The Imbalance at the Heart of the U.S. Ceasefire Proposal

Meanwhile, Hamas announced yesterday that it rejects the recent American and Israeli offer for a cessation of hostilities and an exchange of hostages for prisoners. The U.S. national security advisor Jake Sullivan, however, told NBC that the offer remains on the table and negotiations are still ongoing. Robert Satloff takes a close look at one of the problems with the proposed deal: the U.S. promises to “ensure” (in President Biden’s words) that Israel fulfills its end of the bargain, and Egypt and Qatar have “assured” the president that they will hold Hamas to its obligations:

Egypt and Qatar have shown themselves to be woefully incapable of influencing Hamas over the past eight months, so the idea that there is any value in their “assurances” regarding the group’s future behavior is risible. By contrast, any U.S. administration necessarily has considerable leverage on Israel’s actions given Jerusalem’s reliance on U.S. rearmament and diplomatic backing to sustain its military operations.

This imbalance—in which the United States guarantees Israeli adherence while other states ineffectually guarantee a terrorist group’s adherence—sets a worrisome precedent that problematic actors will be eager to cut-and-paste into future deals.

But, Satloff explains, some of these problems could be fixed. For instance, the U.S. could promise “to punish Hamas through measures such as securing the arrest and extradition of Hamas leaders who reside in Qatar and elsewhere.” Thus far, Washington has made no indication that such steps have even been considered.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Joseph Biden, Qatar, U.S.-Israel relationship

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security