Trump’s decision on Jerusalem sparks (limited) outrage
On December 6, U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and decided to relocate the American embassy from Tel Aviv. This decision undermined previous U.S. policy as well as the international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be decided in the Israeli-Palestinian talks. It caused violent clashes between the Palestinians and Israeli security forces, with multiple dead and many wounded, as well as demonstrations of Muslims and other pro-Palestinian groups around the world.
At the same time, however, he declared U.S. commitment to facilitating a lasting peace agreement and did not state whether Washington would recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem.
I have determined that it is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. I am also directing the State Department to begin preparation to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem… pic.twitter.com/YwgWmT0O8m
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2017
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the move, but he is in the minority. Western politicians uniformly rejected the decision, pointing out that it undermines the peace process. Meanwhile, the Turkish President Erdoğan exploited growing tension to increase his popularity among the Arabs and conservative Turks. He declared Jerusalem’s status a “red line for Muslims” and accused the U.S. of being an accomplice to Israeli crimes.
But overall the response in the Middle East was much more contained than anticipated.
New Round of Geneva Talks: Syria with or without Assad?
The U.N. mediated Syrian peace talks between the government of Bashar al-Assad and the opposition resumed on November 28 in Geneva. One of the serious topics was the evacuation of eastern Ghouta, a suburb of Damascus where some 400,000 people are trapped. Not everything went smoothly, and the talks were hindered by the government delegation. Assad’s chief negotiator, Bashar Jaafari, arrived a day late and then left again after only two days. But the Syrian regime he had a good reason to do so, as the opposition repeated that they would not accept Assad’s role in post-war Syria, not even in the transition.
— UN Geneva (@UNGeneva) December 7, 2017
The fate of Assad’s presidency remains the key point of contention, but with the Syrian government’s military position better than ever, the opposition is losing its bargaining chips. The U.N. mediator Staffan de Mistura said himself in September that the opposition needed to be “realistic” and accept that “they didn’t win the war.” The Syrian government apparently shares this opinion, given the behaviour of their delegation. Although they eventually returned to Geneva on Monday (December 11) after a week’s absence.
NATO to use offensive cyber capabilities
NATO Secretary General announced the establishment of a new cyber operations centre and a new cyber defence policy last month. NATO now embraces the use of cyber weaponry in its operations, which marks a significant shift from the previous stance of using the cyber-capabilities only defensively. The decision is considered to be the “biggest overall policy change in decades.”
The message, primarily to Russia, is that NATO has the capabilities and is ready to stand its ground in the face of recent cyber-related incidents, like meddling in the US presidential elections or cyber-attacks in Ukraine. The previous cyber defence policy, adopted as a response to the 2007 cyber-attack on Estonia, only allowed for the use of defensive tools to protect the alliance’s networks.
The agreement was followed by the largest cyber defence exercise of the year in Estonia with over 700 participants. One of the main challenges were the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) Systems, used not only by the military but notably also in the civilian infrastructure.
Furthermore, on December 8, senior officials from the EU and their NATO counterparts have met and agreed on additional cooperation on cyber defence. This gives a signal that the cyber domain is not overlooked and is taken seriously.
Image source: Flickr | Mor
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into broader context.
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