Tag Archives: Assad

From #Iran: a more flexible view regarding the fate of #Assad

21 Dec

On the 6th of December, the Iranian Supreme Leader’s foreign policy advisor Ali Akbar Velayati stated:

“Bashar al-Assad is the Islamic Republic of Iran’s red line because he was elected president by the Syrian people,”.

Velayati is part of the unelected regime.

It is believed that the government of President Hassan Rouhani which is elected (after a controlled vetting process of the candidates by the Guardian Council) is more flexible when it comes to the fate of Assad.

The interview below with the well-known Tehran-based political analyst Ghanbar Naderi shows a more flexible narrative which I think is closer to the government’s view than that of the regime.

Podcast: navigating the #ISIS challenge

28 Sep

Cover of the new book

A new book on ISIS has just been published by William McCants, who is currently a fellow in the Center for Middle East Policy and director of the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institute.

Called The ISIS Apocalypse: The History, Strategy, and Doomsday Vision of the Islamic State”, the book uses a wide variety of sources, including numerous primary sources in Arabic to describe the meteoric rise of ISIS, which has only been around since 2014! His sources include “secret al-Qaeda and Islamic State letters that few have seen”.

In a recent Podcast, Mr McCants talks about where ISIS came from, what developments inside Al Qaeda inadvertently helped to create organization, and how some of Assad’s own actions, such as emptying out Syria’s jails including numerous Jihadis at the beginning of the uprising in Syria helped Jihadi organizations. Apparently Assad did this in order to create a worst alternative to his regime, as a tool to convince the international community especially the West that he is the best alternative to all the others.

I will be putting Mr McCant’s book on my reading list. It sounds fascinating.

You can listen to the Podcast below. Other podcast guests include David Ignatius of The Washington Post and Ryan Evans who hosted the show.



The equivalent of the European 30 Years War in the Middle East?

27 Jan

Writing in her recent Project Syndicate article Professor Anne Marie Slaughter states:

After all, if Geneva II fails, Geneva III will not be about Syria alone. It will be about how to end a war raging across the entire Middle East.

After writing her column, in an interview with Huffington Post in Davos, she explained what she means by war raving across the Middle East. Referring to the current war in Syria she says:

“I think if we can’t stop this now, we are looking at the equivalent of the European 30 years war in the Middle East”.

She then goes on to explain how the European 30 years war was about religion (Catholic vs Protestant) and about territorial revision with all the principalities wanting to redraw borders.

A painting from the 30 Years War.

So could the same happen in this region? Could we face a 30 years of full, blown out war between Shia and Sunni forces in this region?

First and foremost, lets hope she is wrong. Lets hope that the war in Syria ends soon. But hoping is not enough. Both sides seem adamant.

As difficult as predicting the future is in this region, if Professor Slaughter is right and she gets not just the nature but also the time line right, then that means we have another 20 years of fighting left. The reason being that the full Sunni vs Shia war already started in 2003 after the US invasion of Iraq and it continues to this day. So thats already 10 years. Meanwhile some of the extremist Sunni groups fighting in the Iraq war have now moved to Syria. There are also Shia forces being dispatched from Iraq to Syria with Iran’s help.

Both Iran and the Saudis seem adamant in wanting to see the overthrow of the other side’s rulers. Unfortunately they seem to believe that a full proxy war against their rival is the most convenient way to bring this about. The two sides have fought each other before in proxy wars, but this time its much more serious. Each side seems to believe that walking away from Syria is more damaging than staying. Time to hunker down for the long haul.

You can watch the rest of Professor Slaughter’s interview here:

Nasrallah could be regretting his military support for Assad

19 Nov

If Assad goes, so does Nasrallah’s biggest weapon route from Iran, as well as a loyal ally. Therefore Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah does have some genuine geopolitical reasons for wanting Assad to stay.

But Nasrallah should have supported Assad with more discretion. When Assad is killing Sunni civilians en mass in Syria, sometimes even gassing them, Nasrallah standing politically by Assad’s side and declaring public support for him is only going to create more intense animosity towards Hezbollah in the Sunni world. And Al Qaeda and its Saudi sponsors are bound to take advantage from this opportunity for they have been waiting for many years to settle scores with Hezbollah. An example of this was witnessed today when Al Qaeda affiliated groups attacked Iran’s embassy which is situated in a Hezbollah stronghold.

If Nasrallah had no choice in the matter, which is also possible, then this only reinforces the belief that he is the Iranian regime’s puppet in Lebanon. Nasrallah should not have allowed Khamenei to have such a strong hold on him.

It would not be the first time Nasrallah has made a major mistake.

In 2006 he made the mistake of starting a war against Israel by crossing inside Israel’s border and killing two of its soldiers and then kidnapping their bodies. After the war, which cost Lebanon’s economy billions of dollars Nasrallah publicly regretted his decision.

Although not publicly, perhaps privately he is regretting Hezbollah’s support for Assad as well, or for having to listen to his Iranian commanders telling him to support Assad.

Don’t forget Assad’s biological weapons

10 Sep

There is much talk about removing Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile as part of a proposal which is being put forward by the Russians. 

Fine. But what about his biological weapons?

What exactly would be the point of taking away his chemical weapons and leaving him with his biological weapons which he could use in a future date against the Syrian people?

There is valid reason to be concerned about his biological weapon making capabilities. According to an article published on the 4th of September in The Washington Post:

A report prepared for Congress this year by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence concluded that Syria possesses a “longstanding biological weapons program,” adding that parts of it “may have advanced beyond the research and development stage, and may be capable of limited agent production.”

The fact that Putin has come forward with an offer shows that he believes that America could attack his ally Assad, and he does not want that.

This gives Obama leverage.

My suggestion: president Obama should use this leverage and go for a deal which ensures that Assad not only dismantles and delivers his chemical weapons stockpile and infrastructure, he does the same with his biological weapons. Such an opportunity may not come around again, for Obama and for the Syrian people.

Don’t Expect Iran To Fight for Assad

30 Aug

As the prospects of war between the US and Syria increase, the question which is increasingly being asked is: what is likely to be Iran’s reaction?

My latest piece explains:


Those Nosy Israeli Satellites

9 Jan

According to an article published in the New York Times today:

In the last days of November, Israel’s top military commanders called the Pentagon to discuss troubling intelligence that was showing up on satellite imagery: Syrian troops appeared to be mixing chemicals at two storage sites, probably the deadly nerve gas sarin, and filling dozens of 500-pounds bombs that could be loaded on airplanes.

This discovery by Israel’s satellites alerted the Americans and the international community to take concrete action which was important, and timely. I don’t want to even imagine what would have happened if Assad had used chemical weapons.

This development however, is also likely to have other consequences.

Due to its accuracy, its likely to boost the Israeli defense establishment’s claims with regards to the Iranian nuclear program as well.

This will come at an important time as Netanyahu’s alarmist approach has created a dent in the credibility of some of Israel’s claims with regards to Iran.

It should be noted that in contrast, the defense establishment has been far more sober.

A clear example was seen earlier this year.
The chief of the IDF stated: “I do not believe Iran will decide to develop nuclear weapons”. This clearly states his belief that Iran has not decided to make a bomb and its General Gantz’s belief that it will not do so.
This is in complete contrast to Netanyahu’s famous UN cartoon which purported that Iran was on its way to make a bomb.

When it comes to assessing the Iranian threat, the choice for us in Israel is clear, more satellites and less “bomb-astic” cartoons by politicians.