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  • Author: Udi Dekel, Carmit Valensi
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The rescue of Bashar al-Assad’s regime by the pro-Assad coalition, comprising Russia, Iran, and Iranian proxies, led to the victory of the regime over the rebels; the coalition’s achievements stem primarily from the effective cooperation between Iran and Russia since 2015 in fighting the rebels. Now, with the battles over, despite shared interests in consolidating the Assad regime, inherent tensions between Russia and Iran regarding influence in Syria have emerged in greater relief. Yet despite the disagreements, this it is not a zero-sum game between Russia and Iran. Both continue to cooperate on a range of issues in the Syrian arena and beyond. Iran for its part continues to see its consolidation in Syria as a strategic objective, and despite difficulties that have emerged, it seems that Tehran remains determined to continue, even if to a lesser extent than originally planned. After the success of Israel’s military actions to halt Iran’s military consolidation in Syria, Jerusalem should maximize the political potential and the shared interest of Russia and the United States to stabilize the situation in Syria, and to reduce Iran’s influence and capabilities in the country.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Iran, Syria
  • Author: Assaf Orion, Amos Yadlin
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: At the strategic level, the convergence in time and space of the events following the chemical weapons attack in Duma by the Syrian regime portend a dramatic development with substantial potential impact for Israel’s security environment. The attack on the T4 airbase, attributed to Israel, falls within the context of the last red line that Israel drew, whereby it cannot accept Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. The attack in Duma reflects the Syrian regime’s considerable self-confidence at this time. As for Trump, the attack provides him with another opportunity to demonstrate his insistence on the red lines that he drew and take a determined stance opposite Putin. Thus, Israel’s enforcement of its red line and the United States’ enforcement of its red line have met, while Russia finds itself exerting efforts to deter both countries from taking further action that could undermine its achievements in Syria and its positioning as the dominant world power in the theater. However, the strategic convergence does not stop at Syria’s borders, and is unfolding against the backdrop of the crisis emerging around the Trump administration’s demands to improve the JCPOA, or run the risk of the re-imposition of sanctions and the US exiting the agreement. Indeed, the context is even wider, with preparations for Trump’s meeting with North Korean President Kim on the nuclear issue in the far background. Therefore, the clash between Israel and Iran in Syria on the eve of deliberations on the nuclear deal could potentially lead to a change from separate approaches to distinct issues to a broader and more comprehensive framework with interfaces and linkages between the issues.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Asia, North Korea, Syria, North America
  • Author: Udi Dekel, Carmit Valensi
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Besides the operational success, the attack in Syria earned the United States a clear political achievement, with the enforcement of American red lines by way of a coalition with Britain and France. However, this ad hoc coalition is focused solely on preventing the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and as Trump administration spokesmen clarified, there is no change in the US policy toward Syria. As such, the United States is threatening neither the Assad regime, nor the growing Iranian presence or Russian dominance in Syria. This attack was also not enough to address definitively the violations of the rules of war and the wide-scale attacks on civilians by Assad forces, including the use of conventional weapons, such as massive bombings from the air and barrel bomb attacks from helicopters. The United States and its partners did not present a plan to guarantee that the targeted attacks against civilians – and not just chemical attacks – on the part of Assad and the coalition that supports him will not continue. However, after seven years of war, in which more than a half a million people have been killed and millions have been displaced or have become refugees, the Syrian civilian population deserves more committed international support. For its part, Israel remains alone in the campaign against the consolidation by Iran and its proxies in war-torn Syria.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Hezbollah, Chemical Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Syria, North America
  • Author: Pnina Sharvit Baruch
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The combined attack by the United States, Britain, and France on Syrian targets following the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons has sparked extensive debate on the strike’s strategic aspects, and how, if at all, the offensive will affect the situation and the balance of power in Syria. The attack has also aroused a legal discussion, which once again highlights the limitations of the existing rules of international law when it comes to dealing with situations where the use of force is not based on the authorization of the Security Council or derived from the right to self defense. In this context, the forceful response, in and of itself, particularly being a combined attack by a number of key states, could have an impact on the development of international law with regard to the rules regarding possible legal justifications for the use of force between states.
  • Topic: United Nations, Military Strategy, UN Security Council, Chemical Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, United Kingdom, Europe, Middle East, France, Syria, North America
  • Author: Shmuel Even
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: In March 2018, with the approval of the military censor, Israel officially assumed responsibility for destroying the Syrian nuclear reactor on September 6, 2007, in an operation against what was considered an emerging existential threat. Before the public announcement, senior Israeli officials confirmed that for several years, the IDF has attacked strategic weapons in Syria meant for Hezbollah that were considered as posing an intolerable danger to Israel. These official statements have put an end to Israel’s long-standing policy of ambiguity about a series of aerial strikes on Syrian territory.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Weapons , Hezbollah, Air Force, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Udi Dekel, Assaf Orion, Anat Ben Haim, Zvi Magen
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: If Israel is in fact responsible for the April 29, 2018 attack in Syria, it is sending the message that it is determined and ready to fight a campaign to prevent Iran from consolidating its position in the northern arena, and that it will act to thwart the Iranian response. A war game conducted recently at INSS intended to clarify the boundaries of the ongoing campaign on the northern front and possible developments toward escalation between Israel and Iran and its proxies. Another goal was to consider a fundamental strategic question: is the northern arena truly one unit with two fronts – Syria and Lebanon, or is it two separate fronts operating according to different logics and reflecting distinct interests. Each of the involved actors – Israel, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Russia, and the United States – has a shared interest in preventing escalation that could lead to war. However, escalation has a dynamic of its own, and incidental elements – unintentional outcomes along with miscalculation – have a significant influence on events and developments. The most significant challenge for Israeli policy is how to resolve its goals vis-à-vis Iran. Thus the time has come for Israel to relinquish the comfort of its position of ambiguity on Syria; to understand that as far as it is concerned, the Assad regime is the least of all evils; and to strive to drive a wedge between Assad and Iran, and between Russia and Iran.
  • Topic: Civil War, Military Strategy, Armed Conflict , War Games
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Assaf Orion, Amos Yadlin
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Despite the two blows Iran sustained last week, Israel cannot afford to be complacent or overly satisfied. It will need to follow meticulously the updated policies adopted by each of the theater’s involved actors. Thus far, Israel has held separate policies regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the Iranian proxy war and malevolent influence. Now, it must develop an integrative long term policy and strive for coordinated efforts and meaningful cooperation with the United States, European countries, and the countries of the region. Operational and strategic coordination with Russia remains essential. Contending with the Iranian nuclear challenge will require the establishment of a joint “strategic early warning enterprise,” with the United States and other allies, aimed at preventing critical surprises.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria, North America