How America Can Combat Iran and Put Russia in a Corner in Syria

July 16 2018

The future of Syria will no doubt figure in talks today between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. So long as the former does not promise a complete and immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, the main question is whether American forces should remain in Syria after mopping-up operations against Islamic State and, if they do remain, what goals they should pursue. Katherine Bauer, Soner Cagaptay, Patrick Clawson, Michael Eisenstadt, James F. Jeffrey, Barbara Leaf, Matthew Levitt, Dennis Ross, and Robert Satloff lay out the case for an activist policy to counter Iran in Syria with the aid of Israel. They write:

Sanctions and a no-fly/no-drive zone in northeast Syria would prevent Assad-regime and Iranian forces from charging in, which would infuriate local Sunnis and spur the regeneration of Islamic State (IS). Such a zone, coupled with sanctions, would impose costs on the Assad regime by denying it the money and income needed to ensure control and to maintain the patronage networks that underpin its power. This would in turn create financial burdens for Iran and Russia in their effort to keep Bashar al-Assad afloat, just as Tehran’s ability to pay for such support will be diminished by the U.S. policy of maximum pressure. . . .

In terms of Iran, [however,] the Trump administration’s preferred approach of imposing severe economic sanctions will not in itself be sufficient to compel Tehran to change course on Syria or the region. If the administration is seriously committed to the twelve objectives outlined in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s May 21 address, countering Iran in Syria is essential. . . .

Moscow has maintained a partnership with Tehran for years built on common antipathy to the United States and fear of Sunni extremism, but it does not necessarily share all of Iran’s goals regarding Syria and Israel. The United States has had little success exploiting that divergence because Russia and Iran share the important common objective of shrinking U.S. influence in the area. Russia wants the United States to accept it as a great power, so Moscow has been eager for talks with Washington about Syria’s future. But this does not mean Russia has the will or ability to do anything that actually restrains Iran. . . .

The actor best positioned to drive a wedge between Iran and Russia is Israel, because it can confront the Russians with a choice they do not want to make: either rein in Iran’s aggressive stance or face the imposition of costs on Assad for his deference to Iran—or, in extremis, a war between Israel on the one hand and Iran and Hizballah on the other. . . . The United States should make clear to Israel, and Russia, that it has no objections to an active Israeli policy of preventing Iran from establishing a permanent military presence in Syria.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Donald Trump, Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin

 

What Israel Can Offer Africa

Last week, the Israeli analyst Yechiel Leiter addressed a group of scholars and diplomats gathered in Addis Ababa to discuss security issues facing the Horn of Africa. Herewith, some excerpts from his speech:

Since the advent of Zionism and the birth of modern Israel, there has been a strong ideological connection between Israel and the African continent. . . . For decades, [however], the notion that the absence of peace in the Middle East was due the absence of Palestinian statehood prevented a full and strategic partnership with African countries. . . . The visits to Africa by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—in 2016 to East Africa and in 2017 to West Africa—reenergized the natural partnership that was initiated by Israel’s Foreign Minister Golda Meir in the 1960s.

There is much we share, many places where our interests converge. And I don’t mean another military base in Djibouti. . . . One such area involves the safety of waterways in and around the Red Sea. Curtailing contraband, drugs, arms smuggling, and other forms of serious corruption are all vital for us. . . . But the one critical area of cooperation I’d like to put the spotlight on is in the realm of food security, or rather food insecurity.

Imagine Ethiopia’s cows producing 30 or 40 liters of milk a day instead of the two or three that they produce today. Imagine an exponential rise in (organic) meat exports to Middle Eastern and even European countries, the result of increased processing, storage, and transportation possibilities. Cows today can have a microscopic chip behind their ears that sends messages to the farmer’s computer or mobile phone that tracks what the cow ate, what its temperature is, and what care it might need. Imagine a dramatic expansion of the wheat yield that can make Ethiopia a net exporter of wheat—to Egypt, perhaps in the context of negotiations over the waters of the Nile.

Israel has proven technology in all of these agricultural areas and we’re here; we’re neighbors. We are linked to Africa, particularly the Horn of Africa, in so many ways.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Africa, Ethiopia, Israel diplomacy, Israeli agriculture, Israeli technology