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The National Interest online seeks to provide a space for vigorous debate and exchange not only among Americans but between U.S. and overseas interlocutors. This is the new home for informed analysis and frank but reasoned exchanges on foreign policy and international affairs.
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16 октября, 00:47

This Is How Sanctions Are Impacting Iran

Adam Lammon Security, Middle East The Revolutionary Guard is only getting stronger. What happens when the Supreme Leader dies? When dealing with Iran, the “resiliency of the regime should never be underestimated,” Geneive Abdo, resident scholar at the Arabia Foundation, said at an event on U.S.-Iranian relations organized by the Center for the National Interest on October 2, 2018. Despite speculation in Washington that the Trump administration seeks regime change in Iran, Abdo reminded those gathered that the high costs of such a policy made it one of many other options “that will never be realized.” This, she says, has pushed the Trump administration to try to coerce Iran towards more desirable policy decisions via sanctions. This effort has had inconclusive results at best. Along with Abdo, the discussion included Patrick Clawson, the Morningstar Senior Fellow and director of research at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Barbara Slavin, head of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council. The event was moderated by Gil Barndollar, the director of Middle East Studies at the Center for the National Interest. The panel concurred that in recent years, Iran has engaged in a variety of policies that have angered the United States and its regional allies, particularly the Gulf States and Israel. From Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen to Iraq, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been training, funding, and arming militants, and regularly acting in opposition to U.S. policy objectives. Iran has been generally opportunistic in its pursuit of greater influence in the Middle East, contended Barbara Slavin. She identified multiple occasions when Iran has worked to exploit power vacuums in its neighborhood, including after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Bahrain’s 2011 Shia uprising, and Saudi Arabia’s 2015 intervention in the Yemeni civil war. However, unlike Iran’s participation in the Syrian Civil War, it is noteworthy that Iran has had a lighter footprint in these other cases, providing Tehran with a degree of political deniability while also not overextending its beleaguered economy. Read full article

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16 октября, 00:32

Forty-Five Years After the 1973 War, Israel Faces Another Year of Decision

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Shai Feldman Security, Middle East Exactly forty-five years after Egypt launched the 1973 War, Hamas leader Yahia Sinwar opened a Sadat-like direct conversation with the Israeli public that painted a dire picture of the conditions in the Gaza Strip and presented Israel with a stark choice. Analogies are ever so imperfect. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, it’s rare for history to repeat itself, or even to rhyme. Yet the similarities between an important development in Israeli-Palestinian relations that occurred earlier this month and a tragic chapter in the history of the conflict that took place some forty-six years ago are striking. At that time Israel was presented with an opportunity to avoid another major Arab-Israeli war—an opportunity that it missed as it was caught in a web of baseless premises and miscalculations. The choice Israel faces today should be equally clear, but Israel may remain similarly captivated by a different but equally debilitating set of false premises and wrong-headed policies. Curiously, Israel now seems to be at the doorstep of another Year of Decision. On October 5, exactly forty-five years after Egypt launched the 1973 War, Hamas leader Yahia Sinwar opened a Sadat-like direct conversation with the Israeli public. Granting a first-ever detailed interview to an Israeli newspaper, Sinwar painted a dire picture of the conditions in the Gaza Strip and presented Israel with a stark choice: negotiate an armistice that would include an end to Gaza’s “siege” and a commitment by both sides to cease their fire or face another major eruption of violence. Thus, Sinwar sent the Israeli population a simple message: the incarceration of some two million Palestinians in a large-scale prison in which electricity, drinking water and gainful employment are scarce is unacceptable and unsustainable. The costs and casualties of another round of violence will be very heavy and the Palestinian residents of Gaza will bear the brunt of these costs. Yet Hamas is determined to bring the current situation to an end: if the Palestinians residing in Gaza are condemned to suffer the various manifestations and consequences of “the siege,” Israelis will be made to suffer as well. Read full article

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16 октября, 00:14

A Missing Journalist Has Created a Window of Opportunity

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Seth J. Frantzman Security, Middle East The best U.S. reaction to the current crises with Saudi Arabia might be one that tempers a major change with something more incremental and concrete. The disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and one time kingdom insider, has rocked Washington’s relations with Riyadh. In one twenty-four-hour period on October 9–10, National Security Advisor John Bolton, White House advisor Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all spoke with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. President Donald Trump vowed “severe punishment” if the Kingdom was found to have murdered Khashoggi in its Istanbul embassy, as has been alleged. Riyadh has said it will retaliate against any punitive measures. What is unfolding amongst the avalanche of U.S. criticism is a post–Khashoggi Middle East. Khashoggi was an important figure, documenting the Middle East’s momentous changes between the 1980s when he spent time with Osama Bin Laden to criticizing changes in the Kingdom over the past few years. It was through officially sanctioned publications, and then as an advisor to the Kingdom’s ambassador to the UK, that he communicated Saudi views to the world. He sought to explain how the Kingdom’s religious Wahhabi roots had been influenced by the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and how the Riyadh was struggling for leadership in a Muslim world shocked by terror and salafist movements. In 1998 he described Bin Laden’s popularity in Saudi Arabia, saying that many people saw the extremist as a “Che Guevara” figure. By 2005 he was writing against suicide bombings, and when the Arab Spring broke out he was a source for western policymakers who were debating over what to do. Read full article

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16 октября, 00:08

Is Trump’s Iran Policy Meant to Start a War?

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Trita Parsi, Sina Azodi Security, Middle East If Trump’s bet proves wrong and the theocracy in Tehran shows itself too resilient, then the United States will find itself in a vulnerable position. Much indicates that the likely murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi will be transformative for Saudi-U.S. relations. But whether it will affect the one issue where Saudi pressure on the United States was the greatest—Iran—is unclear. The Iran strategy favored by Saudi Arabia and the Netanyahu government in Israel, and eagerly adopted by the White House, will likely lead to a military confrontation regardless of whether its assumptions about the status of Iran’s economy and political survivability is true or not. The Trump administration’s pressure strategy on Iran assumes that the Islamic Republic is standing on its last leg. The White House believes a gentle nudge will cause its collapse in the next few months. This is a shaky assumption—one which makes the policy immensely risky for a simple reason: what if President Donald Trump and the Saudi Crown Prince are wrong? What if the Iranian theocracy survives, albeit far angrier and hostile than it was before? And what if the assumption is correct? Will the clerical rulers sit quietly as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel orchestrate their demise? History is riddled with examples where pressure has triggered confrontation rather than capitulation—even when the underlying assumption has been correct. Read full article

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15 октября, 23:49

Trump Faces the Khashoggi Affair

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Paul R. Pillar Security, Middle East Donald Trump will probably try to do the minimum required to quiet the uproar over Jamal Khashoggi. The disappearance and probable death of Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi regime is forcing itself onto Donald Trump’s decision plate in ways that not much else has during the presidency of Trump, who is a master in the art of deflecting national attention. As he contemplates his choices, his urges are pushing him in a direction contrary to what would be the most appropriate U.S. policy response. If one steps outside the Trump administration’s way of depicting the Middle East and looks beyond the sword-dancing and orb-gazing of Trump’s unforgiving relationship with the flattery-bestowing Saudis, then the Khashoggi matter, though certainly outrageous, can be seen as part of a larger pattern of the rule of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS). That pattern has included numerous excesses both foreign and domestic. MbS’s message of domestic reform is badly marred by his harsh intolerance of any dissent or potential challenges to his power. The regime’s pattern of breaking the standards of legitimate international behavior has included kidnapping the prime minister of Lebanon and, above all, an indiscriminate air war in Yemen that is more responsible than anything else for turning that country into a humanitarian disaster. The Trump administration’s determination to overlook this pattern was recently highlighted by its profoundly dishonest certification that Saudi Arabia is taking care in its Yemeni war to minimize harm to civilians. Read full article

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15 октября, 20:04

America and Saudi Arabia in the Wake of the Khashoggi Affair

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Mohammed Ayoob Saudi Arabia, Middle East United States Until recently, the Saudis had nothing to fear from Washington if they adopted policies which ran counter to America's strategic interests in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia’s relations with the United States seem to be heading toward a crisis in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. President Donald Trump has been reluctant to lay blame on the Saudis, especially on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), following Khashoggi’s disappearance after entering the consulate. However, Turkish authorities have let it be known, although indirectly through leaks to the media, that they have enough evidence to conclude that Khashoggi was tortured, killed and dismembered when he visited the Saudi Consulate on October 2. According to Washington Post, “The Turkish government has told U.S. officials that it has audio and video recordings that prove Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.” Furthermore, it has come to light that U.S. intelligence intercepted conversations among Saudi officials regarding plans to abduct Khashoggi from his home in Virginia and forcibly take him to Saudi Arabia. As it turned out, Khashoggi seems to have walked into the lion’s den of his own accord. Read full article

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15 октября, 19:41

How the Trump Administration Can Cope with Obama's Arab Spring

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Ahmed Charai Security, Middle East The so-called Arab Spring is not over, it has simply retreated from Western headlines. Now that the Senate has finally confirmed an assistant secretary of state for Africa and President Donald Trump’s National Security Council has a senior director for Africa, it is time for America to revamp its policies in the region. If it does not encourage economic growth and representative government, then terrorist attacks and destabilizing emigration will devastate Europe and the United States. The most disruptive element in the Arab world is not oil, but people. Waves of migrants who head for the shores and safety of America’s NATO allies in Europe—as well as the millions of young Arabs and Africans who stay home. The youth movements still threaten to topple America’s allies in Arab lands. The so-called Arab Spring is not over, it has simply retreated from Western headlines. Most migration and domestic unrest have the same underlying causes. Looking back at the “Arab Spring” movements of 2010 and 2011, we see two main root causes, although other regional and local factors play a supporting role. One leading cause is demographics. Arab societies are a pyramid, with a small peak of the population over sixty years of age, a significant middle between thirty and sixty years old, and a massive base under the age of thirty.  In Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia countries, people under the age of thirty account for more than half of the population. While increased educational opportunities for girls and women have lowered the fertility rate, it stubbornly remains above two children per woman of childbearing age. In short, it is above the renewal rate, which means that the population will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. This is the opposite of the demographic reality in Europe and much of the industrialized world. Read full article

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15 октября, 18:07

The Army Has Big Plans for a Light, Fast and Deadly Super Tank. Here's What We Know So Far.

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Kris Osborn Security, All of the details we could get.  Could there be a lightweight armored attack vehicle able to speed across bridges, deploy quickly from the air, detect enemies at very long ranges, control nearby robots and fire the most advanced weapons in the world - all while maintaining the unprecedented protection and survivability of an Abrams tank? Such questions form the principle basis of rigorous Army analysis and exploration of just what, exactly, a future tank should look like? The question is fast taking-on increased urgency as potential adversaries continue to present very serious, technologically advanced weapons and attack platforms. “I believe that a complete replacement of the Abrams would not make sense, unless we had a breakthrough...with much lighter armor which allows us to re-architect the vehicle,” Col. Jim Schirmer, Program Manager for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium. There are currently a range of possibilities being analyzed by the Army, most of which hang in the balance of just how quickly certain technologies can mature. Newer lightweight armor composites or Active Protection Systems may not evolve fast enough to address the most advanced emerging threats, Schirmer explained. While many Army weapons developers often acknowledge that their are limitations to just how much a 1980s-era Abrams tank can be upgraded, the platform has made quantum leaps in technological sophistication and combat technology. “Until technology matures we are going to mature the Abrams platform,” Schirmer said. We would need an APS that could defeat long-rod penetrators.(kinetic energy armor penetrating weapons) -- that might enable us to go lighter,” Schirmer said. A 2014 essay from the Institute for Defense Analysis called "M1 Abrams, Today and Tomorrow," reinforces Schirmer's point by detailing the rapid evolution of advanced armor-piercing anti-tank weapons. The research points out that, for instance, hybrid forces such as Hezbollah had some success against Israeli Merkava tanks in 2006. Read full article

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15 октября, 17:15

The U.S. Army Is Back

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Dan Goure Security, Military modernization is a process of continual change. Fortunately, while the Pentagon was forced to take a 20-year procurement holiday, the aerospace and defense industry continued to work on new concepts and capabilities. They also learned how to adapt commercial technologies to the military’s needs. As a result, the Army may have found much of what it needs to jump-start modernization at the AUSA annual conference. The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) held its annual meeting and exhibition this week in Washington, DC. It is one of the largest and most comprehensive events in the world showcasing the breadth of military technologies relevant to ground operations. In recent years, AUSA meetings became the seminal venues where Army leaders unveiled major conceptual and organizational reforms. Similarly, industry and the research establishments used the opportunity to display some of their most innovative new ideas in everything from meals and uniforms to small arms, ammunition, unmanned air and ground platforms, and even prototypes of new combat vehicles. This year was no different. The head of the Army’s new Futures Command, General John Murray gave a bravura performance before a packed auditorium. He also headed a panel that brought together other key players in Army modernization: Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology (ASA(ALT)) Dr. Bruce D. Jette to discuss how the reorganization would speed up the acquisition process. Leaders of the eight Cross Functional Teams (CFTs) and key program managers were present to discuss their specific requirements and ideas. Walking the exhibit halls, one can see and even touch examples of the most advanced platforms and systems the Army is deploying, considering acquiring, or has in development. Industry used the event to showcase many innovative technologies, concepts and even prototypes of future platforms and weapons systems. This experience leads me to ask a simple question: is it possible that the Army could find much of what it needs to initially address its modernization priorities on the exhibit floor at the AUSA convention? This is a particularly important question given the tight timelines the Army has imposed on its modernization efforts. Through 2022, it wants to complete current upgrade programs, at least for those forces likely to face a peer competitor, while conducting R&D on next-generation capabilities. After that, the focus shifts to the production of new platforms and systems that will be fielded in the late 2020s. Read full article

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15 октября, 17:09

Want More F-22 Raptors? It Would Take 5 Years, Cost Billions and Would Be Obsolete.

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TNI Staff Security, So much for that idea.  An F-22 restart would not take five years minimum, but it would also be expensive. “Assuming a buy of 194 aircraft, the total procurement cost is estimated to be between $40 and $42 billion (BY16$),” the report reads. “When the total procurement cost is combined with the non-recurring restart estimated costs of $9,869 million (BY16$), the total restart cost is estimated to be $50,306 million (BY16$).” A 2017 Pentagon report to Congress detailing production retail costs for Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor show that reviving the powerful stealth air superiority fighter would be prohibitively expensive. Moreover, it would take so long to reconstitute the production line that it would not be until the mid to late 2020s before the first “new” F-22s would have flown. By that time, the F-22 would be increasingly challenged by enemy—Russian and Chinese—capabilities. (This first appeared several months ago and is being reposted due to breaking news about the F-22.) “The timeline associated with pursuing F-22 production restart would see new F-22 deliveries starting in the mid-to-late 2020s,” the Air Force report to Congress reads. “While the F-22 continues to remain the premier air superiority solution against the current threat, new production deliveries would start at a point where the F-22' s capabilities will begin to be challenged by the advancing threats in the 2030 and beyond timeframe. F-22 production re-sta1t would also directly compete against the resources necessary to pursue the Chief of Staff of the Air Force-signed Air Superiority 2030 (AS 2030) Enterprise Capability Collaboration Team (ECCT) Flight Plan, which addresses the critical capabilities required to persist, survive, and be lethal in the rapidly evolving-highly-contested Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) threat-environment.” Recommended: 5 Worst Guns Ever Made. Recommended: The World’s Most Secretive Nuclear Weapons Program. Read full article

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15 октября, 14:33

How to Save the U.S. Navy

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Mike Gallagher Security, Unfortunately, there is good reason to be concerned about the Navy’s commitment to reaching 355 ships On the 2016 campaign trail, a 350-ship Navy was one of the signature promises of then-candidate Donald Trump. Shortly after his election, in December 2016, the Navy released a landmark Force Structure Assessment calling for a 355-ship fleet. While the plan was developed under the Obama administration, it aligned closely with the President-elect’s vision and quickly generated strong and bipartisan support on Capitol Hill. Yet almost halfway through the Trump administration’s first term, progress towards a 355-ship Navy has been mixed, at best. While Congress has acted to plus-up shipbuilding accounts in each of the past two years, the administration’s 30-year shipbuilding plan, released earlier this year, did not chart a course to a 355-ship fleet until the 2050s—beyond even the most distant years of the plan. Hugh Hewitt raised this point with Vice President Mike Pence during an interview last week, to which the Vice President told listeners to “stay tuned” for progress towards 355 ships. Read full article

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15 октября, 14:25

5 Big Reasons No Nation Wants to Wage a War Against Israel

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Robert Farley Security, Middle East As in 5 deadly weapons of war.  Since 1948, the state of Israel has fielded a frighteningly effective military machine. Built on a foundation of pre-independence militias, supplied with cast-off World War II weapons, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have enjoyed remarkable success in the field. In the 1960s and 1970s, both because of its unique needs and because of international boycotts, Israel began developing its own military technologies, as well as augmenting the best foreign tech. Today, Israel boasts one of the most technologically advanced military stockpiles in the world, and one of the world’s most effective workforces. (This first appeared in 2015.) Here are five of the most deadly systems that the Israeli Defense Forces currently employ. Recommended: 8 Million Could Die in a War with North Korea  Merkava The Merkava tank joined the IDF in 1979, replacing the modified foreign tanks (most recently of British and American vintage) that the Israelis had used since 1948. Domestic design and construction avoided problems of unsteady foreign supply, while also allowing the Israelis to focus on designs optimized for their environment, rather than for Central Europe.  Around 1,600 Merkavas of various types have entered service, with several hundred more still on the way. Recommended: The Real Reason China Has Built a Massive Military  Read full article