In early July, President Joe Biden confirmed his intention to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by September 2021. Biden cited a February 2020 U.S. “agreement” with the Taliban that he had “inherited” from the Trump administration. In truth, President Donald Trump had made no agreement. He had already begun pulling troops out by October 2019 and signed a fig leaf to cover his unconditional withdrawal.
Biden reassessed other Trump policies and could have reassessed this one, not least since the Taliban were in violation even of their vague paper promises — most notably on their commitment to deny space to al Qaeda and negotiate peace in good faith. The truth is that Biden is ideologically committed, as Barack Obama and Trump were, to ending American involvement in “forever wars.” Regardless, this does not mean those wars end or the threats that drew the United States in actually go away. Continue reading →
Members of the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, at a memorial in Gaza, 31 January 2017. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib, Flash90.
The May 2021 round of fighting in Gaza brought with it the upending of the unspoken understanding between Israel and Hamas and a level of intercommunal violence within Israel that has not been seen in quite some time. The scale of the rocket attacks on the Jewish state must also be counted among the unusual elements of this latest flare-up, with Iran clearly identifiable as the enabling state behind Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the two primary factions behind these attacks. Continue reading →
Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system [left] activates over southern Israel against incoming HAMAS rockets [right], 14 May 2021
Naim Qassem, the deputy secretary-general of Hizballah, the Lebanese division of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), gave an interesting interview to Hizballah’s Al-Nour radio station on 22 May, explaining IRGC/Hizballah’s vision for what it had achieved with the recent war in Gaza. Qassem added to a large body of evidence about Iran’s extensive role in the war, a lot of it supplied directly by the combatant parties themselves. Not only did the clerical regime in Iran supply the material basis for the Islamists’ war against Israel this month; they provided much of the ideological framework, too. Continue reading →
Jaysh al-Islam in Gaza joins the Islamic State in 2015 (image source)
Hamid al-Zawi (Abu Umar al-Baghdadi), the second leader of the Islamic State movement, known at the time as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), made his ninth speech out of what would prove to be twenty-three, entitled “Al-Deen al-Naseeha” or “Religion is Advice” (الدين النصيحة), on 14 February 2008. The speech was something of a rarity in that it focused on Palestine. A transcript of the speech was put out by ISI and is reproduced below with edits for grammar and clarity. Continue reading →
An Orthodox Jewish man looking at Israeli election campaign posters in Jerusalem, 27 March 2019 // Reuters
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in attendance on 25 March when President Donald Trump signed the order recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, but had to leave soon after a rocket from Gaza hit a house north of Tel Aviv. These events—and other regional developments—are taking place less than two weeks from Israeli elections, where Netanyahu is neck-and-neck with his challenger. Continue reading →
Benny Gantz, a former head of the Israel Defence Forces, opened his campaign for prime minister on January 29 with a speech setting out his programme. Gantz was swiftly denounced by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as a “leftist” but there is no sign of that in what is known of Gantz and for good reason. Continue reading →
Large black flag with the words “Oh, Husayn” flies near the Lebanon-Israel border (5 December, AFP)
Israel announced an operation to “destroy the threat of the terror tunnels” into northern Israel from Hezbollah, the Levantine branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in southern Lebanon. Continue reading →
An Israeli Merkava tank patrols on the border between Israel and Syria, on 20 July 2018. (AFP)
Israel has been conflicted on the Syrian rebellion: some saw Bashar al-Assad’s reliance on Iran and thus favoured his departure; some, especially once the uprising militarized and jihadi-Salafists made their appearance among the insurgents, favoured a let-them-both-lose policy; and some saw the risk of chaos and jihadists and preferred to stick with what they knew.
The official Israeli policy, stated in the early months of the protests, was to side with the people “demonstrating for freedoms” since “the devil we know in Syria [i.e. Assad] is worse than the devil we don’t”. Continue reading →