Friday, April 11, 2014

Study: Iran’s military capabilities do not match its ambitions

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
April 11, 2014

Despite Tehran’s efforts to export its Islamic revolutionary ideology, history shows lack of follow-through.

A general view of the Arak heavy-water project, 190 km southwest of Tehran January 15, 2011. Photo: Reuters

The Iranian regime is cautious about using its military capabilities because they do not match its ambitions, a new study says.

Despite Tehran’s efforts to export its Islamic revolutionary ideology, history shows that the lack of following through with its belligerent rhetoric “is due as much to experience as to realism about its own limits,” according to Shahram Chubin.

Chubin is a nonresident senior associate at the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace organization and the former director of studies at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

“But where Iran excels is in the more subtle areas of indirect diplomacy, menace and intrigue,” he said.

For example, Chubin told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that regarding the war in Syria, “Iran started slowly and then found it was pushing against an open door and stepped up its activities once it saw that the US would not react.”

In the article, titled “Is Iran a Military Threat?” and published in theSurvival: Global Politics and Strategy journal, Chubin stated that Iran had little war experience in the past 150 years, until the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, which it helped provoke but did not start.

Iran has no strong military tradition and has focused on internal security and stability, he argued.

“Tehran underestimated the nationalism of Iraqi Shi’ites and overestimated the Iranian people’s willingness to sacrifice,” he said of the Iran-Iraq War.

To read the entire article click here.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Israel always needs to be one-step ahead in case Assad perseveres

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
April 10, 2014

Latest tide in Syrian civil war has analysts predicting regime forces may continue to retake lost areas, forcing Israel to think about how its strategy towards the country may need to be altered.

Syria's President Bashar Assad speaks during an interview with Fox News, September 19, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/SANA/Handout

The latest tide in the fighting in Syria has analysts predicting that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces may continue to retake lost areas and solidify the regime’s hold on power. It would thereby force Israel to think about how its strategy towards the country may need to be altered.

This may have forced the US hand in moving to increase training and small-arms shipments to Syrian rebels based out of Jordan, two US security sources told Reuters on Friday.

With the Syrian opposition fighting amongst itself, and with radical Islamist groups taking the lead in the fighting, it appears that the US move is an effort to prevent the opposition from falling completely into more extremist hands.

However, it is doubtful the aid planned would be enough to switch the tide of the fighting to Assad’s favor.

Consequently, Israeli experts are beginning to think about long-term effects and what an Assad victory would mean.

Israel might find itself with Assad winning and therefore it needs to prepare psychologically for the fact that he might seek revenge or tighten his alliance with Iran and Hezbollah, Prof.

Eyal Zisser, an expert on Syria from the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, said at a conference last week at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.

Zisser said that the Western – and Gulf-backed rebel Free Syrian Army could collapse sooner than we expect.

To read the entire article click here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Agriculture Ministry claims first breakthrough to resettle Beduin

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
April 7, 2014

Ministry comes to agreement with more than half of 900 families of tribe settled illegally in Negev; must relocate within 45 days or face evacuation.

Beduin women in the Negev Photo: HADAS PARUSH

The Agriculture Ministry said it has reached a resettlement agreement with more than half the families of a Beduin tribe illegally living in the Negev.

The agreement, which the ministry called its first breakthrough since the Beduin issue was transferred to it, comes after two years of negotiations and applies to the residents settled near Bir Hadaj, south of Beersheba.

According to the agreement, the tribe of Azzama, made up of 900 families, will be given the option to move to a designated area for resettlement.

The families are each to be given a plot of 0.4 to 0.5 hectares (1 acre), under the condition that they move within 45 days. At the end of this period, residents who refuse to resettle will face enforcement measures.

Agriculture Ministry director- general Rami Cohen told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Monday that negotiations had been ongoing for two years but no agreement was reached until now.

Over the past two months government officials met with the Beduin and convinced 486 Beduin families out of 900 to agree to the deal.

To read the entire article click here.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Experts split over anti-nuclear-weapons fatwa in Iran

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
April 7, 2014

Middle East Media Research Institute says Iranian supreme leader never issued an official fatwa against nuclear weapons.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photo: REUTERS

When US Secretary of State John Kerry said last month, in a Nowruz interview with the Voice of America’s Persian service, that he and President Barack Obama were “grateful” that Iran’s leader had issued a fatwa banning nuclear weapons, he rekindled a debate about whether the fatwa actually existed.

According to the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei never issued an official fatwa against nuclear weapons, at least not one for which there is any official record.

Other experts told The Jerusalem Post, on the other hand, that a fatwa can be oral and does not have to be written down.

MEMRI argues that the Iranians are lying about the fatwa and that the Obama administration is endorsing it, not necessarily because it believes it, but because it thinks it could be useful for pushing the Iranians toward a deal.

Several former senior US government officials are involved with the organization, among them former CIA directors Michael Hayden and James Woolsey, and Elliot Abrams, a former special assistant to president George W. Bush.

“There have been reports that Khamenei issued a fatwa prohibiting nuclear weapons, yet there is no agreed-upon date, place of where it was said, who heard him say it nor the exact phrase used,” Ayelet Savyon, head of the Iran desk at MEMRI, told the Post on Thursday.

Furthermore, she said MEMRI had searched through all the fatwas listed on all the official websites of Khamenei, including his fatwa website, and it was not listed anywhere.

To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Saudi-owned paper defends decision to not allow ‘Post’ reporter entry to country

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
April 2, 2014

Al-Hayat columnist says kingdom was right in denying entry to representative from “extremist, racist right-wing Israeli newspaper.”

Jerusalem Post Washington bureau chief Michael Wilner Photo: Courtesy

A columnist for the Saudi owned paper Al-Hayat defended the decision to not allow a representative from an “extremist, racist right-wing Israeli newspaper” to enter the kingdom.

Last week, Riyadh denied a visa to Michael Wilner, The Jerusalem Post’s Washington bureau chief.

Wilner was the only journalist denied access to the president’s trip, despite firmly-worded requests from US National Security Adviser Susan Rice and assistant to the president Tony Blinken to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir.

Wilner, a Jewish American, works for the Israeli English-language newspaper, but does not hold Israeli citizenship and has never lived in the Jewish state.

“The Saudi stance is not going to change” and the Saudi king “will not accept in his country a representative of an extremist, racist right-wing Israeli newspaper,” wrote Jihad El-Khazen, a columnist for the pan-Arab London-based daily.

To read the entire article click here.

What does Erdogan’s AKP election victory say about Turkish society?

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
April 2, 2014

Most observers see election as a big victory for Erdogan; Former Pentagon official: Is Turkey still part of the free world?

Turkish PM, Tayyip Erdogan Photo: REUTERS

The Turkish people gave Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK Party a victory in local elections, throwing their support behind the man who has increasingly become dictatorial.

Erdogan has clamped down on the press, internet, and weeded out his opponents in the police and prosecutor’s office after corruption charges broke in December. And despite this, his party still gained widespread support despite polarizing Turkish society.

The growing fracture was evident on Tuesday as thousands gathered in Ankara to contest the results and demand a recount.

“Is Turkey still part of the free world?” asked Harold Rhode, a senior fellow at the New-York-based Gatestone Institute and a former adviser at the Pentagon toldThe Jerusalem Post.

“The Turkish people have spoken and what they have they told us is that they don’t care if their prime minister shuts down Twitter and social networks,” said Rhode adding that “the question have to ask yourself is do they believe in freedom – the right to see what they want and do what they want.”

“What does this overwhelming victory for Erdogan tell us about the health of Turkish democracy?” he said.

It demonstrates that many Turks are prepared to accept limits on their freedom in order to support Erdogan, said Rhode.

To read the entire article click here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Report: Syria deploys anti-aircraft missile batteries along Turkish border

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
March 31, 2014

"Syria is ready to deal with any hostile Turkish plane that enters Syria’s airspace," Syrian army sources say.

Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar Assad. Photo: REUTERS/George Ourfalian

Syria deployed anti-aircraft missile batteries along the Turkish border in what seems to be a response to an incident last week when a Turkish fighter jet shot down a Syrian plane, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported.

Syria deployed the anti-aircraft weapons and “is ready to deal with any hostile Turkish plan that enters Syria’s airspace,” sources from the Syrian army and Hezbollah told Al-Rai on Monday.

Meanwhile, Syria’s Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi criticized Turkey in an interview on Syrian TV Sunday evening, saying that the country is facilitating the continual entry of armed terrorist groups into the Kassab area in Latakia, the Syrian Arab News Agency SANA reported on Monday.

Latakia is a stronghold of President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Zoubi accused some Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey of backing terrorism.

Friday, March 28, 2014

At confab, experts, former gov't officials voice pessimism on Mideast peace talks

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
March 28, 2014

The general tone at the Bar Ilan U. conference was that no agreement is currently possible between Israelis, Palestinians.

Maj.-Gen. (Res.) Yaacov Amidror (left) and BESA Director Prof. Efraim Inbar at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Photo: ISRAEL BARDEGO/BARDEGO MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS

Israeli experts and former high ranking government officials voiced pessimism regarding the chances for any agreement with the Palestinians, at a conference Thursday at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA).

The conference, titled “Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations: Whereto?”, seemed to conclude that the current reality dictates that no agreement is possible and the best that can be hoped for is some kind of step-by-step agreement that does not seek to solve the fundamental points of conflict.

Efraim Inbar, director of BESA, said there would be no peace agreement, but that many states want relations with Israel because of their interests. For example, Asian Muslim countries want relations with Israel, but are not too concerned about the Palestinian issue, he said.

The Palestinian economy is better than in much of the Arab world. “The economy of Gaza is better than Egypt,” Inbar said.

The US’s turning attention to Asia does not help the Palestinians.

“Our situation is good,” he said, and the rest of the Arab world is in crisis.

Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan, former IDF deputy chief of staff and National Security adviser to the prime minister, said that the Palestinians will not sign an agreement that says it is the end of conflict.

When asked by The Jerusalem Post if he is for or against releasing the fourth group of terrorists to keep the peace talks going, he said he is against it: “No more confidence building measures.”

To read the entire article click here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Egypt to build anti-terror fence in Sinai

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
March 27, 2014

The move is meant to isolate the coastal city from others in the Sinai region and to control entry and exit points, according to Egyptian media.

Egyptian soldiers keep guard in Sinai Photo: REUTERS

Egypt began constructing its own security barrier a few days ago around the north Sinai city of El-Arish in order to prevent terrorism.

The move is meant to isolate the coastal city from others in the Sinai region and to control entry and exit points, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm reported on Wednesday.

El-Arish is located approximately 30 miles from the Rafah crossing to Gaza.

This comes after Israel successfully built its own security barrier on its border with Egypt, which greatly helped stem infiltration.

Security sources said the fence would encircle the city, allowing access through 10 entrance points. The gates will be equipped with surveillance cameras and electronic devices to detect explosives.

Leaders of some of the tribes and other residents of the city, who did not want to be identified, criticized the plan for not seeking to develop the city and to consider the needs of its residents, and instead only dealing with security solutions, according to the report.

They also warned that the barrier would affect the economy of the city.

To read the entire article click here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pan-Arab unity not evident at this week’s Kuwait City summit

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
March 26, 2014

Nationalism still seen as trumping political ideology; On almost every issue, the Arab states are divided on how to proceed, whether it be on Syria, Iraq, Egypt or on how to deal with Iran.

Foreign ministers of the Arab League countries meet in Cairo March, 9, 2014. Photo: REUTERS

Pan-Arabists claim that Arabs belong to one nation, and Arab summits tend to play lip service to such lofty ideological rhetoric, though it mostly rings hollow.

Presenting this line, Kuwait’s emir and the host of this week’s Arab League summit, Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, said Tuesday, “The dangers around us are enormous and we will not move towards joint Arab action without our unity and without casting aside our differences.”

However, on almost every issue, the Arab states are divided on how to proceed, whether it be on Syria, Iraq, Egypt or on how to deal with Iran.

For example, Qatar signaled its irritation on Tuesday with Iraq’s accusation that it backed insurgents fighting Baghdad’s rule.

“It is about time for Iraq to get out of the cycle of rifts and violence, which cannot be achieved by sidelining segments of the population, or accusing it of terrorism, if they demanded equality and participation,” said Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Because of the divisions among the Gulf states, the US canceled a meeting scheduled for later this week between President Barack Obama and Gulf leaders, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Pan-Arabism, Arab unity and Arab nationalism are terms that have been used to describe the modern Middle East, but perhaps the latter is the most accurate lens among them to view events.

In the early 20th century, the majority of Arabs still defined themselves according to their tribe or religious group, despite borrowing from Europe the notion of language as a basis for national identity.

To read the entire article click here.

Hungary tells ‘Post’ its ambassador to Lebanon did not praise Hezbollah

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
March 26, 2014

Budapest says ambassador only attended the exhibition as part of his work as a diplomat.

Hungary’s ambassador to Lebanon denies a report that he praised Hezbollah, the Hungarian Foreign Ministry told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

The Post reported on Monday that the ambassador visited a Hezbollah monument while on a “jihad tour” in south Lebanon and “expressed his admiration at Hezbollah’s great achievement for Lebanon, at liberating the land and the people,” as reported by Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV on February 28, according to a transcript provided by MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute).

“Let me inform you that Al-Manar television made the false allegation that Hungary’s ambassador to Lebanon, László Váradi, had made a statement during his visit to a museum in Lebanon. Ambassador Váradi actually paid a visit to a museum in southern Lebanon, which displayed an exhibition open to all visitors,” Gabor Kaleta, the press chief of the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, wrote in an email to the Post.

“The Hungarian ambassador attended the exhibition as part of his work as a diplomat to gain insight into the life of his host country, but he did not make any statements during his visit,” Kaleta said, adding that Varadi will ask Al-Manar “to issue a public statement rectifying the error.”

To read the entire article click here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Egyptian court sends unmistakable message to Brotherhood: Stop insurgency or die

by Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post
March 25, 2014

Experts doubtful about veracity of report that secret negotiations are ongoing between the government and the Brotherhood.

A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood faces Egyptian police in Cairo. Photo: REUTERS

An Egyptian court sentenced 529 members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood to death on Monday, sending an unmistakable message: Stop the insurgency or die.

Even though the sentences are unlikely to be carried out, due to appeals and foreign pressure, the quick and harsh ruling represents the mood of the regime and its supporters – crush the Brotherhood so as not to give its members any way to weasel their way back to positions of political power.

After all, the military-backed government took power in a coup, and Arab political culture and history dictate that the opposition will seek to harm the regime in any way it can.

The government is in a post-coup phase, trying to bring order and shift to improving the economic situation, but the Islamic insurgency will not go away.

Look at the upheavals taking place in other Arab countries. There is hardly one that is not engulfed in turmoil, tensions or war.

Islamic history shows that rulers who lead with a strong hand, even if they may be oppressive, are preferable to chaos.

“For their part, the Sunnis were obliged to compromise on their definitions of what constitutes a legitimate and just ruler and to accept a series of usurpers and tyrants whose only claim to power was the possession of sufficient military force to seize and hold it,” the historian Bernard Lewis wrote inIslam and the West.

“Accepting them meant recognizing their legitimacy in terms of Shari’a [Islamic law], and this in turn meant that obedience to them was a religious obligation, disobedience a sin as well as a crime. Tyranny, according to a common saying, is better than anarchy,” he wrote.