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Enforcing the Ceasefire May Be America’s Way Forward in Syria

Aug. 18 2017

Taking advantage of the July ceasefire agreement, which applies in certain areas of southern Syria, Bashar al-Assad and his allies have been consolidating and expanding their control in other parts of the country. What’s more, writes Dennis Ross, the Russians “have agreed to several previous ceasefires or cessations of hostilities and have enforced none of them,” suggesting that they, and forces loyal to Assad, might resume fighting elsewhere when it suits them. If, with Russian support, Iran-backed, pro-Assad groups expand their influence, they will no doubt threaten U.S. interests and even undermine attempts to prevent the resurgence of Islamic State. Ross explains how the U.S. might be able to limit Russia and Iran from further taking advantage of the situation:

The Israelis have made it clear they won’t let Iran open up a . . . front against them in Syria. Maybe this will deter the Iranians; at a minimum, they will test and probe to see just how serious the Israelis are. Unfortunately, they are far less likely to be deterred from trying to position themselves along the Jordanian border, convinced this will give them the means to destabilize the Hashemite kingdom and threaten the Gulf states from yet another direction. . . .

[T]he ceasefire agreement is supposed to keep the Syrian regime and the Iranians 40 kilometers from the Jordanian border. [This], however, depends on the Russians stopping the Syrians and Iranians. If the past is any guide, they won’t, unless, of course, they decide that this will extend the conflict and increase their costs.

The Trump administration could make it clear that there is a cost. If it were prepared to say the U.S. will enforce these ceasefire areas and buffer zones if the Russians don’t, Putin would pay attention. Not only would it signal that the U.S. was going to be an arbiter of events in Syria—something Putin seeks to avoid—but it would also mean we would act to punish the Syrian regime for its transgressions.

One of Putin’s objectives has been to show that the Russians stand by and protect their friends. He is not going to want to have to protect further Syrian efforts at expansion if it costs the Russians, and he is also likely to be leery of having the insurgency re-emerge after seemingly containing it. One way for the U.S. to punish the regime would be to resume lethal assistance to Syrian opposition groups. That may seem very unlikely after the Trump administration has ended such assistance, but if the Russians appear to be retreating from the ceasefire agreement, this could be an option for the administration.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Jordan, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Why Israeli Arabs Should Drop Their Political Parties

Sept. 20 2017

Even as Israel’s Arab citizens enjoy rights, freedoms, and economic opportunities unrivaled in the Arab world, their political leadership is more intent on undermining the Jewish state than on serving their actual interests. Moshe Arens, a former Israeli defense minister, comments. (Free registration may be required.)

[T]he Knesset members of the [Arab] Joint List have nothing but criticism for Israel and praise for its enemies, be they Iran, President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, or Palestinian terrorists. . . . Although spanning the ideological spectrum from Communism (aside from the North Koreans, the only Communists still around), the Muslim Brotherhood (called the Islamic Movement in Israel), and Baathists (the Balad party), they are united in their hatred of Israel. Naturally, they do not call for Arab integration into Israeli society.

Those who oppose the polygamy rampant in the Arab community oppose Israeli measures to curb it. Those who are against the abuse of women and so-called honor killings think these are “local problems” that should be handled by the Arabs themselves. Nor do they want the Israel police to handle the crime running wild in Israel’s Arab towns. Keep Israel out of your lives, is their common motto. They oppose young Arabs volunteering for either military or civilian national service. . . .

Within Israel’s Arab community there is a struggle between those who insist on rejecting everything Israel stands for while supporting its enemies and those who want to integrate into Israeli society and take advantage of the opportunities it offers. . . . Can Israel’s Arabs become a beacon of democracy and modernity for the Arab world, or will they provide proof that Arabs are not yet prepared to enter the 21st century? . . .

[E]ach year, growing numbers of young Arabs volunteer for national service and join the ranks of Israel’s military and police. At the moment, the only way this trend can express itself politically is for these individuals to drop their support for the Joint List in favor of Israel’s existing political parties, and for these parties to welcome Arabs into their ranks.

Read more at Haaretz

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Joint List