Even Countries That Oppose Israel Diplomatically Engage in Open Military Cooperation

July 23 2018

Israel, it is often said, risks becoming ever-more isolated due to the absence of a Palestinian state. Yet, as eager as many countries are to condemn the Jewish state or exclude it from international institutions, these same countries have frequently joined it in military exercises. For instance, notes Shoshana Bryen, Israel is one of over twenty countries currently participating in exercises in the Pacific Rim, alongside not only France and Germany but also such Muslim countries as Malaysia and Indonesia. Bryen writes:

Israel’s expansive sharing of water, solar, and agricultural technology is legendary, as is Israel’s emergency rapid-response team. But military cooperation underpins freedom of navigation in the air and on the seas—the source of international prosperity through trade—and secures people in their borders. Security makes everything else possible, and Israel is in the center of the universe of security cooperation.

Late last year, Israel hosted the largest aerial training exercise in its history—Blue Flag in the Negev desert. There were 70 aircraft from around the world, hundreds of pilots, and air-support team members. Participants included the United States, France, Italy, Greece, Poland, Germany, and India. It was the first time French, German, and Indian contingents trained in Israel. . . . In the 2016 Red Flag exercise in the United States, Israel’s partners were the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan. . . .

In June, Israeli paratroopers took part in their first combined European ground exercise not held in Israel when they trained with Swift Response in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. Thousands of soldiers from countries including Great Britain, the U.S., Spain, Italy, Poland, and Portugal participated in airborne exercises, personnel and equipment drops, air-assault operations, force buildups, and civilian-evacuation operations. . . .

Israel is an integral part of the world’s security system across the continents, from Europe to Asia to North America. In the Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, it has partnered with countries alphabetized from Australia to Vietnam in exercises on land, at sea, and in the air. Not a single country pulled out of a single exercise because of the presence of the Israel Defense Forces.

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More about: IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israel diplomacy

A Better Syria Strategy Can Help Achieve the U.S. Goal of Countering Iran

While the Trump administration has reversed much of its predecessor’s effort to realign Washington with Tehran, and has effectively used sanctions to exert economic pressure on the Islamic Republic, Omar Hassino argues that these measures might not be enough:

Iran and its militias control more territory and natural resources in Syria and Iraq than before President Trump took office. . . . The U.S. should back the low-cost insurgency approach that has already shown potential in southwest Syria to bleed the Iranian forces and increase the costs of their expansion and [of Tehran’s] support for the Assad regime. It makes no sense that Iran can fund low-cost insurgencies to bleed American allies in the region, but the United States cannot counter with the same. The administration should also consider expanding support to the proxy forces that it currently works with—such as the Revolution Commandos near the [U.S.] al-Tanf garrison in southwest Syria—for the purpose of fighting and eliminating Iranian-backed militias. This limited escalation can curb Iranian expansion and put pressure on the Assad regime in the long term.

Furthermore, in this vein, the U.S. should empower peaceful Syrian civil-society groups and local councils operating outside Assad-regime control. Last year, the Trump administration eliminated assistance for stabilization in Syria, including funding going to secular anti-Assad civil-society groups that were also combating al-Qaeda’s ideology, as well as the Syrian [medical and civil-defense group known as] the White Helmets, before quickly [restoring] some of this funding. Yet the funding has still not completely been resumed, and if this administration takes an approach similar to its predecessor’s in relying on regional powers such as Turkey, these powers will instead fund groups aligned ideologically with Muslim Brotherhood. This is already happening in Idlib.

The United States must [also] jettison the Obama-era [strategy of establishing] “de-escalation zones.” These zones were from the start largely a Russian ruse to help the Assad regime conquer opposition areas, and they succeeded. Now that the regime controls most of Syria and Iranian proxies are dominant within the regime side, support for de-escalation is tantamount to support for Iranian expansion. The United States must [instead] prevent further expansion by the Assad regime and Iran in parts of the country that they still do not control.

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More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy