Friday, January 20, 2017
Deepening Sunni - Shia Conflict
Iran Repopulates Syria with Shia Muslims - Martin Chulov
People are starting to return to the valleys between Damascus and Lebanon, where whole communities had abandoned their lives to war. But the people settling in are not the same as those who fled during the past six years. Unlike the predominantly Sunni Muslim families who once lived there, the new arrivals are Shia Muslims, not just from elsewhere in Syria, but also from Lebanon and Iraq.
The population swaps are central to a plan to make demographic changes to parts of Syria, realigning the country into zones of influence that backers of Bashar al-Assad, led by Iran, can directly control. Iran's project will fundamentally alter the social landscape of Syria, as well as reinforce Hizbullah in Lebanon, and consolidate its influence from Tehran to Israel's northern border. "Iran and the [Syrian] regime don't want any Sunnis between Damascus and Homs and the Lebanese border," said one senior Lebanese leader. "This represents a historic shift in populations."
U.S. Should Isolate Iran Immediately - Jeb Bush and Dennis Ross
A pattern of Iranian aggression has accelerated in the year since the nuclear deal with Iran was implemented. Yet the Obama administration has ignored the comprehensive nature of the Iranian threat and soft-pedaled non-nuclear sanctions seemingly out of fear that Iran would walk away from the nuclear deal. As a result, Iran's leaders have become more emboldened and its footprint continues to grow across the region.
Iranian advisors with Shia militias from as far away as Afghanistan flooded Syria, giving Tehran a military arc of influence stretching to the Mediterranean. Eleven Arab states also recently accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs.
The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control should not provide licenses to Boeing and Airbus until Iran stops using Iran Air and other carriers to ferry weapons and personnel for the Assad regime and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The new administration must also establish unmistakable red lines for continued Iranian harassment of U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf. Only through a new campaign of pressure can the U.S. demonstrate to Iran that it runs very great risks if its policies don't change and if it is ever tempted to pursue nuclear weapons again.
Jeb Bush was governor of Florida (1999-2007). Dennis Ross, counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, was a special assistant to President Obama (2009-2011).
The Sunni Muslim World vs. Iran - Zvi Mazel
Sunnis make up 85% of the Muslim world, while Shi'ites are less than 15%. Nevertheless, Iran enjoys an advantage because it is the supreme Shi'ite religious and political authority, whereas in the Sunni world, every imam can issue his own fatwas - though there is no general obligation to follow them. The lack of religious solidarity - let alone a common policy - severely hampers the ability of Sunni countries to counter the Iranian threat.
Beginning with Khomeini, Tehran has developed a powerful and aggressive army to push its agenda: exporting its Islamic Revolution to Sunni states as a first step before attacking "the great Satan" - the U.S. and its allies. Iran was a major driving force in the disintegration of Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the shambles that is Lebanon.
The writer is a former Israeli ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.
Trump Administration: Turning Point in MidEast Policy? - Dore Gold
The inauguration of Donald J. Trump as the 45th president of the United States is likely to lead to a major transformation of U.S. Middle East policy. Many of the assumptions that accompanied the years of President Barack Obama will no longer be held by American policymakers.
(Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs)