Hamas and Hezbollah Agree to Disagree on Syria

Graffiti displaying the word “Hamas”. Photo: Soman/Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s Note: This article is included in our ‘Conflict Hotspots 2014’ dossier which can be accessed here .

Born of a common struggle against Israel and nourished by common benefactors in Syria and Iran, Sunni Hamas and Shiite Hezbollah have long been natural allies despite their sectarian differences. Ever since the early 1990s, when Israel exiled Hamas’ leadership to Lebanon, the two groups have cultivated an alliance that has shaped the Middle East’s balance of power for decades.

But the crisis in Syria has ruptured the old “axis of resistance,” with regional forces giving the two organizations opposing stakes in the conflict and bringing unprecedented tension to their relationship. While Hezbollah fighters have fought and died for Bashar al-Assad in some of the civil war’s fiercest battles, Hamas has thrown in its lot with the rebels and retreated deeper into the embrace of Sunni Islamist powers in the region. » More

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Winners and Losers in the Syrian Civil War

Syrian Flag

Photo: Freedom House/flickr.

The Syrian civil war, which has seen a stalemate for nearly three years, shows no signs of a negotiated political solution. The Geneva II peace talks, that opened on 22 January, are highly unlikely to result in a breakthrough, absent a miracle. There is irreconcilable tension between the oppositional Syrian National Coalitions’s (SNC) demand for a future Syria without President Bashar Al-Assad and Al-Assad government’s policy priority to secure international support to fight what it calls rebellious terrorists. That may well leave a military victory, either by the government or the opposition rebels, as the final option to break out of the deadlock.

If this were to happen, three recent developments seem to favor a possible win by Bashar Al-Assad. First, in recent weeks, government troops have recorded some notable military successes by reversing rebel territorial gains in the south and eastern parts of Syria and by stamping them out from areas adjacent to Damascus. Secondly, the continued infightings between rebel groups, particularly between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other moderate Islamist groups are damagingly reducing their fighting capacities against government troops. Thirdly, international support for the rebels is gradually drying out. The SNC agreed to join Geneva II peace negotiations after the US and Britain had threatened to withdraw support for them.[1] A win by President Bashar Al-Assad would, however, inevitably affect the interests and strategic matrices of the regional powers deeply involved in the Syrian civil war – Iran, Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This point is explained below by highlighting what drove each of the parties to take sides in the civil war and what they stand to win or lose in Syria if Bashar Al-Assad stays in power. » More

Kerry’s Middle-East Peace Push and Bibi’s ‘No-State’ Solution

US Secretary of State John Kerry Meets With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, April 2013. Photo: US Embassy Tel Aviv/flickr.

If recent press reports are to be believed, the United States will soon present Israeli and Palestinian negotiators with a framework agreement – a non-binding proposal that would begin to sketch out an elusive middle ground between both sides. Yet, some six months into a nine month window dedicated to achieving a lasting solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this only serves to highlight the lack of progress achieved so far.

Despite widespread warnings that time is running out for a two-state solution, even President Obama remains sceptical that a final status agreement will be reached in the foreseeable future. In the absence of any tangible prospects for advancing discussions on final status issues, the US President has lowered expectations, describing current US efforts as merely intending to “push the boulder partway up the hill and maybe stabilize it so it doesn’t roll back on us”. » More

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Interview – Michael Walzer

Israel and Gaza

Israel and Gaza. Photo: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi/flickr.

Professor Michael Walzer is one of America’s foremost political philosophers and public intellectuals. He has written about a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy, including political obligation, just and unjust war, nationalism and ethnicity, economic justice, and the welfare state. He played a critical role in the revival of a practical, issue-focused ethics and in the development of a pluralist approach to political and moral life. He has published 27 books and over 300 articles, including  Just and Unjust WarsOn Toleration, and Arguing About War. He has served as editor of the political journal Dissent for more than three decades, and is a contributor to The New Republic. He graduated Summa cum laude from Brandeis University with a B.A. in History, studied at the University of Cambridge on a Fulbright Fellowship (1956–1957) and completed his doctoral work at Harvard, earning his Ph.D. in Government in 1961. Currently, he is working on issues having to do with international justice and the new forms of welfare, as well as on a collaborative project focused on the history of Jewish political thought.

Professor Walzer answers reader questions about intervention in Syria, just war in the age of drones, preventing genocide and mass atrocities, and Israel-Palestine peace negotiations. » More

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The Yom Kippur War Today

Stars and Symbols. Illustration by Nerosunero, courtesy of nerosunero/Flickr

MADRID – The approach of the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War has been marked in Israel largely by the recurrent debate about the failures of Israeli intelligence in detecting and thwarting Egypt’s surprise attack. But Israel’s blunder in October 1973 was more political than military, more strategic than tactical – and thus particularly relevant today, when a robust Israeli peace policy should be a central pillar of its security doctrine.

The Yom Kippur War was, in many ways, Israel’s punishment for its post-1967 arrogance – hubris always begets nemesis. Egypt had been so resoundingly defeated in the Six-Day War of June 1967 that Israel’s leaders dismissed the need to be proactive in the search for peace. They encouraged a national mood of strategic complacency that percolated into the military as much as it was influenced by the military, paving the way for the success of Egypt’s exercise in tactical deceit.

“We are awaiting the Arabs’ phone call. We ourselves won’t make a move,” Moshe Dayan, Israel’s defense minister, said. “We are quite happy with the current situation. If anything bothers the Arabs, they know where to find us.” But when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat finally called in February 1971, and again in early 1973, with bold peace initiatives, Israel’s line was either busy, or no one on the Israeli side picked up the phone. » More

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