A Massive Military Exercise Shows the Strength of the U.S.-Israel Alliance, and Sends a Message to Tehran

Jan. 25 2023

On Monday, the American and Israeli militaries began a weeklong, large-scale joint exercise in Israel and the Mediterranean Sea, involving 6,400 personnel from the U.S. armed forces and 1,180 from the IDF—not to mention all kinds of aircraft, ships, and other materiel. Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst provide an overview of the exercise, known as Juniper Oak, and explain the signals it is meant to convey in the region:

The message to Jerusalem is that the American commitment to Israel’s security remains rock-solid. One can certainly compliment or criticize various Biden administration national-security and foreign policies, particularly toward Iran, but the exercise this week represents a major and positive milestone in U.S.-Israel security cooperation—and the White House, the Pentagon, and U.S. Central Command deserve credit for making it happen.

In addition to the positive message this sends to Jerusalem about American commitment, Washington hopes America’s partners in the region—including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others—take note. The administration’s intended message to them is that the United States military has not completely departed from the region, does not intend to depart from the region, and retains an unmatched ability to [direct] additional combat forces into the region quickly when necessary to conduct military operations.

Perhaps the most important message from the exercise is intended for Tehran and its terror proxies. . . . The Biden administration wants Tehran to understand that the United States has both the military means and the political will to stand with Israel, secure American interests in the region, and conduct successful large-scale strikes if necessary.

The military muscle on display this week certainly demonstrates some of this capability. The ability to deter aggression from Tehran and its terror proxies, however, will depend on their perceptions of the willingness of Washington and Israel actually to use force if necessary.

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Read more at FDD

More about: IDF, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Security, U.S.-Israel relationship

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy