Executive Summary

There were several interesting papers published by Washington’s think tank community, including some by CSIS on the Gulf region.

In response to Obama’s executive order enhancing cybersecurity, the Monitor analysis looks at the threat and how it could impact America.  Could a cyber attack be the modern equivalent of a Pearl Harbor?  The analysis says, yes.  However, much of the American economy is not closely linked to the internet and would continue to produce food and other goods in any event.  How the government will respond will also be critical.

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The FPRI looks at the militarization of American foreign policy.  They note, “This shift in focus has raised concerns about the “militarization of U.S. foreign policy,” which began in the 1990s with the recognition that combatant commanders are as much policy entrepreneurs as they are war fighters.  Generals like Tony Zinni or Wesley Clark epitomized the new breed of warrior-diplomat who directly engaged with foreign heads of state.  Far from rogue generals, these military leaders were directed by President Bill Clinton to engage with the world and promote security by assisting partners and assuring allies in a security environment freed from the Cold War dynamic. President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama continued the practice of using the military to assist almost every government of the world.”

The Center of American Progress focused on the devastating effects that Sequestration will have on America’s military presence globally, particularly in the Middle East. The Think Tank refers to the views of former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta along with data proving that sequestration will limit our naval presence in the Middle East and will impact other branches of the military in the region. In conclusion, the think tank argues policy makers must avoid sequestration and seek a more appropriate budget solution.

The Heritage Foundation looks at Obama’s cybersecurity executive order.  They warn, “regulations tend to promote an attitude of compliance, not security, and in the case of cybersecurity, this means compliance with outdated regulations. With technology and cyber threats constantly evolving, regulations will always be stuck in the past.   Finally, mandatory regulations will go a long way toward souring any public-private partnership that the EO seeks in earlier sections. After all, a partnership does not usually involve forcing one side to do what the other one wants.”

There was an Interesting analysis at the Aspen Institute on February 20th regarding how to strengthen US-Lebanese strategic relations. The discussion at the Institute concluded that we must continue to fund 76 million to Lebanon annually because it serves as a strategic friendship in the Middle East. If the US helps build the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), they will be capable of protecting the State which will weaken Hezbollah’s legitimacy. This will pressure Hezbollah to become a political organization rather than militant. The discussion also concluded that Hezbollah and the axis of resistance (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas) have been weakened by the Arab Spring and it is the best time to support the LAF to weaken Hezbollah further.

The Washington Institute looks at the Hezbollah connection in Syria and Iran.  In recent days, U.S. and Mideast officials have reported that Iran and Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group, are making military preparations for the sectarian chaos likely to engulf a post-Assad Syria. Counterterrorism expert Matthew Levitt says that Hezbollah has closely aligned itself with Iran’s Quds Force, an elite paramilitary group linked directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, while fighting alongside the Assad regime. In recent years, the partnership between Hezbollah and Iran has tightened to the point that the group’s allegiance to Khamenei is paramount, he says. “What we see now is that Hezbollah is going to do things today that are in Iran’s interest even if they expressly run counter to the interests of Lebanon and Hezbollah’s own interest there.”

The Institute for the Study of War looks at the Syrian Army, its order of battle and doctrine as the civil war began.  This report precedes the Institute for the Study of War’s upcoming report, The Assad Regime: From Counterinsurgency to Civil War, which will examine the ways in which Assad has deployed his forces in the ongoing campaign against Syria’s opposition.  They note, “At the beginning of the Syrian conflict in 2011, the Syrian Army was one of the largest and best-trained forces in the Arab world. Organized according to Soviet doctrine, it was oriented to project power into Lebanon and to defend against a potential Israeli invasion. Despite its relatively poor combat record against the Israelis, the Syrian Army had earned a reputation as disciplined and motivated force. The Army’s cohesiveness and continued logistical capacity in the current uprising is consistent with this reputation.”

JINSA asks how America should respond to the problems in Egypt.  They suggest, “What should the United States do? If there are no good alternatives, America should choose the least bad alternative. U.S. policy should be guided by self-interest. It may not be in the world community’s power to avert Egyptian state failure, short of a massive and continuing commitment of financial aid that seems outside the realm of political possibility. At a minimum, America should seek to prevent Egypt’s crisis from turning into a regional security disaster, while maximizing its influence over Egyptian institutions and prospective governments.  In summary: the United States should do its utmost to prevent terrorists from taking advantage of political instability in Egypt, and to pre-empt any regionalization of the country’s crisis.”

The CSIS looks at Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the era of the Arab Spring.  They conclude, “The Arab Spring uprisings have presented Saudi Arabia and Qatar with opportunities and challenges. In keeping with the styles and ambitions of their respective leaders, the latter has been more entrepreneurial and vigorous, while the former has been more tentative and circumspect. Qatar’s population is small and easy to control, whereas Saudi Arabia’s is big and diverse, and its leadership stands to lose a lot more from the winds of revolutionary change… however, the policies of Qatar and Saudi Arabia have generally been consonant. One can see this in their strategies toward Bahrain, Yemen, or even Iran. They differ most glaringly when it comes to the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Saudis distrust and which the Qataris embrace.”

The CSIS looks at securing the Arabian Gulf with enhanced cooperation.  They conclude GCC has the potential to become a far more effective security structure, improving every aspect of Arab Gulf state security.  “The Arab Gulf states are now spending vastly more on military and internal security forces than Iran and are spending far more on military modernization. In case after case this money is being spent without cooperation, and without the necessary interoperability, integration, and focus on key mission priorities. Economies of scale are not being achieved, training and readiness suffer, vulnerability increases, and both deterrence and defense lose credibility.”

The German Marshall Fund looks at Afghan President Hamid Karzai.  They note, “To his credit, Karzai has taken ownership of the conflict and pushed the international community toward doing less itself and more on increasing efforts to build Afghan capacity.  He has secured “strategic partnerships” with the NATO alliance and bilateral agreements with several nations.  But there is another Karzai: one who makes provocative and sometimes inaccurate statements that call into question the intentions and efforts of the international community. Karzai has unforgivingly attacked NATO over the issue of civilian casualties, and decried international economic and development aid as the sole cause of corruption in Afghanistan. He has claimed that it is the bureaucratic obstinacy of the coalition, and not any internal Afghan deficiencies, that have stunted progress in the fight against the insurgency. This is hardly the language of “cooperation and teamwork.”

The Washington Institute focuses on the internal divisions the Iranian government is facing, showing division and unable to agree on many things. Disagreements and divisions in Tehran have become out of control to the extent even Ayatollah Khamenei cannot stop the infighting. Internal differences in Iran are evident in light of the upcoming meeting with the p5+1 in Kazakhstan. In conclusion, Khamenei claims the enemies love our disunity when in reality, the world would love Iran to make a decision: “Either accept a generous offer to resolve the nuclear issue or be prepared for the consequences.”

The National Iranian American Council focuses on a legislation that is being pushed by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) and 10 of her colleagues to create a special envoy who would lead in working a diplomatic solution with the Iranian government. The legislation also pushes for the President to exhaust all diplomatic options and lifts the State Departments “no contact” policy with Iran, which prevents US officials from having any contact with Iranian officials.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies focuses on new ways to isolate the Islamic Republic of Iran economically from the rest of the world. Current US financial sanctions can only go so far. It is being suggested that the focus of US strategy should be Target2, an interbank payment system for transactions throughout the European Union. Current US financial sanctions have already forced Iran to convert billions of dollars of foreign exchange reserves into Euros. Iranian officials have great access to the Target2 system and in conclusion, “Euros are Iran’s principal hedge against the impact of sanctions.” The international community has a small chance to make sanctions work. Target2 system can play a major factor in our success in isolating Iran.