The signs are ominous—especially in Israel and its neighbours, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Violence, both actual and rhetorical, has been escalating on all three fronts. Gaza could become the immediate flash point as the Palestinians’ ‘March of Return’, which began on 30 March, intensifies and Israeli retaliation becomes increasingly lethal.
Context is for Kings: Why the Iran Nuclear Agreement Represents the Art of the Possible, and Why it is Worth Saving
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are exclusively the author’s and do not necessarily represent the position of the Center for Security Studies or of any other institution.
In the conflict over its nuclear program, Iran was subjected to one of the toughest and most sophisticated sanctions regimes ever seen. Yet sanctions alone did not give rise to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The nuclear agreement resulted from an intricate interplay between sanctions and conflict context. This successful resolution of the nuclear issue can be attributed to two factors. First, masterful diplomacy on both sides isolated the issue of the nuclear program from the wider conflict between the Islamic Republic and the West and circumnavigated some of its intractable trials and tribulations. Second, the agreement was reached in the face of the constant machinations of hardliners on both sides, whose precise objective it was to link the nuclear issue to the wider struggle between the Islamic Republic and the West.
The era of foreign intervention in Syria is coming to an end – at least that’s what Russian President Vladimir Putin said when Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, visited Sochi last week. Granted, Putin’s statement was ambiguous – “in connection with the significant victories … of the Syrian army … foreign armed forces will be withdrawn from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic” – but Russia’s Syria envoy clarified the next day that Putin was, in fact, calling on all militaries to vacate the country.
Israel has long been wary of Iran’s power projection in the Levant, particularly in Syria. Ties between Tehran and Damascus have been close since the 1979 revolution, but the relationship deepened after Syria’s civil war erupted in 2011. With the Assad regime’s survival at stake, Tehran doubled down on its support, providing critical military assistance—fighters and strategists—and economic aid estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Syria and Iran now have a partnership with existential stakes—for the Assad regime’s longevity and Iran’s enduring position in Syria, the most strategic property in the Levant. USIP’s Mona Yacoubian looks at Iran and Israel’s goals and concerns in Syria and the potential of their shadow war spilling over into a regional conflagration.
Every day Iran fails to strike back makes it look weaker.
Another war between Israel and Hezbollah may well be approaching. Iran, Hezbollah’s primary patron, continues to ship weapons to the Lebanese militia despite Israel’s insistence that doing so is something it cannot allow. Israel has conducted airstrikes on Iranian and Syrian targets in the past month accordingly, but to no avail. The more aggressively Israel behaves, the sooner a direct fight with Iran will come.