Afraid to Make New Enemies, Iran Wants to Stay Out of the Caucasus Conflict

Oct. 21 2020

Historically, Tehran has aligned with Christian Armenia over Shiite Muslim, but pro-Western, Azerbaijan. Yet the recent outbreak of fighting between the two former Soviet republics poses a dilemma for neighboring Iran, as members of its large population of ethnic Azeris have been vocally expressing their support for their brethren across the border. Alex Vatanka explains:

Azerbaijan, one of four Shiite Muslim-majority countries in the world (together with Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain), also happens to have close economic, military, and intelligence ties with Israel, Tehran’s regional archfoe. But the popular momentum behind fully siding with Baku has been so great that Tehran has not even allowed Azerbaijan’s close partnership with Israel to get in the way. . . . Simply put, Iran is not in a position to act in opposition to its own Azeri minority.

Also at play in Iran’s calculations will be Turkey, the third-party actor in this conflict that Tehran watches the most intently. Tehran has accused Ankara of fueling the conflict by urging Azerbaijan to . . . attempt to recapture as much of its occupied territory as possible before agreeing to a ceasefire and diplomatic talks. However, while Iran is still tangled up with Turkey in Syria—where Iran supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad while Turkey backs the opposition—Tehran won’t want to escalate tensions over Armenia and Azerbaijan too far.

[Moreover], despite the lingering suspicion between the two powers, Turkey is an important neighbor and trading partner for Iran. Thanks to its isolation, Tehran does not want to see Ankara join its (already long) list of open adversaries. No matter how carefully the Iranians play their cards in this latest conflict in the South Caucasus, the simple reality is that Tehran holds a much weaker hand in the region now than it did in the early 1990s.

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Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security, Turkey

 

The Palestinian Authority Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

Jan. 31 2023

On Thursday, Palestinian Authority (PA) officials announced that they had ceased all security cooperation with Israel; the next two days saw two deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem. But the PA has in the past made numerous threats that it will sever its ties with the Israeli government, and has so far never made good on them. Efraim Inbar poses a different set of questions: does cooperation with Palestinian leaders who actively encourage—and provide financial incentives for—the murder of Jews really help Israel protect its citizens? And might there be a better alternative?

The PA leader Mahmoud Abbas seems unable to rule effectively, i.e., to maintain a modicum of law and order in the territories under his control. He lost Gaza to Hamas in 2007, and we now see the “Lebanonization” of the PA taking place in the West Bank: the emergence of myriad armed groups, with some displaying only limited loyalty to the PA, and others, especially the Islamists, trying to undermine the current regime.

[The PA’s] education system and media continue propagating tremendous hostility toward Jews while blaming Israel for all Palestinian problems. Security cooperation with Israel primarily concerns apprehending armed activists of the Islamist opposition, as the PA often turns a blind eye to terrorist activities against Israel. In short, Abbas and his coterie are part of the problem, not of the solution. Jerusalem should thus think twice about promoting efforts to preserve PA rule and prevent a descent into chaos while rejecting the reoccupation of the West Bank.

Chaos is indeed not a pleasant prospect. Chaos in the territories poses a security problem to Israel, but one that will be mitigated if the various Palestinian militias vying for influence compete with each other. A succession struggle following the death of Abbas could divert attention from fighting hated Israel and prevent coordination in the low-intensity conflict against it. In addition, anarchy in the territories may give Israel a freer hand in dealing with the terrorists.

Furthermore, chaos might ultimately yield positive results. The collapse of the PA will weaken the Palestinian national movement, which heretofore has been a source of endemic violence and is a recipe for regional instability in the future.

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Read more at JNS

More about: Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror