Analysis 06-12-2013

America, Israel, and America’s Jewish Voter

The strategic situation in the Middle East has changed dramatically in the last few years.  Israel, which has generally been concerned about its neighbors sees little threat from them as Syria is engaged in a civil war and Jordan and Egypt maintain a cold, but peaceful relationships with the Zionist state.  The biggest threat seen by Israel is Iran, which is hundreds of miles away.

But, there is another strategic issue that bothers Israel: the United States, Obama, and the American Jewish voter.  Ever since its founding, Israel has relied on the US, the American Jewish voter, and the Democratic Party (who is the usual beneficiary of American Jewish votes) to come to their defense blindly.  Not anymore.

The chemistry in the Middle East has changed.  Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu have had very pubic disagreements.  Obama has Okayed an agreement with Iran that lifts some sanctions and promises to ease gradually any diplomatic isolation, although Israel strongly opposes it.  Yet, none of this has greatly upset the American Jewish voter, who has been critical for the Democrats in several key states like New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

Relations between Obama and Netanyahu have been tense and often have provided journalists with juicy tidbits that have demonstrated their mutual disdain for the other.  When Netanyahu came to Washington a few years ago, there were false rumors circulated by pro-Israeli circles that Obama left the meeting for dinner with his family. On the other side,, however, the White House didn’t release a photo of the meeting, which offended Netanyahu.  Netanyahu retaliated a year later at the White House, when he scolded Obama for saying that peace negotiations would have to begin with Israel’s 1967 borders.  “Remember that before 1967, Israel was all of 9 miles wide – half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace. They were the boundaries of repeated wars.”

The dispute went international in late 2011, when France’s president told Obama, “I cannot bear Netanyahu; he’s a liar,” and Obama replied, “I have to deal with him even more often than you.”

There is a time when these actions towards an Israeli Prime Minister would have so politically damaged an American president that he would have lost the next election.  However, Obama easily won reelection in 2012 against a pro-Israel Republican candidate, Mitt Romney by winning the heavily Jewish states of New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

How could Obama attack the Israeli Prime Minister and still win the American Jewish vote?

Much of that is due to the changing profile of the American Jewish voter and the Jewish community.  Ironically, you are more likely to find pro-Israel voters in an evangelical Christian church than in an American Jewish community center.

A recent high-profile Pew Research Center survey of American Jews shows that, with the exception of Orthodox Jews, the typical American Jew has shifted his or her opinion on issues in the Middle East.

The fact is that the American Jew is losing their “Jewishness” and is becoming more American than Jewish.  The Pew survey showed that 71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarries and two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue.  These have a strong correlation to their support for Israel.

So, what are American Jew’s opinions on Israel and the Middle East?  61% of American Jews say “Israel and an independent Palestinian state can coexist peacefully.”  54% of American Jews say American support of the Jewish state is “about right,” while 31% say the U.S. is not supportive enough.  That’s a far cry from the first three decades of Israel’s existence, when there was very little daylight between the Israeli government and the overwhelming majority of American Jews.

There was a reason for that closeness in the early days.  The majority of the American Jewish community and newly established Israel were European Jews, and mostly Central or East European Jews. Many came from the Russian Empire in the 1880s and 1890s, when there was a major immigration of Jews to both North America and Palestine.

There is a reason for the dramatic change in the last couple of decades.

In the early years of Israel’s existence, religious Jews in North America felt a keen affinity with religious Jews in Israel, just as most secular Jews in North America felt an affinity with Labor Zionism, which was responsible for the Israeli kibbutz movement.  No matter the American Jew’s feelings – religious or secular – there was a reason to support Israel.

What has happened in the last few decades is that religion has created a dramatic shift.  While the average American Jew has become less religious, Israel, especially its leadership, has become more religious.  In fact, American Jews are nearly three times more likely to not believe in God than the average American according to the Pew report.

The religious bent of the Israeli government has alienated the secular American Jew, who has moved away from supporting Israel and given the Democratic Party more flexibility in its Middle Eastern policies.  Lobbies like J Street allow a more flexible policy toward Israel that still receives secular American Jewish support.

Ironically, much of this ambivalence towards Israel by American Jews can be traced to the pro-Jewish attitudes of Americans in general.  Unlike some of the Eastern European Christian attitudes, English Christian attitudes (which are the main contributor in American Christian tradition) has been pro-Jewish and focused on” Judeo-Christian traditions”.  Consequently, unlike in other countries, where Jews have been forced to remain in tight Jewish communities that look inward, American Jews have felt more welcome in the Christian community and have assimilated at a rate much greater than in other countries.  This has lessened their Jewish ties and made them better able to view Israel, not as a part of their religious or ethnic heritage, but from the point of view of American self-interest.

But, there is another political trend that has given Obama the flexibility to move Middle Eastern policy – the decline of the Judeo-Christian culture in America.  America has become less religious – especially in regards to adhering to the Judeo-Christian tradition.  The percentage of Americans who identify as Protestants (the most Judeo-Christian tradition) fell from 53 percent in 2007 to 48 percent in 2012 – the first time since the birth of the United States that Protestants were in the minority.  Add to this the changing demographics of America, where whites, who are more likely to be Protestant, are becoming a smaller portion of the population.  This means support for Israel, which is now based more on religious orientation, is dropping, although Hispanic Catholics are more pro-Israel than their white counterparts.

This is seen most in the Democratic Party, which polls show is more secular than the Republican Party.  Last year at the Democratic National Convention that re-nominated Obama, a motion to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was met with boos from the assembled delegates – a reaction very different than what would be seen at the Republican National Convention.

So, where is the current support for Israel?  Its strength is found amongst orthodox Jews, who remain faithful to their religious heritage (and are drifting towards the Republican Party) and evangelical Christians, who are now the cornerstone of American support for Israel.

According to the Pew Poll, “Twice as many white evangelical Protestants as Jews say that Israel was given to the Jewish people by God (82% vs. 40%). Some of the discrepancy is attributable to Jews’ lower levels of belief in God overall; virtually all evangelicals say they believe in God, compared with 72% of Jews (23% say they do not believe in God and 5% say they don’t know or decline to answer the question). But even Jews who do believe in God are less likely than evangelicals to believe that God gave the land that is now Israel to the Jewish people (55% vs. 82%).”

White evangelical Protestants also are more likely than Jews to favor stronger U.S. support of Israel. Among Jews, 54% say American support of the Zionist state is “about right,” while 31% say the U.S. is not supportive enough. By contrast, more white evangelical Protestants say the U.S. is not supportive enough of Israel (46%) than say support is about right (31%).

Part of the shift occurred as a result of the events of 9-11.  The al Qaeda attacks on the US were seen by many evangelical Christians as an attack on their Christianity as much as on America.  This feeling has been furthered by radical Islamic attacks on Middle Eastern Christians in Egypt and Syria.  Meanwhile, Israeli leadership has fostered an evangelical Christian friendly policy that has solidified support in that sector of the American electorate.

This translates into pro-Israeli political views towards the Middle East.  White evangelical Protestants are less optimistic than Jews about the prospects for a peaceful two-state solution to conflict in the region. When asked if there is a way for Israel and an independent Palestinian state to coexist peacefully, six-in-ten American Jews (61%) say yes, while one-third say no. Among white evangelical Protestants, 42% say Israel and an independent Palestinian state can coexist peacefully, while 50% say this is not possible.

This attitude shift hasn’t been ignored by Israeli leadership.  No wonder that when Israeli PM Netanyahu comes to the United States, he is usually interviewed on the television network, the Christian Broadcasting Network – an evangelical Christian outlet.  This gives him the perfect outlet to reach his most ardent supporters.  And, since he has spent much of his life in the US, he is better able to connect with American evangelical Christians than many of his predecessors.

The result is that the political map of America’s Israel policy has changed.  Where once a pro-Israel policy would reap political benefits in New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other Atlantic Coast states, a pro-Israel policy wins votes today in the Mid-Western states and the South.

This does not mean that evangelical Christian support for Israel is inherently tied to Israeli policy any more than American Jewish policy was tied to Israeli policy or Democratic Party policy was tied to Israeli policy.  It does, however, mean that policy towards America must be able to differentiate between evangelical Christian issues and Israeli policy.

 

PUBLICATIONS

Decoding the Summer of Snowden

By Julian Sanchez

Cato Institute

Nov/Dec 2013

Nearly 40 years ago, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, Americans got an unprecedented look behind the cloak of secrecy shielding government surveillance — and what they saw was chilling. A Senate committee headed by Sen. Frank Church uncovered a train of abuses by intelligence agencies stretching back decades, under presidents of both parties. Employing illegal break-ins, mail-opening programs, concealed bugs, bulk interception of telegrams, and telephone wiretaps, these agencies had gathered information about domestic political dissidents, journalists, labor leaders, and even members of Congress and Supreme Court justices. Perhaps most notoriously, the Church Committee revealed that J. Edgar Hoover had conducted a 10-year campaign to destroy and discredit Martin Luther King Jr., seeking to blackmail him into retirement or suicide with illegal recordings of the civil rights leader’s extramarital liaisons.  This summer, Americans got the most comprehensive look at the government’s massive surveillance machinery since the Church Committee, by way of leaked documents provided to the press by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden — as well as the government’s own grudging disclosures.

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The Uncertain Strategic Case for the Zero Option in Afghanistan

By Anthony Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

December 4, 2013

It is far too easy to concentrate on the tensions with Afghan President Hamid Karzai over the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) and ignore the sheer lack of U.S. debate over the value of staying in Afghanistan.  The key question is whether there is a legitimate case for something approaching a zero option and a full withdrawal of U.S. forces and aid. If there is, it does not really matter whether Karzai signs the BSA or in fact if the US has a good excuse to leave. If there is not a legitimate case, one needs to be very careful about setting artificial deadlines and red lines.  The key problem in answering this question is that with little more than a year before the planned withdrawal of all U.S. troops, the Obama Administration has never provided any meaningful rational for staying Afghanistan or any plan for what happens after the end of 2014.

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Recapturing U.S. Leadership in Uranium Enrichment

By George David Banks and Michael Wallace

Center for Strategic and International Studies

December 3, 2013

The United States is at risk of finding its nuclear weapons capabilities severely weakened by the absence of an available capability to enrich uranium. International legal obligations prohibit the United States from using, for military purposes, foreign-produced enriched uranium or uranium enriched here in this country by foreign-source technology. With the closure of the Paducah, Kentucky, plant earlier this year, the United States has no domestic facility that uses U.S.-origin technology to enrich uranium, which, for example, could then be used to produce tritium, a key component in maintaining our nuclear arsenal. Further, existing stockpiles of tritium and enriched uranium produced by U.S.-origin technology are limited. Efforts to deploy a next-generation American enrichment technology must succeed so that our nation has the ability to address the forthcoming shortage of this strategic material. This national security requirement could be met with little cost to taxpayers if the federal government implemented policies that ensure a strong U.S. enrichment industry.

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Patronizing a patriot

By Thomas Donnelly and Roger I. Zakheim

American Enterprise Institute

December 4, 2013

The Weekly Standard

House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon doesn’t look like an insurgent.  The quintessential Californian – a man of Reaganesque optimism whose congressional district now includes the Gipper’s presidential library – McKeon has been a steadfast supporter of House speaker John Boehner in turbulent times. Yet, to the green-eyeshade editorialists of The Wall Street Journal, McKeon is leading a “rebellion” of defense hawks, an “act of masochism” threatening the Holy of Holies: the sequestration provision of the Budget Control Act (BCA). McKeon’s crime is that he’s hoping for a 2014 budget deal that would reduce the amount of defense sequestration by half.

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Egypt’s Draft Constitution Rewards the Military and Judiciary

By Nathan J. Brown and Michele Dunne

Carnegie Endowment

December 4, 2013

The draft constitution submitted to Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, on December 2 settles a few important matters—it enhances the status of the state institutions that banded together against the Muslim Brotherhood, including the military, judiciary, and police. But it leaves other equally important questions unanswered. The sequencing, system, and timing for presidential and parliamentary elections remain unclear, for example, issues that are particularly fraught because Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who removed Mohamed Morsi from power in July, might run for president.  The new constitution offers better human rights protections than the 2012 version forced through by the then president, Morsi. Yet it also continues a pattern of leaving much up to the vagaries of implementing legislation. And that legislation may be written—and implemented—in an atmosphere of government and public indifference, even hostility, to human rights concerns.

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Rebels Consolidating Strength in Syria: The Islamic Front

By Aaron Y. Zelin

Washington Institute

December 3, 2013

PolicyWatch 2177

The recent merger of several Syrian rebel groups into the Islamic Front (IF) is one of the war’s most important developments. Although the political and military opposition has long been fragmented, the new umbrella organization brings seven groups and their combined force of 45,000-60,000 fighters under one command. It also links the fight in the north and the south. Most notably, though, it affirms the troubles Washington will have setting policy in Syria going forward.  Formally announced on November 22, the IF includes groups from three prior umbrella organizations: the Syrian Islamic Front (SIF), the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front (SILF), and the Kurdish Islamic Front (KIF). From the SIF, Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (HASI), Kataib Ansar al-Sham, and Liwa al-Haqq joined, as did the KIF as a whole and former SILF brigades Suqur al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, and Jaish al-Islam. None of these groups has been designated by the U.S. government as a foreign terrorist organization.

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Analysis 22-11-2013

ANALYSIS

The Two Sides of Obama Foreign Policy and What it means to the Middle East

This week saw a reported rift over Egypt between Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Reports in a liberal blog with connections close to the White House say John Kerry didn’t agree with Susan Rice on major portions of the White House’s Egypt policy, and he made a deliberate and conscious decision not to mention Morsi in his Cairo meetings. Previously, Rice told Kerry he should speak publicly and privately about ousted Egyptian President Morsi’s trial while in the country earlier this month. Instead, the secretary of State said publicly that Egypt was “on the path to democracy.” Sources also said he didn’t discuss Morsi in his private meetings with Egyptian officials either.

Rice wasn’t happy about Kerry’s deviation from the White House policy. But disagreements between national security advisors and secretaries of state aren’t anything new.

There has usually been a difference between State Department and National Security Council policy and recommendations. The State Department is more non-political and takes a more long term view of foreign affairs. The National Security Council, which is appointed by the president, is more political and more likely to view policy in terms of domestic political advantage or the president’s agenda.

Presidents have also viewed the two foreign policy teams differently. While some presidents have relied heavily upon the State Department and relegated the NSC to a minor role, other presidents have tilted the other way and made the national security advisor the major foreign policy expert.

The best example of this was Henry Kissinger during the Nixon Administration. Nixon had a distrust of the State Department and relied heavily on Kissinger to develop and implement foreign policy. Ironically, however, Kissinger was to later become Secretary of State and transferred his considerable personal influence to the former “enemy.”

Under Obama, the State Department has sat outside the inner circle of power. In his first term, it was the political “Siberia” for his major Democratic competitor, Hillary Clinton. Real power was relegated to a series of “czars,” who had portfolio to handle the major foreign policy issues.

Needless to say, the rivalry between the State Department and the NSC continues in the Obama Administration, with each following different goals and policies.

Kerry and the State Department

Unlike many Secretaries of State, John Kerry comes to the position with his own political base. As a long time senator from Massachusetts and former presidential nominee in 2004, he has national name recognition and a political base. He is not beholden to Obama for power and knows that he could probably return to Massachusetts and run for the US Senate again if he so desired.

Kerry is also aware as a member of the US Senate that if Obama decides to “fire” him for his difference in policy, serious questions and a possible inquiry would be held by the Senate. Since Obama is in political trouble – even inside his own party – he can’t afford any more scandal. This gives Kerry considerably more latitude to ignore White House diktat.

Kerry’s style is a function of his years in the US Senate, which relies on developing personal relationships with other senators. This works to his advantage on the international scene.

The White House Foreign Policy Team

To understand what drives White House foreign policy, one has to understand who has the political power in the Obama White House. In this case, the key person is Valerie Jarrett, who is considered the single, most influential person in the Obama White House. She has been called Obama’s “Rasputin.” Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, who clashed often with Jarrett, likened her and senior aide Peter Rouse to Saddam Hussein’s sons, Uday and Qusay.

Jarrett’s personal friendship with the president and first lady dates back more than two decades, before the couple was married, and before Barack Obama launched his political career in Chicago. The president has said he views her “like a sibling” and trusts her “completely.” As result, she enjoys “unlimited, almost mystical access” to the president.

Jarrett was born in Iran, which has some accusing her of favoring Iran and favoring a softer approach to their nuclear program, even though her parents were Western and not Iranian.

Although her job description says she serves as “chief liaison to the business community, state and local governments, and the professional left,” her influence throughout the White House is undeniable. She commands a staff of nearly three dozen and has a hand in decisions ranging from the invitation list to state dinners and what gifts to give foreign leaders, to who should be nominated to the Supreme Court, appointed to a vacant ambassadorship, or awarded the President Medal of Freedom. Survival inside the White House depends on being her friend. Her enemies quickly disappear. One reason why the current Secretary of Human Services, Sibelius, has survived the continuing scandals surrounding Obamacare is her close friendship with Jarrett.

Jarrett’s friendship with Susan Rice and Samantha Power has cemented their position inside the White House and Obama’s foreign policy. While Kerry has an outside political base he can rely upon, their power flows from Obama and they are loyal to him.
However, the difference isn’t just about who is closer to Obama. Rice and Power sees foreign policy in a different light and this is setting up the current difference between the State Department and the White House.

Rice and Kerry both have different styles. Kerry, who worked in the Senate, which relies on compromise and geniality, is more diplomatic. Rice is known to have sharp elbows and is known for a more combative tone. Rice has reportedly clashed with other administration officials, such as former Sudan Special Envoy Scott Gration. “Even more so than Donilon … [Rice] has a temper that needs tempering,” Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote at The Daily Beast. “And unlike Donilon, she often rushes to judgment, and then digs in. She’ll have to learn to count to one hundred—I mean one thousand—before making up her mind, and meantime, listen to different views carefully.”

However, Rice is known to be loyal to Obama. She was his premier foreign policy adviser since the 2008 presidential campaign. She is also a close personal friend of both Michelle Obama. As a result, Rice is an Obama insider, with a personal friendship with the president – not foreign policy expertise – as her greatest asset. She worked hard to preserve her relationship with the president while serving as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. for four years, spending more time in Washington than any of her predecessors.

Rice was the point person during the Benghazi attacks and damaged her reputation by claiming the riots were a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim video. That was at the heart of her decision to withdraw her name from consideration as Secretary of State – a nomination that required the consent of the Senate and a bruising confirmation battle. Instead, she was given the position of National Security Advisor, which doesn’t need confirmation by the Senate.

In the Obama White House, the NSC position has more power as foreign policy decisions flow from there rather than the State Department. Thomas Wright, a scholar at the Brookings Institution said, “For better or worse, the Obama administration… Its chosen concept is central power—the idea that everything flows to and from the National Security Council.”

While Kerry is seen as more pragmatic, Rice is seen as a tool to further Obama’s world view via US foreign policy. The New York Times said of her appointment, (Rice) “would bring a more muscular, idealistic cast to Mr. Obama’s foreign policy.”

The other foreign policy decision maker in the Obama inner circle is Samantha Power, the ambassador to the UN. In many ways, she and her writings (which were responsible for her Pulitzer Prize in 2003) are at the core of the Obama foreign policy that eschews strategic interests for “humanitarian” issues. As such, this explains the stance taken by Obama during the Arab Spring.

Power has been a key player in the Obama position towards Syria, although she failed attend a critical UN emergency meeting on the Syrian CW crisis in August because she was in Ireland on a personal trip to visit family (she was born in Ireland). This reflects one of her weaknesses – she is more focused on ideology and less interested in practical diplomacy. The reality is that UN ambassadors need to be practical in order to win other nations over to the American side of an issue.

Obama’s speech a couple of months ago on Syria was a close reflection of Power’s views. The overwhelming emphasis was on humanitarian goals, with a brief, secondary, and noticeably weak effort to buttress that case with talk about threats to American interests. Power’s core argument in her writings is that American foreign policy has historically “refused to take risks” for humanitarian ends. Power chastises American leaders for declining to “invest the military, financial, diplomatic, or domestic political capital” necessary to prevent massacres. U.S. officials, she complains, consistently “play up the futility, perversity, and jeopardy of any proposed intervention.”

Ironically, despite her writings, Power is an opponent of the use of military power in the Middle East, specifically Syria. “There are other interests at play,” she told the Politico, noting that military action in the Middle East can affect oil prices and the U.S. economy. “None of us would pretend that we are a single-issue administration.

White House/State Department Foreign Policy Differences

The philosophical difference between the White House and the State Department under Obama has impacted US foreign policy. Kerry spent his first months as Secretary of State working to repair the U.S.-Russia relationship and use that as a mechanism to find a political solution to the Iranian nuclear issue and the civil war in Syria. Kerry believes he has developed a relation with the Russian Foreign Minister that can be used to reach an agreement on these problems. Rice, by contrast has traded public insults with her Russian counterpart at the U.N.

In regards to Syria, administration officials and other close supporters of the White House say Rice in internal meetings has supported a no-fly zone for Syria and is wary of arming the more liberal elements of Syria’s opposition.

Kerry has worked to reach an international settlement on Syria in conjunction with the Russians. Much of his success has relied upon his closer working relationship with the Russians, who have traditionally been a close supporter of Assad.

The rift over Egypt has been a long time in the making. Well before Kerry and Rice disagreed publicly on Egypt, the White House and the State Department clashed privately over the administration’s Egypt policy. During a months-long administration review of U.S. military aid to Egypt, the State Department and Defense Department pushed internally to preserve most of the assistance, while Rice insisted most military aid be suspended, pending more progress by the Egyptian government.

“There are real differences in the fundamental approach to Egypt between Susan Rice and John Kerry,” one Washington Egypt expert with close ties to the administration told a political blog. “We wouldn’t have had any aid suspension at all if it had been up to John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.”

The other problem is that there is no conflicting opinion within the inner circle to give Obama a sense of foreign policy balance. With Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and David Petraeus out of the way, the president has all but eliminated any dissenting viewpoints. Kerry is the only person in the Administration with the political power and will to disagree with the Jarrett/Rice/Powers foreign policy triumvirate.

The problem with conflicting foreign policy coming from two parts of the administration is deciding which one to believe and work with. In Egypt, officials are receiving diverging messages from the U.S. government’s various parts, causing confusion as they try to decide how to react to recent U.S. actions. For example, the administration has not told the government of Egypt what exactly it must do to get the partial aid suspension lifted, said a source close to the Egyptian government.

In terms of understanding White House foreign policy it is important to remember that Samantha Power is the philosopher of White House foreign policy – pushing “humanitarian” issues rather than strategic interests. Susan Rice is the executor of that policy through her control of the NSC. And, Valerie Jarrett provides the political cover by getting Obama’s approval and neutralizing any conflicting opinions.

How governments deal with the US today depends on their goals. If the goal is short term and focuses on humanitarian issues, it pays to focus on the Power/Rice/Jarrett policy team, which will give faster results and has the ear of Obama. However, for long term relations that focus on strategic issues that will outlive the current administration, the best bet is to focus on the State Department/Kerry route, which is based on long term US foreign policy and is more likely to be followed after Obama leaves office in three years.

PUBLICATIONS

International Security Demands U.S. Intercontinental-Range Missiles
By Michaela Dodge
Heritage Foundation
November 20, 2013
Issue Brief #4092

Since the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) entered into force in February 2011, the U.S. has borne a significant majority of the nuclear arms reductions required under the treaty. Russia, the other party to the treaty, has been increasing the number of its deployed nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles, which the treaty allows. Now, according to a document prepared by the Office of the Secretary of Defense-Policy to the Senate Intercontinental-Range Ballistic Missile (ICBM) Coalition, the Administration is planning on eliminating an ICBM squadron to allegedly comply with New START. Not only would such a move be unwise and imprudent at this time, but the U.S. does not need to eliminate an ICBM squadron to meet New START’s limits.

Read more…
The Other “Pivot to Asia” – The Shifting Strategic Importance of Gulf Petroleum
By Anthony Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
November 18, 2013

It is all too easy to focus on energy developments in the United States and lose sight of the overall pattern of changes in world energy production and consumption. The fact is, however, that the Department of Energy does not forecast U.S. energy independence in its reference case – only a dip to 37% dependence on foreign oil by 2040. It does not mean that the US is free of the need to pay world oil prices in a crisis. Far more important, the US already imports some $2.4 trillion worth of goods to sustain a $14 trillion economy, and some $1.2 trillion of these steadily rising imports are dependent on the stable flow of MENA, and particularly Gulf, oil and gas exports to Europe and Asia.

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Engaging the Muslim World
By Walter Douglas
Center for Strategic and International Studies
November 18, 2013

Public diplomacy supports the interests of the United States by advancing American goals outside the traditional arena of government-to-government relations. Since 9/11, with the rise of al Qaeda and other violent organizations that virulently oppose the United States, public diplomacy in Muslim-majority countries has become an instrument to blunt or isolate popular support for these organizations. Efforts in this direction complement traditional public diplomacy that explains American policies and society to foreign publics. Public diplomacy must take many paths to accomplish its goals in the Arab Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the geographic focus of this study. Their populations are not monolithic. In fact, they are extremely varied within states and across regions. The best public diplomacy is tailored to these differences, with multiple approaches to strategically important segments in each country.

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Competing Visions of Islam: From Osama bin Laden to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI
By Alan Luxenberg
Foreign Policy Research Institute
November 2013

Some conservatives mistake Islam, the religion, with Islamism, a political ideology (of several variants); conversely, some liberals mistake criticism of Islamism with criticism of Islam. Worse, both sides sometimes arrogate to themselves the right to define Islam – either as a religion of war or as a religion of peace. But every religion can be defined only by its adherents, and those adherents themselves may define the same religion differently. Indeed, Michael Doran famously analyzed the events of 9/11 as the product of “somebody else’s civil war,” by which he meant the war among Muslims to define Islam. If Osama bin Laden represented one end of that spectrum, then the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, represents the other. As President Obama prepares to receive the King this Friday, it behooves all Americans to take the measure of this King and his vision of Islam, explore why that vision matters, and what it means for the United States.

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The Middle East Peace Process: Time for a Reality Check
By Bruno Macaes
German Marshall Fund
November 15, 2013

While a new round of peace negotiations has opened in July 2013, the debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to be framed by general misperceptions and illusions. This brief takes a dispassionate look at the factual and political realities of the Middle East peace process today, and highlights how these illusions constitute an obstacle to realistic compromises. Finally, the author provides concrete solutions for enhanced transatlantic cooperation in the peace process.

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IAEA Chief Cites Modest Iran Nuclear Progress; Official Report Due
By Michael Adler
Wilson Center
Nov 15, 2013

Iran has not significantly accelerated its nuclear program in recent months, UN nuclear chief Yukiya Amano told Breaking Defense. This could be a sign that Iran hopes to create favorable conditions for a deal with the United States, which wants the Islamic Republic to freeze its program at its current level and not add to its nuclear capabilities. Amano’s International Atomic Energy Agency is to release a report later this week on Iran. The last report was filed on August 28, so the two-and-a-half months covered corresponds roughly to the time since Hassan Rouhani took office as Iranian president last August 3.

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Why a Nuclear Deal with Iran Is So Hard
By Michael Eisenstadt
Washington Institute
November 20, 2013
National Interest

It should have come as no surprise when talks between Iran and the P5+1 in Geneva two weeks ago ended without an interim confidence-building agreement — apparently because the Islamic Republic could not accept a revised draft agreement that did not recognize its “right to enrich.” Negotiations with Iran have always been difficult, protracted affairs — in this case, made more fraught by differences between France and the other members of the P5+1. Diplomacy has been further complicated by the fact that Tehran hopes to use negotiations to confirm (if not legitimize) its status as a nuclear threshold state, while preserving a degree of ambiguity regarding its actual capabilities — an outcome that the P5+1 is not likely to — or at least should not — agree to. Finding a way through these thickets will be key if nuclear diplomacy with Iran is to succeed.

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U.S. Relations With Allies In Free Fall
By Michael Doran
Brookings Institution
November 18, 2013

Israeli-American relations are in free fall. Why? On the face of it the key issue is the terms of the draft deal with Iran that Secretary of State John Kerry was reportedly ready to sign in Geneva, week before last. Yesterday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeated yet again that it is “a bad deal.” And last week Israel’s intelligence minister, Yuval Steinitz, claimed the concessions to Tehran that the United States is contemplating will funnel between $20 and $40 billion to Iran’s coffers. The State Department’s spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, dismissed Steinitz as a fabulist. “Without going into specifics about what we’re considering, that number, I can assure you, is inaccurate, exaggerated, and not based in reality,” she said. The disagreement over the deal is significant; there can be no doubt. But the debate over its terms diverts attention from another factor of great significance—namely, Netanyahu’s growing distrust, in general, of the Obama administration.

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Analysis 15-11-2013

How serious is the Egypt – Russia Rapprochement?

Not since the Anwar Sadat expelled Russian advisors has the Egyptian government shown so much interest in a closer relationship with Russia. The Russian foreign and defense ministers visited Egypt this week as the new leadership in Cairo searches for new allies in order to lessen military dependence on Washington. A sign of that new relationship was the arrival of the Russian missile cruiser Varyag for a six day stay in the port of Alexandria, Egypt – the first major Russian naval vessel to visit an Egyptian port since the end of the cold War.

A major driver in the visit is the cold attitude towards the new Egyptian leadership by the Obama Administration, which has stopped its $ 1.3 billion in military assistance to Egypt. The high level Russian delegation has made it clear that the purpose of this visit is to strengthen relations and expand military/technical cooperation, which means arranging to sell Russian arms to Egypt.
This is a clear slap in the face to the Obama Administration. But, how serious is it? Does this mean that Egypt will once again become a client state of Russia and primarily use Russian weapons systems?

Probably not. Changing arms producers is much harder than simply buying a new car for one’s family. Egypt has billions of dollars invested in American and Western arms – acknowledged to be better than Russian weapon systems. In addition, Egypt has been relying on American training for the last third of a century, so there are very few officers or soldiers who are competent to operate the Russian arms currently in the Egyptian arsenal.

And, although the Egyptian still have a lot of Russian arms in storage, much of that is obsolete. Even the rifle and handgun calibers of the Russian small arms of the Cold War have changed, which means that just pulling them out of storage and putting them in active duty with Russian supplied parts and ammunition isn’t an easy alternative.

There is also the fact that the current relations freeze with the US is primarily due to Obama and he will be out of office in 3 years. A new American administration would probably be friendlier and more willing to restore military aid. Should the Egyptian government spend billions just to turn around again in 3 more years?

However, in the meantime, there some items of military hardware that is high on Egypt’s shipping list.

The most important would be new air defense weapons. Although the US has been generous in supplying Egypt, it was less than eager to help modernize Egypt’s air defense system, lest it be able to stop Israeli aircraft. Consequently, the Egyptian air defense network relies on antiquated Soviet missiles and radar, which is desperately in need of modernization. That means that Egypt is ready to invest in Buk M2, Tor M2 and Pantsir- S1 air defense systems, providing the financing can be found.

Another Russian weapons system at the top of Egypt’s shopping list is the MiG-29 M2 fighter jet, an advanced version of the Soviet-designed aircraft. Egypt is interested in 24 of the warplanes, a package that may be worth US$1.7 billion.

But, is Egypt ready for a major modernization program that relies primarily on Russian weapons?
Let’s look at each branch of the Egyptian military and review its status.

Egyptian Army

The Egyptian Army is the largest in either the Middle East or Africa. Although it once relied heavily upon Russian arms, it’s now is supplied by a mix of NATO countries, including the US, France, and Britain. Other major suppliers are Brazil and China. It also has a large domestic arms industry and manufactures the American M1A2 Abrams tank.

The small arms of Egypt are decidedly NATO in origin. Their pistols come from Italy, submachine guns from Germany, assault rifles from the US and Italy, and machineguns from Belgium. Those Russian style arms like the Misr Assault Rifle that are still in use are styles that were abandoned by the Soviets decades ago. They still in use older Russian calibers and were actually manufactured in Egypt by Egyptian military factories. Since Russia no longer offers free weapons, there is little advantage to moving to Russian small arms.

Although the Russian RPG-7 remains in the Egyptian arsenal as an anti-tank weapon, the more modern anti-tank weapons like the Milan (French) Swingfire (British), and TOW (American) are NATO standard. A move to Russian anti-tank weapons would negatively affect Egypt’s relations with France and Britain more than it would hurt the US.

Egypt has a large and very modern tank force thanks to the US decision to allow Egypt to buy and build the modern M1A1 Abrams tank. Consequently, Egypt’s tank force is only second to the Israelis in terms of numbers and quality.

Although Egypt has older Russian tanks in reserve, they are obsolete in terms of the Abrams or any Israeli tank they would go up against. The most modern Russian tank in Egyptian service is the T-80, which was introduced in 1976. It has a bad reputation of high fuel consumption and poor combat performance. In fact several were given to South Korea by Russia to pay off some old Soviet debts.

The Egyptians also have the Ramses II, which is an updated Soviet T-55, as well as some old Soviet T-62s. These have been modernized by NATO countries like Britain, Germany, and Italy and would benefit little from additional Russian military assistance.

Since the war in 1973, which saw the triumph and the destruction of some of the Soviet equipment, Egypt has become increasingly reliant on NATO weapons supplied from nations that Egypt wishes to maintain friendly relations with. Only some of the modern Russian weapons offer a quantitative edge over the NATO equipment. In addition, much of the older Soviet era equipment is domestically supported and not in need of Russian modernization.

Egyptian Air Force

Although not the region’s largest air force, the Egyptian Air Force is one of the largest air forces in the region. Currently, the backbone of the EAF is the F-16. The French Mirage 2000 is the other modern interceptor used by the EAF. The Egyptian Air Force has 216 F-16s (plus 20 on order) making it the 4th largest operator of the F-16 in the World. It has about 579 combat aircraft and 149 armed helicopters having 35 Apache’s AH-64D as it also continues to fly extensively upgraded MiG-21s, F-7 Skybolts, F-4 Phantoms, Dassault Mirage Vs, and the C-130 Hercules among other planes.

Egypt still uses the older Mig-21 aircraft that was given to them in the 1960s by the Soviets. However, their airframes are getting old and an attempt to modernize them with Ukrainian help was not terribly successful.

The decision by the Obama administration to stop F-16 shipments has definitely made the Russian Mig-29 (which was designed to counter the US F-16) more attractive.

But there may be more to this deal than meets the eye and it may be more in Russia’s interest than Egypt’s. Financial problems have made it hard for the Russian air force to buy as many modern Mig-29 aircraft as they need, which means that additional business from the Egyptian Air Force would be a welcome benefit to the Russian military as it would lower the cost per aircraft. However, since the Russians are stretched financially to buy Mig-29 for themselves that limits the financial terms they can offer the Egyptians, unless Egypt finds a financial supporter like Saudi Arabia to pay for the Migs. Otherwise, the aircraft offered to Egypt will be older Russian Mig-29s that will be replaced in the Russian Air Force by newer Mig-29 models.

If Saudi Arabia will be the financier of the Egyptian aircraft purchase, it seems more likely that they will make a deal with a NATO aircraft manufacturer that will supply fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia. That will allow them to make a better deal for their own air force as well as buying Egyptian aircraft.

The biggest problem for the Egyptian Air Force is pilot training and maintenance. Egypt has the highest F-16 accident rate, which indicates systemic problems with the Egyptian Air Force organization and operation. The addition of Mig-29s to the inventory will not solve that problem and may cause more trouble as maintenance organization are forced to rely on another logistical system for parts and maintenance.

However, military aircraft are a very visible acquisition, make headlines and are a point of national pride. That means this may be one way that Egypt and Russia can snub the US and make headlines while doing it. However, traditionally, aircraft acquisitions take years for delivery and pilot training to take place.

Egyptian Navy

Considering the other navies in the Mediterranean like the US, Russian, British, Italian, and French fleets, the Egyptian navy is relatively small. Most of these vessels were built by NATO countries and use NATO standard guns, missiles, radar, and electronics.

Russian naval vessels have never been in the same class as NATO countries in terms of quality and any movement to Russian ships would be a serious step down and threaten the logistical support of their current fleet.

The only benefit the Russian have to offer in terms of naval support would be if they build some sort of maintenance facility at an Egyptian port that would be available to Egyptian naval vessels. However, how good that maintenance support would be for NATO ships is questionable.

Will Egypt Become a Major Russian Customer?

The short answer is may be. Russia can no longer afford to give away weapons as they did in the Cold War. They are also having financial problems modernizing their own forces, which limits their largess.

Egypt meanwhile has a major arms industry that needs adjustments if Egypt started buying from Russia. Such purchases would also impact relations with other NATO countries that Egypt has no desire to alienate.

Egypt also knows that it has an edge in terms of American relations. The US eventually is concerned about maintaining the Camp David accords and that means continuing to give military assistance to Egypt. To totally cut off Egypt might put these agreements at risk. It would also mean economic problems for several American defense companies that are located in states that might go Republican if their economies deteriorate any more.

Undoubtedly, Egypt and Russia have decided it is in both their interests to improve relations at this time. It allows Egypt to scare the US a bit and gives the Russians a chance to embarrass the Americans. Another favorable dimension complementing relations is the Russian grain that Russia has been exporting to Egypt for long time and It was reported by Stratfor analysis that :
“Russia can support Egypt with larger grain exports. In the 2012-13 grain season, Russia made up a third of Egypt’s grain imports, approximately 2.7 million tons. Russia is currently having a healthy year for grain production at home, with a rise in exports for 2013-14 expected. The problem in recent months between Egypt and Russia has been the price — Cairo has been unable to afford Russian grain, which is more expensive than grain from countries such as Ukraine. An agreement for discounted grain is a possibility going forward.

PUBLICATIONS

Greater Iraqi–American Cooperation Needed on Counterterrorism, Syria, and Iran
By James Phillips
Heritage Foundation
November 5, 2013
Issue Brief 4079

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki came to Washington last week in search of greater U.S. security assistance in battling the al-Qaeda-led insurgency that increasingly threatens Iraq’s internal security as well as regional stability in the oil-rich Persian Gulf. The United States shares Maliki’s goal of defeating al-Qaeda’s franchise in Iraq, which has expanded into neighboring Syria. But it should be assured that Maliki’s Shia-dominated government does not use U.S. arms to crush the legitimate rights and aspirations of Iraq’s Sunni Arab, Kurdish, and Christian minorities, which are enshrined in Iraq’s constitution. Washington should also press Maliki to distance himself from Iran’s outlaw regime and halt Iraqi smuggling operations that undermine international sanctions against Iran.

Read more…

A Strong and Focused National Security Strategy
By Jim Talent and Jon Kyl
Heritage Foundation
October 31, 2013

When President Obama took office, the armed services of the United States had already reached a fragile state. The Navy had shrunk to its smallest size since before World War I; the Air Force was smaller, and its aircraft older, than at any time since the inception of the service. The Army was stressed by years of war; according to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, it had been underfunded before the invasion of Iraq and was desperately in need of resources to replace its capital inventory. Since the President took office, the government has cut $1.3 trillion from defense budgets over the next ten years. The last such reduction was embodied in sequestration. At the time sequestration was passed, the top leaders of the military, and of both parties (the very people who enacted sequestration), warned that it would have a devastating effect on America’s military.

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Solving Egypt’s Subsidy Problem
By Dalibor Rohac
Cato Institute
November 6, 2013

Subsidies to consumer goods, including fuels and food, account for almost one third of Egypt’s public spending, or 13 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Not only are subsidies highly ineffective in helping the poor, they are also an increasingly unsustainable drain on the country’s public finances and its foreign reserves. Yet reform remains a thorny issue in Egypt’s unstable political environment—mostly because subsidies are the main instrument of social assistance used by the government. Subsidies to consumer goods and fuels have existed in the country since the 1920s. Various approaches are available for scaling them down or eliminating them altogether. However, most of the prior attempts to reform the subsidy system in Egypt have failed. Cash transfers targeted at the poor would be a superior policy relative to the status quo.

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Saudi Arabia and the Arab “Frontline” States
By Anthony Cordesman
Center for Strategic and International Studies
November 4, 2013

The United States needs to rethink its attitudes and polices towards Saudi Arabia and the Arab “frontline” states. The “Arab spring” has not become some sudden window to democratic reform. It has instead unleashed a broad pattern of regional instability in an area already deeply destabilized by extremism and terrorism, growing religious struggles between Sunni and other sects as well as between Sunni extremists and moderates, the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its removal as a military counterbalance to Iran, a growing Iranian set of threats at every level, and massive demographic pressures on weak structures of governance and economic development. The day may come some years in the future where the resulting convulsions in states like Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen produce the conditions for effective reform: political parties capable of producing effective leaders and governance, politics based on compromise rather than a history of conspiracy and winner’s take all, elections that produce national rather than ethnic and sectarian tensions, and a rule of law rather than winner takes all and repression. Today, however, upheavals mean political instability and violence, massive new economic problems, power struggles, repression and refugees. The issue is not democracy and the more ideal human rights, it is the most basic set of human rights: security and the ability to lead a safe and secure life.

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One Word Will Define Egypt’s Constitution
By Nathan J. Brown
Carnegie Endowment
November 1, 2013
Foreign Policy

Those interested in following every word of the work of the Committee of 50 drafting comprehensive revisions to Egypt’s constitution now have a variety of sources to follow: one “official” twitter feed; an “unofficial” one; and the latest addition, an “official” Facebook page. But the most important word governing Egypt’s future constitutional order will not be mentioned in any of those places. Indeed, it will not even be placed in the final text scheduled to be submitted to voters next month. That fateful word will be spoken only by General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and it will be a simple “yes” or “no” concerning his candidacy for the presidency of the Egyptian republic.

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How the West should Stop Crippling the Syrian Opposition
By Jean-Pierre Filiu
German Marshall Fund
November 06, 2013

Since its start in March 2011, the Syrian revolution has presented a challenge to classical interpretations of political protest and conventional attitudes toward armed insurgencies.
The markedly grassroots nature of this popular uprising has made the quest for a monolithic leadership elusive. In addition, the various underground groups that make up the opposition have nurtured complex dialectics with exiled militants. The Syrian National Council (SNC) that was established in Istanbul in October 2011 was, therefore,
a self-proclaimed patchwork, whose doors were left open to other groups.

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John Kerry’s Wishful Thinking About Egypt
By Lee Smith
Hudson Institute
November 5, 2013

Last week, in the midst of his latest trip to the Middle East, Secretary of State John Kerry told Egypt’s ruling military junta to keep up the good work. The Obama administration wants General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the man who removed Muslim Brotherhood affiliated president Mohamed Morsi from office in a coup on July 3, to return Egypt to civilian rule as quickly as possible. And that road map, said Kerry, “is being carried out to the best of our perception.” In reality though, it looks as though Egypt is heading in exactly the other direction.

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Ankara’s Middle East Policy Post Arab Spring
By Soner Cagaptay
Washington Institute
November 2013

When Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) entered office in 2002, it launched an ambitious plan to become a regional power. Aided by phenomenal economic growth, Turkey ultimately became the Middle East’s largest economy with a foreign policy based on wielding soft power to gain influence. To this end, the new elites in Ankara pursued deep economic and political ties with the region’s governments, including Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Syria. Nevertheless, the events of the Arab Spring and the subsequent emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood as a hardline political force in the region have shifted the trajectory of Turkey’s rise to regional preeminence. Turkey realized that its soft power is not readily transferable to hard power, a realization that has prompted a pivot in Ankara’s foreign policy over the past two years.

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Kerry’s Visit to Morocco and Algeria: Navigating Between Competitors
By Vish Sakthivel
Washington Institute
November 4, 2013

Over the past few days, following the State Department’s announcement that Secretary John Kerry would be making his first official visit to North Africa, Morocco temporarily recalled its ambassador from Algeria. The symbolic gesture came after the two countries exchanged insults over Western Sahara, accusing each other of hegemonic ambitions and disregard for human rights. Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s statement about the urgency of dispatching human rights monitors to the disputed region, which triggered Rabat’s reaction, coincides with three imminent events: the U.S.-Morocco Strategic Dialogue, the annual summit that Kerry will inaugurate during his current trip to the region; Kerry’s visit to Algiers, also scheduled for later this week; and an expected mid-November visit to the United States by Morocco’s King Muhammad VI. Indeed, this latest squabble was aimed squarely at agenda-setting. In responding to the brouhaha, the Obama administration should be mindful of the complicated diplomatic and security issues at play, careful in its reassurances to committed allies in Morocco, and realistic about the limits of potential cooperation between the two countries.

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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?

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.

A Look at Obama’s Second Term Foreign Policy Team

This week saw the real beginning of the Obama second term foreign policy. Secretary of State John Kerry made his first official trip overseas as secretary and Hagel was sworn in as Secretary of Defense.

However, not everything is going smoothly for the administration, especially in terms of the Kerry trip. The highlight of the trip was a meeting with the Syrian opposition in Rome. However, the opposition leaders at first indicated that they weren’t interested in attending the meeting because they saw little benefit in terms of material support. Syrian rebels are so frustrated by empty promises of help to overthrow President Bashar Assad that they had threatened to boycott a Thursday meeting in Rome of the Friends of Syria.

The US lured the Syrian rebels back to the meeting with the lure of tangible assistance. The White House indicated it was considering a shift in policy and could send the rebels non lethal materials and provides military training.

The Syrian rebels were rewarded for their returning to the conference. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday that the United States plans for the first time to provide non-lethal aid, including food rations, vehicles, communications equipment, night vision gear, and medical supplies. The Obama administration will also provide an additional $60 million, adding to the $385 million of humanitarian aid already given and $54 million in equipment, medical supplies, and other non-lethal assistance. Speaking at an international conference on Syria in Rome, Kerry said that the decision was the result of “the brutality of superior armed force propped up by foreign fighters from Iran and Hezbollah.”

Kerry also sharpened his criticism of the Syrian president on Wednesday in Paris, “He (Assad) needs to know he cannot shoot his way out of this, so we need to convince him of that and I think the opposition needs more help in order to be able to do that. And we are working together to have a united position.”

Kerry’s desire for an American solution, however, is complicated by Russia’s support of Syrian President Assad and America’s need for Russian support in two other critical Middle Eastern issues – encouraging Iran to stop nuclear weapons development and the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. Russia controls one of the major routes for American withdrawal from Afghanistan, the northern supply route, that wends its way from Kabul through the Salang Tunnel into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia. Moving heavy equipment from Afghanistan economically requires Russian assistance. Should the US decide to provide the Syrian rebels with more equipment, especially heavy weapons, the one secure land route for Americans in Afghanistan may disappear.

Yet, Syria remains a problem. As the conflict continues, the rebels are becoming more aggressive and the US fears an al Qaeda led Syrian opposition. In order to counter that, the US wants the moderate Syrian opposition to start providing traditional government services in areas it controls in order to cement its authority and relationship with Syrian civilians. The aim is to also show Assad that the rebels will eventually win.

Russia has said that insisting on Assad’s departure as a condition for peace negotiations between the government and the opposition would prevent such talks from ever taking place. The opposition, backed by the United States and much of Europe, has made plain Assad can play no role in a future Syrian government

Where Obama really needs Russian help is in the current negotiations with Iran – which fills the top place in priorities in Obama’s Middle East policy. The US needs Russia’s support in the nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations comprising the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, that were held in the Kazakh city of Almaty this week. The P5+1 nations have already held three rounds of unsuccessful negotiations with Iran last year under the leadership of EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. The first round of negotiations was held in Istanbul, Turkey, in April, followed by talks in the Iraqi capital Baghdad in May and in Moscow in June. Although Iran is reeling from economic sanctions, it refuses to budge on its nuclear program.

Obama’s Second Term Foreign Policy

Secretary Kerry’s first foreign trip does give an inkling of Obama Administration priorities for the second term. He started off with traditional Western European allies like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. He then moves to the Middle East: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. Israel is left to a later trip.

Clearly, given the focus on Syria in Europe, it is obvious that Syria will remain a major subject in the Middle Eastern phase of the trip. Turkey is a front line nation in the Syrian conflict and any aid will likely move through that country. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE are suspected of providing various aids to the Syrian Rebels including weapons.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the UAE are also GCC nations that are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Iranian capabilities to hamper the movement of oil through the Strait of Hormuz.

It appears that rather than launching any initiative in the region, the Obama policy for the region is to keep the two major trouble spots, Syria and Iran, under control so Obama can pursue a domestic agenda. There is no desire to transform American foreign policy or pursue a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians – the first time that has not been a major goal for a president in modern American history.

Rather, Obama seems more concerned with holding the lids on major trouble spots so they will not interfere with domestic policies like immigration reform, spending, taxes, Obamacare, and gun control. A crisis in the Middle East would cost political capital and divert the Congress from his agenda.

It is unlikely that the new foreign policy team will either disagree with Obama or suggest new initiatives. One reason is that the new foreign policy team doesn’t have the political clout of the old team. Hillary Clinton was a political power herself and could take her disagreements with Obama to the people. Bob Gates, DoD Secretary, was a Bush holdover and could rouse Republican opposition if necessary. CIA Director David Petraeus was a popular American General who would have also been able to go to the American people.

That has changed.

CIA director Brennan will continue the” war on terror” in the same manner that it has been carried on for both the Obama and Bush Administration.

Kerry and Hagel are Senate foreign policy experts who, along with Vice President Biden have spend decades in the US Senate, without having to actually pursue any foreign policy. Senator Hagel served 14 years in the U.S. Senate, and another 10 as a congressional staffer and lobbyist on the Hill. Vice President Biden spent 36 years and John Kerry 28 years in the U.S. Senate. Combined, America’s foreign policy team has spent 78 years in the U.S. Senate, with two of the senators having spent much of their adult lives on the Hill.

Senators don’t manage programs, implement policies, or run large complex bureaucracies. Achieving a diplomatic deal on some critical matter is only half the challenge, often the greater challenge is carrying it out. It is not a senator’s job to carry out the laws they pass, but to get 50 percent plus one votes to get them approved. They do not tend to see the world in terms of decades-long grand strategies which is what foreign policy should be about. In other words, the Obama foreign policy team is more attuned to political survival, which is more likely to be tamping down a crisis rather than resolving it.

With a foreign policy team that is more attuned to political issues and untrained in developing and implementing foreign policy, there is little likelihood that Obama will seriously pursue and try to implement any major initiatives on either Syria or Iran. The result will be flawed policy implementation, no grand strategy in the region, mixed messages to allies, and a foreign policy attuned to polls rather than American or regional interests. It is more likely that any leadership in the region will come from elsewhere, not the White House.

What could a cyber attack do to America?

A New York Times article this week once again raised the issue of the growing threat of cyber attacks against the US.  The article specifically focused on the growing number of cyber attacks from the Chinese Army against all sectors of the US computer infrastructure – from national defense to Coca Cola.

Although the Chinese have been aggressive in their attacks, it still appears that it is less cyber attacks than “cyber probing;” discovering weaknesses in government and industry computer networks for later use.  Much of it has been attempts to install malware to allow China later access to sensitive computer systems.

The probes aren’t limited to government computers.  In many cases, the Chinese have gone after manufacturers and vendors who supply computers to the government and other critical industries.  As was discovered with the Stuxnet malware used against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, the vendor’s software is often the soft underbelly of critical computer networks.

How good are America’s defenses against cyber attack?  The answer from the experts is discouraging.  And, there is little being done to make it better.  Obama’s new executive order—with its focus on voluntary standards and information sharing—is unlikely to provide much protection. The executive order requires that new information-sharing, standards-setting, and R&D.  The executive order—announced during Obama’s State of the Union address—won’t force companies to introduce measures that would protect infrastructure like the power grid.

So, what could happen if the US were hit with a “cyber Pearl Harbor?”  America’s infrastructure is aging and much of it is privately owned, which prevents the government from mandating effective countermeasures.

There have been several incidents that worry IT experts.  In 2011 U.S. officials investigated whether a foreign cyber attack may have caused a failure of a water pump at a public water district in Illinois.  Around that same time, a hacker appeared to successfully infiltrate a South Houston water utility in 2011, displaying screenshots of critical instruments to prove the attack.  And, although there have been no admitted attacks against the electric power grid, published reports have blamed cyber attacks for a number of high-profile power outages in Brazil between 2005 and 2007 that left tens of thousands in the dark.

Much of the concern centers on Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, or SCADA, an archaic type of industrial control system that is used in many critical infrastructure areas like pipelines, electric grids and factories.  Manufactured by the likes of General Electric and Siemens, these systems were thought to be very secure but have since become more connected to the dangerous world of the Internet.  In fact, it was Siemens equipment that was attacked by the Stuxnet malware in Iran.

The potential of a cyber Pearl Harbor

As devastating as the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, a cyber Pearl Harbor could be more devastating to the US.  Although the Pearl Harbor attack devastated the US Navy’s surface fleet, especially the battleships, America’s economic and war equipment infrastructure was intact.  In addition, America’s population was untouched.

A cyber Pearl Harbor would seriously impact America’s economic infrastructure and civilian population.  The most vulnerable areas would be the urban centers, especially on the East and West coasts.

The modern urban environment is dependent on constant electricity supplies and instant communications. While a loss of power may not necessarily generate panic, a sustained blackout in telecommunications could before long lead to widespread fear, as the public would not know how long the loss of electricity and communications would last.

A cyber attack against the electricity grid of a major city would create immediate problems, as people would lose the use of lighting and power in the first instance, and with it, experience the loss of data.  Water supplies would be also disrupted, because electricity is used to pump water.   Traffic lights would shut down – requiring motorists to drive slowly and force police into traffic control duties rather than law enforcement.  Mass transit systems would stop, which would put more pressure on roads. Businesses would lose the ability to conduct electronic transactions, gas stations couldn’t pump gasoline, and shops and restaurants would stand to lose perishable goods through the loss of refrigeration. An attack during the winter could also lead to thousands of deaths from cold.

A coordinated cyber attack could be devastating.  Imagine several major terrorist attacks combined with a multifaceted cyber attack.

Assume several terrorist attacks in several major US cities – either using hijacked aircraft like 9-11, large car bombs, or terrorist attacks on hotels like Mumbai, India.  Soon after the attacks, power and communications systems of these and other major cities would be cyber attacked.  Inside the cities, the breakdown would hamper response and rescue attempts. Outside the cities, the rest of America would only know that attacks were taking place throughout the country, but not know the extent of the attacks.  Each city experiencing power and communications failures would be assumed to be the victim of a terrorist attack.

Secondary attacks against banks would further hamper the nation as it would prevent customers from getting cash from banks or ATMs to make purchases.  Cyber attacks against gas and oil pipelines would hamper transportation and even the heating in houses with gas furnaces.

If infrastructure and government entities were unable to quickly restore order, civil unrest could quickly spread in the urban areas, where people would be unable to acquire food or water.  Army and National Guard units would be mobilized to control the unrest, leaving the nation unprepared for other dangers.

This isn’t a worst case scenario.  Although many urban areas like the North East and Southern California would be heavily hit, rural areas, which are less dependent on complex logistics systems would remain in relatively good shape.  Food production would continue, although getting it to urban areas would be hampered.  The ability to control civil unrest in urban areas and restore power, water and food supplies would determine the long term impact of such an attack.

Unfortunately, given the emergency response to the recent hurricane Sandy in the Northeast, there is some question about the ability of the government to respond.  The hurricane was foreseen and the damage limited to areas near the coast, but many suffered infrastructure failure lasting days and weeks.  Clearly the government would be hard pressed to handle a larger geographic area.

Clearly the US is vulnerable to cyber attack.  Defense against such a cyber Pearl Harbor depends on the companies who provide infrastructure services, to harden their computers against such an attack.  The second line of defense is the emergency response ability of the federal, state, and local governments to limit any disruption once it occurs, and bring systems back to normal conditions within the shortest time possible.  Both are questionable capabilities at this point.

نظرة على حرب الاغتيالات للطائرات دون طيار (درونز)

“الحرب العالمية على الارهاب،” التي بشر بها جورج بوش الابن الكون بأكمله دخلت مرحلة جديدة مختلفة، وان لم تنحسر عدوانيتها ودمويتها وشموليتها. الحرب التقليدية كانت تدار بترسانة من الاسلحة البرية والبحرية والجوية، اما “الحرب على الارهاب” في يومنا هذا فهي تدور بصمت وتحصد ضحاياها باطمئنان لسلامة جانب مشغليها عن بعد الذين يمارسون عملهم باعتياد ورتابة تامة كل يوم، والعودة لعائلاتهم واطفالهم بعد انقضاء “يوم عمل،” كغيره من الايام. الحرب الطاحنة والمدمرة كانت تشن في السابق بهدف احراز تنازلات من الخصم، دولا وشعوبا؛ واستبدلت بنمط اكثر ديمومة يستند الى ابداعات التقنية المتطورة التي لا يعرف كنهها سوى عدد محدود من الاميركيين. وادارتها بالاساليب الراهنة قد تلحق بالاميركيين اضرارا لا تقل عن خسائر الضحايا في الشرق الاوسط، لا سيما وان رقعة عملياتها تزداد باضطراد لتشمل المنطقة العربية بأكملها، والسواحل الشرقية لافريقيا وغربا في العمق الى مالي، وشرقا الى افغانستان وباكستان وحتى ايران

تنامي اعتماد صناع القرار السياسي الاميركي على الطائرات دون طيار، درونز، لشن حربهم “على الارهاب” لم تخضع لاجراءات الفحص والتدقيق المعتمدة، وذلك يعود الى اعجاب كافة الاطياف السياسية بنتائجها وقلة كلفتها مقارنة مع الحرب التقليدية. فمن ناحية، تعتبر طائرات “درونز” وسيلة حربية اميركية مثلى. اذ تستند الى آخر انتاجات التقنية بالغة التطور، والتي تحتل اميركا منصب الصدارة فيها؛ وتخفض عدد الضحايا البشرية بين الاميركيين، مما يعتبر ميزة حيوية لتبنيها من قبل مرشح ما لمنصب سياسي معين. الرئيس اوباما الذي اطلق وعودا وردية اثناء حملته الانتخابية السابقة بشأن “خفض مستوى العداء في الشرق الاوسط،” وجد ضالته للاستمرار بالحرب بكلفة زهيدة باستخدام تلك الطائرات. تتميز فترة رئاسة اوباما بتزايد تنفيذ الاغتيالات السياسية في اراضي الغير بفرط الاعتماد على “الدرونز” بنسبة تفوق عشرة اضعاف ما كانت عليه الاغتيالات في كامل فترة بوش الابن الرئاسية.

مقر اوباما للاغتيالات

تسربت حديثا تفاصيل آلية اختيار “زعماء الارهاب” للظفر بهم، احياءً او قتلى، عبر وكالة أ.ب. للانباء، بعدما كان يلفها حاجز سميك من السرية اذ كانت تتبع لتقييم القيادات العسكرية في وزارة الدفاع. وافاض مسؤولون اميركيون سابقون على دراية باجراءات تحديد الاهداف، ان عناصر خطة الاستهداف النهائية اشرف عليها مستشار الرئيس اوباما لشؤون مكافحة الارهاب، جون برينان، من شأنها حصر قرار استخدام “الدرونز” والقوات الخاصة في ساحات محددة ضمن فريق مصغر من طاقم البيت الابيض.

واستنادا الى بعض ما تم تداوله مؤخرا، حول ما طرأ من جديد على سياسة الاغتيالات المنظمة، يمكننا القول ان انتقاص الدور الذي كانت تقوم به البنتاغون ترجم الى تعزيز دور البيت الابيض زائد مزيد من اضفاء الاطر السرية. البنتاغون لا تزال قادرة على تنفيذ مهام الاغتيالات كما في الوتيرة السابقة، لكن الجديد ان “التوصيات بالاهداف” ستمر عبر قناة وزير الدفاع ليون بانيتا، لكن القرار النهائي بالمضي من عدمه يبقى محصورا في فريق البيت الابيض برئاسة برينان والذي لديه صلاحيات تخوله التصرف بقائمة مرشحي الاغتيال بعد مصادقة الرئيس، بدل الدور المركزي السابق لوزارة الدفاع.

وعليه، تسري تخوفات من تركيز سلطات اضافية حساسة بيد برينان وفريقه، الذي لا يعترض طريقه للوصول الى مركز القرار الرئاسي الحاسم اي شيء، والقيام بمهام مقر مصغر للقوات العسكرية يضطلع بتقرير مصير “الاهداف الارهابية” حول العالم

وتجدر الاشارة الى مطالبة عدد من المنظمات المعنية بالحقوق المدنية، والتي تخشى من احتكار السلطة التنفيذية لقرارات مصيرية، قد طالبت البيت الابيض بالافصاح عن الآلية التي يجري وضع اسماء معينة على اللائحة المستهدفة. كما ان عددا آخر من المنظمات الحقوقية اعربت عن قلقها ومعارضتها لتوسيع نطاق عمل طائرات “الدرونز،” الذي يتعدى الساحات الخارجية الى الاستخدام داخل اراضي الولايات المتحدة، مما يعرض الحقوق الدستورية للشعب الاميركي للانتهاك.

من المفارقة، ان منطقة الشرق الاوسط شهدت ولادة تطبيق طائرات “الدرونز” من قبل الكيان الصهيوني قبل الآخرين. وشرع الكيان الاستفادة من الدروس القاسية في حرب عام 1973، خاصة على الجبهة السورية التي كبدته بطاريات الصواريخ السورية خسائر فادحة في سلاح الجو. وشهدت الصناعات الجوية “الاسرائيلية” انتاج اول نموذج للطائرات دون طيار واستخدامها لجمع معلومات استخبارية فورية ولاغراض الحرب الالكترونية والتمويه العسكري. وكانت اولى تطبيقاتها عام 1982 في العدوان على لبنان والدور المحوري للطائرات في تحييد الدفاعات الجوية السورية آنذاك.

وبعد ذلك، شرع الكيان الصهيوني بتسليح ذلك الجيل من الطائرات دون طيار وكثف من استخدامها في عمليات الاغتيال ضد القيادات الفلسطينية. وفي شهر آذار/مارس 2009، شن الكيان الصهيوني غارة مكثفة على قطاع غزة، مستخدما الطائرات المذكورة كسلاح اسناد وانقضاض، ذهب ضحيتها 48 مدنيا من الفلسطينيين، من ضمنهم طفلين ومجموعة من النساء في احد الاحياء السكنية الهادئة.

الطراز الرئيسي المعتمد في “الجيش الاسرائيلي” هو “هيرون،” الذي طورته “الصناعات الجوية الاسرائيلية.”

وكما في كل المواقع والانتاجات العلمية والعسكرية “الاسرائيلية،” فان جهود الابحاث والانتاج تتم بمساعدة تقنية اميركية وتمويل اميركي ايضا. ونجح الكيان في تصدير نموذج “هيرون” الى تركيا والهند وسنغافورة وفرنسا وكندا. وشهدت الايام القليلة الماضية ارتفاع منسوب الدفء في العلاقات العسكرية بين الكيان الصهيوني وتركيا، اذ اعيدت بعض طائرات “هيرون” الى تركيا بعد اجراء الصيانة واصلاح الاعطال.

سلاح الجو الاميركي الجديد

دخلت طائرات “الدرونز” الخدمة في الاسلحة الاميركية المختلفة بتسارع قوي، كما اشارت الى ذلك دراسة صادرة عن الكونغرس الاميركي والتي اقر فيها ان نسبة طائرات “الدرونز” بلغت نحو 31 بالمائة من مجموع الطائرات العاملة في كافة قطاعات الاسلحة الاميركية. وحاليا، يبلغ عدد الطائرات بحوزة القوات العسكرية الاميركية نحو 7,494 طائرة، مقابل 10,767 طائرة باطقم طيارين.

عند ادخال “الدرونز” الى ساحتي المعارك في العراق وافغانستان، تحطمت في العام الاول نحو 38 طائرة من طراز “بريداتور وريبر”، وخضعت لتعديلات عديدة بعدئذ. وعلى الرغم من ذلك، استطاعت ايران اسقاط طائرة “درون” من طراز RQ-17. افادت دراسة الكونغرس المشار اليها ان التعديلات التقنية التي ادخلت على طائرات “بريداتور” اسهمت في خفض معدلات الحوادث من 20 الى 7,5 في ظرف 100,000 ساعة من الطيران المتواصل، وهي النسبة المقاربة لحوادث الطائرات المقاتلة من طراز F-16.

ويبقى هذا الجيل من طائرات “الدرونز” عرضة لنقاط الضعف التقنية، اذ اشار احد التقارير مؤخرا الى وقوعها فريسة للبرامج الالكترونية الضارة ” الفيروسات، اضافة الى افراط جهود برمجتها عن بعد وقدرتها المحدودة على الاستجابة للتعليمات الفورية. احدى مزايا ذلك الجيل من الطائرات هو قدرتها على التحليق لفترات زمنية اطول، وجمع معلومات استخبارية والتي ستحتاج الى العامل البشري لتحليلها والتعامل معها.

كما ان اسقاط ايران لواحدة من احدث الطائرات مؤخرا اشار الى امكانية “اختطاف” طائرات “الدرونز” والتحكم بقيادتها من الهدف التي جاءت للتجسس عليه بدل الاستجابة الى تعليمات طواقم الطرف المرسل. جدير بالذكر انه لو لم يتم اسقاط طائرة RQ-17 “سنتينل،” لم يكن بوسع ايران عرض مجسمها كاملا، بل ان عرضها على شبكات التلفزة ليراها العالم باجمعه اوضح انها سليمة وحديثة الصنع. مما عزز الرواية الايرانية بانه تم السيطرة عليها الكترونيا وانزالها سليمة. وعلق قائد سلاح الجو في الحرس الثوري الايراني، اللواء امير علي حاجي زاده، المسؤول عن السيطرة على الطائرة، بالقول “عبر جهد ترصد الكتروني دقيق استطعنا التوصل الى نتيجة ان هذه الطائرة حلقت بهدف اختراق اجواء بلادنا لاغراض تجسسية. وبعد دخولها مجالنا الجوي في المنطقة الشرقية وقعت في مصيدة الكترونية تابعة لقواتنا العسكرية وتم السيطرة عليها وانزالها بحد ادنى من الضرر.”

تعتمد طائرات “الدرونز،” تقنيا، على كمية محددة من موجات النطاق الترددي لتنفيذ التعليمات الالكترونية، اذ تحتاج طائرة من طراز “غلوبال هوك،” مثلا، الى 500 “ميغا بايت” في الثانية من موجات النطاق الترددي؛ والتي وصفها تقرير الكونغرس الوارد سابقا بانها تساوي “500 بالمئة من مجموع الموجات الترددية التي توفرت لكافة القوات العسكرية الاميركية خلال حرب عام 1991” على العراق.

طائرة “بريداتور”

تعتبر طائرة “الدرون” من طراز “بريداتور” من اهم الطائرات دون طيار في الترسانة الاميركية. الجيل الاول منها “بريداتور MQ-1” صمم في اوائل عقد التسعينيات من القرن المنصرم لاغراض الاستطلاع والمراقبة في الخطوط الامامية، وعلى متنها كاميرات تصوير متطورة واجهزة استشعار حساسة اخرى. وتم تطوير حمولتها القتالية بنصب صاروخين من طراز AGM-114 هيل فاير على متنها وبعض الذخيرة الاخرى. ودخلت الخدمة الفعلية عام 1995، واستخدمت على نطاق واسع في كل من: افغانستان، باكستان، البوسنة، صربيا، العراق، اليمن، ليبيا والصومال.

عادة ما ينشر سلاح الجو الاميركي وحدة من اربع طائرات “بريداتور” محملة باجهزة استشعار في مهمة محددة، تتحكم بها محطة ارضية معززة باجهزة اتصال عبر الاقمار الاصطناعية. باستطاعة الطائرة المذكورة التحليق لنحو 300 ميل بحري (740 كم) والمكوث في الاجواء نحو 14 ساعة متواصلة ومن ثم العودة الى قاعدتها.

منذ عام 2001، اضحت طائرة “بريداتور” الطائرة المفضلة لسلاح الجو الاميركي ووكالة الاستخبارات المركزية في شن الغارات على المناطق القبلية في افغانستان وباكستان، بالاضافة الى ساحات اخرى. وبما ان اسخدامات “بريداتور” تلفها السرية، فالمعلومات المتوفرة حول استخداماتها القتالية ضئيلة. لكن الثابت انه منذ عام 2004، تستخدم وكالة الاستخبارات المركزية قاعدة شمسي الجوية في باكستان لشن غاراتها الهجومية على المناطق القبلية الباكستانية.

ومنذ شهر ايار/مايو 2005، استخدمت “بريداتور” بكامل حمولتها من صواريخ هيل فاير للاغارة واغتيال عدد من نشطاء القاعدة، الى جانب مقتل عدد اكبر من المدنيين، لا سيما الغارة التي وقعت في 13 كانون2/يناير 2006 والتي ذهب ضحيتها 18 مدنيا. وعزت السلطات الباكستانية هذا العدد الكبير من الضحايا الى “معلومات استخبارية خاطئة” لدى الاميركيين.

طائرة “درون” والحقوق

الاعتماد المتزايد على الطائرات المسيرة عن بعد اثار عددا من الاستفسارت حول القواعد الاخلاقية لاستخدامها. اذ اعرب عدد من المنظمات الحقوقية، الاميركية والدولية، عن قلقها من استخدام سلاح الطائرات المذكورة في الغارات على افغانستان وباكستان والصومال واليمن. اذ استندت المعلومات الاستخبارية لقتل المدنيين على قاعدة من “المعلومات الالكترونية” التي حددت هوية المشتبه بهم وفق بيانات صممت سابقا وليس استنادا الى معلومات مؤكدة حول ضلوع المشتبه بهم في اعمال عدائية.

يتزايد الجدل حول هذه المسألة في الداخل الاميركي لخشية المنظمات الحقوقية وقطاع متنامي من الافراد العاديين من استخدام التقنية عينها عند “ملاحقتها للارهابيين” وادخاله الخدمة لدى اجهزة الشرطة الداخلية لمراقبة نشاطات الاميركيين دون ضوابط وانتهاك للحقوق الدستورية.

تجلت التطبيقات الداخلية لطائرات “الدرونز” في المساعي لمراقبة وضبط الحدود الاميركية، لا سيما المنطقة المشتركة مع المكسيك. واعلنت وزارة الامن الداخلي عن استراتيجيتها الجديدة للحفاظ على الامن بتزايد اعتمادها على الطائرات دون طيار لجمع معلومات استخبارية من شأنها مساعدة الاطقم الأمنية في ملاحقتها لشبكات تهريب المخدرات، بدل الاستناد الى القبض على عناصرها عند النقاط الحدودية. هناك نحو 9 طائرات “بريداتور” تجوب الاجواء الجوية الاميركية، اربعة منها تتخذ من مدينة سييرا فيستا بولاية اريزونا قاعدة لها، وثلاثة طائرات تراقب الحدود المشتركة مع كندا، واثنتين ترابطتان في قاعدة كوربس كريستي البحرية على شواطيء خليج المكسيك واراضي ولاية تكساس.

استنادا الى معلومات افرجت عنها هيئة الجمارك وحماية الحدود، عام 2011، زعمت ان طائرات “الدرونز” اسهمت في مصادرة نحو 7,600 رطل من المخدرات والقاء القبض على اكثر من 75 فردا لنشاطاتهم غير المشروعة. الاداء الوردي للطائرات يمثل “الجزء الظاهر من جبل الجليد،” اذ صادق الكونغرس الاميركي مطلع السنة الجارية على قرار رئاسي يخول بموجبه اجهزة الشرطة المحلية صلاحيات اوسع لاستخدام طائرات “الدرونز” في نشاطات المراقبة للمواطنين الاميركيين. كما ان القرار يخول هيئة الطيران المدني تسريع اجراءاتها للموافقة على استخدام تلك الطائرات في الاجواء المدنية من قبل اجهزة الشرطة والامن على كافة تنوعاتها.

الاطياف السياسية المتعددة اعربت عن قلقها وخشيتها من تقويض الحريات المدنية. على سبيل المثال، المعلق اليميني المحافظ، تشارلز كراوثهامر، شجع “كل من يطلق الطقة الاولى على طائرات “بريداتور” داخل اميركا باعتباره بطلا.” كما ان اهم جمعية حقوقية، الاتحاد الاميركي للحريات المدنية، اعربت عن شكوكها من صلاحية الاسس القانونية المعتمدة في استخدام “بريداتور.”

التطبيقات الاولية لادخال “بريداتور” للخدمة الفعلية اسفرت عن اعتقال خمسة افراد اميركيين “لسرقة 6 رؤوس من الابقار،” وبعد تيقن الشرطة المحلية من عدم توفر اسلحة بيد المتهمين، اقدمت على اعتقالهم. هذا الامر بالضبط هم ما يثير المخاوف الحقيقية من توسيع سلطات اجهزة الشرطة والامن الداخلية، لا سيما انتهاكها للقانون المركزي الصادر عام 1878، قانون بوسي كوميتاتس، للفصل بين مهام القوات العسكرية واجهزة الشرطة “الا بعد اصدار الكونغرس قرارا يخول ذلك” في حالات معينة. كافة اسراب طائرات “البريداتور” تتبع القوات العسكرية في الظرف الراهن.

مهام المراقبة تشكل احدى الاهتمامات الحقوقية، لا سيما وان بعض الاجهزة الامنية تطالب بتسليح طائرات “بريداتور” للاستخدامات الداخلية ضد المواطنين الاميركيين. للدلالة، افادت شبكة (سي بي اس) للتلفزة المحلية في واشنطن ان “نائب رئيس جهاز الشرطة في احدى مقاطعات ولاية تكساس، راندي ماكدانيال … صرح بأن مسؤولي الجهاز ينظرون في امكانية استخدام الرصاص المطاطي والقنابل المسيلة للدموع من على متن طائرات بريداتور” التابعة لهم.

اصوات المعارضين لتسليح “بريداتور” تتزايد حدتها، لا سيما للقلق من عدم توفر معلومات دقيقة لمشغلي الطائرات عن بعد مقارنة بالاطقم الارضية. وهي الخشية عينها التي يبديها الاخرون في استخدامها بمناطق مختلفة من الشرق الاوسط، والتي تؤدي الى الانقضاض على مواقع واهداف تنقصها المعلومات المؤكدة.

كما ان الجدل يتطور الى التشكيك بفعاليتها بالنظر الى الكلفة الاقتصادية العالية. فطائرات “الدرونز” تتطلب ساعة صيانة لكل ساعة طيران تقوم بها، وتكلفتها الاجمالية تفوق الكلفة النظرية، واحيانا كثيرة يتم ابقائها جاثمة في مرابضها بحكم سوء الاحوال الجوية والامطار، كما جاء في تقرير لتقييم الاداء اجري في آذار/مارس الماضي لحساب وزارة الامن الداخلي.

وافاد التقرير المذكور، ان سرب طائرات “بريداتور” المخصص لعمل هيئة الجمارك وحماية الحدود بالكاد حلق نحو نصف عدد الساعات المفترضة لرغبة الهيئة، سواء على الحدود الشمالية او الجنوبية او فوق مياه بحر الكاريبي. واضاف انه غالبا ما يواجه حرس الحدود نقصا في الطائرات لتوفير المساعدة لهم نظرا لان مسؤولي وزارة الامن الداخلي قاموا باعارتها لاجهزة امنية اخرى لمكتب التحقيقات الفيدرالي وحرس الخيالة في تكساس واجهزة اخرى ولاعمال الاغاثة. يذكر ان كلفة تحليق طائرة “الدرون” تبلغ نحو 3,000 دولار في الساعة، وهي كلفة اعلى بكثير من استخدام الوسائل التقليدية الاخرى لمهام المراقبة. ونظرا لأولوية “بريداتور” على الوسائط الاخرى، فقد تم تخفيض ميزانية المراقبة الجوية بالطائرات العادية لصالح الاولى والتي بلغت تكلفتها نحو 250 مليون دولار في السنوات الست الماضية.

رواج سمعة “بريداتور” اضاف عاملا اضافيا لاولوية اقتنائها، على الرغم من ادراك حدودها القصوى في مسرح العمليات. اذ تفوق كلفتها الاجمالية ما عداها من وسائط ومردودها اقل بكثير من الوسائط التقليدية؛ كما انها عرضة اكثر من غيرها لاحتمالات الخطأ، علاوة على امكانية اختطافها الكترونيا وتهديدها للحريات المدنية الاساسية.

NATIONAL SECURITY, FOREIGN POLICY AND THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

Mounzer Sleiman PhD,
Director of the Center for American and Arab Studies. April 11, 2009

OVERVIEW

A constant of American foreign policy is that campaign promises will never match the actual foreign policy of an American president. Pledges made to attract voters, energize supporters and build campaign treasuries are focused on narrow special interests and what pollsters say is the best tactic to win an election.
The 2008 election of Barak Obama must be seen in this same context. What Obama promised his supporters and voters in last year’s campaign will rarely reflect actual foreign policy. President Obama must now act in American best interests in order to win reelection, while dealing with a State Department bureaucracy that is in control his biggest presidential campaign opponent and has a reputation of foiling presidential foreign policy initiatives for two centuries.
A review of the first two months of the Obama Administration indicates several trends that may play out in the next four years. Diplomatic blunders with traditional allies, reneging on promise made to Gen. zini to be the ambassador in Iraq, vague diplomatic initiatives with countries like Russia, mixed messages and gesture to deal with Iran in addition of selecting Dennis Ross as top advisor for Gulf region and Iran (his expertise is very questionable in this area) show that the Obama Administration is still trying to define its foreign policy. At the same time, the inclusion of several non-experts in his foreign policy team indicate that much of the foreign policy expertise and gravitas will not be found in the cabinet, but at Civil Service levels of the State Department, Pentagon, and Intelligence community.

NATIONAL SECURITY TEAM

In many ways, a profile of Obama’s national security team is a profile of the potential problems that the US government could experience in the next four years. The team consists of politicians with little solid national security experience, potential political opponents Obama, and several national security experts.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

By bringing Hillary Clinton into his administration, Obama has managed to seal some of the political fractures that occurred when he beat Clinton for the presidential nomination and refused to pick her as his Vice Presidential candidate. On the other hand, he has put his most powerful political opponent in charge of the one department that has a reputation for bucking the White House. As long as Obama remains popular and America’s national security isn’t threatened, he has little to fear from the State Department. However, if his popularity falls and he is seen as a liability to the Democratic Party, this department could have a dramatic effect on how his foreign policy is seen by the public.

Hillary Clinton has little experience in national security affairs. Although she was First Lady from 1993 to 2001 and a senator from 2001 to 2009, she has never had any professional experience in the Foreign Service or national security. Her strength is as a political infighter and a national political figure with a powerful voter base.
The Obama administration will not use Clinton and her office to lead foreign policy initiatives – which are expected to be developed at the White House instead. She is expected to provide a very public face to the department and normal diplomatic activities. She is also expected to cover Obama’s political flank.

Since Clinton is a national political figure, who needs a national platform to remain visible, she is not expected to resign the position unless there is a very serious policy difference or the Obama Administration is in serious trouble. If Clinton does resign before 2012, it would probably be to challenge him for the Democratic nomination as President.

James Jones

The fact that Obama picked James Jones to be his National Security Advisor indicates that he intends to run foreign policy from the White House rather than the State Department. Jones was the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, and Supreme Allied Commander, Europe during his career. He was also a company commander in Vietnam in the 1960s. His choice, along with the retention of Gates at Defense, relieved many who were concerned that Obama might find himself overwhelmed with the responsibilities of Commander-in-Chief.

Jones also served in the Bush Administration. He was asked by Secretary of State Rice to be Deputy Secretary of State, but declined the honor. He was the Chairman of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq and a special envoy for Middle East security.

The choice of a military man for NSC, rather than an academic, means President Obama will have sound military advice on, Afghanistan, Iraq, and the “war on terror”. He will also have a national security advisor who better understands force projection, the capabilities of American power, and its limits. And, as a player in Pentagon politics, he understands the intricacies of the Department of Defense.

Jones’ success as a National Security Advisor depends to a great extent on the developing relationship with President Obama. If they work closely and Obama comes to trust his judgment and advice, Jones will become the major player in developing national security policy.

However, history shows that there is usually considerable conflict between State Department policies and the National Security Council. Jones will face a politically powerful Secretary of State and a foreign service that traditionally distrusts the NSC. Since Jones doesn’t have any political base, his success and future will depend on quickly gaining Obama’s trust. If he is unable to do that, Jones will be quickly marginalized.

Robert Gates

Robert Gates was the Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush and is continuing in that role under President Obama. He has the most national security experience in the Obama national security team and provides important continuity.

Gates has spent much of his career in the intelligence community. He joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and rose to the position of Director of the CIA. He was also in Air Force Intelligence during his military career. He accepted the position of Secretary of Defense under President Bush in 2006 after it was generally accepted that the current SecDef, Donald Rumsfeld had mismanaged the War in Iraq.

Like President Bush, Gates accepts the position that the US is involved in a “war on terror”. However, he has advocated the position that this war can’t be fought solely by the military, but through economic support and strengthening local government. This strategy had a great affect on the course of the war in Iraq and has been credited with the improved security situation with the recognition of still fragile security environment.

Gates has several problems facing him in the next four years. Obviously the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will be at the top of his agenda, even though there is a planned drawdown of troops in Iraq.

Gates will also be heavily engaged in an evolution of the Department of Defense. The Obama Administration is planning serious cuts in defense spending and Gates will have to make decisions on which major defense programs to cut. At the same time, he will continue to shift the emphasis from conventional warfare to counterinsurgency capabilities that will better counter the asymmetric warfare seen in the 21st century.

Gates tenure as SecDef is tenuous. As a Bush appointee, he has little political clout in the White House and many of Obama’s supporters would prefer a defense secretary more in line with Obama’s political philosophy. He could be asked to leave if some problems occur in the Pentagon or he might resign if he has major policy problems with the Obama Administration.

Gates may find political support from Hillary Clinton. He has been an advocate for many State Department programs like foreign aid that he sees as critical to counter insurgency warfare. If there is to be major opposition to Obama’s foreign policy or national security initiatives, it could very well come from a Clinton – State/Gates – Defense axis.

Eric Holder

Attorney General Eric Holder has sound career experience, joining the US Justice Department in 1976, serving as a DC judge, and becoming the Deputy Attorney General under President Clinton in 1997. In 2007, he became a campaign advisor for Senator Obama when he decided to run for President. He has been appointed by both Presidents Clinton and Reagan, and his policies on the treatment of “terrorists” and the “war on terrorism” has varied sometimes from the campaign statements of his boss, President Obama. In fact, it was his firm stand on many of these issues that won votes from Republican senators who supported his nomination.

Despite this, Holder has taken several controversial stands that could impact his position. His stands on civil liberties, surveillance and data mining have often advocated more powers for the government, which could conflict with many Obama appointees. On the other side of the spectrum, his strong opposition to the right of Americans to own firearms has created opposition from conservatives.

Holder will have to walk a narrow path between those who want strong government powers to prevent another “terrorist attack” and those who are afraid of the erosion of personal liberties. To a large extent, his success or failure may depend on whether or not the US suffers another major attack. If it does he may become the administrations sacrificial lamb.

Janet Napolitano

Napolitano has little national security experience. President Clinton appointed her as United States Attorney for Arizona and she has been elected as Arizona Attorney General and Governor. Her experience in Homeland Security is limited to her position as head of the Arizona National Guard and the fact that Arizona has a border with Mexico.

Napolitano is a savvy politician who left the Arizona governorship to take the position as Director of Homeland Security. Many had expected her to challenge Senator John McCain for his senate seat in 2010. Her move to Washington DC indicates that she sees her future in the Washington Administration, not in politics.

Napolitano is expected to provide sound leadership to Homeland Security. Her focus will probably be in technological advances and immigration reform. The technological innovations will cause problems with civil libertarians while her stands on immigration reform will create serious opposition with conservative groups.

Napolitano’s future in Homeland Security depends a great deal on whether terrorists attack the United States. Her decision to leave Arizona politics for Obama’s cabinet has cut her off from her political base and if an attack should succeed, she will probably be forced to resign and return to private practice.

Leon Panetta

Panetta, the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency, has served in government in many positions, as a congressman, Director on the Office of Management and Budget and Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton. He also served in the Army in the mid 1960s. However, his lack of intelligence experience has troubled many in Washington.

The CIA has a tarnished reputation thanks to bad and politically manipulated intelligence work before 9-11 and its many missteps in the “war on terror”. Panetta’s challenge is to restore the agency’s reputation and make it a valued part of the Obama national security team.

Panetta earned a reputation during the Bush administration as a critic of CIA practices in the “war on terror”. During his confirmation hearings he indicated that would focus on improving intelligence gathering on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Al Qaeda, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

Given the fact that the American intelligence community is a closed one, Panetta may find it hard to function within the CIA bureaucracy. Like the State Department, the CIA has a reputation for leaking damaging information that will hinder political appointees, while furthering the agenda of the bureaucracy.

Susan Rice

Susan Rice has been tapped to be the Ambassador to the United Nations. She was Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs under Clinton. She was also a Special Assistant to the President and on the National Security Council from 1993 to 1997.

Rice has been a policy expert for the Democratic Party. She was a Senior Fellow for the Brookings Institution during the last eight years. She was also a senior foreign policy advisor for presidential candidates Obama and Kerry.

Since leaving the Clinton Administration, Rice has written extensively, particularly on the genocide in Darfur. She has pushed a much more aggressive American position on Sudan, including the possible use of military force in 2005 and 2006. According to the Washington Post, while in the Clinton Administration, she was instrumental in the decision not to extradite Osama Ben Laden from the Sudan.

Rice’s professional and academic background is solely based on African issues. Many observers from all sides of the American political spectrum think Rice was not picked for her experience alone but to project the image of diversity of gender and race in Obama administration. There are some observers who anticipate some frictions between her and Secretary Clinton in executing the administration foreign policy on the world stage.

Dennis Blair

As the Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair brings a lifetime of intelligence experience to this relatively new position. He is a graduate of the US Naval Academy and finished his military career as Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command. He has served on the National Security Council Staff and was Associate Director of Intelligence for Military Support.

Blair is a pragmatist who knows how to merge the priorities of the often conflicting interests of the military and intelligence communities. His area of expertise was Asia and he has drawn criticism for his view that China isn’t a threat to American interests.

Blair faced lately few setbacks that could have weakened his position; it has been a couple of his choices for positions in the intelligence community. The first was his naming of Charles Freeman to chair the National Intelligence Council, a board of the nation’s top intelligence analysts. His criticism of Israeli intransigence immediately caused the Israeli lobby to protest his nomination. Pressure from Congress, including Senator Joe Lieberman, eventually caused the White House to drop support for Freeman’s nomination and he eventually pulled his name.

Another controversy is Blair’s naming of John Deutch, a former CIA Director, to a temporary panel that will investigate spy satellite programs. Deutch resigned when it was discovered that he had classified documents at his home. Although Deutch was pardoned by Clinton and had his security clearance reinstated during the Bush administration, so the intelligence community could consult with him, there is concern that Blair may not be good at picking subordinates.

Overall, Blair’s’ reputation is good and these controversies will not cripple him. Since the position of Director of National Intelligence is a relatively new one, Blair will have the opportunity to shape the office and its role in the national security apparatus. As a military intelligence expert on a team that has many players with little national security experience, Blair could become a major force in the development and execution of policy in the Obama Administration.

NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES

Iran

Iran will figure largely in the Obama Administration’s national security policy. Its nuclear ambitions and growing regional projection of power and influence, and its commanding position along the Strait of Hormuz make Iran a regional issue that must be dealt with.

The Obama Administration started off on the wrong foot when it was disclosed that Obama had asked Russia to help stop the Iranian nuclear program in return for canceling the building of an ABM system in Eastern Europe. This signaled weakness in dealing with Iran and shook up U.S. allies in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

Future Iranian nuclear policy will depend largely on the US intelligence community and its ability to monitor developments. This is where Panetta’s lack of intelligence experience may hurt the administration. One of the criticisms of the CIA recently has been its weak human intelligence capabilities, and given Panetta’s inexperience, he will be unlikely to shake up the CIA enough to make the necessary improvements. This will force the administration to rely upon other nations like Israel for intelligence and could make American policy towards Iran a hostage to Israeli interests.

Countering Iran and its growing influence in the region will be pushed to the center stage by the new Israeli government and nervous Arab rulers. Jones and Gates both have experience in the “counter insurgency war” in both Iraq and Afghanistan and will be able to help the administration to make sound decisions in that regard.

Ironically, the amount of attention given to Iran may depend on the Israeli influence in the Obama Administration. Israel has made it clear that they are concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and have held out the possibility of an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear targets. As a result, it’s possible that while other issues like Afghanistan may require more American attention, Israeli pressure could force Obama to redirect national priorities.

Israel

Policy towards Israel and the Palestinian state remains hostage to American electoral strategy. In the 2008 election, Obama’s success in winning swing states like Florida was due to strong support among American Jews. Consequently, the administration will be very careful in instituting any policy that is perceived as anti-Israel.

An example of the trouble that can come from taking a new path was seen in the nomination of Chas Freeman to head the National Intelligence Council. Freeman was perceived as being too pro-Arab. In his letter withdrawing his name from consideration, he said, “There is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.”

There is no evidence that the Obama national security team will change in regard to favoritism towards Israel. Clinton has developed a strong political base with American Jews and can be expected to be pro Israel. However, Jones as a Special Envoy for Middle East Security has worked with the Palestinian authority and may provide more balance than previous administrations.

Iraq

Although the War in Iraq was a major campaign issue, once Obama became president, it became obvious that he was less interested in disengaging than merely modifying the previous Bush policies.

Although most troops will have left Iraq by 2010, a significant number of US forces will remain for security. Thus, the question is if an organized insurgency will begin to operate and what the administration’s response to it would be. It is quite possible that forces of Iraqi resistance may try to test the US and Iraqi governments in the next year to better judge the Obama Administration’s commitment to Iraq over the long run.

History has shown that American presidents do not want to be perceived as losing a war. The costs of doing so are large both politically and in terms of the legacy the president leaves. Consequently, it is unlikely that Obama will do anything that would lead voters to think he was responsible for losing Iraq.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan is the biggest regional threat to the Obama Administration and its national security policy. During the campaign, in order to deflect criticism that he was weak on defense, Obama advocated a greater military presence in Afghanistan. He fulfilled that promise recently by deploying 21,000 more troops to that country.

However, the question remains what the role of the US is in Afghanistan. The original purpose was to oust the Taliban regime and destroy the Al Qaeda infrastructure. That was quickly done, but the mission of US forces today is much more ambiguous. Trying to provide political stabilization in a country that has a history of successfully ousting foreign armies isn’t one that should be lightly undertaken.

Afghanistan is the key to several issues that the Obama Administration must deal with. Keeping a presence in Afghanistan requires dealing with the logistical support provided by neighboring nations. At the same time, Russia is flexing its diplomatic muscle and trying to limit American influence in former Soviet republics. Then there is the instability in a nuclear armed Pakistan that could cause a crisis in the Indian Subcontinent. All of these will have an impact on Obama’s Afghanistan policy.

In order to be successful in Afghanistan, the Obama national security team has to formulate a long term policy of de-escalation instead of escalation, which stands a chance of success. Without a policy aiming to gradual withdrawal of American and Nato forces from Afghanistan, coupled with a serious drive to reach internal political reconciliation, the shadow of Vietnam and Soviet defeat in Afghanistan will loom prominently. Unfortunately, this is where the national security novices (Clinton, Panetta, Holder, and Napolitano) may do the president a disservice. As politicians, they will be more likely to recommend a “get tough” policy that will play well with the American voters, instead of formulating a reasonable and more realistic policy in the region. And, Obama, as a politician, may be tempted to listen to them instead of his military experts who realize the problem of fighting a war that cannot be won militarily.

THE FUTURE OF OBAMA FOREIGN POLICY

The Obama national security team is a strange blend of skilled professionals and inexperienced politicians. And, the future of Obama’s foreign policy will depend to a large extent on who wins the confidence of the president.

Based on traditional power conflicts in previous administrations and the personalities involved, it is reasonable to expect the major conflict to be between the National Security Council and the State Department. Hillary Clinton is a strong personality and has a powerful national political base. Given her record, she will play to the American voter. James Jones is an accomplished military man who will do the President’s bidding.

This conflict may show itself in determining policy in Afghanistan. Jones, a former combat officer in Vietnam will insist on focused objectives in Afghanistan. Clinton, who will see a “victory” in Afghanistan as critical to her future political career, will advocate policies that provide political gain.

Overshadowing all of these are the 2010 elections, which, although still far away, are foreshadowing Democratic loses. If the economy remains weak, Obama may find his options in the Middle East limited. He may have to hew a more pro-Israel policy to placate Jewish voters. And, he may have to be more aggressive in Afghanistan in order not to be seen as weak on defense.

Despite all the talk about Obama’s national security team, there remains the question of Obama’s management skills. As a person without any management experience, he has shown himself to be in a learning mode when it comes to managing the national security organization.

Without strong leadership from the Oval Office, we can expect lower levels to take a greater part in foreign policy formulation. The State Department, under the political protection of Hillary Clinton will become more responsible for day-to-day foreign policy management, while the NSC will focus more on major national security policy. Major gaffes by the inexperienced members of the team, like Holder, Clinton, Napolitano, and Panetta will occur.
Although Obama promised change, it would be a mistake to conclude that US national security policy will dramatically change during the next four years. The State Department and Defense Department bureaucracies are still in place and will provide considerable inertia. And, there remains the Jewish vote that still forces American presidents to be careful about Israeli relations.

While the Obama team has some glaring weaknesses in the inexperience of several of its members, it is somewhat made up for by the strong skills and experience at NSC, DoD and DNI. If world conditions allow, they will gain in experience over the next few years. However, if a crisis occurs in the near future, that inexperience may be a real reason for concern.