The Evening CSIS: Widening Rift, Hezbollah Heard From, Mr. Blue Sky & More
January 4, 2016
Happy 2016 and welcome back to The Evening CSIS—my daily guide to key insights CSIS brings to the events of the day plus HIGHLY RECOMMENDED content from around the world. To subscribe, please click here.
Saudi Arabia widened its rift with Iran today, saying it would end air traffic and trade links with the Islamic republic and demanding that Tehran must “act like a normal country” before it would restore severed diplomatic relations, according to an exclusive interview Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir granted Reuters.
Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Sewell Chan reports that European sympathies are aligning with Iran in the conflict with Saudi Arabia.
Plus, the International Business Times’ Michael Kaplan asks, “ Could Saudi-Iran Tensions Destabilize Bahrain? ” CSIS’s Jon Alterman answers that “The fault lines are there.”
And, the Times’ Editorial Board writes this afternoon about “ Saudia Arabia’s Barbaric Executions .”
Dive Deeper: The Wilson Center’s Aaron David Miller today writes that “ Fallout From Saudi Cleric’s Execution Underscores Mideast Challenges .”
And, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Simon Henderson today writes that “ Saudi-Iranian Diplomatic Crisis Threatens U.S. Policy .”
Hezbollah said it detonated a bomb Monday near an Israeli military convoy in the Golan Heights in retaliation for the death of Samir Kantar, one of Hezbollah’s most celebrated fighters, as the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Jerusalem Post reports that there are no known injuries or casualties at this point.
Lebanon’s Daily Star reports that Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah had vowed last month to avenge the killing of Kuntar.
Published today and absolutely worth a look, the German Marshall Fund’s “ What to Watch in 2016.”
Also published today and absolutely worth a look, “ What Are the Big Challenges Facing Europe ?” by Chatham House Director Robin Niblett.
CSIS Budget Forecast Contest Winners!
We have winners of the budget forecast contest! We also have answers for what people got right, what they got wrong, and whether the broader community did better than the CSIS experts. Over 1,100 people participated, so there were a lot of perspectives provided.
Back in June, CSIS asked interested members of the public to participate in a budget survey. The survey asked for forecasts of three events: the nature of the budget outcome (Grand Bargain, President’s Budget, Republican Budget, Murray–Ryan 2.0, Full Year Continuing Resolution), whether there would be a government shutdown, and when the defense appropriation would be signed. More than 1,100 people participated, and we have now assessed the results.
And the winners are: Jeffrey Harris, a former assistant secretary of the Air Force for space; Lindy Wolner, a former Army Corps of Engineers senior program manager; and Galen Jackman with Raytheon Corporation (plus two winners who chose to remain anonymous.)
In that Number
The factor by which Saudi Arabia outspent Iran on defense in 2013.
“The islands aren’t growing out any more: They’re now growing up.”
—Gregory Poling, director of the CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, on China’s recent infrastructure growth in the South China Sea islands.
Source: Wall Street Journal.
One to Watch
(Photo Credit: Twitter.)
Jennifer-L. Oprihory (@jenniferleigho) is the new editor of the Military Times’ Early Bird Brief newsletter. Jennifer previously served as the web editor on the Military Times’ copy desk. Jennifer is one to watch for a thorough defense news rundown each morning.
The Atlantic published a fascinating retrospective photo essay, “ Today in History: January 4.”
Dr. Omer Silih Mahdi talks to the New Yorker’s George Packer about Islamophobia.
This Town Tomorrow
Join the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies at 3:00 p.m. as they host “Friends, Foes, and Future Directions: U.S. Partnerships in a Turbulent World.” Panelists will analyze US friends and potential foes, as well as how alliances and partnerships may evolve to meet the diverse potential challenges to regional and global security. Click here for more information.
CSIS on Demand
Saudi Arabia has in recent years consolidated its place as the preeminent Arab leader, regional stabilizer, and bulwark against a nuclear Iran. CSIS hosted Prince Sultan bin Khaled Al Faisal and Nawaf Obaid for a discussion on growing Saudi Arabian defense and national security capabilities, and what they mean for the US-Saudi relationship over the next decade.
NPR’s Morning Edition sits down with the New York Times’ Tehran-based correspondent Thomas Erdbrink, as he sheds light on the long-standing hostility between Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran in the midst of escalating tensions.
I Like It Like That
Eye-catching things in CSIS's orbit
In a New Year's Facebook post, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg wrote about a group of friends she has known since childhood. In her post, Sandberg says her friends helped her "choose life and meaning" after the untimely death of her husband, Dave Goldberg.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season filled with smiles. I enjoyed one of the biggest smiles of my life on Christmas Day. Our van was cruising down Highway 1 from Tel Aviv at midday and I had just put my headphones on to tune out our beloved guide/driver (I needed a break from listening to him talk about King Herod.)
Before I knew it, I was looking out the window at Jerusalem for the first time while my headphones blasted Derek and the Dominos’ cover of the Big Bill Bronzy classic, “Key to the Highway.” Duane Allman and Eric Clapton always sound good to me but never this good!
Another smile over the holidays was watching the excellent documentary “Mr. Blue Sky: The Story of Jeff Lynne and ELO.”
Lynne is one of my favorite musicians and is enjoying a resurgence. His first Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) record in 14 years was released in mid-November and his first tour of the US with ELO in 30 years is scheduled.
Lynne has worked with and inspired so many musicians: George Harrison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan to name just a few. And his influence isn’t lost on today’s superstars either. Check out who got into Lynne’s groove during his performance at the 2015 Grammy Awards. In addition to Paul McCartney, uber-artists Taylor Swift and Beyonce are up on their feet while Ed Sheeran joins Lynne on stage. And with good reason— this Grammy performance medley of Lynne’s ELO classics “Evil Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky” is such a smile.
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