Some quick thoughts: It looks like #Israel initiated military activity against Syrian regime and Iranian assets in Syria last night in order to take advantage of favorable political situation in aftermath of #Trump's withdrawal from #IranDeal, and also... /2
/2 to draw a red line against #Iran/#Hezbollah moves southward toward #GolanHeights now that regime has completed takeover of most Damascus suburbs, freeing up forces. Yet the Iranians don't seem to be responding, Israeli claims to the contrary - .../3
3/ or at least not with the ferocity that would enable an even stronger Israeli riposte. Moreover, Israel is constrained by #Russia's two principal red lines: Syrian regime preservation, and no harm to Russian assets and personnel..../4
4/ Hence #Netanyahu's visit to Moscow now, while military operations were being prepared: to gauge Putin's acquiescence to Israeli strikes, and understand the limits. Likewise, the #Saudis and #Emiratis seem to be gearing up for an assault on #Hodeida, similarly realizing.../5
/5 that their moment may be now or never. No one knows how this perfect (to them) alignment of Trump, #Bolton and #Pompeo will last. But they, too, face real limits. Militarily, Hodeida port and city may be one proverbial bridge too far without major US military support....6/
/6 And if and when they take Hodeida, they may discover that now they will own #Yemen's humanitarian catastrophe even more than they already have. In sum: the Washington-Tel Aviv-Riyadh-Abu Dhabi alliance.../7
/7 may well have an opportunity to pursue its priority agenda of pushing back against Iran in the #MiddleEast and #Gulf, but they face real constraints, and much will depend on how Iran responds.../8
/8 If the Iranians are wise, as some Israeli security officials intimated, they would not respond militarily but sit back and negotiate with the Europeans to keep the #IranDeal alive until the Trump misadministration is history..../9
/9 But some of the hardliners in Tehran may have different ideas, and instead go for the bait. In that case, my advice to all of you: Hold on to your seats. /END
Back in February, we warned about an externally-driven escalation scenario in Syria. Iran and Israel are playing a game of chicken in seeking to set their red lines. But are their positions reconcilable? Very likely not. Meanwhile, ordinary Syrians suffer. crisisgroup.org/middle-east-no…
I have argued elsewhere that while Russia is just as much part of the problem in Syria as everyone else leaping in from the outside, it could also help de-escalate tensions because of its unique position in relation to Iran, Israel, Hezbollah and Turkey: nyti.ms/2JLh5sT

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More from @JoostHiltermann

Aug 3, 2018
#Tunisia is going through a crisis sparked chiefly by a dispute between political forces about whether the prime minister, Youssef Chahed, should resign and by a struggle for control of Nida Tounes, one of the two main parties in the governing coalition. bit.ly/2n52aQM
The crisis has paralysed the government and parliament, divided and discredited the political class and undermined public confidence in the country’s institutions.
It also has reduced the government’s capacity to deal with unexpected events, such as jihadist attacks or large-scale riots, and has fuelled the drift toward authoritarianism.
Read 5 tweets
Jul 31, 2018
1) "How to Cope with Iraq’s Summer Brushfire": Hot off the press from @CrisisGroup, our quick take on #Iraq's protests, and what the government should do, not just to calm things down, but to institute overdue reforms: bit.ly/2OuzoWk .../2
2) Popular protests, spawned by anger at the state’s inability to deliver essential services, have spread throughout southern Iraq and reached the capital, Baghdad. They are an annual occurrence but this year they are larger and more intense..../3
3) If the unrest is forcibly put down and citizens’ legitimate demands again go unmet, it is bound to recur before too long, but with still greater ferocity and, possibly, violence, threatening the post-2003 order and the ruling elites sustaining it..../4
Read 6 tweets
Jul 30, 2018
1) We @CrisisGroup are publishing a new report today about #Iraq's paramilitary groups, the #Hashd al-Shaabi, and the challenge they pose to the rebuilding of the state. bit.ly/2viHU1Q .../2
2) Iraq’s 3-year battle against ISIS empowered the Hashd, which operate autonomously from state security forces. As Iraq's focus on security decreases, the Hashd, are moving into economic activities and politics; some of their leaders gained seats..../3
3) in the 12 May CoR elections. Rightly praised for their auxiliary role in fighting ISIS, and partly legalised, the Hashd challenge the state’s cohesion and monopoly on legitimate violence. Without a plan to integrate them into formal state institutions.... /4
Read 5 tweets
Jun 21, 2018
In the latest @CrisisGroup report, issued today, we highlight the dangerous situation brewing in southern #Syria: "Keeping the Calm in Southern Syria". bit.ly/2ytOoQl What's new, why does it matter, and what should be done? Thread.
Having retaken the last rebel-held areas in Syria’s western interior, the regime is turning south. Its forces are massing in preparation for a reconquest of the “de-escalation” zone in the southwest, which is protected by a trilateral agreement between Russia, the US and Jordan.
The SW sits at the intersection of Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan. An offensive to reconquer it could take a terrible civilian toll, destabilise Jordan, and trigger a wider conflict between Israel and Iran, especially if the regime seeks the help of Iran-backed militias.
Read 4 tweets
May 12, 2018
1/ In the wake of the @nytimes piece on today's #Iraq, nyti.ms/2IdMaJa, here is my bird's eye view of the #IraqElections2018 in the context of the standoff between #Iran and the US in the region..../2
2/ As I have stated most recently in @ForeignPolicy here, bit.ly/2jPaYZw, Iraq has seen a convergence of Iranian and US interests since 2003. This has led to a degree of mutual accommodation, despite the fact that each has wanted to get rid of the other's presence....3/
3/ They each have their favorites, but they also each have tried to sway the middle, and to pursue their interests playing the middle. And whoever has been in the middle became a consummate juggler for as long as they could: Jaafari, Maliki, Abadi, and whoever is up next.../4
Read 12 tweets

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