The New De-Escalation Zone in Syria Is Good for Iran and al-Qaeda, Bad for Israel and Jordan

Nov. 17 2017

On November 8, Amman, Washington, and Moscow concluded an agreement to expand the “de-escalation zones” in southern Syria that had been created in a July 7 deal among the three parties. A key provision designates an “exclusionary zone” from which foreign forces—in this case those of Iran and Hizballah—must withdraw. But, even if Iran and Russia abide by their part of the bargain, these terms “will ultimately preserve rather than roll back Iran’s long-term position,” write Genevieve Casagrande, Patrick Hamon, and Bryan Amoroso. The experience of the July agreement shows how:

The [newly created] buffer zone at its maximum extent places foreign forces up to 30km away from the Syrian-Jordanian border and Golan Heights. . . . [But] Iran has set conditions to preserve its safe haven in southern Syria. Iran and Lebanese Hizballah initially withdrew many of their foreign forces from areas along the Syrian-Jordanian border after the [first] “de-escalation zone” went into effect in July. However, Iran left behind friendly local paramilitary groups and a small number of foreign fighters to continue to cultivate and recruit local groups not covered by the exclusion zone but ultimately subordinate to Iran. Iran is also continuing its build-up on the outskirts of this zone, which places its forces less than an hour drive from the Golan Heights. . . .

The deal likewise will not prevent Iran from developing permanent military basing in Syria, another Israeli redline. . . .

Al-Qaeda, [meanwhile], has exploited the de-escalation zone to develop a new durable safe haven along the Syrian-Jordanian border. Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham will capitalize on the diminishing external support for vetted anti-Assad-regime opposition groups to expand its footprint in southern Syria. The Trump administration issued orders that will reportedly end all covert support to opposition groups in Syria by December 2017. The cutoff will lead to the cancellation of salaries for thousands of rebel fighters even as opposition groups and affiliated governance structures are already struggling to maintain basic security and infrastructure—such as prisons and courthouses—across southern Syria. . . .

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Read more at Institute for the Study of War

More about: Al Qaeda, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Jordan, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

 

What Israel Can Offer Africa

Last week, the Israeli analyst Yechiel Leiter addressed a group of scholars and diplomats gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss security issues facing the Horn of Africa. Herewith, some excerpts from his speech:

Since the advent of Zionism and the birth of modern Israel, there has been a strong ideological connection between Israel and the African continent. . . . For decades, [however], the notion that the absence of peace in the Middle East was due the absence of Palestinian statehood prevented a full and strategic partnership with African countries. . . . The visits to Africa by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—in 2016 to East Africa and in 2017 to West Africa—reenergized the natural partnership that was initiated by Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1960s.

There is much we share, many places where our interests converge. And I don’t mean another military base in Djibouti. . . . One such area involves the safety of waterways in and around the Red Sea. Curtailing contraband, drugs, arms smuggling, and other forms of serious corruption are all vital for us. . . . But the one critical area of cooperation I’d like to put the spotlight on is in the realm of food security, or rather food insecurity.

Imagine Ethiopia’s cows producing 30 or 40 liters of milk a day instead of the two or three that they produce today. Imagine an exponential rise in (organic) meat exports to Middle Eastern and even European countries, the result of increased processing, storage, and transportation possibilities. Cows today can have a microscopic chip behind their ears that sends messages to the farmer’s computer or mobile phone that tracks what the cow ate, what its temperature is, and what care it might need. Imagine a dramatic expansion of the wheat yield that can make Ethiopia a net exporter of wheat—to Egypt, perhaps in the context of negotiations over the waters of the Nile.

Israel has proven technology in all of these agricultural areas and we’re here; we’re neighbors. We are linked to Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, in so many ways.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Africa, Ethiopia, Israel diplomacy, Israeli agriculture, Israeli technology