Shalom!

Welcome to my blog.

I am an independent Middle East Strategic Intelligence Analyst, and lecturer specializing in the current affairs of the Arab and Muslim world and their impact on Israel and the region.

I am the Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs for the Eisenhower Institute Eisenhower Institute, where among other responsibilities I leads a year-long program entitled “Inside the Middle East – Intelligence Perspectives,” designed to ensure that the next generation to be in positions of influence in the United States will have a more intimate understanding of the Middle East and will apply methods of critical thinking regarding Middle East Affairs in a way that will result in a more accurate reading the Middle East reality and which will better serve the West’s interest.

My blog offers you insight into my analysis of what goes on in our region and its impact here and globally.

As a former Senior Israeli Official on Arab Affairs I spent most of my intelligence career in Arab speaking areas.

My work today, including all the articles I publish, is based on a wide variety of Arabic sources which you will see referenced throughout my articles.

My blog, like my briefings and tours do not tell you what you can read in the news yourself – subscribe to my blog to be sure to get the story behind the story.

I hope you will find my analysis and commentary thought-provoking.

I want your feedback – respond by commenting or email me directly.

Please be in touch if you would like to consider booking me for an event in Israel or anywhere in the world. And next time you’re in Israel be sure and be in touh with me as you’re planning so you can include an Intelligence Briefing or an Intelligence Tour while you’re on the ground in Israel.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.  Please feel free to email me at avi.yanshuf@gmail.com.

Avi


Yarmuk Movie: Kill the Messenger

March 1  2015

Yarmuk Movie: Kill the Messenger

by Avi Melamed

The article you are about to read was actually written in April 2014. I wrote the article following an eight-minute fiction movie called Yarmuk that was published on YouTube in March 2014. The movie was directed and produced by an Arab director and actor named Muhammad Bakri. The movie was removed from YouTube shortly after it was posted, and – unfortunately before I could publish my article. My attempts to find the movie were unsuccessful therefore I decided not to publish my article.

Until now.

These very days, after a long search and research, I found the movie.

What is the movie’s background? Why was it removed and by whom? What can we learn from that episode?

In previous articles I have published, I wrote about some of the outcomes of the war in Syria. For example, in an October 2013 Intelligence Bulletin “Desperate Situation in Syria – reports of people eating cats and dogs, I described the humanitarian crisis in the Al-Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus caused by the ongoing siege of the camp by Assad’s troops and his allies, the Iranian regime and Hezbollah. Dozens of thousands of Palestinians have fled from Syria looking for a shelter in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Others made their way to a refugee camp established in Cyprus. Others have escaped to Europe. As of February 2015, based upon a formal report of the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRA) 18,000 people inside the al-Yarmouk camp are in serious danger of dying. According to Palestinian resources, 2,648 Palestinians were killed thus far in the war in Syria, 165 died of starvation and lack of medical treatment, and about 100,000 Palestinians have run from Syria.

Another outcome of the war in Syria relates directly to one of the many, yet extremely tragic, aspects of the war in Syria – the Syrian refugees. According to formal estimates, the number of Syrian refugees who have fled Syria is today about 3,000,000 people. Most of them live in difficult conditions in provisory refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. They struggle daily with the tough conditions.

This misery and poor conditions cause Syrian families to marry off their daughters to men from the Arab world (mostly from the Arab Gulf states) for money. In fact, it is female trafficking disguised as a legitimate marriage contract which expires at some point, and then the girls (most of the time) go back to their families. This model of marriage is legal in Islamic law, it enables the families to comply with the strict and conservative Islamic norms and values, thus avoiding disgrace. And so, almost all parties to the deal are satisfied – probably. Except for the girls. On that topic please read my Intelligence Bulletin “Syrian Refugees” (May 2013).

Bakri’s movie – which has almost no dialogue – hints and relates to these two phenomenon.

The movie generated a firestorm in the Arab world.

Arguments were made that the movie is an allegory of the gloomy situation in the Arab world. Those supporting that argument site the fact that the movie was named “Yarmuk” rather Al-Yarmuk – which is the official name of the Palestinian refugee camp. They also argue that the fact that Bakri ends his movie with the title “To the Arab nation” is evidence that the movie is an allegory. Others argue, however, that it is about the Palestinians specifically.

One way or the other, Bakri caught hell from both sides. Palestinians, on the one hand, blamed him for “humiliating the Palestinians” and “undermining the suffering of the Palestinian refugees by emphasizing the tragedy of Syrian female trafficking.” While non-Palestinian Arabs on the other hand, blamed him for “humiliating the Arabs” and for “diminishing the tragedy of the Syrian refugees while emphasizing the suffering of Palestinian refugees.

Bakri published a formal announcement expressing his apologies. He stated that “had I been able to, I would have gone myself to Al-Yarmuk refugee camp” and that “All I wanted was to draw the world’s attention to the tragedy of Al-Yarmuk camp.” Bakri also announced that he was removing the movie from YouTube and so he did. In this short video, Bakri presents his outlook as an artist.

Reading in-between the lines of Bakri’s statement, suggests that his decision was not only the result of the criticism; it is possible that he was exposed to other pressures, on top of the verbal ones.

This story has many layers.

First, Bakri’s movie reflects the reality. The events described in his movie do take place. As of now, hundreds – if not more – of the Palestinian residents of the Al-Yarmuk camp were killed during the war in Syria. Dozens of thousands flee, heading mostly to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

Arab and non Arab organizations and media platforms document the tragedy of Syrian female trafficking in the Arab world, as well as the exploitation and sexual abuse of Syrian woman in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, the Gulf States and other places in the Arab world.

On another level, the story indicates one of the major reasons for the illness of the Arab world – the refusal of many people in the Arab world to look in the mirror and to take responsibility. Not for the first time, Arabs prefer to kill the messenger.

There is another interesting aspect to that story. Muhammad Bakri is famous for a documentary movie he produced and directed a couple of years ago entitled “Jenin, Jenin.” The movie documents the alleged war crimes committed by Israel during a military operation inside the camp in April 2002.

The facts are as follows. Following a massive wave of Palestinian suicide bombing attacks on Israeli civilian targets, Israel launched a military campaign to restore security and control in the West Bank where the overwhelming majority of Palestinian suicide bombers were dispatched from to carry out their missions.

For twelve days, from April 2 – 14, 2002, fierce military clashes took place between the Israel Defense Force and Palestinian militants in the Jenin Palestinian Refugee camp located in the northern part of the West Bank. Twenty-three Israeli soldiers and some fifty-five Palestinians – most of them armed militants – were killed during the fighting.

The Palestinians accused Israel of genocide, arguing that Israel killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians including babies. The United Nations, as well as the Human Rights Watch investigating committees ruled that these accusations were groundless. Time magazine published a detailed report about the events entitled “The Story of the Battle of Jenin‘ in which it concluded decisively that “there was no wanton massacre in Jenin, no deliberate slaughter of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers. But the 12 days of fighting took a severe toll on the camp.”

Yet, Bakri’s movie perpetuates, until today, the Palestinian accusations. Israeli soldiers who were involved in the fight in Jenin accused Bakri of manipulation and spreading lies. Israeli censorship ordered that the movie not be presented publically. In response, Bakri, together with Israeli human right activists appealed to the Israeli Supreme court who ruled that the movie would be screened. Soldiers who fought in Jenin, as well as families of Israeli soldiers that were killed in Jenin, filed a lawsuit accusing Bakri of defamation. Though the Israeli court ruled in their favor, it turned the lawsuit down because it was defamation of “the public” and not of an “individual.”

One last interesting aspect to the story. Muhammad Bakri is an Israeli-Arab. He is an Israeli citizen.

In a way, the story of the two different movies Bakri made – “Jenin, Jenin” and “Yarmuk” is to some extent the story of the differences between Israel and the Arab societies. The difference between a society (Israel) that enables freedom of speech and expression and pluralism – even if it is hard to take and offensive to many people, and between the Arab societies which refuse to face criticism and prefer to shoot the messenger rather than dealing with the challenges. One cannot avoid thinking that Arab societies could have been in a different and better place today had they enabled open dialogue, criticism and different opinions.

Yarmuk – The Movie

**********************************

Avi Melamed

Bio

Former Israeli Senior Official on Arab Affairs and former Intelligence Official and educator, Avi Melamed today is an Independent Middle East Strategic Intelligence Analyst, regional expert and lecturer specializing in the current affairs of the Arab and Muslim world and their impact on Israel and the region.

His expertise includes: The Arab awakening; Arab perspectives on Israel; Emerging challenges and opportunities in the Middle East; Evolving forces in the region and their current and future impact on Israel’s strategic environment, etc.

Avi has most recently been appointed the Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs for the Eisenhower Institute Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College with offices located in Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where among other responsibilities he leads a year-long program entitled “Inside the Middle East – Intelligence Perspectives,” designed to ensure that the next generation to be in positions of influence in the United States will have a more intimate understanding of the Middle East and will apply methods of critical thinking regarding Middle East Affairs in a way that will result in a more accurate reading the Middle East reality and which will better serve the West’s interest.

Mr. Melamed has a proven record of foreseeing the evolution of events in the Middle East and their impact on a local and regional level.

His knowledge and wide and varied experience offer a behind the scenes insider’s view of the constantly-changing Middle East landscape and insight into future regional implications.

His outstanding analytical abilities, unique understanding of the Arab world and the Arabic language, decades of experience working in Arab speaking areas throughout the region, direct access to sources, and networks throughout the Arab world resources allows him to keep his finger on the pulse on the Arab world and has positioned him as one of the most well-rounded and insightful analysts in his field.

In his work as an analyst Avi provides intelligence analysis, briefings and tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policy makers, international media outlets as well as a wide variety of organizations and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East affairs. His tours and briefings, based on Arab sources, decades of field experience, policy design and intimate connections throughout the Arab world, offer an insider’s view of the constantly-changing Middle East landscape and future regional implications.

In the public sector, Avi held various government and Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions. Fluent in Arabic and Israeli- Jew with a unique understanding of Arab society and culture, Avi spent many years living in Arab cities and communities throughout the region, often in high-risk positions at sensitive times. During the first Intifada he was appointed the youngest-ever Deputy Advisor on Arab affairs to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek and later he served in the Ehud Olmert administration as Senior Advisor. He was instrumental in developing Israeli policy in and around Jerusalem, and represented the city in local and international forums. He held various Intelligence and Counterterrorism field positions in delicate areas on behalf of the Israeli Defense Forces, the Israeli government, and Israeli security and intelligence services.

He is also the founder and creator of Feenjan – Israel speaks Arabic, a non-profit initiative which presents contemporary Israeli society and culture to the Arab world in Arabic, and serves as an online platform for Israelis and Arabs to discover and discuss issues of common interest.

In the private sector Avi facilitates relationships between Israeli and international firms and potential partners in the Arab world.

Through all of Avi’s efforts, as a speaker, an analyst, a writer, and an entrepreneur, he is a bridge builder. He dedicates himself to enhancing the Arabic, English and Hebrew speaking audience’s comprehensive understanding of the Middle East and of each other.

Avi is currently writing a book which will be a resource for policy makers around the world when it comes to Middle East Affairs. Avi has authored two books, Separate and Unequal – Israel’s rule in East Jerusalem, published by Harvard University Press and Ubrusi, A Novel.

He is a frequent guest on English and Arabic networks including Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic, his articles are translated into multiple languages and are available on international news websites.

Avi has degrees from The Carmel Institute for Military Research, George Mason University, and The Hebrew University.

Avi is a frequent contributor in Arabic, Hebrew and English to many news outlets including Al-Arrabiya, Al-Jazeera, BBC, CBN, I24 TV News Network, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, etc.

He provides briefings to many local and international organizations including AIPAC; American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress; Birthright; Foreign Diplomats and Embassies; Friends of the IDF; Georgetown University; Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation; Herzeliya Interdisciplinary Center; Israel Border Police Senior Command; Israel Defense Forces; Israel Ministry of Defense; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israel Police; Israel Prison Authority; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish Community Relations Council; Jerusalem Foundation; Jewish Federations of North America; Jewish National Fund; Hillel; J-Street; Keren Hayesod; Peres Center for Peace; Princeton University; The Israel Project; Tufts University; University of California, Berkeley; the United States Army; World Bank; World Presidents Organization, etc.

 


סעודיה: מלך חדש, ריקוד ישן

25./1/2015

המלך עבדאללה בן עבד אלעזיז אל-סעוד, מלכה השישי של סעודיה (2005-2015) הלך לעולמו בגיל 91. עבדאללה היה הבן ה – 12 מתוך 36 בנים (ומספר בלתי ידוע של בנות) של מייסד הממלכה הסעודית עבד אלעזיז אל- סעוד (1932-1953). יורש העצר הנסיך סלמאן הוכתר למלכה השביעי של סעודיה בו ביום שעבדאללה נקבר.

המלך סלמאן הוא בן 79. הוא מונה ליורש העצר לאחר ששני אחיו המבוגרים יותר, הנסיך סלטאן והנסיך נאאף, מתו בתוך שנה (2011-2012) שלושת האחים הם בנים לאותה אם – חצא אל סדירי, אחת מנשותיו של מייסד הממלכה הסעודית (נפטרה ב- 1969) בעוד אמו של המלך המנוח עבדאללה אגב, היתה פהדה אלשמרי, ואילו אמו של יורש העצר הנוכחי, הנסיך מקרן, היא ממוצא תימני.

בתקופת שלטונו התמודד המלך עבדאללה עם אתגרים פנימיים חברתיים וכלכליים גדלים והולכים בסעודיה, בעיצומה של סערה עצומה הפוקדת את המזה”ת והעולם הערבי. שעה שמדינות ערביות מתפוררות או בדרך להתפורר, אלימות פושה ומתפשטת באיזור והאתגרים הכלכליים, החברתיים והפוליטיים העצומים של החברות הערביות מחוללים טלטלות עזות, נתפס המלך עבדאללה כמנהיג יציב, אחראי, שמקדם רפורמות בארצו באופן זהיר ומחושב, שהעקרון המנחה של התנהלותו ומדיניותו הינו השמירה על היציבות בממלכה. כביטוי לכך, התאפיינה מדיניותו של עבדאללה בעיקר בפעילות דיפלומטית ובגישה פרגמטית של תווך, גישור ופישור מחלוקות איזוריות מתוך רצון להבטיח ככל הניתן יציבות והימנעות מסחרור. כך למשל, היה עבדאללה מעורב בנסיונות להשיג פשרה פוליטית בלבנון, או הסכם הפיוס בין הרשות הפלסטינית לבין חמאס. דוגמא נוספת היא יוזמתו לסיום הסכסוך הישראלי – פלסטייני. ואף כי התוצאות היו מאכזבות, לא היה בכך משום ביטוי לחולשתו של עבדאללה אלא בעיקר ביטוי לחומרת ומורכבות הקונפליקטים. הרצון לשמור על יציבות ככל הניתן היה בין השאר גם הרקע למדיניות הקשוחה של עבדאללה כלפי גורמים איזוריים כמו קטר, האחים המסלמים או חמאס, שבפעילותם גרמו לחוסר יציבות. תחום מרכזי נוסף במדיניותו של עבדאללה הינו כמובן הנושא האירני. מודאג עמוקות מהחתרנות האיזורית של אירן ומתכנית הגרעין שלה, פעל עבדאללה – לרוב בערוצים דיפלומטיים ודיסקרטיים – במאמץ לבלום את אירן ולעצור את תכנית הגרעין שלה. עם זאת, לא היסס עבדאאלה לפעול גם באופן נחרץ תוך שימוש בכח כדי להבהיר לאירן כי יש לו קוים אדומים. כך למשל, שלח המלך כוחות צבאיים לבחריין וסיכל נסיון הפיכה בבחריין בהשראת המשטר האירני. הצבא הסעודי פעל נגד שבטי החות’יים השיעים בצפון תימן הנתמכים על ידי המשטר האירני (נובמבר – דצבר 2009) ובסוריה, מממנת ומחמשת סעודיה כוחות של המורדים ובעיקר את “החזית האסלאמית הסורית” במלחמתם נגד אירן ואסד. בזירה הבינלאומית – על רקע האשמות שהופנו לסעודיה בגין סיועה לפעילות האסלאם המיליטנטי – יזם עבדאללה – במידה מסויימת של הצלחה – פעילות שנועדה לשנות את תדמיתה של סעודיה ולמצב אותה כגורם המעודד דיאלוג בין תרבותי ובין דתי, דוגל בסובלנות ולוחם בקיצוניות.

המלך סלמאן היה שותף מלא לדרכו להתנהלותו של המלך עבדאללה. לפיכך, ניתן להניח כי ימשיך במדיניות דומה. מטבע הדברים יש כאלה התוהים האם לאור חלופי המשמרות בסעודיה – כאשר ברקע נמשכות ומחריפות הטלטלות באיזור ולאור האתגרים הפנימיים המשמעותיים בסעודיה – תחווה סעודיה עצמה מציאות של חוסר יציבות?

תשובתי היא שאינני רואה בעתיד הנראה לעין סכנה ליציבות הפנימית בסעודיה. ראוי לשים לב לעובדה שביום בו נקבר עבדאללה הוכתר סלמאן למלך החדש וכל הצמרת הסעודית התייצבה כאיש אחד במפגן ציות ואחדות ברור להביע נאמנות למלך החדש. סלמאן עצמו ביצע מהלך חשוב ומעניין: הוא הודיע על מינויו של הנסיך מחמד בן נאאף (יליד 1959) לתפקיד יורש העצר לאחר הנסיך מקרן. הצעד של סלמאן חשוב משום שיורש העצר הנוכחי – הנסיך מקרן – הינו צעיר הבנים של מייסד הממלכה ולפיכך יהיה אחרון המלכים מהדור הראשון. המינוי של מחמד בן נאאף מתייחס כבר לדור השני: הוא יהיה הנכד הראשון של עבד עלזיז אל סעוד למלוך בסעודיה בבוא העת. בצעד זה משדר סלמאן מסר של יציבות – וזה אכן שם המשחק.
היציבות בסעודיה נובעת מכמה גורמים:
גורם אחד הוא העובדה שבית המלוכה מייצג מארג חברתי-כלכלי-פוליטי המושתת על בסיס שבטי ומשפחתי, שיש לו אינטרס משותף בשמירה על יציבות ובשימור ואבטחת המערכת החברתית – פוליטית- כלכלית הקיימת. במובנים רבים המונארכיה היא המארג החברתי והמארג החברתי הוא המונארכיה.
גורם שני הוא העושר של סעודיה, המאפשר לה לבצע השקעות ענק במטרה להתמודד עם האתגרים הכלכליים והחברתיים. תקציבה של סעודיה לשנת 2015 הוא קרוב ל 230 מליארד דולר, והוא הגדול ביותר בתולדותיה. מרבית התקציב מיועדת להשקעות בתחומי תשתיות, תעסוקה, השכלה, מינוף כלכלי ועוד. היכולת לתת מענה מתן לצרכים מספקת נדבך נוסף התורם שלמירה על יציבות הממלכה.
גורם שלישי הוא ההזדהות הרגשית העמוקה של האוכלוסייה עם בית המלוכה, המושתתת על שני רכיבים מרכזיים: רכיב אחד הוא לגיטימציה על בסיס דתי – תרבותי של בית המלוכה הסעודי. סעודיה נמצאות בחצי האי ערב שהוא ערש דת האסלאם והתרבות הערבית (תוארו של מלך סעודיה הוא “מגן המקומות הקדושים לאסלם בחצי האי ערב”) הרכיב השני קשור לקודים התרבותיים והחברתיים של החברה הסעודית שהיא חברה שבטית. ערכים של נאמנות, ציות ומסירות מוטמעים עמוק בחברה הסעודית, ויוצרים חיבור רגשי עמוק והזדהות עם בית המלוכה והעומד בראשו. טקסים מרכזיים בחברה הסעודית נותנים ביטוי לכך. כך למשל, טקס הביעה – שבועת הנאמנות – של הנתינים לשליט, או ריקוד החרבות – אלערצ’ה שהוא “ריקוד העם” הרשמי של סעודיה המתקיים לציון עתות שלום, מלחמה או שמחה, ומקורו בתקופה הקדומה של התרבות הערבית. אין להמעיט בחשיבותו של גורם ההזדהות הרגשית: בתקופה שחלפה מאז החלו אירועי ההתעוררות הערבית הוכח יותר מפעם אחת – בירדן, מרוקו, סעודיה, כוויית – כי ההזדהות הרגשית של הציבור עם המונארכיה ועם המונארך ממלאת תפקיד מרכזי בשמירה על יציבות המשטר והמארג החברתי – פוליטי.


Saudi Arabia: New King, Old Dance

January 25. 2015

Saudi Arabia: New King, Old Dance

by Avi Melamed

King Abdullah Bin Abd-Alaziz, the sixth king of Saudi Arabia, died on January 23, 2015 at age of 91.

King Abdullah Bin Abd-Alaziz, ruled Saudi Arabia for ten years from 2005 to 2015. He was the twelfth son, out of 36 sons and an unknown number of daughters, of the founder of the Saudi Arabia Kingdom Abdul Aziz Al-Saud (1932-1953).

Following King Abdullah’s death, Crown Prince Salman was announced the new King of Saudi Arabia.

King Salman is 79 years old. He was appointed the Crown Prince following the death of two of his brothers – Prince Sultan who died in 2011 and Prince Nayef who died in 2012. All three are sons from the same mother, Hussah Al-Sudairi, one of King Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud’s wives – she died in 1969.

King Abduallah Bin Abd-Alaziz’s mother was Fahda bint Asi Al Shuraim. The current Crown Prince is Muqrin, the youngest son of Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud, born in 1945. He is the son of a different mother (who is of Yemenite origin).

King Abdullah ruled during one of the most dramatic chapters in the history of the Middle East – the outbreak of the events known as the Arab Spring. During his rule, the Kingdom knew both progress on various issues, as well as growing social and economic challenges.

While Sunni Arab States are disintegrating, militant Islam is gaining momentum, Arab societies are experiencing massive turbulences, and the Sunni-Shiite rivalry is deepening and growing throughout the region, King Abdullah was perceived by many in the region – and in the world – as a responsible, calculated, solid leader, as well as a cautious reformer. In the face of growing challenges, both regionally and domestically, King Abdullah strived to enhance stability.

King Abdullah’s domestic, as well as foreign and regional policies, were primarily characterized by a diplomatic, cautious and mediating approach. For example, the King initiated and encouraged agreements between the disputing sides in Lebanon as well as between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Though his efforts did not succeed or last, it does not necessarily indicate the weakness of the king; it is rather mostly a manifestation of the complexity of the conflicts.

In the face of the growing intimidation of Militant Islam, the King initiated and supported activities aimed at enhancing inter-faith dialogue and tolerance.

However, on some issues the King did not hesitate to conduct an aggressive, decisive policy. For example, it was because of his pressure that the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, withdrew from Lebanon in 2005. The King rushed to send his armed forces to prevent a coup in neighboring Bahrain and to defend its dynasty.

The King led intensive diplomatic efforts aimed to restrain the growing Iranian intimidation. However, his policy was not only a diplomatic one. The King did not hesitate to use military force in order to signal to the Iranians that he would not tolerate the crossing of red lines. That was the case in Bahrain, that was the case in the war against the Houti Shiite tribes in northern Yemen (November-December 2009), and that was the case in the war in Syria where Saudi Arabia supports, arms and finances the Syrian Rebel groups and primarily “The Islamic Syrian Front.”

King Salman was King Abduallh’s full partner in the shaping and implementation of Saudi policies. Therefore, Arab analysts predict that King Salman’s “policy will be similar to Abdullah’s.”

Naturally, many wonder if the transition itself will result in turbulence and instability in Saudi Arabia. Given the inner challenges in Saudi Arabia, as well as the turbulence in the Middle East, it is an important question.

I do not foresee instability taking place in Saudi Arabia in the foreseeable future. In my assessment, stability will be kept in Saudi Arabia. One should note that the same day King Abdullah was buried, the new King was sworn in and the Senior Leadership of Saudi Arabia formally announced allegiance to the new King.

One of Salman’s first steps as the King is very interesting and meaningful. He ordered that the next Crown Prince, after Prince Muqrin, will be Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef, who is the grandson of Abd Al-Aziz Al-Saud. King Salman’s move is meaningful because the current Crown Prince – Prince Muqrin – is the last son of Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia. By nominating Mohammed Bin Nayef as the first Crown Prince from the second generation (i.e. the grandson of Abdul Aziz Al-Saud) King Salman conveys a message of continuity and stability of the Kingdom. And indeed, the name of the game in Saudi Arabia is stability.

The stability of the Saudi Monarchy stems from a couple of factors:

First, the Monarchy represents the fabric, founded on a tribal and familial base, which preserves the stability of the existing socio-political-economic system. In many ways, the Monarchy is the social fabric and the social fabric is the Monarchy.

The second factor is the enormous wealth of Saudi Arabia which enables the Monarchy to carry out large scale social and economic programs to meet the needs of the Saudis. The 2015 Saudi national budget is about USD $230 billion – the biggest budget ever in Saudi history.

A third factor is the deep emotional identification of the population with the Royal Dynasty, based on two central components. One component is the legitimacy of the Saudi Royal Dynasty on a religious and cultural basis. Saudi Arabia is located in the Arabian Peninsula which is the cradle of both the religion of Islam and Arab culture. The formal title of the Saudi King is the “Servant of two scared religious sites of Islam.” The other component is the admiration of the Monarch. Saudi culture and society is a tribal one, where values of loyalty, devotion, and obedience to the leaders are deeply rooted. Ceremonies like the Bay’ah, the Oath of Allegiance, or the Ardah Dance, the Saudi formal dance in times of war, peace, and joy that go back to the early times of Arab culture, manifest the centrality of these values and sentiments in Saudi society. One must not underestimate the importance of the factor of emotional identification. In the period that has elapsed since the Arab Awakening began, it has been shown more than once – in Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia – that the emotional identification of the public with the Monarchy and with the Monarch, fills a central role in maintaining the stability of the regime.

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Avi Melamed

Former Israeli Senior Official on Arab Affairs and former Intelligence Official and educator, Avi Melamed today is an Independent Middle East Strategic Intelligence Analyst, regional expert and lecturer specializing in the current affairs of the Arab and Muslim world and their impact on Israel and the region.

His expertise includes: The Arab awakening; Arab perspectives on Israel; Emerging challenges and opportunities in the Middle East; Evolving forces in the region and their current and future impact on Israel’s strategic environment, etc.

Avi has most recently been appointed the Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs for the Eisenhower Institute Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College with offices located in Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where among other responsibilities he leads a year-long program entitled “Inside the Middle East – Intelligence Perspectives,” designed to ensure that the next generation to be in positions of influence in the United States will have a more intimate understanding of the Middle East and will apply methods of critical thinking regarding Middle East Affairs in a way that will result in a more accurate reading the Middle East reality and which will better serve the West’s interest.

Mr. Melamed has a proven record of foreseeing the evolution of events in the Middle East and their impact on a local and regional level.

His knowledge and wide and varied experience offer a behind the scenes insider’s view of the constantly-changing Middle East landscape and insight into future regional implications.

His outstanding analytical abilities, unique understanding of the Arab world and the Arabic language, decades of experience working in Arab speaking areas throughout the region, direct access to sources, and networks throughout the Arab world resources allows him to keep his finger on the pulse on the Arab world and has positioned him as one of the most well-rounded and insightful analysts in his field.

In his work as an analyst Avi provides intelligence analysis, briefings and tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policy makers, international media outlets as well as a wide variety of organizations and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East affairs. His tours and briefings, based on Arab sources, decades of field experience, policy design and intimate connections throughout the Arab world, offer an insider’s view of the constantly-changing Middle East landscape and future regional implications.

In the public sector, Avi held various government and Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions. Fluent in Arabic and Israeli- Jew with a unique understanding of Arab society and culture, Avi spent over twenty years living in Arab cities and communities throughout the region, often in high-risk positions at sensitive times. During the first Intifada he was appointed the youngest-ever Deputy Advisor on Arab affairs to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek and later he served in the Ehud Olmert administration as Senior Advisor. He was instrumental in developing Israeli policy in and around Jerusalem, and represented the city in local and international forums. He held various Intelligence and Counterterrorism field positions in delicate areas on behalf of the Israeli Defense Forces, the Israeli government, and Israeli security and intelligence services.

He is also the founder and creator of Feenjan – Israel speaks Arabic, a non-profit initiative which presents contemporary Israeli society and culture to the Arab world in Arabic, and serves as an online platform for Israelis and Arabs to discover and discuss issues of common interest.

In the private sector Avi facilitates relationships between Israeli and international firms and potential partners in the Arab world.

Through all of Avi’s efforts, as a speaker, an analyst, a writer, and an entrepreneur, he is a bridge builder. He dedicates himself to enhancing the Arabic, English and Hebrew speaking audience’s comprehensive understanding of the Middle East and of each other.

Avi is currently writing a book which will be a resource for policy makers around the world when it comes to Middle East Affairs. Avi has authored two books, Separate and Unequal – Israel’s rule in East Jerusalem, published by Harvard University Press and Ubrusi, A Novel.

He is a frequent guest on English and Arabic networks including Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic, his articles are translated into multiple languages and are available on international news websites.

Avi has degrees from The Carmel Institute for Military Research, George Mason University, and The Hebrew University.

Avi is a frequent contributor in Arabic, Hebrew and English to many news outlets including Al-Arrabiya, Al-Jazeera, BBC, CBN, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, etc.

He provides briefings to many local and international organizations including AIPAC; American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress; Birthright; Foreign Diplomats and Embassies; Friends of the IDF; Georgetown University; Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation; Herzeliya Interdisciplinary Center; Israel Border Police Senior Command; Israel Defense Forces; Israel Ministry of Defense; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israel Police; Israel Prison Authority; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish Community Relations Council; Jerusalem Foundation; Jewish Federations of North America; Jewish National Fund; Hillel; J-Street; Keren Hayesod; Peres Center for Peace; Princeton University; The Israel Project; Tufts University; University of California, Berkeley; the United States Army; World Bank; World Presidents Organization, etc.


מסר משמעותי

Below is the Hebrew version of the English article I posted yesterday “A Significant Message“, please click here for that article.

20 ינואר 2015

מסר משמעותי

ארגון חזבאללה הלבנוני הודיע כי שישה מפעיליו נהרגו בתקיפה שהתרחשה באיזור קנייטרה בצד הסורי של רמת הגולן ב 18 בינואר. בנוסף, הודיעה אירן רשמית כי בתקיפה נהרג קצין של משמרות ההפיכה האירניים בדרגת גנרל, אודותיו נמסר במידע ממקורות אחרים, כי הוא היה סגנו של גנרל קאסם סלימאני, מפקד כח אלקדס, חוד החנית של משמרות המהפכה האירניים. בדווחים בלתי מאומתים נמסר גם, כי באירוע נהרגו בסך הכל שישה אירנים בנוסף לאנשי חזבאללה.

בין הרוגי חזבאללה באירוע עלו שמותיהם של ג’האד מג’אניה, שתואר כ “מפקד חזבאללה בגזרת הגולן” (ובנו של ראש הזרוע הצבאית של חזבאללה עמאד מג’אניה שחוסל בדמשק בפברואר 2008) וכן שמו של מחמד אחמד עיסא המתואר כבכיר חזבאללה המחזיק בתיק סוריה ועירק בארגון.

על אף שישראל לא נטלה אחריות לאירוע, חזבאללה ואירן מייחסים את התקיפה לישראל, ובכיר אירני הצהיר רשמית כי חזבאללה יגיב באופן קשה על התקיפה. מפקד משמרות המהפכה האירניים עצמו איים בתגובה קשה נגד ישראל.

מידע מצטבר מצביע על נוכחות של אנשי חזבאללה ומשה”מ ברמת הגולן. במסגרת זאת נמסר, שאירן פרסה תשתיות לאיסוף מודיעין במוצבים של הצבא הסורי הפרוסים לאורך קו התילים מספר ק”מ ממזרח לקו הפסקת האש בין ישראל לבין סוריה. בנוסף, חזבאללה הקים ומפעיל תשתית שיזמה עד כה מספר מצומצם של פיגועים נגד יעדים ישראלים צבאיים ואזרחיים ברמת הגולן וזאת באמצעות “קבלני ביצוע”. כך למשל דווח במרס 2013 על הקמתו של ארגון בשם “גדוד משחררי חוות שבעא”. סביר להניח שמדובר באחד מקבלני הביצוע של חזבאללה.

חזבאללה ישאף להגיב באופן קשה על התקיפה בקנייטרה. הפגיעה הקשה שספג הארגון בתקרית באה ימים מועטים לאחר ראיון בו הצהיר מנהיג הארגון חסן נצראללה כי ברשותו טילים מתקדמים מסוג פאתח 110 המסוגלים לפגוע במטרות בעומק ישראל באופן מדוייק. ככמו כן איים ולא בפעם הראשונה כי יכבוש חלקים מהגליל ואף מעבר לגליל. כחלק מממשוואת ההתרעה מול ישראל הבהיר נצראללה בהזדמנויות שונות, כי כל פגיעה באנשיו או בריבונות לבנון תגרור תגובה של הארגון. לפיכך, ההצהרות הללו בצירוף עם תוצאותיו הקשות של האירוע מבחינת חזבאללה אינם מותירים לו מרחב הבלגה גדול. הוא יהיה חייב להגיב.

עם זאת, להערכתי ינחה המשטר האירני את חזבאללה להגיב באופן שלא יוביל לעימות חזיתי רחב עם ישראל, וזאת בשל שני שיקולים אסטרטגיים של אירן:

שיקול אחד הוא השמירה על שרידות משטרו של אסד בסוריה. חזבאללה, המעורב בהנחיית אירן במלחמה בסוריה עד צוואר, הוא גורם מפתח בהגנה על שרידות משטרו של אסד. המלחמה בסוריה גובה מחירים כבדים מאוד מחזבאללה: השדרה הלוחמת של הארגון נפגעת קשות. יש לו מאות רבות מאוד של הרוגים ואלפי פצועים, רבים מהם קשה. כתוצאה לכך יש תרעומת גוברת והולכת של העדה השיעית בלבנון שבניה חוזרים בארונות מסוריה. בנוסף ,מעוררת מעורבות הארגון במלחמה בסוריה אופוזיציה חיצונית ופנימית לנצראללה ומנהיגותו, ומגבירה מתחים פנימיים ומאבקי כח בתוך הארגון. במקביל, חזבאללה מתכתש היום עם ארגונים סונים קיצוניים לאורך גבול לבנון – סוריה, ובה בעת נאלץ גם להקצות משאבים גוברים והולכים להגן על נכסיו מתקניו ואנשיו בתוך לבנון מפני התקפות של ארגונים פלסטינים המזוהים עם אלקאעדה וקבוצות סלפיות ג’האדיות הפועלים מתוך מחנות הפליטים הפלסטינים בלבנון, וכן ארגונים אלסמאיסטים המסתננים מסוריה לתוך לבנון במטרה לפגוע בחזבאללה בביתו כנקמה על מעורבותו המלחמה בסוריה. במישור הכלל ערבי, גרמה מעורבותו של חזבאללה במלחמה בסוריה לפגיעה אנושה בתדמיתו של הארגון בעולם הערבי. בנוסף, על רקע המצוקה הכלכלית מחריפה של פטרונו – המשטר האירני – קוצץ היקף הסיוע הכספי שמקבל חזבאללה מאירן, דבר היוצר לחץ מוסף על הארגון. כללו של דבר, חזבאללה כיום מצוי בשפל קשה והוא מותח את יכולותיו עד לקצה. פתיחת חזית צבאית במקביל מול ישראל בתזמון הנוכחי עלולה להיות הרת אסון מבחינת חזבאללה ואירן.

השיקול השני הוא תכנית הגרעין האירנית. ההשקעה העצומה של אירן בבניית יכולת הטילים והרקטות העצומה של חזבאללה נועדה לשמש הן כקלף מיקוח ביד המשטר האירני בהקשר של המו”מ על תכנית הגרעין האירנית, והן להרתעה מפני תקיפה צבאית של תשתית הגרעין האירנית. עימות חזיתי כולל עם ישראל עלול להסתיים בפגיעה קשה ביותר במערך הרקטי של חזבאללה ולהביא לכך שאירן עלולה לאבד קלף מיקוח מרכזי.

בהנחה אם כן שחזבאללה לא יזום תגובה שעלולה להוביל לעימות צבאי כולל עם ישראל לעת הזו, מהן אופציות התגובה של חזבאללה ומה הסבירות למימושן בשקלול האילוצים והתנאים שצויינו לעיל ?

אפשרות אחת הינה ירי רקטות. הסבירות למתקפה רקטית רחבת היקף של חזבאללה על שטח ישראל בתגובה לאירוע בקנייטרה אינה גבוהה. יתכן עם זאת, שקבלני משנה של חזבאללה יבצעו ירי רקטות ספוראדי משטח לבנון / או סוריה לעבר שטח ישראל. נסיון העבר מלמד שירי כזה מתרחש בצמידות גבוהה למדי לאירוע שקדם לו (בטווח זמן של 12-72שעות) הסבירות למימוש מתווה זה בינונית עד גבוהה.

אפשרות אחרת הינה תקיפה שמטרתה הרג של חיילים ישראלים. המתווה הסביר יותר בקטגוריה זו הינו תקיפת יעדים צבאיים יעדים אפשריים לתקיפה כזו הינם סיורים, מוצבים, כלי שיט וכלי טיס צבאיים. הסבירות למימוש מתווה כזה גבוהה. ראוי בהקשר זה לציין כי לאירן ולחזבאללה יש יכולת לבצע פיגוע התאבדות תוך שימוש בסירות מהירות. יתכן כי מתווה כזה יבוצע על ידי סוכן משנה שלא יזוהה ישירות עם חזבאללה

מתווה נוסף הינו חטיפה של חיילים ישראלים. הסבירות שחזבאללה יבחר במתווה זה הינה להערכתי נמוכה.

מתווה אחר הוא תקיפה של יעדים ישראלים ויהודים בחו”ל. אף כי חזבאללה עשה שימוש במתווה זה לא אחת, הסבירות שחזבאללה יבחר במתווה זה אינה גבוהה בעיניי וזאת מכמה סיבות: ראשית, המו”מ של אירן עם המערב לגבי תכנית הגרעין של אירן נכנס לשלבים מכריעים, ולאירן יש אינטרס בלגיטימציה בדעת הקהל העולמית. מתקפת טרור של חזבאללה שהוא בן חסות של ימצק את תדמיתה של אירן כגורם מסוכן התומך ומעודד טרור עולמי ובכך יחליש את יכול המיקוח של אירן במו”מ על הגרעין שלה. בהקשר הזה חשוב להזכיר כי תחת רישומה של מתקפת הטרור בפאריז, בדעת הקהל המערבית ובקרב הממשלות במערב גוברת ההבנה כי הטרור הוא איום מוחשי וכי יש לגלות אפס סובלנות כלפי מי מעודד טרור ותומך בו. ראוי להזכיר בהקשר זה, כי מנהיג חזבאללה עצמו גינה את מקפת הטרור בפאריז. סיבה שניה היא, שחזבאללה חווה סדרת כשלונות מביכה בנסיונות לבצע מתקפות בחו”ל. יתכן, כי הסיבה לכשלונות אלה הינה חדירה מודיעינית עמוקה של שירותי מודיעין ובכלל זה של ישראל לשורות הארגון. סגנו של נצראללה הודה בגלוי כי הפגיעה שנגרמה לחזבאללה כתוצאה לחדירה המודיעינית לשורותיו עמוקה וקשה. בהקשר זה יצויין, כי בשבועות האחרונים מצוי חזבאללה במבוכה עצומה על רקע דווחים כי נחשף בכיר בשורות מנגנון פיגועי חו”ל של הארגון שפעל לפי דווחים בשירות המוסד הישראלי. בהקשר זה נמסר כי חזבאללה מבצע כיום שידוד מערכות רחב – הכולל סגירה ורה –ארגון של מנגנון פיגועי חו”ל שלו. המשמעות האפשרית לכך היא שנפגעה היכולת האופרטיבית של חזבאללה להוציא אל הפועל “תכנית מדף” לביצוע מתקפה בחו”ל בטווח זמן קצר.

יש מתווה אפשרי אחר לתגובה של חזבאללה והוא נסיון כיבוש של מוצב צבאי ישראלי. להערכתי, אם יבחר חזבאללה במתווה כזה יעד התקיה יהי ברמת הגולן ולא על גבול לבנון. יש לכך כמה סיבות: ראשית, תקיפה של מוצב בגבול לבנון תהווה הפרה של החלטת מועצת הבטחון 1701. שנית, תקיפה כזו תוביל בוודאות גבוהה לתגובה ישראלית קשה נגד לבנון שממשלתה מוחזקת על ידי ישראל כאחראית למתרחש בשטחה. התפתחות כזו תחייב את חזבאללה – המנסה לזכות בלגיטימציה בנימוק שהוא “מגן על ריבונות לבנון”, להתערב ומפה קצרה הדרך להתלקחות חזיתית רחבה שלחזבאללה ולאירן כאמור אין לעת הזו אינטרס בה. על פניו נראה, כי הסבירות למימוש מתווה של תקיפת מוצב ישראלי אינה רבה, אולם ראוי בעיניי לבחון מתווה זה במשנה רצינות. מדוע? מעבר לעובדה שמהלך כזה יכול לגרום להרג רב של חיילים ישראלים, לחזבאללה יכול להיות ענין מיוחד במהלך כזה מסיבות נוספות: ראשית, תדמיתו של חזבאללה ככח צבאי חזק נסדקת ונשחקת על רקע סדרת כשלונות וכשלים מבצעיים חמורים שאירעו לו במלחמה בסוריה, כמו שבי של לוחמיו בידי ארגוני מורדים בסוריה, גידול חד במספר ההרוגים שלו בגזרת אלקלמון, ואולי האירוע החמור מכל מבחינתו – כיבוש מוצב של חזבאללה על גבול לבנון –סוריה על ידי ארגון ג’בהת אלנצרה והרג שמונה לוחמי חזבאללה באירוע (אוקטובר 2014) על פי דווחים, נצראללה עצמו נחפז להגיע לביקור באיזור לאחר האירוע כדי לשכך את הביקורת ולשקם את מורל לוחמיו. לפיכך, האופציה של תקיפת מוצב ישראלי שמן הסתם תתועד על ידי חזבאללה מכל זוית, עלולה להיראות בעיני הארגון כדרך לשיקום תדמיתו ויוקרתו.  סיבה נוספת שעלולה לגרום לחזבאללה לשקול ברצינות מתווה כזה היא הערכתו, שישראל לא תגיב באופן חמור על מהלך כזה (גם אם יוביל להרג חיילים ישראלים) אם מתוך הבנה שזהו מהלך המתקיים במסגרת חוקי משחק מקובלים או מתוך חוסר רצון לפתוח מלחמה כוללת או שתי הסיבות גם יחד. הנעלם הגדול ביחס לסבירות המימוש של מתווה זה הוא האם חזבאללה, כפי שקרה בשנת 2006, יבחר לממש מתווה זה מתוך הערכת חסר של תגובה ישראלית למהלך כזה? על שאלה זו אין תשובה ברורה לעת עתה.

מכלול השיקולים והאילוצים מציג לאירן וחזבאללה דילמה מהי דרך התגובה הנכונה ביותר מבחינתם. המשמעות לכך היא, להערכתי, כי בטווח הזמן הקרוב לא צפויה תגובה כזו. סביר להניח כי אירן וחזבאללה יקחו את הזמן לגבש ולתכנן את תגובתם – וצריך לזכור כי חזבאללה הוכיח לא אחת תכנון המאופיין ביצירתיות מרשימה ויכולת ביצוע גבוהה.

בהנחה שישראל אכן ביצעה את התקיפה ברמת הגולן, יש לראות בכך מסר ישראלי משמעותי לאירן ולחזבאללה בכמה רבדים. ברובד אחד, ממחיש האירוע כי לישראל יש יכולות מודיעיניות מעולות. ברובד אחר, ישראל מבהירה כי רמת הגולן היא מחוץ לתחום. בדור האחרון, הצליחה אירן לבנות טבעת חנק סביב ישראל באמצעות סוכני ביצוע – חזבאללה בלבנון, חמאס וג’האד אסלאמי ברצועת עזה. תוך שהיא ממצבת עת עצמה כמגינת הפלסטינים בשם סיסמת “ההתנגדות“, גורמת אירן לישראל (וגם לפלסטינים וללבנונים) לדמם באופן מתמשך. התקיפה הישראלית מבהירה כי ישראל לא תאפשר לאירן ולחזבאללה לשכפל את הדגם של לבנון ורצועת עזה גם ברמת הגולן. ברובד אחר מעבירה ישראל מסר למשמרות המהפכה האירניים ולחוד החנית שלהם – כח אלקדס: אינכם חסינים מפגיעה. ולבסוף, המסר הישראלי החשוב ביותר הוא שלמרות הנסינות של אירן וחזבאללה ליצור משוואת הרתעה באמצעות איומים ומפגני כח צבאיים, ישראל פועלת ויוזמת כדי להבטיח אינטרסים חיוניים שלה, וכי אינה נרתעת מלפעול – גם בידיעה שעלול להיגבות ממנה מחיר יקר – כדי להסיר איום הנתפס בעיניה כבלתי נסבל. חשוב להזכיר בהקשר הזה כי הצמרת הישראלית הבכירה ביותר מדגישה תקופה ארוכה כי יכולת גרעינית צבאית אירנית היא איום בלתי נסבל מבחינת ישראל. ההקבלה ברורה למדי.


A Significant Message…

January 19, 2015

A Significant Message

by Avi Melamed

 

The Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah announced that six of its militants were killed on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights on January 18th.

In addition, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards announced that an Iranian General was killed in the attack. Reportedly, the Iranian general was second-in-command of the Al-Quds Force, the spearhead of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

According to some reports, in addition to the six Hezbollah militants that were killed, a total of six Iranian Revolutionary Guard Officers were also killed in the attack.

Among the Hezbollah militants that were killed was Jihad Mughniyeh, described as Hezbollah’s Commander in the Golan Heights, and the son of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s “Chief of Staff” who was assassinated in Damascus in February 2008. Also reportedly killed was Mohammed Ahmed Issa, described as a very prominent Hezbollah Commander who was in charge of the organization’s activities in Syria and Iraq.

Hezbollah and the Iranian regime hold Israel responsible for the attack and threaten to retaliate. A senior Iranian official formally announced that Hezbollah’s revenge will be painful. Officially, Israel however, has claimed no responsibility for the attack.

Accumulating information indicates that Hezbollah and Iranian officers were present on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights bordering Israel. In that context it should be noted, that according accumulating reports, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards deployed and developed surveillance and intelligence gathering capabilities and facilities in Syrian Army Military bases located east of the Israeli-Syrian Ceasefire Line in the Golan Heights. In addition, accumulating information indicates that Hezbollah aims to initiate attacks on Israeli targets from the Syrian side of the Golan Heights by using sub-contractors that the organization supports who launch sporadic attacks on Israeli Military posts and patrols. One of these proxies for example is a militia called the “Liberators Brigade of the Shab’ah Farms” allegedly formed in March 2013; it is very likely this is a camouflage name for one of Hezbollah’s sub-contractors.

Hezbollah will inevitably strive to initiate a painful retaliation. In a recent television interview Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, announced that his organization has advance missiles capable of targeting strategic targets and interests in Israel. In addition, he announced that his organization has in its possession “a weapon” – in his words “that will surprise Israel.” On different occasions, Hezbollah’s leader has announced that Israeli attacks on Hezbollah, or on Lebanon, will result in a decisive response by Hezbollah.

Therefore, Hezbollah cannot afford to let this attack go unanswered. Yet in my evaluation, not to the degree of generating a direct, wide military confrontation with Israel.

It is likely that the Iranian regime itself will instruct Hezbollah to refrain from a retaliation that might result in a wide-scale military confrontation with Israel.

That assessment stems from the following reasons:

A wide military confrontation at this time with Israel will jeopardize Iran’s two major strategic interests: One is the continuation and longevity of the Assad rule in Syria and the other is the Iranian Nuclear Project.

Hezbollah’s military involvement in the war in Syria keeps Assad in power. As of now Hezbollah is deeply engaged in the war in Syria which threatens to percolate into Lebanon as well. Thus, the time is not right to open an additional front with Israel.

And the other – the Iranian Nuclear Program. The Iranian regime provides Hezbollah with an enormous amount of missiles and rockets – some 100,000 of which are aimed at Israel. That capacity is one of Iran’s most important negotiating cards in the context of the future of its Nuclear Project (on that matter read for example my article “Is War in the Middle East Inevitable?”) (February 2012). A wide military confrontation with Israel could result in substantial damage to that arsenal – hence jeopardizing Iran’s bargaining card.

It is less likely Hezbollah will fire rockets. It is also very possible that in the immediate future one of Hezbollah’s sub-contractors will launch a limited amount of rockets perhaps from the Syrian side or from Lebanon.

Hezbollah will plan the time and the method of its retaliation to take place later on. Hezbollah’s retaliation is likely to take place in the future – not immediately. Previous events indicate that Hezbollah carefully chooses and calculates the method and timing for action.

Given the different calculations mentioned above, the more likely possible methods of Hezbollah’s retaliation are attacks on Israeli military targets in the Golan Heights (less likely along the Israeli-Lebanese border) or attacks on Israeli/Jewish targets abroad.

In my analysis, the method of targeting Israeli/Jewish targets abroad is less likely to take place as negotiations with the West regarding Iran’s Nuclear Program enter a crucial phase.

In addition, given the traumatic impact of the recent terror attacks in Paris on Western public opinion the Iranian regime will be extremely cautious not to be associated with such an attack.

But there is another reason that currently, an attack for Hezbollah abroad is problematic. According to accumulating reports, Hezbollah is currently suffering a tremendous embarrassment. It has been revealed that several of Hezbollah’s Senior Commanders and Officials were allegedly Israeli Mossad Agents. Hezbollah’s Second-in-Command openly admitted that the organization has experienced a breach which is deep and wide. Reportedly, Hezbollah is today reorganizing its units responsible for terror attacks abroad. Thus, this may impact Hezbollah’s ability to carry out a retaliation path abroad in the foreseeable future.

Assuming Israel is responsible for the attack, it is a very significant and multi-layered message to Iran and Hezbollah.

On one level, the operation indicates that Israel has outstanding intelligence capacities.

The attack also signals that Israel will not accept a change in the rules of the game. Over the last generation, Iran has successfully developed a massive armed presence through proxies on Israel’s Northern and Southwestern borders – namely Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip. Positioning itself as the defender of the Palestinian cause under the slogan of “The Resistance” (Al-Mukawamah in Arabic), the Iranian regime causes Israel to constantly bleed through war by proxies. This attack sends a clear message that Israel will not allow Iran to extend its hold into the Golan Heights.

Furthermore, the action signals that the Al-Quds Force – Iran’s spearhead and the Elite Executive Forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – has no immunity.

And, finally, the offensive signals, that in spite of Hezbollah and Iranian threats, Israel will not hesitate to initiate drastic measures to secure its interests and to prevent what Israel defines as an intolerable threat. That is a very significant message given the fact that Israel constantly, consistently and decisively defines the Iranian nuclear program as an intolerable threat.

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Avi Melamed

Former Israeli Senior Official on Arab Affairs and former Intelligence Official and educator, Avi Melamed today is an Independent Middle East Strategic Intelligence Analyst, regional expert and lecturer specializing in the current affairs of the Arab and Muslim world and their impact on Israel and the region.

His expertise includes: The Arab awakening; Arab perspectives on Israel; Emerging challenges and opportunities in the Middle East; Evolving forces in the region and their current and future impact on Israel’s strategic environment, etc.

Avi has most recently been appointed the Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs for the Eisenhower Institute Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College with offices located in Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where among other responsibilities he leads a year-long program entitled “Inside the Middle East – Intelligence Perspectives,” designed to ensure that the next generation to be in positions of influence in the United States will have a more intimate understanding of the Middle East and will apply methods of critical thinking regarding Middle East Affairs in a way that will result in a more accurate reading the Middle East reality and which will better serve the West’s interest.

Mr. Melamed has a proven record of foreseeing the evolution of events in the Middle East and their impact on a local and regional level.

His knowledge and wide and varied experience offer a behind the scenes insider’s view of the constantly-changing Middle East landscape and insight into future regional implications.

His outstanding analytical abilities, unique understanding of the Arab world and the Arabic language, decades of experience working in Arab speaking areas throughout the region, direct access to sources, and networks throughout the Arab world resources allows him to keep his finger on the pulse on the Arab world and has positioned him as one of the most well-rounded and insightful analysts in his field.

In his work as an analyst Avi provides intelligence analysis, briefings and tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policy makers, international media outlets as well as a wide variety of organizations and private clients on a range of Israel and Middle East affairs. His tours and briefings, based on Arab sources, decades of field experience, policy design and intimate connections throughout the Arab world, offer an insider’s view of the constantly-changing Middle East landscape and future regional implications.

In the public sector, Avi held various government and Counter-Terrorist intelligence positions. Fluent in Arabic and Israeli- Jew with a unique understanding of Arab society and culture, Avi spent over twenty years living in Arab cities and communities throughout the region, often in high-risk positions at sensitive times. During the first Intifada he was appointed the youngest-ever Deputy Advisor on Arab affairs to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek and later he served in the Ehud Olmert administration as Senior Advisor. He was instrumental in developing Israeli policy in and around Jerusalem, and represented the city in local and international forums. He held various Intelligence and Counterterrorism field positions in delicate areas on behalf of the Israeli Defense Forces, the Israeli government, and Israeli security and intelligence services.

He is also the founder and creator of Feenjan – Israel speaks Arabic, a non-profit initiative which presents contemporary Israeli society and culture to the Arab world in Arabic, and serves as an online platform for Israelis and Arabs to discover and discuss issues of common interest.

In the private sector Avi facilitates relationships between Israeli and international firms and potential partners in the Arab world.

Through all of Avi’s efforts, as a speaker, an analyst, a writer, and an entrepreneur, he is a bridge builder. He dedicates himself to enhancing the Arabic, English and Hebrew speaking audience’s comprehensive understanding of the Middle East and of each other.

Avi is currently writing a book which will be a resource for policy makers around the world when it comes to Middle East Affairs. Avi has authored two books, Separate and Unequal – Israel’s rule in East Jerusalem, published by Harvard University Press and Ubrusi, A Novel.

He is a frequent guest on English and Arabic networks including Al Jazeera and BBC Arabic, his articles are translated into multiple languages and are available on international news websites.

Avi has degrees from The Carmel Institute for Military Research, George Mason University, and The Hebrew University.

Avi is a frequent contributor in Arabic, Hebrew and English to many news outlets including Al-Arrabiya, Al-Jazeera, BBC, CBN, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, etc.

He provides briefings to many local and international organizations including AIPAC; American Jewish Committee; American Jewish Congress; Birthright; Foreign Diplomats and Embassies; Friends of the IDF; Georgetown University; Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation; Herzeliya Interdisciplinary Center; Israel Border Police Senior Command; Israel Defense Forces; Israel Ministry of Defense; Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Israel Police; Israel Prison Authority; Jewish Council for Public Affairs; Jewish Community Relations Council; Jerusalem Foundation; Jewish Federations of North America; Jewish National Fund; Hillel; J-Street; Keren Hayesod; Peres Center for Peace; Princeton University; The Israel Project; Tufts University; University of California, Berkeley; the United States Army; World Bank; World Presidents Organization, etc.


Muslim Brotherhood at the Crossroads

December 6, 2014

by Avi Melamed

The Middle East continues to constantly provide dramatic events in different areas – in Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq and other places. However, I would like to divert your attention for a while from the dramatic events in those arenas and take a pause to explore some very interesting processes taking place for a significant player in the region – The Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Following the outbreak of events in the Arab world known as the Arab Awakening, the Muslim Brotherhood has succeeded in attaining their primary political goal in two Arab countries.

In the elections held in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood won by an overwhelming majority in the Egyptian parliament, and its candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected president of Egypt.

The Muslim Brotherhood party in Tunisia, which is called Al-Nahda (The Awakening), garnered a win in the elections and became the dominant party in the government of Tunisia.

In Algeria, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, and Qatar the Muslim Brotherhood achieved political momentum, and in the midst of the war in Syria, the Muslim Brotherhood renewed its activity after more than 40 years of being oppressed and crushed by Assad’s rule.

Yet, the Muslim Brotherhood’s triumph didn’t last long. Ironically, the failure of the Muslim Brotherhood was actually embedded in their own short term success. The Arab Awakening put the Muslim Brotherhood in a place where it had never been before — “the driver’s seat.” The Muslim Brotherhood got into the “driver’s seat” of “the car” (the Arab world) when all of its systems were collapsing. And if that wasn’t enough, the “fuel” (the Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan – “Islam is the solution”) provided by the Muslim Brotherhood could not really make the sputtering “car” move forward. Objectively, there was no possibility of providing answers to the enormous problems of the Arab world in a short time. But patience had run out in the Arab public and it was demanding immediate solutions.

As of November 2014, the Muslim Brotherhood across the region is in a defensive position.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have decreed the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist organization and the Muslim Brotherhood’s activities in Jordan and in the Gulf States (aside from Qatar) are limited and controlled.

The Kuwaiti government recently announced that it will deprive citizenship from “destabilizing individuals” and will outlaw “destabilizing” political organizations and charity funds i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood.

In Tunisia, the Muslim Brotherhood’s party Al-Nahda was defeated in the recent general elections (October 2014).

The Muslim Brotherhood may find some consolation in the support it gets from Turkey and Qatar, yet that support – as the Muslim Brotherhoods knows well – is not unconditional and it could easily change subject to Turkey or Qatari interests; in fact, reportedly Qatar recently deported for reasons that are unclear, some of Muslim Brotherhood activists (who in the meantime have been allowed to return).

The Muslim Brotherhood is not only experiencing growing external pressure; it is experiencing a growing inner crisis. In my article The Arab Awakening: An Era of New Slogans (November 8, 2011) I predicted the inevitable shake-up within the Muslim Brotherhood which stems primarily from the need to bridge the gap between the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and the pragmatic needs dictated by the rapidly and dramatically changing reality in the Arab world. I also predicted that this crisis would impact the Muslim Brotherhood internally in two ways. First, I said it would result in a permanent tension within the Muslim Brotherhood and, it would be likely that the Muslim Brotherhood would have to establish a political coalition which would include other political factors who stand for different, even contradictory, ideology — such as the Liberals.

It seems that my predictions have been realized.

In the context of the inner tension. Accumulating reports reveal inner tensions within the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt that stem from the conflict between the movement’s ideology, on the one hand, and real political demands and interests on the other hand (for more on that issue read for example an article published in September 2012 in the Los Angeles Times entitled Now in power, rifts emerge within Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood). A similar process has taken place within the Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.

And on the issue of political pragmatism. Reportedly, following its defeat in the elections in Tunisia, the Muslim Brotherhood party is exploring the possibility of participating in a coalition led by its biggest political rival, the Al-Nida (The Call) party which stands for the concept of modern state whose legislation and constitutional identity is inspired not only Islamic religious law but also secular concepts and values.

 Also, reportedly the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria plans to establish a political party called Wa’ad (Promise) that will include Kurdish as well as Christian members.

 Though the Muslim Brotherhood currently struggles with inner as well as external challenges, there is no cause whatsoever to eulogize the Muslim Brotherhood. We must remember that the Muslim Brotherhood is planted deeply in the broad avenues of the Arab world. The many years of widespread educational, social and economic activities that the Muslim Brotherhood has conducted have provided it with the widest possible political and emotional base of support.

In this context, we must understand two corner stone terms in the Muslim Brotherhood   ideology. One is the term “tamkin” which in Arabic means “to make possible.” The meaning of this term is that we must focus today on the creation of the conditions and the laying down of the foundations for a future – undefined in time – in which it will be possible to actualize the vision of the global state entity based on a full implementation of Islamic religious law in all aspects of life. The realization of this goal justifies political and ideological compromise and flexibility if it is necessary. This is the central code that guides and will continue to guide the Muslim Brotherhood thinking. The other term is “sabr” (in Arabic “patience”) it is one of the Muslim Brotherhoods’ identifying ideological symbols, indicating the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is a marathon runner.

The Muslim Brotherhood is not going away. At this stage and in the foreseeable future, the Muslim Brotherhood will focus on reorganization and on attempts to consolidate a political strategy that will preserve the attractiveness and the ideological relevance of political Islam in the face of the social, economic and political challenges of Arab societies. As a result of this, we may expect an internal shake-up within the ranks of political Islam which will stem from an internal power struggle between the pragmatic camp and the inflexible ideological camp. In my estimation, this struggle will lead to a strengthening of the pragmatic movement while the rigid, ideological movement within the Muslim Brotherhood will weaken. One of the reasons for this lies in the fact that the option for the strict ideological movement in the Muslim Brotherhood to situate itself in a more rigidly ideological slot within the Muslim Brotherhood does not actually exist, since this slot is already taken by other entities in the Arab world: the militant Islamic groups. On that topic I will write separately.

To read more on a related subject please see my article “Is the Israeli –Egyptian Peace Treaty in Jeopardy? (Published in February 2012) 

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Former Israeli Senior Official on Arab Affairs, Intelligence Official and educator, Avi Melamed today is an Independent Middle East Strategic Intelligence Analyst, regional expert and lecturer specializing in the current affairs of the Arab and Muslim world and their impact on Israel and the region.

His expertise includes: The Arab awakening; Arab perspectives on Israel; Emerging challenges and opportunities in the Middle East; Evolving forces in the region and their current and future impact on Israel’s strategic environment, etc.

Avi has most recently been appointed the Fellow of Intelligence and Middle East Affairs for the Eisenhower Institute Eisenhower Institute of Gettysburg College with offices located in Washington, D.C. and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where among other responsibilities he leads a year-long program entitled Inside the Middle East – Intelligence Perspectives, designed to ensure that the next generation to be in positions of influence in the United States will have a more intimate understanding of the Middle East and will apply methods of critical thinking regarding Middle East Affairs in a way that will result in a more accurate reading the Middle East reality and which will better serve the West’s interest.

He is also the founder and creator of Feenjan – Israel speaks Arabic, a non-profit initiative which presents contemporary Israeli society and culture to the Arab world in Arabic, and serves as an online platform for Israelis and Arabs to discover and discuss issues of common interest.

Avi has degrees from The Carmel Institute for Military Research, George Mason University, and The Hebrew University.

Avi is a frequent contributor in Arabic, Hebrew and English to many news outlets including Al-Arrabiya, Al-Jazeera, BBC, CBN, I-24 News, the Times of Israel, USA Today, The Washington Post, etc.

He has written two books and is in the midst of writing his third, which will be a resource for policy makers around the world when it comes to Middle East Affairs.

Through all of Avi’s efforts, as a speaker, an analyst, a writer, and an entrepreneur, he is a bridge builder dedicating himself to enhancing the Arabic, English and Hebrew speaking audience’s comprehensive understanding of the Middle East and of each other.


Sixty-Six Egyptian Fishermen, Yemen and Instability in the Middle East

 October 24, 2014

Sixty-Six Egyptian Fishermen, Yemen and Instability in the Middle East

Pay attention to the recent developments in Yemen, an Arab State with a population of 23,000,000 people.

Yemen is located on the strategic Bab-el-Mandeb Strait (sometimes called the Mandab Strait) which flows between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, and connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. Yemen chronically suffers from weak governments, endless violence and enormous economic and social challenges. Yemen is a member of a “not so complementary” club of the poorest nations in the world. Yemen’s society is based on tribes and demographically it is 60% Sunni and 30% Shiite.

All the above factors provide the conditions for Yemen to be a central stage for the widening and escalating Sunni – Shiite conflict; a Sunni Arab axis led by Saudi Arabia on the one hand – and a Shiite axis led by Iran on the other hand.

Yemen has also become a platform for the growing presence and operation of Militant Islam groups. The Sunni Militant Islam group, Ansar al-Sharia, which is known as Al-Qaida’s strongest branch – is located in Yemen.

 In September 2014, something very important happened in Yemen. A local Shiite Militant Islam group known as Ansar Allah took over Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

Ansar Allah is the Military Militia of the Houthis Shiite Tribe whose stronghold is located in Yemen’s northern district of Sa’adah which borders Saudi Arabia. The relations between the Shiite Houthis and the rule (whether it was Sunni or Shiite) in Yemen have a long history of violence. The Houthis argue that they are constantly being deprived of rights and services and are discriminated against.

In 2004, a young Houthi leader named Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi established a militia called Al Shabab Al Mu’minun (the Young Believers). In 2009 Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi was killed in clashes with the Yemenite army and his brother, Abd Al Malik Badr UD Din Al Houthi – the current leader of Ansar Allah –took control.

In June 2007 a ceasefire agreement between the Houthis and the Yemenite government was signed; the broker was Qatar. Yet, the agreement did not last long and the fighting resumed.

The Yemenite Prime Minister at the time, Ali Abdullah Saleh (himself a Shiite), accused the Iranian regime of supporting and arming the Houthis militia.

That accusation was not groundless: Given its strategic location, the Iranian regime views Yemen as a place in which it would like to increase its activity and influence. Moreover, the fact that there is a significant Shiite population in an area that primarily borders Saudi Arabia (Iran’s bitter rival) coupled with the chronic inner instability, Yemen offers the Iranian regime an ideal area to operate in and to expand its influence. (On the subject of Iran’s aggressive foreign policy read for example my articles “Masters of Chaos: The Iranian Mullah Regime – June 2012, “The Iranian Dance of Veils” – November 2011) Iran’s modus operandi is based on using local agents in different areas (like Bahrain, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, the United Arab Emirates, etc.) to promote and enhance Iran’s interests. They are using the same method in Yemen.

 Iran is massively supporting and arming the Houthis tribe in Yemen.

And accumulating information indicates that Eritrea – Yemen’s neighbor just across Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, is a vital component of the Iranian involvement in Yemen. In return for Iranian money, Eritrea has agreed to become a base for Ansar Allah militants. They are trained in Eritrea, reportedly some of the trainers are Hezbollah or Syrian military experts. Weapons and equipment supplied by Iran are being stored in Eritrea including – according to Arab sources – chemical weapons from Syria. And accumulating information indicates that Ansar Allah militants are fighting in the war in Syria – supporting Assad.

The recent developments in Yemen should be viewed mostly in the context of what I believe is the current – and future – name of the game in the Middle East – and that is – the strive for stability.

Among the different factors that shape and impact the level of stability in the Middle East, there are two major factors that are very present in Yemen:

  • The struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia
  • The activity of Militant Islam groups

Iranian senior officials openly expressed satisfaction with the achievement of Ansar Allah in Yemen. While Saudi Arabia, as expected, expressed discontent and concern.

It is interesting to note that some Arab analysts – some of whom are known to have good connections with the Saudi rule – described the Saudi reaction as “surprisingly minor.” These analysts argue that the reason for that is that the achievement of Ansar Allah in Yemen actually serves the Saudis in different ways:

  • It weakens the power of the Yemenite branch of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood movement – which is defined by Saudi Arabia officially as a terror organization
  • It puts the Houthis on a collision course with the Sunni majority in Yemen, which may force the Houthis to make political compromises and concessions that will undermine Iran’s achievements in Yemen
  • It puts the Houthis on a collision path with Ansar Al Sharia in Yemen, which is evaluated as Al-Qaida’s strongest branch. Such developments actually do serve Saudi Arabia well since it keeps Al-Qaida busy, and therefore decreases its potential threat on Saudi Arabia. In fact, over the past few days, fierce fighting is reported in the central regions of Yemen between Ansar Al Sharia – backed by Sunni Yemenite tribes on the one side, and the Shiite Houthis Ansar Allah on the other side.

Speaking of Al-Qaida, it should be noted that there has been a growing inner tension within Al-Qaida over the last few months stemming from the open rift between Al-Qaida and ISIS. Remember – Isis was previously Al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq. (On that matter please see my Intelligence Bulletin Al-Qaida Announces it has no connection to ISIS”, February 2014).

The growing tension is also reflected inside Ansar al-Sharia. While the group’s leader, Nasser Al Wahishi, remains loyal to Al-Qaida and its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, other senior members in Ansar al-Sharia openly express support for ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi.

Some Arab analysts predict that the growing tension will inevitably result in a violent rift within Ansar al-Sharia. However, it is possible that fighting Ansar Allah will put aside – for now – the inner tensions within Ansar al-Sharia.

Given that analysis, the Iranians – who are already experiencing growing difficulties in Syria and Iraq – two major arenas of utmost important and interest for Iran, may find themselves engaged in growing difficulties in Yemen as well. The Iranian satisfaction of having succeeded in developing a proxy in Yemen, may very well be replaced by growing concerns for the Shiite regime.

Though physically distant and different in terms of demography, geography, politics, and structure – the Iraqi, Syrian and Yemenite arenas interact. The meaning of that is that each side strives to compensate for its disadvantages or loses on one arena by making achievements in another arena. Thus, the recent action of Ansar Allah in Yemen in which it took over Sana’a can be looked at as an Iranian counter-reaction to the recent Saudi achievement in Iraq which was manifested by the stepping down of the previous Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who was an Iranian proxy.

The recent developments in Yemen and their potential ramifications could have a negative impact on the level of stability in the region.

Saudi Arabia made it clear that it will not tolerate the infiltration of the crisis in Yemen into Saudi Arabia, nor will it tolerate any provocations along its borders with Yemen.

Egypt, another important regional player, who completely shares the Saudis interest in stability, is also sending a similar message. The Egyptian Minister of Defense announced that Egypt maintains a military presence off the coast of Yemen to fight piracy. Of interest to note, the Union of Egyptian Fisherman reports that sixty-six Egyptian fisherman are being held captive by the Houthis in Yemen. It is not clear if both Egyptian announcements are related; Are these real fisherman or perhaps Egyptian military forces? As of now the story is shrouded in mystery. However, if this incident is not solved diplomatically soon, it will clearly stimulate growing tension. In that context, it should be mentioned that this past Thursday the UN Security Council formally approved the intensification of the inspection of boats in the area of the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait as part of the fight against piracy.

As the world’s attention in the Middle East focuses in ISIS it is no less important to closely watch the events and developments in Yemen.


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