MENA & Africa Intel Blog: The Max Spotlight
The Max Spotlight blog offers the latest insight and analysis on pressing geo-political issues across the world, straight from Max-Security's intelligence division.
While many pundits continually debate a timeframe for Assad’s downfall, the regime is on the offensive, pushing back their estimations. In recent weeks, Assad’s forces have succeeded in securing several tactical victories, mainly in Damascus, Idlib Province, and around Homs, all the while preventing additional rebel gains around Deraa. Overall, those tactical developments are likely to further secure the capital’s northern and southern flanks and supply lines to other government-controlled cities while furthering the process of isolating and eliminating opposition strongholds around Damascus. The rebels, therefore, will not be taking Syria’s capital anytime soon.
Syrian military and loyalist gains in Damascus are likely to continue in the near term, as tenuous advances in Homs and Idlib provinces and the continued holding of strategic areas in southern Syria will inhibit rebel efforts to bring more fighters and supplies to the four Damascus fronts. While not given the publicity it deserves, much of Assad’s recent successes in the Homs region could be credited to Hezbollah’s increased intervention from Lebanon. This intervention has furthered tensions in Lebanon, but burgeoned Assad’s strength between Damascus, the Alawite stronghold of Latakia, and Homs. It now appears that both Hezbollah and Syrian government troops are set to enter the main rebel-held town in the area, al-Qusayr. Rebel fighters inside Damascus, meanwhile, are increasingly finding themselves isolated and outgunned. They are left mostly defending positions determined following the stalling of their last capital offensive that began in November 2012.
The latest regime offensives in Damascus were a likely answer to rebel gains near Jordan and Israel, and thus meant to preempt another rebel attempt to ride their momentum for a push into the heart of Damascus. By taking the initiative, regime troops and loyalist militias have become increasingly able to isolate opposition bastions in the capital’s outskirts. Layered defenses in the capital, barrages of indirect fire, long supply lines, and local opposition to rebel gains are also likely contributing to the opposition’s general inability to move beyond their initial strongholds.
On April 18, President Ahmadinejad held a rally at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium to celebrate Iran’s recent tourism industry successes. In the days prior, Ahmadinejad’s political opponents, including within Iran’s clerical leadership, warned that the president would use the venue to campaign for his main political ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.
Although a number of government officials were present at the rally, Mashaei did not make an appearance and no reference was made to the upcoming presidential elections. Mashaei’s possible candidacy for presidential elections in June 2013 has been a point of contention between the president and the clerical leadership, the latter maintaining that Mashaei’s secular leanings are a threat to their influence.
Reports indicate that attendance at the stadium, which can accommodate 100,000 people, ranged between 40,000 to 70,000 for Ahmadinejad’s rally. Many state-owned media outlets had refused to cover the event, although the IRNA news agency gave the highest number of 70,000.
The inability of Ahmadinejad’s camp to fill the Azadi stadium was coupled with an egress of supporters toward the end of the ceremony, as few people remained to hear the president’s final remarks. Reports further indicate that many of the attendees had been transported to the stadium from outlying areas, despite the president’s generally stronger support from the capital’s residents. Furthermore, scuffles between attendees and stadium employees over food distribution are indicative of possible incentives promised by Ahmadinejad’s camp in exchange for attending the rally.
Ten years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq’s inter-sectarian political experiment is in jeopardy. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite State of Law coalition remains in control, yet his government has come under excruciating pressure. In recent months, a wave of anti-government Sunni Arab protests, Cabinet boycotts by Shiite Sadrists, Sunnis and Kurds, coupled with rising sectarian violence and the steady withdrawal of Sunniministers, have threatened the longevity of Iraq’s political experiment. But despite rising sectarianism, perceived marginalization of Sunnis and jihadist violence, there are indications that Iraq’s Sunni tribal leaders are hesitant to abandon the political process and thrust Iraq into another war.
The March 29 Baghdad car bomb attacks targeting Shiite mosques underscore persistent efforts by Sunni jihadists to force this war. By increasing violence and radical sectarianism, Sunni jihadists are aiming to weaken the central Shiite-led government, force a Shiite-militia response, and Sunnis to take up arms against the state at a time of instability across the region. Despite counterinsurgency efforts by the Iraqi security forces and military, they remain largely unable to deter or prevent militant attacks, such as the coordinated mass assaults witnessed in the capital on March 13. Jihadists can largely strike at will.
In addition to rising violence, persistent Sunni protests over a variety of issues continue to exacerbate sectarian tensions. Their demands vary from further rights, an end to the country’s terrorism and de-Baathification laws, to autonomy. Above all, protesters demand an end to the perceived marginalization of the Sunni community. It is hard, however, to see how such a perception will dissipate given mounting sectarian violence across the region.
Additionally, recent al-Maliki measures against Sunni ministers, on top of postponing local elections in Sunni-majority provinces and the continued targeting of local candidates, have only compounded Sunni restiveness. According to reports, at least 11 candidates for upcoming elections have been assassinated. Political candidates remain a high-level target for Sunni jihadists aiming to settle scores, deter cooperation with the government and weaken the traditional leadership of Iraq’sSunni community.
If such a strategy increasingly materializes, Iraq’s Sunni political leaders could be pressed to fall in line and replace the ballot box with an AK-47 to advance communal interests.
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“Deal with your friends as if they will become your enemies tomorrow, and deal with your enemies as if they will become your friends tomorrow.” It’s a proverb passed along through Kurdish generations — and a telling pretext to the Kurdish strategy in today’s conflict in Syria. In recent weeks, this once dormant player has awoken from its slumber, and may just provide Syria’s desperate rebels with a much needed boost to break their deadlock with the Assad regime.
Reports indicate that YPG militiamen and Syrian rebels have agreed to share control of the strategic Sheikh Maqsood District of northern Aleppo, cutting off regime supply routes to a hospital, prison, and other key positions. Rebel fighters entered the district largely unopposed on March 31. On April 6, the Syrian military bombarded Kurdish neighborhoods in northern Aleppo, killing 15 people in a likely response to this new arrangement. The following day, Kurdish militiamen attacked a Syrian military checkpoint in the city, killing five troops.
Further east, Syrian military units attacked a checkpoint manned by Kurdish militiamen in the northeastern city of Qamishli on April 4. Hours later, militiamen from the Kurdish People’s Defense Units (YPG) attacked two Syrian military positions on the outskirts of Qamishli. The attacks resulted in a number of deaths on both sides and marked the first such incident to occur in the predominantly Kurdish Hasakah Province since the Syrian military withdrew from the region’s urban centers in the summer of 2012.
The month of March 2013 has witnessed an increase in tensions between local Tunisian Salafist networks, the newly formed government of P.M. Laarayedh, and the country’s secular/liberal societal factions.
On March 26, Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia (AST) issued a warning on social media towards P.M. Laarayedh, after he condemned Tunisia’s Salafist minority as responsible for recent violence in an interview with French media that same day. The post featured a threat to topple the government from Abu Iyad al-Tunisi, a prominent jihadist founder of AST suspected of orchestrating the September 11, 2012 riots at the U.S. Embassy in Tunis. Following those riots, Abu Iyad was targeted for arrest at the al-Fatah Mosque in Tunis, but escaped after his supporters confronted security forces.
Iyad’s warning came days after al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), issued a new message calling on jihadists across the region to to join its ranks and take up arms against French assets as well as Western-sympathetic local governments in the Arab World. The message included a specific call towards Ansar al-Sharia members in Tunisia, which was reportedly received positively by the group.
On March 27, the Tunisian government announced that it would take measures to curb the flow of Tunisian jihadists to the conflict in Syria, citing concerns over their return to the country to engage in militant activity. Reports indicate that thousands of Tunisians are currently participating in both the Syrian and Malian conflict. In Syria, Tunisian nationals are estimated to comprise 30-40 percent of all foreign fighters. The majority of Tunisian jihadists fighting in Syria hail from outlying communities in the west and south of the country, primarily the town of Ben Guerdane, located near the Libyan border. Multiple Tunisian nationals also participated in a deadly raid against Algeria’s In Amenas gas facility in January 2013.
Following the 2010-11 Tunisian revolution, Salafist-jihadist elements have increased their activity substantially. Following the ousting of the Ben Ali regime, previously strict anti-Islamist policing policies were forgone, while the ensuing security vacuum enabled the establishment of training camps and weapons smuggling networks in outlying areas. Training camps near the Libyan and Algerian borders are currently meant to facilitate the indoctrination and transfer of Tunisian nationals to conflicts elsewhere in the region, including in Syria, Mali, and Algeria.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on March 22 and offered Israel’s apology for the 2010 ‘Mavi Marmara’ incident. In that incident, nine Turkish nationals were killed by Israeli Special Forces who raided the Marmara as it sailed to the Gaza Strip as part of a larger flotilla. The incident resulted in an unprecedented crisis in the relations between the two countries, with Turkey demanding an official apology before restoring ties between the two nations.
The recent development was reportedly mediated by the US administration, and particularly by Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrived in Israel on March 19 ahead of President Obama’s visit. The President himself was present at the time of the conversation between the two leaders on March 22, shortly before leaving to Jordan.
Netanyahu apologized for operational mistakes that led to the loss of life, and pledged to compensate the families of those killed via a humanitarian fund. He also stressed that Israel has lifted certain limitations on the entry of civilian goods to the Gaza Strip in the time that passed since the incident. Those three have issues constituted Turkey’s demands for reconciliation since the incident.
By May 2012, the global jihad network would rear its ugly head in Tanzania once more, after a bombing attack occurred in the Kenyan capital, targeting a prominent shopping district. While blame was placed squarely on Somalia’s al-Shabaab, the arrest of a German national in Tanzania in connection to the attack largely went unnoticed. The man, reportedly of Turkish descent, had undergone training in al- Qaida camps in Pakistan.
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On March 6, Syrian rebel fighters in the Golan Heights region released footage of a UN peacekeepers’ convoy which they claimed to have detained. The incident occurred near the Israeli border, with approximately 20 Filipino troops detained and taken to a rebel-designated “safe area.” Intentional or not, the young, unsuspecting rebels speaking in the video may have set in motion a chain of events which may lead to a dangerous deterioration on the once-peaceful Israeli-Syrian border, with no turning back.
The convoy was seized by over 30 rebels after it allegedly entered a rebel combat zone near the UN-designated demilitarized zone which separates the Israeli and Syrian borders. In the video, rebels accused the UN force of assisting the Assad regime, while demanding the Syrian military withdraw from the nearby village of Jamla in exchange for their release. The rebels claimed to be part of the Yarmouk Brigade, a unit which includes radical jihadists and has taken part in recent fighting in the Golan Heights. The UN force has insisted that the troops did not enter a combat area.
There are currently over 1,000 foreign troops operating in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) which has been in place in the Golan Height’s demilitarized zone since 1974, as part of a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Syria. Croatia recently withdrew all of its 100 troops from the UNDOF over concerns for their safety after it was reported that Croatian weapons were being delivered to rebel forces.
The seizure of UN troops was likely committed irrespective of the orders or policies of prominent opposition commanders or officials, both in Syria and abroad. Syrian rebels in the area likely sought to draw media attention to their plight, despite the long-term risks of loss of support from the international community. Read more »
On February 26-27, nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 resumed in Kazakhstan after an eight month deadlock, concluding with a pledge to continue talks in March and April, respectively. On March 18, technical experts from both sides will meet in Istanbul, while high-level talks will be held weeks later on April 5-6 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Following the conclusion of talks, chief Iranian negotiator Saeed Jalili issued notably positive statements, calling the talks “a turning point,” and that a newly enhanced proposal offered by Western powers was “more realistic,” likely in reference to the previously rejected proposal offered in June 2012 talks in Moscow.
The proposal reportedly offered by Western powers included an easing of sanctions on the trade of gold and other precious metals, in exchange for halting uranium enrichment to 20% levels. In an unprecedented move, the West dropped a longstanding demand that Iran close its heavily fortified enrichment facility at Fordow, while offering to allow Iran to keep a small portion of its 20% enriched uranium stockpile instead of transferring it to a third country for conversion. The proposal did not include any lifting of sanctions on Iran’s energy sector.
Since Israel’s brazen airstrike on Syrian territory Jan. 30, Israel’s enemies have yet to retaliate. Syria, Iran, and their proxy, Hezbollah, together comprise the region’s heavily-armed fighting force, and yet remain unwilling to make good on pledges to respond with aggression to any Israeli force.
Even Syria’s enemies have begun to take notice of the nonresponse, exploiting the Assad regime’s inaction for their own propaganda purposes. In Turkey, where relations with Israel are seriously strained, President Ahmet Davutoglu asked: “Why didn’t [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad even throw a pebble when Israeli jets were flying over his palace and playing with the dignity of his country?”
Depending on whom you ask, Israel either hit sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles in Syria that were en-route to the Lebanese border and Hezbollah (this is the US and Israeli explanation), or it hit a symbolic military research center northwest of Damascus (the Syrian version). But at this point, speculation over which targets were hit, where they were located, or what exact purpose they served is irrelevant.
What is relevant, is that Israel clearly retains the strategic high ground against its enemies, with full knowledge that Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are bogged down in the swamp of civil war, economic sanctions, or diplomatic isolation.
The Israeli strike against Syria has to be looked at in the context of last November’s conflict between Hamas and Israel – when Hamas fired some 1,500 rockets from the Gaza Strip, including longer range Iranian-made missiles that reached Tel Aviv for the first time. Israel successfully protected itself with its anti-missile system, called Iron Dome. The Syria strike shows that the last round in the Gaza Strip emboldened the Israeli military to go after Hezbollah, a far more fearsome enemy.
Knowing that its Iron Dome system was battle tested, Israel was able to confidently deploy the anti-missile system near Israel’s strategic industrial centers in Haifa prior to the attacks on Syria. Tanks and troops had been moved to the border with Syria, backed by a political establishment that had spent months coordinating with regional and international allies through back channels to gain support for such action. Read more »
They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It’s a lesson that Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), likely learned when he sparked a firestorm within the Syrian opposition after declaring his willingness to enter into negotiations with the Assad regime on January 30. As part of his stated conditions, al-Khatib demanded the release of 160,000 political prisoners being held by the Assad regime and the renewal of expired passports for Syrian dissidents abroad.
Until al-Khatib’s remarks, the SNC’s official stance had been to reject all negotiations with the Assad regime unless the embattled dictator agrees to relinquish power. It this comes as no surprise that other SNC officials and their backers in the region were quick to denounce al-Khatib’s statements as unrepresentative of the coalition’s policies. On February 5, the Coalition came together to issue an official rejection of al-Khatib’s proposal, even after it had been softened to include demanding that Assad cede power as an outcome.
Their outrage did little to stop al-Khatib from reiterating his willingness to negotiate during a security conference in Munich, where he also met with Russian and Iranian officials.
The locally-based Syrian-based National Coordination Committee, which initially organized non-violent protests, offered its support for al-Khatib, reiterating its stance that a political solution must be found to end the conflict. The Assad regime has yet to offer an official response, although a regime source described the development as positive.
By now the name Mokhtar Belmokhtar is familiar to anyone watching security-related events unfold in Saharan Africa. Since a January 16 raid executed by his “Masked Brigade” in Algeria, which led to the deaths of dozens of hostages, the one-eyed smuggler extraordinaire’s picture has been broadcast across TV and computer screens worldwide. As Western policymakers continue to adjust their strategy in the war on terror, it is important to understand Belmokhtar’s accomplishment in its true context: a victory of a thriving jihadist operational network.
As it turns out, the Masked Brigade’s attack was not, as reports originally indicated, a reprisal for French intervention in northern Mali. In fact, Western security officials recently stated that the attack was planned before January 11, when France intervened. This instead was simply intended to be a standard kidnap-and-ransom mission – a fundraiser and terrorist attack rolled into one.
However, northern Mali does play a role in the attack’s execution. The region has become a sanctuary for militants from Nigeria to Somalia who need free range to learn from experienced veterans of Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Belmokhtar’s men trained for and planned their attack in northern Mali. They raised funds by ransoming kidnap victims and smuggling drugs, as well as Belmokhtar’s trademark product, Marlboro cigarettes. They also smuggled fighters and weapons, many of which came from the caches of Libya’s former dictator, Moammar Ghaddafi.
A year after America’s withdrawal from Iraq, the country’s struggle for stability and security persists. Sunni protests are continuing following a government raid against Finance Minister Rafie al-Esawi’s home on Dec. 20. The protests, which have recently acquired the backing of some of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s main Shiite rivals – the Sadrists – come as the Shiite-led Iraqi government is already facing increased pressure from a persistent border standoff with Iraqi Kurdistan (KRG). Regardless of whether al-Maliki survives the current campaign against him, the concept of a unified Iraq – shared between its many sects – will continue to suffer.
The protests are sectarian in nature, propagated mainly by Sunni Islamists and aimed at reducing al-Maliki’s influence and that of the Shiites over Iraq. Their demands are unlikely to be met. While Iraq’s government, security forces, and Shiites have faced years of deadly Sunni insurgent attacks, the protests underscore an increased effort by the country’s Sunnis to replicate mass protests held elsewhere in the region and pressure al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government.
Protest leaders are likely aiming to capitalize upon perceived justification for mass protests following the government’s decision to act against al-Esawi. The timing also coincides with increasing pressure against Baghdad from the ongoing Kurdish dispute over territory in northern Iraq. The Kurdish gains and the Sunni revolt in Syria are likely giving many Iraqi Sunnis increased motivation to call for regional autonomy.
In recent weeks, dialogue efforts between the Turkish government and Abdullah Ocalan, a prominent imprisoned Kurdish separatist leader have intensified, with the stated aim of disarming the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), after three decades of conflict and over 40,000 deaths. On January 8, Turkish media outlets published reports which cautiously indicated that negotiations with Ocalan had yielded a potential four-point roadmap for PKK disarmament in exchange for minority rights and amnesty for thousands of Kurdish prisoners in Turkish jails. Notably, calls for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey were not mentioned as part of Ocalan’s demands.
While the both sides have refused to verify reports of an agreement, the Erdogan administration did concede that pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Ayla Akat Ata and Kurdish politician Ahmet Turk met with Ocalan on December 29 on Imrali Island, where he has been imprisoned since 1999. Until that visit, the infamous PKK founder had only been permitted to speak with Turkish military and intelligence officials. Ocalan, long considered the godfather of terrorism in Turkey, reportedly told the Kurdish lawmakers that the time for armed struggle has ended.
2012 was reported as the deadliest year of PKK related violence in over a decade with a noticeable uptick in civilian casualties. While the PKK has traditionally focused its attacks on Turkish security installations and personnel, the recent spike in attacks targeting civilians suggests more radical offshoots such as the the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) are gaining influence. With that being said, Ankara’s renewed efforts to formulate a ceasefire are likely an attempt to quell the increased radicalism within the Kurdish separatist camp while also attempting to discontinue the perpetuation of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict over the long term.
“The purpose is to reassure them that what we agreed on last time is still there, and nothing has changed,” so declared an Egyptian government spokesman after announcing that an IMF delegation would return to Cairo to revive talks on a crucial 4.8 billion USD loan agreement aimed at salvaging Egypt’s economy. Change, however, would be the subtlest word to describe the botched facelift the country underwent since the IMF’s last visit on November 20. After weathering a month of bitter civil unrest, President Morsi successfully strong-armed an Islamist-backed constitution into law on December 25. In doing so, he left gaping wounds across Egyptian society and exposed his own politically perilous path to restoring the economy.
As Bahrain celebrated its “National Day” holiday on December 16, the frustrated efforts of the Shiite-led opposition to isolate the Khalifa monarchy for its allegedly repressive policies continued to be ever more apparent. Formula One races, international conventions, a record-setting year for cruise-ship dockings and Kim Kardashian’s newest milkshake franchise expansion all signal that despite nearly two years of civil unrest, Bahrain’s image as an international trade and business hub remains largely intact. The credit goes to the Khalifas, who have successfully exploited regional tensions to keep ties with the West warm and the Saudi military waiting across the King Fahd Causeway, ensuring this strategic piece of island real estate never becomes the southern doorstep of an Iranian-led Shiite Crescent.
Predictably, the rise in violence amongst Bahrain’s opposition has been widely attributed as a natural result of feelings of abandonment by the international community. When (or if) Bahrain’s opposition movement will take the form of a low-level insurgency remains anyone’s guess. But amidst brewing tensions nationwide, some Shiite villages stand out as particularly angry. If things do get uglier, here is a short list of Bahraini opposition hubs which may just earn themselves an Arab Spring household name along with Syria’s Homs or Libya’s Misrata.
“He who rides the sea of the Nile must have sails woven of patience.” So noted British novelist William Golding a century ago; and his saying has clearly taken root in Beijing today. Under the radar of the Western world, China has discreetly established its influence among Africa’s emerging powerhouses, setting its sights on the continent’s most contested resource: the Nile River. Amidst the decline of Egypt and the rise of Ethiopia, Beijing has managed to manipulate a long-brewing conflict between two major African powers to its benefit, slowly replacing the West as the continent’s new kingmaker.
In recent months, China has ruffled feathers from Lake Victoria to Alexandria with its aggressive funding and building of dams in Ethiopia, an aggressive contender for regional hegemony. In August 2012, Kenyan environmental activists urged China to withdraw a 500 million USD investment in Ethiopia’s Omo river dam, charging that energy produced by the dam would result in the draining of Kenya’s Lake Turkana. While it’s no surprise that the activists’ calls failed to ring alarm bells on the banks of the Potomac or Thames, China’s dam building has undoubtedly caught the attention of the West’s allies along the Nile.
In September 2012, the whistleblower website Wikileaks exposed a 2010 message by Egypt’s ambassador to Lebanon stating his country’s intention to attack the Chinese-funded Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile River, the Nile River’s primary artery. That same year, Ethiopia sparked an uproar amongst its Arab neighbors to the north by disregarding a 1929 agreement originally imposed by British colonial rulers that gave Egypt control of 90% of the Nile’s water and veto power over any dam projects which could hamper water supplies.
For Iran and the Assad regime, intermission is over. The swift ending of the Gaza conflict is likely to thrust the bloodshed in Syria and the Iranian nuclear crisis back onto center stage, with an ever-invigorated Western-Arab alliance raising the curtain and directing the spotlight. Yet, in their overly-romantic portrayal of successful U.S. shuttle diplomacy and Egypt’s emergence as a responsible mediator, global punditry has underestimated the Ayatollahs’ continued ability to plunge the Gaza Strip back into chaos at their leisure.
Iran purposefully and undoubtedly fired the first shots of this latest escalation, which began four days prior to Israel’s assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari on November 14. On November 10, militants from the Iranian-backed Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) fired an advanced Kornet missile at an IDF border patrol, igniting four days of hostilities between Israel and other Gaza-based militant groups, primarily Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The use of such a highly accurate weapon was a game changer, prompting the IDF to plan Jabari’s killing soon after as a response.
While alliances between militant groups in the Gaza Strip are about as stable as quicksand, Israel has long maintained that it holds Hamas responsible for any violence emanating from the coastal enclave. This includes attacks from the PRC, whose successful use of a highly-sophisticated Kornet missile underscores just how advanced even fringe militant groups in the Gaza Strip have become under Iranian direction.
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During last week’s Operation Defensive Pillar, Israelis and the world at large witnessed the unprecedented success of the Iron Dome air defense system. After all was said and done, Iron Dome operators successfully shot down more than 87 percent of incoming Grad, Katyusha, and Qassam rockets over Israeli urban centers, potentially saving countless lives.
However, this new capability may cost Israel and its grand strategy for achieving a lasting peace with defensible borders in the long term. Ultimately, the Iron Dome’s success may have limited the Jewish State’s ability to act against terrorist groups, inciting such groups to execute more innovative methods of attack, thus making a sequel for operation Pillar of Defense ever more imminent.
After witnessing the tactical, operational, and strategic advantages the Iron Dome provided during eight days of heavy rocket fire, the debate over how the system affects Israel’s grand strategy continues nevertheless.
On November 14, Libya’s General National Congress (GNC) inaugurated Prime Minister Ali Zidan’s cabinet, ending this phase of Libya’s political turmoil and solidifying the first post-revolutionary government. However, the process has not been without obstacles. Following the October 31 congressional vote to approve the appointments, armed protesters from the obsessively anti-Gaddafi city of Misrata and other revolutionary groups forced their way into the GNC headquarters in Tripoli, clashing with security personnel and even parliamentarians in a chaotic attempt to protest the inclusion of ex-regime figures.
These raids targeting the nascent Libyan government have become frequent occurrences of late, as the GNC attempts to address each of the nation’s disparate interests. While revolutionary militias formed the core of Gaddafi opposition, they now arguably (and ironically) present the greatest risk to post-Gaddafi stability.
Despite the newly elected leader’s calls for national reconciliation and strengthening of Libya’s democracy, Zidan’s cabinet has proven to be a sticking point for these revolutionary militias unhappy with the potential inclusion of Gathafi-era officials and dissatisfied with their regional representation. The approval and inauguration of the cabinet represent positive developments for Libya’s political stability, at a time where numerous security and economic challenges threaten the country’s foundation. Still, public disapproval for both the nominations and the GNC’s affirmative votes underscores the level of popular discontent and the potential that the country could easily destabilize yet again.