Analysis 09-05-2014

 

ANALYSIS

 

Obama and NATO Respond to Russia

 

Will NATO make the same mistake that the Allies did 70 years ago?

The convergences of a NATO summit meeting in Wales and renewed hostilities between Russia and the Ukraine have forced both Obama and NATO to address the deteriorating security situation in Eastern Europe and Russia’s aggressive preventive defense posture.  It has also forced both Obama and Cameron to face the growing issue of ISIS, although no specific action was mentioned.

The week of action began for Obama on Wednesday when he arrived in Estonia to talk to the leaders of the three Baltic nations, who are all members of NATO.  In a speech delivered there, he pledged additional military aircraft to patrol the Baltic region in addition to more frequent stationing of American troops on the ground.

“The defense of Tallinn and Riga and Vilnius is just as important as the defense of Berlin and Paris and London,” Obama said, invoking the founding principle of collective defense that undergirds NATO. “An attack on one is an attack on all, and so if, in such a moment, you ever ask again, ‘Who’ll come to help?’ you’ll know the answer: the NATO alliance, including the armed forces of the United States of America.”

“We’ll be here for Estonia. We’ll be here for Latvia. We’ll be here for Lithuania,” Obama said. “You lost your independence once before. With NATO, you will never lose it again.”

Obama also addressed the situation in the Ukraine.  “It is a brazen assault on the territorial integrity of Ukraine, a sovereign and independent European nation,” Obama said. “It challenges that most basic of principles of our international system — that borders cannot be redrawn at the barrel of a gun; that nations have the right to determine their own future.”

The US also announced a military exercise, Rapid Trident, to take place in the next few weeks as a show of support for Eastern NATO nations and the Ukraine.  The annual exercise takes place in Poland, near its border with the Ukraine.  The United States European Command (EUCOM) says the exercise will involve about 200 U.S. personnel as well as 1,100 others from Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Britain, Canada, Georgia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Norway, Poland, Romania and Spain.  It will focus on peacekeeping missions and will include command post drills, patrolling, and dealing with improvised explosive devices.

In addition to Rapid Trident, the United States is moving tanks and 600 troops to Poland and the Baltic states for joint maneuvers in October, replacing a more lightly armed force of paratroopers.

This wasn’t the only action to support beleaguered NATO nations in the east.  Several NATO nations declared that they would send forces to Eastern Europe to deter any Russian aggression.  France also announced that it was suspending delivery of two helicopter carriers to Russia.  The first one, the Vladivostok, was due to be delivered next month.  Although the helicopter carriers aren’t much of a threat to the Ukraine, they would be a problem to NATO nations with coastlines on the Black and Baltic seas.

However, the most important news that will come out of the NATO meeting will be the formation of a brigade sized rapid reaction force that can move into an area within 48 hours.  Stockpiles of heavy equipment will be stored in Eastern Europe for the reaction force to mate up with.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO Secretary-General, said on Monday: “This is a time of multiple crises on several fronts. To the east, Russia is intervening overtly in Ukraine; to the south we see growing instability, with fragile states, the rise [of] extremism, and sectarian strife. These crises can erupt with little warning, move at great speed and they all affect our security in different ways.  “We will develop a spearhead within our response force. This will require reception facilities in NATO territory, pre-positioned equipment and supplies, command and control and logistics experts. So this force can travel light, but strike hard if needed.”

NATO’s current rapid reaction force would take 5 days to arrive on scene and be able to remain on scene for up to 30 days without resupply.  The NATO Response Force has only been used 6 times (The 2004 Olympic Games, the Iraqi Elections, the 2011 Libyan civil war, humanitarian relief to Afghanistan, humanitarian relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and humanitarian relief in the earthquake disaster in Pakistan).

One of the criticisms of the force is that it fields very small land contingent.  In its first deployment for the Athens Olympics in 2004, of the 9,500 personnel, about 8,500 were airmen and sailors, and only 1,000 were ground troops. Its land component included a French paratroop battalion, a Greek airmobile company, and a Belgian commando company.

Another criticism of the rapid reaction force is that its divergent nationalities make it hard to smoothly coordinate.

So, the question is if the new, proposed NATO rapid reaction force will be a credible deterrent to Russia?

Ironically, the answer may lie in history and NATO ministers may want to look at events that happened 70 years ago this month in Belgium and Holland.  Operation Market Garden (September 17 – 25,, 1944) represented the largest use of airborne forces – the rapid reaction forces of World War II.  The result was the near destruction of the British First Airborne Division at Arnhem.

Rapid reaction forces traditionally have limited capabilities, as Allied commanders discovered in Operation Market Garden.  They are light infantry – usually delivered by air – that have to rely upon light weapons and have little mobility.  Their advantage lies in the training and quality of the airborne troops, which are traditionally higher than the average soldier.  Their immobility makes them a target for heavier units

Excellent examples of such a force are the American 82nd Airborne Division and the 75th Ranger Regiment – both of whom would undoubtedly be allocated to such a NATO force at some time.  Both units have the mission of having combat troops “Wheels Up” (en route by aircraft) within 18 hours of an order to move. Both units have the capability of “Forced Entry” into a territory to seize and secure key terrain, e.g. Drop Zone (DZ), airfield or airport, to accommodate follow on forces. A good example of this was Operation Urgent Fury in Grenada. The Rangers were at the staging base in Barbados in less than 18 hours from notification followed by the 82nd Airborne Division.

But, is speed enough?  What would such a unit bring to a combat situation in Eastern Europe?

Although heavy equipment will be prepositioned in Eastern Europe, It’s very likely that these depots will be hit be Russian strikes before they can be mobilized.  In that case, NATO will have to rely upon what the force brings to the battlefield.

A situation in Eastern Europe may very well rely upon a forced entry into hostile or contested territory.  This is something the 82nd Division can do, but with limited ability to project power beyond a limited range.  The 82nd Division can land 2,000 paratroopers, armored vehicles, and 155mm howitzers over a three mile drop zone to seize and defend an airfield in order to allow reinforcements, including air mobile Stryker armored units, to land and fight their way to the objective.  However, the ability of the attack to reach its objective relies upon the reinforcements and the air superiority to allow them to land.

An example of this was seen by the 82nd Airborne in Operation Market Garden in 1944.  They had been assigned the mission of capturing the Nijmegen Bridge, but were stopped by a light German armored unit.  They didn’t achieve their objective until days later – then with the support of armored units from the ground units of the 30th Corps.  Even then, they took heavy casualties in a daylight assault across the Waal River in order to capture the northern end of the bridge.

Event proved worse for the British 1st Airborne Division.  They reached their objective, but lost their landing zone.  The result was that they ran out of ammunition and supplies and those who weren’t captured by the Germans were forced to retreat.  The story of Operation Market Garden was made into a movie titled, “A Bridge Too Far.”

So, what does this history lesson mean to a modern day NATO quick reaction force?  Rapid reaction forces are highly skilled, highly trained light infantry that may be very mobile going into battle, but are largely immobile once they land.  Man per man, they can outfight any unit, but they don’t have the logistics tail or heavy equipment to continue fighting for long, especially in heavy combat.

Operation Market Garden also highlighted the communication problems between units of different nationalities, even though the majority of the Market Garden forces were all English speaking British and Americans.  A poly-lingual NATO rapid reaction force will have even greater problems.

The success of such a rapid reaction unit will depend on how quickly it gets to the potential theater of operations.  A rapid reaction force that can move in days before any combat and link up with heavy equipment and a logistics chain can be a deterrent as its combat ability exceeds its numbers.

Should that force not enter the area of operations until just before combat, its ability is seriously degraded.  The ability of the unit to fight against superior numbers depends on supply support that probably will not be there.  Consequently, the unit may stop a Russian advance for a few days before running out of ammunition and supplies.

Should the rapid reaction force try to force an entry into hostile territory without adequate air cover, the lives of the 4,000 men would be wasted.

In reality, a NATO rapid reaction force is more of a political response than a sound military one.  Deterring Russian expansionism would be better served by permanently stationing smaller numbers of ground forces in Eastern Europe – forces that would have all their equipment and an established supply infrastructure.

Undoubtedly, Putin is aware of this.   While the uncertainty of a NATO force will cause him to pause, it will not stop him if he decides to act.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

2014 NATO Summit: Understanding the Key Issues

By Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis

Heritage Foundation

September 3, 2014

Issue Brief #4271

The 2014 NATO summit will be held this week in Wales. The last time the United Kingdom hosted the NATO summit was in 1990, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, the Cold War was coming to a close, and the alliance was questioning its future role in the world. Today’s situation is not dissimilar. This will be the last summit before NATO ends its combat operations in Afghanistan and the first since Russia illegally annexed the Crimean Peninsula and brought instability to eastern Ukraine. The U.S. should use this opportunity to refocus the alliance on the core tenets of the original 1949 North Atlantic Treaty: collective security and territorial defense. In advance of the summit, The Heritage Foundation has published six Issue Briefs touching on important policy issues that President Obama and his NATO counterparts should address.

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Washington Should Stop Praising Military Tyranny in Egypt

By Doug Bandow

Cato Institute

September 2, 2014

Egypt’s capital is crowded, busy, confused, and messy.  Security isn’t obvious, until you get close to a sensitive site, such as the Interior Ministry. The military has taken firm control, elevating its leader, Abdel Fata al-Sisi, to the presidency.  The army permitted dictator Hosni al-Mubarak’s ouster by street protests in 2011 because he planned to turn military rule into a family dynasty.  If ousted president Mohamed al-Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood been defeated in a future election, they would have been discredited peacefully.  However, the coup turned the movement’s members into angry victims.  In Cairo they took over Rab’a al-Adawiya and al-Nahda Squares, just as the anti-Mubarak and anti-Morsi crowds had done in Tahir Square.  The military government responded with a campaign of premeditated murder.  In a new report Human Rights Watch detailed the junta’s crimes.  From the beginning the military used deadly force with no concern for casualties.  In fact, the army began using live ammunition against protestors just two days after the coup.

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The U.S. Strategic Vacuum in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

September 2, 2014

Strategy does not consist of concepts, good intentions, or public statements that will not be implemented in any meaningful form. It consists of the policies and actions that are already in place and practical plans that can – and are – actually implemented. Today, the US lacks a real world strategy for dealing with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia. It has an unworkable and under-resourced Transition plan for Afghanistan, no meaningful public strategy for Pakistan, and little more than statements of good intentions for Central Asia as it withdraws the forces that supported the war in Afghanistan. This “strategy” of good intentions is not a strategy. Yes, it would be nice to resolve the tensions and risk of conflict between India and Pakistan. It would be nice to see Afghanistan emerge as a unified, peaceful, developing democracy. It would be nice to seek Pakistan put on the same path. It would be nice to see Central Asia develop as a region, and do so in ways that are peaceful, and involve the same progress towards democracy.

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Winning the Campaign Against the Islamic State: Key Strategic and Tactical Challenges

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 29, 2014

Commentary

The United States does not have good or quick options in dealing with the Islamic State, in part because it faces serious challenges in Iraq and Syria that cannot be separated from any efforts to weaken and destroy the Islamic State. This, however, is not a reason to stand and wait for better options that do not exist. The situation will not get better because the United States continues to dither.  The United States already has the elements of the strategy it needs and has begun to act in important ways, and if this action is taken more decisively, in an integrated form, and over enough time to be effective it may well be capable of both imploding the Islamic State and serving U.S. interests in both Iraq and Syria.

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Backdrop to an Intervention: Sources of Egyptian-Libyan Border Tension

By Frederic Wehrey, David Bishop, and Ala’ Alrababa’h

Carnegie Endowment

August 27, 2014

The airstrikes that Emirati forces with Egyptian support conducted against militia positions in Libya in late August 2014 were sparked by an anti-Islamist military campaign in eastern Libya.  The campaign, led by retired General Khalifa Hifter and a breakaway faction of the Libyan military, has profoundly altered Egyptian-Libyan relations. But the roots of Egyptian meddling in Libya run deeper than Hifter’s current operation.  Among Libya’s many afflictions, none is more threatening to Egypt than the two states’ nearly 700-mile-long shared border. Border policing in Libya has always been weak and ill-defined—even under Muammar Qaddafi—but it has suffered a catastrophic decline following the dictator’s overthrow in 2011. Oversight of borders has devolved to a constellation of eastern militias that are only tenuously connected to the government and that, in many cases, are colluding in the very smuggling they are meant to combat. The border is now North Africa’s eastern thoroughfare for weapons, fighters, illegal migrants, and illicit goods flowing into the Levant, with profoundly destabilizing effects on the Sinai, Gaza, and Syria.

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Will ISIS Strike America’s Achilles Heel?

By Frank Gaffney

Center for Security Policy

September 3, 2014

According to the indispensable government watchdog group Judicial Watch, the U.S. government has evidence that the jihadist Islamic State (IS) is present in Juarez, Mexico – across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.  Worse yet, the Texas Department of Public Safety believes there is evidence that IS plans an imminent attack in this country. In light of the latest murderous attack by this organization against an American journalist, Steven Sotloff, among other atrocities, such threats must be taken with the utmost seriousness.  Among the targets national security professionals fear may now be in the jihadis’ crosshairs is America’s exceedingly vulnerable electric grid. A panel discussion being held at the National Press Club in Washington Wednesday afternoon will show how a spate of recent attacks involving sabotage and destruction of property at various electric substations here and elsewhere could be leading indicators of the next 9/11 – one potentially vastly more destructive than the original which occurred thirteen years ago next week.

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ISIS’s Offensive in Syria Shows that U.S. Airstrikes Have Not Blunted Momentum

By Isabel Nassief and Jennifer Cafarella

Institute for the Study of War

August 28, 2014

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters that U.S. airstrikes “have stalled ISIL’s momentum” after two weeks of bombarding ISIS positions in Northern Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has not stalled under U.S. pressure.  Rather, since the fall of Mosul and despite U.S. airstrikes, the insurgent army has continued a successful and spectacular offensive in Syria. Their gains nearly equal in scale the seizure of northern Iraq in June.  The insurgent army’s latest triumph is the capture of Assad’s Tabqa air base in Eastern Syria.  ISIS is one armed force fighting on multiple fronts in two theaters of operation, Iraq and Syria, across a border that the group does not recognize. It aims to establish and consolidate a cross-border Caliphate and has sought to fuse its lines of communication across the border region, while also seizing control of populated urban areas in both countries. ISIS has sought to expel armed forces of both states from positions within  ISIS’s desired “borders” in order to preserve the Caliphate’s territorial integrity.

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Lebanon and the ISIS Threat

By David Daoud

Washington Institute

August 28, 2014

Fikra Forum

The advance of the Islamic State of Syria and al-Sham (ISIS), currently known as the Islamic State, has focused the international spotlight on Syria and Iraq, as ISIS has taken control over huge swaths of the two countries. Although Lebanon has managed to stay off the international radar, instability and sectarianism leave the country equally vulnerable to this growing threat in the region.  The lack of national unity has been disastrous for Lebanon. The country has yet to overcome the damaging consequences of its bloody civil war (1975-1990), during which regional actors capitalized on Lebanon’s sectarian divides for their own political interests. For example, the Syrian army entered Lebanon under the initial pretext of aiding the Christian Maronites, and Iran took advantage of the disenfranchisement of Shiites and the Israeli occupation to create the Shiite militia Hezbollah. ISIS is very likely to exploit the Lebanese state’s failure to resolve the deep sectarian divides just like it did in Iraq and Syria.

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Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

 

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984             C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 08-31-2014

ANALYSIS

 

ISIS and the Threat to American Domestic Security

 

The ISIS threat to the US has two facets – the actual threat and the political factor.  While the threat is real, the political issues must limit the threat so as not to damage Obama, who has claimed in the past that the threat of Islamic terrorism is gone.

Apparently, right now, the Obama administration is focused on the political factor.  Soon after the Foley beheading, Obama made a brief statement denouncing it before returning to the golf course.  Some analysts said this showed Obama’s disinterest in his role as president, while others said it was his way of showing that he didn’t take the domestic ISIS threat seriously.

But, there are other voices in the Obama administration that disagree.  Although the Obama White House has until recently downplayed the threat posed by ISIS to the United States, military and intelligence sources are warning that ISIS is already in the US and is adding more personal through the porous US/Mexico border.  The result, they say, is a terrorist threat greater than that seen before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by Al Qaeda.

Obviously, the Obama administration is trying to walk a political tightrope by highlighting the ISIS threat overseas, but trying to downplay the threat inside the US.  In 2012, Obama claimed credit for destroying Al Qaeda and lambasted his opponent Romney for claiming that Islamic terrorists still posed a threat to the US.  The result is that Obama’s homeland security network is left providing contradictory information and threat assessments.

Here’s an example of the contradictory nature of the administration’s threat assessment.  The FBI and Homeland Security Department said last Friday there are no specific or credible terror threats to the U.S. homeland from ISIS.  An intelligence bulletin, issued to state and local law enforcement, says while there’s no credible threat to the U.S. as a result of recent American airstrikes in Iraq, officials remain concerned that ISIS supporters could attack overseas targets with little warning.

But, there is a major concern that American intelligence agencies are monitoring – American Islamic radicals in Syria.  America’s Homeland Security department has been concerned by the attractiveness of Syria’s rebel groups to Islamic Americans.  This was just highlighted this week by the death of American Douglas McCain, who was fighting for ISIS in Aleppo, Syria, and the announcement of anther American as this report being prepared. Could American ISIS terrorists export terrorism from Syria to the US?

Although the US has tried to downplay the seriousness of the ISIS threat in America by calling it the “Junior Varsity,” (a term that refers to school sports teams consisting of members not good enough for the first team), there are Americans going to Syria and others allied to ISIS that have remained in the US.  The U.S. State Department says they don’t have precise numbers of Americans who have joined ISIS, but they have positively identified about12. Obviously, precise numbers are unavailable and intelligence assessments, while educated, are still estimates due to limited U.S. intelligence in Syria.  However, many in the intelligence community think the number is much higher.

In addition to ISIS, there is also a group of Americans who have linked up with al Qaeda’s affiliate al Nusra.  CBS News reports there are even a larger number of unknown Americans who have joined the Syria Free Army.

While the State Department will only admit to a relatively small number of Americans who have linked up with terror groups in Syria, American law enforcement has been frantically trying to identify other ISIS sympathizers who could bring a terrorist campaign back to United States. Because they have passports that do not require visas to travel back, they represent the potential operatives who pose the biggest threat.

This could be a larger threat that the US State Department may be willing to admit.  US intelligence estimates that about of the about 7,000 foreign fighters in Syria and about 300 American passport holders are allied with jihadist groups in Syria.  “We know that there are several hundred American passport holders running around with ISIS in Syria or Iraq,” an official told the Washington Times, offering a figure well above widespread reports of about 100 such fighters. “It’s hard to tell whether or not they’re in Syria or moved to Iraq.”

How serious is the threat?  The Pentagon says the terror group is “beyond anything we’ve seen.”   In May, a 22-year-old man from Florida carried out a suicide bombing mission in Syria.  And, last month, a Colorado woman was charged with conspiring to help a foreign terrorist organization after she told FBI agents that she planned to travel to Syria to meet a man who claimed to be fighting for ISIS.  More recently, there have been pro-ISIS social media postings that have indicated that they may in the US and be targeting locations like Chicago (Obama’s hometown) and Las Vegas.  Another sign of concern is that in the recent riots in Ferguson, there was a sign held by protestors that said, “ISIS is here.”

“This is a global crisis in need of a global solution. The Syrian conflict has turned that region into a cradle of violent extremism,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in his July speech in Oslo. “But the world cannot simply sit back and let it become a training ground from which our nationals can return and launch attacks. And we will not.”

The concern has been exacerbated by the porous nature of the US/Mexican border, where many fear that ISIS or other Islamic terrorists have already crossed.   Texas Governor Rick Perry warned that there’s a “very real possibility that terrorists from groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria are illegally crossing into the United States from Mexico.”

“Certainly there a great concern that the border between the United States and Mexico is un-secure, and we don’t know who’s using that. What I will share with you is that we’ve seen historic high levels of individuals from countries with terrorist ties over the course of the last months,” Perry said during a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

The same concern is being expressed in the Congress.  The ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. Senate warned that ISIS is trying to develop the capability of blowing up an entire American city.

The comments from Sen. Jim Inhofe, (R-Oklahoma), came in an interview with a television station in Oklahoma City.  He said the U.S. now is in “the most dangerous position we’ve ever been in.”

Responding to questions about terror and the threat facing Americans, he said: “They’re crazy out there. And they are rapidly developing a method of blowing up a major U.S. city. You just can’t believe that’s happening.”  He blamed the situation on the cuts in defense spending made by Obama.

Defense Secretary Hagel echoed the concern.  “This is beyond anything that we’ve seen,” he said during a briefing on the beheading of American journalist James Foley.  “ISIL is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen,” Hagel said. “They marry ideology, a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess. They are tremendously well-funded…So we must prepare for everything. And the only way you do that is that you take a cold, steely, hard look at it…and get ready.”

“There’s real concern that they could take what they’ve learned … come back home and conduct terror attacks,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told CNN.  “So I think (McCain) is a stark reminder of the inside threat that foreign fighters can pose.”

US Special Forces soldiers who have fought in Iraq warn that although ISIS is fanatically Islamic, that will not stop them from allying with non-fanatics in order to become a more effective fighting machine.  One retired Green Beret noted that ISIS is using much of the money from captured banks to buy non-jihadist technicians who can maintain and repair some of the technical military equipment that it has captured from Iraqi and Syrian forces.  They have also become a haven for former Iraqi Army officers who were once members of the Baath party.  This has given ISIS considerable military savvy.

 

If, as many are claiming, ISIS is in the US and is planning a terrorist attack, what is the potential target?

Many experts think that ISIS related terrorists in the US will opt for a large public gathering to maximize publicity like those terrorist attacks in India and Kenya.  These targets might be stadiums, shopping malls, airports, schools, hotels, hospitals, and churches.

This is one reason why the threat against Las Vegas is taken so seriously.  It is a major visitor location with some of America’s largest hotels.  As in Mumbai, terrorists could methodically carry out their attacks with the largest number of potential targets.

The other option is a bomb as Senator Inhofe intimated.  Some have even speculated that ISIS may try to detonate a radiological bomb, using some of the radioactive materials recently stolen from Iraqi nuclear research laboratories.

Stopping ISIS

If ISIS is a threat to the US, how can America destroy the threat?

Even at this late date, the White House refuses to take the ISIS threat too seriously.  However, there is some indication that a strategy is developing, which includes a rapprochement although indirectly with Syria’s Assad.

A regional peace and balance of power can’t be achieved by allying with Assad and leaving a political vacuum with the destruction of ISIS.  There must be some Sunni political force to fill that vacuum or there will be no peace.

The answer is crafting an alliance with other regional nations like Saudi Arabia and the GCC.  The goal is to create and support an acceptable, moderate Sunni political entity that can represent the Sunnis and have the military force to stop ISIS, Al Qaeda, Assad, and the Shiites.

Such a policy would also require stronger support of the Kurds in northern Iraq.  The US has already announced that it is shipping arms directly to the Kurds.  And, sources in Washington report that about 150 American Special Forces are already on the ground in Kurdistan training Kurds.

The Kurdish flank is critical for a holistic solution.  According to American Special Forces experts, the Kurds are highly motivated and fighters with an excellent reputation – a reputation that has only been enhanced as Kurdish forces have advanced against ISIS with the help of US air strikes.   One retired Green Beret, who trained and fought with the Kurds in 2003, has said that he has no doubts that with adequate arms, the Kurds can push ISIS back in Iraq.

According to many analysts in Washington, That leaves Syria.  It isn’t enough to push ISIS back into Syria.  It must be defeated or else it will merely return at a later date.

They are calling for a broad coalition of American, European, and Middle Eastern nations that will have to work together to solve the ISIS problem in Syria.  Allying itself with Assad or carrying out limited air strikes on ISIS targets will only delay the inevitable conquest of Syria by ISIS.

Some military experts in Washington advocating that Western intervention will also require more than air strikes and arms shipments.  Western Special Forces will be needed to act as highly trained cadres that can fight with the local established militias (like Sahawat) as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The great irony in the US is that the opposition Republicans in Congress (along with many Democrats) is more likely to support some sort of intervention in this manner than the Obama Administration.  If Obama had greater persuasive talents, he could probably get congressional approval for more aggressive action against ISIS, just as President Bush did in the 2001 – 2003 timeframe.

Although the threat posed by ISIS is great, the ability of the Western world and the majority of Middle Eastern nations to stop them exist.  Although many nations are ready and willing to act, to some observers the biggest block right now is the person residing in the White House.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

NATO Summit 2014: Stay Committed to Afghanistan

By Luke Coffey

Heritage Foundation

August 21, 2014

Issue Brief #4266

The 2014 NATO summit will be held in September in Wales. It will be the last summit before NATO ends its combat operations in Afghanistan and begins its Resolute Support mission to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).   The two most important issues at the summit regarding Afghanistan will be the financial funding for and size of the ANSF after 2015 and the number of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. More than 50 international leaders of those nations that are participating in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will attend the summit. This offers a unique opportunity to address these issues.

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The Dead Hand of Socialism: State Ownership in the Arab World

By Dalibor Rohac

Cato Institute

August 25, 2014

Policy Analysis No. 753

Extensive government ownership in the economy is a source of inefficiency and a barrier to economic development. Although precise measures of government ownership across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are hard to come by, the governments of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen all operate sizeable segments of their economies—in some cases accounting for more than two-thirds of the GDP.

International experience suggests that private ownership tends to outperform public ownership. Yet MENA countries have made only modest progress toward reducing the share of government ownership in their economies and are seen as unlikely candidates for wholesale privatization in the near future.

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Egypt, Counterterrorism, and the Politics of Alienation

By Michele Dunne and Scott Williamson

Carnegie Endowment

August 20, 2014

When U.S. President Barack Obama pledged on August 18 “to pursue a long-term strategy to turn the tide” against jihadi terrorists in Iraq, “working with key partners in the region and beyond,” Egypt was probably one partner he had in mind. On the very same day, U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf cited counterterrorism as an “overlapping strategic interest” between the United States and Egypt. Asked if the United States still views Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as leading a democratic transition despite human rights abuses (such as those identified in a recent Human Rights Watch report), Harf replied, “He is, he is.”  On the face of it, counterterrorism and human rights abuses might appear to be unrelated subjects. U.S. officials certainly treat them that way; they expect Sisi to be a useful ally in fighting terrorism, while occasionally bemoaning his repression and human rights abuses.

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James Foley and the Battle for the Soul of the Arab and Muslim Worlds

By S. Abdallah Schleifer

Foreign Policy Research Institute

August 27, 2014

As an American Muslim and as a journalist, I am more than appalled by the murder of James Foley and the murder video. If I were King of Whatever/Wherever,  I would go to war—to wipe out these IS perverts — perverters not just of Islam but of all the decencies known to all men/women of all the traditional faiths and to all men/women of just simple decent feelings.  And not just for James Foley, brave soul that he was. But for all the victims of this atrocity that is called “The Islamic State” and known to us as ISIL or ISIS – the Christians, the Yazidis, the Shia soldiers of the Iraqi Army who surrendered and were then executed gangland style; the Sufis and any Iraqi Sunni who does not submit in public to the barbaric Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi , the False Khalifa of Islam.  Because of these criminals, who but traditional Muslims and decent Western scholars of Islam know that for Muslims the greatest litany of all, invoked at all times, in all places is Bism’Allah ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem – in the Name of God, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.

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ISIS’s Offensive in Syria Shows that U.S. Airstrikes Have Not Blunted Momentum

By Isabel Nassief and Jennifer Cafarella

Institute for the Study of War

August 28, 2014

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel told reporters that U.S. airstrikes “have stalled ISIL’s momentum” after two weeks of bombarding ISIS positions in Northern Iraq. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham has not stalled under U.S. pressure.  Rather, since the fall of Mosul and despite U.S. airstrikes, the insurgent army has continued a successful and spectacular offensive in Syria. Their gains nearly equal in scale the seizure of northern Iraq in June.  The insurgent army’s latest triumph is the capture of Assad’s Tabqa air base in Eastern Syria.

Read more

 

 

ISIS and the New Middle East Cold War

By F. Gregory Gause, III

Brookings Institution

August 25, 2014

The territorial gains this summer by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in both those countries have added a new element to the new Middle East cold war that I wrote about in a Brookings Doha analysis paper published earlier in the summer. ISIS rebranded itself “the Islamic State” and declared a caliphate in Mosul. It threatened both Baghdad and Irbil in Iraq while consolidating control over more of eastern Syria and taking its fight toward Aleppo. Its successes have added to its numbers, both in terms of volunteers and in terms of other fighting groups which, while perhaps not sharing its ideology, are bandwagoning with an apparent winner. Its grisly execution of American journalist James Foley riveted world attention, but its successes predated that event by months. American bombing helped to turn back some of its recent gains in northern Iraq, but no one claims that ISIS has been defeated.

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Military Implications of the Syrian Regime’s Defeat in Raqqa

By Jeffrey White

Washington Institute

August 27, 2014

PolicyWatch 2310

Over the past two months, jihadist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have waged an increasingly successful campaign against Assad regime forces in Syria’s northern Raqqa province, culminating in the capture of al-Tabqa Airfield earlier this week. The defeat in Raqqa has major military implications — it represents a loss at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war, raising questions about whether the regime or Syrian rebels can defend other, more important areas of the country against further ISIS offensives.

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Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984             C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 08-23-2014

 

ANALYSIS

 

Social Crisis in America – From the Ferguson Riots to the Bundy Ranch Standoff

The American/Israeli Law Enforcement Relationship

 

The scenes in Ferguson, Missouri this week were eerily reminiscent of those in Gaza and West Bank -Palestine in the past few weeks.  Armed soldier-police faced African-American protesters, while residents of Gaza were twittering advice to the residents of Ferguson on how to survive tear gas attacks by the police.

Actually, there shouldn’t be any surprise since the Assistant Police Chief of the Ferguson Police Department, Joseph Mokwa, travelled to Israel in February 2008 to learn police tactics from the Israeli police and army.  The program is called the Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP) and is sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) a Jewish think tank.  Mokwa had been Chief of Police for St. Louis, but had to resign over a controversy concerning his daughter and other police officers using impounded cars for their own personal use.

Although the program is supposed to teach American police officers about terrorist related issues like bomb disposal and border security, the training covers much more.  A JINSA article on the first LEEP trip to Israel notes, “The Americans observed methods and techniques used by Israeli police forces in preventing and reacting to suicide bombings and other forms of terrorism including bomb disposal, forensics, crowd control, and coordination with the media and the public.”  In addition, YAMAM, which is involved in carrying out raids and operations in Gaza, is involved in the program

Since the program started in 2002, over 100 American police officers have undergone training in Israel.  An additional 11,000 have been trained in LEEP conferences held in the US.

The Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has a similar program.  In 2011, then St. Louis County Police Department chief Timothy Fitch attended the ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, an annual week-long Israeli training camp where US law enforcement executives “study first hand Israel’s tactics and strategies” directly from “senior commanders in the Israel National Police, experts from Israel’s intelligence and security services, and the Israel Defense Forces,” according to the ADL’s website.  Interestingly enough, it was the St. Louis Police Department’s heavy handed military response that caused the governor of Missouri to transfer responsibility for the protests to the Missouri Highway Patrol.

This isn’t the only Israeli influence.  Former Israeli military officers are frequently brought in to help in airport and shopping mall security.

How is it that the Israeli police and military have gained so much influence in America’s law enforcement community?

The transformation began after September 11, when American law enforcement officers began to look to the Israelis for counter-terrorism expertise.  JINSA and the ADL used this need as an opportunity to ingratiate themselves to the US law enforcement community through free trips to Israel and free conferences here in the US.

Along with the Israeli counter-terrorist training came the Israeli attitude towards law enforcement – the idea that the police aren’t part of the community, but more of an occupying force designed to maintain control at any cost.  This attitude is reinforced in many cities like Ferguson, where the community is predominantly black, but the police force is overwhelmingly white.

The more aggressive Israeli attitude towards law enforcement is also seen in the growing number of police brutality incidents in the United States and the growing distrust of the police by the public.  A poll taken August 11 – 14 by the Huffington Post and YouGov showed that nearly half of Americans (45%) did not trust the police, while 37% did trust them.  The poll also found that 43 percent think police violence with the use of lethal force happens too often in the US, while 32 percent disagreed with the statement.

The Fraying Social Fabric of America

The tarnished reputation of the police isn’t the only problem.  Americans as a whole are distrustful of government as a whole.  A CNN poll taken two weeks ago showed that only 13% of Americans trust the federal government to do what is right at least most of the time, the lowest figure recorded in more than 55 years of reporting.  Ten percent of Americans say they never trust the government to do what is right, the highest number ever recorded. A vast majority — 76 percent — say they can only trust government some of the time, the second-highest figure ever recorded.

That distrust also is escalating into fear of the government.  A Rasmussen Poll in April showed 37% of likely U.S. voters now fear the federal government, while 54% consider the federal government today a threat to individual liberty rather than a protector.  Two-out-of-three voters (67%) view the federal government today as a special interest group that looks out primarily for its own interests.

Add to this high unemployment, a slow economy, the shrinking middle class, and a feeling that America is being ruled by an elite instead of democracy and it’s easy to see the potential for unrest – especially if the government is seen as an enemy.  There is also the Black Community’s concern about the police.  The FBI stated that over a seven-year period that ended in 2012, a white policeman killed a black person on average of twice a week.  USA Today reported that an average of 400 police killings a year was reported, with 96 percent of them involving a black person as the victim.
Given all of this, it’s not a surprise that confrontations between the government and US citizens have escalated in the last few months – confrontations that have involved groups with widely differing political views, ethnic city and section of the country.  While the Ferguson rioters are predominately black, politically liberal, and urban; the Bundy protestors in Nevada in April were predominantly white, politically conservative, and rural.  In the confrontation in Murrieta, California, the protestors who were blocking the movement of illegal immigrants was more ethnically diverse, with blacks and Hispanics joining white protestors.  In both the Ferguson and Bundy confrontations, the government officers were fully militarized.

Another factor is the number of people on both sides of the political spectrum that are eager for a violent incident that could lead to revolution.  While there are reports that black militants and Communists were encouraging events in Ferguson, right wing militias were ready for a violent confrontation at the Bundy Ranch.

Given the voters current distrust of the government, the increasing frequency of confrontations that could spiral out of control and take on a national scope, there is a serious likelihood that America could be facing major civil unrest in the near future.  The only question, given the wide ethnic, geographical, and political nature of those upset with events, is when, where, and with whom the confrontation will take place.

The current concern is Ferguson, which has simmered for over a week and a half.  Although it looked like the violence was tapering down a week ago, the protests and occasionally riots have continued as agitators have come from the outside to spur on the anger.  Fortunately for the authorities, the rioting has remained localized and it hasn’t spread to other urban centers with large black populations like Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and New York.  If that were to happen, however, law enforcement might be pushed to breaking.

Widespread rioting might then spread across ethnic or political groups.  Radical Hispanics might decide to take advantage of the violence or militia groups might carry out operations to cause disruptions.  This would force Obama to mobilize the National Guard in order to help the police.  He could even declare martial law in parts of the US (Ferguson is currently under a state of emergency), although the political cost would be high and it would likely inflame passions even more.

The martial law concept in the US is closely tied with the right of habeas corpus, which is in essence the right to a hearing on lawful imprisonment, which means the courts have a say in who is imprisoned. The ability to suspend habeas corpus is granted under Article 1, Section 9 of the US Constitution, which states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”  The suspension of habeas corpus would mean anyone could be arrested and detained even if they haven’t broken a law.

Obama administration is wishing that tempers wane or a rainstorm hits Ferguson and forces the rioters indoors for a few days, so they can calm down before any of this happens.  However, that doesn’t mean that the US has dodged a bullet.  Violence could easily breakout elsewhere.

There are several potential tinderboxes; inner city riots, immigration protests, and land disagreements with the BLM in the West.  There are also several potential” instigators” like the New Black Panthers, anarchists, and several militia groups.  Each poses different threats, goals, and levels of violence.

Radical black militants are found predominantly in the inner city.  They are lightly armed and more enthusiastic.  There are reports coming out of New Jersey that they may be targeting the police.  However, they are more likely to take advantage of a race riot to cause trouble than actually create a confrontation.

There are also anarchist groups like Anonymous at Ferguson, but these mainly white leftists specialize in creating their own events like the Occupy movement, and demonstrations and civil disobedience at major leadership meetings like the G8 meetings and national conventions.  They tend to be more technically savvy and rely more on technological asymmetric warfare rather than using firepower.  Last week they executed a cyber attack on the Ferguson government website.

The militias generally are right wing and have more firepower.  They also have more members who were in the US military, which means they are more tactically savvy.  In fact, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, it was a militia leader and Iraqi veteran who placed militia snipers at the Bundy Ranch confrontation.  Their tactically superior position above the federal agents forced the government agents to withdraw and leave the cattle in the hands of the Bundys.

There is some concern that the militias may try to take advantage of a civil disturbance.  In fact, some in the government think that it was the militias that targeted parts of the US electrical grid in California last year.  The attack, which is still being investigated by the FBI was reportedly well planned and expertly executed.

All of these groups (and others) have proven to be mobile and willing to travel to hot spots.  Black militants and anarchists have travelled to Ferguson recently and militias have gone to the Bundy Ranch and are currently operating on the US/Mexico border.

Ironically, even though these extremist groups have different ethnic and political backgrounds, it’s likely that they may find it in their best interest to support each other in furtherance of their differing political agendas.  Black militants would probably find little resistance and even some support from militias who also wish civil unrest.

This is not to say the US government isn’t prepared for such civil unrest.  In April of this year, the US Army published, U.S. Army Techniques Publication 3-39.33: Civil Disturbances.  It details preparations for “full scale riots” within the United States during which troops may be forced to engage in a “lethal response” to deal with unruly crowds of demonstrators.  The training manual outlines scenarios under which, “Civil unrest may range from simple, nonviolent protests that address specific issues, to events that turn into full-scale riots.”  Although it mentions the Constitutional rights of American citizens it goes on to stress that such protections are null and void under a state of emergency.

Although the US is relatively stable and the riots in Ferguson are impacting a very small part of the nation, it remains a flashpoint.  And, it’s important to realize that civil unrest can spread quickly.  Who would have realized that the Soviet Union would have broken up a year before, or the impact of the so called “Arab Spring”.  Even Yugoslavia, which was a calm tourist destination once, quickly descended into civil unrest in the 1990s.  With that in mind, future rioting on a larger scale or confrontations between people and the government out west are real, serious threats to the social fabric of the US.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

The Way Forward in Iraq

By James Jay Carafano and Steven P. Bucci

Heritage Foundation

August 15, 2014

Issue Brief #4262

The situation in Iraq remains grave. Spiraling violence, political instability, and a humanitarian crisis caused by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) could impact U.S. vital interests. The Obama Administration has an obligation to take responsible action. Congress should insist the President take immediate, suitable, and appropriate measures to safeguard American interests.  Further, President Obama was right when he said, “I don’t think we’re going to solve this problem in weeks. This is going to be a long-term project.” Therefore, Congress needs to look to the long term, ensuring that the instruments of national power are sufficient to stem the rise of a new global transnational terrorist threat and spreading war in the Middle East, which could lead to greater and even more dangerous and destructive conflict.

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The Struggle for the Levant: Geopolitical Battles and the Quest for Stability

By Aram Nerguizian

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 19, 2014

The United States and its allies compete with Iran in a steadily more unsettled and uncertain Levant and Middle East. The political upheavals in the Middle East, economic and demographic pressures, sectarian struggles and extremism, ethnic and tribal conflicts and tensions all combine to produce complex patterns of competition. The civil war in Syria, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza, and the internal upheavals in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon all interact and affect the competition between the US and Iran.  The Burke Chair is circulating a review draft on US and Iranian strategic competition in the Levant. This study shows that the United States faced an increasing level of instability across the Levant, which in turn affected every key aspect of US competition with Iran in the broader Middle East and North Africa. It asks how do the US and Iran compete in the Levant, where do they compete, and what are the forces and constraints that shaped this contest in the past, present, and possibly in the future?

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Iraq: The Economic and Governance Sides of the Crisis

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 18, 2014

There is no question that the Islamic State is the most immediate aspect of the Iraq crisis. It needs to be checked, its gains need to be reversed, and it needs to be driven out of Iraq if possible. But – and it is a critical but – Iraq requires far more. It is going to require fundamental political and economic reforms to achieve any meaningful form of unity and stability and to overcome its sectarian and ethnic divisions.  The last three years have effectively made Iraq a failed state. Prime Minister Maliki did not simply fail by becoming corrupt, authoritarian, and sectarian. He and those around him failed at every level.

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The Iranian Sea-Air-Missile Threat to Gulf Shipping

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 14, 2014

The build-up of Iran’s naval, air, and missile capability is steadily increasing Iran’s ability to pose a wide range of threats to maritime traffic throughout and outside of the Gulf. One potential target of this threat is the steady increase of bulk cargo shipments into the Gulf, Arabian Sea/Gulf of Oman, and Red Seas – shipments that are of growing strategic importance to the Gulf states. However, it is the danger Iran poses to Gulf energy exports that poses the most critical threat to the economies and stability of the other Gulf states, and is the key threat to both international maritime security and the global economy.  There is no question that the secure flow of maritime traffic from the Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Oman, and beyond is critical to the global economy and every developed nation.

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How Egypt Prolonged the Gaza War

By Michele Dunne and Nathan J. Brown

Carnegie Endowment

August 18, 2014

Foreign Policy

As negotiations on a lasting cease-fire in Gaza grind on in Cairo, it’s not only the animosity between Israel and Hamas that is complicating the talks — it’s also Egypt’s role as mediator. Egypt’s internal politics — far more fraught and violent than they were during Hosni Mubarak’s era — have intruded on the attempts to reach an agreement, as the military-dominated government in Cairo attempts to use the talks as part of its war against the Muslim Brotherhood.  This subtle shift — from mediator with interests, to interested party that also mediates — has led to a longer and bloodier Gaza war than might otherwise have been the case. And while a strong Egypt-Israel alliance was supposed to cut Hamas down to size, this strategy has also backfired on the diplomatic front. However much it has bloodied Hamas — and particularly the population of Gaza — the war has actually led to a breaking of international taboos on dealing with Hamas, a former pariah.

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What Can Iraq’s Fight Over the Mosul Dam Tell Us About Water Security?

By Cameron Harrington and Schuyler Null

Wilson Center

August 20, 2014

The fight for control over “the most dangerous dam in the world” is raging.  Since its capture by Islamic State (IS) militants on August 7 and subsequent attempts by Iraqi government and Kurdish forces to take it back, Iraq’s Mosul Dam has been one of the central components of the government’s surprising and rapid collapse in the country’s northern and western provinces. In fact, one might see the capture of the Mosul Dam as the moment IS ascended from a dangerous insurgent group to an existential threat to Iraq as a state.

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Rocket Fire on Israeli Gas Platforms Could Escalate Gaza Fighting

By Simon Henderson

Washington Institute

August 20, 2014

Earlier today, Hamas claimed to have fired two rockets at an Israeli natural gas installation located about nineteen miles off the coast of Gaza. The Israeli military neither confirmed nor denied the claim, merely saying that its offshore gas platforms have not been struck.  There are two gas platforms off the coast of southern Israel, both reachable by fire from Gaza. The main one is the production platform for the Tamar field, Israel’s largest producing gas reserve. Tamar fuels an increasing proportion of the country’s electricity — by 2015 the figure is forecast to be as high as 50 percent. Although the Tamar field itself lies fifty miles offshore from the northern port city of Haifa, it has to be pumped along nearly 100 miles of subsea pipe to a platform off the southern city of Ashkelon for initial cleaning. It is then piped ashore for further treatment at a special plant in Ashdod before entering the gas grid. A mile away from the Tamar production platform, in waters similarly around 800 feet deep, stands the Mari-B platform, which served a similar purpose for the now-depleted Mari-B and Noa gas fields. It is unclear which platform the Hamas rockets were targeting, or indeed whether they were fired at all.

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Next Steps in Iraq

By Kenneth M. Pollack

Brookings Institution

August 18, 2014

Now is not the time to break out the old “Mission Accomplished” banners.  Nuri al-Maliki’s decision to withdraw his candidacy for a third-term as prime minister was an important step forward for Iraq.  But it was a necessary, not a sufficient condition for progress.  It means that Maliki is no longer an impediment to reforming Iraqi political system to bring the Sunnis, disaffected Shi’a and potentially the Kurds back into Iraq’s political process.  Still, those reforms will require a great deal of work.

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Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

 

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984             C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 08-16-2014

ANALYSIS

 

Crisis Deepens in Iraq

 

This last week was a busy one in Iraq.  Iraqi Premier Maliki tried to remain in power by deploying military forces loyal to him, ISIS continued its offensive, and Kurdish forces started to receive help from American and European sources.

The political problems came to a head a few days ago when Iraq’s parliament, who refused to rename Prime Minister Maliki to a third term, chose a new candidate to form the new government.  Maliki declared the move unconstitutional even though his own State of Law Party pulled support from him. He then ordered his forces to seize government buildings and the airport, while surrounding the Green Zone.

The move worried everyone from Iran to the US, who is concerned about political unrest in Iraq and its vulnerability to ISIS.  As a result, most nations were pleased when Iraq’s president named Haider al-Abadi as the new prime minister.  Obama congratulated his nomination and the head of Tehran’s National Security Council congratulated Abadi.

Iraq isn’t out of the woods yet.  The key for Abadi will be to allow the Sunnis and Kurds to once again occupy senior positions in the government and military. Maliki purged them from those positions over the last three years, which forced the Sunni tribal chiefs to throw in with ISIS and the Kurds to seek independence. It may be too late to keep the Kurds within a unified Iraq, but the Sunni chiefs will soon tire of ISIS’s despotic rule. Abadi will have a narrow window in which to get them back in the fold, but there should be a realistic chance of turning them once again.

The new government will at least receive more support for the US.  “We are prepared to consider additional political, economic and security options as Iraq’s government starts to build a new government,” Kerry told a news conference together with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and their Australian counterparts.

Hagel said the United States was prepared to consider further military support in Iraq. However, Kerry ruled out U.S. combat troops on the ground.  “We would wait and see what future requests this new government will ask of us and we will consider it based on those requests.”

The Kurdish Front

While the Iraqi political situation appears to be stabilizing, ISIS is continuing its push against the Kurds.  This has caused the US to change its position of only supplying the Kurds through the Iraqi government.  The decision came after Kurdish troops outside Irbil retreated from an ISIS offensive last week when they ran low on ammunition.

In response to the ISIS victories, Obama ordered US Navy aircraft from the carrier USS George H. W. Bush to strike ISIS positions that were threatening the Kurds.  The attacks on Monday hit attacked four checkpoints manned by the militants near Mt. Sinjar, where the extremists have threatened to kill thousands of displaced Yazidis they say are religious apostates.  The Pentagon said the attacks destroyed an armored personnel carrier, four trucks and a U.S.-made Humvee.

The problem is that there is no way that limited air strikes like those carried out in the last few days can stop ISIS from making more inroads into Kurdish territory.  Lt. Gen. William Mayville Jr., director of operations for the Joint Staff, told Stars and Stripes,

“Our current operations are limited in scope. . . . I think in the immediate areas where we have focused our strikes, we’ve had a very temporary effect and . . . we may have blunted some tactical decisions to move in those directions and move further east to Irbil. What I expect the ISIL to do is to look for other things to do — to pick up and move elsewhere. So I in no way want to suggest that we have effectively contained or that we are somehow breaking the momentum of the threat posed by ISIL.”

Nor does the White House have plans to expand the air operations, as senior administration officials told Stars and Stripes, “that the strikes will remain confined to areas of Iraq where U.S. personnel are at risk or a preventable humanitarian disaster looms.”

In addition to air strikes, the US has also sent the Kurds arms and ammunition through the CIA, which has stores of small arms to quickly equip insurgents.  However, the Department of Defense will be taking over the job because they have much larger stockpiles of weapons and munitions than the CIA.

Lt. Gen. William Mayville, director of operations for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, said the U.S. intended to provide “longer-range weapons” that can destroy the U.S.-made vehicles and other heavy equipment.  This is necessary because outgunned Kurdish commanders say their forces’ light weapons cannot penetrate the American-made armored vehicles.

The needs of the Kurdish forces are “pretty substantial,” Mayville said at a Pentagon news briefing.  Kurdish forces have requested long-range anti-armor mortars, shoulder-fired rockets and Russian-designed 14.5-millimeter and 12.5-millimeter heavy machine guns.  Since the Kurds rely upon Russian designed and built small arms, the US will probably have to call upon regional allies like Egypt for additional Russian munitions.

However, merely supplying arms will not be enough.  And, despite the “no boots on the ground” pledge by Obama, some Special Forces still need to be inserted into the Kurdish area in order to equip, train and lead Kurds in the fight against ISIS.

The question is what type of commitment will it require to materially help the Kurds and can the Kurds carry on the fight without significant Western Special Forces assistance?  For that answer, we need to look at the Kurdish effort against Iraq in the 2003 war – a military operation that had heavy US Special Forces assistance.

The Kurds had a major role in the March, 2003 invasion of Iraq.  On March 1, Turkey changed course and told the US that it wouldn’t allow the US 4th Division to transit Turkey and invade Iraq from the north.  That forced the Kurds and allied Special Forces to take on the role of holding down significant Iraqi forces so they couldn’t be shifted south towards the major American/British thrust.

Although the Kurds fought with bravery, they weren’t the spear point of the operation.  This was provided by US Special Forces, many who have worked with the Kurdish insurgents since the early 1990s.  The Kurds were used frequently for clearing out operations or as support.

An excellent example of the Kurdish role can be seen in the critical battle of Debecka Pass, which stopped elite Iraqi armored forces from pushing past the Green Line and into Kurdish territory and opened up the western flank so US/Kurdish forces could move towards the Kirkuk oil fields.  The point units in the fight were the Americans of the US 3rd Battalion Special Forces.

While the Kurds were critical for clearing a minefield and a roadblock, they stopped soon after passing the critical crossroads and congregated at an abandoned Iraqi T-55 tank.  Meanwhile the American Green Beret A-Teams continued forward to engage Iraqi armor.  In the heavy engagement, which saw the American Special Forces beat back the Iraqi armor with the use of Javlin anti-tank missiles and air support, the Kurds remained behind the lines. In fact, some US Special Forces were diverted to the rear to help aid the Kurds, when they were mistakenly hit by an US airstrike.

This battle indicates the level of Kurdish military training.  While they are competent and can hold their own in light combat, they appear to be unable to stand up to heavy conventional arms – the type that ISIS has captured.

This means that a Kurdish victory over ISIS means a commitment of US forces – regular or special.  Since Obama is reluctant to commit US regular forces to Iraq, the battle will fall on the same type of Special Forces that were critical in 2003.

But, is this strategically wise?

There are four major factors in conducting a special operation like supporting the Kurds in fighting ISIS.  They are: a clear objective, buildup of forces and equipment, insertion, and execution.

Clearly the US has the forces and ability to buildup and insert.  However, the question is about the clear objective.

Usually Special Forces are employed when conventional forces can’t be used.  This clearly isn’t the case.  Conventional US forces would be better able to defeat ISIS than American Special Forces, although their footprint would be larger and Obama would have to make the political case for using them.

Clearly Obama is misusing his SF capability for political purposes, even though SF troops take years to train and are very expensive to field and equip.  On the positive side, Special Forces are skilled in training indigenous forces, so they would be better able to improve the quality of the Kurdish military, if given time.  But, that assumes Obama is willing to insert them into Kurdistan for years.

This goes back to having a clear military objective, not a political one of preventing a further erosion of the president’s popularity.

Merely stopping ISIS from gaining further ground in Kurdish Iraq is a vague objective.  That means a war of attrition that ties up the SF units for a long time and is costly in lives and equipment.  It’s a better idea to use the force to push back and defeat ISIS.

The problem is that Obama has refused to commit either the manpower or equipment to defeat this threat.  At best, he is only willing to put the effort into creating a stalemate.

If the Kurds can only expect a degree of American support that stops further incursions into Kurdistan by ISIS, but not enough to either defeat them, the solution must come from the region.

Several nations in the Middle East have made it clear that they oppose the radical governance of ISIS.  There are also some European countries like France that have called for arms shipments to the Kurds.  They will need to come forward while the American air attacks are slowing ISIS.

Since the ISIS captured American military gear has been invulnerable to the relatively limited arms of the Kurds, the answer will be refitting the Kurdish military with American and European weapons and then guaranteeing a continuing supply of the munitions to support them.

With the international effort to supply advanced arms, the Kurds can expect to hold briefly against ISIS, but still can fail if ISIS decide to direct their full force against them.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

Stay out of This Iraq War

By Doug Bandow

Cato Institute

July 25, 2014

The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria represents a significant failure of U.S. policy. However, ISIS so far does not pose a significant security threat to America that requires military action.  Despite its successes, ISIS lacks the strength necessary to capture Iraq’s capital, let alone gain control of the majority-Shia nation. Most important, so far, is that, ISIS, unlike al-Qaida, has not confronted the U.S. Thus, Washington should react circumspectly, avoiding further unnecessary entanglements.  Recent experience offers several sobering lessons for confronting ISIS’s rise.

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Iraq: The Right, but a High-Risk, Strategy

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 11, 2014

Commentary

President Obama seems to have adopted a strategy of making a long-term military commitment to Iraq. It is one based on air and missile power, advisers, and arms transfers, and conditional on Iraqis moving toward unity and helping themselves. He has also been right in giving the Kurds priority. They faced the most immediate risks, and their fate had the most immediate humanitarian impact on Iraq’s minorities.

As is all too common in today’s Middle East, however, the best option is ultimately the least bad option and filled with risks.

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Next Level Questions on Iraq Operations

By Clark A. Murdock, Kathleen H. Hicks, Thomas Karako, Samuel J. Brannen, Ryan Crotty, and John Schaus

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 13, 2014

Scholars in the CSIS International Security Program offer analysis beyond the headlines on the evolving U.S. military intervention in Iraq.  Q1: Is the United States doing enough in Iraq?  By Clark Murdock, Senior Adviser  A1: At least, President Obama is no longer doing nothing to address the rapidly growing terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). While a faint-hearted response is (hopefully) better than none, much more is needed to address the eruption of instability in Syria-Iraq and the emergence of a new terrorist state eager to kill apostates who won’t convert and attack infidels who, in their demonology, are led by the United States.

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Warfare That Targets Civilian Lives Must Be Made Unacceptable
By Avi Jorisch
American Foreign Policy Council
August 8, 2014

South China Morning Post

As the recent hostilities in Gaza demonstrate, Israel stands at the forefront of a new kind of warfare. Israel is not alone in the need to confront radical forces that include terrorist organisations and oppressive regimes who deliberately seek civilian casualties on all sides as the core element of their military strategy; this is a long-term battle that other liberal societies will ultimately have to fight.   Sooner or later most free democracies will face the same challenge that Israel is struggling with today: how to defend themselves from ruthless enemies who deliberately place civilians in harm’s way, without undermining the basic values upon which open societies are based.  Hamas’ strategy is to force Israel into a lose/lose situation by rejecting the basic norms of warfare, which seek to protect civilian populations. By indiscriminately firing rockets from heavily populated areas in Gaza into Israel’s major cities, Hamas confronts Israel with a terrible choice: either allow rocket fire to continue and put its civilians at risk, or attack Hamas’ weapons depots, which are deliberately placed in and around civilian areas.

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ISIS Works to Merge its Northern Front across Iraq and Syria

By Jennifer Cafarella

Institute for the Study of War

August 8, 2014

Recent ISIS operations in Hasaka and Ninewa provinces indicate that ISIS has begun to further merge its northern battlefronts across the Syrian-Iraq border. ISIS is eradicating pockets of resistance that fall within the territory ISIS seeks to claim for its Caliphate, including the Iraqi city of Sinjar near the border in Ninewa province. ISIS seized the city of Sinjar on August 3, 2014 despite the protection of the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces, roughly 100 km east of Hasaka city, the provincial capital of the adjacent Syrian province. ISIS operations in these Northern provinces are likely linked, and the recent ISIS offensive in northern Iraq must be evaluated through a cross-border lens. Since mid-July ISIS has seized control of the Regiment 121 Artillery Base in Hasaka Province in addition to the Division 17 and Brigade 93 Bases in ar-Raqqa Province. ISIS forces also appear to be mobilizing to seize the final base in ar-Raqqa, the Tabqa Military Airbase. Significantly, these operations have proceeded in tandem with a campaign to remove internal threats to the Caliphate posed by isolated Syrian regime bases in ar-Raqqa province, and it appears ISIS is quickly moving toward a successful consolidation and hardening of its exterior borders in Northern Syria.

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A New Era for Turkey Under President Erdoğan

By Özgür Ünlühisarcıklı

German Marshall Fund

August 11, 2014

After his team’s 1990 World Cup loss, English football player Gary Lineker said, “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” Likewise, elections have become a simple game in Turkey: a number of political parties and leaders compete and at the end Recep Tayyip Erdoğan always wins. Sunday’s presidential election was no exception. Prime Minister Erdoğan, leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKParty), won the election in the first round and became not only Turkey’s 12th president, but also the first to be elected in a popular vote. Erdoğan’s next move will be to try to change the constitution to introduce a presidential system in Turkey. Whether he can achieve that goal remains to be seen, but doubtless a new era has begun in Turkey.

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Arab and Gulf Countries Must Take the Lead in Iraq

By Haleh Esfandiari

Wilson Center

August 8, 2014

I cannot shake the images of Vian Dakhil, the Iraqi member of Parliament, screaming at her colleagues that her people are being slaughtered, children are being murdered and the women are being taken into slavery or killed. Her constituents have fled their villages and are taking refuge in the mountains, where they are dying of heat.  Ever since ISIS entered Iraq and started advancing like the Mongol conquest in the 13th century, it has been killing people, purging the country of its religious minorities — Shiites, Christians, Yezidis and others — and destroying monuments. The legacy of ISIS is destruction, devastation and genocide. It has become quite obvious that the Iraqi government and army are incapable of stopping the invaders.  This carnage should be an opportunity for Washington to work with responsible actors in the region to form counterterrorism partnerships.

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ISIL Could Become the Voice of Sunnis If We Don’t Find a Way to Stop It Soon

By Andrew J. Tabler

Washington Institute

August 11, 2014

New Republic

Given the consolidation of jihadist gains and the lack of interest and capacity among neighboring states to uproot ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the group is likely to endure absent a more assertive U.S. policy involving military and political operations.  The Islamic State in Iraq and Levant’s deep-rooted sense of purpose and its political, financial, and military ability have helped it carve out a safe haven between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. This week’s American airstrikes could help roll ISIL back — but if the American people really do not want to be sucked into another war in the Middle East, then Washington will need to cement these gains by working with Arab allies to bolster the moderate Sunnis who would fill the vacuum in Syria and Iraq following an ISIL defeat.

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Will President Erdogan Run Turkey?

By Soner Cagaptay

Washington Institute

August 11, 2014

PolicyWatch 2302

On August 10, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been running the country since 2002, won the presidential election with 52 percent of the popular vote. Under Turkey’s current parliamentary system, the prime minister is the chief executive and head of government, while the president is the nonpartisan head of state and second in line with regard to executive powers. Yet on August 4, Erdogan hinted that “he will not assume the traditional role of the president in Turkish politics,” adding that he “will track all the issues and make sure that the cabinet [which includes the prime minister] and the other institutions work in accord.” Can Erdogan run the country from his new post? An analysis of Turkey’s constitution and political structure suggests that is likely, with implications for U.S.-Turkish relations on a variety of regional issues.

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Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

 

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984  C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 08-09-2014

ANALYSIS

 

Military Lessons from the Gaza War

As of this writing, the latest truce is holding and the IDF is withdrawing from much of Gaza.  The question now is if Israel achieved its goals and what lessons both sides learned from the fighting?

Obviously, Israel didn’t achieve what it set out to do, when it invaded Gaza.  It stated goal was to destroy Hamas.  But, as the fighting bogged down and Israeli Army casualties skyrocketed, the Israeli government cut back its goals – something that even senior IDF officers admitted to.  A senior Israeli military official told Jerusalem Online that attempting to destroy Hamas, “Would have required staying in Gaza for 2 years.”

Instead, the IDF changed its mission to destroying the tunnels in Gaza – a mission that was considerably easier, but still costly in terms of lives and resources.  However, it did destroy 32 tunnel complexes according to Israeli sources.

However, Israel’s decision to change the objective of the operation and then withdraw and claim victory doesn’t hide the fact that their thinking was faulty.

The first problem was the IDF’s decision to engage in a war in an urban environment.  As the Monitor Analysis pointed out several weeks ago as Israel prepared to invade Gaza, urban operations are very difficult and costly.  They are even harder on armored forces, which can’t use their mobility – as was proven by the number of Israeli soldiers who were killed in armored vehicles that were hit by resistance anti-tank rockets.

Part of the problem is the IDF’s belief in its invincibility.  Israel’s successes in the Sinai in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s have impacted its strategic thinking.  These swift victories in the barren Sinai have allowed the IDF to think that overwhelming armored power can defeat anything.  They, however, have forgotten that in 1967, in the battle for Old Jerusalem, the fighting was much slower and more costly in terms of ground gained.

The result was that Israel invaded Gaza with an army designed to fight an armored war in the Sinai Desert rather than an urban environment.

While the IDF forgot lessons from past wars, Palestinian fighters showed that they had learned from history.  They were well-trained and skilled in the use of conventional small arms.  They also took the initiative rather than wait for the IDF to attack first.  In Operation Cast Lead, in winter 2008-2009, Israel’s coordinated and massive first strike, lasted less than four minutes and killed a third of all the fighters lost during the entire operation. In Operation Pillar of Defense, in November 2012, Israel’s first strike eliminated most of the resistant long-range rockets. An early strike during Pillar of Defense also killed Palestinian military commander Ahmed Jabari. This time, Palestinian military assets seem to have been prepared for an Israeli counterstrike. The military leaders went underground, logistical units ensured that valuable assets were protected, and the entire military structure dug in for a protracted fight.

Palestinian fighters also learned the value of command and control in war. Despite weeks of targeted bombings by the Israeli Air force, they were able to maintain communication lines between rocket units, ground units, and military leadership, and carry out its operational plan.  Even as the IDF pounded Gaza, Palestinian units successfully launched combined operations involving artillery and infiltration of ground forces into occupied areas.

Palestinian fighters’ great innovation in the war was their use of tunnels.  In fact, it was Israel’s interception of a group of fighters who had emerged from a tunnel in mid-July that forced it to rush into ground operation.

However, the Palestinian tunnels were not merely a way of infiltrating into Israeli settlements and military sites but an integral element of the defense of the Gaza Strip itself.  As military thinkers have noted since the advent of armored warfare in WW II, the best way to defeat an armored attack is with a defense in depth that can channel armored vehicles and tanks into killing zones.

This is what the Palestinian fighters successfully executed.  The Israelis had underestimated the tactical significance of the tunnels and IDF tanks were hemmed into a relatively small and largely built-up space, and then attacked from the sides and rear by Palestinian fighters relying on the Gaza tunnel system.  It soon became clear that IDF losses would have continued to pile up if this attack would have continued – leading to Israel’s withdrawal.

Although the Palestinian resistance tactics of urban warfare were good, the strategic thinking on their missile offensive against Israel was an enormous moral and psychological victory for the resistance but was marginal in its military impact.  The rocket fire caused a small number of Israeli casualties.  In fact, shorter-range mortar fire nearer the Gaza border was considerably more effective than the missile attacks.

However, the resistance rocket strategy did surprise Israel, especially when its R-160 forced Israelis in the country’s central and northern sections to head for their shelters.  Although inaccurate, the chief impact of the rockets was psychological and disruptive – making normal life impossible as people rushed for the bomb-shelters. It also proved that Palestinian fighters can stand up to Israel in a conventional war.

The other goal of the resistance rocket strategy was overall successful – to try to exceed the saturation point of the Iron Dome air-defense system through heavy barrages.  The saturation attacks appear to have been successful.

That counters the claims that Iron Dome has been proclaimed an overwhelming success.  In fact, there is some criticism that Iron Dome is not as effective as advertised by the Israeli government and that the small number of Israeli casualties was due more to an effective civil defense system and inaccurate Palestinian rockets.  If a good civil defense system is partially responsible, that means that Palestinian needs to focus on this infrastructure as they rebuild Gaza.

Despite the inaccuracy of the rockets, resistance was able to maintain a steady if intermittent barrage of missiles over the course of the war despite the massive attacks from the Israeli Air Force and artillery.  According to Israeli intelligence estimates some 3,300 missiles were fired towards Israel. The IDF claims to have destroyed some 3,000 more. Its assessment is that some 3,000 missiles are left in Gaza.

Observation for the Next War

Military experts suggest that the IDF will focus more on defeating tunnels.  They already used robots for clearing tunnels and better models can be expected.  Also expect them to look at developing more effective weapons like thermobaric bombs that can kill soldiers hidden in tunnels and bunkers.  These are weapons that utilize oxygen from the surrounding air to generate an intense, high-temperature explosion.  They do however cause considerably more destruction when used inside confined environments such as tunnels, caves, and bunkers – partly due to the sustained blast wave, and partly by consuming the available oxygen inside that confined space.

Although Israel may feel smug about its anti-rocket capability, it needs to reassess it in light of the even larger rocket capability of Hezbollah.  Repots give it an arsenal of about 100,000 rockets – ten times the size of the Gazans arsenal.

In July 2006, Hezbollah fired close to 4,200 rockets at a rate of more than 100 per day. About 95% of these were Katyusha artillery rockets which carried warheads up to 30 kg and had a range of up to 19 miles.  22% of these rockets hit cities and built-up areas across northern Israel, while the remainder hit open areas. The attacks in that conflict included the Fajr-3 and Ra’ad 1 rockets both liquid-fuel missiles developed by Iran.  Israeli intelligence states that Hezbollah possesses the far more advanced  Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets, with ranges of 27 and 45 miles; and a huge quantity of simpler 107mm and 122mm rockets with ranges up to 12 miles. These rockets are capable of striking many cities in northern Israel.  And, although Iron Dome might intercept some of them, that would mean moving the batteries north and away from Gaza.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

The Middle East Unstitched

By Jon B. Alterman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 6, 2014

Commentary

It is easy to claim that everything going on in the Middle East today represents a return to the region’s status before World War I. After millennia of pillage, massacre, and looting, the story goes, Western powers brought order to a fractious region and helped create modern states. Now, critics say the borders of the modern Middle East have outlasted their utility. They are no match for the sectarian feuds and ethnic fault lines that have always underlain—and now tear apart—the region’s independent states.  One can use this argument to explain away many of the conflicts in today’s Middle East: the battles inside Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Bahrain, and even the battles between Israel and the Palestinians. These hatreds supposedly go back centuries, so how can anyone hope to sort these countries out?

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The Real Revolution in Military Affairs

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 5, 2014

Commentary

It doesn’t seem all that long since the United States was considering how advancements in military technology would allow it to use advances in long-range precision weapons, intelligence sensors, and command and control capabilities to dominate conventional wars. The Gulf War in 1991, the fighting over Kosovo, the initial invasion of Afghanistan, and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to topple a Saddam Hussein all seemed to prove that superior technology and tactics had led to a “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA) that would dominate modern warfare.  No one can deny the importance of such changes today. Precision strike capability combined with superior intelligence and command and control capabilities have changed the face of conventional warfare. At the same time, the Afghan War, the Iraq War, the fighting in Gaza, the fighting in Yemen, the fighting in Ukraine, and the other conflicts following the political upheavals in the Middle East have all involved a different kind of revolution.

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A Turkey Road Map for the Next EU Foreign Policy Chief

By Marc Pierini

Carnegie Endowment

July 30, 2014

European Union leaders are currently busy selecting the next heads of the union’s key institutions. Among the new bigwigs to be appointed is the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy—in short, the EU’s foreign minister—who will succeed Catherine Ashton in December. The next high representative will inherit a lackluster record but, more importantly, will also have to tackle a host of thorny topics, from Ukraine to Syria to Iraq.  Turkey will be another of these critical issues. The country is not ablaze; on the contrary, for the EU and NATO, it is a pillar of stability in a highly volatile region. But in the eyes of Turkey’s Western partners, a number of domestic and international concerns could challenge that stability. Faced with an unstable regional context, how should EU leaders handle their southeastern neighbor?

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Jordan: Between Stability and Spillover

By Andrew Spath

Foreign Policy Research Institute

August 2014

The swiftness with which the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, now the Islamic State) assaulted and overran northern Iraq brings a new level of concern to policymakers. The offensive blew a hole in Washington’s desire to maintain “a ring of Syrian containment” that favored a political solution with limited measures to support rebels against the Assad regime. As the organization expands in number and territory, and ambitiously declaring the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate, anxiety is growing among leaders and citizens in the neighborhood. Jordan, the key U.S. ally bordering territories held by the Islamic State and comprising a central part of its desired Sunni empire, is precariously situated on the frontline of the ISIL’s violent campaign.

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ISIS Governance in Syria

By Charles C. Caris and Samuel Reynolds

Institute for the Study of War

August 2014

The Islamic State’s June 2014 announcement of a “caliphate” is not empty rhetoric. In fact, the idea of the caliphate that rests within a controlled territory is a core part of ISIS’s political vision. The ISIS grand strategy to realize this vision involves first establishing control of terrain through military conquest and then reinforcing this control through governance. This grand strategy proceeds in phases that have been laid out by ISIS itself in its publications, and elaborates a vision that it hopes will attract both fighters and citizens to its nascent state. The declaration of a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, however, raises the question: can ISIS govern?  Available evidence indicates that ISIS has indeed demonstrated the capacity to govern both rural and urban areas in Syria that it controls. Through the integration of military and political campaigns, particularly in the provincial capital of Raqqa, ISIS has built a holistic system of governance that includes religious, educational, judicial, security, humanitarian, and infrastructure projects, among others.

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What Iraq’s Kurdish Peshmerga Really Need

By Michael Knights

Washington Institue

August 7, 2014

PolicyWatch 2299

Prior to August 1, the Iraqi Kurds had not felt the full brunt of attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, which now styles itself “the Islamic State”). Yet after a string of powerful ISIS strikes on Kurdish peshmerga units between Mosul and the Syrian border, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s forces are fully engaged. On August 5, KRG president Masoud Barzani stated, “We have decided to go on the offensive and fight the terrorists to the last breath.”  The United States should certainly support its historic allies, the Iraqi Kurds, in this fight. However, amid a clamor of voices calling for Washington to arm the peshmerga, it is important to draw lessons from the recent fighting that highlight the Kurdish military’s more pressing needs.

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The United States, Turkey, and the Kurdish Regions

By Michael Werz and Max Hoffman

Center for American Progress

July 31, 2014

The past four years have swept away the old pillars of U.S. policy toward the Eastern Mediterranean. Egypt, a traditional American security partner, is confronting a staggering political and economic crisis. Syria has descended into a horrific civil war with no resolution in sight. Lebanon is clinging to basic stability in the face of long-standing sectarian tensions and a massive refugee crisis. Jordan remains a strong U.S. ally but faces structural threats that stem from demographic trends and the war in Syria. Iraq is once again engulfed in a struggle against militancy stoked, in part, by perceptions that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his supporters have institutionalized their ascendancy in a way unacceptable to Iraq’s minorities. Of course, governments across the region are struggling to confront the rising influence of violent Salafi jihadists. The seizure of Mosul—Iraq’s second-largest city and home to nearly 2 million people—by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, brought this reality into stark relief.

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Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984             C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 08-01-2014

ANALYSIS

 

Upcoming Election in America Could Impact Middle Eastern Events

 

Amidst the war crimes committed by Israelis and the carnage of Gaza is the fact that Americans hold a mid-term election in three months.  And, although mid-term elections are seen mostly in a domestic framework, what happens will impact American relations in the Middle East.

Although the president has the constitutional responsibility for foreign relations, it is the Congress that has several checks on that power.  First, the US Senate must confirm any US ambassador to the region and the election climate may make that a very critical issue.  Second, Congress has the authority to authorize military action in the region and provide military and economic aid to nations in the region.  Third, the US Senate must also ratify any treaty before it becomes legal.  Finally, Congress has the “power of the purse,” which can be used to restrict administration actions by refusing funding.  Given these powers and the potential election outcome in November, we can see some changes in how the US will interact in the region starting in a few months.

To understand how events could change, remember that the US government is divided with the Congress passing laws and providing money, while the President executes policy and enforces law.  Currently the Congress is divided between the Democratic controlled Senate and the Republican controlled House of Representatives.  With the Senate in the control of his political allies, legislation that comes out of the Congress has already been made more to Obama’s liking by the input of the US Senate.  Without the Democratic control of the Senate, Obama would only have two options concerning legislation coming out of Congress – veto it in its entirety or sign it.  He would also have to accept that his choices of ambassadors might be declined by a Senate in the control of his political opponents.

As a result, the key battle in November will be over control of the US Senate.  Polling shows that the Republicans will likely retain control of the House of Representatives and a majority of the governorships in the states.  So, the best hope for Obama to retain more control of his agenda lies in preventing the Republicans from gaining six or more seats in the US Senate, which would give the GOP control.

At this point of time, it is looking bad for the Democrats.  Last weekend, the New York Times and CBS News, in partnership with YouGov, released some results of a massive polling and research effort across the country.  YouGov was quite accurate in 2012 and the results indicate that this November could be disastrous for the Democrats in the US Senate.  Republicans hold a clear advantage in races in three states: South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia. They also find the Republicans with a nominal lead in five additional states.  These states are: Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — where Democratic incumbents face tough re-election contests and where Mitt Romney won in 2012. Republicans also have a slight edge in Iowa and Michigan, two open seats in states that usually vote for Democrats in presidential elections.

That is not the only bad news for Democrats.  Americans are so disappointed with Obama at the moment that, if they could do the 2012 election all over again, they’d overwhelmingly back Romney for President.  That’s just one finding in a CNN poll, released Sunday, which shows Romney topping Obama in a re-election rematch by a whopping nine-point margin, 53 percent to 44 percent. That’s an even larger spread than CNN found in November, when a survey had Romney winning a redo 49 percent to 45 percent.  Two years ago, Obama won re-election with about 51 percent of the vote.

Since mid-term elections are usually a referendum on the president in the White House, this is bad news.  An electorate disappointed with the president will either vote for the opposing party or stay home.

Democratic strategists, however, aren’t panicking.  They recognize that they will lose seats, but will try to limit their losses to 5, which allows the Democrats to retain control.  To do this, they will remain focused on those seats they consider the easiest to hold, will move money into those campaigns, will try to cast the Democrat as an opponent to some of Obama’s policies and try to energize some of their voting base which they are afraid will not vote this November.

An important part of this election is to allow Democrats to keep their distance from Obama so as to not alienate independent voters who don’t like him.  Of the ten states with the lowest approval ratings for Obama, Democrats have to defend seats in five: South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, Alaska, and Arkansas.

The most dramatic distancing comes from West Virginia Democrat Natalie Tennant, who is campaigning for a vacant Senate seat in a coal-producing state targeted by Obama environmental regulations. She is running an ad in which she hits a switch and plunges the White House into darkness in protest over his policies.

Obama has also traveled the country raising money for Senate candidates – often to the criticism of others who accuse him of spending more time in fund raising than governing the country.  So far this cycle, Obama has headlined 11 events for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, while Vice President Joe Biden has hosted five and first lady Michelle Obama has been the top draw for two. The president also has added his weight to the Senate Majority Fund PAC, which has run ads against (GOP candidates Tom) Cotton in Arkansas, Cory Gardner in Colorado, Thom Tillis in North Carolina, and other normally Republican states where Democrats are fending off Republican challengers.

The next challenge is to energize the voter block that gave Obama his two electoral wins in 2008 and 2012.  As a result, he has focused on the “War on Women,” and “Economic Equality,” to encourage his 2012 voters to come out in November.

The desire to energize the Obama base may also be at the heart of the Obama threat to legalize millions of illegal immigrants between now and the election.  Some Republicans have noted that such a move is illegal and would be grounds for an impeachment of Obama.  Noting that the impeachment of Clinton actually helped the Democrats in the 1998 elections, many in the White House think that the threat of an impeachment would encourage Obama supporters to come out and vote for Democratic Senate candidates.

An idea of this strategy was noted by Dan Pfeiffer of the White House.  In reporting of the event by the Los Angeles Times, they said, “Any such move would prompt a major clash with congressional Republicans, and at least some White House officials appeared to relish the prospect that the GOP might overreach in its response and act in a politically self-destructive manner.  When the decision is announced, it will “increase the angry reactions from Republicans,” Pfeiffer said.  “I would not discount the possibility” that Republicans would seek to impeach Obama over his next immigration moves, he said.

Pfeiffer made his comments at a breakfast for reporters sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

However, despite such talk, the Republicans appear to be circumspect about impeachment.  They could get articles of impeachment passed in the House, but would be unable to get a conviction, even if the Senate goes Republican.  This would discourage such a course.  Republicans also know that any unilateral action taken by Obama can be easily revoked under a Republican president in the future.

How a Republican Senate Would Impact the Middle East

Assuming the Republicans take the Senate in November, what impact would there be on the Middle East?

The most interesting change would be on the Democratic side of the Senate as the Senate Democratic leadership would likely become more pro-Israel and even less willing to deal with the Palestinians.  That person would be New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who is Jewish and very pro-Israel.

Schumer, is currently the Democrat’s number 4 person in the Senate, but has a realistic path to becoming the Democratic leader.  Senator Tim Johnson, (D-SD), is retiring and Senator Jack Reed, (D-RI), will become the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee after 2014. That leaves Schumer as next in line.

If Republicans seize control of the upper chamber, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might not keep his job.  Reid’s departure would leave a major power vacuum among Senate Democrats, one most likely filled by Schumer, who has aggressively pursued the Democratic leadership post for years.

However, as the Senator for New York, which has a large Jewish voter block, Schumer has strongly supported Israel over the years.  Last week, Chuck Schumer along with two other senators wrote to Obama that “the threats posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels whose only purpose is to kill and kidnap Israelis are intolerable, and Israel must be allowed to take any actions necessary to remove those threats.”

The senators wanted to impress upon Obama their “strong belief that any viable cease fire in Gaza must remove the threat to Israel posed by Hamas rockets and tunnels…Any cease fire should create a situation in which Israeli citizens no longer face the threat of brazen terrorist attacks,” they wrote. “Israeli citizens have faced over 1800 rocket launches from Hamas since June. While Iron Dome has saved countless lives, over five million Israelis live in fear of incoming rockets fired indiscriminately from Gaza. Twenty-eight tunnels have been discovered by the IDF since the ground operation in Gaza began. Israel has an absolute right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel.” “…Any effort to broker a ceasefire agreement that does not eliminate those threats cannot be sustained in the long run and will leave Israel vulnerable to future attacks.”

In the past, Schumer has also taken Obama to task for a “hostile” attitude towards Israel.  And, while Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been a supporter of Israel, a Jewish Senator from New York could be expected to be an even stronger advocate of Israel.  In fact, as the Senate Minority leader and a member of the Congressional leadership, he would be the highest ranking Jewish American in the American government.

There are other ways that a Republican Senate could impact the Middle East.  While Obama has been cool towards the el-Sisi administration in Egypt, the Republican leadership has been more supportive of the Egyptian government and increasing foreign aid.  In addition, Senator McCain, who is in line to chair the Senate Armed Services Committee if the Republicans win, would use his power as part of the Senate majority to force more aid to Syrian rebels.

A Republican Senate might also make their mark on the diplomatic corps in the Middle East.  Obama has made more large political contributors to his presidential campaign ambassadors than any other president.  The result is that people totally unqualified to represent the US are finding themselves advancing US policy in countries that they have never visited or even know the language.  “The Obama administration’s appointments suggest that the president isn’t being honest when he says that diplomacy is important to him,” Henri J. Barkey, Lehigh University professor and former State Department policy staffer, wrote in The Washington Post. “It’s illogical, and insulting, to presume that Norwegians are such wonderful and civilized people — and hence unlikely to cause any problems with Washington — that we can afford to send someone on a taxpayer-funded three-year junket to enjoy the fjords.”

A Republican Senate, which must confirm every ambassador, would be unlikely to let such egregious appointments be confirmed. Although most Democratic Senators are already pro-Israel, a Republican senate would undoubtedly remain pro-Israel – even if other major cuts are made in the foreign aid appropriations.  Consequently, it’s nearly certain that aid to Egypt would continue in order to keep the Egypt/Israel treaty in place.

A Showdown between Obama and Congress in 2015

If the Senate becomes Republican in November, expect to see a major fight between the Congress and Obama in 2015 – a fight that may even lead to a government shutdown.

The Constitution makes it clear that the Congress has the power to appropriate money.  And, the Congress can place any strings to that spending that it wishes.

Since the appropriations bill is the one bill that can’t be filibustered in the Senate, it’s likely that the US House will pass a bill that seriously limits Obama in several areas including immigration, NSA spying, Obamacare, and the power of the IRS.  This bill will pass the Congress and will go to the President for signing – something he will be unlikely to do.  The result will probably be a short government shutdown, political posturing, and bluffing.  In the end, the shutdown will help neither party and some compromises will have to be made by both sides.

The only other critical issue will be the threat of impeachment of the president.  This is unlikely given the polls that show only about a third of Americans support Obama’s impeachment.  Although Obama is unpopular with the majority of voters, there isn’t the political support for his impeachment – a fact the Republicans are well aware of.  They are more likely to rely on the courts, the power to appropriate money, and even a reliance on state powers to negate Obama in the last two years of his administration.

Obama’s Ineffective Gaza Foreign Policy

The Israeli attacks on Gaza appear to be expanding.  Southern Command Major General Shlomo Turgeman spoke to Arutz Sheva about the expansion of the operation throughout new areas of Gaza.  “Yesterday, we expanded operations throughout central and southern Gaza,” he said. “We are hitting wherever we identify tunnels and where Hamas terrorists operate.”

Why hasn’t Obama been able to stop this escalation?

Since the formation of Israel, American presidents have been able to exert some degree of influence on Israeli leadership when it comes to observing a truce.  However, for the first time in seven decades that is not happening.  Is it Israeli intransigence or is it a failing American president.

It is, in fact, both.  Israeli leaders are determined to continue their shelling and ground attack on Gaza.  Meanwhile, Obama is unable and unwilling to exert any pressure on Israel.

One issue that has been recently raised concerning Israel’s bellicose response is the fact that there are significant natural gas reserves off the Gaza Strip that Israel covets.  Daily Sabah reported, “In 1999, the Palestinian Authority granted the British Gas Group (BGG) and Consolidated Contractors International Company gas exploration rights off the coast of Gaza in a 25-year agreement. Following that, two wells were drilled and extensive gas reserves were discovered in the area. The reserves, which hold an estimated 1.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas, has made Israel’s mouth water since then. Negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel in the early 2000s went back and forth, leaving Palestine with no concrete steps to benefit from the natural resource.
Furthermore, the course of events became even more inextricable in 2006 when Hamas won a victory in elections and took over Gaza, ousting its rival Fatah, who ended up governing the West Bank.”

Hamas has rejected the 1999 agreement and wants new terms that give more money to Gaza.  This is something Israel opposes.  Consequently, the destruction of Hamas (and thousands of Palestinians) would give Israel more leverage in benefiting from these natural gas reserves.

That explains Israel’s continued attacks in Gaza.  But, what is the strategy behind Obama’s weak response to the slaughter?

Although many have accused Obama of being weak in his response to international crisis, he has moved aggressively to support Israel militarily.  Obama has agreed to re-supply Israel with ammunition, after Israeli military officials made its request to the U.S. Defense Department.  The U.S. will give access to the massive stockpile of American weapons stored in Israel, CNN reported.

The little-known stockpile is officially known as War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel and has been maintained inside Israel since the 1990s by United States European Command, according to ABC News.  The location of the stockpile as well as the types and quantities of ammunition it stores are classified.  However, a Congressional Research Service report from April says, “the United States stores missiles, armored vehicles and artillery ammunition” in the stockpile.

Compare this action to Obama’s refusal to give any significant military aid to the Ukraine. Obviously Israel has more political importance to Obama than the Ukraine.

The answer is found in domestic politics and recent polling.  According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, the public is sour on Obama’s failure to contain that conflict.  “When it comes to Obama’s handling of the increasing tensions in Gaza, the poll shows 39 percent approve and 52 percent disapprove, with one-third disapproving ‘strongly,’” The Post reported on Wednesday.   In fact, the poll shows that Obama gets lower marks for his handling of the crisis in Gaza than he does for either his approach to the downing Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 or his management of America’s foreign affairs overall.

Interestingly enough, the anger doesn’t come from Jewish voters or pro-Israel Christians, but from his own base, Democrats and young voters.  According to the Washington Post, “Sixty-five percent of Democrats approve of Obama’s efforts, but this falls significantly below the number approving of him on foreign policy overall (77 percent). Likewise, while respondents aged 18 to 39 split evenly on Obama’s general handling of foreign policy (47 percent apiece), this age group disapproves of his efforts in the Middle East by a 21-point margin, 54-33. Separate surveys from the Pew Research Center and Gallup have found younger Americans are significantly more skeptical of Israel’s actions than are older Americans.” (Italics added for emphasis)

What this means is that Americans disapprove of Obama’s Gaza policy and, at the same time, Obama’s supporters are more likely to disapprove because they see it as being slanted towards Israel, not the Palestinians.

Meantime, there is some question about Obama’s sudden focus on using Qatar and Turkey in the peace negotiations.  The Washington Post notes, “Kerry turned to Turkey and Qatar, which as friends and financial backers of Hamas had more leverage. That put the deal first and a stable solution to Gaza’s problems second. The deal blew up anyway, victim of Israeli and Palestinian inability to get to yes.”

However, Turkey and Qatar are critical in controlling the problems in Syria and Iraq.  This opens the possibility that Obama and Kerry are willing to let the slaughter in Gaza continue in order to gain leverage in the conflict against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The domestic politics for Obama is attractive.  Since younger voters are less likely to vote in mid-term elections than Jewish-American voters, giving Israel more weapons and allowing Israel to continue its attacks is more likely to appease his voter base in November.  At the same time, he positions himself for countering ISIS, which appears to be a more serious concern with the White House because a failure in Iraq will damage Obama politically more than additional killings in Gaza.

The result is more deaths in Gaza, while politics continue as usual in Washington.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

Dumping Maliki and Striking at ISIS

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

July 28, 2014

Commentary

It is time that the United States stopped waiting for good options that could somehow quickly solve its problems in the Middle East and accept the reality that the United States faces an unstable mess in the entire Middle East/North Africa region that is likely to take at least a decade to play out before there is any real stability. There are no “good,” quick, or simple options that can avoid this reality, or avoid the fact the United States must choose between unpleasant alternatives in many cases.  The United States cannot continue to wait, hope that negotiations and half-hearted use of “soft power” can somehow substitute for more tangible action, and “lead from behind” to the point it does not really lead at all. It needs to become far more active in dealing with issues like Iraq and the growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), and not let critical turning points pass while it waits for Godot.

Read more

 

 

What the Gaza War Means for the Middle East

By Nathan J. Brown, Michele Dunne, Lina Khatib, Marwan Muasher, Maha Yahya

Carnegie Endowment

July 28, 2014

Q&A

As a result of Israel’s incursion into Gaza, Hamas is now more popular than Fatah according to a recent poll—for the first time in years. And if Israel’s intention is to disarm or weaken Hamas, the historical record does not suggest these objectives will be achieved.   Three earlier ground incursions, in the last six years and another ground war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, failed to weaken Israel’s opponents. And they didn’t disarm either organization. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have actually strengthened their military capabilities over time.   Israel seems to be pursuing tactical objectives to appease its domestic audience and the hardliners in the Israeli cabinet—at the expense of thousands of Palestinian casualties.

Read more

 

 

The Seesaw Friendship Between Turkey’s AKP and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood

By Senem Aydın-Düzgit

Carnegie Endowment

July 24, 2014

The seesawing relations between the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) demonstrate how ideological linkages can clash with geopolitical priorities in an unstable neighborhood. Between 2007 and 2013, the AKP capitalized on its ideological kinship with the MB to foster closer relations with the movement and to increase its weight in the region. Relations turned sour with the coup in Egypt and Turkey’s fear that links with the MB would lead to retaliation from both the new Egyptian government and the Gulf states (with the exception of Qatar). The once warm relationship between the AKP and the MB has measurably cooled as geopolitical realities have shifted, especially since the most recent presidential elections in Egypt.

Read more

 

 

“Dirty Bombs:” Reason to Worry?

By John R. Haines

Foreign Policy Research Institute

July 2014

The recent report that the jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized a quantity of heretofore unreported material from a university laboratory in Iraq sparked much commentary about the possibility of a malefactor fashioning and detonating a so-called “dirty bomb”—formally, an explosive radiological dispersal device or “Erdd.” Knowledge of three recent incidents involving the theft or attempted theft of radiologic material in Mexico further amplified discussions about the risk that such material could be moved covertly into the United States and fashioned into an eRDD for detonation in a major American city. The purpose of this essay is to further explore recent incidents involving the theft or attempted theft of radiologic material, and to assess whether, and if so what, threat such material may pose.

Read more

 

 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi: Islamic State’s Driving Force

By Aaron Y. Zelin

Washington Institute

July 30, 2014

BBC News

On 5 July, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, known by his supporters as Caliph Ibrahim, left the shadows and showed his face for the first time, in a Friday sermon in Mosul, Iraq. While previous pictures of him had been leaked, Baghdadi had not shown himself in the four years since he became leader of what was then the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq (forerunner of ISIS, then the Islamic State).  Before April 2013, Baghdadi also did not release many audio messages. His first written statement was a eulogy to Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. His first audio message was released in July 2012 and predicted future victories for the Islamic State.  Since the group’s resurgence, which began 15 months ago, Baghdadi’s media output has risen. The amount of specific information about his background has also increased.

Read more

 

 

Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984             C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 07-25-2014

ANALYSIS

 

 

نتنياهو يستمر بعدوانه ومحاولات كيري لانقاذه تفشل

Israeli aggression on Gaza Continue

The Israeli Army is proving what the Monitor Analysis pointed out last week – that combat operations in urban areas are costly.  As of this writing, 32 to 50 Israeli soldiers have died in the aggression on Gaza.  The recent days of combat were the heaviest in terms of Israeli casualties since 1973.

Although the United Nations, the US, Egypt, and even Russia have offered their help, no truce is being considered at this time.  Resistant leaders announced they were ready to accept a humanitarian truce, but would not agree to a full ceasefire until the terms had been negotiated.

The political situation in Israel also complicates the issue of a truce.  It’s obvious the Israeli leadership has committed to a major war in Gaza and seeks to win it as soon as possible.  However, the heavy casualties being suffered by the IDF is creating a strong desire by many Israelis to stop current operations.

Despite this, US officials are downplaying any hopes of a quick truce or settlement.  US Secretary of State Kerry arrived in Israel on Wednesday to talk with Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders.  He did meet with the UN Secretary General and PA President Abbas.

The reality is that Israel doesn’t want to stop operations if at all possible.  They want the time to destroy the tunnels and track down some of resistance leadership.  Meanwhile Palestinian fighters seem content to bleed the IDF with costly urban warfare.

Heavy Operations Continue

Little is known about Israeli operations, as the Israeli government has tried to keep much of the war secret.  In fact, the major news that has come out has only been released as a result of heavy IDF casualties in certain operations.  For instance, the loss of 18 by the Golani Brigade on Sunday was the main reason for identifying that operation.  However, there are reportedly larger operations taking place.

There appear to be about five brigade sized combat teams operating in Gaza.  In addition to infantry, these combined arms teams include armor and engineering teams to identify and destroy tunnels in the Gaza Strip.

Operations have become more intense this week as the IDF has moved from the more open areas of Gaza and into Gaza City.  This, in turn has slowed the advance as engineering units are forced to destroy more buildings in order to allow the advance of the infantry and tanks.  The IDF is also facing heavier fire from rocket propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons.

As mentioned in last week’s analysis, armored vehicles are easy targets in urban warfare.  This has proven true, especially since the IDF has been using the obsolete American M-113 armored personnel carrier, which was proven to be very vulnerable during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.  The M-113 APC has very light aluminum armor that is only effective against small arms fire and unsuitable for urban warfare.  It was originally designed to be air mobile and is very vulnerable to RPG or anti-tank weapons.

This was proven to be true this last week as 7 IDF soldiers, including two Americans, were killed when they were engaged in street fighting against Palestinian fighters and the vehicle was hit by an anti-tank weapon.  A similar attack in Gaza in 2004 led to the death of 11 Israelis.

The M-113 had been hit in the rear and on the side, which indicates that Hamas fighters are able to surround many of the Israeli units entering the urban areas.

Since the destruction of the M-113, 30 Israeli reservists have refused to ride the M-113 if they have to fight in Gaza.  It was only after that that the IDF ordered all M-113s out of Gaza.  In response to the attack, Sami Turgeman, the commander of the IDF Southern Command, said that the army was aware of the M-113′s faults but did not have the means to provide full protection to every soldier entering Gaza.  Then, in a show of opportunism, the Ministry of Defense immediately asked for more money to buy newer APCs.

This successful attack against the M-113 highlights the fact that the destruction of buildings by IDF engineering teams, Israeli artillery, and Israeli aircraft have actually bogged down the pace of the IDF advance as Palestinians have been able to use the rubble for defensive positions.  The IDF is also finding that the tunnel complex in Gaza is much more extensive and harder to defeat than planned.

“It’s like a metro, an underground” connecting weapons-manufacturing and storage sites to passageways beneath the Israeli border about 2 miles away,” Lt. Col. Lerner told the Wall Street Journal. “I would describe it as a lower Gaza City.” He said the army found openings in Shajaiyeh to 10 tunnel shafts leading to the underground network. The army entered the area with infantry, artillery and armored units, he said, expecting strong resistance.

These tunnels are forcing Israel to reconsider their current anti-tunnel capability.  Britain’s newspaper The Telegraph reports, “the IDF’s elite Talpiot unit has been working on developing a tunnel detection system which was tested in Tel Aviv. Its costs are estimated to be $59 million.  “The high-tech system, which uses special sensors and transmitters, is still in its R&D phase, and if all goes well, should be operational within a year”, notes a report on Israel’s I-24 news.”

“Another Israeli company, Magna, already provides defense systems for the Israel-Egypt border, as well as for the nuclear reactor sites in Japan. It proposes digging a 70-km tunnel along the Israel-Gaza border, equipped with a sensitive alert system.

This “will provide real-time alerts of any tunnel digging that crosses our tunnel, whether above or below it. The IDF will know exactly where the attack tunnel is and how many people are in it, and can monitor the progress of digging it in real time, and decide how to respond to the threat,” the company’s founder and CEO Haim Siboni told Israel’s Globes publication.”

American Reaction

Although pro-Israeli critics have lambasted the Obama Administration for what they perceived as a timid and distant from the Israeli government, there is little evidence to prove it.

Obama’s Federal Aviation Administration was criticized for telling US flagged airlines to stop flying into Tel Aviv’s airport after a rocket had landed nearby.  However, many airlines were already stopping their Tel Aviv flights before the FAA had made their request.

There is another reason why the US government will be reticent to criticize Israel.  Much of what Israel is doing in terms of air operations closely mirror what the Obama Administration is doing in its drone war.  Last Saturday an American drone strike killed 11 people in Pakistan.  Two days before, a drone strike had killed 15.

Ironically, the US follows the same rules that Israel follows but occasionally warned them of using excessive force.  The Pakistanis didn’t pose an immediate threat to the US, civilians weren’t warned, and the US has shown no interest in a truce.  Even worse, the US and Israeli drone war has a reputation of “double tapping” targets – hitting the target twice in order to kill people who rush to aid those injured in the first strike.

This leaves the US in an uncomfortable situation.  Should they attack Israel’s tactics, they leave themselves open to criticism of their own tactics.

The US is also boosting military assistance to Israel.  Israel has requested an additional $225 million in United States funding for the production of Iron Dome components and missiles.   In a letter to the leaders of both houses of Congress on Wednesday, U. S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel wrote that the Department of Defense “has reviewed and supports this urgent request.”   This will increase Iron Dome funding by the US to more than half-a-billion dollars this year.

Despite the heavy losses by the IDF, it appears that Israel has enough support in the US to continue the war.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

Hamas and the New Round of Fighting in Gaza: Both Sides are Escalating to Nowhere

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

July 17, 2014

Commentary

The key question in any war – in starting it and throughout the conflict – is how will this war end?  Ever since 1967, the answer in the case of Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been by pausing and then resuming in a different form with the same result. In the case of the fighting in Gaza, changes in tactics and technology have simply escalated to nowhere. The best outcome has been an unstable ceasefire. The worst has been violence too low in intensity to be labeled another round of conflict.  The initial cause in 2006, 2012, and now in 2014, has been a new attempt by Hamas to change the strategic facts on the ground – increasingly relying on rockets and missiles rather than irregular warfare in the form of ground or naval attacks on Israel. In each case, Israel’s decisive military edge has left Hamas (and the more extreme Palestinian Islamic Jihad) weaker than before, killed and wounded far more Palestinians than Israelis, prolonged the economic isolation that has crippled Gaza and reduced living standards and social mobility, and failed to have any meaningful political impact that benefited Hamas in making even limited strategic gains.

Read more

 

 

The Shi’ites of the Middle East: An Iranian fifth column?

By Michael Rubinabnd Ahmad K. Majidyar

American Enterprise Institute

July 18, 2014

As sectarian violence rages in Iraq and Syria and simmers across the broader region, the role of the Middle East’s diverse Shi’ite communities has become increasingly important for regional stability.  Growing sectarian divisions present dilemmas to Shi’ite communities, regional Sunni rulers, and the United States, including how to preserve communal security and religious freedom while rebuffing outside forces — be they Sunni or Shi’ite — that might try to destabilize or undercut the independence of Shi‘ite religious communities. Iran’s apparent intervention in the ongoing crisis in Iraq highlights another quandary for American policymakers: how can America rebuff Iranian ambitions to speak on behalf of the diverse array of Shi’ite communities beyond Iran?

Read more

 

 

Five Myths About Hamas

By Nathan J. Brown

Carnegie Endowment

July 18, 2014

Washington Post

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talks about Israel’s ground offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, he says that “without action, the price that we would pay would be much greater.” But predicting how Hamas is likely to act and react requires probing what the organization can do, what it wants, and how it sees itself. From Hamas’s angle, the current fighting offers just as many opportunities as threats. Let’s examine five myths about the militant Islamist organization.

Read more

 

 

An Iranian-Turkish Reset
By Ilan Berman

American Foreign Policy Council
July 22, 2014

Washington Times

Earlier this summer, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani paid a very public two-day visit to a surprising locale: Ankara, Turkey. The June trip — the first of its kind in nearly 20 years — represented a significant evolution of the political ties between Iran and Turkey.  In recent times, relations between Ankara and Tehran have been troubled on a number of fronts (from energy to Turkey’s role in NATO’s emerging missile shield). However, no issue has roiled ties between the two countries more than Syria.  Iran, a longtime backer of the Assad regime in Damascus, has aided the Syrian government extensively since the start of the civil war there some 3 years ago. Turkey, meanwhile, has become a key source of political support (not to mention logistics and financial assistance) for the disparate opposition factions now arrayed against Mr. Assad — including extreme Islamist ones. These conflicting positions have deeply affected the health of ties between Tehran and Ankara over the past three-plus years.

Read more

 

 

Libya and Mali Operations: Transatlantic Lessons Learned

By Philippe Gros

German Marshall Fund

July 18, 2014

The Libya and Mali engagements were very different in nature and scope, but were bothequally rich in providing insightful lessons on the state of transatlantic and European defense cooperation. The operation in Libya was an implicit support to an insurrection and for regime change, while the objective of the operation in Mali was to liberate part of a country occupied by jihadists and to destroy their capabilities. Operationally speaking, the former was a typical air and naval operation and the latter air-land campaign, moresimilar in nature to the Iraq war in 2003 than to any other recent conflicts.  However, these campaigns did share many characteristics regarding the configuration of Western coalitions, particularly in the Mediterranean and in Africa, with the backdrop of a decisive change in the nature of the transatlantic relationship marked by a relative U.S. fallback. This paper offers an analysis of some of the major lessons of each engagement regarding these partnerships, and draws a few key lessons and perspectives of this new strategic construct.

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The Endgame in Gaza

By Aaron David Miller

Wilson Center

July 22, 2014
Until I heard CNN’s weekend interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and watched Bloody Sunday unfold with scores of Palestinian civilian deaths and 13 Israeli soldiers killed, I thought I had the Gaza thing pretty much figured out. It would end — more or less — the way the two previous movies had concluded.  In both 2008-2009 and 2012, Israel degraded Hamas’s high-trajectory weapons; but Hamas survived and restocked its arsenal with weapons of greater range, precision, and lethality. Hamas maintained control over Gaza and even derived a few political benefits in the process. Meanwhile, the people of Gaza continued to suffer — from both Israel’s unrelenting economic blockade and Hamas’s catastrophic mismanagement and fixation with its armed struggle against Israel. With the advent of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government in Cairo, intensified Egyptian pressure on the Muslim Brotherhood also pinched Gazans.

Read more

 

 

Turks in Europe and Kurds in Turkey Could Elect Erdogan

By Soner Cagaptay and Ege Cansu Sacikara

Washington Institute

July 23, 2014

PolicyWatch 2291

On August 10, Turks will go to the polls to choose a new president for the first time in the country’s history, an electoral change ushered in by a 2010 constitutional amendment. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the longtime prime minister and leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is on the ballot, as is Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, joint candidate for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Action Party (MHP).  In the March 30 local government elections, the CHP-MHP bloc and the AKP each received 43% of the vote. This leaves two voter blocs as potential kingmakers in next month’s polls: Kurdish nationalists, whose Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) received 6.5% of the March vote, and Turks residing overseas, who will be allowed to vote abroad for the first time following a 2012 change to the electoral system.

Read more

 

 

Operational Wisdom amid Strategic Distress

By Alon Paz and Nadav Pollak

Washington Institute

July 22, 2014

PolicyWatch 2289

The current confrontation between Israel and Hamas could look at first glance like merely another military round between the two sides. However, a number of major differences, especially regarding Hamas’s regional isolation, its decade-long force buildup, and its development of military strategy and tactics, distinguish Israel’s Operation Protective Edge from past operations. Although it might be too early to derive strategic conclusions from the current operation, certain key points can already be noted as lessons for the future. Moreover, as other regional terror organizations seek to learn from this conflict, the task of analyzing Hamas’s actions from day one becomes even more crucial.

Read more

 

 

Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984             C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 07-18-2014

ANALYSIS

 

Israeli Agression Intensifies

Ground War Cannot Solve Problems

As the Israeli aggression intensifies, Israel has ordered up more reservists, warned Gaza residents to evacuate, and made moves to send Israeli troops into Gaza as an occupation force.

Is there any way to avoid this?  And, if that happens, will Israel find itself bogged down again as it has in the past when it has tried to invade urban areas?  How will the problems caused by an occupation of Gaza impact Israel’s willingness to negotiate?

Currently, there are several attempts being made in the region to craft a truce, the most notable was the truce proposal made by Egypt.  However, although a divided Israeli cabinet accepted the terms of the truce, it was rejected by Palestinian resistance forces.   Hamas said from the outset it would refuse: “quiet for quiet,” i.e. merely stopping hostilities on both sides.  Nor, did it include a clause that Hamas considers essential – international guarantees that Israel will meet its obligations.  In addition, Hamas found out about it from the media, and viewed it as an attempt to humiliate the organization, and to undercut its political power.

Besides the mutual cessation of fire, the proposal called for the opening of border crossings to people and goods, but at some undefined time “when the situation on the ground stabilizes.”

Hamas also sees the Egyptian truce as an attempt by the Palestinian Authority to regain political power in Gaza.  PA President Abbas had approved the truce.  And, after Hamas refused the truce agreement, the Palestinian Authority was reported to propose to Egypt that it open the Rafah border crossing under the supervision of PA security forces, and deploy PA forces along the Philadelphi Corridor between Gaza and Egypt.

Turkey has also tried to step in as it has traditionally had relations with Israel.  Turkey has been attempting to mediate a cease-fire between Palestinian groups and Israel, with Foreign Minister Davutoğlu holding talks with his U.S. and Qatari counterparts, along with Hamas leader Mashaal and PA President Abbas.  They also warned Israel that relations between the two countries couldn’t be improved if the current hostilities continue.

Turkey is seeking a greater involvement by the international community and has criticized the UN for its inaction.  “The United Nations is the number one responsible on this matter. I always ask the U.N: What do you serve for? Why was this U.N. founded? To provide the world peace? If the U.N. can’t fulfill its job, then it should check itself. You look at the U.N. Security Council, everything is between the lips of five countries,” Erdoğan said.

Although there is a strong possibility that Israel and Palestinian resistant can agree to a truce in the next few days, there remains the strong possibility that Israel may invade Gaza.  And, for Israeli leaders, the cost of such an invasion is one that must be considered before launching such an attack.  Gaza his heavily urbanized and history shows that committed defenders can hold out against offensive forces several times larger.  One only has to look at the Battle of Stalingrad in WW II, which broke the back of the German Army to see the results of an offensive war in an urban setting.

Despite the lessons of history, the Israeli cabinet called up an additional 8,000 reservists for a total 56,000 – a major expense and a drag on the Israeli economy.  And, Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman promised at a press conference this that Israel, “will go all the way,” a plain threat to invade.  Other Israeli cabinet ministers favor invasion, including Deputy Defense Minister Danon, who was fired on Tuesday after criticizing Netanyahu.
Looking at an Israeli Invasion

Invading Gaza will be a daunting task.  Not only is it costly urban warfare, the Israeli Army has usually focused on highly mechanized forces that exploit technology.  House to house warfare doesn’t allow the exploitation of technology as much.  In addition, the cost of urban warfare is higher causalities and slow progress, both of which make it harder to keep reservists on active duty and away from their jobs in the economy.

Consequently, any such attack will have limited objectives rather than the total occupation of Gaza.

The first objective is to neutralize the rocket launching sites, especially those that threaten Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other heavily populated areas to the north of Gaza.  Since the Palestinian resistance rockets are not accurate, they pose less of a risk to less populated areas and are subjected to the degree of effectiveness of the infamous Israeli Iron Dome missile system.

According to military analysts, this can best be accomplished by invading the northern part of Gaza (specifically Bet Lathia), which has been the major launching area for the rockets.  The calculation is that the further away the rockets are from their targets,, the more inaccurate they will be.  Consequently they assert that, even if the resistance does manage to continue to launch rockets from unoccupied Gaza, they will be less effective.  As a result, Southern Gaza will be generally ignored in a land invasion.

The second objective is to destroy as much of the rocket inventory and rocket manufacturing capability as possible.  According to the IDF, Israel has already destroyed about one third of the resistance rocket inventory of 9,000 rockets.  In addition, many of the long and medium range rockets have already been fired at Israel.  This leaves the destruction of rocket factories as a critical goal of any invasion.

However, unlike rocket launch sites, manufacturing sites can be anywhere in Gaza, which leaves Israel with a corundum: do they risk more by actually launching a larger invasion in order to destroy resistance’ rocket manufacturing capability totally, or do they leave that responsibility to the Israeli Air Force and hope that air attacks will sufficiently neutralize the resistance’ ability to rebuild their inventory?

Israeli security sources have stated that they have destroyed 60% of the resistance rocket manufacturing ability with air attacks.  The source also said that Palestinian rocket production was only 30 rockets a month, which means that without the ability to smuggle any completed rockets into Gaza, the resistance can only produce about 10 rockets a month – a small number to merit a major invasion of southern Gaza.  Any other rocket production facilities in southern Gaza will probably be left to the IAF.

The reason for a probably limited excursion into Gaza by the IDF is the expected high intensity of combat that Israeli commanders will face.

Cities are notorious defensive positions.  Building-to-building combat has historically been slow and costly and attacking Gaza would be no different for the IDF.

One problem is that as the fighting gets hotter and the buildings collapse, they make even better positions for the defenders.  An excellent example can be ascertained from previous Israeli aggressions in Lebanon and Palestine and going back to WW II from the Battle for Monte Casino.  The Italian monastery, overlooking the road to Rome, was bombed by the Allies, which provided excellent defensive positions for the Germans, who were then able to hold off the Allied attacks for several months.

Similar destruction by the IDF in Gaza would give Palestinian resistance the same advantages.

The resistance forces have also had the time to build a complex structure of bunkers and tunnels in the region that will show the IDF and be costly in causalities.  Like the tunnels the Viet Cong used against the Americans in the Vietnam War, these tunnels can be used to hide soldiers, gather intelligence on IDF units, carry out surprise attacks from behind Israeli front lines, and plant explosives.  And, as the Americans learned in Vietnam, clearing out tunnels is slow and costly in lives.

Finally, a land invasion of Gaza forces Israel to fight more on resistance’ terms.  Such an attack can’t rely on the air superiority of the IAF or the famous technological advantages of Iron Dome.  Nor will the overwhelming advantage of Israeli armor be helpful because tanks and armored vehicles are very vulnerable to anti-tank rockets in close house to house combat.  The combat will depend more on small arms, anti-tank rockets and light artillery like mortars, all things that resistance has in quantity.  The close in combat will also deny the IAF the ability to strike the front lines as much.

This leaves the Israeli cabinet with a difficult decision – more war or a truce.  Although the current IDF actions have hurt the Palestinians, Israeli commanders know that launching a ground attack in a highly urbanized area like Gaza poses problems – problems that have a high price that Israel’s political leadership many not want to pay.  That’s one reason why they readily accepted the Egyptian offer.

Israel’s call up of reserves is not a total bluff.  Israel has shown in the past that they have the will to invade Gaza.  However, they know full well that the cost in lives, defense spending, and the economy are high prices.  Israel may make belligerent noises and even carry out limited Special Forces attacks into Gaza, but are leery of committing themselves to a costly major invasion.

Although events are moving quickly – faster than it often takes to write an analysis, the cost of a ground war makes Israel eager to seek a truce that stops the war.  But, since they have the edge in the air and are able to intercept some threatening incoming rockets, they are willing to continue the current state of war for additional but limited time.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

Gaza Crisis Illuminates a Grave New World

By James Phillips

Heritage Foundation

July 17, 2014

The eruption of the third Gaza war since 2008 is yet another manifestation of the growing threat posed by Islamist militants within an increasingly unstable Middle East.  In recent years, Al-Qaeda and other Islamist revolutionary groups have made major gains in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia, Bahrain and Yemen.  They have exploited the chaos of the “Arab Spring” uprisings, which have undermined many authoritarian regimes and created ungoverned territories that they seek to dominate.  Nature may abhor vacuums, but Islamist militants love them.

Read more

 

 

Why the Rand Paul-Rick Perry Feud over Iraq Is Good for U.S. Policy

By Gene Healy

Cato Institute

July 14, 2014

Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican”—that’s the “11th Commandment” coined by California’s GOP chairman in 1965 and popularized by President Ronald Reagan.  It’s been suspended for the duration, judging by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s ongoing dust-up over the future of the GOP’s foreign policy—even while the two combined for an impressive 19 invocations of Saint Ronnie in three dueling op-eds.  In a recent Wall Street Journal oped Paul argued that “America Shouldn’t Choose Sides in Iraq’s Civil War.” On Saturday, Perry entered the lists with a Washington Post piece titled “Why Rand Paul Is Wrong on Iraq” (print edition). In his Politico surrebuttal yesterday, Paul took a swipe at Perry’s trendy new glasses, which apparently “haven’t … allowed him to see [the world] any more clearly.” Zing!

Read More

 

 

Hamas and the New Round of Fighting in Gaza: Both Sides are Escalating to Nowhere

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

July 17, 2014

Commentary

The key question in any war – in starting it and throughout the conflict – is how will this war end?  Ever since 1967, the answer in the case of Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been by pausing and then resuming in a different form with the same result. In the case of the fighting in Gaza, changes in tactics and technology have simply escalated to nowhere. The best outcome has been an unstable ceasefire. The worst has been violence too low in intensity to be labeled another round of conflict.  The initial cause in 2006, 2012, and now in 2014, has been a new attempt by Hamas to change the strategic facts on the ground – increasingly relying on rockets and missiles rather than irregular warfare in the form of ground or naval attacks on Israel. In each case, Israel’s decisive military edge has left Hamas (and the more extreme Palestinian Islamic Jihad) weaker than before, killed and wounded far more Palestinians than Israelis, prolonged the economic isolation that has crippled Gaza and reduced living standards and social mobility, and failed to have any meaningful political impact that benefited Hamas in making even limited strategic gains.

Read more

 

 

Iraq: The Enemy of My Enemy is Not My Friend

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

July 16, 2014

Commentary

The proverb that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” is not an Arab proverb, it is a Sanskrit proverb that predates the Prophet Muhammad by roughly 1,000 years. It is also a proverb with a dismal history in practice. In case after case, the “enemy of my enemy” has actually proven to have been an enemy at the time or turned into one in the future. The Mongols did not save Europe from the Turks, and the Soviet Union was scarcely an ally after the end of World War II.  ISIS/ISIL and the “Islamic State” are Vital Threats to Our National Security, But, the United States needs to remember this as it considers military action in Iraq and reshaping its military role in Syria. It needs to remember this as it reshapes its security partnerships with proven friends like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. There is no question that the rise of ISIS/ISIL and the creation of an “Islamic State” that overlaps Eastern Syria and much of Western Iraq poses a major security threat in the Middle East.

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Hamas vs Israel: Truce? No truce. Here’s why

By Danielle Pletka

American Enterprise Institute

July 16, 2014

AEIdeas

The press is reporting that Israel accepted the terms of an Egyptian offered ceasefire on Tuesday morning, and that Hamas rejected it. The terms of the truce required rocket fire to cease at 9 am Israeli time; Hamas launched several dozen rockets over the course of the morning, though fewer than in recent days. Israel did not retaliate for much of the day, clearly in the hope that Hamas would come to its senses and recognize that its actions were doing more to harm the Palestinian people than Israel. The truce terms were just that — truce — with no concessions by either side, though it required border crossing openings into Egypt and other humanitarian gestures. (Note, the borders have only been closed to human traffic and general trade; food and other necessities have continued to flow into Gaza from Israel.) It also contemplated both sides meeting to hammer out an agreement within short order.

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Iraq Illusions

By Jessica Tuchman Mathews

Carnegie Endowment

July 10, 2014

The story most media accounts tell of the recent burst of violence in Iraq seems clear-cut and straightforward. In reality, what is happening is anything but. The Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), so the narrative goes, a barbaric, jihadi militia, honed in combat in Syria, has swept aside vastly larger but feckless Iraqi army forces in a seemingly unstoppable tide of conquest across northern and western Iraq, almost to the outskirts of Baghdad. The country, riven by ineluctable sectarian conflict, stands on the brink of civil war. The United States, which left Iraq too soon, now has to act fast, choosing among an array of ugly options, among them renewed military involvement and making common cause with Iran. Alternatives include watching Iraq splinter and the creation of an Islamist caliphate spanning eastern Syria and western Iraq.

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A Stalled War On Terror Finance

By Avi Jorisch
American Foreign Policy Council
July 15, 2014

The Journal of International Security Affairs

Only two weeks after the attacks of September 11th, President George W. Bush addressed the media in the White House Rose Garden and declared “war” on terrorism financing. “Money is the lifeblood of terrorist operations,” he told reporters.[1] “Today, we are asking the world to stop payment.” A few weeks later, the Treasury Department—the agency that would become the weapon of choice of the White House in this new economic conflict—boasted in a press release, “The same talent pool and expertise that brought down Al Capone will now be dedicated to investigating Usama bin Laden and his terrorist network.”  Unfortunately, more than a decade after these pronouncements, it is obvious that the war on terror financing and money laundering has stalled. This is clear even through the lens of the government’s own bottom-line metrics: assets seized and forfeited, successful investigations and prosecutions, and effective sanctions. In fact, the situation has gotten considerably worse of late, as political considerations have progressively displaced or rolled back serious work that has been done to date on draining the financial “swamp” in which terrorists and terror-supporting regimes operate.

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An Islamic Awakening?

By Hillel Fradkin and Lewis Libby

Hudson Institute

July 10, 2014

More than three years ago, revolts broke out in several Arab countries against their authoritarian regimes. The revolts were often dubbed variously as either the “Arab Spring” or the “Arab Awakening.” Both phrases anticipated the establishment of democratic regimes in those countries.  But almost immediately the leaders of the radical Shiite regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran rejected this terminology. It was to be sure an awakening but an “Islamic Awakening.” It was an awakening that represented the triumphant culmination of the 20th-century movement known as Islamism, often known as political Islam for its ambition to bring religion into a leading political role in the Muslim world and thereby revive Muslim political fortunes.

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What it will take to stop the Gaza carnage

By Aaron David Miller and Josh Nason

Wilson Center

July 15, 2014

Want to try for a cease-fire to end the burgeoning conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza?  Mix a cocktail of three ingredients: urgency, the desire of both sides to climb down; an agreement that allows them to do so; and a mediator to bring it all together. Egypt’s latest cease-fire proposal, clearly coordinated with (and accepted by Israel), can’t get us there — at least not yet. Hamas, weak and desperate for a victory, isn’t ready to stand down.

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Assessing the Three Scenarios for the Iran Nuclear Negotiations

By Michael Singh and Robert Satloff

Washington Institue

July 16, 2014

PolicyWatch 2284

With less than a week remaining until expiration of the six-month negotiating period that began with the signing of the “Joint Plan of Action” (JPOA) in January, significant gaps reportedly remain between Iran and the P5+1 (Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States, and Germany). Foremost among these is the uranium enrichment capacity Iran would be permitted to retain under a deal. Yet gaps also reportedly persist on matters such as inspector access to military sites (as opposed to declared, ostensibly civilian nuclear facilities) and the duration of any constraints to which Tehran is subject.  As a result, an agreement by the July 20 deadline appears unlikely. Yet it is one of the three possible scenarios that could unfold in the coming days — in order of likelihood, these include an extension of the talks, collapse of the talks, and a last-minute deal.

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Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984             C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 07-11-2014

 

ANALYSIS

 

Israeli Aggression on Gaza and U.S. Acquiescence

Kidnappings, torture and murder, missile strikes, and bombings by American made Israeli aircraft are ripping Gaza apart, but the White House seems unwilling or unable to act.  When most presidents would cancel events and spend more time in Washington in order to influence events and monitor hostilities in the Middle East, Obama has taken off on a trip that will raise money for fellow Democrats who running for reelection.  What’s going on?

Actually, the fact that Obama is raising money for the elections in four months rather than dealing with the Gaza crisis makes his strategy clear – his inaction is political and geared towards helping the Democratic Party in November.  With dismal polls, a weak economy, and a Democratic Senate at risk of going Republican, Obama is focused on politics, not foreign policy – especially Middle Eastern foreign policy.

Obama knows he has lost the American swing vote, which usually votes based on the state of the economy.  That means limiting the damage on Election Day in November depends on getting his Democratic voters to be energized enough to vote.

Since young people, who helped Obama win in 2008 and 2012, are less likely to vote in mid term elections, Obama is trying to craft a coalition of likely voters that will come to the polls and help incumbent Democratic senators at risk of losing.  This is reflected in current White House policy.

In the last week, Obama has criticized the recent Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case that allowed closely held corporations to restrict coverage of abortifacients, in order to boost the turnout of women voters, who tend to vote Democratic.  He has also allowed illegal immigrants to flood the Border States in order to solidify his hold on the Hispanic and progressive pro-immigration voter base.

However, these voting blocs are not as likely to turn out in midterm elections.  That means Obama has to rely more on the one Democratic group that votes regularly in midterm elections – likes the Jewish vote.

American Jews are more politically aware and have the highest percentage of voter turnout of any ethnic group in America.  And, although 2-2.5% of the United States population is Jewish, 94% live in 13 states, which give them more power to help vulnerable Democratic politicians.

Despite attempts by Republicans to crack the Jewish vote, they remain solidly Democratic.  According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, 70% of Jews self-identify as leaning towards or are members of the Democratic Party. That compares with just 49% of the American public overall who at least lean Democratic.  This makes the Jewish vote a critical one for Obama and the Democrats.  In fact, they are critical in battleground states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

But, why should Obama worry about the Jewish vote since they are traditionally Democratic voters and many Jewish voters don’t have a strong interest in American policy towards Israel.  In fact, polls regularly show that American Jewish voters aren’t concerned about Israel because most American Jews are becoming more American and less Jewish.  A Pew survey showed that 71 percent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarries and two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue.  These are the ones more likely to vote Democratic regularly and who don’t have a strong affinity for Israel.  In fact, 54% of American Jews say American support of the Jewish state is “about right.”

What about the other 46% of American Jews?  These are the Jewish voters that Obama needs in November and there are concerns that not only are they drifting towards the Republican Party, their higher birthrate mean that they are becoming a larger percentage of the American Jewish voting bloc.  And, they are the Jewish voters who are concerned about Obama’s lack of support for Israel.

One of the fastest growing Jewish American groups is Orthodox Jews.  Orthodox Jews, represent 12% of the United States’ Jewish population, but about 75% of Jewish children under 18.  It is this group that tends to make up the majority of Republican Jews.  And, like the rest of Jewish voters, they tend to congregate together in key states.  For instance, in New York City, a major Orthodox Jewish Community, a Jewish voter is 33% more likely to be Republican than Democrat.

A recent survey of Jews in New York City showed that 40% of Jews in the New York area identify as Orthodox, up from 33% a decade ago, and today three in four Jewish children there are Orthodox.  That means that in a generation, the Jewish vote could be more reliably Republican than Democratic

Orthodox Jews are more likely to vote Republican than other Jews because they identify with the party’s more conservative positions on same sex marriage, abortion, church-state separation and other social issues.  In 2012, Orthodox Jews voted 86% Republican compared to 28% among the non-Orthodox. By comparison, 72% of non-Orthodox and 14% of Orthodox Jews voted for Obama.

Orthodox Jews are far more likely to put Israel as a top priority in making choices at the polls.  That’s one of the reasons reason for Obama’s neglect of the Gaza crisis – if he is to continue to rely upon the Jewish vote, he must make concessions to Israel in order to win the growing pro-Israel Jewish vote.

New Technology in war between Palestine and Israel

The events in Gaza are taking a new high tech profile.  From anti missile systems to long range missiles, this war has taken on a different appearance than clashes in the past.

While Hamas and other resistant forces have always had a large arsenal of rockets, they were short range.  However, that has changed.  Today, they have a small quantity of M-302 Chinese designed and Syrian\Iranian produced rockets that can reach deep inside Israel with their 100 mile range.

Although still inaccurate, they carry a 20 kg warhead or more and are designed to strike large targets like cities, military bases, and industrial complexes.  It was the missile that hit Hadera this week.  It was the use of these missiles, which have operational characteristics that lay outside the Iron Dome operational envelope, which forced the IDF to make a prototype David’s Sling/Magic Wand system operational.

Of a larger concern to Israel is the more accurate M-75 rocket.  These have been used to target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  The fact that it weighs nearly a ton and is 31 feet long indicates that is probably produced locally and hasn’t been smuggled in.  It has a range of 75 kilometers and a warhead of 100 kilograms. Palestinian resistant forces have claimed that three were fired at the Israeli nuclear facility at Dimona.

Despite the improved quality of the Palestinian rockets, they haven’t been able to exact any toll on Israel partially due to their inaccuracy and partially due to Israeli’s Iron Dome anti missile system.  All seven batteries are deployed near Gaza and although they haven’t been able to handle the salvos fired from Gaza, the radar’s ability to calculate the individual rocket’s trajectory and impact point allow the system to only target and intercept those rockets headed towards populated and sensitive areas.

According to Israeli newspapers, Iron Dome only targeted 27% of the 180 missiles fired this week.  Of those interceptors launched, 90% were effective, if it is true, a much better hit ratio than the 84% rate, when they were used in Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012.

Although the interceptor missiles of the Iron Dome are expensive, their ability to counter  some of the Palestinian rocket salvo has allowed Israel to strike more aggressively in Gaza, knowing that the Palestinians are unable to defend themselves or strike back with effective rocket attacks.

Another interesting facet to the current fighting was the amphibious commando assault against Israel by Palestinian forces. It shows that Palestinians has developed an amphibious capability that will force the IDF to more carefully watch its coastline.

All of this indicates that fighting will continue.  Israel has called up 40,000 reservists and Netanyahu has said that Operation Protective Edge will take time.  Israeli Air Force aircraft have already hit over 550 targets including populated areas, command and control targets and missile launch facilities.  And, the number of reservists called up indicates that extensive ground action inside Gaza can be expected.

This was confirmed, when Netanyahu said, “We have decided to further increase the assault on Hamas and the terrorist organizations in Gaza. The IDF is prepared for all possibilities. Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing at Israel’s citizens…The operation will be expanded and will continue until the firing at our communities stops and quiet is restored.”

President Shimon Peres, whose role is largely ceremonial and is not involved in setting policy, said that he believed a ground offensive “may happen quite soon.”

Meanwhile, don’t expect Obama to take any tangible action that will risk his or the Democrats’ political future.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

The U.S. Needs an Integrated Approach to Counter China’s Anti-Access/Area Denial Strategy

By Dean Cheng

Heritage Foundation

July 9, 2014

Backgrounder #2927

As the Chinese military has been comprehensively modernizing its air, naval, and ground forces, it has been incorporating a variety of anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) systems and capabilities. These include not only weapons, such as anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, but also political warfare methods, including legal, public opinion, and psychological warfare techniques. To counter these A2/AD capabilities, the United States needs to adopt a comparably holistic approach, incorporating political measures, operational military deployments, as well as technical counters to Chinese military capabilities. Washington has one major advantage over Beijing—almost all of the countries on China’s littoral are U.S. friends and allies. Leveraging these relationships, and in the process underscoring American credibility and commitment, is key.

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The New “Great Game” in the Middle East: Looking Beyond the “Islamic State” and Iraq

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

July 9, 2014

Report

The U.S. has good reason to try to prevent the creation of a violent, extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, to reverse the gains of ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria)/ ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham), and to help move Iraq back towards a more stable and unified form of government. This may still be possible in spite of a steady drift towards civil war that has now lasted at least three years, and in spite of IS’s gains and Maliki’s failures and intransigence.  Such an effort does mean, however, that the U.S. must find some way to limit and roll back ISIS/ISIL without taking sides in Iraq’s broader civil war. It means creating a bridge across Iraq’s increasingly polarized and divided factions while also meeting the challenges to create a more effective and unified national government in Iraq, and try to support and to rebuild Iraqi forces.

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Afghanistan and the Growing Risks in Transition

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

July 8, 2014

Report

As the Vietnam War and recent events in the Iraq War have shown all too clearly, every serious counterinsurgency campaign involves at least three major threats: the enemy, dealing with partners and allies, and dealing with ourselves. A review of the trends in all three areas raises growing questions as together the U.S. and its allies can carry out a successful Transition in Afghanistan.  The Burke Chair has prepared three related reports that illustrate the current security threats in stabilizing the Afghan security forces; the post-election challenges to Afghan reconstruction; and the challenges facing Afghan governance and the Afghan economy.

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Iraq Through the Eyes of Iran’s IRGC

By Mehrdad Moarefian

American Enterprise Institute

July 7, 2014

The rapid advances in Iraq of the Islamic State (formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham; formerly known as al Qaeda in Iraq) have forced the U.S. to confront a complex reality.  Iraqi Security Forces have been unable to stop the advances on their own, but President Obama is extremely reluctant to provide U.S. support.  Some analysts argue that the U.S. should align with Iran against the common al Qaeda enemy, even suggesting that we should combine military efforts.  Iran’s efforts in Iraq are controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), especially Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.  The feasibility of cooperation with Iran in Iraq depends in part on how the IRGC sees the problem.  This post is the first in a series that will look at the Iraq crisis from the perspective of the IRGC.

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Choosing Security and Freedom in Egypt

By Maha Yahya

Carnegie Endowment

July 1, 2014

Egyptians, it seems, are being asked once again to exchange their political freedoms for stability and security. However, the expanding clampdown on fundamental rights overlooks the fact that security and stability cannot be attained in the absence of freedom.  Recent Egyptian court rulings have signaled the expansion of authoritarianism in the name of protecting national security and combating terrorism. International and Egyptian rights organizations have condemned the long-term imprisonment of well-known political activists and journalists and the doling out of death penalties en masse. They argue that the judicial proceedings leading up to the sentences were politicized and flawed and that the crackdown is a gross violation of basic freedoms, including the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and due process.

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Fighting enemies from within and without

By Caroline Glick

Center for Security Policy

July 10, 2014

Sixteen-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir was doing his own thing last Tuesday when he was abducted by Jewish terrorists, who slaughtered him. They killed him because he was an Arab, and they are racist murderers.  The police made solving Abu Khdeir’s murder a top priority. In less than a week, they had six suspects in custody. Three confessed to the murder.  There are dark forces at work in Israeli society. They need to be dealt with.  And they will be dealt with harshly.  They will be dealt with harshly because there is no significant sector in Israeli society that supports terrorism.  There is no Jewish tradition that condones or calls for the murder of innocents. In Jewish tradition, the line between protecting society from its enemies and committing murder is long, wide, unmistakable and unmoving.

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Red Lines: Inside the Battle for Freedom in Syria

By Mouaz Moustafa, Andrew J. Tabler, and Andrea Kalin

Washington Institute

July 9, 2014

Forum

Syria’s declared chemical weapons material has left the country, but Bashar al-Assad’s onslaught continues, and the beleaguered non-Islamist forces are now caught in a multifront fight against both the regime and a new generation of brutal jihadist groups. Red Lines, a gripping documentary from Washington-based Spark Media, follows young activists Razan Shalab al-Sham and Mouaz Moustafa across battlefields, smuggling routes, and foreign capitals, putting a human face on the struggle for Syria’s future that is often lost in debates about “redlines” and acceptable levels of international response. Red Lines was an official selection at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto, where it was among the audience’s top-rated films.

Read more

 

Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

 

www.thinktankmonitor.org

C: 202 536 8984  C: 301 509 4144

Analysis 07-04-2014

ANALYSIS

 

Ruptures in the Governing Fabric of America

 

As Americans celebrate their independence from Britain this weekend, the American system of government is showing cracks in it – cracks that were quite evident this last week.  That system, outlined by the US Constitution, creates a limited form of government with checks and balances.  It also recognizes the central power of the people, who not only have a right to vote for their leaders, but also retain the power, according to the original founding document, the Declaration of Independence, to abolish a government they don’t like.

But, it is becoming increasingly clear that many Americans think that the government and president has exceeded its authority and is restricting the freedoms expressly written into the US Constitution?  Polls are reflecting disapproval of their leadership and the institutions of government.  The US Supreme Court, which has the traditional role of interpreting the Constitution, is frequently ruling against the government in key court cases.  And, people are taking to the streets, not to demonstrate, but to physically stop government actions.

All three of these things have happened just in the last week.  A string of newly released polls showed high disapproval percentages for Obama and the other branches of the Government.  They are also showing that the American people are becoming more pessimistic about their freedom and future.  The highest court in the United States ruled in four cases in the last week alone that the Obama administration has exceeded its powers granted under the US Constitution.  And, finally, Americans physically stopped the movement of illegal immigrants by government employees in California on Tuesday.

Is America at the brink?  Can we expect more unrest?

Although it’s very hard to predict, there is a likelihood that America is on the edge of civil unrest.

To better understand these problems, we have to look at how America is governed and how Americans perceive their relationship with the government.

Limited Government – Separated Powers and Shared Sovereignty

Unlike the governments of many other countries, the US government has limited powers and those powers are separated into three different branches of the federal government – the presidency, congress, and the judiciary.  In addition, sovereignty is shared between the federal government, the states, and the people.  However, this isn’t the way the American government began and the United States underwent 15 years of trial and error before settling on the current system of government.

The first government of the United States was the Continental Congress, which was assembled on September 5, 1774.  Its president, and therefore the first president of the United States, was Peyton Randolph.  It was this government that fought the American Revolution and was recognized by France, the Netherlands, and Morocco.  Although it did handle foreign policy and the conduct of the war, it had very few powers.  The problem was that the Continental Congress was an assembly of sovereign states and it could do little unless all the states agreed.

As the war continued, the Continental Congress form of governance was shown to be too weak, so it was replaced by a second form of government formed under the Articles of Confederation, which gave the central government more power, but recognized that the states retained full sovereignty.  The US operated under the Articles of Confederation from 1779 to 1788.

When this central government proved to be too weak, a new Constitution was proposed – the one that the US currently operates under.  However, the states were worried about an all powerful central government, so certain checks were put into the document.  These checks provide the tension that governs the US today.

One new power that was granted in the Constitution was the recognition of the sovereignty of the people.  While the previous forms of government gave sovereign power to the states, the US Constitution stated in its opening words, “We the People of the United States,” a radical and controversial statement giving ultimate power to the citizens.  In fact, well known Founding Father Patrick Henry stated, “What is this “We the People” in the Preamble?  This is a Confederation of states.”  Future president Samuel Adams stated, “I stumble at the threshold. We are a confederation of states.”

Therefore, the United States represents a balance of powers granted to several entities, with the idea, that although not the most efficient government, it is the best one to protect the rights of the people and states.  It also prevents the central government from becoming too powerful.

The balance between the three sovereign powers is as follows:

Federal government – powers granted by the Constitution

President – executes laws, carries out foreign policy, Commander-in-Chief of military

House of Representatives – power of the purse, must initiate budget and tax bills

Senate – Originally represented states, but now an upper chamber that must pass bills

Supreme Court – Interprets the constitution

State Government – powers granted by the Constitution and the 10th and 11th amendments.  The bulk of laws and police enforcement reside here.

People – Power to elect federal, state, and local leaders.  Also powers and rights granted by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (Amendments 1 – 10). These include freedom of religion, assembly, and speech; right to own weapons; prohibiting the quartering of soldiers in peacetime; privacy against searches; rights of the accused; right to a fair trial and counsel; trial by jury; ban on excessive punishment; and recognition that all other powers not given to the federal government or states reside in the people.

The role of the People in the United States is relatively unique.  In most countries, even democracies, sovereignty resides in the government or in the person of a monarch.  However, the key founding documents of the US, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution recognize that ultimate sovereignty resides in the People.  In fact, the Declaration of Independence states, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government.”

This position was ratified in the 2008 Supreme Court Ruling of the District of Columbia vs. Heller, which held that keeping and bearing arms was an important constitutional right of the people because, “they are better able to resist tyranny.”

That right of the American people to abolish a government and the right to own weapons, “to resist tyranny,” gives it a unique power people in other countries don’t have.  And, the average American is well aware of this power, which is one reason why attempts by the government to control gun ownership in America always fail.

This brings us to the current situation.  The federal government, especially the presidency, has moved rapidly to centralize power.  It has acted without the approval of the Congress, it has tried to assume powers reserved to the states, and it has tried to restrict the freedoms of the People.

And, the people aren’t happy.

Obama Versus the Supreme Court

One tool the state governments and the people have to remedy the overstepping of power by the federal government is the Supreme Court, which has the traditional role of interpreting the Constitution.  And, it has been this court that has dealt some of the most far reaching losses against the Obama Administration, even though Obama has named two of the justices sitting on the court himself.  Since January 2009, the Obama administration has suffered at least 20 unanimous defeats in cases it argued (not counting cases in which it filed an amicus brief), according to Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

“President Obama’s unanimous Supreme Court loss rate, for the five and half years of his presidency, is nearly double that of President Bush and is 25 percent greater than President Clinton,” Cruz notes in a survey of how Obama’s lawyers performed before the high court.

Last week, in a unanimous, 9-0 rebuke, the justices ruled Obama had overstepped his constitutional authority when he went around the US Senate and unilaterally appointed three members to the National Labor Relations Board.  This clearly upheld a US Senate Constitutional right to approve the people nominated to key positions in the US government.

They also ruled 9-0 that the government couldn’t search cell phones without a search warrant.  Although the case dealt with a state law, the Obama Administration had argued for the additional power.  However, the court ruled unanimously that the 4th Amendment of the Constitution protected the people from such abuses.

Several Freedom of Speech rulings went against Obama as the court ruled last week that the government couldn’t force people to join a union and pay dues for political speech that they didn’t agree with.  They also agreed that anti-abortion protesters had a right to speech around abortion clinics.

Freedom of Religion also was defended when the court ruled that private companies can refuse to provide some contraceptives, mandated under Obamacare that the company owners felt were against their religious beliefs.

States have also used the Supreme Court to shift power back to themselves.  The court ruled against Congress and the Department of Justice by declaring some of parts of the Voting Rights Act, which gave the federal government power over some states voting laws, unconstitutional.

The Declining Popularity of Government in America

Although the Supreme Court has acted in its traditional role of determining the role of government and its limitations under the Constitution, the damage to the image of the government and Obama is great.

Currently Obama is suffering from approval ratings lower than any president in recent history.  According to a new poll from Quinnipiac, Americans pick Obama as the worst president in the last 70 years (Ronald Reagan was voted the best).  There is also a considerable amount of buyer’s remorse as voters now say America would be better off if Republican Mitt Romney had won the 2012 presidential election (45 percent to 38 percent).

An Investors Business Daily poll this week gave Obama more bad news.  59% of Americans blame Obama for the current immigration crisis.  56% think his withdrawal of troops from Iraq has caused the current conflict there.  And, 65% think his administration is trying to cover-up wrongdoing in the IRS.

“Mr. Obama finds himself in the uncomfortable position where every age group, independents, and whites all agree that the public has given up on his ability to accomplish anything before the end of his term,” said pollster John Zogby.

This negative perception isn’t limited to Obama.  It has permeated feelings towards government as a whole.  According to a Gallup poll released this week, 79% of Americans think that corruption is widespread in the US government.  That is up 20 points since 2006 and places the US government in the top 30% of nations in terms of perceived corruption.

The poll also showed that only 29% of Americans have great confidence in the presidency, down from 36% at the beginning of the Obama Administration.  Congress’s approval rating is only 7%.  The Supreme Court ranked highest at 30%.

Americans, who have traditionally felt America was the freest country in the world no longer think so.  The same Gallup Poll showed fewer Americans are satisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives compared with seven years ago – dropping 12 percentage points from 91% in 2006 to 79% in 2013. In that same period, the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives more than doubled, from 9% to 21%.

Today, countries like Cambodia and Uzbekistan rank higher in freedom (New Zealand and Australia come in first and second).  America comes in 36 out of 150 countries.  The decline in American freedom isn’t as great as that experienced in Egypt according to the poll, but is similar to the loss of freedom in Yemen and Pakistan from 2006 to 2013.

What does this mean for America?

The fact is that America’s society is much more brittle than many think.  A decreasing standard of living, a perception that freedom is declining, a lack of faith in government, and a perception that the US has a corrupt government have seriously hit the underpinnings of American society.

While the Supreme Court has been a relief valve in some cases, there is a growing sense of frustration in Middle America – frustration that is leading to action.  This week about 200 Americans in California physically blocked three buses that were going to drop illegal immigrants off in their town and forced the Border Patrol to reroute them to another destination.  The action was very similar to the incident 10 weeks ago at the Bundy Ranch, where people stopped the BLM from rounding up cattle.  There are also reports of armed private militia units patrolling the border in Texas and Arizona.

Historically in cases where a society becomes brittle and likely to break down, governments that back down usually can restore normalcy.  However, leaders that continue to pursue unpopular policy often face rebellion.  Czar Nicholas II in Russia is an excellent example.

Will Obama step back from the actions that have elicited rebukes from the Supreme Court and plummeting approval ratings from the public?  Possibly not.  Despite dramatic disapproval from the public, Obama has announced he will unilaterally make changes to American immigration law.  He has also promised other unilateral actions that are currently unpopular.  This will only fuel more unrest.

How far can Obama push?  We can’t say.  However, a belief that the current course of action can continue without repercussions to the government and society is likely wrong.

 

 

PUBLICATIONS

Why Defense Matters: A New Narrative for NATO

By Judy Dempsey

Carnegie Endowment

June 24, 2014

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is in search of a new narrative. While Russia’s involvement in Eastern Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea will not give NATO a new sense of solidarity, these events have highlighted what the alliance and its members must urgently do. It is time for all NATO countries to engage in a real strategic debate about why defense matters and what members should do to uphold the transatlantic relationship.  Alliance countries face many threats apart from Russia, including terrorism, cyberattacks, instability south of the Mediterranean and in the Sahel in particular, Iran’s nuclear program, and China’s strategic ambitions. NATO has no strategies to deal with them.

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EU-Iran Relations: A Strategic Assessment

By Cornelius Adebahr

Carnegie Endowment

June 23, 2014

The EU’s approach to Iran has emerged as one of the few successes of European foreign policy. In particular, the signing of an interim agreement in November 2013 that put limits on Tehran’s nuclear program for the first time marked a historic victory for EU diplomacy. Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top diplomat, continues to lead negotiations with Iran on behalf of the international community and aims to reach a “comprehensive” long-term agreement by late July 2014.   Even so, the EU is not thinking strategically. Despite the EU’s central position in the P5+1 talks, a strategic assessment of its overall approach to Iran reveals that Europe falls short.

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The Iraq Crisis Is Not a US Intelligence Failure

By Fred Fleitz

Center for Security Policy

July 2, 2014

Stories are being circulated by Obama officials and some former intelligence officers that the Obama administration was caught off guard by the recent offensive in Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) terrorist group because of a failure by U.S. intelligence agencies to provide warning about the ISIS threat.   Some former intelligence officers are blaming this failure on a lack of human intelligence sources in Iraq and an over-reliance on technical intelligence collection.  Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, disagrees. He says the Iraq crisis is a policy and not an intelligence failure.  Rogers says the signs were there about the ISIS threat and the deteriorating situation in Iraq but Obama officials ignored them. He contends that “It was very clear to me years ago that ISIS was pooling up in a dangerous way — building training camps, drawing in jihadists from around the world. We saw all of that happening.”

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ISIS Battle Plan for Baghdad

By Jessica Lewis

Institute for the Study of War

June 27, 2014

There are indications that ISIS is about to launch into a new offensive in Iraq. ISIS published photos of a military parade through the streets of Mosul on June 24, 2014 showcasing US military equipment, including armored vehicles and towed artillery systems. ISIS reportedly executed another parade in Hawijah on June 26, 2014. These parades may be a demonstration force to reinforce their control of these urban centers. They may also be a prelude to ISIS troop movements, and it is important to anticipate where ISIS may deploy these forces forward. Meanwhile, ISIS also renewed the use of suicide bombers in the vicinity of Baghdad. An ISIS bomber with a suicide vest (SVEST) attacked the Kadhimiya shrine in northern Baghdad on June 26, 2014, one of the four holy sites in Iraq that Iran and Shi’a militias are most concerned to protect. ISIS also incorporated an SVEST into a complex attack in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, on June 25, 2014 in a zone primarily controlled by the ISF and Shi’a militias on the road from Baghdad to Karbala. These attacks are demonstrations that ISIS has uncommitted forces in the Baghdad Belts that may be brought to bear in new offensives. ISIS’s offensive has not culminated, and the ISIS campaign for Iraq is not over. Rather, as Ramadan approaches, their main offensive is likely imminent.

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What Kurdish Independence Would Mean

By Lee Smith

Hudson Institute

July 1, 2014

The president of the Kurdish Regional Government Massoud Barzani announced today that he intends to call for a referendum on independence within the next few months. And if the Kurds do elect to break free of the central government in Baghdad, they’ll have at least one regional actor eager to acknowledge them as an independent state—Israel.

“They are a warrior nation, that is politically moderate,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of the Kurds in a speech Sunday. They are “worthy of statehood,” Netanyahu continued. “We need to support the Kurdish aspiration for independence. They deserve it.”

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Turkey‘s Kurdish Buffer

By Soner Cagaptay

Washington Institute

July 1, 2014

Foreign Affairs

If anything good comes out of the turmoil in Iraq, it will be improved ties between Turkey and the region’s Kurds. Until recently, they were bitter enemies. Ankara had never been able to stomach the idea of Kurdish self-government — in Iraq or Syria or Turkey — and it had generally refused to give in to Turkish Kurds’ demands for cultural rights. Instead, it preferred to crack down. Meanwhile, the region’s Kurds had never been able to stomach Iraqi, Syrian, or Turkish rule and, taking issue with Ankara’s treatment of Kurds within Turkey’s borders, threw their support behind the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a violent separatist movement in Turkey.  The Syrian civil war and developments in Iraq have started to change all that. These days, from Turkey’s perspective, Kurdish autonomy doesn’t look half bad. The portions of northern Iraq and Syria that are under Kurdish control are stable and peaceful — a perfect bulwark against threats such as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)…It is a tall order, but the stars may be aligned in favor of a Turkish-Kurdish axis.

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Mounzer A. Sleiman Ph.D.
Center for American and Arab Studies
Think Tanks Monitor

www.thinktankmonitor.org

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