August 17, 2012
August 16, 2012
13 Aug 2012 by Jacque Fresco
The US military's future technology division is reportedly eyeing tampering with soldiers' genes, allowing them to go for days without food or sleep and re-grow limbs lost in battle or due to landmines.
Scientists at the Pentagon's high-tech Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency hope to find a way to affect certain genes to make the human body do amazing things, like using body fat more efficiently, says British newspaper Sunday Express.
The journalists talked to novelist Simon Conway, who was given a behind-the-scenes glimpse of DARPA's research, which may seem like it comes straight out of a science fiction novel.
"If you can efficiently convert fat into energy you don't need to feed your soldiers as often," Conway said. "So you can send them into battle in remote areas plump and they live off their own fat.
"It is all about improving efficiency of energy creation in the body. Soldiers would be able to run at Olympic speeds, carry large weights and go without sleep and without food," he said.
Another possible chilling breakthrough is a drug that can make people go for hours without sleep and stay alert, Professor Joel Garreau, of Arizona State University told the tabloid.
"It was tested by the US army on helicopter pilots. They found that after 40 hours, pilots actually had better concentration levels than if they had rested. It is much better than amphetamines, which affect decision making and have led to many so-called friendly fire incidents," he said.
There is also a project to make soldiers regenerate lost limbs.
"There are well-documented cases of young children losing a finger and it grows back. The trick is how to identify the trigger. Now it's a well-funded area of research," he said.
The agency, sometimes dubbed Pentagon's "mad scientists division", is known for reaching for far-fetched, eyebrow-raising technology. But it has its record of breakthroughs, including the creation of the precursors of the modern internet.
Among other things, DARPA's $2 billion-a-year budget is used for a hypersonic unmanned vehicle, insect-sized spy drones, mini-satellites that can cannibalize other spacecraft and new brands of cyber weapons.
Posted by Naxal Watch at 9:31 PM
August 16, 2012 | 0903 GMT
By Ashley Lindsey
Militants killed Egyptian tribal leader Khalaf al-Menahy and his son Aug. 13 as the two were returning from a conference in east Sinai organized and attended by tribal leaders to denounce militancy, according to Sinai security forces. The senior al-Menahy was a prominent proponent of bolstering the Sinai Peninsula's representation in Egypt's parliament and of improving security in the region. He also was a prominent sheikh in the Sawarka tribe, said to be the largest in Sinai. Following his burial Aug. 13, the tribe vowed to seek vengeance.
This is the first reported case of militants attacking tribal leaders in Sinai. It comes soon after an attack on Egyptian security forces Aug. 5 and an attack on military checkpoints in northern Sinai on Aug. 8.
Although the militant tactic of targeting tribal leaders is new to Sinai, the tactic has been common in conflict zones in the Middle East and South Asia, such as in Yemen, Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Though it can offer many benefits to these militants -- including weakening the targeted tribe and possibly leading to its co-option -- these kinds of attacks tend to only succeed in zones with little government control and against tribes that cannot effectively retaliate. Examining similar instances of this tactic thus provides a helpful tool for assessing the consequences of attacks against tribal elements in the Sinai Peninsula.
A Widespread Militant Tactic
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has operated openly in Yemen's tribal-dominated southern and eastern provinces for years. It has sought to expand its presence and operations by winning over local tribes using tactics such as strategic marriages.
Lately, it appears to have begun a shift from wooing tribal leaders to intimidating them. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula recently failed in an attempt to assassinate tribal leader Majed al-Dhahab in the city of Radda in Bayda province. An important tribal leader, al-Dhahab participated in the offensive to drive al Qaeda -- and his own cousin, a local al Qaeda leader -- from the region after the militant group seized control of Radda in January. Al-Dhahab's son received a package that unbeknownst to him contained a bomb, which he was instructed to give to his father. However, the package exploded in his arms Aug. 4 before he could deliver it. Immediately after his son's death, al-Dhahab received a call warning him that the group would kill anyone who opposed it.
The group followed up with another attack on tribal elements Aug. 5. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive device at a wake in Jaar, killing 45 people. The dead included several tribal fighters who had participated in the June Yemeni government offensive against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the wounded included a tribal leader.
The region's tribes have not publicly vowed to retaliate against the militant group. If they are capable of doing so, they probably will respond to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's attacks. But the tribes could be too weak to mount an effective response, especially in the wake of attacks on their leadership structure. This could cause some tribesmen to abandon the fight, allowing militants to try to resume activity in the region's towns should they wish.
Iraq and the Afghanistan-Pakistan Border
Although new to Yemen, militants frequently used the tactic of attacking tribal leaders during the U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tactic is still frequently used, especially in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. In one significant instance, in 2007 al Qaeda in Iraq assassinated high-profile Sunni tribal Sheikh Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who led the Anbar Awakening Council. A U.S. ally, Abu Risha had formed the council, uniting dozens of Sunni tribes in the province against al Qaeda in Iraq. His killing backfired on the militant group, generating a massive outpouring of sympathy for Abu Risha and prompting the tribes in the province to join in vowing to fight al Qaeda in Iraq to the death.
In southern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban are deeply embedded into the tribal system. They have effectively used the tactic of assassinating tribal leaders to eliminate obstacles to their operations and evolution. To this end, they regularly employ suicide operations, armed assaults and roadside bombs against anti-Taliban militias known as lashkars and against tribal leaders in northwestern Pakistan.
One area particularly affected by such attacks is Bajaur, a Pakistani agency that borders Afghanistan's Kunar province. After numerous attacks on tribal leaders and members of peace committees in Bajaur, the Mamond tribe announced July 25 that the tribal leaders had formed a lashkar to prevent cross-border attacks. Hundreds of elders, leaders and religious figures of various subtribes and peace committees pledged their support for this militia. As with the killing of Abu Risha, the Afghan Taliban attacks on tribesmen and leadership in the region spurred a fiercely united response across numerous tribes, with the new militia even expressing a willingness to enter Afghanistan to attack Taliban leaders.
Upsides and Downsides of a Militant Tactic
Militant groups attack tribal leaders to increase their influence and area of operations. From the militants' perspective, removing a tribal leader ideally will weaken the targeted tribe. This could end the tribes' resistance and even lead to the its being co-opted by the militant group due to a leadership vacuum following the militant attack. The weakening of the tribe could leave the group no choice but to allow the militant group to operate unchallenged in its territory. Even though assassinated tribal leaders are replaced and the leadership structure remains intact, tribal leaders in the area could be persuaded to adopt a more accommodating stance on the presence of militants.
Success for a militant group in the long term happens under two conditions. First, the militants must be acting in an area with a tribal patronage network and limited government oversight. Without such a network, attacks on tribal leaders in efforts to co-opt and intimidate that tribe would not provide any significant gain. In Yemen, for example, the patronage and tribal network are very strong and in most cases enjoy greater legitimacy and power than the government. Attacks against tribal chiefs there are accordingly tantamount to attacks on the local government. On the one hand, that means tribal networks can band together and shun foreign militant elements as one community. On the other hand, if al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is able to coerce a tribe into aligning with it, the militant group will then enjoy access to that tribes' resources, will gain the ability to plan and launch attacks in that area, and could even gain better relations with neighboring tribes.
Second, the group must be militarily capable of overwhelming the targeted tribe and its allies or at least of gaining the upper hand. As can be seen from the Iraq example, killing Abu Risha backfired because his tribe was large, committed and militarily strong, and it had the support of several allied Sunni tribes that belonged to his Anbar Awakening Council.
The tactic of targeting a tribal leader thus comes with certain risks. When the aforementioned two conditions are not met, a militant group exposes itself to great danger when it targets tribal leaders.
Consequences of the Sinai Assassination
The Sinai Peninsula meets the requirement of limited government control and strong tribal networks. The question then becomes whether the Sinai tribes can muster a strong defense against the militants. In the coming weeks, it will be important to look for signs of the retaliation pledged by al-Menahy's Sawarka tribe and others allied with it. This retaliation could come in the form of attacks against the militants passing through Sawarka and its allied tribes' territory.
Tribal retaliation could also come in the less aggressive, yet still effective, form of supplying increased logistical support and intelligence to the Egyptian government. Increased weapons seizures and the arrest of key leaders suggest that tribal sources on the ground are providing intelligence to Cairo. A targeted campaign against the militants already has begun, with Egyptian planes bombing the mountains of El Arish on Aug. 15. The intelligence for these attacks likely came from local tribes.
The success of tribal and Egyptian security efforts against the militants will determine whether the militants miscalculated their position in Sinai when they attacked a key tribal leader. The resilience of militants in Sinai also will help determine whether they can continue to stage attacks against Egypt and Israel.
Read more: Targeting Tribal Leaders: A New Militant Tactic in Sinai | Stratfor
August 14, 2012
Behind Pakistan and Jinnah were much bigger forces. These forces needed the partition of India. http://2ndlook.wordpress.com/2009/08/28/looking-back-at-indias-partition/
- The respect Pakistan deserves – and does not get (quicktake.wordpress.com)
- Hindu-Muslim divide reaches beyond the grave (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Stanley Weiss: The Peace Process That Matters Most (huffingtonpost.com)
- Can India and Pakistan overcome decades of mistrust to save the crucial Indus Waters Treaty? (slate.com)
- Indian fake currency trail gets hotter (2ndlook.wordpress.com)
- ‘Major strides in reducing Pak-India trust deficit’ (nation.com.pk)
- You: Army must stop Indian water war: Nizami (nation.com.pk)
- Federalism to Separatism: The journey of South Asian Muslims to independence (rupeenews.com)
- You: Kashmir issue not at back-burner: FO (nation.com.pk)
- Pakistan bans main Islamist group (bbc.co.uk)
- At War Blog: A Granddaughter Returns to Pakistan (atwar.blogs.nytimes.com)
- AJK can produce 20,000MW for Pakistan: Yaqub (nation.com.pk)
- Ritual Combat at the India-Pakistan Border (time.com)
Posted by Naxal Watch at 9:29 PM
Contributor: Richard de Silva
Posted: 07/26/2012 12:00:00 AM EDT | 0
With the conflict in Afghanistan winding down and the withdrawal of all major international forces rapidly approaching, commanders have realised that the window of opportunity to learn, test and analyse for tomorrow’s conflict is beginning to slide shut.
Specifically, the US military and other key players have all begun a concerted research drive for information, particularly when it comes to ensuring the survivability of troops on the frontline.
The biggest area of concern appears to be in the fields of battlefield healthcare and medical evacuation, which require constant improvement despite the leaps and bounds in progress over the past fifty years.
Real-time research already being carried out in Afghanistan includes MRI scanning on troops suffering mild trauma to the brain from IED incidents and the effects of high-altitude on damaged brains during medevac.
As per the culture of modern armed forces, past experiences in evacuation – both of distant history and of more recent occurrence – must undergo thorough analysis and assessment in order to improve procedures in the future.
Compiling an accurate understanding is not an option. In fact, it is now felt by many commanders that the reliability of personnel extraction and of long-term healthcare for troops have a key impact on the path of conflict.
Personnel Recovery vs Public Relations
The indelible relationship between the two types of PR is hardly news to those who know their history.
The US in particular puts so much value in personnel recovery today because reportage of POW losses and rescues has had such a resonant effect on the perception of a campaign, as well as the politics and President involved, for over 60 years.
Looking back at the recent activity in Libya, the downing of an F-15 in March 2011, caused by nothing more than an onboard technical failure, saw no crew captured or killed thanks to the urgency given to recovery operations on the insistence of senior commanders.
Had this not been the case, it could well be argued that the entire operation may have failed, owing to the inevitable public backlash. For certain, Barack Obama would certainly be looking far less confident of re-election.
More recently, UK Special Forces experienced a rare mission failure when attempting to rescue British and Italian hostages from a Nigerian branch of Al-Qaeda. The result was not only a tragic loss of life, but also added pressure on ministers and led to a dispute between the UK and Italian governments over blame and procedure.
So there is indeed a strategic reason for this upswing in recovery and in combat healthcare. As John Frisbee of AirForce Magazine once said of the military intervention in the 1975 seizing of the SS Mayaguez, “it was important to counter a growing feeling among US allies and adversaries that this country was a ‘helpless giant’, an unreliable ally lacking resolve.”
Time has not changed this requirement, but what has changed is the attention from senior leaders to the immediate need for recovery operations to continue to receive analysis and investment, given the general success of PR efforts across the board.
Improving Joint PR Operations
Paul Miller, Director of the Personnel Recovery Education and Training Centre (PRETC), outlined the problems in planning such operations as being a “cognitive” issue.
There can frequently be a lack of understanding in the planning phase, often when operators are oversimplifying or generalising the task at hand to the rest of the team.
During execution itself, Miller believes it to be a challenge to find any time to question or analyse the operation, or indeed to theorise on the wider implications of the actions being undertaken, and yet there must be a method of focus under which this can be achieved.
“Leaders may understand the value of PR,” said Miller, “but if they only understand
it when it occurs, that’s too late.”
“Leave no one behind – we’ve all heard the phrase, but there needs to be a tactical plan ahead of time to ensure that happens.”
In that sense, Miller demonstrated the complexity of the decision and implication process, pointing to a list of considerations such as evaluating the uniqueness of other services involved in an operation – as well as coalition partners, other governments and authorities – and then fully grasping where the capabilities and responsibilities may rest.
“It goes against our human nature to not just act, but sometimes you have to pass over PR to more able partners, even if that’s hard for us to do.”
21st Century Medevac
Back in World War II, the time to transport a patient from the frontline to a hospital on home soil could take up to 90 days by land or sea. Yet it was during this conflict that helicopters first introduced a proven requirement for fast and effective medical evacuation.
Before this time, primitive air ambulances had been used to some benefit in Europe during World War I, greatly reducing the mortality rate. Even before this, in 1866, Jules Verne had written a ‘science fiction’ tale in which sailors are recued by hot air balloon – a scenario that came true a mere four years later during the Siege of Paris.
Today, the United States Air Force has 32 Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) squadrons in operation, working alongside other valued medical units including physicians, reserves, and CCATT (Critical Care Air Transport Team) members.
As each AE crew complement requires two flight nurses, training has been honed to between 11-18 weeks to bring a registered nurse to the standard for flight nurse. This universal qualification demands that the nurse trains on three altogether different types of aircraft: KC-135; C-130; and C-17. As such, the individual is outfitted with the awareness of different loading systems, oxygen needs, and other variables.
While US forces had seen only a 6 per cent drop in the combat mortality rate between World War II and the 1990 Persian Gulf War (30 per cent to 24 per cent) – owing perhaps to AE long being viewed as a last resort behind the philosophy of getting the injured soldier fixed up and straight back into action – the figure for recent campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is under 10 per cent.
The reason behind this change is down to a number of factors, but the formation of CCATTs in 1996 has been a huge boon owing to its focus on continuously stabilizing patients during transport. These teams offer the specialities of a CC doctor, a CC nurse, and a cardiopulmonary technician, all individually trained within an 8 week programme.
Alongside the progress was the attention to joint trauma solutions, which exposed a gap in critical care within the aircraft. To address this, Tactical Critical Care Evacuation Teams (TCCETs) have also been established to provide even more advanced care, from aggressive resuscitation at the point-of-injury and throughout the evacuation process.
Today, the average timeframe for getting a wounded soldier from the battlefield to surgical care is between 20-75 minutes, while taking a downed infantryman from the combat zones of Enduring Freedom to the military hospital in Landstuhl is between 24-48 hours, and to the Continental United States (CONUS MTF), just 2-4 days. This is quite an improvement on the 8 day average at the beginning of the Afghanistan campaign, and even more so on the 45 days once suffered by those deployed to Vietnam.
Among the planned improvements paving the road forward are agreements with Australia, the UK and Canada on the mutual use of equipment and landing space, such as flying US teams into Camp Bastion.
Tailing off from joint operations is the new Instructor Exchange programme, offering medical staff from all militaries the chance to tap into a wider pool of operational lessons.
As USAF looks to develop its medical capability at a strategic level, so to is it looking to develop the instruments on-hand.
AE teams are now benefiting from the likes of video assisted intubation, vacuum spinal immobilisation and virtual (simulator) training.
Colonel (Rtd) Jace Sotomayer, senior advisor to the Air Force Surgeon General HQ, has a firm understanding of the needs for airborne combat healthcare given his background as an aviator.
His work involves liaising with analysts, academics and manufacturers to work out the best approaches to modernising equipment at every level, from where there is an immediate hazard present to when evacuation and en-route care is required.
“Modernisation is a long and consistent road and we’re always trying to improve.
“Budget cutbacks are always noted but it is something that has to happen or you’re going to be obsolete.”
Sotomayor explained that there are two paths to improving equipment; one is the long development laboratory based approach for high-tech systems, and the other is looking at what the industry have waiting on the shelf and whether that is something the military can augment to fit its immediate needs.
Approving private sector technology off course requires testing and often, where aeromedical units require the same sensitive equipment to work in a variety of platforms, there is more difficulty in getting them to meet all operational standards.
He gave the example of a NATO-standard litter with undercarriage sensors to measure the body for vital signs:
“Looked good in the lab, company brought it forward, the work was good, however, as part of a field test, we put it onboard one of our rescue helicopters.
“The propeller blades of the helicopter caused a frequency change, so the readings were altered.
“In fact, GPS had had the same problem, radios had the same problem – these things can be overcome, you just have to work at it, but just because you have a good piece of equipment doesn’t mean it’s going to work in all places and in all cases.”
As to the emerging technologies that were proving significant, Sotomayor referred to diagnostic instruments, including a virtualisation effort called ‘FELIX’, named after the cartoon cat and his bottomless magic bag of tricks.
“Your first responder will open a bag and be able to pull out a device that will give you some form of medical treatment – a small technology, a diagnostic device, something to transmit or receive information quicker, a video transmitter that will allow you to conference with a doctor somewhere else in the world.
“Data’s no good unless we can move it, so we’re trying to link that data through a standardised data network cloud, so the data is effective not only for immediate treatment, but when the troop gets back, his data record is there.”
Akin to the Instructor Exchange programme, forces from many countries are finding increasing value in working with friendly nations, but in itself, this approach also presents its own share of problems.
Lieutenant Colonel Jose Peralba, the head of a medevac unit for the Spanish Air Force who was stationed recently at Bagram Airfield, spoke on the issue of interoperability.
“It’s becoming a more and more important issue as we are working in multinational environments and most of the international conflicts that the US and Europeans are involved in,” he said.
“Protocols differ quite a bit and there’s a lot of mistrust from different countries who like to take care of their own patients.
“The only way to surpass that is to have common protocols and feedback on testing.”
Peralba also has the same concerns that worry every one of his international counterparts, such as the ongoing debate over the degree of readied medical care required on the aircraft.
“If you get a severely wounded combatant, you may need to get more than just a combat medic on the forward helicopter, but we may be told we are risking sparse resources like doctors and nurses, but on the other hand, you are risking a lot of other resources on those same missions by not using them.
“So it’s a command call, and we need to ‘protocolize’ how to intervene in those cases.”
Every nation possesses a valuable perspective on operating within a domestic environment that may be second nature to them, but that may one day also prove useful to other troops going into conflict in similar settings in the future, but who may not have enough experience within those conditions.
“The greatest challenges facing our aeromedical community in our country lies in our geography,” explained Lieutenant Colonel Lina Maria Mateus, head of the Colombian Air Force’s Special Medical Operations Centre.
Colombia is sandwiched between two large bodies of water, is covered in mountains and rainforest, and is dealing with internal militarised strife, meaning medevac is not only an ongoing requirement, but is about as tough to deliver as anywhere else in the world.
“Even if you have all the assets and capabilities together in one centre,” said Mateus, “with highly experienced aircrew and medical crew, it can take a lot of time to recover isolated personnel or soldier in the field – there’s too much rain, too little visibility, too hostile an environment.”
Mateus stressed that there is a big difference between the type of fighting taking place against the FARC in Colombia and the Taliban in the Middle East, but noted that there has emerged a common type of injury which both Colombian and coalition forces must treat.
“Of course, abdominal wounds are very difficult to treat, but the most frequent injury is limb wounds from the IED.
“It’s becoming easier to treat, but in the past we lost many people through blood loss.”
Indeed, the IED injury is only second to “general sickness” for medevac response missions, outweighing the likes of gunshot wounds and even simple accidents.
Aside to domestic terrorism, Colombian medevac teams deal with everything from providing humanitarian assistance – including Earthquake’s in Chile, Haiti, Guatemala and Costa Rica, not to mention its own severe flooding and forest fires – to rescuing mountaineers in the Andes.
To tackle this, the government established the National Personnel Recovery Centre (NPRC) as a joint service pool of resources in 2008, involving the Department of Defence and Department of Health, with equipment support from the US, and it sees advantage in discussing progress with agencies in other nations.
“Nowadays, we have advanced medical group support, which includes general surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, anaesthetists, and all kinds of resources to treat the patient in that ‘golden hour’,” Mateus explained.
“But we have to hear from other countries because that will help us to establish ourselves as the best at medevac and PR in our region – that’s our goal.”
August 14, 2012 | 0859 GMT
By George Friedman
Crises are normally short, sharp and intense affairs. Israel's predicament has developed on a different time frame, is more diffuse than most crises and has not reached a decisive and intense moment. But it is still a crisis. It is not a crisis solely about Iran, although the Israeli government focuses on that issue. Rather, it is over Israel's strategic reality since 1978, when it signed the Camp David accords with Egypt.
Perhaps the deepest aspect of the crisis is that Israel has no internal consensus on whether it is in fact a crisis, or if so, what the crisis is about. The Israeli government speaks of an existential threat from Iranian nuclear weapons. I would argue that the existential threat is broader and deeper, part of it very new, and part of it embedded in the founding of Israel.
Israel now finds itself in a long-term crisis in which it is struggling to develop a strategy and foreign policy to deal with a new reality. This is causing substantial internal stress, since the domestic consensus on Israeli policy is fragmenting at the same time that the strategic reality is shifting. Though this happens periodically to nations, Israel sees itself in a weak position in the long run due to its size and population, despite its current military superiority. More precisely, it sees the evolution of events over time potentially undermining that military reality, and it therefore feels pressured to act to preserve it. How to preserve its superiority in the context of the emerging strategic reality is the core of the Israeli crisis.
Since 1978, Israel's strategic reality had been that it faced no threat of a full peripheral war. After Camp David, the buffer of the Sinai Peninsula separated Egypt and Israel, and Egypt had a government that did not want that arrangement to break. Israel still faced a formally hostile Syria. Syria had invaded Lebanon in 1976 to crush the Palestine Liberation Organization based there and reconsolidate its hold over Lebanon, but knew it could not attack Israel by itself. Syria remained content reaching informal understandings with Israel. Meanwhile, relatively weak and isolated Jordan depended on Israel for its national security. Lebanon alone was unstable. Israel periodically intervened there, not very successfully, but not at very high cost.
The most important of Israel's neighbors, Egypt, is now moving on an uncertain course. This weekend, new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi removed five key leaders of the military and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and revoked constitutional amendments introduced by the military. There are two theories on what has happened. In the first, Morsi -- who until his election was a senior leader of the country's mainstream Islamist movement, the Muslim Brotherhood -- is actually much more powerful than the military and is acting decisively to transform the Egyptian political system. In the second, this is all part of an agreement between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood that gives Morsi the appearance of greater power while actually leaving power with the military.
On the whole, I tend to think that the second is the case. Still, it is not clear how this will evolve: The appearance of power can turn into the reality of power. Despite any sub rosa agreements between the military and Morsi, how these might play out in a year or two as the public increasingly perceives Morsi as being in charge -- limiting the military's options and cementing Morsi's power -- is unknown. In the same sense, Morsi has been supportive of security measures taken by the military against militant Islamists, as was seen in the past week's operations in the Sinai Peninsula.
The Sinai remains a buffer zone against major military forces, but not against the paramilitaries linked to radical Islamists who have increased their activities in the peninsula since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. Last week, they attacked an Egyptian military post on the Gaza border, killing 16 Egyptian soldiers. This followed several attacks against Israeli border crossings. Morsi condemned the attack and ordered a large-scale military crackdown in the Sinai. Two problems could arise from this.
First, the Egyptians' ability to defeat the militant Islamists depends on redefining the Camp David accords, at least informally, to allow Egypt to deploy substantial forces there (though even this might not suffice). These additional military forces might not threaten Israel immediately, but setting a precedent for a greater Egyptian military presence in the Sinai Peninsula could eventually lead to a threat.
This would be particularly true if Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood impose their will on the Egyptian military. If we take Morsi at face value as a moderate, the question becomes who will succeed him. The Muslim Brotherhood is clearly ascendant, and the possibility that a secular democracy would emerge from the Egyptian uprising is unlikely. It is also clear that the Muslim Brotherhood is a movement with many competing factions. And it is clear from the elections that the Muslim Brotherhood represents the most popular movement in Egypt and that no one can predict how it will evolve or which factions will dominate and what new tendencies will arise. Egypt in the coming years will not resemble Egypt of the past generation, and that means that the Israeli calculus for what will happen on its southern front will need to take Hamas in Gaza into account and perhaps an Islamist Egypt prepared to ally with Hamas.
Syria and Lebanon
A similar situation exists in Syria. The secular and militarist regime of the al Assad family is in serious trouble. As mentioned, the Israelis had a working relationship with the Syrians going back to the Syrian invasion of Lebanon against the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1976. It was not a warm relationship, but it was predictable, particularly in the 1990s: Israel allowed Syria a free hand in Lebanon in exchange for Damascus limiting Hezbollah's actions.
Lebanon was not exactly stable, but its instability hewed to a predictable framework. That understanding broke down when the United States seized an opportunity to force Syria to retreat from Lebanon in 2006 following the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. The United States used the Cedar Revolution that rose up in defiance of Damascus to retaliate against Syria for allowing al Qaeda to send jihadists into Iraq from Syria.
This didn't spark the current unrest in Syria, which appears to involve a loose coalition of Sunnis including elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists. Though Israel far preferred Syrian President Bashar al Assad to them, al Assad himself was shifting his behavior. The more pressure he came under, the more he became dependent on Iran. Israel began facing the unpleasant prospect of a Sunni Islamist government emerging or a government heavily dependent on Iran. Neither outcome appealed to Israel, and neither outcome was in Israel's control.
Just as dangerous to Israel would be the Lebanonization of Syria. Syria and Lebanon are linked in many ways, though Lebanon's political order was completely different and Syria could serve as a stabilizing force for it. There is now a reasonable probability that Syria will become like Lebanon, namely, a highly fragmented country divided along religious and ethnic lines at war with itself. Israel's best outcome would be for the West to succeed in preserving Syria's secular military regime without al Assad. But it is unclear how long a Western-backed regime resting on the structure of al Assad's Syria would survive. Even the best outcome has its own danger. And while Lebanon itself has been reasonably stable in recent years, when Syria catches a cold, Lebanon gets pneumonia. Israel thus faces the prospect of declining security to its north.
The U.S. Role and Israel's Strategic Lockdown
It is important to take into account the American role in this, because ultimately Israel's national security -- particularly if its strategic environment deteriorates -- rests on the United States. For the United States, the current situation is a strategic triumph. Iran had been extending its power westward, through Iraq and into Syria. This represented a new force in the region that directly challenged American interests. Where Israel originally had an interest in seeing al Assad survive, the United States did not. Washington's primary interest lay in blocking Iran and keeping it from posing a threat to the Arabian Peninsula. The United States saw Syria, particularly after the uprising, as an Iranian puppet. While the United States was delighted to see Iran face a reversal in Syria, Israel was much more ambivalent about that outcome.
The Israelis are always opposed to the rising regional force. When that was Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, they focused on Nasser. When it was al Qaeda and its sympathizers, they focused on al Qaeda. When it was Iran, they focused on Tehran. But simple opposition to a regional tendency is no longer a sufficient basis for Israeli strategy. As in Syria, Israel must potentially oppose all tendencies, where the United States can back one. That leaves Israeli policy incoherent. Lacking the power to impose a reality on Syria, the best Israel can do is play the balance of power. When its choice is between a pro-Iranian power and a Sunni Islamist power, it can no longer play the balance of power. Since it lacks the power to impose a reality, it winds up in a strategic lockdown.
Israel's ability to influence events on its borders was never great, but events taking place in bordering countries are now completely beyond its control. While Israeli policy has historically focused on the main threat, using the balance of power to stabilize the situation and ultimately on the decisive use of military force, it is no longer possible to identify the main threat. There are threats in all of its neighbors, including Jordan (where the kingdom's branch of the Muslim Brotherhood is growing in influence while the Hashemite monarchy is reviving relations with Hamas). This means using the balance of power within these countries to create secure frontiers is no longer an option. It is not clear there is a faction for Israel to support or a balance that can be achieved. Finally, the problem is political rather than military. The ability to impose a political solution is not available.
Against the backdrop, any serious negotiations with the Palestinians are impossible. First, the Palestinians are divided. Second, they are watching carefully what happens in Egypt and Syria since this might provide new political opportunities. Finally, depending on what happens in neighboring countries, any agreement Israel might reach with the Palestinians could turn into a nightmare.
The occupation therefore continues, with the Palestinians holding the initiative. Unrest begins when they want it to begin and takes the form they want it to have within the limits of their resources. The Israelis are in a responsive mode. They can't eradicate the Palestinian threat. Extensive combat in Gaza, for example, has both political consequences and military limits. Occupying Gaza is easy; pacifying Gaza is not.
Israel's Military and Domestic Political Challenges
The crisis the Israelis face is that their levers of power, the open and covert relationships they had, and their military force are not up to the task of effectively shaping their immediate environment. They have lost the strategic initiative, and the type of power they possess will not prove decisive in dealing with their strategic issues. They no longer are operating at the extremes of power, but in a complex sphere not amenable to military solutions.
Israel's strong suit is conventional military force. It can't fully understand or control the forces at work on its borders, but it can understand the Iranian nuclear threat. This leads it to focus on the sort of conventional conflict they excel at, or at least used to excel at. The 2006 war with Hezbollah was quite conventional, but Israel was not prepared for an infantry war. The Israelis instead chose to deal with Lebanon via an air campaign, but that failed to achieve their political ends.
The Israelis want to redefine the game to something they can win, which is why their attention is drawn to the Iranian nuclear program. Of all their options in the region, a strike against Iran's nuclear facilities apparently plays to their strengths. Two things make such a move attractive. The first is that eliminating Iran's nuclear capability is desirable for Israel. The nuclear threat is so devastating that no matter how realistic the threat is, removing it is desirable.
Second, it would allow Israel to demonstrate the relevance of its power in the region. It has been a while since Israel has had a significant, large-scale military victory. The 1980s invasion of Lebanon didn't end well; the 2006 war was a stalemate; and while Israel may have achieved its military goals in the 2008 invasion of Gaza, that conflict was a political setback. Israel is still taken seriously in the regional psychology, but the sense of inevitability Israel enjoyed after 1967 is tattered. A victory on the order of destroying Iranian weapons would reinforce Israel's relevance.
It is, of course, not clear that the Israelis intend to launch such an attack. And it is not clear that such an attack would succeed. It is also not clear that the Iranian counter at the Strait of Hormuz wouldn't leave Israel in a difficult political situation, and above all it is not clear that Egyptian and Syrian factions would even be impressed by the attacks enough to change their behavior.
Israel also has a domestic problem, a crisis of confidence. Many military and intelligence leaders oppose an attack on Iran. Part of their opposition is rooted in calculation. Part of it is rooted in a series of less-than-successful military operations that have shaken their confidence in the military option. They are afraid both of failure and of the irrelevance of the attack on the strategic issues confronting Israel.
Political inertia can be seen among Israeli policymakers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tried to form a coalition with the centrist Kadima Party, but that fell apart over the parochial Israeli issue of whether Orthodox Jews should be drafted. Rather than rising to the level of a strategic dialogue, the secularist constituency of Kadima confronted the religious constituencies of the Likud coalition and failed to create a government able to devise a platform for decisive action.
This is Israel's crisis. It is not a sudden, life-threatening problem but instead is the product of unraveling regional strategies, a lack of confidence earned through failure and a political system incapable of unity on any particular course. Israel, a small country that always has used military force as its ultimate weapon, now faces a situation where the only possible use of military force -- against Iran -- is not only risky, it is not clearly linked to any of the main issues Israel faces other than the nuclear issue.
The French Third Republic was marked by a similar sense of self-regard overlaying a deep anxiety. This led to political paralysis and Paris' inability to understand the precise nature of the threat and to shape their response to it. Rather than deal with the issues at hand in the 1930s, they relied on past glories to guide them. That didn't turn out very well.
Read more: The Israeli Crisis | Stratfor