Iran Plans a Maritime Expansion

Dec. 28 2016

Last month, the chief of staff of the Iranian military publicly stated his government’s intention to set up naval bases abroad, possibly in Syria and Yemen. Although it is difficult to know the extent to which this statement is bluster, a reflection of an actual plan, or an indication of a project already underway, Ephraim Kam argues that it would behoove Israel and the U.S. to take it seriously:

The [chief of staff’s] remarks . . . derive primarily from Iran’s fundamental hegemonic aspirations in the Middle East and, in some respects, beyond. . . . Although the Iranian naval fleet still uses partially outdated equipment, it poses a significant threat to its rivals in the Gulf region, due to its rocket and mine-laying capabilities and due to Iran’s complete control over the entire length of the eastern shore of the Gulf. . . . The prevailing assessment is that the Iranian fleet is incapable of blocking navigation in the Gulf over an extended period, due to United States capabilities in breaking through any Iranian obstacle, but Iran is capable of disrupting marine traffic in the Gulf with rockets, mines, and shore-to-ship artillery fire. . . .

If . . . Iran succeeds in establishing naval bases on the shores of Syria and Yemen, this will have troubling implications, mainly for Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, as well as for Egypt and Turkey. It is unclear whether Iran is thinking in terms of establishing a permanent base—as per the chief of staff’s remarks—or whether at issue is a temporary and limited presence and the receipt of port services. The worst-case scenario is the construction of a permanent base in Syria, which connotes a permanent naval arm in the Mediterranean Sea and an Iranian military presence in proximity to Israel, while creating a threat to, and establishing deterrence against, Israel.

Moreover, the establishment of a naval base in Syria will enable Iran to transport regular supplies and other assistance to Hizballah, without being dependent upon overland convoys or aerial transport through Syria, Iraq, and/or Turkey, and will serve its intelligence-collection needs. The establishment of a naval base in Yemen will exacerbate the Iranian threat from the south against Saudi Arabia, and will provide Iran with the ability to pose a threat at the entrance to the Red Sea as well as a capacity to affect the navigation of ships toward the Suez Canal and the Gulf of Eilat in the event of a confrontation. . . .

The establishment of the naval bases relatively close to Israel gives the Jewish state the possibility of destroying them if necessary, for example, in retaliation for an Iranian provocation. At the same time, any military operation against an Iranian naval base in Syria—whether overt or covert—is liable to trigger an Iranian response, either directly or through Hizballah.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Middle East, Naval strategy, Politics & Current Affairs

 

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy