“Good strategy might just be staying out of trouble” – Exclusive interview with Sir Lawrence Freedman

Sir Lawrence Freedman (credit: Boston Consulting Group)

Sir Lawrence Freedman is not only an internationally acclaimed author, but he is also the dean of British strategic studies and Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King’s College London. I have a boundless admiration for this institution and I hope to enlist in the near future to the online Master’s Degree in War Studies it offers.

Sir Lawrence generously accepted to answer a few questions for this blog and I am extremely grateful for that. Here is the content of our exchange.

Russia is a constant challenge because it feels itself at threat from the West and has taken a tough stance that creates an edginess.

My point was then that the withdrawal from Afghanistan, chaotic though it was, was unfortunately expected and the lesson (not to put substantial ground forces into a civil war) had been learned a decade earlier. Russia is a constant challenge because it feels itself at threat from the West and has taken a tough stance that creates an edginess, especially as it plays a disruptive role in European affairs. It poses a challenge that is serious but should be manageable as its underlying position if weak. China has been getting stronger for the past three decades year on year, although that growth may be stuttering now. It has turned itself into a great power, militarily as well as economically, and under Xi has taken a much more assertive stance on a whole range of issues. I believe this stance will turn out to be counter-productive, but it creates a risky and dynamic situation which could spark a wider confrontation (see answer to next question).

Continue reading ““Good strategy might just be staying out of trouble” – Exclusive interview with Sir Lawrence Freedman”

Putin was certainly quite pro-Netanyahu

Russian President Vladimir Putin and then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (source: The New York Times)

In his last speech as Prime Minister of Israel last Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu evoked his proximity with President Vladimir Putin the following way:

“We developed special relations with Russia, not just with Russia as a state, we also nurtured a direct close line with the president of Russia. And in so doing, we guaranteed the freedom of maneuver of the Israeli Air Force in the skies of Syria in order to prevent Iran entrenchment on our Northern border.”

A news outlet stressed the fact that the former Prime Minister of Israel “[…] boasted of his friendship with Putin and was a frequent guest in Russia.

I have always found the closeness between Putin and Netanyahu to be extremely interesting, not to say simply fascinating. Notably in the context of the increasing presence of Russia in the Middle East.

Continue reading “Putin was certainly quite pro-Netanyahu”

Who was responsible for the Kippur War?

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Ariel Sharon (in the middle) and Moshe Dayan (on the right) during the Kippur War.

I have always been interested in the origins, the conduct and the military actors who participated in the 1973 Kippur War, which was launched against Israel by Egypt and Syria.

I was therefore very pleased to find this recent article written by David Tal and published in the pages of Middle Eastern Studies recently.

According to Professor Tal, the responsibility of the Kippur War lies at Egyptian president Anwar Sadat doorstep.

Contrary to the school of thought supporting the assumption that “[…] the 1973 October war could have been avoided if Israel had responded positively to Sadat’s peace offers during 1971-1973”, David Tal goes in detail to demonstrate that Egypt did everything to arrive at a settlement through the battlefield, advancing proposals that were unacceptable to Israel and refusing to move an inch on its demands.

But why was that?

“[…] Sadat was offended by the Egyptian military defeat in 1967”, Egypt’s pride was damaged by this outcome and the only way to repair the situation would be either through “[…] regaining the territories without having to negotiate with Israel, or by going to war.”

Sadat’s war aims were nevertheless very modest. A symbolic gain of territory would permit Egypt to proclaim a victory and wash its humiliation.

Everyone knows that Israel won the war, but less known is the fact that the terms accepted by Sadat within the Camp David Agreement framework were those espoused by Israel before the October war and rejected by the Egyptian president.

This war of choice solely happened for Sadat to claim a symbolic victory allowing him to don the mantle of peacemaker few years later.

For anyone interested in the contemporary history of the Middle East and Israel, David Tal’s work is great food for thought.

RT’s article about ISIS

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ISIS-occupied territory in the Middle East source: http://snipurl.com/29uu75t

I don’t know about you, but I like to read news reports and analysis from RT (Russia Today). I like their unconventional way of doing things. Their journalists sometimes irk me, but, overall, this is a very interesting News Agency. They may have an agenda, but which news media doesn’t?

All of this to say that RT reported today the revelations contained in an article from Der Spiegel with some interesting revelations supporting the fact that ISIS is an offspring of the miscalculations and mistakes of the US intervention in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

According to RT’s article:

“The reason why ISIS are so successful as a terrorist organization is partly because many of their founding members, including the top strategist, were part of Saddam Hussein’s professional security apparatus. By shattering the well-trained army of Saddam, the US apparently created a group of very intelligent enemies.

Bakr [ISIS mastermind Haji Bakr, whose real name was Samir Abd Muhammad al-Khlifawi] was a “highly intelligent, firm and an excellent logistician,” as an Iraqi journalist described the former officer. But when the US suddenly dissolved the Iraqi army after the 2003 invasion he became “bitter and unemployed.””

Here is a powerful reminder to Western leaders and military planners that one needs to be very careful when approaching the Middle East. It’s also a reminder that we should stick even closer to our friends – lsrael being at the top of that list, but there are others like Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia for example – who are our best allies to confront these threats.

They might not be perfect, but they are reliable, unlike Iran. In a context like this, a staunch friend is 100 times better than a would-be, potential, circumstantial ally.