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Essay: Crimea and the West Bank

Essay: Crimea and the West Bank Author: Eugene Kontorovich Categories: Europe, Israel, Palestinians, Russia    

US Secretary of State John Kerry spent the past few months shuttling between his two major foreign-policy concerns - Russia's control over Crimea and Israel's control over the West Bank - entirely unaware that he was engaged in a world-historical irony. Both these situations turn on identical international-law principles. Indeed, the failure of the United States to apply these principles consistently has led to the long-standing failure of its Middle East initiatives, while inadvertently opening the door for Russian aggression.

The legal principle that explains why Crimea was and remains under Ukraine's sovereignty also validates Israel's presence in the West Bank.

As Good as it Gets?

As Good as it Gets? Author: Chuck Freilich Categories: International Security, Russia, Syria    

On paper, the Russian proposal to dismantle Syria's chemical weapons looks like the optimal outcome. A military attack to punish Syria for its use of chemical weapons was never the objective, but a means to an end, which was to firmly establish the principle that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated. If - and this is a very big if - even part of the Syrian chemical arsenal is actually placed under international supervision and ultimately dismantled, the United States will have achieved far more than it set out to do. It is, however, far too early to predict success - indeed, the prospects are limited.

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Russia, China and the Middle East

Russia, China and the Middle East Author: Amotz Asa-El Categories: China, Israel, Russia    

The era of bad feeling that once governed Israel's relations with the eastern superpowers has been over for nearly a quarter-of-a-century.

Having exchanged ambassadors in the aftermath of the Cold War with both Moscow and Beijing, the Jewish State's trade with the two has since grown exponentially, as China became a major client of Israeli technology and Russia a major supplier of Israel's oil.

Putin's Israel visit showcases diplomacy's strengths and limitations

Putin's Israel visit showcases diplomacy's strengths and limitations Author: Ahron Shapiro Categories: Iran, Israel, Palestinians, Russia, Syria, Updates    

Russian President Vladimir Putin's visit to Israel last week, as part of a larger Middle East tour by the newly re-elected leader, is seen by analysts as a productive diplomatic exercise between the two countries.

At the same time, analysts agree, the visit demonstrated the limits of diplomacy in persuading Russia to change its policies regarding matters of key national interest to Jerusalem, especially regarding Iran and Syria.

Russian President to visit Israel in June

Russian President to visit Israel in June Author: Sharyn Mittelman Categories: Iran, Israel, Russia, Syria, Updates    

Despite Israel and Russia holding strongly divergent views on key Middle East issues - the violence in Syria, Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - Israel and Russia have against the odds managed to retain good relations since the end of the Cold War.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted last year saying: "Israel is, in fact, a special state to us. It is practically a Russian-speaking country..."

Russia's ‘friendliness' has been made even clearer with Putin's decision to visit Israel and the Palestinian territories in late June. It will be Putin's first visit to Israel since 2005.

Russia is trying to convince us that there is nothing going wrong in Syria

Russia is trying to convince us that there is nothing going wrong in Syria Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Russia, Syria, Updates    

As the bloodshed continues in Syria, with no end in sight, there are increasing calls for something to be done. Joining the chorus today were both Angelina Jolie and Grand Imam Ahmed el-Tayeb, the head of Cairo's al-Azhar University, one of the most prestigious theological institutions in the Islamic world. As Reuters reported, Tayeb used strong language, deploring condemnations without action and seemingly calling for some form of intervention from the Arab League...

 Authoritarians of a feather flock together? - Russia and the Assad regime

Authoritarians of a feather flock together? - Russia and the Assad regime Author: Or Avi-Guy Categories: Russia, Syria, Updates    

Just a few days after the highly-criticised Russian veto at the UN Security Council, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Damascus and met with President Bashar Assad. At a time where countries, one by one, are recalling their ambassadors from Syria, this meeting was a rare sign of support for the crumbling regime. Lavrov was received with what has been described as "a hero's welcome" as thousands of Assad supporters gathered to express gratitude and greet him with both Russian and Syrian flags and blue, red and white balloons (the colors of the Russian flag). A banner with the portraits of Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin read "Thank you Russia and China".

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov came to Damascus to promote "the quick implementations of democratic reforms in Syria." Lavrov explained that it is Moscow's desire for the Arab peoples to live in "peace and agreement," he said, and while apparently turning to Assad he continued: "Every leader of every country must be aware of his share of responsibility. You are aware of yours".

The Syrian Opposition/Russia and Syria

The Syrian Opposition/Russia and Syria Categories: Russia, Syria, Updates    

Today's Update focuses on the situation in Syria and especially on what is known about the varied opposition to the Assad regime.

The first piece up comes from Nic Robertson of CNN, who just returned from a visit to Syria which is something increasingly rare for Western journalists. He notes an increasing sectarian polarisation occurring within Syria and sees the regime as successfully exploiting it, while the opposition is not doing enough to calm the fears of the Alawite and Christian minorities...

Russia and China veto Syria sanctions

Russia and China veto Syria sanctions Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: America, Asia, China, Russia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

After weeks of controversy over a Palestinian statehood bid of little real consequence, some in the UN have been attempting to shift their focus onto one of the many situations in the world in which innocent people are being killed on a daily basis. To this end, the UN Security Council attempted to pass a motion to prevent Syria's ongoing crackdown on dissenting citizens. Initially, the European countries were attempting to sanction Syria through imposing an arms embargo. As Foreign Policy's UN correspondent Colum Lynch reports, even a watered-down version of this that merely condemned Syria and did not call for any tangible sanctions was vetoed by Russia and China...

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Iran arms Syria as UN shifts into low gear

Iran arms Syria as UN shifts into low gear Author: Daniel Meyerowitz-Katz Categories: Iran, Russia, Syria, United Nations, Updates    

The forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad stepped-up their assault on the opposition stronghold of Hama yesterday. As reported by Nada Bakri for The New York Times:

Ignoring mounting condemnations, the Syrian military sent tanks, armored vehicles and snipers on Wednesday into the symbolic center of Hama, a rebellious city that has emerged as a linchpin of the nearly five-month uprising, in what appeared a decisive step by President Bashar al-Assad to crush opposition to his rule.

The military's assault on Assi Square, the scene of some of the biggest demonstrations against Mr. Assad's leadership, was an event that many activists and residents had thought impossible, evidence of the government's determination to retake by force a city that suffered one of the most brutal crackdowns in Syrian history in 1982.

This blog has been closely following the situation in Syria...

The Iranian Regime’s Summer of Discontent

The Iranian Regime’s Summer of Discontent Author: Allon Lee Categories: International Security, Iran, Islamic Extremism, Middle East, Russia, Terrorism, Updates    

Not far away from the headline-grabbing Arab Spring, a power struggle is playing out under the Iranian summer sun as fissures in the one-time partnership between Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad shatter into an unbridgeable abyss.

Veteran Iranian analyst Dr. Abbas Milani of Stanford University has written a follow-up to his June piece when it seemed Ahmadinejad would be impeached for sedition.


Moscow Express Author: Yehonathan Tommer Categories: Israel, Russia    

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's secret visit to Moscow on September 7 sparked a wave of speculation in the Israeli media. When rumours of the trip circulated a few days later, Netanyahu's advisers confirmed that the prime minister's unscheduled trip was part of an ongoing dialogue with Russian officials to dissuade them from supplying strategic arms to the Middle East.

Russian Roulette on Iran Categories: International Security, Iran, Russia    

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been the most important barrier to stronger UN sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, visited Iran this week and made some statements that seem likely to reinforce Iranian intransigence and also promised to finish the Bushehr nuclear reactor.