The U.S. May Be Poised to Give Iran the Missing Link in Its “Land Bridge”

Aug. 15 2018

For several years, Western analysts have warned that the Islamic Republic plans to use its intervention in the Syrian civil war, together with its fight against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, to establish an overland route connecting its own territory to Lebanon and the Golan. If the plan succeeds, Tehran would have the unrestricted ability to send troops and materiel to Israel’s borders, magnifying the threat currently posed by Hizballah. Alexandra Gutowski fears that a current American campaign against an IS stronghold in eastern Syria might be abetting this strategy:

[The U.S.-led coalition’s] airstrikes indicate that Islamic State maintains a robust presence in Abu Kamal, a critical position along the Syria-Iraq border that Iran seeks to control. . . . Curiously, despite these concentrated strikes, U.S.-backed forces will not be conducting a follow-on ground offensive there. The coalition has limited its ground offensives to areas north of the Euphrates River, in order to preserve the deconfliction [agreement] between the coalition and the [pro-Assad] axis: the Syrian government, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, and Shiite militias. Thus, the coalition is . . . effectively ceding Abu Kamal to Iran.

Iran is eager to capture Abu Kamal to secure a land route over Iraq and Syria toward Lebanon. Although Iran has a robust air bridge to supply its foreign wars, an overland route is more reliable and less expensive. Iran has worse odds at the other two crossings: Tanf, where the United States has positioned its special forces, and a northern crossing under Kurdish control.

Whereas those two crossings would be difficult to conquer, the only thing standing between Iran and a secure overland route at Abu Kamal is Islamic State. . . . Iranian forces are already present in Abu Kamal and are using it to facilitate weapons flows. On June 17, an Israeli airstrike killed members of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who were training militias on how to transfer weapons in the area. Additional Iranian forces—those leaving Syria’s southwest—could also be redeployed there.

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


The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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Read more at Jager File

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics