Wikistrat Next Generation Strategy Ask a Sr. Analyst Exercise
Editor’s Note: Wikistrat’s Facebook followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A drill with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts – Mr. Avi Melamed.
Mr. Avi Melamed, former Israeli Senior Official on Arab Affairs and is an independent Middle East Strategic Intelligence Analyst and lecturer specialized in the current affairs of the Arab and Muslim world, as well as their impact on Israel and the region more widely.
Mr. Melamed provides intelligence analysis, briefings and tours to diplomats, Israeli and foreign policy makers, international media outlets and a wide variety of organizations as well as private clients on a range of Israeli and Middle Eastern affairs.
Miguel Nunes Silva: Did Hamas achieve the aim of damaging relations between Egypt and Israel with the current conflict?
Answer: Hamas would like to see the abolishment of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty. Yet, as of now this is an unrealistic objective. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt knows that it is expected to provide real answers to the huge social, economic and political challenges of Egypt. Egypt must have stability to attract investments and needs to be able to raise the funds and loans necessary to deal with Egypt’s significant challenges. The MB rule in Egypt needs to gain the West’s recognition as a stabilizing factor. That recognition is Egypt’s path to loans, funds and investments. Hence, the MB’s primary interest is stability and accordingly they demand Hamas to play a stabilizing, not a destabilizing role.
Morsi Mahmoud: How do you envision the future relations between Hamas and Israel?
Answer: Hamas defines itself as part of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). MB’s ideology does not view Jews as nation, but rather as a religion that betrayed its destiny and thus lost its legitimacy in the eyes of God. Thus both the MB and of course Hamas, will never recognize Israel’s right to exist. Both the MB and Hamas are willing – at best – to accept, as an interim phase, something similar to a ceasefire arrangement (terms known in Arab culture as “Hudnah” or “Tahdiya”). The MB and Hamas are marathon runners; in their view Israel is doomed to vanish as manifestation of a divine predestination. They are thus willing to wait as long as it will take.
Jennifer Jackson: I am wondering what role you think Hezbollah is playing, or has played, in the Syrian civil war thus far and also, what your thoughts are on the future of Hezbollah if/when Bashar al-Assad loses his grip on power.
Answer: Hezbollah militants openly fight side-by-side with Assad’s troops against the Free Syrian Army, mostly in the area of Al Qusayr located about ten miles from the Syrian–Lebanese “border” (the two states do not have formal borders) and in the area of Zbadani on the outskirts of Damascus. Since May 2012, a group of senior Hezbollah militants has been held captive by one of the Syrian rebel groups.
Accumulating reports indicate that tens of dozens – if not more – of Hezbollah’s militants have been killed in the war in Syria. Yet, until recently Hezbollah has consistently denied its involvement in the war in Syria. Hezbollah secretly buried its slain militants and discreetly published brief messages saying they were killed “in mission.” Now it seems that Hezbollah is changing its public relations policy and claims its militants were killed while “protecting Lebanese civilians in Syria.”
However, neither using the “Israeli Card”, nor changing their “marketing” regarding their involvement in the war in Syria, will restore Hezbollah’s ruined image in the Arab world. The anger and criticism of Hezbollah and its leaders are rather only escalating the Arab world.
Most recently, an official spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army publically threatened to take the war in Syria into Hezbollah’s major stronghold in south Beirut, if Hezbollah continues to support the Assad regime.
The majority of the Syrians are Sunnis. They will never forget, nor will they ever forgive, Hassan Nasrallah for supporting the cold-blooded massacre of over 40,000 (and counting) Syrians – whom of most are Sunnis. With Assad gone, Hezbollah may very well find itself confronting massively armed enraged Sunni crescent stretching from Lebanon – Syria – Iraq while at the same time Hezbollah’s weapon supply route is cut.
Marco Giulio Barone: In your opinion, what is the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordanian election? To what extent is it likely to create a shift of power amongst the other factions and/or even within institutions? In which way (violent or non-violent)?
Answer: The MB positions itself in the front line of public protests in Jordan and waged a campaign calling to boycott the elections in Jordan. Still, it seems like the campaign in some ways was counterproductive to the interest of the MB. The Jordanian government is insisting on holding the elections as planned and according to formal figures, almost two million eligible voters have registered to vote.
In early October the MB launched what was described as “the biggest protest ever in Jordan”. On the ground, the event was pretty much a failure – the number of participants was only in the few thousands. Jordanians identify with demands for political reforms and fighting corruption, however, this does not mean they identify with MB ideology. Jordanian society also has a deeply rooted Western affiliation.
The MB’s tough line in Jordan has so far been mostly counterproductive and damaging to the MB itself. Reportedly, the MB in Jordan has experienced an inner split and there are now three sub-groups within the MB in Jordan. An attempt to bridge over the gaps and rivalry between the groups has failed thus far.
An additional facet is that the MB is extremely careful not to cross red lines. The movement’s leadership strongly rejects the slogan “The people want to overthrow the political rule” (i.e. the Monarchy) and supports the slogan “political reforms”. The majority of Jordanians will not tolerate any challenge to Jordan’s national security and inner stability, nor will they tolerate attacks on Hashemite Monarchy symbols and above all the King. That being said, it should be noted that some of the demonstrations (mostly those held in Jordan’s southern cities), often deteriorate into public riots and disorder. Growing unrest in Jordan will deepen the crisis in the country to the point that it may generate a chain-reaction that could lead to severe outbursts of violence.
Some analysts argue that the Hashemite monarchy inevitably will devolve into a symbol similar to the monarchy in the United Kingdom. Though such scenario is possible, I think there are different factors that will delay or even block – at least in the foreseeable future – the realization of such a scenario. The Jordanians are not yet ready for a UK-style monarchy.
Stay tuned for our next Q&A session on Wikistrat’s Facebook page!
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