Popular Arab Hatred of Iran May Be Eclipsing Hatred of Israel

Feb. 26 2018

During the recent clash in Syria between Israel and Iran, Al Jazeera asked its Arabic-language Twitter followers where their sympathies lay. Some 12,800 people—56 percent of the respondents—voiced their support for Israel. While this survey is hardly scientific, writes Evelyn Gordon, it points to something important:

As one Syrian wrote [in response to Al Jazeera’s query], “no Syrian in his right mind” would support Israel in most situations, “but you will find millions of Syrians queuing up with the blue devils”—his charming term for Israel—“against the fascist sectarian regime that has surpassed all the monsters on earth in killing Syrians.” . . .

That most Arab governments now consider Iran a greater enemy than Israel isn’t news; their behind-the-scenes cooperation with Israel against Tehran has become an open secret. . . . What Al Jazeera’s informal poll shows is that . . . it’s not just in Arab capitals that Iran is now more widely loathed and feared than Israel, but also on the Arab street. . . . If Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians were still their top concern, they would instead be rooting for Iran against Israel—just as most of the Arab world did back in 2006 when Israel fought a month-long war with Iran’s wholly-owned Lebanese subsidiary, Hizballah.

This sea change in Arab attitudes has serious foreign-policy implications for anyone who calls himself a realist. . . . [F]or any realist who holds that America should align itself with Arab concerns because [there are more Arabs than Israelis in the Middle East, and Arab states have most of the region’s oil], the top priority now shouldn’t be another fruitless Israeli-Palestinian peace process but reining in Iran’s malignant behavior. . . .

As for all the self-proclaimed realists who remain fixated on Israel despite the change in Arab attitudes that has destroyed their main argument, perhaps it’s time to drop the “realist” label. The more accurate term for people who see Jews as the root of all evil under any and all circumstances is “anti-Semite.”

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More about: Arab World, Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Syrian civil war

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey