Strategic Analysis: Don’t Hold Your Breath For Iran Sanctions
On July 25, in a rare public acknowledgement, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shed light on the detrimental impact of international sanctions on Iranian society. During a meeting with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his political rival, Speaker Ali Larijani, Khamenei called for an end to infighting over Iran’s deteriorating economy, stressing the need for national unity.” The reality is that there are problems, however you must not blame them on this or that party,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by Fars News Agency. “Instead you must solve those problems with unity.”
Pundits and politicians in the West should be in no rush to laud this admittance as a sign that the Iranian regime’s resilience in pursuit of nuclear capability has begun to waver. For those in Jerusalem grappling with a historic decision, sanctions have failed to achieve their baseline goal- suspension of the Iranian nuclear program. Continue reading Strategic Analysis: Don’t Hold Your Breath For Iran Sanctions→
Strategic Analysis: Israel’s Anti-Missile Systems: The Best Defense is Once Again a Good Defense
Since the late 1980s, Israeli defenseexperts maintained that short to medium range missiles and rockets would be the dominant weapons threatening the Israeli home-front in the future. This notion materialized during the 1991 Gulf War, when 39 Soviet made Iraqi Scuds exploded throughout Israeli cities and towns. After this watershed moment, various Arab regimes and militant organizations began to stock pile such missiles and rockets in anticipation of any future confrontation with Israel. To counter the perceived threat, Israel developed a new defense doctrine, one that is pro-active and multi-tiered.
Israel’s first system was the single-stage testing platform Arrow I missile, which was later developed into the dual stage Arrow II. This system has an operational range of 90-148 kilometers and a flight ceiling of 50-60 kilometers. Both the range and flight ceiling are dependent on the ballistic profile of the incoming threat. Testing of the system indicates that it is capable of intercepting 90% of incoming threats.
In 2009, the Israeli aerospace industry began to develop the Arrow III, which is capable of operating as an exo-atmospheric interceptor that contains a maneuverable warhead. Due to its capacity to operate in the exo-atmosphere, it is supposedly able to intercept an incoming threat before it reenters the Earth’s atmosphere.
The latest bloodshed in Cairo underscores worrying trends and emerging realities regarding Egypt’s internal security and political future. The recent clashes in the vicinity of Cairo’s Abbasseya Square illustrate the readiness of prominent political groups to forcefully impose their views, demands, and ideologies as they battle for the country’s new identity. Sadly for Egypt, this process has just begun and is not likely to end anytime soon; indeed, the bloody volatility in Egypt has not subsided since the events of January 2011.
Under these circumstances – from a security point of view – what is most important to note here is how the volatile political situation directly translates into an erosion of the security condition on the ground. Violence in downtown Cairo is often centered on political disputes, involving opposing factions, who are more prone to resolve their differences by force, as they believe this the most optimum course of action to achieve their goals.
The Mali coup d’état: The rise of a new Islamist state?
After almost a century of fighting and with little to show for, the traditionally nomadic and ethnic Tuareg people of North Africa are suddenly on the verge of accomplishing one of their premier goals- securing the territory needed to establish the state of Azawad within today’s northern Mali. The Tuaregs, who number some 1.2 million people in the region, are one of the many distinct ethnic groups who continue to shake North Africa’s geo-political future. In doing so, the Tuaregs have utilized their primary military front, the secular-nationalist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) to accomplish their military objectives. Furthermore, their latest offensive and the subsequent seizure of large swaths of territory has surprised many with the speed and firepower deployed. To that point, their latest gains are primarily due to two major developments – the fall of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya and the alliance between Islamists and Tuaregs in Mali.
Even before Mali started hitting the headlines this past week, town after town along the northern Mali-Algeria border began to fall to the Tuareg-Islamist insurgents. Moreover, some 200,000 people have been displaced in the last three months alone. To that point, Malian soldiers – mainly ethnic sub-Saharan Africans – who once had the upper hand against the formerly lightly armed Tuareg insurgents were now facing a heavily armed, reinforced, and highly motivated fighting force. Simply put, the Mali army found itself outgunned and undersupplied to fight against a determined enemy in one of the harshest environments on the planet. Since the rebellion began in January, the mounting military defeats pressed the country’s junior officers and soldiers to seek a solution. Therefore, the now disgruntled and demoralized army decided to launch their coup d’état and seized power on March 22 from the Western-backed, now deposed President. Since then, little has gone the junta’s way, as the mutineers, including their leader – US military trained Captain Sanogo – were undoubtedly surprised, not only by the international outcry against them, but also the rebel offensive in the north that has seized territory roughly the size of France in just one week. Continue reading The Mali coup d’état: The rise of a new Islamist state?→
Iraq’s rising Shia fundamentalism
As a conservative Muslim nation, Iraq, is by and large opposed to Western ideals and movements deemed contrary or heretical to Islam. One Western export, the “emo” subculture – an American-born hardcore punk music movement – is considered almost synonymous with being gay in Iraq, a label that carries severe risksin the Muslim world. While the targeting of “emos” throughout the world and especially in Iraq is not new, the intensity and brazenness with which Iraqi Shiite militias are currently eliminating them is telling of a broader development – the increasing aspirations to violently enforce an autocratic and fundamentalist Shiite state in Iraq.
Over the past few weeks, a surge in brutal extra-judicial killings of Iraqi youth suspected of being affiliated with the “emo” subculture has shocked human rights groups in the country and around the world. The withdrawal of American troops in December and overall support coming from a sympathetic Shiite government in Baghdad have facilitated an upsurge in vigilante violence against the aforementioned subculture. The security vacuum left by America’s troop withdrawal, along with an increase in religious fundamentalism, have created a climate of fear for anyone who is suspected to be involved or affiliated with the group.
One tribe’s cooperation with various militant groups will continue to challenge stability in some of Africa’s most vital nations
By Jay R.
Since the downfall of the Gaddafi regime in Libya early last year, weapons proliferation throughout the Middle East and North Africa is on the rise and of primary concern. It is now widely known that masses of Libyan weaponry have made their way into the hands of such militant groups as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Nigeria’s Boko Haram, and Somalia’s al-Shabaab. Libyan weaponry has traveled as far as the Gaza Strip and appeared in hand of militant groups there.
With the recent unrest in Somalia and Nigeria, the above-mentioned groups have been deeply reported on. However, one tribe, heavily active in Africa’s Sahel desert region is operating under the radar in comparison. The Tuareg tribe, composed of 1.2 million people, is historically nomadic. They have long roamed northwest Africa, primarily through the nations of Algeria, Libya, Mali, and Niger. Today, the group has become sedentary, the result of which has seen the Tuaregs actively engage such countries, particularly the Malian government, for stakes in power sharing and wealth benefits from the country’s natural resources.
The ongoing battle for the Tuareg’s perceived rights most recently manifested in the two-year Tuareg Rebellion in Mali and Niger from 2007-2009. This rebellion was ended through a series of peace talks and amnesty allowances; however, the conflict persists to this day as the Malian government regularly takes on the Tuareg militants along the Nigerian border.
Getting the oil flowing again is a basic requirement for the success of any future government.
Even as fears of continued factional conflict continue to attract media attention, the question of economic stability and sustainability in Yemen has barely received the consideration needed to avoid a spiral into the status of a failed state. The interim government in the country faces difficult political challenges in the weeks ahead as it prepares for what many observers are hoping will be the country’s first free election. The head of the interim government, Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, is already facing calls to resign as protests continue to rage in the streets of the capital city of Sanaa with demonstrators facing off against forces loyal to now supposedly deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The destruction brought on by the nearly-ten-month uprising against the regime of Saleh has wreaked havoc not only on the delicate political system but also on the nation’s oil production infrastructure that provides the lifeblood for the economy. Oil exports are responsible for somewhere between 60-70% of government revenues and 90% of overall national exports. Continue reading Yemen’s Greatest Challenge→
Upcoming naval exercises are the Islamic Republic’s language of choice for highlighting the detrimental impact of a Western military strike on the global economy.
Iranian officials announced that their armed forces will commence a 10-day naval exercise on December 24, stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden. The announcement comes after several US defense officials issued strong warnings against the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions, while Saudi Arabia announced its intentions to form a unified foreign policy for Gulf Cooperation States. In addition, Israel has announced increased military cooperation on a number of fronts, including renewed cooperation with the Turkish air force, and large scale anti-missile drills with United States scheduled for the Spring of 2012.
The upcoming maneuvers are meant as a message against the West and its regional allies, who in recent days have increased their rhetoric against the Islamic Republic. Naval exercises, missile drills, and land maneuvers are common forms of response after opponents make provocative statements. Continue reading What’s Behind the Iranian Naval Drills→
The Saudi Confederacy Proposal: Have the lines been drawn?
By Jay R.
The agreement of nearly every Arab gulf state to the Saudi’s confederacy proposal highlights their concerns over the Islamic Republic’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
When the Arab peoples aligned with the British against their Ottoman rulers during the First World War, they did so under British assurances given to King Faisal that in return, the Arabs would receive their independence in the form of their own sovereign kingdom. The kingdom was to span from Turkey’s southern border in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south, and bound by Persia in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. These Arab aspirations were dashed, however, when they discovered the Sykes-Pikot treaty, in which Britain and France had secretly agreed to divide the Arabian territorial spoils amongst themselves.
It is largely because of this British-French agreement that the borders of the greater Middle East are abundant with unnaturally straight lines. There have been previous attempts by these nations to break these perceived artificial boundaries, most notably by Egypt and Syria with their formation of the United Arab Republic, and the two’s confederation with North Yemen to form the United Arab States. Throughout these attempts, which took place from 1958 to 1961, there were even hopes of Iraq joining their ranks. However, the experiment was short lived as Gammal Abdul Nasser, the Egyptian leader over the confederation, failed to institute a fitting political system for the new administration, resulting in Syria’s secession through military coup, and the Republic’s ultimate demise. Continue reading The Saudi Confederacy Proposal: Have the lines been drawn?→
Why Turkey is Betting Big on the Syrian Uprising
By Daniel N.
A new Syrian regime sympathetic to Turkey, would plug the last whole in Turkey’s quest for regional hegemony.
The Syrian conflict is entering its tenth monthwith Assad’s grip on power largely intact. As opposed to Libya, Egypt, and even Yemen, the international community has been largely reluctant to pressure the Assad regime to end the violence, while the opposition itself has struggled to gain legitimacy amongst the Arab League as a viable alternative current leadership.
To their credit, the West and the Arab world are justified in their hesitation to intervene in Syria. Unlike Libya’s Qaddafi, Assad is closely backed by Iran, as well as Lebanon’s most powerful militia, Hizbullah. In addition, Syria’s sharp sectarian divides between Allawites, Sunni’s, and Kurds, threaten a post-revolution civil war on Iraq’s western border.
Needless to say, the exiled Syrian National Council (SNC) seems unconnected to events taking place within the country, unable to influence the insurgent Free Syrian Army, which has overtaken the spotlight from the opposition’s peaceful protest campaign. Amidst the hesitation of the Arab world and the west to take any real action, Turkey has emerged as the most outspoken critic of the Assad Regime, despite the previously warm ties enjoyed by the two nations.
Since the conflict first erupted in Syria’s rural towns, the Turkish government, let by Premier Recep Tayyep Erdogan, has constantly called for Assad to step down, pushed for sanctions, and even hinted at military intervention in the form of a “Humanitarian buffer zone.” In addition to hosting the Syrian National Council, it is widely rumored that insurgents from the Free Syrian Army are staging their attacks from Turkish territory under the knowledge of the military.
Despite the risks, Turkey above all other nations stands to benefit from regime change in Syria. Since the days of the Ottoman Empire, Syria has served as the Turk’s gateway to the Arab world, its territory constantly remaining firmly within the Empire’s grip as it grew and shrank in size elsewhere. Continue reading Why Turkey is Betting Big on the Syrian Uprising→