Start Deterring Iran Now

Feb. 14 2018

The Iranian drone that entered Israeli airspace over the weekend was reportedly designed in imitation of an American unmanned aircraft captured by Iran in 2011; at the time, the U.S neglected to destroy it, which could have prevented its reverse engineering. To Richard Goldberg, such failures to deter Tehran—this was only one of many during Barack Obama’s presidency—have helped create the current situation where Iran’s forces are stationed across the Middle East and in a position, for instance, to menace Israel. He urges Washington to reverse course:

Now is the time for President Trump to re-establish robust military deterrence toward Iranian expansionism in close collaboration with regional allies. His administration declared [Iran’s] Revolutionary Guard a terrorist entity in October, and he should target key Guard bases and weapons in Syria accordingly. Such an approach could help prevent a larger-scale conflict.

Iran’s leaders tend to avoid direct military confrontation against a superior military power. . . . Furthermore, the mullahs know that if they direct more money into extraterritorial operations, their economic and political situation at home will deteriorate. The Iranian people are already chanting, “Let go of Syria, think about us.” Raising the cost for Iran in Syria would exacerbate internal tensions.

Trump will certainly need to prepare for a range of potential responses from Iran, particularly via proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. But these proxy threats aren’t new—and the benefits far outweigh potential costs. First, Tehran’s strategic calculus would start to change, curtailing risk-taking in the region, enhancing security for U.S. allies over the long run and potentially changing regime behavior in other illicit activities. Second, a U.S. military deterrent would close the so-called “land bridge” that gives Iran an uninterrupted line of influence to the Mediterranean. And that deterrent would undergird Trump’s threats to exit the nuclear deal, which could dramatically increase the likelihood that attempts to fix the deal succeed while significantly reducing the risks of an Iranian escalation should he decide to nix it.

Finally, the United States would reclaim diplomatic leverage over Russia in Syria. If Vladimir Putin wants to maintain a long-term presence and to profit off the country’s reconstruction, he’ll have to clear Iranian forces out of Syria or America and its allies will do it for him.

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More about: Barack Obama, Donald Trump, Iran, Israeli Security, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war

Hamas’s Deadly Escalation at the Gaza Border

Oct. 16 2018

Hamas’s weekly demonstration at the fence separating Gaza from Israel turned bloody last Friday, as operatives used explosives to blow a hole in the barrier and attempted to pass through. The IDF opened fire, killing three and scaring away the rest. Yoni Ben Menachem notes that the demonstrators’ tactics have been growing more aggressive and violent in recent weeks, and the violence is no longer limited to Fridays but is occurring around the clock:

The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000. Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been an increase in the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. At the same time, Hamas supplemented its burning tires with smoke generators at the border to create heavy smoke screens to shield Gazan rioters and allow them to get closer to the border fence and infiltrate into Israel. . . .

[S]ix months of ineffective demonstrations have not achieved anything connected with easing [Israel’s blockade of the Strip]. Therefore, Hamas has decided to increase military pressure on Israel. [Its] ultimate goal has not changed: the complete removal of the embargo; until this is achieved, the violent demonstrations at the border fence will continue.

Hamas’s overall objective is to take the IDF by surprise by blowing up the fence at several points and infiltrating into Israeli territory to harm IDF soldiers or abduct them and take them into the Gaza Strip. . . . The precedent of the 2011 deal in which one Israeli soldier was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has strengthened the feeling within Hamas that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for bringing back captured soldiers alive. . . . Hamas also believes that the campaign is strengthening its position in Palestinian society and is getting the international community to understand that the Palestinian problem is still alive. . . .

The Hamas leadership is not interested in an all-out military confrontation with Israel. The Gaza street is strongly opposed to this, and the Hamas leadership understands that a new war with Israel will result in substantial damage to the organization. Therefore, the idea is to continue with the “Return March” campaign, which will not cost the organization too much and will maintain its rule without paying too high a price for terror.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security