PUBLICATIONS

The Afghan War in 2013: Volume III – Security and the ANSF
By Anthony Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies

March 27, 2013

Transition poses many challenges. Afghanistan is still at war and will probably be at war long after 2014. At the same time, the coming cuts in International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) forces and cuts in military and civil aid, along with the country’s fractious politics and insecurity, will interact with a wide range of additional factors that threaten to derail Transition: Afghanistan’s internal political dynamics and the weakness and corruption of Afghan governance mixed with growing de facto power of regional and ethnic power brokers. The difficulties of making a Transition to a non-Karzai government in 2014, as ethnic, regional, and sectarian power-struggles threaten to dominate elections and further divide the government. The difficulties in creating an effective mix of Afghan forces to replace US and other ISAF forces. A steady decrease in US and allied resolve to sustain high levels of spending, advising efforts, and partnering after 2014. Read more

The Syrian Opposition’s Very Provisional Government
By Yezid Sayigh
Carnegie Endowment

March 28, 2013

The Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (National Coalition) formally took up Syria’s seat in the Arab League this week. The outgoing chairman of the coalition, Moaz al-Khatib, who had announced his resignation only days before, represented the coalition, and the provisional prime minister, Ghassan Hitto, sat behind him. This recognition is an important diplomatic gain. But it will prove ephemeral unless the National Coalition and its provisional government can follow up speedily by delivering effective administration, basic services, dispute resolution, and security in the liberated areas, which it claims now extend over 100,000 square kilometers and include 10 million inhabitants.

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Lebanon Imperiled as Prime Minister Resigns Under Duress
By Paul Salem
Carnegie Endowment

March 23, 2013

The resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, Najib Mikati, was the result of intensifying pressure between the pro-Assad and anti-Assad camps in Lebanon and the region. At a minimum, it ushers in a period of further drift and weakening of the country’s political and security institutions. At worst, it might herald a serious entry of the Syrian conflict into Lebanon, a showdown between the country’s factions, and challenges to its basic constitutional order. Lebanon’s leaders and foreign friends should recognize the depth of the peril and work to find a way forward to form a new government, appoint a new, effective head of the internal security forces, and hold fresh parliamentary elections.

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The Meaning and Consequences of Israel’s Apology to Turkey
By Caroline Glick
Center for Security Policy

March 26, 2013

US President Barack Obama was on the line when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish protesters aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010. For those who don’t remember, the Mavi Marmara was a Turkish ship that set sail in a bid to break Israel’s lawful maritime blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza’s coastline. When Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship to interdict it, passengers on deck attacked them – in breach of international maritime law. Soldiers were stabbed, bludgeoned and thrown overboard. In a misguided attempt to show the good faith of Israeli actions, the naval commandos were sent aboard the ship armed with paintball guns. As a consequence, the soldiers were hard-pressed to defend themselves. In the hand-to-hand combat that ensued, nine of the Turkish attackers were killed.

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The Free Syrian Army
By Elizabeth O’Bagy
Institute for the Study of War

March 2013

Fragmentation and disorganization have plagued Syria’s armed opposition since peaceful protestors took up arms in December 2011 and began forming rebel groups under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army. A lack of unity has made cooperation and coordination difficult on the battlefield and has limited the effectiveness of rebel operations. Since the summer of 2012, rebel commanders on the ground in Syria have begun to coordinate tactically in order to plan operations and combine resources. This cooperation has facilitated many important offensives and rebels have taken control of the majority of the eastern portion of the country, overrunning their first provincial capital in March 2013 with the capture of al-Raqqa city. However, rebels have been unable to capitalize on these successes, and fighting has largely stalemated along current battle fronts particularly in the key areas of Aleppo, Homs and Damascus.

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Youth Activism in the Small Gulf States
By Lori Plotkin Boghardt
Washington Institute
March 28, 2013

Policy Watch 2059

Youths have been key drivers of revolutions across the Middle East since the beginning of the Arab uprisings in early 2011. For example, one recent study indicates that more than half of the protestors in the Egyptian revolution were between the ages of 18 and 30. Although young activists have not sparked similarly dramatic change in the small states along the Persian Gulf’s western littoral — Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman — they will likely play an important role in structural reform and therefore merit more attention from both Washington and their own governments. Increasingly muscular youth movements carry important implications regarding the extent of potential change in the Gulf, as already seen in fits and starts in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman. Like their counterparts in other Arab states, young Gulf activists tend to pursue political agendas that are more far-reaching than those of traditional opposition elements and older generations. Yet they generally call for legislative, judicial, and other structural reforms rather than all-out revolution.

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Yemen’s National Dialogue and al-Qaeda

Daniel Green

Washington Institute

March 26, 2013

The National Dialogue Conference launched in Sana on March 18 will give Yemen an opportunity to pursue fundamental reforms over the next several months. Yet it also gives the United States an opening to help leading figures in the process focus on comprehensively defeating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Meeting that goal will require a nuanced reform effort that aligns the state’s interests with those of the tribes and other groups that have tolerated or supported al-Qaeda in the past.

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/yemens-national-dialogue-and-al-qaeda

Arms for Syria’s Rebels: Shaping the War’s Outcome

Jeffrey White

Washington Institute

March 25, 2013

Military assistance can make Syrian rebel forces more effective, help shape the post-Assad period for Syria, and increase influence and access for the donor.

On March 25, the New York Times reported that the CIA has been helping Arab governments and Turkey sharply increase their military aid to the Syrian opposition in recent months, expanding the “secret airlift of arms and equipment.” Indeed, arming the rebels with suitable weapons and providing them with appropriate training and advice can hasten the collapse of the regime, shape the endgame, and give the United States and its allies some influence on the ground after the Bashar al-Assad regime is swept away.

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/arms-for-syrias-rebels-shaping-the-wars-outcome

Initial Outcomes of Obama’s Middle East Trip

By David Makovsky and Robert Satloff

Washington Institute

March 23, 2013

Video

During his recent Middle East visit, President Obama forged an emotional connection with the people of Israel, earned credibility to deal with Iran’s nuclear research, and put the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on the regional agenda, according to Washington Institute Executive Director Dr. Robert Satloff and David Makovsky, the Institute’s Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and director of its Project on the Middle East Peace Process. In these videos, the experts discuss the president’s reception in Israel and the West Bank, and assess the likely policy implications of the trip.

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Obama Helps Restart Talks Between Israel & Turkey

By Dan Arbell

Brookings Institution

March 22, 2013

Israel apologized to Turkey today for the May 2010 incident on board the Mavi Marmara naval vessel, part of a flotilla to Gaza, in which nine Turks were killed from Israel Defense Forces fire. The apology came during a 30-minute telephone conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, orchestrated by President Barack Obama, who was ending his 3 day visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology, and the leaders agreed to begin a normalization process between Israel and Turkey, following the past three years, when relations were practically at a standstill. (Last December, I wrote about the beginnings of a Turkey-Israeli rapprochement, and discussed more of the policy implications here).

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BRICS Leadership Will Be Tested by Syria

By: Salman Shaikh

Brookings Institution

03.25.13

The humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria is probably the most serious crisis facing the world today. And yet, the international community is struggling to find a way forward. With more than four million Syrians in need of humanitarian assistance and three million internally displaced – a conservative UN estimate based on surveys of 6 out of 14 governorates in Syria – the humanitarian response to the plight of civilians so far has been entirely inadequate. A recent UNICEF report highlighted the two million children maimed, orphaned, and suffering from malnutrition as a result of the conflict – an entire generation “scarred for life”. Meanwhile, over one million refugees are seeking asylum in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. This number will likely hit the three million mark by the end of 2013 – a ticking bomb for countries based on delicate social, ethnic, and sectarian balance.

http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2013/03/25-brics-syria-shaikh

The Real Reason Putin Supports Assad

By: Fiona Hill

March 25, 2013

Brookings Institution

Few issues better illustrate the limits of the Obama administration’s “reset” with Russia than the crisis in Syria. For more than a year, the United States has tried, and failed, to work with Russia to find a solution to end the violence. Moscow has firmly opposed international intervention to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power, arguing that the conflict must be resolved through negotiations and that Assad must be included in any transitional arrangement leading to a new government.

http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2013/03/25-reason-putin-supports-assad-hill

Chechen Commander Forms ‘Army of Emigrants,’ Integrates Syrian Groups

By: Bill Roggio

Foundation for Defense of Democracies

28th March 2013

A commander from the Russian Caucasus known as Abu Omar al Chechen has formed Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar, or Army of the Emigrants and Helpers, and integrated several Syrian fighting units into the ranks. Abu Omar was the commander of the Muhajireen Brigade, which fights alongside al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, the Al Nusrah Front.

The creation of the Army of the Emigrants and Helpers was announced on March 26 by Kavkaz Center, a propaganda arm of the Islamic Caucasus Emirate, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Russia’s Caucasus.

http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/chechen-commander-forms-army-of-emigrants-integrates-syrian-groups/

Latest IMU Capture Indicates Resiliency of Terror Group in Afghanistan

By: Patrick Megahan

26th March 2013

FDD

Yesterday, Afghan and Coalition forces captured a commander from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan during yet another operation in the Kunduz district of Kunduz province. The International Security Assistance Force reported that the captured leader “is alleged to lead a cell of insurgent fighters responsible for improvised explosive device and direct fire attacks on Afghan and Coalition forces” and that before his arrest “he was believed actively planning to assassinate an Afghan National Security Forces official.”

http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/latest-imu-capture-indicates-resiliency-of-terror-group-in-afghanistan/

Springtime for Salafists

By: Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

26th March 2013

Foundation for Defense of Democracies

In mid-March, a 19-year-old Tunisian activist named Amina Tyler posted several topless photographs of herself on Facebook. In one pose, the dark-haired Amina is set against a black background, wearing lipstick and eye shadow. She cradles a cigarette in her left hand and stares off camera, with the words “My body is my own and not the source of anyone’s honor” written in Arabic across her naked chest. In another iconic photo, Amina stands before a white tile background. Gone is the heavy makeup from the first photograph, and she stares directly into the camera, both of her middle fingers raised. The phrase “Fuck Your Morals” is scrawled on her body in English.

http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/springtime-for-salafists/

How Iraq’s Future May be Shaped by its Neighbors

By:Yoel Guzansky, Gallia Lindenstrauss

Foreign Policy Research Institute

March 2013

Since the last American soldiers left Iraq more than a year ago, the fear of rising Iranian influence in the country has become more pronounced. This fear that Iran may fill the vacuum left by the United States has prompted Turkey and several Arab states to clarify their position vis-à-vis Iraq in an attempt to counterbalance Iran’s influence.

http://www.fpri.org/articles/2013/03/how-iraqs-future-may-be-shaped-its-neighbors

Obama’s Mideast trip changes nothing

By:John R. Bolton

AEI

March 26, 2013

President Obama’s trip to Israel and Jordan last week had two widely divergent objectives. Publicly, he wanted to repair the political damage he has suffered from his frosty relationships with Israel and its leaders. On substantive policy, by contrast, officials on both sides believed that Obama intended, in his private meetings, to continue relentlessly pressuring Israel for more concessions to the Palestinians and to refrain from using military force against Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.

http://www.aei.org/article/foreign-and-defense-policy/regional/middle-east-and-north-africa/os-mideast-trip-changes-nothing/

Why Sanctions On Iran Aren’t Working

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

By: Bijan Khajehpour, Reza Marashi, & Trita Parsi

NIAC

Washington DC – Sanctions have so far failed to affect the Iranian government’s nuclear policy and are unlikely to do so in the future given the perceptions and calculations of the Iranian elite, according to a new report by the National Iranian American Council (NIAC).

“Never Give In and Never Give Up” [pdf] studies the impact of sanctions on Tehran’s nuclear calculus and identifies the factors that have enabled the Iranian government to sustain its policy, despite mounting economic pressure.

http://www.niacouncil.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=9077&security=1&news_iv_ctrl=-1

Now Obama Needs to Pressure Turkey

By: Jonathan Schanzer, Emanuele Ottolenghi

Foundation of Defense of Democracies

March 27, 2013

In a surprise development on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued an apology to Turkish Prime Minister Yayyip Erdoğan over the ill-fated May 2010 flotilla conflict on the high seas between Israeli commandos and Turkish-backed activists seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

http://www.defenddemocracy.org/media-hit/now-obama-needs-to-pressure-turkey/

Stay out of Other Nations’ Civil Wars

By Doug Bandow

March 27, 2013.

CATO Institute

The long-standing Syrian dictatorship is an abomination. The ongoing Syrian civil war is a tragedy. America should stay out.

A decade ago another administration began another war with a promise of enshrining Pax Americana on the Euphrates. Unfortunately, the result was a wrecked Iraq, empowered Iran, and discredited America. With the decade-long attempt to implant liberal democracy in Afghanistan finally coming to a close, Washington should reject proposals for another unnecessary war of choice.

http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/stay-out-other-nations-civil-wars

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The American Enterprise Institute focuses on the outcome of President Obama’s trip to the Middle East. In summary, President Obama proved he will take the peace process more serious by announcing Secretary of State John Kerry will play a role in starting up negotiations. However, AEI criticized Obama for telling Mahmoud Abbas to eliminate any preconditions to begin negotiating. Abbas’s consent will give Obama more opportunity to pressure Israel is stop expanding. Regarding Iran, Obama unfortunately does not take a stronger approach toward Iran and will not use force and will pressure Israel not do also. In conclusion, the region is a mess, with Syrian instability posing a threat to America and Israel along with the “Lebanese government resigning due to Hezbollah threats, Obama’s Middle East trip changes nothing.”

The Washington Institute looks at the Obama trip. Washington Institute Executive Director Dr. Robert Satloff and David Makovsky, the Institute’s Ziegler Distinguished Fellow and director of its Project on the Middle East Peace Process say that during his recent Middle East visit, President Obama forged an emotional connection with the people of Israel, earned credibility to deal with Iran’s nuclear research, and put the Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on the regional agenda.

The Brookings Institution also looks at the Obama trip. They note, “Over the past year, Turkey and Israel have also come to realize that repairing their relationship and re-establishing a dialogue is at their best interest, as they face great challenges in their immediate vicinity (first and foremost, the Syrian civil war). United States officials emphasized that this is the first step in a long process. Nevertheless, the parties will have to make a great effort to overcome years of distrust and suspicion if they want the relationship to work. No one is under the allusion that relations will go back to what they were in the “honeymoon” period of the 1990s but modest improvement can be made. It will not be an easy task, and for that to happen it is essential that the parties not only talk to each other, but also listen to one another and begin to respect each other’s sensitivities. In order for this rapprochement to be successful, United States will have to continue to oversee discussions between Turkey and Israel, and remain heavily engaged in this process.”

The Center for Security Policy looks at the apology by Israel to Turkey and disagrees with it. This pro-Israel think tank recommends, “Israel should scale back the level of military assistance it receives from the US. While Obama was in Israel, he pledged to expand US military assistance to Israel in the coming years. By unilaterally scaling back US assistance and developing its domestic military industries, Israel would send a strong signal to its neighbors that it is not completely dependent on the US and as a consequence, the level of US support for Israel does not determine Israel’s capacity to continue to defend itself. On a wider level, it is important for Israel to develop the means to end its dependency on the US. Under Obama, despite the support of the great majority of the public, the US has become an undependable ally to Israel and indeed to the rest of the US’s allies as well. The more quickly Israel can minimize its dependence, the better it will be for Israel, for the US and for the stability of the region. The apology to Turkey was a strategic error.”

The Brookings Institution analyzes why the Russian government feels obligated to stand behind Bashar Al-Assad, a leader who has been unsuccessful in defeating opposition groups fighting in the Republic. In summary, “Putin is really motivated to support the Assad regime by his fear of state collapse — a fear he confronted most directly during the secession of Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, which he brutally suppressed in a bloody civil war and counterinsurgency operation fought between 1999 and 2009.” Putin views Syria as the latest battleground in a global, multi-decade struggle between secular states and Sunni Islamism, which first began in Afghanistan with the Taliban, then moved to Chechnya, and has torn a number of Arab countries apart. In conclusion, The Russian president will remain opposed to intervention and insist negotiations with Assad take place. If, by some miracle, Syria does not turn into a full-scale regional disaster, Putin will take credit for this because he prevented an intervention. If Syria collapses, Putin will blame Washington. He will hold the United States responsible for destroying Syria and empowering Sunni Islamist extremists by championing democracy and the Arab revolutions.

The Cato Institute focuses on America’s foreign policy to Syria and how the US current policy is a failure. Cato gives 9 points arguing against current US policy. In summary, the US support for rebel fighters will only drag the US further into Syria. If lethal support for the rebels does not overthrow Assad, more pressure will be on President Obama to take an even further step. Second, if America is worried about chemical weapons getting into the wrong hands, supporting the overthrow of Assad and empowering the rebels does not make much sense. One reason the US is taking its position against Assad is to weaken Iran. If we overthrow Iran’s only Arab ally, it can create trouble for us in Bahrain and it will be more inclined to get a nuke for self-defense. In conclusion, US policy in Syria is a failure.

The Brookings Institution analyzes the Syrian humanitarian situation to understand strategies the international community can adopt to prevent more human loss. In summary, the UN cannot operate in rebel held territory according to General Assembly Resolution 46/182. Brookings argues against this Resolution since Assad’s power is waning and his tyrannical behavior does not deserve sovereignty recognition. In conclusion, BRICS nations like Brazil, South Africa and India should pressure and support a more aggressive UN role to begin to operate within rebel held territory to provide aid. “Such an opportunity presents itself at the forthcoming 2013 BRICS summit in Durban next week. These countries should use their influence to secure a Security Council endorsement of this approach, principally by applying pressure on Russia and China.” It is evident the BRICS are important with Syrian Government officials recently traveling to South Africa and India to support the opening of a dialogue and to help stop the violence.

The Institute for the Study of War looks at the Free Syrian Army. They note, “The Supreme Military Command (SMC) has the potential to serve as a check on radicalization and help to assert a moderate authority in Syria. If the SMC can create enough incentives for moderation it will likely be able to marginalize the most radical elements within its structure. To this end, the SMC has recognized the importance of the inclusion of some of the more radical forces, while still drawing a red line at the inclusion of forces that seek the destruction of a Syrian state, such as jihadist groups like Jabhat Nusra. Ultimately, even if the SMC only serves as a mechanism for greater cooperation and coordination, it is a significant development in that it has united the efforts of rebel commanders across Syria. It is the first attempt at unity that incorporates important commanders from all Syrian provinces and has enough legitimacy on the ground to even begin the process of building a structure capable of providing a national-level chain of command.”

The Washington Institute focused on how military assistance in Syria can shape the outcome of this conflict in a way that will result in a favorable outcome. In conclusion, Western military assistance possesses three objectives; military assistance give rebels the capability to fight Assad and better defend civilians which will give them more legitimacy. Second, lethal aid will help shape Syria’s outcome, positioning those receiving aid to play key roles in a post Assad period. Finally, the US and the West increases their involvement and level of involvement and influence during and after the regime collapses.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies shows the strength and presence of foreign fighters in Syria and how they are advancing their positions in the country. FDD focuses on Jaish al-Muhajireen wa Ansar and its leader who is a commander from the Russian Caucasus known as Abu Omar al Chechen. The group has more than 1000 volunteers who most come from abroad. They are stationed in Aleppo and one of the more affective groups in this conflict. It has participated in assaulting key military bases that belong to the State. Their military advancements in Syria are worth monitoring as they continue to work in Aleppo.

The Carnegie Endowment looks at Syria’s provisional government. It warns, “The lack of real substance behind the façade of the provisional government raises doubts about the National Coalition’s strategy of gaining more recognition. Winning Syria’s seat in the Arab League was important, but will remain a symbolic gain unless the coalition can demonstrate the ability to govern liberated areas. To keep trying to gain Syria’s seat at the UN, as al-Khatib mentioned at the Arab summit, is futile as both Russia and China can block the effort and merely diverts the coalition’s energies. The National Coalition is betraying a dangerous lack of political acumen. It sought—and won—recognition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people from the Friends of Syria, but this did not lead to a transformation of its political, military, or financial capabilities. There is no reason to expect a provisional government to be any more successful. The Friends of Syria cannot guarantee success by awarding it further diplomatic recognition or by declaring it the official channel for assistance.”

The Carnegie Endowment looks at the resignation of Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Najib Mikati. They caution, “The risk of a serious political and security downward spiral is real. Lebanon’s leaders as well as the international backers of the two main factions—Iran and Russia on one side, and Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Europe, and the United States on the other—must recognize that as they prosecute a proxy war in Syria, its neighbor, Lebanon, is at risk of spiraling out of control. All parties should move quickly to find common ground on a parliamentary election law, encourage the formation of a new power-sharing government that can appoint a head of the internal security forces, and hold fresh parliamentary elections. Only then can Lebanon’s precarious stability be restored, giving it the chance to survive the Syrian civil war raging next door.”

The Washington Institute looks at the youth movement in the small Gulf States and its political implications. They warn, “Demographic and economic factors could further widen the call for structural reform in these countries, particularly the “youth bulge” (i.e., the large working-age population) and high unemployment rates. Approximately one-third of the citizenry in Bahrain, Oman, and Qatar, and one-quarter in Kuwait and the UAE, are between the ages of 15 and 29. Unemployment among 15-to-24-year-olds hovers between 17 and 24 percent in most of these countries (except the UAE, where the rate is slightly lower). Sustained joblessness on that scale could turn up the heat politically by contributing to the loss of dignity so often cited as a key factor in other Arab uprisings. Although Gulf rulers will no doubt dole out national largesse to muffle discontent, many youths will continue to search for dignified work and independent income, with time on their hands to press for it via activism.”

The Washington Institute focused on The National Dialogue Conference in Yemen and how the U.S can use this conference in limiting Al-Qaeda’s presence in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In conclusion, “To defeat AQAP, Washington must help Yemenis identify common interests between the reforming state and the tribes that have supported al-Qaeda.” Incorporating each tribe interested while reform is taking place will be welcomed by tribal leaders. The US must encourage participants in the ND Conference to discuss greater local political freedoms and authority within a democratic structure. Moreover, curtailing AQAP will require support from the tribal “Popular Committees”. This committee includes tribal groups who are willing to assist in working with Yemeni security forces to fight AQAP. The US should encourage Sana to legitimize these tribal units because it will “provide security, employment, and a means of checking any abuses of power by expanding government forces.”

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies delves deep into the outcome of revolution in Tunisia and is the country heading toward the direction of tolerance, freedom of expression, freedom of religion exc. In conclusion, FDD shows how Tunisia’s Salafi movement has grown popular and bringing Tunisia more backward than before the revolution. They are aggressively attacking people who do not dress modest, attacking other Islamic sects, attacking the Christian community exc. Salafi intolerance is spreading rapidly in the country and is affecting minorities, citizens, police and anyone with a difference in opinion.

The Foreign Policy Research Institute presents a case study on Iraq and its current relationship with its Arab neighbors. In summary, the article argues that Arab States are working to build relationships with the government in Iraq to reduce Iranian influence. In the past, Iraq was viewed as an imminent Iranian ally in the eyes of Arab States. As a result, States have been passive in building relations with Baghdad. However, today Arab States have changed their policies and realized stronger economic and political cooperation with Iraq might weaken Iranian influence. In 2012, transferring the Arab League Presidency to Iraq is a symbol showing that Iraq has found its way back in the Arab’s sphere. In conclusion, the article highlights the pros and cons if Iraq were to divide into 3 States (Sunnis,Shias, Kurds). The pros according to Arab States are that we would be able to almost guarantee Kurdish and Sunni sects would be dependent on Arab States. The problem is the Iranians and Iraqi Shias could consolidate stronger relations. Whatever happens, we will continue to see Arab States fighting to limit Iranian influence.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies focuses on Turkish-Iranian relations and how the government of Turkey is guilty in not doing enough to isolate Iran and other pariah non-state actors like Hamas. Erdoğan reportedly “instructed the Ministry of Finance to allocate $300 million to be sent to Hamas’ government in Gaza.” This money is sent to build schools, mosques and infrastructure especially after the Israel-Gaza war in 2012. Turkey’s State owned Halkbank is guilty of processing payments to Iran in exchange for its oil. “Nearly $2 billion worth of gold was sent to Dubai on behalf of Iranian buyers.” Moreover, it is reported that over 2000 Iranian companies exist in Turkey and could provide financial support to Iran. In conclusion, Turkey could do much more in cooperating with the West to isolate Iran. The article details these strategies.

The CSIS looks at the transition in Afghanistan. They warn, “Generating the forces that will be required for Transition will be dependent on both outside funding and on providing the proper mix of outside trainers, mentors, and partners. Given the current state of the ANA, it is far from clear that the US, other donors, and the Afghan government can create the kind of army that has been called for in current plans while simultaneously withdrawing most US and other ISAF forces by the end of 2014. It is still unclear that enough outside trainers and partners will be available, and that the Afghan government can deal with the economic impact of funding such a force and its civil and police needs.”

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies questions if it is in the strategic interests of the US to withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. The premise for this article is based on multiple cases of increased activity by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant Islamic group linked to Al-Qaeda. In the first three month of 2013, there have been 12 raids against IMU, double of raids compared to 2012. In summary, the numbers show there is an increase of raids against the group, showing their presence in Afghanistan is evident. In light of IMU’s activity, is it wise that the US withdrawals our troops in 2014? Moreover, Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith has announced 1000 of his troops will withdrawal by the end of 2013. “If the rate of operations against al Qaeda remains about the same and operations against the IMU are at a high, can the US and its allies have any confidence that Afghan forces will be able to defeat, or at least contain, these terrorist groups on their own?”

The National Iranian American Council argues reasons why sanctions on Iran’s economy has and will continue to be a policy failure. NIAC shows how key stakeholders in the Iranian government still have not lobbied to pressure a change in its nuclear policy. “Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s narrative which portrays the West as a brutal group out to get Iran and keep it dependent on foreign powers – continues to dominate the discourse within Iran’s political elite and guide its decision-making. In turn, private lobbying campaigns have tended to focus on securing domestic economic concessions rather pushing for nuclear concessions to the West.” In conclusion, “submission to Western pressure is viewed by the Iranian regime as a greater threat to its survival than even a military confrontation with the United States.”

استئناف التحالف الوثيق بين تركيا و”اسرائيل” للانتقام من سورية

  بمرور الذكرى العاشرة لتسلم رجب طيب اردوغان مهامه السياسية في منصب رئيس الوزراء، يدشن مرحلة فريدة في ديمومة السياسة التركية، اذ اضحى اطول زعيم سياسي يبقى في منصبه بصورة متواصلة متفوقا على رئيس الوزراء الاسبق المنتخب عدنان مندريس الذي اطاحت به الطغمة العسكرية في انقلاب وقع عام 1960، ثم حوكم واعدم على ايديها.

         كما تلقى اردوغان “هدية واعادة اعتبار” من الرئيس الاميركي باراك اوباما، 22 آذار الجاري، حينما خاطبه هاتفيا قبل مغادرته مطار اللد متوجها الى عمّان للتوسط بينه وبين نظيره “الاسرائيلي” بنيامين نتنياهو في مكالمة دامت نحو 30 دقيقة، التي قدم فيها نتنياهو اعتذاره عن اعتراض قواته البحرية لسفينة “نافي مرمرة” التركية ومقتل عدد من النشطاء الاتراك على متنها. الجانب الاميركي كاد يزهو بانجازه موضحا ان نتنياهو اقر بارتكاب “اخطاء ميدانية” لكنها لم تكن مقصودة، بل “اعرب الجانب الاسرائيلي عن اسفه لمقتل البعض وجرح الاخرين.”

         الآلة الاعلامية لحزب اردوغان، حزب الحرية والعدالة، تحركت على الفور لتزف النبأ ببهجة عالية “لموافقة اسرائيل على الشروط التركية الثلاثة،” والايحاء بأن الاولى رضخت صاغرة لشروطها. في فلسطين المحتلة، تعاملت يومية “جيروزاليم بوست” مع النبأ بازدراء قائلة ان اردوغان ووزير خارجيته احمد داوود اوغلو يصوران الأمر وكأنه “انتصار هام انجزاه معا ضد اسرائيل .. بل ان اردوغان لم يحقق كل ما طمح اليه،” سيما شرطه المسبق برفع الحصار المفروض على غزة، والاهم اسقاط تركيا للتهم القانونية الموجهة للضباط “الاسرائيليين” المسؤولين عن مجزرة “نافي مرمرة.”

         اردوغان بدوره تمادى في تضخيم المسألة الشكلية كاشفا عن نرجسيته في مخاطبة انصاره “عندما بدأ نتنياهو بالحديث معي عبر الهاتف، قمت بقطع الاتصال. وقلت له انني ارغب في مخاطبة الرئيس اوباما اولا. انني احن لسماع صوته.”

         اهداف الدور الاميركي، مجسدا بدخول الرئيس اوباما على الخط مباشرة، قد يكتنفه الغموض لدى البعض، سيما وان علاقته الشخصية والعملية مع نتنياهو شهدت توترا معلنا منذ حملة الانتخابات الرئاسية ودعم الاخير للمنافس الجمهوري ميت رومني. بيد ان حقيقة التطورات السياسية تدفعنا الى القول ان نتنياهو حقق تنازلا معينا من قبل الرئيس اوباما، ربما يفضي الى توسيع هامش مجال مناورته بشأن الملف الايراني او الحصول على مزيد من المعدات العسكرية والمساعدات الاميركية، فضلا عن رغبة الطرفين التركي و”الاسرائيلي” باعادة علاقتهما الى سابق عهدها. واوضح الرئيس “الاسرائيلي” شمعون بيريز الامر بالقول ان للطرفين “اسبابا عدة لتعزيز العلاقات الاسرائيلية – التركية والتعاون بينهما اكثر من اي وقت مضى.” نتنياهو، من جانبه، ذهب للتأكيد على تغير التطورات الاقليمية، ومن بينها ما يجري في سورية، مما يستدعي تعاون اوثق بين الطرفين اللذين يشتركان حدوديا مع سورية. اذن، ما اطلق على تسميته “اعتذار اسرائيلي” كان امرا ضروريا “لضمان أمن اسرائيل،” او هكذا يوحي.

         دوافع تركيا للمضي بترميم علاقاتها مع “اسرائيل” كانت اقل وضوحا. اذ ذهب “مجلس العلاقات الخارجية” الى القول ان الحافز الاكبر لتركيا “ربما يعود لعوامل ثلاث مجتمعة: سورية وايران ومجال الطاقة،” اذ يفسح لها الوصول الى موارد اكتشفت حديثا في مياه البحر المتوسط مما يحتم عليها ايجاد مخرج للتعاون مع “اسرائيل،” مهما كلفها الامر بالنسبة لانعكاساته على تردي علاقاتها مع كل من روسيا وايران من وراء ذلك. اردوغان، بدوره، تمادى في تملقه بالتركيز على “العلاقات التاريخية المشتركة بين اليهود والشعب التركي،” غير غافل عن ذكر دور الامبراطورية العثمانية الداعم لاستيطان اليهود في فلسطين منذ القرن الثامن عشر. بالاضافة لذلك، يدرك الطرفان اهمية تعاونهما في احتواء الازمة السورية والحد من انتقال عدواها الى خارج الحدود او نحو مزيد من التدهور وفقدان السيطرة عليها.

         الثابت ايضا ان تركيا تلعب دورا محوريا في فك وانهاء عزلة “اسرائيل” في المنطقة، سيما في اعقاب تبنيها للتغيرات السياسية التي جاءت بحركة الاخوان المسلمين الى السلطة في عدد من اقطار العرب، ونفوذها الملحوظ على قياداتها، خاصة في مصر. بالمقابل، لزوم “اسرائيل” جانب تركيا يخفف من قلقها على عدة جبهات متعددة: ايران وروسيا وقبرص وبلدان المشرق العربي، بالاضافة الى وضعهما المميز داخل حلف الناتو – بصرف النظر عن ان “اسرائيل” ليست عضواً رسمياً في الحلف.

         في اعقاب اكتشافات موارد الطاقة من النفط والغاز الطبيعي في اعماق البحر المتوسط، تعاظم دور قبرص (الشطر اليوناني) بالدرجة الاولى لتلعب دورا هاما في تنمية وتطوير برنامج الطاقة، واتاحة الفرصة لتركيا و”اسرائيل” استغلال خيراتها المكتشفة لمنافسة روسيا، المصدر الاساسي لتوريد الطاقة الى تركيا. ومن شأن استعادة العلاقات الثنائية، بين تركيا و”اسرائيل،” ايضا فسح المجال لتصدير الغاز الطبيعي من سواحل فلسطين المحتلة الى وعبر الاراضي التركية باتجاه الاسواق الاوروبية، الامر الذي يخدم المصلحة الاستراتيجية للطرفين.

 كما لا يجوز اغفال أهمية عامل تجميد تركيا للورقة الكردية في الصراع واخراجها من التداول المسلح، مرحليا، وما قد يمثله من ترحيب وتعزيز موقعها لدى واشنطن وحلف شمال الاطلسي. ومن شانه ايضا تخفيف العبء عن كاهل الدولة التركية، في المستويات العسكرية والمالية، لتتفرغ للانضمام الكلي الى الجهود الاميركية في السيطرة على منطقة البحر المتوسط وسورية.

 وكما تجلى سابقا، باستطاعة تركيا ممارسة نفوذها السياسي والايديولوجي للضغط على اطراف المقاومة في قطاع غزة لمصلحة “اسرائيل،” سيما وان نتنياهو في مكالمته الهاتفية المذكورة اوضح لاردوغان ان مصير العلاقات الثنائية بينهما مرتبط بما ستؤول اليه اوضاع الفلسطينيين. الثابت الملموس في “التنازلات الاسرائيلية” هو ما تشهده حركة توريد السلع الاستهلاكية الى غزة من تخفيف الاجراءات على قيودها السابقة.

 تركيا، “اسرائيل،” وايران

         يجمع المحللون والساسة على السواء بالدور المحوري لتركيا في تعزيز قدرات الدفاع الجوي “لاسرائيل” ضد ايران، والتي كانت شبه غائبة عن الخطاب السياسي مؤخرا، مع العلم ان قواعد الرادار المتطورة لحلف الناتو في المناطق الشرقية لتركيا، التي تشرف على ادارتها وتوجيهها القوات العسكرية الاميركية، تقوم بتزويد “اسرائيل” بمعلومات بالغة الحساسية حول النظم الصاروخية الايرانية، والتي بواسطتها تستطيع الاولى تصويب نظم آرو للدفاعات الجوية ضد صواريخ “شهاب” الايرانية؛ فضلا عن عدم رغبة او ارتياح تركيا لرؤية جارتها الايرانية على عتبة الارتقاء الى مصاف الدول النووية، والتي تشاطرها “اسرائيل” في الهدف عينه. عمليا، قد يؤدي هذا الامر الى صرف نظر تركيا عن طلعات جوية للطائرات الحربية “الاسرائيلية” للمرور باجوائها في طريقها الى تسديد ضربة لايران.

         حاجة الطرفين لبعضهما البعض يخدم الاهداف “الاسرائيلية” بالدرجة الاولى، اذ يعزز وجودها على الحدود الشمالية مع سورية بشكل خاص، ويخفف عنها بعض الاعباء كي تنصرف الى معالجة التهديد الذي قد يأتي من الجبهة الجنوبية مع مصر، في الوقت الذي تذهب فيه تركيا الى تحمل اعباء التدخل والسيطرة على احداث سورية.

         طموحات اردوغان السياسية لم تعد ثمة تكهنات، بل يراهن على قدرته وحزبه من ورائه بتغيير بعض النصوص الدستورية لصالحه الشخصي التي تحرمه حاليا من الترشح لولاية اخرى، ومن ثم يتطلع لمنصب رئاسة الجمهورية. رهانه يعتمد على صلابة الاداء الاقتصادي واستقراره. اما ترتيباته المعلنة مع رئيس حزب العمال الكردستاني المعتقل، عبد الله اوجلان، لوقف اطلاق النار فهي تأتي في سياق الصراع الاشمل مع سورية بغية نزع فتيل الملف الكردي المتفجر من الداخل التركي، واخراجه من سيطرة الحكومة السورية واحتمال فتح جبهة صراع جديدة.

         اقتصاديا، عودة العلاقات التجارية والديبلوماسية الى سابق عهدها مع “اسرائيل” يعزز الفائض في التبادل التجاري بينهما لصالح تركيا، اذ بلغ مجموع العملية التجارية بينهما لعام 2011 نحو 4 مليارات دولار.

         في الملف القبرصي، يعّول اردوغان على مساعدة “اسرائيل” في استغلال نفوذها لدى القبارصة اليونانيين الذين تتطلع حكومتهم الى نسج علاقات اقتصادية افضل مع الدول الغربية، سيما في ظل الازمة المالية التي تعصف بالبلاد راهنا، وولوج طريق بديل عن تركيا للقيام بذلك. تجدر الاشارة الى ان الرئيس القبرصي اليوناني الحالي، نيكوس اناستاسياديس، يعد رجل الغرب بامتياز ويتطلع للانضمام الى هيئات الناتو للشراكة من اجل السلام. وهذا يستدعي تعاونا اوثق مع تركيا، عضو الحلف، لضمان عدم معارضتها فضلا عن دورها المفترض باستغلال نتفوذها لدى القبارصة الاتراك بغية التوصل الى تسوية سياسية في الجزيرة القبرصية، والتي من شأنها بمفردها تعديل الاداء الاقتصادي للجزيرة سيما لناحية تنعم جميع المواطنين بالخيرات الطبيعية المكتشفة بالقرب من الشواطيء البحرية لبلادهم. الامر الذي سيولد نشاطا واهتماما اقتصاديا على مستويات عدة، من بينها استقطاب استثمارات خارجية للمساهمة في نهضة البلاد، الامر الذي سيفيد تركيا حتما، بل ستكون في مصاف المستفيد الاكبر. اما “اسرائيل،” فبامكانها توفير مصادر استثمارية في قطاع الطاقة الافضل استقرارا ونموا.

          استعراض المنافع المشتركة للطرفين، تركيا و”اسرائيل،” كما تقدم، يوضح بشكل جلي دوافعهما ومصالحهما في المديين المتوسط والبعيد في سياق الصراع الاوسع الدائر على الساحة السورية، ومن ورائها اضلاع محور القوى الداعمة للمقاومة؛ ليس في المنافع الاقتصادية للطرفين فحسب، بل مشروعية السؤال لماذا انتظر نتنياهو فترة طويلة قبل المحادثة الهاتفية وترميم ما اطلق عليه توتر العلاقات الثنائية بالرغم من ان نقاط التوافق والالتقاء بينهما تفوق نقاط التنافر والتناحر بمرات عدة.

Israel and Turkey – Together Again

Undoubtedly the biggest result of the Obama trip to Israel was the phone call made by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to apologize for the 2010 IDF attack on the Turkish flotilla that killed nine people. The Israeli leader phoned Turkish PM Erdogan, while sitting with U.S. President Barack Obama in a trailer on a Tel Aviv airport tarmac. In the call, which lasted for nearly 30 minutes, Netanyahu acknowledged “operational mistakes” during the raid, which ended with the deaths of eight Turks and an American. “(Netanyahu) made it clear that the tragic results regarding the Mavi Marmara were unintentional and that Israel expresses regret over injuries and loss of life,” the Israeli government said.

Although there are many unrelated reasons for the Turkish/Israeli rapprochement, the fact that it was done in such a way that Obama received credit for it is interesting. Netanyahu and Obama have had very chilly relations and very little trust exists on either side. Undoubtedly, the Israeli leader received something in return – possibly some flexibility in regards to Iran or additional military aid.

The reality is that there were many reasons on both sides for Israel and Turkey to strengthen ties. Israeli President Shimon Peres said that there were “more reasons today than ever before to strengthen Israeli-Turkish relations and cooperation.”

There were also reasons for the US to push the rapprochement too. In fact, Obama’s refusal to push Israeli/Palestinian peace talks or take a more moderate position in regards to potential talks during his visit may have been meant as a “bribe” to encourage Netanyahu to call Erdogan.

Turkey and Jews have a long history. Erdogan spoke of “the shared history and centuries old ties of strong friendship and cooperation between the Jewish and Turkish peoples.” In fact, it was the Ottoman Empire that had encouraged Jewish settlement in the 1800s.

However, it was the shared problem of Syria that was immediately responsible for the renewed ties. Although the deal had been worked on for years by Israeli and Turkish officials it was rushed by developments in Syria. Israel was also concerned by the recent unrest on the Syrian/Israeli border. It was also concerned about Syria’s large chemical weapons arsenal and reports that chemical weapons may have been used in recent days. Close cooperation between Israel and turkey could limit the damage as Syria spirals out of control.

However, there are other areas of cooperation including; NATO, Iran, Russia, the Kurds, and Cyprus. Turkey reduces the isolation of Israel in the region, shares the concern about events in Syria, and has good diplomatic contacts with other countries in the region that Israel can use. Israel helps Turkey in its geopolitical concerns regarding Iran, Russia, the Levant, and Cyprus. Together, they are the NATO’s far eastern flank, although Israel isn’t a formal member of NATO.

One area of common interest is Cyprus, which has a shared Turkish/Greek population, has untapped energy reserves, and is of interest to Russia – a historical rival of both Turkey and Israel. On Monday, the people of Cyprus digested the €10 billion euro bail-out agreed upon in Brussels by President Nicos Anastasiades and three lenders – the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission, and the European Central Bank. This staved off an uncontrolled default and the country’s exit from the euro, but put it in conflict with Russia, whose citizens frequently used its off-shore banking facilities. The Bank of Cyprus, the country’s largest bank, will take over Laiki’s smaller accounts and liabilities. The uninsured funds of the larger depositors in both banks (mostly Russian), including €4.2 billion from Laiki Bank, will contribute to the resolution of the banking crisis.

Israel and Greek Cyprus have joint energy projects in the Mediterranean, which has brought about protests from Turkish Cyprus. The renewal of relations with Israel and Turkey could bring Turkish Cyprus into the energy development program. With the diplomatic détente, the export of Israeli gas to and through Turkey might become feasible. Freed from political obstacles, this would be one of Israel’s most commercially viable export options. Strategically, it’s a better alignment. Israel, Cyprus, and Greece will continue to work together but are unlikely to form an alternative energy corridor or fruitful strategic partnership in the eastern Mediterranean

The end of the flotilla crisis, Israeli cooperation in regards to Cyprus energy, as well as Ankara’s new opening to the Kurds and the PKK’s decision to end its armed struggle stabilizes Turkey’s relations on its western flanks and should improve relations with Washington and NATO. Turkey will now be better placed to support U.S. efforts in the Mediterranean and Syria.

One of those areas where Turkish influence could be beneficial is in the Gaza/Israel situation. As the Netanyahu phone call made clear, Turkish/Israeli relations depend on the fate of the Palestinians. Turkey has insisted that victims of the flotilla raid are compensated and Israel remained committed to the easing of restrictions of goods to Gaza before restoring relations. In fact, there has already been some easing of shipment of civilian goods into Gaza

Turkey, Israel, and Iran

Although the continued insurgency war\crisis in Syria was the major, publicized reason for the renewed relations between Turkey and Israel, Iran was the biggest unmentioned reason. Turkey plays a pivotal role in Israel’s air defenses against Iran. A NATO radar base in eastern Turkey, established in 2011 and manned by US soldiers, relays critical air defense information back to Israel. It is data from this system that allows Israel’s Arrow missile defense system to intercept Iranian Shahab 3 missiles. In addition, Turkey doesn’t want another nuclear neighbor and shares the same concerns that Israel has of Iran. This means that Turkey may turn a blind air defense radar eye to Israeli flights against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Geopolitics aside, both leaders have interests in the alliance. A Turkish alliance helps solidify Israel’s northern borders, especially with Syria. This allows it to focus more on a potential threat from Egypt. Egypt has a large conventional military and Israel is concerned that its IDF isn’t ready. Turkey’s cooperation in controlling unrest in Syria allows Israel to switch its focus.

Erdogan is also looking towards his political future and knows that his future is based on a good economy and stability. His term in office ends in 2014 and the constitution, in its current form, bars him from running for re-election. Erdogan hopes to change the law in his favor.

Although he can’t do much about unrest with Syria, the agreement with the PKK, the PKK’s ceasefire, and the end of this perennial source of violence, strengthens the border with unstable Syria and provides for more domestic stability.

The Israeli rapprochement also helps Erdogan by helping Turkey’s economy Bilateral trade between Turkey and Israel reached $4 billion in 2011, with a clear export surplus for Turkey.

Israel can also help solve the Cyprus issue in a way that makes Turkey look good. In a referendum, Turkish Cypriots agreed to the unification of the island, only to see Greek Cypriots veto it. Now a Western looking Greek Cypriot government needs closer economic ties with the West and that route goes through Turkey. Unlike his communist predecessor, Anastasiades is a man of the West and wants to join NATO’s Partnership for Peace. This can only be achieved through give-and-take with Turkey, and, if successful, could kick-start the settlement process. All Cypriots should benefit from the country’s energy resources. A Cyprus settlement could add several percentage points to GNP, improving the business climate and attracting new investment. Turkey would be the biggest benefactor, while Israel can provide investment in a more secure energy source.

Given all of the benefits to both sides, there is no surprise that Turkey and Israel are renewing ties. It offers immediate benefits in limiting the spillover of violence from Syria. It offers more of a bulkhead against Iran. And, it offers economic benefits to both nations, while keeping pressure on Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians. Given that, the question is less why did Netanyahu call Erdogen, but why it took him so long to call?

تهديدات كوريا الشمالية ومحاولات اميركية لاحتواء التصعيد

  ليست المرة الاولى التي تظهر فيها كوريا الشمالية بموقف التحدي والمواجهة، بل جاء احدثها في اعلان الرئيس الكوري كيم جونغ-اون عن تهديد الولايات المتحدة بشن هجوم نووي عليها ومحيطها، سبقه قرار باجراء تفجير نووي ثالث مؤخرا. ومضى الرئيس الكوري في تصعيد حدة لهجة خطابه السياسي باعلانه العزم على انسحاب بلاده من اتفاقية وقف اطلاق النار المبرمة عام 1953 بغية انهاء الحرب الكورية. بل ظهر الرئيس جونغ-اون برفقة قواته العسكرية قبل بضعة ايام يطلب منها الابقاء على جاهزيتها العسكرية “لدخول حرب شاملة.”

          تاريخ الصراع بين الكوريتين، سواء مباشرة او بالنيابة، يدل على انها ليست المرة الاولى التي تعلن فيها كوريا الشمالية الغاء العمل بالهدنة مع جارتها الجنوبية. اذ رافق انضمام كوريا الجنوبية “لمبادرة انتشار الأمن،” عام 2009، اعلان الشطر الشمالي عن انسحابه من اتفاقية الهدنة. يذكر ان “مبادرة الأمن” تحث الدول الاعضاء على اعتراض شحنات التقنية الصاروخية والنووية التي مصدرها كوريا الشمالية.

         الاجراءات الاخيرة صممت بالتزامن مع بدء المناورات العسكرية المشتركة بين القوات الاميركية والكورية الجنوبية. بالطبع، هناك ما وراء الأكمة يبرر تصعيد لهجة الحرب، قد يكون احدها تولد قناعة لدى القيادات العسكرية العليا القريبة من الرئيس جونغ-اون تقضي بأن التهديدات اللفظية والتفجيرات النووية لم تعد تكفي الغرض منها. اذ كانت التجربة السابقة تشير الى تصعيد خطاب المواجهة عند كل نقطة انعطاف ترمي لتخفيف العقوبات الاقتصادية.

         المسؤولون الاميركيون اعربوا عن اعتقادهم ان لغة التهديد والوعيد لن تسفر عن تخفيف وطأة العقوبات الاقتصادية التي باتت تؤثر على مستوى معيشة النخب في كوريا الشمالية، والتي يستند الرئيس جونغ-اون الى دعمها للبقاء على رأس السلطة. واضافوا ان تشكيلة النخب تضم الرئيس وحاشيته وذوو الرتب العسكرية العليا، الذين تضم امتيازاتهم استيراد كافة الاحتياجات والكماليات، السيارات الفارهة والكحول، مما اسس لنمط حياة معين للشريحة القيادية بات مهددا بالضياع. في السابق، تم تطبيق العقوبات على السلع الكمالية، اما ما يميز المرحلة الراهنة فهو قرار اممي صادق عليه مجلس الامن بالاجماع لفرض حظر على كافة السلع والمنتجات: تبدأ من سيارات السباق واليخوت لتشمل حظرا على التقنية النووية والعناصر الصاروخية. في اعقاب دعم الصين لقرارات مجلس الامن للعقوبات الجديدة، وهي التي تمثل محطة عبور كافة مواد الاستيراد، تتعاظم الحظوظ لفعالية اكبر للعقوبات هذه المرة.

         من عادة كوريا الشمالية انها تواجه تزايدا في مستويات عزلتها مما يدفعها للاقدام على اتخاذ اجراءات تنطوي على تهديدات، كما جرى في شهر تشرين الثاني / نوفمبر 2009 ابان اجراء تجاربها الصاروخية بعيدة المدى التي حلق احد الصواريخ العابرة للقارات فوق الاجواء اليابانية. في المحصلة العامة، ما تطلبه كوريا الشمالية ثمة الاعفاء وتخفيض حدة العقوبات الاقتصادية، سيما تلك التي تمس مباشرة الشريحة القيادية. تكتيكيا، اضحت كوريا الشمالية اكثر حنكة في التعامل مع الولايات المتحدة والذهاب لمديات ابعد من السابق لكن لما دون مستوى التسبب في مزيد من الانعكاسات الضارة عليها.

         الولايات المتحدة، من جانبها، حافظت على مستوى معقول من الهدوء وتجنب الاثارة، مطمئنة الى فعالية نظامها الدفاعي ضد الصواريخ الباليستية. كما ان المعلومات الاستخبارية المتوفرة حول كوريا الشمالية لم تشر الى قدرتها على تحميل رأس نووي على متن صاروخ بعيد المدى. وتدرك ايضا ان القوات الكورية المسلحة، بصرف النظر عن تعدادها البشري، فان تسليحها عبارة عن اسلحة تعود لجيل الستينيات ويتوفر لديها قدر ضئيل من الدعم اللوجستي.

         لا توجد مؤشرات تدل على ان الادارة الاميركية في وارد تقديم تنازلات لكوريا. اذ جاء على لسان المستشار الرئاسي لشؤون الامن القومي، توم دونيلون، حديثا ان “الولايات المتحدة ترفض مكافأة التصرف الطائش لكوريا الشمالية. كما ان الولايات المتحدة لا تنوي الدخول في لعبة تؤدي لتقبل وعود فارغة او الامتثال للتهديدات. وكما صرح وزير الدفاع الاسبق، بوب غيتس، بالقول اننا لن نلدغ من الجحر مرتين (لن نشتري ذات الفرس مرتين).” واوضح دونيلون ان وزارة المالية الاميركية بصدد تطبيق اجراءات المقاطعة ضد مصرف التجارة الاجنبية، التابع لكوريا الشمالية.

         جدير بالملاحظة ان الولايات المتحدة لم تقدم على اتخاذ خطوات عسكرية، مع الاقرار بأن القوات الاميركية والكورية الجنوبية المشتركة هي في حالة تأهب اعلى من ذي قبل نظرا للمناورات التي تجريانها. لكن ينبغي النظر الى مجمل الاستراتيجية الكونية الاميركية التي اعلن عن تحول اولوياتها شرقا نحو المياه الاسيوية، الا ان القوات المسلحة الاميركية تعاني من انتشار واسع جغرافيا فضلا عن ان تحريك حاملات طائرات اخرى للمنطقة تحسبا لأي خطوة قد تقدم عليها كوريا الشمالية من شأنه خفض مستوى حضورها العسكري في منطقة الشرق الاوسط.

كوريا الشمالية وايران

         السؤال البارز هنا ان كان باستطاعتنا عقد مقارنة بين طبيعة الرد الاميركي على كوريا الشمالية وردها المحتمل ضد ايران. اذ اضحت كوريا الشمالية قوة نووية، رغم عزلتها الدولية، بموارد اقتصادية محدودة، وقوات نظامية كبيرة لكنها لا تمتلك القدرة على الانتشار عميقا في اراضي كوريا الجنوبية.

         بالمقابل، قد لا تمتلك ايران قنبلة نووية بعد لكن قواتها المسلحة اكثر حداثة، تسليحا وتدريبا، فضلا عن ثقلها الاقتصادي وتوفر عدد اكبر من الحلفاء وعدد السكان، ولديها القدرة على نشر قواتها في منطقة مضيق هرمز بالغ الحساسية.

         بصرف النظر عن انتقادات الخصوم الموجهة لادارة الرئيس اوباما في الداخل الاميركي لعدم اتخاذها اجراءات كبيرة بشأن ايران، الا ان توجهاتها نحو المسألتين، الكورية والايرانية، تدل على اختلاف الادوات في معالجتيهما.

         نظريا، تمتلك كلتا الدولتين القدرة على وصول اسلحتها للدمار الشامل الاراضي الاميركية، بل ان التهديد المرجح اميركيا مصدره ايران. وتمتلك ايران القدرة الصاروخية على الوصول لعدد من حلفاء الولايات المتحدة في المنطقة، كما باستطاعتها مضايقة سبل النقل البحري في مضيق هرمز، ولديها سياسة خارجية نشطة، فضلا عن قدرتها بترجمة عناصر قوتها على الاقليم.

         بالرغم من امتلاك كوريا الشمالية بعض القدرات النووية، الا ان قدرتها على ترجمة تلك القوة تبقى محدودة خارج حدودها في الزمن الراهن؛ اما عدم اقدامها على شن هجوم على كل من الصين وروسيا لكونه عملا انتحاريا بامتياز. اما شن هجوم على كوريا الجنوبية فقد يحظى بقدر من النجاح الميداني في المراحل الاولى، لكن قوة اندفاعه ستتعثر ويتوقف سريعا. وفي حال الاقدام على مغامرة خطرة بمهاجمة اراضي الولايات المتحدة باستخدام صواريخ من العسر الاعتماد عليها لحمل رؤوس نووية فانه يعد عملا انتحاريا، فضلا عن ان الشعب الاميركي سيطالب اوباما بالرد بقسوة على مصدر التهديد.

         قد يكون من الثابت ان كوريا الشمالية توصلت لقناعة بان امتلاك السلاح النووي لا يفي بالغرض للتصور الاولي. فقدراتها المحدودة لا تسمح لها انتاج سلاح نووي صالح للاستخدام ميدانيا، كالقنبلة النيوترونية، الا بعد عدة عقود من الزمن. وبالامكان القول ان قدراتها النووية بصورتها الراهنة لا تشكل سوى مظلة توفر ضمانات بعدم الاطاحة بنظامها السياسي عن طريق استخدام قوات اجنبية. كما انها تشكل وسيلة ضغط سياسية لتعزيز مطالبها برفع الحظر الاقتصادي عنها.

         مقارنة عناصر القوة لكل من ايران وكوريا حفزت واشنطن تركيز جهودها على مواجهة ايران، بل لعل عامل قربها جغرافيا وسياستها المعادية “لاسرائيل” هو العامل الاهم في سياسة اميركا. هجمات القرصنة الالكترونية الاميركية وربما “الاسرائيلية،” فايروس ستكسنت وغيره من برامج ضارة، كانت وجهتها ايران ومنشآتها النووية؛ فضلا عن مرابطة قسم لا باس به من ترسانة اسلحتها المتطورة وحاملات الطائرات في المياه البحرية القريبة من ايران.

         وجدير بالانتباه ايضا الى تباين ردود الفعل الاميركية على ايران وكوريا الشمالية امام لهجة تهديداتهما للمصالح الاميركية. اذ اعتبر مستشار الامن القومي للرئيس اوباما ان كوريا الشمالية تمثل طفل اساء التصرف، قائلا “ترفض الولايات المتحدة مكافأة سلوك كوريا الشمالية الضار.” ولم يواكبه تحركات عسكرية ذات شأن.

         اما تهديد ايران لنيتها اغلاق مضيق هرمز امام حركة الملاحة التجارية، فقد استدعى استقدام عناصر القوة الاميركية الى المنطقة، على رأسها حاملات الطائرات وكاسحات الالغام البحرية. بل اعلنت الولايات المتجدة ان حاملات طائراتها سترابط خارج مياه الخليج للقيام بتنفيذ مهامها، وفي نفس الوقت الابقاء على منطقة آمنة تخلو من اي تهديد محتمل لحركة الملاحة. وانضمت فرقاطات ومدمرات اميركية الى السفن الحربية التي تملكها دول الخليج العربي لحماية القوافل البحرية، فضلا عن توفيرها غطاء جويا لمسرح عمليات مرتقب. اما كاسحات الالغام فمهمتها مراقبة الحركة البحرية في المضيق ومسح مياهه للتيقن من خلوها من المتفجرات. طائرات “الاواكس” ايضا تنضم لمراقبة حركة الملاحة التجارية واعطاء الاشارة لانطلاق طائرات مقاتلة لمواجهة محاولات السفن الايرانية زرع الالغام او الاعداد لشن هجوم. فرق القوات الخاصة ستقوم بمهام تفتيش المركبات واتخاذ الاجراءات اللازمة. مقابل كل ما تقدم، يبقى السؤال قائما ان يؤدي تفاقم الوضع في شبه الجزيرة الكورية الى استدراج بعض عناصر القوة العسكرية من منطقة الخليج العربي مما قد يسفر عنه اتاحة الفرصة لايران للمضي في مواقفها المتشددة، اما في منطقة مضيق هرمز او في مكان آخر.

         الولايات المتحدة تحافظ على سرية احداثيات وتحركات قطعها البحرية، الا ان تنامي حدة النزاع بين الصين واليابان حول ملكية جزر متنازع عليها ادى لتحرك حاملتي طائرات من سلاح البحرية الاميركية  وقوة من مشاة البحرية لاتخاذ مواقع محددة في غربي المحيط الهاديء. مسافة وصول تلك الترسانة الى مقربة من شواطيء كوريا الشمالية تستغرق 48 ساعة، عند الضرورة. ويستبعد الحاجة الى مشاركة مزيد من القطع البحرية المرابطة في منطقة الشرق الاوسط نظرا لانتفاء قدرة كوريا الشمالية على فرض نفوذها.

         استنادا الى فرضية التهديد الايراني سيكون مصدره من ناحية البحر، مياه المضيق، يصبح منطقيا افتراض بقاء قطع البحرية الاميركية مرابطة في منطقة الشرق الاوسط. بالمقابل، تفتقد كوريا الشمالية الى سلاح بحري ذو شأن مما يدفع الى الاستنتاج بان القوة البحرية الاميركية لمواجهة كوريا ستكون محدودة وسيتم الاعتماد على استخدام سلاح الطيران للمهام القتالية من القوات المرابطة في اليابان او كوريا الجنوبية.

         عند حاجة مسرح الشرق الاوسط لمزيد من القوة العسكرية الاميركية، ستتم عملية الامداد من القوات والاسلحة المرابطة في مياه البحر الابيض المتوسط واوروبا. ونظرا لاعتماد القارة الاوروبية على الامدادات النفطية المارة بمضيق هرمز، فمن المرجح انضمام القوات الفرنسية والبريطانية للجهد الحربي.

         ايران، من جانبها، ترصد بدقة مدى وطبيعة الرد الاميركي على كوريا الشمالية واعتباره مؤشر على كيفية الرد الاميركي على التحديات الايرانية. اما الولايات المتحدة فتعتبر ايران منذ عقود مصدر تهديد اكبر استلزم نشر ترسانة عسكرية ضخمة وشن حرب الكترونية على منشآتها الحساسة واستهداف مصالحها الاقتصادية؛ وتمضي ادارة الرئيس اوباما في الرهان على قدرتها لاحتواء ايران ومجال نفوذها الاقليمي.

زيارة اوباما الخارجية الاولى في عهده الثاني: أبعد من السياحة واعمق من الاستماع

   تعطل سيارة وموكب الرئيس اوباما في زيارته للقدس المحتلة ربما يرمز الى ما هو ابعد من ثمة عطل ميكانيكي، بل كما اريد منها بالاصل همروجة اعلامية خالية الوفاض من اي خطوات عملية، كما كان يرنو اليه المنخرطون في سياسة التسوية. في الشق المقابل من المشهد الاميركي، يشاطر معظم المحللين والمراقبين الرأي ان زيارته، بل الحملة الاعلامية المكثفة، لم تنطوي على نوايا جديدة بالتحرك لتعزيز جهود السلام في المنطقة، كما يروج السياسيون.

غياب طابع الجدية والثبات كان طاغيا في زيارة اوباما، التي سرعان ما تحولت الى زيارة استكشافية للمعالم الهامة التي تزخر بها المنطقة. اما الرسالة الخفية فهي التأكيد على دور الكيان “الاسرائيلي” في المنطقة، كركيزة للمخططات الاميركية. ولم يكن بوسع اوباما الا زيارة ضريح مؤسس الصهيونية الاول، ثيودور هيرتسل في القدس المحتلة، والنصب التذكاري الابرز “ياد فاشيم” بالقرب من قبر هيرتسل، ومتحف “اسرائيل” الذي يضم مقتنيات اثرية مسروقة تشمل مخطوطات البحر الميت، والتزلف بوجود اليهود في المنطقة منذ القدم، كما زعم نائب المستشار الرئاسي لشؤون الامن القومي، بن رودس، قائلا ان المخطوطات “تدل على ترابط اليهود القدماء واسرائيل، بالطبع.”

وحتى لا تضيع فرصة التوكيد المزعوم، انبرى سفير الكيان “الاسرائيلي” في واشنطن، مايكل اورين، للحديث وشرح المخطوطات التي “كتبت قبل 2،000 عام ونيف، بالعبرية على يد اليهود في وطنهم، ارض اسرائيل …”

لعل الاهم في معالم الزيارة هو ما جرى تجنبه من الادراج على جدولها، اذ رفض اوباما الظهور امام الكنيست والقاء كلمة فيه، اجراء يعد لازمة لكل رئيس اميركي زائر، كما تجنب زيارة حائط المبكى اللازمة الاخرى.

زخم التغطية الاعلامية رمى لارضاء الجالية اليهودية الاميركية واستعادة ثقتها، سيما بعد تصاعد نغمة النداءات التي تزعم ان سياسات اوباما معادية “لاسرائيل” لتجنبه زيارتها من موقعه الرئاسي، مقارنة مع سلفيه الرئيسين جورج بوش الابن وبيل كلينتون اللذين لم يدخرا جهدا الا وبذلاه في استثمار العلاقة الاميركية الاسرائيلية. بعد انفضاض الزيارة يكون بوسع اوباما اخراجها من حيز التداول والابتزاز.

 شعبية اوباما لدى “الاسرائيليين” متدنية ولم تتجاوز 10%، وفق احدث استطلاعات الرأي، مما يفضي الى القول انه لا يملك الكثير من النفوذ للضغط على الحكومة “الاسرائيلية” لدخول المفاوضات السلمية. اما ان افضت الزيارة الرئاسية عن نجاحها فمن شأنها تعزيز ذاك التوجه، لو اراد، حتى بدون توفر ضمانات لوجهتها النهائية. وبالنظر الى النتائج المخيبة لآماله نتيجة انخراطه المباشر في المفاوضات السلمية ابان ولايته الرئاسية الاولى، باستطاعتنا القول ان اوباما سينأى بعيدا عن الانخراط الفعال، وقد يحيل المهمة الى وزير خارجيته جون كيري.

وعليه، في ظل غياب مبادرة محددة بشأن الفلسطينيين، ماذا سينتج عن زيارته؟

بداية، لم يلجأ اوباما الى التعويل على جهود مفاوضات ثنائية تجري بين حكومتين، بل استعاض عنها بالقاء كلمة مباشرة امام حشد من الطلبة الجامعيين في القدس المحتلة، موجها خطابه مباشرة الى المواطنين “الاسرائيليين” والاميركيين.

تبنى اوباما في خطابه الرواية الصهيونية بكاملها لقراءة الصراع العربي-الصهيوني، لم يجد غضاضة او تناقضا بين زعمه التبشيري بديموقراطية  دولة الكيان الاسرائيلي وتأكيده للاعتراف بها كدولة يهودية. ولا يبدو انه يكترث بمصير اصحاب الارض من الفلسطينيين الذين سيتعرضون بالطبع للترحيل من وطنهم.

كما التفّ على موضوع الاستيطان في مسعى لتهميشه، واشار اليه فقط باعتباره عملا “غير بناء اومناسب او يخدم هدف السلام”، اي تجاوز اعتباره امرا محظورا قانونيا لانه تصرف باراضي الغير من قبل سلطة احتلال. وللامعان في التجاوز اشار بصورة واضحة الى ان اي استئناف للمفاوضات المباشرة بين الطرفين الاسرائيلي والفلسطيني لايجوز ان يكون مشروطا بوقف الاستيطان، واشار ضمنيا الى ان الاصرار على وقفه يشكل استباقا للحل النهائي، عندما تساءل ماذا يبقى للتفاوض او ما الفائدة من التفاوض اذا تم الاصرار على وقف الاستيطان؟

وكان مستغربا ان لم يكن جهلا او تضليلا مقصودا ان يشبّه اوباما العلاقة القائمة بين الاسرائيليين والفلسطينيين (وهي بين سلطة احتلال وشعب خاضع للاحتلال)  كعلاقة الجار بين كندا واميركا، فهل تحتل اميركا كندا او العكس؟

السفير الاميركي الاسبق لدى تل ابيب، مارتن انديك، هلل لاوباما مبشرا بأنه “نجم فني سيجري استقباله بحفاوة، وسيستطيع العودة الى سابق عهده، الامر الذي يعد بالغ الاهمية. اذ ان الراي العام (الاسرائيلي) سيعاقب رئيس وزرائه لاساءته استخدام العلاقة مع رئيس يحظى بشعبية .. فنتنياهو يتغذى على استطلاعات الرأي عند افطاره، وسيدرك اي تغيير في مسار التوازن” بينهما.

 بما ان نتنياهو قد خرج من توه منتصرا في الانتخابات، فقد انخفض حاجز خوفه من اوباما الذي لا يتمتع بشعبية تتجاوز 10% بين “الاسرائيليين.” من الطبيعي تعويل اوباما على مردود ايجابي لزيارته وتوقع تحسن صورته ولو بشكل مؤقت ان لم يرتكب زلة كبرى. ويدرك اوباما ان عدم الرضى “الاسرائيلي” ليس لتخلف زيارته، بل لكيفية تعاطيه مع الملفات التي تهم “الاسرائيليين.”

تصريحات اوباما في المؤتمر الصحفي المشترك في رام الله، يوم الخميس 21 آذار، بينت بوضوح تقربه نحو الموقف “الاسرائيلي” فيما يتعلق بوضعية المستوطنات التي تفادى وصفها “غير شرعية،” بالنقيض مع سياسة ادارته عينها سابقا. ونعتها بخجل بانها “غير مشجعة،” طمعا في عدم اثارة غلاة اليمين “الاسرائيلي.” بل قطع الطريق على طاقم المفاوضات الفلسطيني الذي يتدثر بتوسيع المستوطنات كذريعة وشرطا للجلوس الى طاولة المفاضات.

تصدرت جدول اعمال لقاء اوباما ونتنياهو مسألتي ايران وسورية، بخلاف توقعات البعض لحضور ملف المفاوضات “الاسرائيلية” – الفلسطينية. ففي سورية، تجري مخاوف من تجدد الاشتباكات على جبهة مرتفعات الجولان، خاصة بعد تعرض مواقع قوات الامم المتحدة للقصف من قبل المسلحين السوريين،  ودخول الاسلحة الالكيميائية ميدان المعارك، بالرغم من تصريحات السفير الاميركي لدى دمشق، روبرت فورد، بان الدلائل غير متوفرة لاستخدام اسلحة كيميائية في الاشتباكات مطلع الاسبوع الماضي؛ اما وزير الاستخبارات “الاسرئيلية” فقد قارب الجزم باستخدامها. روسيا بدورها اعلنت ان الهجمات تحمل بصمات كيميائية من صنع المتمردين السوريين.

ادخال مكونات كيميائية في المواجهات المسلحة يثير اهتمامات وطرح اسئلة كبيرة، سيما وان اطقما طبية عدة تواجدت في المكان دون اقنعة واقية من الاسلحة الكيميائية اثناء قيامها بواجبها لاسعاف المصابين، والذين لو تعرضوا حقا لمكونات اسلحة كيميائية لما بقوا على قيد الحياة. البعض تكهن بان مكون سام آخر تسبب في مقتل الابرياء. الثابت علميا ان مسرح الاشتباكات التقليدية في حروب اليوم مشبع بالسموم نتيجة المتفجرات المختلفة، والرذاذ المندفع وعناصر كيميائية اخرى تخص الاستخدامات العسكرية. باستطاعة المحارب اطلاق رذاذ لعدد من المواد السامة في الهواء كي يستنشقها المدنيون؛ وان تعرضت حاوية بداخلها مواد كيميائية سامة الى قذيفة متفجرة، سيتأثر كل من في محيطها للغازات المنتشرة، كما شهدنا في الحروب الاميركية المختلفة على يوغسلافيا والعراق.

 المثير انه في زمن وفرة انتشار المعلومات تبقى حالة من عدم التيقن للمصدر والفاعل، مما وفر ذخيرة اعلامية يستغلها الطيف الواسع من الفاعلين، كل لمصلحته. بل يراها البعض انها الرمق الاخير في المخطط الغربي لتوفير ذريعة التدخل بعيدا عن الآليات والاعراف الدولية، سيما وان بعض تلك الاطراف رسم “خطوطا حمراء” للحكومة السورية تجاوزها يستدعي تدخلا عسكريا اميركيا. في حال الادارة الاميركية، من المرجح ان تبقي ادارة الرئيس اوباما على ضبابية الامر، رغم تيقنها لهوية الفاعل الحقيقي، لتفادي بلورة اي رد مفترض.

العلاقات “الاسرائيلية” المصرية كانت حاضرة على جدول الاعمال، وان غيبتها التغطية الاعلامية، للخشية من العدد الكبير للجيش المصري في ظل مناخ سياسي داخلي مضطرب. كما تخشى “اسرائيل” من عدم قدرة قواتها المسلحة مواجهة القوات النظامية المصرية بعد ادخال تعديلات على عقيدتها القتالية بتخفيف الاعتماد على الاسلحة التقليدية، كالمدرعات، والتركيز على استراتيجية غير تقليدية. وعليه، من المرجح ان تلجأ “اسرائيل” لطلب مزيد من المعدات والوسائل القتالية لتعويض النقص في قدراتها.

في مسالة الملف النووي الايراني، اكد اوباما مجددا ان الولايات المتحدة لا تنهج “سياسة احتواء ايران،” وستعمل على منعها التسلح نوويا. وعلت النشوة وجه نتنياهو قائلا “انا على قناعة مطلقة بان الرئيس عازم على منع ايران امتلاك سلاح نووي.”

ما ينتظر اوباما في هذا الشأن هو قدرته على ردع “اسرائيل” من القيام باجراء احادي الجانب ضد ايران، اذ من غير المنتظر ان يلقى آذانا صاغية داخل اوساط حكومة نتنياهو الحالية دون تقديمه مزيد من الخطوات البديلة. لم يعد سرا قلق الولايات المتحدة لقيام “اسرائيل” بشن غارة عسكرية على ايران، او ضيق ذرع “الاسرائيليين” باعتماد المقاطعة الاقتصادية اسلوبا رئيسا. وقد تؤدي هذه المعادلة المختلة الى توصل الطرفين لتعزيز جهودهما المشتركة لشن هجمات الكترونية ضد المنشآت النووية الايرانية، التي اسفرت عن بعض النجاحات في السابق، كما تبلور في فايروس “ستكسنت.” غني عن القول، ان ما تقدم لن يأتي ذكره في اي صيغة بيان مشترك للطرفين او عند نهاية الزيارة.

كما من المرجح ان تفضي الزيارة عن اتفاقية غير معلنة لتعزيز التعاون بين جهاز المخابرات “الموساد” ووكالة المخابرات المركزية، السي آي ايه، كما يستدل من تقرير لصحيفة واشنطن بوست الذي جاء فيه “قامت اجهزة الاستخبارات الاميركية بالتعاون الفعال مع الموساد لانشاء قوة لشن حرب بالوكالة من وراء الاضواء. ونقلا عن تصريحات مؤكدة لمسؤولين اميركيين، جاء في تقرير لشبكة “ان بي سي” للتلفزة بث في شهر شباط 2012 ان الجهاز الاسرائيلي (الموساد) قام بتدريب وتسليح عناصر من مجاهدي خلق سرا .. لاغتيال علماء ايرانيين في علم الذرة بطهران.”

من جانبه، رسم البيت الابيض مستوىً متدنٍ من التوقعات للجولة الرئاسية، واطلق العنان لوسائل الاعلام لتناول اخفاقات التقدم في ملفات المنطقة – مما اثار حفيظة اوباما. وعلى غير عادته، وبخ الرئيس اوباما مراسل سبكة “ام اس ان بي سي” للتلفزة، تشك تود، لفرطه في طرح اسئلته، سيما حول اخفاقات الرئيس في احراز تقدم في المفاوضات السلمية في الشرق الاوسط، ونعته اوباما “بالعنيد.” لا عجب، اذن، لتدني توقعات الخبراء لاحراز خطوات ملموسة عقب انتهاء الجولة الرئاسية.

مع كتابة هذه السطور تكون الطائرة الرئاسية قد حطت على الاراضي الاميركية وانتقل اوباما الى مخدعه في البيت الابيض ولكنه ترك وزير خارجيته ليتابع الملفات الاقليمية وخاصة الخطوة القادمة في مسار تأمين التفاوض الفلسطيني – الاسرائيلي. يستطيع اوباما ان يعلن انجازا لم يتصدر جدول زيارته اعلاميا اصلا وهو استعادة دفء العلاقات بين حليفين رئيسين لواشنطن : تركيا واسرائيل. خطوة تبدو مع تطورات اخرى في المنطقة تؤشر على مسعى واشنطن لسد اي ثغرات في معسكرها الاقليمي لممارسة المزيد من الضغط الميداني في مسرح العمليات الخفية والعلنية من لبنان ،سوريا ، فلسطين، العراق وايران .. والسؤال يبقى عالقا كيف سيرد المعسكر المستهدف لوقف عمليات التطويق والاستنزاف؟؟؟؟

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The Wilson Center hosted an event on “Lessons learned from the Arab Spring and Challenges Ahead.” The event focused that constitutions are most important in making transitions happen because Arab populations are not used to transitioning into a democratic system. Clarity in the constitutions are needed for smooth transition. Religious and secular parties are both amateur in exercising political pluralism. In Jordan, many people are afraid of reform or change. In Tunisia, citizens argue they have more political rights but less jobs. In Libya, over 100 parties are running for positions in government. This is a recipe for disaster; their cannot be so many parties fighting for political positions. The Libyan National Congress is frequently visited by militias if the LNC does anything they disagree with. Up to 300 militias are in Libya today. In conclusion, every state is different, but there are cases are improved political rights but less employment opportunities. Progress will be very slow because the region is not used to political diversity or an electoral system.

The Carnegie Endowment looks at the linkage between political freedom and economic security. They conclude, “Economic reform processes will work in the Middle East, but not if they follow the models of the past two decades. For economic programs to succeed they must also encompass political elements… The Arab Awakening spurred citizens to expect more from their government. Political change will stall without greater prosperity for more people in the region. At the same time, economic change will not succeed without empowering the key institutions necessary to enable and support the development of more efficient and transparent economic processes. Political and economic elements must work hand in hand to move the region forward.

The Heritage Foundation looks at the focus on Syria during Secretary of State Kerry’s trip overseas last week. They note, “Like it or not, arms are the coin of the realm for influencing Syria’s future and halting its slide into an Islamist dictatorship or failed state. Maintaining a failing soft-power strategy against a hardened regime that launches air strikes and Scud missiles against its own people will only prolong the conflict, empower extremists in the opposition at the expense of moderates, and contribute to dangerous spillover effects that threaten Syria’s neighbors. Secretary of State Kerry’s first overseas trip will ultimately be considered a success only if he can convince President Obama to offer stronger support for non-Islamist groups within the Syrian opposition to hasten the fall of Assad and offset the power of Islamist extremists in post-Assad Syria.”

The Institute for the Study of War looks at the evolving war in Syria. “Bashar al-Assad’s reliance on a small core of trusted military units limited his ability to control all of Syria. He hedged against defections by deploying only the most loyal one-third of the Syrian Army, but in so doing he undercut his ability to prosecute a troop-intensive counterinsurgency campaign because he could not use all of his forces. Defections and attrition have exacerbated the regime’s central challenge of generating combat power. These dynamics have weakened the Syrian Army in some ways but also honed it, such that what remains of these armed forces is comprised entirely of committed regime supporters. Fears of retribution have pushed conventional and paramilitary loyalists to converge upon the common goal of survival, resulting in a broadly cohesive, ultra-nationalist, and mostly-Alawite force. The remnants of the Syrian military and the powerful pro-regime militias are likely to wage a fierce insurgency against any opposition-led Sunni government in Syria if the Assad regime collapses. Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah are likely to encourage the militias and regime remnants to converge, supporting this transition to insurgency in order to preserve Iranian interests after Assad.”

JINSA argues that the US could end Hezbollah’s dominance in Lebanon. It notes, “Washington may need to engage in massive diplomatic arm-twisting. Fortunately, it currently has exceptional leverage over Paris, the leading opponent of designation, because France still needs American help (intelligence, transport, midair refueling aircraft, etc.) for its ongoing military operation in Mali. Washington should not hesitate to exploit this leverage. It should also consider assuaging French concerns over its peacekeepers in Lebanon by moving to end UNIFIL’s mandate. The UN peacekeeping force neither prevented Hezbollah’s 2006 war with Israel nor kept it from rearming afterward; thus if a trade-off is needed, UNIFIL does far less to keep the peace than would an EU designation that could substantially weaken Hezbollah – which, after all, is Lebanon’s main source of both internal instability and tension with Israel. The current confluence of events provides a unique opportunity to finally end Hezbollah’s grip on Lebanon. But Washington must seize the moment. If it misses this opportunity, the next one may be a long time coming.

The Middle East Institute hosted Hon. Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA to focus on the status of Palestinians in a changing Middle East. Palestinians are facing great trouble in Syria because they generally held a position of neutrality toward the Syrian conflict. Now, we are seeing more Palestinians taking both sides and not being neutral. Backlash against Palestinians is expected if the Syrian government falls. Furthermore, the Palestinians in Syria are limited in mobility because of Jordan’s policy of not allowing anymore Palestinians to take refuge in Jordan. In conclusion, Palestinian limitation of mobility is evident in Syria, Gaza and the West Bank. This limitation of movement puts them in greater danger, whether they are in Gaza, Syria or the West Bank.

The Council on Foreign Relations focused on criticizing Arab boycotts to Israel, arguing that boycotting visiting and trading with the State is works against peace. Moreover, this practice of boycotting Israel by the general Arab hurts Palestinians; Palestinian Imams are welcoming more Arabs to visit Jerusalem. In conclusion, without a shift in attitude in the Arab mind set, Israel’s security concerns will never be allayed. Humanizing Israel to Arabs — by bringing together America’s Muslim allies, by addressing anti-Semitism in school textbooks and in sermons at mosques, by permitting Arab citizens to visit and trade with Israel — are requisite first steps. Arab nations experiencing revolution for freedom cannot be serious about wanting democracy when they are banning their citizens from visiting Muslim (and Jewish and Christian) holy sites.

The Washington Institute focuses on understanding what Israel’s next government coalition will look like. Netanyahu’s Likud Party will form a coalition with the election’s two most significant success stories: the center-left Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future”) Party of journalist Yair Lapid and the far-right Jewish Home Party of Naftali Bennett. The deadline to form a coalition government is days before U.S President Barack Obama is scheduled to visit. In conclusion, “the addition of two neophytes(Bennett and Lapid) could strengthen the military establishment against Iran, which wants to work with the United States as much as possible unless it begins to feel isolated and compelled to attack.”

The US Institute of Peace focused on the how Libya might be a case of success in the Arab Spring. The Institute concluded that progress is evident as communities are establishing community watches to increase stability in neighborhoods. Government officials are acknowledging human rights abuses and difficult conditions for detainees and prisoners and are working hard to resolve them by improving facilities, build new ones, and speed up the trials of those in custody. Libya’s General National Congress, under pressure from constituents and despite the reservations of its own members, voted to have representatives for the constitutional drafting committee elected rather than appointed. In conclusion, there is a great positive effort taking place by the Libyan government and its citizens to improve that status of the country. Examples of Libyans volunteering for stability along with various officials recognizing human rights abuses are all positive steps and must be recognized.

The Wilson Center hosted James Zogby to discuss the results of his recent poll that took place at the end of 2012. The polling included 17 Arab countries and three non-Arab countries on a range of topics including attitudes towards Iran, politics, nuclear program, Iranian culture and people. In conclusion, Zogby shows how Iran was viewed generally favorable among Arab countries for its position against imperialism and Zionism. In 2006, views toward Iran were favorable. After 2006, favorability toward Iran is dropping; Iran’s role in Bahrain, Syria, Iraq, its actions against the green movement and its nuclear ambitions are reasons for this slip in favorability. Also, Turkey’s role in the region is increasing and its image has improved. This could also be a reason for a slipping positive view toward Iran. Lebanon and Iraq viewed Iran most favorably on a consistent basis. Though Lebanese are divided on many issues, they become unified in their support for Iran. This support stems from Iran’s assistance to Lebanon in the 2006 war.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies focused on strategizing against enemies taking control of energy chokepoints in the world. Iran’s threats to close the Hormuz Strait were referenced. However, the Institutes highlights the Gulf of Guinea and how this coastline is a will become an increasing strategic importance and must be protected. “The U.S. is expected to import a quarter of its oil from the Gulf of Guinea nations by 2015.” The problem with this coastline are reports of increased piracy and “terrorist groups like Boko Haram of Nigeria, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Shabab of Somalia, and elements of the Iranian regime have used this area for arms trafficking.” In conclusion, with the presence of these pariah groups, along with the coastline being of strategic value, world powers must do more to protect the Gulf of Guinea.

The Washington Institute highlights the status of Turkey as a regional power and the strengths and challenges the country is facing today. Turkey’s economic growth has elevated it to the ranks of the G-20; it is the largest and wealthiest Muslim country in the World. Stability along with an increase in investments (rising Turkish businesses) followed by exercising soft power in the region all give Turkey a positive image in the world. However, Turkey’s greatest challenges are managing the Syrian conflict. Turkey’s involvement might change its image as a stable country. “But if conflict in Syria aggravates Turkey’s own internal cleavages and presents opportunities for violent groups to wage war against Turkey, its reputation as a bastion of stability may begin to erode.”

The American Enterprise Institute focuses on criticising why Obama’s plan to pull most troops out of Afghanistan is the biggest mistake he will make. The Institute argues that the Afghan National Security Front is not equipped and ready to take responsibility to lead in security. They also referred to Mohammed Najibullah, a Soviet puppet who survived for three years after soviet withdrawal, had even more weapons than the current ANSF. ANSF will be unable to protect American bases if the majority of our troops withdrawal. In conclusion, Obama’s decision to withdrawal is a terrible one.

The Hudson Institute focuses on the nomination of Chuck Hagel as Security of Defense and the major challenges that he must deal with. The article outlines America’s greatest challenges; a major challenge being his management of America’s exit strategy in Afghanistan. Regarding China, the Institute argues that the U.S must not directly confront China regarding territorial disputes with Japan. The U.S must support peace settlement of territories between China and its neighbours. The greatest challenge Hagel he faces is the billions in spending cuts facing the Pentagon budget. “The United States is in a long-term defense drawdown complicated by the rising costs of weapons systems and services (healthcare) that is squeezing manpower, operations, and investment.”

The CSIS looks at how CENTCOM must evolve. They stress that, “The US must work with its Gulf Arab allies and other neighboring allies to preserve the security of the Gulf and the world’s flow of oil exports, and deal with the rising threat Iran poses in terms of asymmetric warfare, missiles, and potentially nuclear weapons. The US needs to work with its Arab allies to create a structure of deterrence and defense that will do as much as possible to deter Iran, and push it towards negotiations. It must also, however, engage the GCC states, the UK, and France to be able to defend the Gulf against Iran, rapidly restore the flow of trade and petroleum, and deal with Iranian asymmetric attacks and missile strikes. It must be ready to carry out preventive strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities and persist, if necessary, to ensure Iran does not become a nuclear power.”

The Carnegie Endowment looks at corruption in Afghanistan and American failure to stop it. They note, “U.S. decision-makers seem paradoxically more apt to take military risks than diplomatic or political risks. Afghan corruption and governance — like the tissue of grievances that might give rise to extremism in the African Sahel or in Yemen, or the stalemate between Israel and Palestine, or the challenges of expanding diplomatic channels with China — are seen as too difficult, too complex, to engage. So, for a decade, the interagency debate on Afghanistan became a logistics problem, obsessing on numbers of troops, and skirted the conflict’s underlying political drivers. Now, once again, the United States is fixated on logistics: How many soldiers will be removed, how fast, and how to ensure the smoothest possible passage for them and their materiel out of Afghanistan. All other considerations are subordinated to this physics problem. Meanwhile, the civilian dimensions and instruments of U.S. power abroad continue to atrophy, and with them, America’s influence.”

PUBLICATIONS March 5, 2013

Palestinian Refugees in a Changing Middle East
By: Hon. Filippo Grandi, Commissioner-General of UNRWA (Video)
March 5, 2013

http://www.mei.edu/events/palestinian-refugees-changing-middle-east

The Rise and Fall of Iran in Arab Muslims Eyes- – New Polls
By: James Zogby(video)
March 5,2013
http://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/the-rise-fall-iran-arab-and-muslim-eyes-new-poll
http://www.aaiusa.org/page/-/Images/Polls/LookingAtIranPoll3_5_13.pdf

Netanyahu Forced to Rethink His Coalition
By: David Makovsky
March 5, 2013

For the first time since Israel’s January 22 election, the probable contours of a new government led by incumbent Binyamin Netanyahu are finally coming into view. This weekend, President Shimon Peres granted him the maximal two-week extension to shape a new coalition, moving the legal deadline to March 16. It now seems increasingly likely that Netanyahu’s Likud Party will form a coalition with the election’s two most significant success stories: the center-left Yesh Atid (“There Is a Future”) Party of journalist Yair Lapid and the far-right Jewish Home Party of Naftali Bennett.

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/netanyahu-forced-to-rethink-his-coalition

Turkey Rising?
Soner Cagaptay
Washington Institute of Near East Policy
March 4, 2013

Turkey has come a long way in the past decade, but it still has a long way to go. Over the short term, the country’s destiny will be contingent on two interrelated dynamics: the Syrian conflict, and Turkey’s economic momentum.

Phenomenal economic growth has elevated Turkey to the ranks of the G-20, and the country has set its sights on becoming one of the ten largest global economies by the time the republic celebrates its centennial in 2023. Turkey is now the largest and wealthiest Muslim country in the world, and for the first time since the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the Turks have incomes on a par with European incomes.

http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/turkey-rising

Leaving in 2014
By Frederick W. Kagan
March 5, 2013

President Obama is about to make the worst mistake of the Afghan war, it seems. He appears ready to announce that the United States will keep fewer than 10,000 troops in the country after 2014, a decision tantamount to abandoning Afghanistan and America’s interests in South Asia.

The president and his advisors seem to have persuaded themselves that the situation in Afghanistan is fundamentally benign (which is odd, since most Americans think that the situation is hopeless).

http://www.criticalthreats.org/afghanistan/kagan-leaving-2014-march-5-2013

Hagel at the Helm
China-U.S Focus
By Richard Weitz

March 5, 2013
Senator Chuck Hagel was recently sworn in as the 24th U.S. Secretary of Defense. He has a tough job ahead of him. Unlike his predecessor, Leon Panetta, Hagel did not receive a 100-to-0 vote in his confirmation vote. Rather his 58 affirmative votes, with 41 against, were the lowest in history due to hurt feelings among his fellow Republicans that Hagel had been a disloyal carrier of their agenda. He also faces major regional security challenges in Asia and beyond. But perhaps Hagel’s most serious challenge lies in his budget battles at home.

http://www.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=publication_details&id=9519

End the Arab Boycott of Israel
By: Ed Husain, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
March 6, 2013

On Jerusalem’s ancient walls hung old fans that made a rattling, windy noise. There was no money for air-conditioning. The carpet for worshipers was old and ragged. I was inside one of the world’s most significant buildings, but scaffolding and clutter prevented me from seeing the center of the Dome of the Rock.

http://www.cfr.org/middle-east/end-arab-boycott-israel/p30155

Libya’s Peaceful Anniversary Shows Potential for Stability, Success
By: by Rania Swadek
March 7, 2013

The anniversary of Libya’s revolution was preceded by weeks of apprehension, planning, tension, and concern, not only by international observers, but also by the Libyan government, Libyan civil society organizations, and average citizens on the street.

Airlines canceled flights in and out of the country, international organizations pulled staff and postponed programing, and government officials visited “high-risk” regions such as Benghazi to reassure the populace of their commitment and to ease fears that citizens would be marginalized and abandoned in the aftermath of the revolution.

http://www.usip.org/publications/libya-s-peaceful-anniversary-shows-potential-stability-success

Kerry Offers More Aid but Still Lacks Sound Strategy on Syria
By James Phillips
Heritage Foundation
February 28, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry has embarked on his first official trip abroad, traveling to the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. Although NATO and European issues have been featured prominently in Kerry’s early stops, much of his agenda will focus on containing the destabilizing spillover effects of the intensifying Syrian civil war. Kerry’s trip has been billed as a listening tour, and the new Secretary of State has already received an earful of complaints about the shortcomings of the Obama Administration’s Syria policy from Syrian opposition leaders and U.S. allies concerned about the Administration’s passive “leading from behind” approach to Syria’s worsening crisis. Kerry’s challenge will be to chart a more effective course for salvaging a stable post-Assad Syria that does not threaten U.S. national interests and those of U.S. allies.

Read more

Challenges and Opportunities in the CENTCOM AOR
By Anthony Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
March 4, 2013

The US needs to comprehensively reexamine its strategy and force posture in the USCENTCOM area of responsibility (AOR). America faces multiple challenges with a fiscally constrained environment at home, and a demanding mix of rising strategic concerns across Asia and the Middle East. This requires a level of strategic triage where the US does not overcommit its resources, as well as a new emphasis on cooperative security efforts with both traditional allies and emerging regional partners. The US must shift away from a focus on terrorism per se to the much broader mix of threats posed by Islamic extremism and the struggles within the Islamic world. These no longer are driven by Al Qa’ida central, or by terrorism. They involve civil conflicts, insurgencies, symmetric warfare, and uncertain mixes of state and non-state actors. They are driven by struggles between more secular and more religious elements, struggles between Sunni factions, and struggles between Sunnis and Shi’ites.

Read more

Holder, drones, and due process
By John Yoo
American Enterprise Institute
March 6, 2013

In his latest misstep, Attorney General Eric Holder is refusing to rule out the possibility of using armed drones against American citizens within the United States. According to a letter he sent to Senator Rand Paul, as Charles C. W. Cooke noted, Holder said that the use of lethal force would be “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur, and one we hope no president will ever have to confront,” but might be necessary to stop a “catastrophic attack” like the December 7, 1941, or September 11, 2001, attacks on the homeland. Holder may have the right idea, but because of his misunderstanding of the law and his political tin ear, he is only frightening the American people — though this seems to be the administration’s preferred approach to politics these days.

Read more

Turning Afghanistan Over to Criminals
By Sarah Chayes
Carnegie Endowment
March 5, 2013
Foreign Policy

U.S. policy toward Afghanistan has been crippled by profound flaws since the decision to intervene was made in the wake the 9/11 attacks. Most flaws stem from a view of the mission that remained consistently — across both George W. Bush’s and Barack Obama’s administrations — constrained to combating the immediate violent manifestations of extremism: terrorist actions, or plans to conduct them, against U.S. interests. With that focus on symptoms trumping all other considerations, U.S. policy ironically fanned the flames of the very extremism it was supposedly trying to counter. It succeeded in driving a country that was desperate to be rid of Taliban rule back into the Taliban’s arms, because the alternative, for many Afghans, was not a lot better. And it is leaving behind a region even more laden with extremist currents, and more volatile and unstable, than it was in 2001.

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Freedom and Bread Go Together
By Marwan Muasher
Carnegie Endowment
March 1, 2013

IMF’s Finance and Development

As Arab countries face dire economic challenges, it is easy to forget that not long ago many of them were in a similar—or worse—position. If the region is to successfully tackle unemployment, encourage foreign investment, and foster economic growth, leaders must take lessons from the recent past.­ These lessons offer five rules for success. Economic reforms cannot succeed in isolation, but must go hand in hand with political transitions. They must benefit all segments of society and have buy-in from everyone. They should be quantifiable based on a clear goal. Finally, plans for economic reform must be communicated effectively.

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The Assad Regime: From Counterinsurgency To Civil War
By Joseph Holliday
Institute for the Study of War – March 2013

The conflict in Syria transitioned from an insurgency to a civil war during the summer of 2012. For the first year of the conflict, Bashar al-Assad relied on his father’s counterinsurgency approach; however, Bashar al-Assad’s campaign failed to put down the 2011 revolution and accelerated the descent into civil war. This report seeks to explain how the Assad regime lost its counterinsurgency campaign, but remains well situated to fight a protracted civil war against Syria’s opposition. Hafez al-Assad subdued the Muslim Brotherhood uprising in the early 1980s through a counterinsurgency campaign that relied on three strategies for generating and employing military force: carefully selecting and deploying the most trusted military units, raising pro-regime militias, and using those forces to clear insurgents out of major urban areas and then hold them with a heavy garrison of troops. Bashar al-Assad attempted unsuccessfully to employ the same strategy in 2011-2012.

Read more

U.S. Push Could End Hezbollah’s Domination of Lebanon
By Evelyn Gordon
Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs

February 28, 2013

When massive protests forced Syria to withdraw its forces from Lebanon in 2005, it seemed that Lebanon had finally been liberated from foreign domination. But the liberation proved illusory: The country remained in thrall to Hezbollah, which took its orders from Iran and Syria. Hezbollah’s dominance was dramatically demonstrated in 2008, when it staged an armed takeover of Beirut to keep the government from dismantling its telecommunications network and ending its control of airport security. The resulting “reconciliation” agreement granted it veto power over all government decisions.

Read more

A Bad Year at AIPAC

But it would be dangerous to count them out

Most organizations would consider it a triumph if their annual convention had the Vice President of the United States as the keynote speaker. In addition to the VP, the convention also had Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird, Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democrat Robert Menendez, and former presidential candidate Senator John McCain as speakers.

Yet, for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), this was a very bad year. For the first time in seven years, the President of the US and the Israeli Prime Minister were not attending (although the Israeli PM did speak from Israel via satellite as he desperately tries to form a governing coalition). Undoubtedly, one reason Obama wasn’t speaking at AIPAC was because they had clearly favored (although they didn’t endorse) the Pro-Israel Mitt Romney for President.

This is an unusual turn of event for what is considered one of the most powerful political committees in the United States. Yet, don’t count them out. While some think that Israel has taken some political hits with the Obama victory and Hagel’s confirmation as Secretary of Defense, AIPAC is working behind the scenes to tighten Israel’s control over US policy – with the help of the new Secretary of Defense.

To understand AIPAC and its political arm-twisting is to understand Machiavellian politics at its best. They work best when sitting behind closed doors with politicians, not when attacking them publically in the media.

For more than half a century, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has lobbied to ensure that America continues to unconditionally support Israel at the expense of other policy considerations. From a small pro-Israel public affairs group in the 1950s, AIPAC has grown into a 100,000-member national movement described by The New York Times as “the most important organization affecting America’s relationship with Israel.” It has been described as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, DC, and its critics have stated it acts as an agent of the Israeli government with a “stranglehold” on the US Congress.

AIPAC lobbies for financial aid from the United States to Israel, helping to procure up to three billion in aid yearly, making Israel “the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II.” Additionally, the result of AIPAC’s efforts include numerous exceptional provisions that are not available to other American allies. According to the Congressional Research Service (CRS), these include providing aid “as all grant cash transfers, not designated for particular projects, and…transferred as a lump sum in the first month of the fiscal year, instead of in periodic increments. Israel is allowed to spend about one quarter of the military aid for the procurement in Israel of defense articles and services, including research and development, rather than in the United States.”

AIPAC’s influence is legendary. Former AIPAC president Steiner claimed in 1992 that he had met with Bush U.S. Secretary of State Jim Baker and cut a deal with him. He bragged, “I got, besides the $3 billion, you know they’re looking for the Jewish votes, and I’ll tell him whatever he wants to hear … Besides the $10 billion in loan guarantees which was a fabulous thing, $3 billion in foreign, in military aid, and I got almost a billion dollars in other goodies that people don’t even know about.

Although some saw the Hagel confirmation as proof of the political weakness of the Israeli Lobby in today’s Washington, there were wheels within wheels that were setting Hagel up to be the chief protector of Israeli aid.

No sooner did Barack Obama nominate Hagel for Secretary of Defense on January 7 than AIPAC announced it would not oppose the former Republican senator from Nebraska. Indeed, so neutral did it wish to be on this delicate topic that its spokesman even avoided mentioning Hagel’s name, declaring only that “AIPAC does not take positions on presidential nominations.” AIPAC then maintained a complete silence through Hagel’s confirmation on February 26. More important, it did not lift a finger to influence the vote. Some observers insist that strong opposition to Hagel by AIPAC would have stopped the nomination.

Meantime, other Jewish organizations did oppose Hagel. The Zionist Organization of America produced 14 statements arguing against Hagel’s nomination between December 17 and February 22. The Anti-Defamation League also opposed him.

However, AIPAC was playing a longer term game when they allowed Hagel to become Secretary of Defense. He is now beholden to them for not scuttling his nomination and the payoff is coming soon. AIPAC figured, why antagonize a soon-to-be very powerful figure and a principal player in the U.S.-Israel relationship?

Part of AIPAC’s calculations include the fact that many other pro-Israeli people work for the Department of Defense and the new Secretary will be less likely to hinder their efforts. If Hagel had been violently opposed by AIPAC, he might have reined their efforts.

However, AIPAC was also looking at the Sequester’s budget cuts and insuring that Israeli aid wouldn’t be cut this year or in the future. In order to do that, they are pressuring Congress to name Israel a as a “major strategic ally” of the US, a unique status that would be enjoyed only by the Jewish state. With this designation of ‘major strategic ally’ the government would move programs that are currently paid out of the US aid to Israel into the base Pentagon budget. In order to pull this off, they would need Hagel’s support – something he may have opposed if AIPAC had pressed to stop his nomination.

This is the ultimate behind-closed-doors deal. AIPAC doesn’t oppose Hagel’s nomination and makes sure more money is funneled through the Defense Department, which gives Hagel more political influence. In turn, Hagel makes sure that Israeli aid moving through the Defense Department isn’t cut. Rest assured Hagel doesn’t talk negatively about the “Jewish Lobby” again.

AIPAC behind the scenes

AIPAC has a reputation for inserting its agents inside both Republican and Democratic administrations. In 1992, AIPAC president David Steiner was forced to resign after he was recorded boasting about his political influence in obtaining aid for Israel. Steiner claimed to be “negotiating” with the incoming Clinton administration over who Clinton would appoint as Secretary of State and Secretary of the National Security Agency. Steiner stated that AIPAC had “a dozen people in [the Clinton] campaign, in the headquarters… in Little Rock, and they’re all going to get big jobs.

Many of these AIPAC assets are recruited during their college years. In fact, hundreds of college students were targeted as future political leaders and given all-expenses paid trips to the 2013 AIPAC Conference. Jonathan Kessler, director of AIPAC’s Leadership Development Department told an audience, “Every future senator will pass through an American campus. Every future House representative will pass through an American campus. AIPAC’s job is to identify, engage and educate those individuals that are already self-defining, self-actualizing as campus political leaders.”

AIPAC started its Leadership Development Department, with the goal of teaching students about its issues and then molding them into effective pro-Israel advocates. Now AIPAC works on hundreds of college campuses, according to its website. AIPAC provides its student members with biweekly education materials, legislative updates, action alerts, trips to Israel and specialized training in what it calls “propaganda response,” says the Israel on Campus Coalition website, a pro-Israel college coalition supported by AIPAC.

Not all of these AIPAC students will end up as politicians. Some will work for American national security – a concern given the potential divided loyalties of these AIPAC participants.

AIPAC has been at the center of several allegations that it helps Israel spy on the US. In April 2005, AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman were fired by AIPAC amid an FBI investigation into whether they passed classified U.S. information received from Franklin on to the government of Israel. They were later indicted for illegally conspiring to gather and disclose classified national security information to Israel. AIPAC agreed to pay the legal fees for Weissman’s defense through appeal if necessary, but charges were subsequently dropped.

A month later, the Justice Department announced that Lawrence Anthony Franklin, a U.S. Air Force Reserves colonel working as a Department of Defense analyst at the Pentagon in the office of Douglas Feith, had been arrested and charged by the FBI with providing classified national defense information to Israel. The six-count criminal complaint identified AIPAC by name and described a luncheon meeting in which, allegedly, Franklin disclosed top-secret information to two AIPAC officials. Franklin pleaded guilty to passing government secrets to Rosen and Weissman and revealed for the first time that he also gave classified information directly to an Israeli government official in Washington. On January 20, 2006, he was sentenced to 151 months (almost 13 years) in prison and fined $10,000. As part of the plea agreement, Franklin agreed to cooperate in the larger federal investigation.

The espionage cases shows a growing weakness of AIPAC – it no longer can count on official US assistance and must work illegally to get information that it once received officially. The Democratic Party under Obama has moved from its traditional pro-Israel stance. Even the Jewish-American voter has changed. Today a Palestinian arguing for a two state solution will probably receive a warmer welcome at a Jewish community center than an Israeli official arguing for a continuance of the status quo.

However, it would be dangerous to underestimate AIPAC. A new generation of pro-Israel politicians and bureaucrats are ready to take their place in the US government. And, given its skills at behind-closed-doors negotiating, AIPAC stands ready to keep Israel in its special place in American foreign policy.