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What a Recent Assassination Attempt Says about the Coming Palestinian Succession Struggle

March 20 2018

On March 13, the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and its security chief Majid Faraj were in the Gaza Strip on the first visit by high-ranking West Bank officials since the 2007 Hamas takeover. They were greeted with an assassination attempt. To Eran Lerman, the incident seems like a portent of the violent struggle for succession that is likely to follow the death of the aging, and possibly very ill, Mahmoud Abbas:

The attempt to assassinate both Faraj and Hamdallah in Gaza can serve as a rude wake-up call to all who expected the transition period to be orderly. . . .

[A]t the political level, what we end up facing in Ramallah is a weak, divided leadership driven to radical positions by internal rivalries. (Although it’s worth noting that this is what everyone thought would happen in Egypt when Sadat took over in 1970.) There does not seem to be much that Israel or the U.S. can do to reach a better outcome, and no number of sweeteners thrown in by the American government, as it puts the final touches on an administration peace plan, will bring about a different outcome. The “deal of the century” may therefore need to wait . . . until a younger, more effective, and more flexible generation takes over at key positions and can honestly look at the necessary compromises.

Until then, what Israel will need to apply—both in the West Bank and vis-à-vis Gaza—is a sobering dose of sophisticated conflict management. It would be best if Israel would avoid provocative political actions such as partial annexations. Meanwhile, the U.S. administration should focus on shoring up the Palestinian security forces, and on making the rising crop of younger Palestinian [leaders] acutely aware of what they can legitimately expect (a workable two-state solution with territorial contiguity) and what they can’t (total withdrawal with minimal swaps, the majority of settlers uprooted, some recognition of the “right of return,” carving up the living city of Jerusalem). This would establish a new paradigm for a new generation of leaders.

Read more at American Jewish Committee

More about: Fatah, Gaza Strip, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy