Monthly Archives: November 2012

Stratfor: The Sinai Buffer Zone

I pulled the map seen here from a Stratfor teaser email. They really want to sell me a subscription to their weekly updates, and they’ve been very busy the last few days due to the troubles in Gaza.

The agreement (Carter’s 1979 Camp David Accords) divided the Sinai Peninsula into four zones of increasing neutrality. Egypt is allowed an entire mechanized or infantry division in Zone A, which abuts the Suez Canal. In Zone B, its armed presence is limited to municipal police and border patrol. 1,600 international peacekeepers are spread out across 32 bases in the east of Zone C, and Israel is allowed a limited presence in Zone D.

Egypt was under significant American influence for the last several decades and in the past they have closed the official crossing into Gaza in cooperation with Israeli goals there. Now, with their new government, they are still somewhat cooperative, but will not close the border. This means the Israelis may move military units right along the line between Israel and Egypt, which has not been the case since Israel withdrew in the early 1980s.

I put this up because I am still puzzling over Stratfor: Hamas Long Range Rockets. The new ones that can hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are either brought in, or locally built. That doubling of range is a significant escalation.

This is all just too much – Gaza, Sinai, and next stop is the Golan Heights. It reminds me of sitting with my dad watching the six o’clock news when I was a tween.

Stratfor: Hamas Long Range Rockets

I pinched this rocket attack radius map from Israel pounds Gaza from air as troops assemble, Arab League meets

This bit from Stratfor’s Updated on Israel-Gaza Conflict caught my eye.

New intelligence indicates forces in Gaza may be manufacturing long-range rockets locally. If this is the case, a significant ground force offers the Israelis the best chance of finding and neutralizing the factories making these weapons. Meanwhile, Israel continues its airstrikes on Gaza, and Gaza continues its long-range rocket attacks on major Israeli population centers, though Israel claims its Iron Dome defense system has intercepted most of the rockets.

It makes sense for Hamas to develop domestic production capabilities, but is it possible? Maybe the looser policies of the new Egyptian government regarding the border with Gaza are facilitating such a change.

There is nothing to do but wait and see what is found – it appears Israel will be going in, given 75,000 troops are in position.

NightWatch: Syria, Jordan & Mali

I recently asked for alternatives to Stratfor and someone promptly suggested NightWatch. I didn’t like the text format and only got it switched to HTML yesterday.

The NightWatch for 15 Nov 2012 has information on Syria, Jordan, and Mali that interested me.

The Syrian government’s legitimacy is declining. France started the ball rolling and now Turkey has recognized the opposition as the country’s legitimate government. The French have a history in the region of derailing conflict through clever diplomacy, engaging the U.S. and defusing tension. Turkey has a refugee problem and accidental cross border artillery strikes have escalated their responses. The downfall of Assad has been inevitable for a while, but this troubles Iran, who see the Alawite Syrian minority as natural allies. The Russians’ only Mediterranean naval base is in Tartus and its loss would bottleneck them behind the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles

Jordan has been quietly skidding towards trouble for a while. I hear stories of pay cuts and a stock exchange where valuations and volume both cratered a year ago and have not recovered. Lacking any oil of their own, fuel subsidy cuts triggered economic protests, which the police foolishly chose to recast as challenges to authority. Roughly 50% of the population of five million are counted as Palestinian, which leads to some curious Google results for the country name.

Mali is a disaster in the making. The country split into north and south roughly along the natural divide of the Niger river. The Taureg people of the north have long sought an independent state, a move that is deeply unpopular with neighboring countries, all of whom have their own restive Taureg minorities. The native Ansar Dine (defenders of faith) are said to have been partially hijacked by al Queda in the Islamic Maghreb, but this is based on a handful of kinship connections between leaders in the two groups.

Various western sources have described the Toureg’s desire to create the state of Azawad as a path to the next Somalia or Afghanistan. This is an incorrect assessment – north Mali is the middle of nowhere, not the busy coast of the Horn of Africa, and they don’t have mountains for hiding both fighters and opium poppy fields. Large groups of fighters moving in the flats of the Toumbouctou province have been easy prey for Mauritanian helicopter gunships.

As a rule, information on Mali is sketchy and conflicting. Even the well connected locals I know who live in the capital of Djenne are puzzled by what is happening in the north and what the changes mean for the south.

Why Gaza Is Screwed

Twitter has been inflamed by Israel’s incursion into Gaza. Ignoring the chattering masses, watchers of the region who see local sectarian issues without the apocalypse colored lenses American media are forced to wear note that this pattern of conflict initiated by the party in power right before an election has been Israel’s norm for half a century.

This recipe is familiar from 1955, when David Ben-Gurion returned from his exile in Sde Boker and led the Israel Defense Forces to a retaliatory action in Gaza, and his party, Mapai, to victory in the election. (Barak recalled this period with nostalgia, when he spoke last week at a memorial for Moshe Dayan). Ever since, whenever the ruling party feels threatened at the ballot box, it puts its finger on the trigger. The examples are common knowledge: the launch of the Shavit 2 missile in the summer of 1961, in the midst of the Lavon affair; the bombing of the Iraqi reactor in 1981; Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon in 1996, and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza on the eve of the 2009 election. In the two latter cases, the military action turned into a defeat in the election.

Underneath all that, here is the situation that is going to end badly, first for Gaza, and then some time after that for Israel, too. I wrote The Muslim World on January 30th, 2012, and I expressed my concern then:

I suspect Israel will face the same fate as the kingdom of Jerusalem, and water will be the cause of its failure.

Israel has three main watersheds, one on either side of the spine of mountains that divides the country, and then Lake Kinneret is counted as a separate basin, although it drains through the Jordan, just as the eastern watershed does.

Beneath the surface there are a variety of aquifers, geological formations with varying capacities to store water.

And here is the specific map of the Gaza strip.

Here are the deadly details.

The recharge from rain to the basin is approximately 40 mcm/yr with the majority(approximately 25 mcm/yr) infiltrating into a subsurface with relatively high salinity(chloride higher than 400 mg/l) (Tables 3-5). This ratio is based on the water salinity map published by Mogheir (2003). Lateral inflow of groundwater from Israel (Figure20) accounts for an additional approximately 30 mcm/yr of the total recharge. Seawater intrusion into the basin has increased significantly over the years due to overpumping. During the period 1973-1992 the inflow from sea water was estimated to be 7 mcm/yr, while during the period from 1993-2009 the amount increased to approximately 15 mcm/yr. The outflow of freshwater to the sea was estimated to beapproximately 5 mcm/yr during the period 1973-1992, and zero during the period1993-2009

There is an 8% overall regional decline in rainfall cited a paragraph or two before this one … during a time when the population went from 340,000 to 1.6 million – a 470% jump.

On 28 July 2010, through Resolution 64/292, the United Nations General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.

The United Nations human right to water is a fine ideal, but let me convert those numbers from English to metric – Gaza is just under eleven thousand acres, and their very limited aquifer is taking on just over twelve thousand acre feet of seawater annually.

Two state solution? One state solution? That is the will of man. Mother Nature might impose a no-state solution, similar to what we see in Somalia today.

Allah dessicates whom he pleases. God help us all …

See Israel Hydrological Service 2012 Report for a more expansive read on the topic.

Mapping Syria’s Armed Opposition

Mapping Syria’s Armed Opposition has a really cool interactive map of the different groups and their affiliations.

The map also illustrates two diverging trends developing within the opposition. The more regular units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are loosely organized through regional councils, tend to be led by high-ranking military defectors, are rarely ideologically driven and are at least nominally connected to the leadership of Riad al-Assad and Mustapha al-Sheikh in Turkey (although internal leaders such as Qasem Sa’ad al-Din carry more weight on the ground). The funding for these outfits is primarily from state sponsors, most notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Meanwhile, a plethora of other fighting groups are emerging that tend to be led by civilians or low-ranking defectors, are more ideologically inclined and are patronized by wealthy Shiekhs from Gulf Cooperation Council states, the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamic institutions. As one FSA source told Executive, “Now any old Sheikh can buy a militia.”