Weekend long read

1) At WINEP, Matthew Levitt urges ‘Don’t Drop Iran’s Revolutionary Guards from FTO List’.

“As part of the effort to bring the nuclear negotiations to a close, the Biden administration has reportedly considered assenting to Iran’s demand that it remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the State Department’s Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list. In return, Iran would apparently make a “public commitment…to de-escalate in the region.”

Dropping the FTO tag would not mean delisting the IRGC entirely—the organization appears on several other U.S. designation lists due to its human rights abuses, nuclear proliferation activities, and terrorist activities. Nor would it mean that the United States has ceased regarding the IRGC as a terrorist organization—the group would remain on a separate government terrorist list. Rather, the debate has more to do with messaging and supporting America’s partners in the Middle East, many of whom fear that lifting the FTO designation would exacerbate the effects of recent U.S. actions in the region.”

2) At the INSS, Ofir Winter looks at a recent meeting in Egypt which was not given any coverage by the BBC.

“Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi hosted a triple summit in Sharm el-Sheikh with Israeli Prime Minister of Israel Naftali Bennett and UAE Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed. The spokesman for the Egyptian President stated that the meeting dealt with energy, market stability, and food security, along with other international and regional developments. […]

The average Egyptian citizen has faced steep economic challenges since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, including a drop of over 10 percent in the Egyptian pound and a sharp rise in food and energy prices, which could ignite political and social unrest. Last week Israel engaged to help Egypt compensate for the loss of tourism from Russia and Ukraine, when it agreed to open a new air route between Tel Aviv and Sharm el-Sheikh. Abu Dhabi also announced a $2 billion investment in Egyptian companies.”

3) Yoni Ben Menachem explains how ‘Mahmoud Abbas Seeks to Neutralize Firebrand Marwan Barghouti Sitting in Prison’ at the JCPA.

“In early March 2022, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is also the Chairman of Fatah, had to postpone the Eighth Fatah Conference, which was supposed to be held in Ramallah on March 21. It has now been rescheduled to the second half of May. The conference is slated to elect the movement’s leaders and the members of its institutions. […]

Fatah set up a committee to prepare the conference and ensure its success. Abbas limited the number of delegates who could participate to 1,200. The directive bans representatives of the Fatah security prisoners in Israeli prisons from participating in the conference. The aim is to weaken Barghouti, who is considered their icon and whom they would very likely elect as their representative to the Fatah Central Committee.”

4) At the MirYam Institute, Arthur Koll analyses ‘Israel’s delicate navigation options in the face of Russia’s war’.

“When considering Israel’s diplomatic manoeuvring options in the face of Russia’s war on Ukraine, it is important to first take stock of the fundamental, relevant facts.

The first of these is that Russia shares a common border with Israel. In northwest Syria, Russia is present in large air and naval bases and maintains a significant military presence. This forms a central consideration for Israel. […]

Russian surface-to-air missile batteries – the most advanced in the world – are on Syrian soil, including the S-300 battery that Syria received from Russia, and the S-400, the peak of Russian air defense capabilities, operated by Russian forces in the country.

These assets could potentially form a major threat, not only to Israel’s military freedom of action in the crowded Syrian skies but also to civil aviation in Israeli airspace. As a result, Israel places enormous weight on the dialogue with Russia.”

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