Annie Tracy Samuel
By Annie Tracy Samuel,
A longer version of this post appeared first at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University.
The violent confrontation between Bashar Assad’s regime and opposition forces, now fifteen months old, has generated much concern in Iran. The collapse of the regime would present a serious threat to Iran’s strategic interests. Syria has been one of Iran’s closest and most important allies since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, and the fall of the Assad regime would hamper Iran’s ability to project power into the eastern Mediterranean-Levant region.
Iran has therefore provided support to the Assad regime since the beginning of the Syrian uprising to help its ally stay in power. According to U.S. and European officials, members of Syrian opposition groups, and others, Iran is providing material support to the Syrian government to assist in the crackdown and is advising Syrian leaders on “best practices” for suppressing the protests, an area in which it has a fair amount of experience.
Iran has repeatedly denied accusations of any such involvement. While it is difficult to determine the extent and nature of Iran’s involvement in Syria from the information that is publicly available, it is reasonable to assume that Iran is indeed aiding the Assad regime, given Iran’s overriding interest in its survival. Still, it is not clear if Iranian forces are actually present in Syria or how important Iranian aid is to the Assad regime. Read more
By Ehud Eiran
Former Associate and Research Fellow, International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, Israelis watch with concern the instability around them. In a Jan. 23 op-ed on ynetnews (the news site of Israel’s popular daily Yedioth Ahronoth), I argued that these concerns are not only new temporally, but also new in their nature.
Rather than fearing the strength of their foes, Israelis should be concerned about their foes’ weakness. Israeli deterrence will face severe limitations if the central authorities in neighboring countries lose control. More immediately, the difficulties of the Egyptian (and possibly Syrian) regimes to exert effective authority in the border regions with Israel can create new opportunities for non-state elements (terror, drugs, illegal migrants) to threaten Israel. Read more
James K. Sebenius
By James K. Sebenius
On May 15, thousands of Palestinians rushed Israel’s Syrian and Lebanese borders, as well as the fences of Gaza. Such actions continued in early June on several Israeli fronts. Arabic social media now buzz with expanded plans for unarmed Palestinian refugees to protest en masse in and around the Jewish state. If stones marked the first intifada and suicide bombers the second, waves of children, women, and men may well characterize a third phase of the conflict. Read more
Charles G. Cogan
By Charles G. Cogan,
Associate, Belfer Center International Security Program
During his visit to the U.S. in late May, described by some commentators as a tactical success but a strategic failure, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, stated he was prepared to make “generous concessions” in negotiations with the Palestinians. This was in a speech on May 24 before an indulgent audience of U.S. lawmakers at the Capitol in Washington. It was a bravura performance, delivered in a practiced American-English idiom. Read more
By Ehud Eiran
By Ehud Eiran, Associate, International Security Program
In the last few months we have seen a schizophrenic Middle-East, operating in parallel universes. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict — once the epicenter of regional instability — was calm as Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas settled into a strange modus vivendi, pending a possible declaration of Palestinian independence in the fall. In the other universe, the one comprised of Arab states such as Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia, an entrenched order of autocratic stability was smashed, when angry youth lashed out at their regimes, toppling leaders with the hope of radical change. Read more
The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum
By Chuck Freilich
We all rejoice when dictators fall and the prospects for democracy flourish. What has happened in Egypt and Tunisia is a regional earthquake and it may be far from over. An opening exists for a better regional future.
Dramatically, Egypt could become a moderate, stable, pro-Western democracy, committed to peace. Other outcomes, however, are also possible.
- Egypt may remain a military dictatorship, or be taken over by some other strongman. The military’s role is as yet unclear. It has begun the reform process, but retained full control over it and clearly wishes to set limits. Just ten days were allotted for reforming the constitution, a ludicrous time period, and the military stated that elections will be held by September “circumstances permitting”. Read more