When the Next Arab Spring Comes, America Should Be Ready—and Shouldn’t Forget the Abraham Accords

When the Arab Spring swept through the Middle East in 2011, overthrowing several regimes and threatening others, American policymakers and scholars were taken entirely by surprise. They were no better prepared for the eruption of protests in Sudan (where they overthrew a brutal Islamist dictatorship), Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt in 2019. In both years, Washington’s response was clumsy and occasionally destructive. Since the experts are unlikely to become much better at predicting such “black-swan” events, Sarah Feuer and David Schenker suggest some guidelines that American diplomats can follow the next time unexpected unrest strikes:

If the United States appears to back protestors in friendly states equally or more than demonstrators in adversarial states, it may damage bilateral ties with longstanding partners or reduce precisely the leverage such bilateral ties afford to Washington. Where possible, then, peaceful protests erupting in friendly states should be met by private, but firm, insistence from Washington that governments allow demonstrations to proceed while working to enact meaningful reforms that address the protesters’ grievances. Given the likely lack of U.S. influence on the trajectory of events, more robust—i.e., public—U.S. rhetorical support for protestors may be merited in unfriendly states.

Along these lines, Washington must consider the most appropriate approach toward states that have signed normalization agreements with Israel. Signatory states to the Abraham Accords . . . have periodically engaged in various degrees of repression of political dissent. What policy should Washington adopt toward these states?

In answering this question, it bears keeping in mind that U.S. interests would not be served by the fall of these governments. . . . At the very least, should major protests break out in these states, Washington will need to convey privately the expectation that peaceful demonstrations be permitted, even as it works with these governments to nurture the normalization deals and to ensure they can be leveraged to bring greater economic prosperity to the region.

[In addition, the U.S. should not] lose sight of great-power dynamics. Although there may be circumstances in which U.S. interests align with those of Russia and China, Washington should beware of cooperation offers with the two powers when it comes to engagement in the Arab world, not least when seeking to stave off or to respond to instability. Washington should avoid unforced errors that provide easy wins to China and Russia in the region.

Above all, they argue, America should “focus on the intersection of [its] interests and values.”

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Abraham Accords, Arab Spring, Middle East, 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