Top of the Agenda: Car Bomb Targets Ruling Baath Party in Damascus

Council on Foreign Relations

February 21, 2013

Daily News Brief

At least thirty-five people were killed when a car bomb exploded near the headquarters of Syria’s ruling Baath party and the Russian embassy in the center of Damascus on Thursday. Rebels have tried to push the front lines of fighting to central Damascus, which has been relatively insulated so far from the civil war, and the latest bombings and the recent mortar attacks suggest they may be shifting to guerrilla tactics to destabilize the seat of Assad’s power. The attack comes as the opposition Syrian National Coalition met in Cairo and said it was willing to negotiate a peace deal to end the conflict with the condition that any peace deal must be under the auspices of the United States and Russia.

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How Should the United States Respond to State Failure in Egypt?

By David Goldman

Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs

February 15, 2013

The possibility of state failure in Egypt is now widely discussed in the foreign policy community. Largely ignored by major media for most of the past two years, Egypt’s economic crisis now commands the attention of foreign policy analysts. In a JINSA Analysis published January 30, ” Failure IS an Option in Egypt,” I argued that the structural deficiencies of Egypt’s economy are so deep and intractable that state failure may not be avoidable.  The consensus view is that the international community has no choice but to circle the wagons around the Morsi government and double down its bet on the Muslim Brotherhood.

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The Hezbollah Connection in Syria and Iran

By Matthew Levitt

Washington Institute

February 15, 2013

Hezbollah has long stockpiled weapons in Syria, and the Assad government has long provided some of these weapons to Hezbollah. In addition, Iran has often supplied weapons to Hezbollah through Syria. As events in Syria turn worse for the Bashar al-Assad regime, Hezbollah is going to — as we’ve already seen — try to move as much of its weapons to safer ground as possible. Some of its stockpiles [are] in Lebanon where it has dug caves into mountains.  Both sides of this conflict, the more radical Sunni extremists embedded with the rebels and the Shiite extremists aligned with Hezbollah and Iran, are setting up militias who will be loyal to them after the fall of the Assad regime. What we’re seeing is the stockpiling of weapons for that second phase of conflict.

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The Karzai we need

By Mark Jacobson

German Marshall Fund

February 20, 2013

Some senior diplomats have called Afghan President Hamid Karzai the most difficult leader the United States has dealt with in modern times. In fairness, Afghanistan itself may be one of the most complex and unforgiving political environments any leader can ever have to deal with. And deal with him they must. Since 2010 when, at a NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, Karzai expressed the collective wish of the Afghan people for self-reliance, the United States and our allies have been moving toward Afghanistan, taking the lead on security. Both sides understood that this transition was neither going to be easy – nor completed – without disagreements about approach.

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The Syrian Army: Doctrinal Order of Battle

By Joseph Holliday

Institute for the Study of War

Feb 15, 2013

Current estimates of Syrian opposition strength have generated confidence that the Assad regime will be defeated militarily. This assessment cannot be made without also estimating the real fighting power of the Syrian regime. The regime’s military strength rests on many factors, such as the loyalty of troops, the status of equipment, and the number of casualties sustained. These variables have no meaning, however, if not compared to a valid baseline. This paper establishes the composition of the Syrian Army, provides insight into the historical roles of particular units, and assesses the doctrinal order of battle of the Syrian Army as it existed in 2011.

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When Foreign Policy Goals Exceed Military Capacity, Call The Pentagon

By Derek S. Reveron

Foreign Policy Research Institute

February 2013

E Note

With dozens of treaty allies and a strategic priority of promoting the sovereignty of weak states, the U.S. military has been gradually shifting from a force designed for confrontation to one intended to promote international cooperation. To be sure, the U.S. military retains a technical and doctrinal advantage as a warfighting entity. However, over the past two decades, the military has been incorporating new organizations, doctrine, and training to prioritize efforts to prevent war through security force assistance. This has shifted focus to weak states where sub-national (e.g., gangs in Central America) and trans-national security challenges (e.g., al-Qa’ida) jeopardize sovereignty and regional stability.  Consequently, countries such as the Philippines, Georgia, Colombia, Uganda, and Pakistan have requested security assistance from the United States. While level of support varies, U.S. forces are enabling partner countries to combat challenges that threaten their own stability.

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Securing the Gulf: Key Threats and Options for Enhanced Cooperation

By Anthony Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

February 19, 2013

The US and its Arab Gulf allies face the steadily increasing threat that some form of conflict may occur with Iran in the coming years, and accordingly, they must develop the most effective possible deterrent to Iran’s military ambitions. The Arab Gulf states are already making major progress in developing suitable deterrent and war fighting capabilities which offer the best hope of pushing Iran into meaningful negotiations, as well as containing it any conflict if it begins.

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Sequestration is not a Game

By: Rudy deLeon

Center for American Progress

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta will soon return to his home in central California and turn the Pentagon leadership over to his yet-to-be-confirmed successor. But the outgoing secretary’s last words of warning on budget sequestration to leaders in Washington have big implications—not just for the men and women serving in the armed forces of the United States but also for our friends and foes in foreign capitals around the world who are watching our every move in this budget crisis.

Gulf Analysis Paper: Saudi Arabia and Qatar in a Time of Revolution

By Bernard Haykel

Center for Strategic and International Studies

February 19, 2013

The Arab Spring represents a set of challenges the likes of which have not been seen in the Arab world for a half century or more. Shifts underway in the Levant and North Africa have a profound effect on perceptions of governance in the Gulf, and those shifts are a potential source of threat to the GCC states’ stability. In response, Qatar has been active, building on confidence in its domestic support and its conviction that it has nothing to fear from actors like the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia has been considerably more cautious, reflecting its own diverse internal politics and the leadership’s distrust of sweeping change. Both Qatar and Saudi Arabia seek to use their wealth as an instrument of their foreign policy, shaping the external environment in order to secure their internal one. So far, they are succeeding.

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