INSS


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Institute for National Securities Studies, INSS is an independent academic institute.

The Institute is non-partisan, independent, and autonomous in its fields of research and expressed opinions. As an external institute of Tel Aviv University, it maintains a strong association with the academic environment. In addition, it has a strong association with the political and military establishment.

Most Recent Articles by INSS:

The Trump-Netanyahu Meeting: An Opportunity for Policy Coordination on Iran in Light of the North Ko

Sep 14, 2017 — INSS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump in New York in late September. With the events in the Korean peninsula in the background, the two leaders will almost certainly discuss this crisis and the lessons for preventing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Indeed, the parallel between the challenges to the United States posed by North Korea’s nuclear program and the Iranian nuclear program is clear. Both regimes regard the United States as a threatening ideological enemy, and both have systematically violated international norms, in part to develop military nuclear capabilities. However, the two cases are not identical, and it is important to understand the limitations of the parallel, particularly in order to focus on what can nevertheless be learned from the case of North Korea and applied to Iran.


Russia in Syria: Between Iran and Israel

Sep 3, 2017 — INSS

The central issue discussed in the August 23, 2017 meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin was the growing Iranian involvement in Syria and the role that Russia is assigning to Iran in shaping the future political arrangement in the war-torn state. Israel’s struggle against Iran’s growing influence in Syria will be determined by the ability of both Iran and Israel to exercise effective levers of influence on Russia. Russia for its part will try to maneuver between Israeli demands and the need for cooperation with Iran, partly by making conflicting promises to each side. Therefore, Israel should treat Russia’s promises in this context with caution, and improve its readiness to use force wisely and with a low signature, against Iran’s objectives for establishing itself in Syria.

There are conflicting reports, mostly speculative, regarding the August 23, 2017 meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. The central issue discussed was growing Iranian involvement in Syria and the role that Russia is assigning to Iran in shaping the future political arrangement in the war-torn state. Already before the meeting, Israel sent strong messages relaying that the continued Iranian presence in Syria constituted a concrete threat to it. At the same time, there was an Israeli effort to persuade the United States to refrain from completely abandoning the Syrian arena to Russia, and indirectly to Iran. Indeed, most areas controlled by the Islamic State that were freed by the United States have been seized by Iran and its proxies.


Seven Memorable “Guterres Moments” for Israel during the UN Secretary-General’s First Seven Mo

Aug 27, 2017 — INSS

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is scheduled to visit Israel for the first time in late August 2017, seven full months after assuming the prestigious post in January 2017. Upon his election, the Israeli establishment expressed hope that Guterres’ leadership would lead to a change in the UN’s bias against Israel. In considering seven milestones during the past seven months, Guterres’ actions, rhetoric, and statements on Israel-related issues create the impression that he is indeed committed to bettering the situation.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is scheduled to visit Israel for the first time in late August 2017, seven full months after assuming the prestigious post in January 2017. In ascending to the position of the world’s top diplomat, Guterres prevailed in an election process that was unprecedented in its accessibility to the world’s citizenry through social media and, consequently, in the public interest that the process generated.


The Crisis in the Gulf: A Case Study of the Effectiveness of Sanctions as a Tool for Conducting Poli

Aug 24, 2017 — INSS

The boycott of Qatar by its neighbors in the Gulf is expected to affect the rate of its growth, but if Qatar succeeds in easing the capital flight, it will not result in a severe, long-term recession. As most of the costs incurred in the retreat from integration among the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council affect the longer term and will not create immediate pressure on the countries boycotting Qatar, it is reasonable to assume that the costs also will not play a central role in shaping their policies in the crisis. These assumptions do not contradict the assertion that continuation of the crisis could have structural effects on the region’s economy.


Egypt’s Challenging Shift from Counterterrorism to Counterinsurgency in the Sinai

Aug 24, 2017 — INSS

Since June 2017, Egypt has faced a notable rise in terrorist attacks from Salafi-jihadist groups in the Sinai Peninsula that are affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) and from Islamist organizations inside the Nile Valley. Due to increasing violence, Egypt declared a country-wide state of emergency in April, and extended it in June for another three months. Security has been stepped up around public areas and religious sites. On July 7, Sinai Province, the Egyptian affiliate of IS, employed suicide car bombs and gunmen to attack an Egyptian military outpost near Rafah, killing at least twenty-three soldiers. In response, Egypt launched the fourth phase of the operation “Martyr’s Right” against cells of the Sinai Province in North and Central Sinai, so far killing dozens of terrorists.


The Iranian Threat in Syria: As Bad as It Seems?

Aug 23, 2017 — INSS

The question of Syria’s future, especially the issue of Iran’s influence and presence in the country, was at the center of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Putin. On the table are a range of possible scenarios of Iranian levels of intervention for which Israel is preparing, against an array of strategic considerations that will influence Iran’s policy. The Iranian threat from Syria does not pose an intolerable security challenge for Israel right now and probably will not in the future, especially if Israel wisely exploits the range of tools at its disposal to reduce Iran’s dominance and curb the Iranian threat in the Syrian arena.

When the Syrian civil war broke out, Iran sided with President Bashar al-Assad. As time has passed and the threat to the stability of the Assad regime has grown, Iran’s involvement in the fighting has become more pronounced. Shia militias made up of foreigners (from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere) and Hezbollah—all under Iranian command—have been dispatched to the battlefield alongside units of the Revolutionary Guards and regular Iranian army troops. Iranian proxies are the mainstay ground forces of the pro-Assad coalition that has been led by Russia since the fall of 2015.


Europe’s Challenges Open the Market for Israel’s Arms Industry

Aug 21, 2017 — INSS

In the past few years, the European demand for arms has increased due to the significant security challenges that have developed throughout the continent. This trend has also resulted in a marked increase in Israeli defense exports to European countries, which is expected to continue in the years to come, especially to Eastern Europe. This development requires that Israel act cautiously—among other reasons—in order to avoid a direct diplomatic clash with Russia, which is the primary reason for the current European armament.

In 2015, Europe became the second largest destination for Israeli arms exports as the scope of European defense deals with Israel more than doubled—from $724 million in 2014 to $1.6 billion in 2015. This trend continued in 2016, as Israel’s defense exports to European countries reached $1.8 billion, far exceeding its transactions with the countries of North America ($1.265 billion), Latin America ($550 million), and Africa ($275 million) but still less than its defense exports to the countries of Asia ($2.6 billion).


North Korean ICBM Tests: No Surprises, No Good Answers

Aug 7, 2017 — INSS

While North Korea’s recent nuclear tests significantly raised the level of fear in the United States, they were not a surprise. North Korea, long a nuclear state, is a dangerous nuclear proliferator that has shirked international commitments. Pyongyang issues highly aggressive rhetoric toward the United States and its regional neighbors on a regular basis; it flaunts its nuclear capability and threatens to use it, and tends to share nonconventional know-how and technologies. And herein lies a link to Tehran: as Iran also remains motivated in the nuclear realm despite the JCPOA, the direct implications of North Korea’s activities for Iran’s nuclear program must be under constant scrutiny. The indirect implications for dealing with Iran’s nuclear motivation invoke the ability to rely on negotiations to stop a determined proliferator. The North Korean case of failed negotiations must be heeded when thinking about Iran.


Israel and American Jewry: Stepping Back from the Brink

Aug 1, 2017 — INSS

The controversies surrounding the Israeli government’s recent decisions concerning the Western Wall and a bill on conversion underscore key divides in Israeli-Diaspora relations. The ensuing crisis took many Israeli political leaders by surprise, which itself is evidence of a deep disconnect between Israeli leaders attuned to Israeli voters, and the attitudes of American Jewish leaders and activists. Anyone who spends time these days in American Jewish communities cannot fail to note the anger and feelings of personal betrayal. It is a raw moment, which requires careful handling by leaders on both sides to pull Israel and many of its key supporters back from the brink of a potentially irreparable split.

Jerusalem’s holy sites have a way of asserting strategic significance far beyond what their simple physical presence would suggest. Events in the aftermath of the shooting of two Israeli police officers on the Temple Mount highlight this truth.


From the Temple Mount to the Israeli Embassy in Jordan

Jul 31, 2017 — INSS

The tension on the Temple Mount and the crisis between Israel and Jordan following the attack on a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman need more than ad hoc solutions that leave the basic situation – the catalyst underlying these events – unresolved, and the strategic opportunities in efforts to reach an agreement untapped.


Iran: Mounting Tension between President Rouhani and the Revolutionary Guards

Jul 16, 2017 — INSS

The tension between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the Revolutionary Guards that was evident during the presidential election campaign has intensified in recent weeks and evolved into a confrontation that is unprecedented in its openly severe nature. The current confrontation surrounds two main issues: Iran’s missile strike against Islamic State targets in Syria, and President Rouhani’s criticism of the Revolutionary Guards’ involvement in the economy.


The IDF Exercises in Cyprus and Crete

Jun 28, 2017 — INSS

The Israel Defense Forces recently completed a large military exercise on the island of Cyprus, and a smaller training exercise in Crete was held several months earlier. Although the commanders of the exercise did not refer to this specifically, the topographic outline of Cyprus is clearly similar to that of the Lebanese mountains, and in general, training in unfamiliar territory, and particularly when it resembles areas beyond the border where the troops may well have to operate, is highly important. The exercise presumably created tension with Turkey; in addition, the government heads of Israel, Cyprus, and Greece met earlier this month in Greece, in yet another trilateral meeting since the leaders of the three countries met in Nicosia a year ago to establish a new geopolitical bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean, partly as a counterweight to Turkey.


The Conservative Predicament in Iran

Jun 26, 2017 — INSS

The results of the recent elections are the latest development in a line of defeats that Iran’s conservatives have suffered in recent years. The difficulty faced by the conservative right in its efforts to recruit the support of the Iranian public can be explained by the conservative failure to provide a relevant response to demands regarding economics and individual freedoms. The election results showed that it is not enough to scatter slogans or use social media to recruit public support. Yet as conservative elements continue to control the main centers of power, the prospects for change appear remote. Moreover, the challenges facing the conservative camp do not at this stage amount to a substantive threat to regime stability or even to the continuation of the conservative hegemony. However, adapting revolutionary ideology to the constraints of reality is the key to survival of the system.


Following a stormy election campaign, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was reelected for a second term of office. Rouhani won 57 percent of the votes, while his main rival, the conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, received less than 39 percent of the vote. Rouhani’s sweeping victory in 23 out of the 31 provinces throughout Iran was particularly striking in view of the high voter turnout – about 73 percent, one of the highest rates ever recorded in presidential elections in Iran. In the country’s ongoing political struggle between the pragmatic/reformist camp, which seeks change, even if limited and gradual, and the conservative camp, which fears change and is determined to block it, Iranian citizens preferred the more moderate candidates. In the elections for local councils, which were held concurrently with the presidential elections, candidates for lists identified with the reformist camp also recorded impressive achievements. For the first time in 14 years, reformist candidates (including a record number of six women) won all 21 seats in Tehran’s city council. The reformists were also victorious in other central cities, including Isfahan, Shiraz, Karaj, Yazd, Tabriz, and even the holy city of Mashhad, the home of presidential candidate Raisi.


East-West-North-South: The Race for Syria after the Islamic State

Jun 26, 2017 — INSS

The current race for control of territory in Syria now appears to be a competition between Iran and the United States, which have established two respective axes – with a vertical American (north-south) effort on the one hand, and a horizontal Iranian (east-west) effort on the other hand. In practice, this is another stage in the shaping of Syria in preparation for the day after the Islamic State. In the meantime, the country’s southwestern region, from Daraa to the Golan Heights, remains open for activity and influence by Israel and Jordan, which must begin taking action before it is too late. Contacts are apparently underway to formulate a joint Israeli-Jordanian-American strategy aimed at preventing Iranian influence and the presence of its proxies, especially Hezbollah and Shiite militias, in the southern Syria.

Increasing signs are pointing to the impending fall of the Islamic State in Syria, which has suffered a series of defeats in recent months. The territory in eastern Syria that will be freed of Islamic State control now constitutes a focus of the major struggle between the United States and Iran in Syria, as both are striving to seize the area. Early June marked the onset of the final phase of the US-led coalition’s offensive to conquer the city of Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State in Syria, with a combined Kurdish-Arab (though predominantly Kurdish) ground force – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – and air support provided by the international coalition, including the United States, other Western countries, and Arab states. At the same time, Iran and its proxies have also started intensifying efforts aimed at shaping Syria the day after the fall of the Islamic State. Forces of the pro-Assad coalition are currently trying to expand their control in the Deir ez-Zor region and improve their access to Raqqa and the surrounding area, and also seize key positions along the Syrian-Iraqi border.


The New United States Policy against the Islamic State: Ramifications for Asymmetric Warfare

Jun 21, 2017 — INSS

Are the recent US strikes against the Islamic State, as well Russia’s permissive policy on airstrikes in Syria that cause mass civilian casualties and extensive harm to civilian infrastructures, evidence of a change in international standards in the fight against terrorist organizations and sub-state actors? A related question is: do the rules of engagement that apply to powers such as the United States and Russia also apply to other states confronting terrorism, such as Israel? How should Israel prepare for its next confrontation against a sub-state actor such as Hamas or Hezbollah that operates in an urban environment while intentionally embedded in the civilian population?

In late May 2017, US Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis announced a change in United States strategy in the war against the Islamic State, amounting to a transition from attrition to a concerted policy of annihilation. Mattis announced that the US intention is to prevent foreigners fighting in Islamic State ranks from surviving the battle and returning home or acting elsewhere, such as in North Africa, Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Mattis added that civilian casualties in the war against terrorism is “a fact of life,” but made it clear that US forces would continue to make great efforts to prevent civilian casualties, while taking the army’s needs into consideration. However, is already clear that since President Trump took office there has been an increase in civilian casualties in US attacks in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State.