Navagate Pages

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Forest - May 26, 2016 A Focus on The Middle East

The Forest - Seeing the Big Picture

One of the most important trends seen in the Middle East during the spring of 2016 are attempts by Turkey and Qatar to reestablish a strong support network for Muslim Brotherhood MB affiliates in the aftermath of the removal from power of the Morsi government in Egypt by Al Sisi during the summer of 2013, during the collapse of the "Arab Spring" movement. Qatar's role in the network is primarily financial, but secondarily diplomatic. Turkey is the primary actor and is attempting to coordinate support for Hamas, essentially the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood, and the government of Sudan, which is connected to the MB as well.

A side note- efforts to bring increased pressure upon Israel have failed spectacularly as, since the beginning of the Arab Spring, which was essentially a Muslim Brotherhood anti-Nationalist movement, and the completion of the Iran Nuclear JCPOA, Israel has become a strategic ally and even partner of the leading Sunni powers, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as all three stand in opposition to both the MB and Iran.

A second issue, largely gone unnoticed by many in the west, was the strategic alliance between Hamas and Islamic State affiliates, both at war with Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula. Hamas had been offering aid and sanctuary to IS fighters in Gaza. As noted above, Hamas is an ally of Turkey. Turkey had seen the Islamic State as a potential strategic partner in the Syrian conflict, though not necessarily as a formal partner. IS opposes Assad, Iranian influence generally, and the Kurdish nationalist movements. However, the Islamic State sees Turkey's active support for the Muslim Brotherhood's efforts in the rebellion in Syria as harmful to its future success. The MB and Islamic State potential strategic alliance was always problematic. With Islamic State terror attacks in Turkey in March, 2016, Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood have now begin actively fighting IS forces. Thus, Hamas is now also countering IS forces in Sinai and Gaza.

A third issue, Israel is now positioned to be a primary mediator between Russia and the US, Russia and Europe, and Russia and the Sunni Arab powers. The fact that Israel now includes over one million Russian speakers with numerous familial and business connections in the Former Soviet Union nations has created a situation in which Israel can easily reach out to leaders in Moscow as well as to other FSU national leaders and do so with personal relationships often based in a history of cooperation. Israel is also increasingly becoming a prime vacation destination for Russian speakers. These relationships make Israel unique among nations, having strong relationships with both Moscow and Washington DC and place Israel in a position to advocate for strategic concerns with Russia, not just in Washington DC. Having its own concerns about events in Syria, Israel is able to advocate for its own interests, help the American and Russian forces combat common enemies in Syria, and prevent unwanted conflicts between the forces of the superpowers.

Bringing Russian born Avigdor Liberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party (a party made up significantly of Russian immigrants to Israel) into the Israeli governing coalition furthers this relationship with Russia. Liberman will both seek to improve Russo-Israel relations and be seen by Russia as someone with whom they can work.

On the other hand, the implications of Liberman's entrance into the Israeli government as Defense Minister and the exit of Bogi Ya'alon will have an impact on Israeli politics in a number of ways, but it is also likely considering how rapidly Israeli politics shifts, that the current coalition makeup will be temporary. The real concern from the left in the longer term is whether or not the political left has the ability to win the next election and form a coalition that leans left of center in an environment that appears to be shifting further to the right.

A fourth issue, because of its ability to work with pro-western Kurdish networks and its extensive intelligence networks in the region, Israel is an even more essential strategic partner for NATO than it had been previously and is a vital strategic partner for any nation threatened by Iran, the Islamic State, or the Muslim Brotherhood. Israel's ability to work with the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, for example, makes it a potential strategic partner with Russia in countering Sunni terrorist forces seeking to operate within the Former Soviet Union.

A fifth issue, Turkey's positions in relation to the crisis in Syria, the resultant refugee crisis, its support for the Muslim Brotherhood and it's opposition to Israel have all resulted in the increasing isolation of Turkey. The Turks are stuck between seeking to advocate for Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand and needing Israeli help in countering terrorism from both Turkey's traditional Kurdish enemies and the Islamic State, while also addressing Turkey's concerns in Syria.

A sixth issue, there is much talk about the fact that the failure of the Zionist Union to negotiate entrance into the Israeli coalition and changes in Israeli policy with the help of the American and European leaders will torpedo peace talks in the near future. Please see the article that I wrote about this issue for We Are For Israel.

The Foreign Policy Impact

The adage, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend," does not apply in 2016. In many cases, the enemy of an enemy might even be a worse enemy. Multi-lateral conflicts do not follow the same rules as bi-lateral ones. The future of the Arab world will be centered around strategic alliances confronting immediate threats, not as much on longer term traditional alliances. Where traditional alliances attempt to stand in the way of newly formed strategic ones, the long term existence of traditional alliances will be strained. Thus, the Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan strategic alliance will strain both traditional Arab and Muslim alliances and specifically efforts to promote the Palestinian cause against Israel. A need to work with Israel by India and China both on economic issues and security issues will undermine efforts to have those nations pressure Israel. Finally, Russo-Israeli relations will undermine efforts by Iran to threaten Israel effectively or to have Russia lead efforts to promote Palestinian arguments.

Arab nationalists are now significantly dependent on Israel. Muslim Brotherhood activists are now increasingly dependent upon a weakened Turkey.

Additional News Articles

Russia delivered the first of a promised four S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems to Iran.

Terrorists conducted three attacks in Baghdad, Iraq killing dozens. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility. See also this link from CNN. 

Turkey carried out a raid using "elite forces" against Islamic State positions in Syria on the Turkish border.

****This post was updated on May 25, 2016****
  • Rabbi David Kaufman in the rabbi of Temple B'nai Jeshurun in Des Moines, Iowa. He is also the co-founder and lead blogger for, and co-founder of and adviser to the United Sudanese and South Sudanese Communities Association. Rabbi Kaufman regularly teaches about current events and the Foreign Policy issues for the Ray Society of Drake University and hosts an internet television show and podcast called "The Whole Megillah!" You may find links to all of these at

No comments:

Post a Comment