Qatar’s Increasingly Tenuous Alliance with Iran

Home to the largest U.S. air base in the region, Qatar now finds itself in conflict with its Gulf neighbors over its refusal to support their efforts to contain Iran—with which it shares the world’s largest natural-gas field—and its continued backing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which these countries have turned against. Jonathan Spyer examines the contradictory position in which Doha finds itself:

Qatar’s support for the Sunni political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood does not make it an automatic fit for Iran, whose main support is among Shiite and minority communities and which promotes its own brand of Shiite political and revolutionary Islam. Common enmity toward Israel formed the basis of the strong relations, built up since the early 1990s, between Tehran and Hamas, which emerged from the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood. But during the Arab Spring, the Brotherhood and Iran found themselves on separate sides, as the former, with Qatari financial aid and media support, sought to establish a rival, Sunni Islamist regional power bloc. This [tension] led, for example, to Iran and Qatar backing different sides in the Syrian civil war.

But now, with the Muslim Brotherhood significantly weakened on the regional level, the Syrian rebellion close to defeat, and Doha facing repercussions from its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council countries for its support of radicalism, Qatar has been moving over the last eighteen months sharply in the direction of closer relations with Teheran. . . .

Qatar’s regional strategy is based on precarious and contradictory foundations. The emirate suppresses Islamist activity within its own territory, while partnering with Islamist forces elsewhere—not because of a deep or genuine affiliation, but in order to inflate Qatari regional influence.

This approach is now creating major contradictions and problems for Qatar: specifically, as the U.S. seeks to build a regional response to Iranian aggression and hegemonic ambitions, Qatar finds itself in the untenable position of wishing neither to cooperate with the U.S., nor to ally with anti-U.S. regional forces. The contradictions and implausibility of this stance are currently manifesting themselves.

Read more at Middle East Forum

More about: Arab Spring, Hamas, Iran, Middle East, Muslim Brotherhood, Politics & Current Affairs, Qatar, U.S. Foreign policy

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security