By Yoav Limor for Israel Hayom:
- According to four key Military Intelligence officers, tunnels in Gaza, a wave of terrorism across the West Bank, Islamic State attacks in Sinai, the Syrian civil war, Hizbullah’s improved arsenal, the future of Iran’s nuclear program and the stability of the Egyptian and Jordanian regimes are only a few of the challenges facing the Middle East, and Israel within it.
- Gaza has never been quieter. Still, Hamas is pursuing a steadily intensifying armament effort, as evident by the terror tunnel recently discovered under the Israel-Gaza border. Egypt has turned its back on Hamas and now sees it as no better than Islamic State, and its Saudi and other Arab patrons have more urgent matters that require funding. Iran remains Hamas’ main sponsor.
- In the West Bank, Abbas’ regime is fraying at the seams. With no apparent successor, a complex succession battle is almost certain. Hamas may try to seize the strategic opportunity presented by the leadership vacuum and seize control of the West Bank.
- International efforts to end the fighting in Syria have led to a change in Israeli intelligence assessments. Instead of the prospect of prolonged bloodshed with no end in sight, there may be tangible chances of a diplomatic agreement that will end the fighting in a way that would make Syria a functioning nation again.
- Any arrangement in Syria will have to include Russia as the keeper of Alawite, Iranian and Hizbullah interests, as well as its own. There are currently over 10,000 Shiite militia operatives fighting alongside the Syrian army, as well as 1,500 Iranian soldiers, thousands of Hizbullah operatives, and significant Russian forces.
- While it is clear Islamic State will not be overrunning Syria, Iran will not be tightening its grip on it, either. Any future deal will include an Israeli demand to curtail the delivery of Iranian weapons to Hizbullah via Syria, delay the rehabilitation of the Syrian military, and devise a mechanism that would ensure calm on the Golan Heights.
- The Syrian civil war has exacted a heavy toll from Hizbullah, with over 1,300 operatives killed and nearly 10,000 injured. Some 7,000 of its operatives are currently fighting in Syria. Nevertheless, Hizbullah is investing considerable resources in acquiring long-range missiles that could wreak havoc on Israel.