescind sanctions. They invoke the strength of the pro-Israel lobby in congress as an excuse for their impotence. What is Syria to make of this? Naturally, Syrian officials are loath to do favors for Americans who claim to be able to do little in return.
Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » "Bush White House Wanted to Destroy the Syrian Sta... - 0 views

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Ed Webb

Syria Comment » Archives » Washington Reaffirms Sanctions on Syria as Gift to... - 1 views

  • The decision by European governments to purchase Airbus parts from the US may have seemed like good business and political practice in the past. It has EU politicians gnashing their teeth today. Sarkozy must be considering changing Airbus’ purchasing percentages. Little wonder that today’s headline about Sarkozy is: Sarkozy cool on relationship with Obama.
  • Washington foreign policy mavens want Israel safe at any price. No Arab resistance to Israel is acceptable even as the US refuses to punish the Jewish State for continuing to push Palestinians off what land remains to them. Even more important to Damascus is Washington’s refusal to challenge Prime Minister Netanyahu’s assertion that Israel will not return the Golan Heights to Syria even for peace and security guarantees, which President Assad has made clear he is willing to provide. The only conclusion he can make is that resistance alone will win back the Golan. Israel is counting on unwavering US support and its military superiority to convince the Syrians to abandon their claims.
  • such a policy makes the US enemies it doesn’t need.
Ed Webb

The Israel-Hezbollah Channel - 0 views

  • Israel and Lebanon have a long history of tension: officially, they have been at war without interruption since 1948, and they have not agreed on an officially demarcated border—nor, after several wars, have they formally agreed to a cease-fire. Nevertheless, a strange forum for conflict management has grown up between them. Since 2006, when UNIFIL was reauthorized by UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1701, peacekeepers have presided over more than one hundred tripartite meetings, which bring together officers from Israel, Lebanon, and UNIFIL to manage disputes and technical issues along the Blue Line.5 The primary belligerents along the border are Hezbollah and the Israeli military, but the Lebanese military serves as Hezbollah’s interlocutors in what has become known as the Tripartite Process.
  • In a region rife with standing conflicts between belligerents who have little or no direct channels of communication, UNIFIL provides a rare example of conflict management in an extremely unstable and opaque environment. Its track record offers some suggestions of promising approaches to manage and mitigate conflict, while avoiding unwanted escalation. But it also offers stark warnings of the limitations of a narrow and indirect approach in the absence of enduring cease-fires, treaties, or other more robust conflict-resolution mechanisms
  • its newly muscular force with strong international political backing created perhaps the only sustained, regular, and efficacious channel of communications between Middle East belligerents in an active conflict
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  • UNIFIL makes a precarious model for conflict management. Despite its successes, both Israel and Hezbollah routinely attack UNIFIL’s legitimacy in public. The population of southern Lebanon expresses widespread skepticism about the peacekeeping mission’s intentions and loyalties, despite the benefits they reap from UNIFIL, which not only reduces conflict but serves as the area’s largest employer.11 Many residents of southern Lebanon and supporters of Hezbollah believe that UNIFIL serves Israeli and American interests and is unlikely to act to protect civilians during future conflicts
  • The original UNIFIL mission deployed in 1978 with three missions: to confirm Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, to restore “international peace and security,” and to restore the authority of the government of Lebanon in the border region. None of these missions were achieved. Israel never fully withdrew, and in 1982 extended its occupation deeper into Lebanese territory. On the Lebanese side, state authority no longer existed, as the nation was riven by the 1975–90 civil war. A quisling militia eventually known as the South Lebanon Army served as an Israeli proxy.13 Hezbollah formed in 1982 in response to the Israeli occupation, and over the following decade grew into the dominant local force fighting Israel. Lebanon’s national army was reconstituted after the Taif Agreement of 1989 paved the way for an end to the country’s civil war. Even as other militias disbanded or had their fighters absorbed into the regular military, Hezbollah alone maintained an autonomous militia. Israel still occupied about one-tenth of Lebanon’s territory, along the southern border, and Hezbollah continued to lead the armed resistance. In 2000, Israel finally withdrew from most of Lebanese territory, but continued to occupy high ground on the mountain of Jabal al-Sheikh, known as Shebaa Farms, as well as the village of Ghajar, which contains critical water sources.14 Later, it also claimed some Lebanese territorial waters in an area where underwater oil and gas exploration is underway.15 Citing Israel’s continuing occupation, as well as the Israeli air force’s daily overflights of Lebanon, Hezbollah spurned calls from some of its Lebanese rivals to disarm or integrate into the national army.16 Tensions regularly flared along the border, and finally boiled over into war in July 2006.
  • Initially, Hezbollah preferred a UN resolution that would leave it sovereign in southern Lebanon. But Lebanon’s government, and significant quarters of Lebanese public opinion, wanted to reassert state sovereignty in the zone of southern Lebanon that hitherto had been solely under Hezbollah’s control. Israel and the United States, by contrast, entered the cease-fire negotiations with unrealistic hopes that they could achieve through peacekeeping what they had failed to do through violence: disarm Hezbollah
  • UNSCR 1701, which led to a cessation of hostilities on August 14, 2006
  • Immediately upon implementing the cease-fire, UNIFIL peacekeepers initiated a process that was not specified in the new mandate but which has become, in the eleven years since the cessation of hostilities until the time of this writing, the most successful element of the mission: the standing, direct negotiations between the Israeli and Lebanese militaries, under UN auspices
  • this somewhat informal mechanism has now met more than one hundred times without a single walkout from either side. It appears to be the only place where Israeli and Lebanese officials formally and directly interact
  • In the context of the Middle East, this forum is especially remarkable. Most of the region’s running conflicts lack even tactical communication between adversaries. Relatively straightforward arrangements such as temporary cease-fires, prisoner exchanges, or safe passage for civilians have been tortuous and at times virtually impossible in regional conflicts. Belligerents often refuse to recognize each other even on a most basic level. If Israel and Lebanon (and, by extension, Hezbollah) have managed to build a rudimentary channel despite their history and the political obstacles to communication, then perhaps—using a similar approach—other belligerents in the region might also inaugurate conflict-­management channels or CBMs.
  • Its approximately 10,500 troops generate economic activity for southern Lebanon; after the Lebanese government, UNIFIL is the largest employer in the area.
  • Hezbollah is a regional military power, operating in tandem with Iran as infantry or trainers in Iraq, Yemen, and possibly elsewhere. In Syria, Hezbollah has played perhaps the most critical military role on the government’s side. Inside Lebanon, Hezbollah has moved from being a strong faction to being the strongest, today holding the balance of power domestically, with the ability to dominate the complex political negotiations that determine who holds the presidency. In 2013, the European Union as a whole joined Israel, the United States, and some individual European governments in listing Hezbollah’s “armed wing” as a terrorist group. (Hezbollah itself denies it has any separate armed wing, making such a designation tantamount to naming the entire organization.)
  • UNIFIL’s best direct relationship is with the Lebanese Army. It cannot officially communicate with Hezbollah, and its channels to the Israeli military, while stronger than before 2006, are still limited
  • On one hand, Hezbollah and Israel have both benefited from UNIFIL’s core functions: development projects for poor denizens of the border region; demarcation of the Blue Line; deconfliction, de-escalation, conflict management, and communication between belligerents; intelligence gathering; and a unique forum in which armies from two nations at war routinely meet for direct talks and resolve technical issues even as the political conflict between their governments continues unabated. On the other hand, both belligerents routinely have undermined UNIFIL, attacking its legitimacy and performance in public forums while praising it in private; engaging in prohibited military operations; and refusing to extend any political support to the negotiations that they joined at a military level.
  • “It’s a conflict-management institution, not a conflict-resolution institution,” observed Timur Goksel, a UNIFIL veteran who worked with the mission over the course of two decades and has been based in both Israel and Lebanon. “It offers adversaries a way out. They can use UNIFIL as an excuse. It opens a way out of major conflict. This is what UNIFIL is all about.”
  • The disputed village of Ghajar, which has long been a flashpoint between the two sides, exemplifies the limits of the existing channels of communication and negotiation. The Blue Line passes directly through the village. Its inhabitants are Alawites who previously lived under Syrian rule on territory that today is claimed by Lebanon.36 Israel currently controls the entire village. Israeli presence in the northern half of Ghajar entails a permanent violation of the Blue Line. The situation is further complicated by the lack of pressure from the village’s residents, who appear content to operate as part of Israel. Israel has committed in principle to withdrawing from the northern portion of the village, but the details of how to do that have eluded all parties.37
  • Hezbollah operates in southern Lebanon with full independence. It might defer to the Lebanese Army or UNIFIL in order to avoid embarrassment or minor mishaps, but it can freely circumvent even the most symbolic of checks
  • Hezbollah continues to hold sovereign power of arms and operates without limitation from the government of Lebanon, UNIFIL, or any other force
  • Hezbollah has greatly increased its military capacity since joining the Syrian war as a pivotal combatant in 2012. The Lebanese nonstate actor has emerged as the premier urban combat and infantry force on the side of the Syrian government. It has engaged in wide-scale maneuver warfare, and has engaged in integrated warfare, involving air force support, with professional forces from Iran, Russia, and Syria. Hezbollah has helped form new militias and has led coordinated assaults with militia support involving groups and fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, and elsewhere.45 Reports suggest that Hezbollah has also acquired a new arsenal of long-range missiles and land-to-sea missiles, which greatly increases its deterrent capacity against Israel and could enable it to threaten more Israeli targets than it could in 2006
  • With the Syrian war potentially entering a closing phase, from which Hezbollah and the Syrian government will emerge victorious, several analysts have refocused their attention on the latent Israel-Hezbollah conflict
  • Israel and Lebanon are formally still at war, and no closer to a permanent cease-fire than they were when UNSCR 1701 came into force on August 14, 2006. Whereas the Israeli government and military are unitary actors on one side of the Blue Line, the other side has a bedeviling array of potential belligerents with competing interests. These possible participants include but are not limited to Hezbollah, the Lebanese government, Palestinian factions, the Syrian government, and possibly some Syrian rebel factions, although most Syrian rebels in the Golan have either cooperated with Israel or remained neutral. UNIFIL can call the Lebanese Army to settle a crisis, but then must rely on the Lebanese Army, itself strained by pressures stemming from the war in Syria, to make effective contact with other players
  • Whether technical talks and a bare-bones conflict-management channel can, in fact, shift the political opportunities is precisely the question raised by UNIFIL’s record since 2006. UNIFIL’s example suggests that military-military talks have utility but are unlikely to drive political resolution. The UNIFIL model may be a promising approach for conflicts between belligerents with strained or nonexistent diplomatic relations, but it is a model for managing conflict and avoiding unintended escalations, not for resolving conflict and reversing escalations that are intentional or are based on mistrust and miscalculation
  • “It’s the only mission that speaks to two countries that are still at war,” noted one UNIFIL official. “This works if parties don’t want to go to war. It can’t prevent a war from happening.”
  • Unless a government or nonstate actor has openly and expressly deputized a military channel to negotiate a political resolution, there is no evidence that technical talks will prompt a political dialogue—simply because some participants hope for it to do so—much less a resolution
  • UNIFIL’s record as an arbiter or honest broker does not appear to have changed any policy position on the part of Hezbollah or the government of Israel. A technical channel cannot create a new political climate
  • UNIFIL’s conflict-management paradigm may, paradoxically, increase risks by leaving political problems unresolved. “There is no doubt the UNIFIL mission has acted as shock absorber for local tensions and maintained a negative peace, that is, it has prevented the escalation of minor incidents into large-scale conflict,” the researcher Vanessa Newby concluded after conducting fifty interviews of UNIFIL officials and others who deal with the mission.54 “But its presence appears to be sustaining the conditions of conflict more than it is resolving them.”
  • successfully bolstered the Lebanese military’s function and standing as a state institution
  • If either Hezbollah or Israel shifted its cost-benefit calculus and decided it was more preferable to go to war than maintain the status quo (as Israel had in advance of the summer of 2006), then UNIFIL’s mechanisms would provide almost no peacemaking or conflict-avoidance potential
  • Many of the Middle East’s conflict areas are plagued with similar problems and thus are ripe for UNIFIL-like channels, managed by neutral third parties that can avoid accidental escalations, act as a clearing house for airing grievances and seeking technical solutions to relatively small technical problems, and potentially manage aspects of open conflict if it emerges. Such channels could pave the way for delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen or exchanging prisoners in Syria. The model is for a standing body that is not ad hoc nor of limited duration, and thus can establish trust over multiple iterations of dialogue and conflict management.
  • the UNIFIL case illustrates the broader problem with applying a military (or security, or conflict-management) paradigm to inherently political problems. Such a forum can be an effective long-term intermediary, but only for tactical matters. The conflict between Israel and Hezbollah is a political one
  • The field of critical security studies has pushed the field of academic political science to incorporate political concerns into its definition of security, but minimized the hard security concerns that make life dangerous in conflict zones.55 The balance of security and politics is not merely a theoretical concern; it drives the persistence of deadly conflict in the Middle East. Both hard security and political grievance must be addressed, even if unfairly, in order to resolve a conflict. A similar dynamic shapes the need to address process as well as policy. A satisfactory forum is required for belligerents to talk at all. Forums like UNIFIL, or the Madrid Peace Conference (where parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict met in 1991), create the space and relationships that are a precondition for any substantial negotiation. Yet process does not suffice if no common policy framework can be reached on the central matters of dispute. No amount of tripartite meetings at the UNIFIL headquarters will compel the political leadership in Israel or Hezbollah to reformulate their core goals
  • The Middle East needs more UNIFILs, but it is crucial to keep in mind the limitations of a conflict-management approach if such forums are to be useful for advancing long-term security. They are no substitute for politics.
Ed Webb

Palestinian in Israel - Foreign Policy - 0 views

  • “I don’t use the term Arab-Israeli,” said the 30-year-old journalist, who was born in the Galilee and now lives in the northern city of Haifa. “We are Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. It’s very important for us, the terms and the terminology we use.”
  • Arab-Israeli—the official media and Israeli government term for the 20 percent of Israel’s almost 9 million citizens who are Arab-Palestinian—is increasingly unpopular among the people it’s meant to describe. Only 16 percent of this population wants to be called Arab-Israeli, according to a 2017 survey by the University of Haifa professor Sammy Smooha provided to Foreign Policy.
  • Last summer’s adoption of the new nation-state law, which demoted the status of both the Arabic language and non-Jewish minorities in Israel, accelerated an ongoing shift in the public identity of the Palestinian population in Israel. It is a political statement to use Palestinian as a modifier—a link to cousins in the West Bank and Gaza and an identity distinct from fellow Jewish Israeli citizens.
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  • the increasingly assertive identity of Palestinians in Israel runs parallel to an ongoing reframing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a civil rights struggle, both in Israel and the occupied territories
  • Palestinian citizens of Israel—also now referred to as Palestinians inside Israel, ’48 Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, Palestinian Israelis, Arab-Israelis—are part of the communities that remained inside the so-called Green Line drawn between Israel and Jordan after the 1948 war. They include Druze (a religious minority), Bedouins, Christians, and Muslims. This group, in theory, has the same rights as Jewish Israelis. In practice, though, they’ve long faced institutional discrimination, and about half of the population lives in poverty, the highest rate in Israel. Even the Druze, who have historically been the most integrated into Israeli society, including serving in the Israel Defense Forces, are furious that the new nation-state law targets them, too. (Among the different Druze communities, a minority is located in the occupied Golan Heights and still rejects Israeli citizenship and identifies as Syrian.)
  • with talk in Israel and the Palestinian territories of a two-state solution shifting now toward a one-state reality—be it either one binational state or one Jewish state where not all Palestinians have equal rights—some Palestinians inside Israel are asserting these two parts of their identity as the core of a more rights-based discourse
  • one significant finding of Smooha’s data is not simply that Arab-Israeli is an unpopular option but rather that more people are rejecting the Israeli part of the identity all together. Since 2003, about 30 percent of respondents have reported that they prefer the term “Palestinian Arab in Israel.” But while in 2003 just 3.7 percent said they prefer the term “Palestinian Arab” (which doesn’t reference their Israeli component at all), in 2017 that number rose to 17 percent
  • “We are not here nor there,” she said. “They [outsiders] think the ’48 [Arabs] live so well. We are poor! In the West Bank, they think that we ’48 Arabs are like Jews. … And here the Jews say we are Arabs.”
Ed Webb

Countering Christian Zionism in the Age of Trump | MERIP - 0 views

  • As Christian Zionists—Hagee is the founder of the main US Christian Zionist organization, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Jeffress regularly preaches the ideology on Fox news—the two men’s remarks reflect their belief that the modern state of Israel is the result of biblical prophecy. This belief centers around the idea that 4,000 years ago God promised the land to the Jews, who will rule it until Jesus’ return to Jerusalem and the rapture. Not all will benefit from this end of times scenario: While Christians will be saved and “live forever with Christ in a new heaven and earth,” those adhering to other religions who do not convert to Christianity will be sent to hell.
  • Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians—including those who are Christian—is either ignored or perceived as required to achieve the end result. In this vein, Christian Zionists consider Israel’s expansion into the West Bank via illegal settlements a positive development and even support Israeli expansion into Jordan’s East Bank.
  • Jeffress, for example, once said that Judaism, Islam and Hinduism “lead people…to an eternity of separation from God in hell,” and Hagee suggested in a 1990s sermon that Hitler was part of God’s plan to get Jewish people “back to the land of Israel.” Yet when questioned about the decision to include such speakers in the ceremony’s lineup, White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said, “I honestly don’t know how that came to be.”
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  • About a quarter of US adults identify as evangelical Christian, and 80 percent of them express the belief that the modern state of Israel and the “re-gathering of millions of Jewish people to Israel” are fulfilments of biblical prophecy that show the return of Jesus is drawing closer. Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, argues that Christian Zionism is now the “majority theology” among white US evangelicals.
  • the US media and political analysts often approach the Israel lobby as if it were composed solely of Jewish supporters, whose numbers are in fact far smaller than Christian Zionists—AIPAC only boasts 100,000 members, for instance, compared to CUFI’s reported five million—and who are also deeply divided on US policy on Palestine-Israel
  • Not only do other lobby groups, such as CUFI, wield as much or more influence as AIPAC (financial and otherwise), but AIPAC, as MJ Rosenberg wrote in The Nation, “is not synonymous with Jews.” Of its 100,000 members, he explained, “most are Jewish but…many are evangelical (and other) Christians.”
  • Activists argue that while Christian Zionism may be a broadly held belief, it is not deeply held. “For most people who espouse this theology, it’s not the center of their belief,” Jonathan Brenneman, a Christian Palestinian-American activist, told me. “When people are confronted with the reality of what is going on in Palestine, the theology often falls apart.”
  • While the specific tenets of today’s Christian Zionism emerged in the nineteenth century, the movement’s ideological roots go back centuries, to the era during which Christianity became part of the Roman Empire under Constantine in the third century AD, stretching to the Crusades and then European colonialism—all cases in which plunder was accomplished under the cover of Christian ideology, namely the idea of the righteousness of Christian domination over non-Christian land and people
  • evangelist John Nelson Darby, who through missionary tours across North America popularized the end of times narrative and Jews’ role in it. In 1891, fellow preacher William Blackstone petitioned US President Benjamin Harrison to consider Jewish claims to Palestine “as their ancient home”—five years before Theodor Herzl’s call for a Jewish homeland. Subsequent influential evangelists, such as Cyrus Ingerson Scofield, preached how the first telltale sign of the world coming to an end would be Jews returning to the Holy Land. Scofield’s widely read 1909 annotated Bible proclaimed these tenets.
  • Falwell and fellow Christian Zionist preachers like Pat Robertson of The 700 Club emphasized the idea that God will only support the United States if the United States supports Israel. “Robertson has described hurricanes and financial prosperity in the US as related to the US position on Israel,” said Burge, “and Falwell used to say that if America backs away from supporting Israel, God will no longer bless America.”
  • Christian Zionism’s merging of religion and politics has been the driving force behind its more recent influence on US policy. While Trump does not purport to hold evangelical beliefs, he carefully caters to his white evangelical base, gaining their support through the US embassy move and support for Israeli annexation of the Golan Heights and the West Bank, as well as through the choice of Mike Pence as vice president.
  • A 2017 poll by Lifeway Research, for example, demonstrated the generational divide. Only nine percent of older respondents considered the “rebirth” of Israel in 1948 as an injustice to Palestinians, while 62 percent disagreed and 28 percent said they weren’t sure. Among younger evangelicals, nineteen percent said that Israel’s creation was an injustice to Palestinians, 34 percent disagreed, and almost half weren’t sure.
  • “Christian Zionism is an extremist ideology, but it’s also incredibly broadly held and is part of a larger Christian package of belief,” he said. “Most people who hold it don’t realize they’re holding really hateful beliefs; it’s very much based on ignorance and insularity.” Brenneman adds that such beliefs are rarely challenged, particularly because the mainstream media plays into them by emphasizing, among other tropes, the idea that Israel is always in grave danger from the Palestinians or surrounding Arab states. The result: When Christian Zionists learn of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, their belief system is vulnerable to disruption.
  • “The vast majority of people in the American church want to honor God and are pursuing the goodness of the world,” Cannon told me. “They are open to their mind being changed, but their underlying concern is they think if they shift their political perspective, they won’t be faithful to theology.” Cannon says using the example of Israeli settlements is productive in this regard. “It’s straightforward to show people that they are not following the basic Christian tenet of ‘love thy neighbor’ if they are supporting those who build a settlement on Palestinian farmland that’s been in that family for decades or a century,” she said. “The current realities speak for themselves. We show them that they can honor God while advocating for Palestinian rights, too.”
  • “Christian Zionism is not just the John Hagee’s of the world, but is found in Protestant mainline churches, including those that have divested from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation,” he said. “It’s a more nuanced and diffused theology found at the level of hymns as well as in the pulpit.” This phenomenon is also part of what liberation theologian Marc H. Ellis calls the “ecumenical deal” between Christians and Jews, in which mainline Christians are silent on Israel’s abuse of Palestinians to repent for Christianity’s historic anti-Semitism.
  • Abuata says the Christian movement for Palestinian rights has grown significantly in the past decade, noting that 10 years ago he wouldn’t have been welcomed into 80 percent of the mainline Christian denominations and churches with which he now coordinates.
  • While Christian Zionism has certainly internationalized in recent years, growing in popularity in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, Abuata says the movement countering Christian Zionism has as well.
Ed Webb

The Death of the Palestinian Cause Has Been Greatly Exaggerated | Newlines Magazine - 1 views

  • For the last 10 years, Western (and even Arab) pundits have repeatedly questioned the place of Palestine in the pan-Arab psyche. They surmised that the Arab Spring had refocused Arab minds on their problems at home. They assumed that battling tyrannical regimes and their security apparatuses, reforming corrupt polities and decrepit health care and education systems, combating terrorism and religious extremism, whittling back the power of the military, and overcoming economic challenges like corruption and unemployment would take precedence over an unsolved and apparently unsolvable cause.
  • reforming the Arab world’s political systems and the security and patronage networks that keep them in power and allow them to dominate their populations appears to be just as arduous a task as resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
  • The difference now is not that Arab populaces have abandoned Palestine. Western and regional observers say the muted outrage over affronts like American support for the annexation of the Golan Heights or recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, or even the Abraham Accords and the subsequent sycophantic embrace of Israel in the Gulf is an indicator of Arab public opinion, that it signals a loss of interest in the cause.It is not. Arabs are of course not of a single mind on any particular issue, nor is it possible to gauge public opinion under tyrannical regimes. But it is indicative of the fact that these authoritarians no longer see the pan-Arab Palestinian cause and supporting it as vital to their survival. They have discovered that inward-looking, nationalistic pride is the key to enduring in perpetuity. It is the final step in the dismantling of pan-Arabism as a political force, one that will shape the region’s fortunes and its states’ alliances in the years and decades to come.
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  • Nowhere is this shift in attitude more abjectly transparent than in the Gulf states’ media outlets, which hew closely to the state line and even go beyond it in an attempt to out-hawk official policy, which by comparison appears reasonable and measured.
  • few Arab leaders have ever actually done anything for the Palestinians beyond rhetorical support for the cause, but they were happy to use the prospect of Palestine to keep their populations in check. The late former President Hafez al-Assad imposed a multi-decade state of emergency and mobilization to justify his tyrannical hold over Syria while awaiting the mother of all battles with the enemy, all without firing a single shot across the border since 1973. The leader of the beating heart of Arabism intervened in Lebanon’s civil war and had no qualms massacring pan-Arab nationalists and their Palestinian allies, or to recruit his Amal militia allies to starve Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. His son and successor, President Bashar al-Assad, negotiated with Israel via intermediaries, ready to sell out his allies in Iran and Hezbollah, even as he declared his fealty to the resistance.
  • Jordan violently suppressed demonstrators protesting the attacks on Gaza, who apparently did not receive the memo that 27 years should have been enough time to accept Israel’s position on the conflict. In Egypt, despite its testy relationship with Hamas and its participation in the blockade of Gaza, it is still political and social suicide to publicly embrace normalization as a concept.
  • There was great presumption and folly in the grandiose naming of a convenient political deal between unelected monarchs and a premier accused of bribery and corruption, which was brokered by an American president who paid hush money to a porn star, after the patriarch of the prophets of Israel and Islam.
  • an obvious and transparent outgrowth of the Gulf states’ normalization deals with Israel, though it is curious to me why they feel the need to amplify Israel’s narrative of the conflict if they did not think public opinion was already on the side of normalization
  • The Gulf states have long had backchannels and secret dealings with the Israelis and developed a penchant for Israeli digital surveillance tools. Egypt needed Israel to destroy extremist militants in Sinai. And Morocco, Oman, and Qatar all had different levels of diplomatic ties.
  • We don’t know broadly whether a majority of Arabs care about Palestine or not, though every indicator points to the fact that they still do
  • Riyadh’s media outlets have taken on a prominent role in expressing public sympathy for Israel and its positions
  • In Saudi Arabia, a monumental shift is underway to neuter the power of the clerical establishment in favor of a more nationalistic vision of progress that gives primacy to Saudi identity. According to Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, in a recent interview, this identity derives from religious heritage but also from cultural and historic traditions. MBS has defanged the hated Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, introduced social reforms that dismantle some of the restrictions on women, detained numerous clerics who criticized his policies, both foreign and domestic, and has been elevated by his surrogates into an almost messianic figure sent to renew the faith and empower Saudi identity through KPI-infused economic progress initiatives like Vision 2030. He has also, of course, arrested those who sought to pursue activism and reform and those who criticized the pace and manner of his revolution.
  • where nationalist pride is intermingled with the quality of life and performance metrics of a technocratic capitalist state, albeit one where the reins are held by only a handful of families
Ed Webb

The Deportation of Omar Shakir: The Israeli Supreme Court and the BDS Movement - Lawfare - 0 views

  • Two judgments handed down just days apart—one by the Israeli Supreme Court and the other by the European Court of Justice—highlight a growing jurisprudential divide between Israeli and international courts on the status of Israeli settlements in the West Bank
  • On Nov. 12, the European Court of Justice ruled that Israeli food products from the West Bank and Golan Heights must be explicitly labeled as coming from “Israeli settlements,” rather than from Israel itself. The ruling, which cited European Union regulations designed to allow consumers to make informed choices about their food purchases, held that since international humanitarian law limits Israeli jurisdiction in these territories to that of an “occupying power,” it would be misleading to represent such products as being “from Israel.”
  • stakes of the long-anticipated Israeli Supreme Court judgment in Human Rights Watch v. Interior Minister, handed down just a week earlier. In its judgment, the court upheld a government decision to expel Human Rights Watch’s (HRW’s) Israel and Palestine director, Omar Shakir, from the country, based on a law barring entry by foreigners who promote boycotts of Israel or its West Bank settlements. The case marked the first time the court was called upon to rule on the law’s application to boycott-related activities directed primarily at the settlements, rather than at Israel itself.
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  • In 2015, in Avneri v. The Knesset, a divided court upheld most of the 2011 law, striking down a provision providing for punitive damages in civil tort cases and construing the law narrowly in order to limit liability to instances where there is a proven causal link to concrete damage. (For more on Avneri, see here and here.) Most significantly for our purposes, a majority of justices in Avneri upheld the law’s contentious provision (which applies equally to the 2017 amendment), equating settlement boycotts to boycotts against Israel as a whole.
  • A boycott directed at an individual company due to its specific behavior, by contrast (for example, because it engaged in discrimination or in some other problematic activity), would not risk running afoul of the law.
  • If actively promoting HRW’s stance on settlements is enough to demonstrate ongoing promotion of boycotts, any new employee could face similar consequences. Israeli employees of HRW, too, could face civil or administrative ramifications simply for implementing HRW’s stated policy of calling on businesses “to stop operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as part of their duty to avoid complicity in human rights abuses.”
  • Back in 2016, when HRW first requested a foreign expert visa for Shakir, an American citizen, the Foreign Ministry objected on the grounds that HRW itself was biased against Israel, “falsely waving the flag of human rights” in the service of “Palestinian propaganda.” Shortly thereafter, the ministry withdrew its objection, citing political and diplomatic considerations, and the Interior Ministry granted Shakir his visa. An administrative petition by the right-leaning organization Shurat HaDin, among others, led to an additional reversal, and the visa was revoked. The new decision was based on a memorandum issued by the Strategic Affairs Ministry (charged in Israel with heading up the fight against BDS), which argued that the problem was Shakir himself—who had called in the past for boycotts of Israel and the settlements—rather than HRW
  • The appellants, for their part, challenged the constitutionality of the 2017 amendment, arguing that even though foreigners don’t have a right to enter the country, they should not be denied a visa or fear deportation for expressing unpopular views. Mainly, they claimed, the law violates the free speech and equality rights of Israelis (and Palestinians), whose ability to engage freely with foreigners the government doesn’t agree with is limited by the law. They also argued that Shakir’s activities—particularly those undertaken on behalf of HRW—shouldn’t be considered boycott activities, since they were motivated by a desire to combat specific human rights violations and to encourage private corporations to respect their human rights obligations under international law
  • While once again acknowledging that the law doesn’t apply to boycotts targeting specific behaviors, the court stated: An individual who negates the very legitimacy of the State of Israel or its control of the Area, and seeks to undermine it through a boycott, is [included in the law], even if he disguises his position with the rhetoric of human rights or international law. The test is a substantive one, and the words the de-legitimization campaign wraps itself in do not grant it immunity.
  • Several amici from both sides of the political spectrum, including NGO Monitor, Shurat HaDin and Amnesty International, submitted briefs to the court. A group of former foreign service officials also joined the proceedings as amici, arguing that removing Shakir would cause substantial and lasting damage to Israel’s image as an open and democratic society.
  • In Human Rights Watch, the court clarified that what is at stake is also, potentially, the “delegitimization of Israel and of its policy” (emphasis added).
  • the boycott laws, coupled with the court’s continued acquiescence to the law’s conflation of Israel with Israeli settlements, threaten to impair the ability of citizens and noncitizens alike to engage in free discourse on one of the most difficult issues facing the country. They risk undermining the ability of human rights groups to defend human rights and promote respect for international law when their positions and interpretations of the law do not align with those of the Israeli government. They also threaten to further erode the all-important distinction in a democracy between delegitimization of the country itself and criticism of government policy
  • a growing disconnect between the discourse on settlements in Israel (and now, perhaps, the United States) and abroad
Ed Webb

The Ukraine War: A Global Crisis? | Crisis Group - 0 views

  • The Ukraine conflict may be a matter of global concern, but states’ responses to it continue to be conditioned by internal political debates and foreign policy priorities.
  • China has hewed to a non-position on Russian aggression – neither condemning nor supporting the act, and declining to label it as an invasion – while lamenting the current situation as “something we do not want to see”. With an eye to the West, Beijing abstained on rather than vetoing a Security Council resolution calling on Russia to withdraw from Ukraine, and reports indicate that two major Chinese state banks are restricting financing for Russian commodities. Beijing now emphasises the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty in its statements, a point that had either been absent from earlier statements or more ambiguously discussed as “principles of the UN Charter”.
  • the worldview that major powers can and do occasionally break the rules
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  • Beijing’s opposition to U.S. coalition building and expansion of military cooperation with Indo-Pacific countries. Overall, Beijing’s instinct is to understand the Ukraine crisis largely through the lens of its confrontation with Washington.
  • Beijing will want to ensure its position is not overly exposed to Western criticism and to safeguard its moral standing in the eyes of developing countries
  • When Russia invaded Ukraine, India immediately came under the spotlight as at once a consequential friend of Moscow and a country traditionally keen to portray itself as the world’s largest democracy and a champion of peace. The U.S. and European countries pressured India not to side with Moscow and the Ukrainian ambassador in New Delhi pleaded for India to halt its political support for Russia. Yet under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has responded to the invasion with the blunt realism of a rising, aspirational power that does not want to get caught between Russia and what Modi calls the “NATO group”. India chose the well-trodden non-alignment path and hid behind diplomatic language with a not-so-subtle tilt toward Russia.
  • “military-technical cooperation”, which has resulted in more than 60 per cent of India’s arms and defence systems being of Russian origin
  • India also depends on Russia to counterbalance China, which has become its primary security and foreign policy concern, especially given its unresolved border tensions with Beijing. With Pakistan, India’s main rival, already close to China and cosying up to Russia, India’s worst fear is that China, Pakistan and Russia will come together
  • Relations with Washington are already strained largely because of Islamabad’s seemingly unconditional support for the Afghan Taliban. To give his government diplomatic space, Khan has sought to forge closer ties with Moscow. Those efforts could not have come at a less opportune time.
  • Khan returned home with little to show from the trip, the first by a Pakistani prime minister in over two decades. He signed no agreements or memoranda of understanding with his Russian counterpart. Widening Western sanctions on Russia have also sunk Pakistani hopes of energy cooperation with Moscow, casting particular doubt on the fate of a proposed multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project.
  • In contrast to Russia, with which Pakistan’s commerce is miniscule, the U.S. and EU states are its main trading partners. The war in Ukraine could further undermine Pakistan’s economy. The rise in global fuel prices is already fuelling record-high inflation and putting food security at risk, since before the invasion Ukraine provided Pakistan with more than 39 per cent of its wheat imports. With a trade deficit estimated by one analyst at around $40 billion, Islamabad’s reliance on external sources of funding will inevitably grow. A Russia under heavy sanctions will be in no position to assist. In such a scenario, Pakistan’s powerful military, which Khan depends on for his own political survival, could question his foreign posture.
  • The Gulf Arab countries have so far adopted an ambiguous position on the Russian aggression in Ukraine. As close U.S. partners that also have increasing ties to Russia, they sit between a rock and a hard place, unwilling to openly antagonise either side. They have landed in this conundrum because of what they perceive as a growing U.S. withdrawal from the Middle East. In response, they embarked on an effort to diversify their security relations, moving away from sole reliance on Washington. Russia is one of these new partners.
  • No Gulf power wants to give the impression of siding with the Kremlin, for fear of aggravating the U.S. – their primary security guarantor. But as international support for Ukraine and anger at those seen to support (or at least not publicly oppose) Russia grows, the damage may already have been done: the U.S. and its European allies were appalled at the Gulf states’ reticence to get in line with immediate condemnations of the Russian invasion
  • despite Iran’s own experience of losing large swaths of territory to Czarist Russia in the nineteenth century and facing Soviet occupation during and immediately after World War II, the Islamic Republic today can claim few major allies beyond Russia. Tehran sees few upsides in breaking ranks with Moscow. In comparison to the possible results of provoking the Kremlin with anything less than fulsome support, the diplomatic opprobrium it may receive from the U.S. and Europe is of little consequence.
  • Israel has substantive relations with both Russia and Ukraine: Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has spoken to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since the war began, and has offered to act as mediator; Israel sees itself as, in effect, sharing a border with Russia to its north east in Syria, relying on Putin’s continued tacit approval of its airstrikes on Iranian targets there; large Jewish and Israeli populations reside in both Russia and Ukraine and over 1.5 million Russian and Ukrainian expatriates live in Israel; and Israel is a major U.S. ally and beneficiary that identifies with the Western “liberal democratic order”.
  • concerned that the fallout from the war could lead Putin to increase arms sales to anti-Western proxies along its borders, chiefly Syria and Hizbollah in Lebanon, or step up electronic measures to disrupt NATO operations in the Mediterranean Sea, affecting Israel’s own navigation systems. Thus far, Russia has assured Israel that it will continue coordination on Syria, though reiterating that it does not recognise Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, which Israel occupied in 1967 and later annexed
  • Israel has offered humanitarian aid to Ukraine but has refused to sell it arms or provide it with military assistance.
  • President Zelenskyy is the only elected Jewish head of state outside Israel. He lost family in the Holocaust. As such, Israel’s silence on Putin’s antisemitic rhetoric, such as his claim to be “denazifying” Ukraine with the invasion, is noteworthy. That said, Israel has some track record – vis-à-vis Hungary and Poland, for example – of placing what its leaders view as national security or foreign relations concerns above taking a strong stand against antisemitism.
  • Since the invasion began, Bolsonaro’s affinities with Moscow have exposed the divisions within his hard-right government. From the outset, Brazil’s foreign ministry has vowed to maintain a position of neutrality, urging a diplomatic solution. But a day after the invasion, Hamilton Mourão, the vice president and a retired army general, said “there must be a real use of force to support Ukraine”, arguing that “if the Western countries let Ukraine fall, then it will be Bulgaria, then the Baltic states and so on”, drawing an analogy to the conquests of Nazi Germany. Hours later, Bolsonaro said only he could speak about the crisis, declaring that Mourão had no authority to comment on the issue.
  • Since 2014, Turkish defence companies have been increasingly engaged in Ukraine, and in 2019 they sold the country drones that Ukrainians see as significant in slowing the Russian advance.
  • On 27 February, Ankara announced that it would block warships from Russia and other littoral states from entering the Black Sea via the Bosporus and Dardanelles Straits as long as the war continues, in line with the Montreux Convention (though Russian vessels normally based in Black Sea ports are exempt from the restriction, under the convention’s terms). But it also requested other states, implicitly including NATO members, to avoid sending their ships through the straits, in an apparent effort to limit the risks of escalation and maintain a balanced approach to the conflict.
  • Some fear, for instance, that Russia and its Syrian regime ally will ratchet up pressure on Idlib, the rebel-held enclave in Syria’s north west, forcing large numbers of refugees into Turkey, from where they might try to proceed to Europe. This worry persists though it is unclear that Russia would want to heat up the Syrian front while facing resilient Ukrainian resistance.
  • A prolonged war will only exacerbate Turkey’s security and economic concerns, and if Russia consolidates control of Ukraine’s coastline, it will also deal a significant blow to Turkey in terms of the naval balance of power in the Black Sea. It is likely that Turkey will draw closer to NATO as a result of this war, and less likely that Turkey will buy a second batch of S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia
  • Kenya, currently a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, has taken a more strident stance in opposition to Russia’s invasion than most non-NATO members of the Council. This position springs in part from the country’s history. Nairobi was one of the strongest supporters of a founding principle of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) prescribing respect for territorial integrity and the inviolability of member states’ colonial-era borders.
  • As in many African countries, a deep current of public opinion is critical of Western behaviour in the post-Cold War era, emphasising the disastrous interventions in Iraq and Libya, as well as the double standards that many Kenyans perceive in Washington’s democracy promotion on the continent.
  • What Nairobi saw as Washington’s endorsement of the 2013 coup in Egypt particularly rankled Kenyan authorities, who took an especially vocal public position against that putsch
  • Kenya will also push for the strengthening of multilateralism in Africa to confront what many expect to be difficult days ahead in the international arena. “We are entering an age of global disorder”, Peter Kagwanja, a political scientist and adviser to successive Kenyan presidents, told Crisis Group. “The African Union must band together or we will all hang separately”.
  • longstanding solidarity between South Africa and Russia. In the Soviet era, Moscow offered South Africans support in the anti-apartheid struggle and actively backed liberation movements across southern Africa.
  • Although just over half of African states backed the UN General Assembly resolution on Ukraine, many governments in the region have responded to the war with caution. Few have voiced open support for Russia, with the exception of Eritrea. But many have avoided taking strong public positions on the crisis, and some have explicitly declared themselves neutral.
  • Ghana, which joined the UN Security Council in January, has consistently backed the government in Kyiv. The West African bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), released a statement condemning Russia’s actions. Nonetheless, not all ECOWAS members voted for the General Assembly resolution. Mali, which has drawn closer to Russia as France pulled its military forces out of the country, abstained. Burkina Faso did not vote, perhaps reflecting the fact that Russia watered down a Security Council statement condemning the January coup in Ouagadougou.
  • Russia has many friends in Africa due in part to the Soviet Union’s support for liberation movements during the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles. Many also appreciated Moscow’s strident opposition to the more recent disastrous Western interventions in Iraq and Libya. Furthermore, a number of African leaders studied in the Soviet Union or Eastern Bloc countries and Moscow has done a good job of maintaining these ties over the years. Numerous African security figures also received their training in Russia.
  • African leaders and elites generally oppose sanctions, seeing them as blunt tools that tend to punish the general population more than national leaders. In the meantime, African officials are concerned that the war will have a deleterious impact on the continent’s economies and food security, both by driving up energy prices and by restricting grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine (a particular concern after a period of poor rainfall and weak harvests in parts of the continent). These shocks are liable to be severe in African countries that are still only beginning to recover from the downturn prompted by COVID-19, although oil producers such as Nigeria, Congo and Equatorial Guinea may benefit from a hike in energy prices.
  • The Ukraine conflict is a major problem for Turkey. It threatens not only to damage Ankara’s relations with Moscow, but also to hurt the Turkish economy, pushing up energy costs and stopping Russian and Ukrainian tourists from visiting Turkey. Some analysts estimate that a decline in tourism could mean up to $6 billion in lost revenue.
  • Calls for neutrality nevertheless enjoy traction in Brazil. Within the government, there is concern that Western sanctions against Moscow will harm the economy, in particular its agricultural sector, which relies heavily on imports of Russian-made fertilisers. Brazil’s soya production, one of the country’s main sources of income, would suffer considerably from a sanctioned Russia.
  • Mexico depends on the U.S for its natural gas supply, and the prospect of rising prices is spurring the government to consider other means of generating electricity
  • Relations between Russia and Venezuela flourished under the late president, Hugo Chávez, who set the relationship with Washington on an antagonistic course. Under Maduro, Venezuela’s links to Russia have intensified, especially through the provision of technical military assistance as well as diplomatic backing from Moscow after Maduro faced a major challenge from the U.S.-linked opposition in early 2019.
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