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12 décembre 2016 1 12 /12 /décembre /2016 11:20

Trump Wants to Shake Up the World Order? Here's Where He Should Start

by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Jonathan Schanzer
Politico Magazine
December 11, 2016


The specifics have often fluctuated, but the core of Donald Trump's foreign policy vision has remained steady. He believes, as the Brookings Institution's Thomas Wright has noted, "that America gets a raw deal from the liberal international order it helped to create and has led since World War II."

For some of the alliances that Trump has questioned, such as NATO, critics fiercely contend that the president-elect underestimates the benefits flowing to the United States. But there is a class of messy, increasingly complicated foreign-policy relationships that the Trump administration would do well to reconsider: Middle East countries that simultaneously act as U.S. allies, adversaries and enemies.

Why should we care about these relationships now? Trump's election has put many of the U.S.' relationships into focus in a way they have not been in a long time. He has questioned the value of some of the U.S.' longstanding alliances, and regardless of one's politics, it would be a mistake to write off such inquiries.

As the Trump administration prepares to take office, the chance exists to not only reset some relationships, but also to reconsider them. We're now more than 15 years past the 9/11 attacks and the start of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. In a few weeks, we'll mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Soviet Union. The world has changed substantially in that time, and it's acceptable—healthy, even—for the U.S. to reevaluate some of its longtime partnerships.

This is especially true in the Middle East. Not only does this region bear the clearest nexus to the issue the U.S. has most prioritized in its foreign policy this century—the threat of terrorism and insurgent violence from militant Islamist groups—but it is also home to some of America's thorniest relationships, which are only growing more complicated. Central to changing the course of these relationships is distinguishing between an ally, adversary and enemy.

Donald Trump really wants to shake up the world order? He should start here, with the countries that fit all three categories at once.


The definition of an ally needs little explanation, but the distinction between adversary and enemy is worth briefly unpacking. When a state is an adversary, there is a clash of interests or values, but room for compromise—today's adversary could be tomorrow's ally. In contrast, an enemy is a country that seeks our total defeat, and we seek the same in return.

For decades, these categories among states were fairly cut and dried. But in the post-9/11 order, an increasing number of countries can be characterized as "all of the above."

Pakistan is a prime example. Just before the 9/11 attacks, Pakistan had become an international pariah due to its test of a nuclear weapon in 1998 and the military coup that brought General Pervez Musharraf to power. But the 9/11 attacks transformed Pakistan into a vital strategic partner due to its proximity to Afghanistan.

In America's war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Pakistan was arguably both our most critical ally and deadliest state enemy. Pakistan allowed U.S. and NATO planners to route supplies for military operations in Afghanistan through its territory, shared valuable intelligence with the U.S., and received billions of dollars in aid. Yet at the same time, Pakistani intel services supported the Taliban and other insurgents, and bear direct responsibility for the deaths of American servicemen. How Pakistan functioned as an adversary at the same time it was a close U.S. ally is perhaps best exemplified by the fact that, for several years, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden hid at a compound in Abbottabad, less than a mile from the Pakistan Military Academy, almost certainly with Pakistani knowledge. Distrust ran so high that the U.S. government famously chose not to notify Pakistan before carrying out the May 2011 raid that killed bin Laden, fearing that the Al Qaeda leader might learn of the imminent strike. Today, the nation continues to serve as a sponsor for dangerous terrorist groups.

Similarly fraught and worthy of the Trump administration's scrutiny is the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia. There have been, of course, mutual advantages to the U.S.-Saudi partnership: During the Cold War, the U.S. provided a "security umbrella" over Saudi Arabia and other regional monarchies to prevent Soviet incursions, while Saudi Arabia kept its oil flowing and served as a regional bulwark against communism.

But there have also been significant costs. For decades, Washington has looked the other way while Saudi petrodollars have funded schools, charities and other institutions that spread the intolerant and often-violent Wahhabi ideology that helps to fuel jihadism. In its global propagation of the Wahhabi creed, Saudi Arabia is second to none in the Muslim world. To be sure, the Saudis have made some progress—terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia has declined, but it has not ceased—but hateful Wahhabi teachings continue worldwide.

There is also the wealthy Gulf emirate of Qatar, which hosts the massive Al-Udeid Air Base, arguably America's most important strategic asset in the Middle East and home to the United States Central Command's forward headquarters. But at the same time, U.S. officials have been alarmed by Qatari stances—during the "Arab Spring," the nation had a strong preference for uprisings that supported Islamist groups—and by its actions, which include allowing the Taliban and other militant groups to set up offices in Qatar, and hosting and financially backing the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Mounting evidence suggests that Qatar is supporting salafi jihadist groups, especially in Syria. Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (formerly known as the Nusra Front) is chief among them. This matters because "regional" jihadist groups rarely confine themselves to their own regions. Rather, their objectives and alliances with other jihadists tend to grow over time, thus magnifying the key strategic challenge that the U.S. has struggled so mightily to confront over the past decade and a half.

In the hazy realm of U.S. allies and adversaries in the Middle East, the most recent—and alarming —new addition to the list is Turkey. Once viewed as a stalwart member of NATO and a staunch secular American ally, the country has become increasingly hostile to Washington as its leadership steers in a more Islamist and authoritarian direction. It has supported jihadist-leaning fighting groups in Syria, and Al Qaeda figures have used Turkey as a safe haven. Turkey is home to a large headquarters for Hamas, and it engaged in a massive illicit financial scheme that helped Iran evade sanctions at the height of that country's nuclear crisis.

Under successive presidencies, American policymakers have somehow convinced themselves that the U.S. needs these Mideast countries more than they need us. Thus, the U.S.' response to the action of "frenemies" has often been muted—even when American lives were on the line.

As Trump's administration prepares to take office, America's reliance on so-called allies that pose direct or indirect threats to Americans must change. On the campaign trail, Trump vowed time and again to renegotiate bad agreements and establish better terms for our country. Here's a great place to start.

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29 août 2016 1 29 /08 /août /2016 16:18

U.S., NATO Should Develop Contingency Plans to Move Military Bases Out of Turkey, FDD Report Finds


Washington, D.C., August 29, 2016 -- Amidst a recent spike in anti-American sentiment in Turkey since the failed coup d'etat in July, and owing to myriad foreign policy disagreements between Ankara and Washington in recent years, the United States and its NATO allies need a contingency plan for alternative military basing outside of Turkey. A new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) issued today explains how ties have soured and where the Pentagon may need to look next.


The report, authored by FDD scholars John Cappello, Patrick Megahan, John Hannah and Jonathan Schanzer, comes on the heels of a trip by Vice President Joe Biden to Ankara to meet with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The visit was an effort to strengthen ties between the United States and Turkey after the failed putsch in July, which some officials in Turkey claim was orchestrated by the United States.


While the relationship is in crisis, the report's authors write that Turkey's NATO role and its relationship with the United States is crucial. Western nations should therefore take every reasonable step to maintain that association.


The Turkey bases used by NATO forces have historically provided the U.S. military important access to multiple theaters. Today, those bases play a critical role in the campaign against the Islamic State, the European integrated missile defense system, and the ongoing effort to deter a resurgent Russia.


"Moving NATO bases out of Turkey is the last course of action," said FDD senior fellow John Cappello, the report's lead author. "Any pressure the United States brings to bear on Turkey should be applied delicately and in coordination with NATO members. But signaling to Erdoğan that the U.S. is not solely dependent on Turkey could help to put the relationship back on equal footing."


The report, "Covering the Bases: Reassessing U.S. Military Deployments in Turkey after the July 2016 Coup d'État," provides a look back at 60 years of the U.S. – Turkey military alliance. During that time, Turkey helped deter Soviet aggression by allowing the United States to deploy nuclear weapons there. Turkey also granted the U.S. permission to use the Incirlik air base to launch strikes inside Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. Following the 2003 Gulf War, Turkey gave the U.S. permission to use the Incirlik air base for logistical operations to move troops and equipment in and out of Iraq.


Today, the authors note that Turkish facilities are crucial to several vital U.S. and NATO missions and commands, including NATO's Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) in Izmir, which provides support and interoperability to all NATO ground forces.


Turkey also plays an important role in NATO's integrated ballistic missile defense system. There is also an early-warning radar in Kürecik that became operational in 2012. The radar provides for critical early warning to detect, track, and intercept incoming missiles from Iran.


However, the authors note that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) have embraced foreign policies at odds with NATO. This includes support for known terrorist groups and poor regulation of its border with Syria, which has exacerbated security challenges for both the U.S. and Turkey.

In light of these challenges, the spike in anti-American sentiment, and Ankara's recent outreach to Moscow, alternative basing options with other U.S. and NATO allies in the region should be examined. Such planning should send a message to Ankara that, while the U.S. desires to keep its close ties and operate from Turkey, there are alternatives.


"This would not only send a message to Turkey, but to other regional powers, that the United States seeks strong partnerships with allies that share common values, interests, and vision," Cappello said. "More importantly, it will send a message that America is committed to ensuring that it has the flexibility and leverage it needs to secure its vital interests in the region for years to come."


To arrange an interview with the authors about the report, contact press@defenddemocracy.org or 202.403.2904.


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9 juin 2016 4 09 /06 /juin /2016 15:49

Hamas Still Finds Harbor in Turkey

by Jonathan Schanzer
The Weekly Standard
June 9, 2016


Turkey is one or two meetings away from normalizing ties with Israel, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the media Tuesday. Ties between the two countries have been frosty since 2010, when Ankara sponsored a flotilla to the Gaza Strip, a territory held by the terrorist organization Hamas, in a bid to break the Israeli-led international blockade. Israeli commandos boarded one of the ships, leading to a confrontation that resulted in ten deaths.

To this day Turkey insists that Israel must lift the blockade. The issue is not an easy one to resolve, but just as thorny is the issue of Turkey's continued support for the Palestinian terrorist group. Reports that Turkey provides cash to Hamas have circulated for years. But because this assistance is provided in the form of cash, it's not easy for the Israelis to document. This is why Israel is focused on another demand: dismantling Hamas's Istanbul headquarters.

Hamas's Turkey headquarters was big news in August 2014, when the group's exiled military leader Saleh Arouri announced that his group was behind the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank. That operation led to the grueling 51-day war between Israel and Hamas. Arouri made the announcement in Istanbul, in front of a large crowd that included senior Turkish officials.

With increased attention on Arouri, including concern over the fact he was headquartered in the heart of a NATO country, the U.S. Treasury designated Arouri as a terrorist in September 2015. According to media accounts, the Hamas leader was then deported in December 2015, although his departure from Turkey may have occurred much sooner.

While Arouri was the most prominent member of Hamas to find shelter in Istanbul, many other senior Hamas officials remain there. And their ejection from Turkey appears to be at the heart of Israel's demands as rapprochement talks near completion.

One such figure in Bakri Hanifa, who is a major financial operative for Hamas, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Seyassah. The paper in 2014 noted that Hanifa moved "tens of millions of dollars" to Turkey from Qatar before being sent onward to Hamas's political and military wings. Hanifa reportedly ran a money changing business in Syria, where Hamas was headquartered, before the civil war there prompted Hamas to find other bases of operation. Today, he owns at least one company dealing in precious metals, diamonds, and gems in Istanbul.

Another major Hamas figure still located in Istanbul is Maher Ubeid. He has been a member of the Hamas politburo since 2010, reportedly now in charge of handling Hamas's international relations. Reports suggest that he is also a major financial operative for the group. According to theHamas website, Ubeid was among the 415 Hamas members exiled in 1992. That group went on to form the nucleus of Hamas's leadership upon their return. In recent years, Ubeid has taken part in high-profile Hamas delegations to Iran and Malaysia.

And it's not just Hamas political types and financiers who have made a home in Istanbul. Many there have blood on their hands.

Mahmoud Attoun for example, was found guilty in the Hamas kidnapping and murder of Nissim Toledano, a 29-year-old Israeli. After his arrest, Attoun admitted to his involvement in other terrorist operations. He was released to Turkey as part of a prisoner swap (for captured Israel soldierGilad Shalit) in 2011. From his perch in Istanbul, Attoun has since become a public figure, giving speeches and making television appearancesextolling the virtues of Hamas.

Majed Hassan Ragheb Abu Qteish is another Turkey-based Hamas operative who was involved in the Toledano murder. He was exiled to Turkeyin 2011 with the others and has also become a public personality.

Qteish and Attoun are joined by Musa Muhammad Daud Akari, who also took part in the Toledano murder. Akari can be seen bragging about his role in that murder in a YouTube video.

There is also Taysir Suleiman, who was sentenced to life in prison for the 1993 murder of an Israeli soldier before getting his one-way ticket to Istanbul in 2011.

Fahed Sabri Barhan al-Shaludi stands accused of belonging to the same Hamas cell as Taysir Suleiman. He has appeared on Turkish television.

Turkey also shelters a founding member of the Qassam Brigades,Walid Zakariya Abd al-Hadi Aqel. He was handed 21 life sentences in Israel for a wide range of terrorist activity before being exiled to Turkey.

Harun Mansur Ya'aqub Nasser al-Din is another member of the Izzeldine al-Qassam brigades. He openly admits to having killed Israeli soldiers. In an interview after his release, Nasser al-Din boasted that Turkey grants the released prisoners full freedom to come and go as they please.

Finally, there is Ayman Muhammad Abd al-Rahim Abu Khalil, who was sentenced to three life sentences for a variety of terror related activity. Abu Khalil now appears to be a passport-holding naturalized Turkish citizen.

These are just ten Hamas figures currently believed to be in Turkey. There are a handful more that can be easily identified in the Arabic and Turkish press, and nearly all of them maintain profiles on Facebook and Twitter, where they regularly post updates on their lives in Turkey.

Admittedly, Hamas has not been proscribed as a terror group in Turkey. Moreover, many of these figures were sent to Turkey as part of a prisoner swap. But that is no justification for Turkey to look the other way while these people continue to engage in Hamas activities. Indeed, it's not hard to see why the Israel has made their ouster one of its key demands. So long as this cell of Hamas operatives continues to operate there in the light of day, Israel sees Turkey as a state sponsor of terrorism. Western countries that maintain a ban on Hamas see Turkey is this unflattering light, too.

Should the two sides resolve this issue, Ankara has an opportunity to restore its ties with a powerful regional actor. More importantly, Ankara can restore its international image by taking a step that is very much in its own interest

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1 juin 2016 3 01 /06 /juin /2016 04:20

Putting Hezbollah 'Out of Business'

by Jonathan Schanzer
Washington Times
June 1, 2016


"After many years of sanctions targeting Hezbollah, today the group is in its worst financial shape in decades," stated Adam Szubin, the acting Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence before a congressional hearing last week. "And I can assure you that, alongside our international partners, we are working hard to put them out of business."

Mr. Szubin may be correct that sanctions are taking a bite out of Hezbollah's finances. Congress enacted legislation in 2015 — the Hezbollah International Financing Prevention Act — which hammers banks that knowingly do business with Hezbollah. This has led to a purge in Lebanon's banking system; banks are dumping Hezbollah accounts. At least, those that wish to remain plugged into the international financial system are doing so. One reports suggests that as many as 10,000 accounts have been closed.

And now Mr. Szubin's lieutenant, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Danny Glaser, is pressing further. He was in Lebanon last week, where he gave a list of nearly 100 names of Hezbollah financial targets to the Central Bank governor, who vowed to take action against them. The targets range from Hezbollah media outlets to political figures and fighters.

Hezbollah's heavy reliance on Lebanon's banks presents a hugely important opportunity to weaken the group's finances. But nobody is putting Hezbollah "out of business" anytime soon. Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of Iran. And Iran just negotiated a massive windfall of $100 billion pursuant to last summer's nuclear deal. For Iran, Hezbollah is too big to fail.

Even the Lebanese government is prepared to keep Hezbollah's politicians in the black. Al-Sharq al-Awsat reports that the Lebanese Treasury started paying the salaries of government ministers belonging to Hezbollah in cash in order to evade U.S. sanctions.

But money aside, let's not forget that even though Hezbollah maintains a vast illicit financial empire, its business is terrorism. And right now, even as the group's military capabilities have never been stronger.

One senior Israeli official recently told me that his country's intelligence estimates assess that Hezbollah's war machine is more powerful than 90 percent of the world's militaries. The group has a massive rocket arsenal of 150,000, including many with greater accuracy and payload than in the past. One senior Israeli military official privately admitted to me that the sheer number of Hezbollah's rockets has forced Israel's military establishment to reconsider the way it calculates its longstanding policy of maintaining its "military edge."

Open source reporting compiled by Foundation for Defense of Democracies suggests that Hezbollah also has shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles, drones, anti-tank missiles, anti-ship missiles and other advanced military equipment. These are all upgrades to the Hezbollah arsenal. Hezbollah has worked with Iran to smuggle much of this weaponry to its base of operation in Lebanon amid the chaos of the Syrian war, where Hezbollah is fighting on the front lines to protect the Assad regime. And although the group has suffered high casualties (as many as 1,300) in that war, Hezbollah has gained valuable war-fighting experience that it will make it that much more formidable in future conflicts.

Naim Qassem, a top Hezbollah official, recently announced that his organization was not seeking conflict with Israel this summer. But this is little consolation to Israeli war planners who warn that whenever the next conflict erupts between these two players, the fighting will be brutal. Indeed, Hezbollah's arsenal is now too vast and too lethal to expect limited skirmishes as seen in the past.

And it's not only Israel sounding the alarm. Outgoing United Nations Under Secretary-General Terje Rod-Larsen recently warned in the Arabic media that Hezbollah's involvement in the Syrian war, not to mention other parts of the Middle East, risks a spillover of sectarian tensions into Lebanon and beyond. He called on the international community to disarm Hezbollah pursuant to U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which was passed in 2004 but was never enforced.

In other words, a robust strategy to hit Hezbollah in the purse strings by itself is insufficient. In fact, financial isolation without a credible means to weaken the group militarily might inadvertently push Hezbollah onto the battlefield. Indeed, when the Gaza-based terrorist group Hamas (also an Iran proxy) waged a war against Israel in 2014, it did so to negotiate a way out of its financial isolation. The end result was a 50-day war.

Treasury's Hezbollah sanctions are undeniably making an impact. But it's too soon to take a victory lap. Without a broader strategy to tackle Hezbollah's foreboding forces, even the most valiant efforts to squeeze its finances will fall short

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16 avril 2016 6 16 /04 /avril /2016 17:00

After Abbas, Le Déluge in the Palestinian Authority

by Grant Rumley and Jonathan Schanzer
inFocus Quarterly
Spring 2016


Palestinian leaders in the West Bank refer to the wave of terror currently gripping Israel as a haba sha'abiya, or a "popular outburst." The imagery suggests that the terror wave is widespread yet temporary, violent but not catastrophic. It's a way for Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, to acknowledge current public sentiment while avoiding terms likeintifada, which connotes a long-term campaign with his complicity.

Endorsing acts of violence while avoiding responsibility is a matter of survival for the aging Abbas. Members of his Fatah party are near mutinous in their demands for him to appoint a successor. His PA is perennially cash-strapped and on the verge of collapsing. And his diplomatic offensive against Israel in the international community is just shy of prompting a reprisal from Israel – the only actor truly capable of toppling him.

Abbas will probably be able to stave off a full-blown uprising. But it is these other factors – the succession battle, the Palestinian financial crisis, and the international diplomatic campaign – that will prove far more difficult for him to control. If any of them become flashpoints, it will mean turmoil for both Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Who Comes After Mahmoud Abbas?

Mahmoud Abbas is an 81-year-old pack-a-day smoker with two heart surgeries under his belt. His eleven years as president of the Palestinian Authority (he was elected to a four-year term) now surpass that of his predecessor, Yasser Arafat. And like Arafat, Abbas sees himself as president for life. He has no clear successor and has so far refused to name one. When asked by an Israeli journalist in January about his succession plan, Abbas insisted "Palestinian institutions" would select his successor after he was gone.

Here's the problem: Palestinian institutions are in worse shape now than when Arafat died in 2004. Palestinian Basic Law states that should the president pass away in office, power would go to the speaker of the PA parliament for a period of 60 days while national elections are prepared. That would seem reasonable, except that parliament has been defunct since the 2007 internecine conflict between Fatah and Hamas (which left the West Bank under the control of the Fatah-dominated PA and the Gaza Strip under Hamas). Further complicating this issue is the fact that, were Abbas to pass away today, his powers would fall to the last elected speaker of parliament: Aziz Dweik of Hamas.

That the Palestinian likely succession plan would shirk Basic Law and more closely resemble the Vatican's conclave process is no coincidence. Abbas has stamped out the green shoots of Palestinian democracy over the last decade, making it virtually impossible for any rivals to challenge him in the political arena.

Like many of the other regional autocrats, Abbas appears to believe that naming a successor would only embolden his enemies. But this has not prevented enemies from rising up. The biggest threat to Abbas right now is Mohammad Dahlan, the one-time protégé of Arafat and former head of PA security forces in Gaza. Dahlan was in charge when the PA lost Gaza to Hamas in the brief yet bloody 2007 civil war. Abbas hung that defeat around his neck, exiling him in 2011. Since then, Dahlan has been based in the United Arab Emirates, acting as an advisor to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Dahlan is now planning his return. He slams Abbas's governing style at every opportunity, and rallies allies from neighboring Arab countries to undermine the Palestinian leader.

Dahlan's activities seem to reinforce Abbas's perceived need to clamp down on all possible challengers. He has arrested journalists for reporting on corruption, trade union heads for challenging the PA, and everyday Palestinian citizens for Facebook posts he deems controversial. One Palestinian civil rights group, MADA, estimated that PA assaults on journalists doubled from 54 in 2014 to 110 in 2015. One prominent Palestinian professor appeared on Palestine TV in January of this year and insinuated Abbas should be executed for treason. Two days later he was arrested by the PA.

When Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), criticized Abbas' autocratic governing style in mid-2015, Abbas fired him and replaced him with one of his loyalists, Saeb Erekat. When members of the PLO refused to endorse this move, he sidelined them. It is for this reason that members of Abbas' Fatah party have been demanding he name a successor at the party's next conference. Yet Abbas has postponed the group's conference since 2014.

Sadly, the U.S. Department of State refuses to address the succession challenge for fear of upsetting Abbas. As a result, the next Palestinian leader is almost certainly to ascend without a meaningful vote from the Palestinian people. Whether the restive Palestinian people will be satisfied with their next leader remains to be seen. In the age of the Arab Spring, it is not difficult to imagine unrest in response to an unpopular selection.

Will the Palestinian Authority Collapse?

With Abbas's exit expected in the coming months or years, it has become commonplace for analysts to proclaim the PA dead or dying. But it's impossible to tell just how much life the para-state body has left. What is clear is that it has just marked the 22nd year of what was designed to be a five-year phase, and it is progressively weakening. Corruption is endemic, the legislature has been defunct for nearly a decade, and Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah regularly complains of dwindling international aid. Polls in September 2015 showed over half of all Palestinians were in favor of dismantling the PA.

To keep control of the West Bank, Abbas relies on the one PA branch still functioning at a high level: the security apparatus. The security services have helped beat back Hamas advances in the West Bank through arrests and raids, thus preventing a takeover similar to when Hamas sacked Gaza in 2007. For that reason, Israel is deeply invested in the security services' success. Thus, throughout the recent spate of terror attacks Abbas has maintained the PA's security coordination with Israel, at times authorizing joint raids with the Israeli military against potential terrorists in the West Bank. The PA's spymaster, Majid Faraj, told Defense News in January that the PA had pre-emptively stopped over 200 terror attacks against Israelis. Abbas has gone even further, telling reporters in 2014 that security coordination with Israel was "sacred" to the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a recent cabinet meeting that Abbas is unlikely to dismantle the PA himself, but that it could still collapse due to the ossified Palestinian political system. The nightmare scenario for both Netanyahu and Abbas is one in which West Bank frustrations eventually prompt Palestinians to take to the streets to protest not against Israel, but Abbas. The West Bank came close to such a scenario in July 2014, when anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 Palestinians marched from Ramallah to the Qalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem to protest the war in Gaza. It was the largest Palestinian protest in at least a decade, and although it was in part supported by Abbas' Fatah party, it quickly devolved into a full-scale riot that Abbas struggled to control.

Abbas and the PA haven't allowed a similar protest since, in large part because they know the next one might turn around and come back to Ramallah. Palestinian leaders quietly acknowledge this concern, and watch nervously as the PA's legitimacy continues its decline.

The Future of Palestine 194

To deflect the sharp criticisms launched at him and his failing government, Abbas has doubled down on what is now known as "Palestine 194" – a five-year-old international diplomatic campaign against Israel.

While much of the campaign has until now focused on rather futile declarations of independence and accession to little-known international organizations at the United Nations, the effort is taking a new turn. The Palestinians are now focused on convening an international conference to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While this may sound benign, it's not – at least, not for Israel. The Palestinians want this conference to bind Israel to a set of parameters, suggested by the Palestinians and enforced by the international community, to lay the foundation and accelerate the timeline for the establishment of a Palestinian state. As a collection of senior Fatah and PA officials advocated last year, an "internationalized route" would make sure "any future negotiations play the role of implementing what has already been internationally endorsed."

To understand why the Israelis are nervous about this, it is instructive to consider the deeply flawed nuclear agreement reached last summer between the P5+1 international negotiators and Iran. That agreement left Israel vulnerable and Iran considerably stronger. Thus, when senior Fatah official and former peace negotiator Mohammad Shtayyeh called for a conference last November, he specifically mentioned the nuclear negotiations: "If there was a Geneva Conference for Iran, with the successful 5+1 formula," Shtayyeh argued, "Why shouldn't there be an international conference for Palestine?"

While the Palestinians pursue such a conference, they continue to consider other elements of the Palestine 194 campaign. For example, they joined the International Criminal Court (ICC) last year, with the intention of suing the Israelis for war crimes, but have been stuck in legal purgatory since joining the international body. The ICC may have succeeded in worrying Israeli officials, but any ruling on settlement building, for example, is unlikely to come for many years, and even then, it is difficult to see how a ruling could pave the way for a Palestinian state.

Nevertheless, Abbas and the Palestinians see a golden window for the Palestine 194 campaign in the last year of Barack Obama's presidency. The president has been sympathetic to the Palestinians throughout his presidency, and even seems to be working on the margins to support the Palestine 194 effort. For example, he upgraded the PLO embassy in Washington amidst Palestinian declarations of independence at the United Nations, and has publicly hammered Israel for settlement construction. Mahmoud Abbas knows that with Washington less inclined to shield Israel from his efforts, and with the UN and EU firmly on his side, there are opportunities for progress. What exactly he will accomplish is unclear. But the next American administration, Republican or Democrat, will almost certainly be less sympathetic to his campaign.


There are several options for American and Israeli policymakers to stave off the above crises. First and foremost would be to demand that Abbas name a successor, whether as a deputy member of his Fatah party or as a vice president. Such a move might incur the wrath of his political rivals in the West Bank and Gaza, and it certainly wouldn't help the cause of democracy, but it would also allow the U.S. and Israel to prepare for a transition phase. If Abbas is to pass away suddenly without a clear successor, a violent power struggle is more likely than a repeat of the relatively smooth transition after Arafat died in 2004.

Working to ensure a smooth transition into the post-Abbas era goes hand-in-hand with preventing the collapse of the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. and Israel have several stopgap measures at their disposal to halt such a collapse. The first is bolstering the Palestinian economy, which has long been dependent on Israel for growth, in ways that do not undermine Israeli security. The second area of focus should be on revitalizing the stagnant Palestinian civil society. The waning years of the Abbas presidency have seen him push out reformers (Prime Minister Salam Fayyad) and independent political figures (Yasser Abed Rabbo), while eroding the independence of journalists and the judiciary. Finding ways to inject new life into the political space and key institutions will go a long way in lessening the stress on the Palestinian Authority.

Countering the Palestine 194 campaign will require similar creativity. What started as a periphery "Plan B" in the event peace negotiations failed has morphed into the "Plan A." From Abbas' allies in Fatah to his rivals in groups like Hamas, attacking Israel on the world stage receives near-unanimous support. Such moves already come at a price. Congress has already punished the Palestinians for several diplomatic steps they have taken. But it will also be important to provide the Palestinian people with a clear sense of which state-building steps are welcomed.

The Obama administration, however, has demonstrated little willingness to expend political capital on Palestinian politics in the last year of its term, and Israeli politicians prefer the near-term relative stability of Abbas to the potentially unstable long-term reform process. Still, it is in the interest of America, Israel, and Palestinians to begin a revitalization that not only addresses intransigent leaders, but injects some vitality into West Bank institutions. Only then, with new leaders and a renewed sense of political openness, will conditions be ripe for making peace with Israel

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21 mars 2016 1 21 /03 /mars /2016 14:43

The Iran Deal's Bigger Loser

by Jonathan Schanzer
Foreign Affairs
March 21, 2016


The decision to fork over $100 billion in sanctions relief to Iran as part of last summer's nuclear deal could be the worst thing that's happened to the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah in years.

Of course, Hezbollah publicly embraced the news. Iran provides an estimated $100–$200 million to the group each year. And now, with sanctions relief rolling in, even more Iranian cash might find its way to Hezbollah's stronghold in the Beqaa Valley, where it can turn into new weapons, training programs, and other materiel.

Hezbollah's payday, though, comes at a time when Iran's Gulf Arab foes are out to punish the group for stoking the region's sectarian wars. Hezbollah's position on the front lines in Syria, where it wants to shore up embattled dictator—and Iranian proxy—Bashar al-Assad hasn't gone unnoticed. Nor have reports of it warring alongside Yemen's Houthi rebels, another Iranian proxy that seeks to bring down the Sunni-backed government.

After decrying Hezbollah's destabilizing activities around the region for years, earlier this month, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) finally slapped sanctions on the group, branding it as a terrorist organization and taking measures to freeze its assets. This came on the heels of similar measures by Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Riyadh also made headlines by halting $3 billion in assistance to the Lebanese government, claiming that it is now irredeemably corrupted by Hezbollah. Last Friday, the Arab League also declared Hezbollah to be a terrorist organization. It's an astounding development considering that the organization was hailed across the Arab world for forcing Israel to withdraw from South Lebanon in 2000 and for fighting the Israelis to a draw in a month-long war in 2006.

Admittedly, not every Sunni state is ready throw Hezbollah under the proverbial bus. Iraq and Lebanon were less than enthusiastic about blacklisting the group. But the Arab League meeting made it clear that the bulk of the Arab states will go the way of the GCC and block the group from their banking and business sectors.

Hezbollah is already getting similar treatment in the West. It is designated as a terror group, in some shape or form, by Australia,Canada, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress just passed legislation to boost the Treasury's efforts to track the organization's financial assets worldwide by authorizing secondary sanctions against financial institutions and entities that do business with Hezbollah.

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't have much in common with Washington these days, even he seems to understand the limits of his country's policies when they serve to benefit Hezbollah. Earlier this month, the Russian strongman reportedly halted a shipment to Iran of advanced S-300 surface-to-air weapons that could be game-changers in stopping an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. Putin made the move after Israel furnished intelligence that Tehran had been passing Russian-made SA-22 missiles to Hezbollah.

Israel, of course, has the biggest axe to grind with Hezbollah. Over the years, the two sides have traded heavy blows in multiple wars. Israel is alarmed that, in the next war, the group might be better equipped thanks to Iranian sanctions relief. Israeli military brass recently upped their estimate for Hezbollah rockets from 100,000 to 150,000.

A flurry of reports indicates that Israel is making plans to make swift work of Hezbollah in the next conflict. Senior Israel officials confirm this, adding that because of the boost Hezbollah is set to receive as a result of the Iran nuclear deal, the group has become Israel's most urgent and immediate military challenge. They admit that Hezbollah is not just a terrorist organization but a military force in every sense, one stronger than 90 percent of the world's armies, with over 40,000 troops, air defense systems, commando tunnels, and drones. And although such things are rarely stated outright, a surprise Israeli pre-emptive strike that would deprive the group of some of these advantages is not out of the question.

Even as the winds of war blow in Israel, Hezbollah doggedly fights on at the bidding of Iran in Syria and Yemen. And those wars are taking their toll. Reports out of Syria suggest that Hezbollah may have deployed between 6,000 and 8,000 fighters to the war, but that it has already lost 1,300 of them. Isolated and bloodied, the group is lashing out at the Saudis and the Israelis, decrying what it claims is a "Zio–Wahhabi plot." But there is no plot. Hezbollah has earned these enemies. They are committed to preventing the group from getting stronger as a result of the Iran sanctions relief windfall. And it is increasingly clear that they are not alone

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6 février 2016 6 06 /02 /février /2016 16:04

Nuclear Deal: Impact on Iran-Turkey Economic Relations

by Mert Yildiz, Gareth Hollins, Rachel Ziemba and Jonathan Schanzer
Roubini Global Economics
February 2016


Download the report here

Foreword by Jonathan Schanzer

The recent implementation of the Iran nuclear deal (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) will have a profound impact on the Middle East. From heightened tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia to Iran's ability to finance terrorist proxies with sanctions relief, there are many reasons for Iran's neighbors to worry. But not every country is fraught with concern. Turkey has hailed the deal as a diplomatic success.

More to the point, Ankara sees the potential for real economic opportunity with its long-sanctioned neighbor. As this report from Roubini Global Economics explains, a more prosperous Iran with access to foreign currency affords Turkey a new market to sell industrial and commercial goods, and to offer tourism services, as well. Energy, not surprisingly, will dominate Iran's exports to Turkey.

But Ankara, much like the rest of the world, will need to be careful how much it relies on Tehran. The fear of Iran violating the JCPOA, and thereby inviting renewed international sanctions, is a constant factor among all of the many countries and companies looking to cash in on the economic opportunities. Of course, Turkey has already taken great liberties by exploiting a loophole in those sanctions by executing an elaborate "gas-for-gold" sanctions-busting scheme that yielded Iran some $13 billion in Turkish gold from 2012 to 2013. This "golden" loophole was closed by the U.S. Congress in 2013.

The JCPOA has now lifted substantial sanctions against Iran, and Turkey is looking to profit in more traditional ways through legal trade and investment. But as the Roubini team acknowledges below, the relative advantages that Turkey will have in the early going may wane over time as Iran becomes more competitive, and the two may compete over investment from third countries. And over the long term, Ankara's ability to cash in hinges on Iran's ability to implement economic and financial reforms. And that is certainly not guaranteed. The political pragmatists generally associated with such reforms may be increasingly sidelined in next month's elections.

In the meantime, it is not entirely clear if the current political climate is supportive of an uptick in Turkey-Iran economic ties. While Ankara had nothing to do with Saudi Arabia's controversial execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in early January, the Iranian press linked it to a visit to Riyadh by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. In response, Turkey summoned Iran's ambassador and harshly condemned the media reports.

Turkey's December deployment of troops near Mosul to train and aid local Sunni and Kurdish forces to fight against the Islamic State also elicited some harsh Iranian reactions. Turkey is, of course, a Sunni country aligned with NATO whose vision for Syria and Iraq is antithetical to that of Tehran. Iran therefore responded that the troops would create chaos and risk regional security, while calling on Ankara to seek permission from the Iran-backed government in Baghdad before taking action.

Finally, in a story that has evaded headlines, Iran's Oil Ministry is suing the privately owned Turkish airline Onur Air, claiming that the company is a hidden asset of alleged sanctions-busters. This is the first Iranian lawsuit against a Turkish company in history, and is even more significant considering that Onur Air is Turkey's largest private airline.

Despite all of this, with the end of international sanctions, the economic ties between Iran and Turkey are likely to expand. Turkey is keen to cash in, and so is Iran, despite their lingering differences. The key to long-term prosperity for these two unlikely partners will hinge on Iran's readiness to implement economic reform and its willingness to abide by the constraints of the nuclear deal that makes all of this possible. Neither are guaranteed.

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25 janvier 2016 1 25 /01 /janvier /2016 14:28

Ten Years of Hamas Rule: The Palestinians Must Solve Their Divide Before Peace with Israel

by Jonathan Schanzer
January 25, 2016


Ten years ago today, Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections, taking 76 of the 132 parliamentary seats (74 plus two independents). The Palestinian faction best known for a campaign of suicide bombings in the 1990s formed a new government some two months later, thrusting Palestinian nationalism into a crisis from which it has never recovered. Washington's foreign policy establishment still fails to grasp its impact, which may explain its recurring inability to broker the creation of a Palestinian state at peace with Israel.

The Hamas victory was an undeniable black eye for American efforts to democratize the Middle East as envisaged by George W. Bush. The secular Fatah faction, Washington's choice as the pragmatic incumbent ruling party in the Palestinian Authority (PA), lost the elections because of the growing (and correct) public perception that the party was ossified and corrupt.

This perception still dogs the Fatah party to this day. But Washington was willing to tolerate corruption and declining legitimacy in exchange for Fatah's readiness to engage in peace talks with Israel, whose existence Hamas refuses to recognize.

With pressure from Washington and Israel to keep Hamas from power, Fatah blocked the Islamist faction from forming a government. It didn't take long after that for bloody clashes to erupt in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Seeking to regain control, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, who had only ascended to power one year earlier after the sudden death of Yasser Arafat, called for early elections.

Hamas bristled, accusing Abbas of launching a coup against their democratically elected government. The Islamist group soon carried out a string of abductions of Fatah and PA figures. According to one NGO, "limbs were fired at to cause permanent physical disabilities" and, in some cases, Hamas shot their political foes point blank in the head.

In an attempt to halt the fighting, the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia invited the two factions to Mecca for a dialogue. After three days, the sides reached an understanding, leading to the February 8, 2007 Mecca Agreement. The two sides agreed to a national unity government, but violence soon erupted on the Palestinian streets again. The enmity was simply too deep.

The anarchy continued through the spring, leading inexorably to Hamas's military offensive in Gaza that began on June 7, 2007. The ensuing six-day war left Gaza smoldering, with Hamas firmly in control. The PA forces, which had been trained and armed by the United States, failed miserably. Some deserted while some even joined Hamas. According to credible reports, Hamas's tactics were utterly brutal, including summary executions and pushing Fatah faction members off of tall buildings to their death. All told, the war claimed the lives of 161 Palestinians. At least 700 were wounded.

Ten years on, the intra-Palestinian conflict is a glaring blind spot among Western policymakers. The enmity between the two factions challenges longstanding assertions of a unified Palestinian national identity. The Palestinian battle for primacy also injects new complexities into the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The conflict, in fact, is now a three-way tug-of-war between Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, where any one move can impact the delicate balance between the three.

After a decade of failed reconciliation efforts and a collapsed unity government in 2015, the intra-Palestinian conflict now appears intractable. The Gaza Strip remains firmly in the hands of Hamas, while the Fatah faction clings to the West Bank with the help of Israeli security and intelligence. There are two separate Palestinian governments with their own bureaucracies, two sets of cadres of political elites, two distinct economies, and increasingly two different cultures.

Nevertheless, Washington continues to call for a single Palestinian state. It's a call that echoes across most Western capitals, too. The overriding assumption is that deft diplomacy coupled with Israeli territorial concessions could pave the way for the Palestinian Authority, unpopular and corrupt as it may be, to regain the moral and military high ground from Hamas and somehow bring the Gaza Strip back under its jurisdiction. These plans remain vague, to say the least.

Equally difficult to discern is the logic behind Washington's long-held belief that Islamist extremists in the Palestinian territories are distinct from their counterparts elsewhere in the region—namely, that Hamas's extremist ideology was primarily a reaction to Israel. As while this may explain much of Hamas's motivations, one cannot ignore the fact that the Islamist group continues to clash with Fatah on broader issues like the role of Islam in society and the validity of secular governance. Indeed, these debates mirror the upheaval we have witnessed across the Middle East since the eruption of the Arab Spring in 2011.

The near collapse of the post-colonial system since the Arab Spring has challenged almost all of our assumptions on how to bring order to the chaos of the Middle East. Yet, the perceived need to create a single Palestinian state spanning the West Bank and Gaza has endured. Ten years on, the Palestinians are still divided—both ideologically and territorially. It may be time to acknowledge that if they can't peacefully resolve their own territorial conflict, they certainly are not likely to resolve the one with Israel

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19 janvier 2016 2 19 /01 /janvier /2016 16:36

Jonathan Schanzer


Don't Reward Rogue Behavior

by Jonathan Schanzer
USA Today
January 19, 2016


While we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief that the nightmare for five Americans is over and they are now out of Iranian custody, the White House's decision to yield to the demands of a state sponsor of terrorism is cause for deep concern on several fronts.

For one, we've released seven convicted Iranian sanctions busters and financial criminals, and expunged international arrest warrants against an additional 14, in exchange for innocent Americans who should have never been incarcerated. President Obama and others who claim this was a diplomatic victory are ignoring that our citizens were held hostage on bogus charges, and that calling this a prisoner swap draws a dangerous equivalency.

Moreover, this capitulation will likely encourage Tehran or its terrorist proxies to take more Americans hostage, as they have over three decades. Iran sees, yet again, that there is no price to pay for its rogue behavior. The nuclear deal signed this summer was bad enough. We agreed to fork over an estimated $100 billion in sanctions relief to the regime for temporarily mothballing parts of an illicit nuclear program it should have never built in the first place. We have since failed to respond meaningfully to Iranian ballistic missile launches, human rights violations, and support for terrorism worldwide.

All of this points to a worrying trend: America itself looks to be held hostage by the nuclear deal. The White House is willing to bend over backwards to keep the weapons agreement on track.

President Obama's foreign policy legacy is inextricably tied to implementing the nuclear deal and fulfilling the promise of détente with Tehran. This gives the Iranian axis an alarming degree of leverage over him for the next year.

There will invariably be those who argue that yielding to Iran's demands was the only way to secure the release of our countrymen. Similarly, White House supporters over the summer argued there was no alternative to the nuclear deal.

Then, as now, there was a better option: refusing to reward Iran for rogue behavior.

Jonathan Schanzer , a former terror finance analyst at the U.S. Treasury, is vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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19 janvier 2016 2 19 /01 /janvier /2016 03:22

How Terrorism Came Back to Turkey

by Jonathan Schanzer and Merve Tahiroglu
The National Interest
January 18, 2016



A suicide bomber identified as an Islamic State (IS) militant killed ten tourists and wounded fifteen others in Istanbul's historic Sultanahmet neighborhood on Tuesday. The attack was the third IS-linked suicide bombing in Turkey in the last six months. But Turkey's terrorism problem extends beyond the Islamic State. The country is now exposed to myriad enemies from a range of radical ideologies.

Tuesday's IS suicide bombing, much like the previous two IS attacks, was unfortunately predictable. For more than four years, since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Turkey turned a blind eye to the jihadists operating along its Syrian frontier. Ankara allowed jihadists to exploit the border as part of its strategy of toppling Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and stifling Syrian Kurdish nationalist efforts. Two years ago, the Islamic State began to exploit the border as well. But Turkey was late to acknowledge the growing threat. By the time Ankara stepped up security, IS had already taken control of two Syrian border towns and entrenched itself deep into Turkish territory, including Istanbul and Ankara.

Turkey was able to keep a lid on the problem for four years. But Ankara's luck ran out in July 2015, when an IS-linked suicide bomber killed thirty-two in Suruç, a Turkish town near the Syrian border. After sitting on the sidelines of the global effort against the Islamic State, Turkey finally declared war against the jihadist group on its border. Less than three months later, twin suicide bombs exploded at a peace rally in Ankara, killing over 100 and becoming Turkey's deadliest attack.

But IS is only one of Turkey's terror threats. Responding to Tuesday's attack, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan warned that Turkey was also threatened by the Kurdish nationalist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), its Syrian affiliate the People's Defense Units (YPG) and the Marxist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C), and that he saw little difference among these enemies of the state.

Kurdish nationalists have long threatened Turkish national security, and the Syria conflict has arguably emboldened the Kurds, particularly on the Syrian side of the border. But the conflict with the Kurds was one that was, until recently, believed to be over. The AKP, recognizing Turkey's terror problem could not be resolved solely by military means, had launched a "Kurdish opening" in 2009 to expand the cultural rights of Kurds, and entered peace negotiations with the PKK in 2012.

These efforts were part of broader policy known as "zero problems with neighbors" promoted by then foreign minister and now Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. The policy was intended to establish better ties with all of Turkey's neighbors. For years, Turkey's uneasy relations with Iran and Syria had contributed to PKK militants establishing their operational bases in those countries and Iraq. In seeking better political and economic ties with its neighbors, Ankara's aim was to increase security cooperation with these governments, too.

But "zero problems" has run its course. Thanks to the ill-advised foreign policies of Erdoğan and Davutoğlu, Turkey's problems with its neighbors have reached a zenith. As a result of the war that Ankara helped to prolong through its ill-conceived border policies, the Kurdish YPG and the jihadist Islamic State have taken over swaths of the Syrian border, meaning they are now Turkey's new neighbors. News reports now reveal that Tuesday's attacker recently entered Turkey from Syria. In other words, Turkey's border policies are no longer merely exacerbating the war in Syria. They are coming back to haunt Turkey, too.

By aligning itself with the Muslim Brotherhood and like-minded opposition groups in Syria at the onset of the uprising in 2011, Turkey now finds itself on the outs with Egypt as well as Israel. Meanwhile, the choice to topple Assad has put Turkey directly at odds with aspiring regional hegemon Iran and aspiring world power Russia. Turkey even shot down a Russian jet in November, sparking a full blown economic war between the two countries. The plane incident further prompted Moscow to throw its weight behind the YPG as a means to undermine Turkish regional interests. All the while, IS terrorism has become the deadliest threat to Turks, killing more civilians in the last year than any other terror group, including the PKK.

Turks have expressed frustration, both with Tuesday's attack and with the broader breakdown of Turkey's foreign policy across the region. But the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) refuses to acknowledge its role—let alone take responsibility—for its risky policies and security failures. In keeping with its draconian media policies that have earned it the scorn of watchdog groups worldwide, Ankara issued a media ban soon after Tuesday's attack, as well as a ban on tweeting about the incident. Erdoğan then allocated a mere forty-four seconds to addressing the suicide attack in his speech to the nation, while taking ten minutes to lambast Turkish academics who have been critical of his government's heavy-handed crackdown in Kurdish-populated towns.

On one score, Erdoğan was absolutely correct. Tuesday's attack could have been carried out by any number of terrorist groups. The threats Turkey now faces are indeed manifold, but many are born out of Ankara's own recklessness.

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