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inFocus Vol. 8 Issue 2 | SPRING 2014


Ofir Haivry on Israel’s Foreign Policy Choices | Gabriel Scheinmann on Post-Ottoman Borders| Stephen Bryen on Realpolitik in the Middle East| Simon Henderson on the Gulf States| Emanuele Ottolenghi on Iranian Protagonism|Interview with Amos Gilad | Harold Rhode on Religous and Eithnic Idenity|Clare Lopez on Instability in the Levant| Sherkoh Abbas, Robert Sklaroff, and Joseph Puder on Kurdistan | Shlomo Brom, Yoram Schweitzer, and Shani Avita on Sinai Terrorism | Shoshana Bryen Reviews Warfront to Store Front

inFOCUS examines nations, borders, and conflicts

letter from the Publisher



he Spring 2014 issue of inFOCUS has as its theme “Borders, Nations and Conflict.” 1914 was the last time the world’s major empires were fully in control of their disparate possessions. By the time WWI ended, the Ottoman (1299-1923) and Habsburg Empires (1526-1918) had expired, and the French (1605-1960) and British (16031949) Empires were mortally wounded. In the Middle East, countries emerged that crossed traditional tribal and ethnic lines, producing anomalies with few or no historic roots within their borders, or affinity among the people residing there. The borders, ideologies, and loyalties that emerged then remain the source of ethnic, religious, and nationalist tension—and warfare. Now the region is changing again and, as Major General (res.) Amos Gilad tells readers in his interview, “The lines in the atlas do not exist on the ground.” Our authors explain the region as it is, not as the maps say it should be: Gabriel Scheinmann gives us the starting point. Clare Lopez re-defines the arc of countries north of Israel and Sherkoh Abbas,

Robert Sklaroff, and Joseph Puder make a case for righting an historic wrong for the region’s Kurds. Harold Rhode parses tribal, religious and ethnic loyalties that are far more relevant than national borders. Simon Henderson and Emanuele Ottolenghi look at the Sunni Arab States and Iran respectively—facing off over the waterway they can’t even call by the same name. Yoram Schweitzer, Shlomo Brom, and Shani Avita assess Egypt’s anti-jihadist policies in Sinai. General Gilad and Ofir Haivry see military and political opportunities—as well as risks—for Israel. Stephen Bryen sees the same for the United States. Don’t miss the full interview with General Gilad, one of Israel’s key strategic thinkers. If you appreciate our work, please consider making a generous donation to the JPC. As always, you may do so securely at contribute.php. Sincerely,


Volume 8 | Issue 2

Publisher: Matthew Brooks Editor: Shoshana Bryen Art Director: Andrea Cohen Managing Editor: Shari Hillman Copy Editor: Karen McCormick Contributing Editor: Michael Johnson

inFOCUS is published by the Jewish Policy Center, 50 F Street, N.W., Suite 100, Washington, DC 20001. (202) 638-2411 The opinions expressed in inFOCUS do not necessarily reflect those of the Jewish Policy Center, its board, or its officers. To begin or renew your subscription, please contact the Jewish Policy Center. © 2014 Jewish Policy Center

WRITERS GUIDELINES Essays must be 1,600 to 2,000 words in length. Email submissions to info@ Check our website to ensure your topic works with scheduled themes of future issues before submitting. Matthew Brooks, Executive Director

Ofir Haivry is Vice-President of the Herzl Institute. (page 3) Clare Lopez is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, WMD, and Gabriel Scheinmann is a PhD candidate at Georgetown counterterrorism issues. (page 26) University and an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc. (page 6) Sherkoh Abbas is President of the Kurdistan National Stephen Bryen is a former Under Secretary of Defense. Assembly of Syria; Robert Sklaroff is a physician(page 9) activist; and Joseph Puder is Executive Director of the Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and Director of the Interfaith Taskforce for America and Israel. (page 29) Gulf and Energy Policy program at the Washington Institute Yoram Schweitzer is Director of the Program on for Near East Policy. (page 12) Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict; Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom is a senior research fellow; and Shani Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Avita is an intern in the Terrorism and Low Intensity Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (page 15) Conflict Program, all at INSS. (page 32) Harold Rhode served from 1982-2010 as an advisor on Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Islamic Affairs to the Secretary of Defense, and is Senior Center and Editor of inFOCUS Magazine. (page 34) Fellow at the Gatestone Institute. (page 22)

InFocus: Iran | Summer 2007

Israel in the Eye of a Hurricane by Ofir Haivry


s upheaval sweeps into country after country of the Middle East, endemic instability has become the order of the day—with no end in sight. Long-established certitudes about the regional order are no more, having been supplanted by an Arab “spring” that produced neither a summer of democracy and prosperity nor a return to the winter of past authoritarian immobility but, rather, a prolonged autumn of volatility and baffling uncertainty. And this is not to speak of the impact of events on nominally peripheral powers such as Turkey, Ethiopia, and Iran—the lastnamed of which presents a regional challenge of major proportions—or on such formerly inhibited but now emergent actors as the Kurds, the Christians, the Druze, and even the Alawites. At the eye of this regional hurricane, Israel is eerily quiet, tensely following the turbulence and endeavoring, amid the wreckage, to fathom the shape of the new Middle Eastern reality. Much is still unknown, other than that the old order is gone for good, an epochal shift is under way, and Israel’s three-decades-old strategy for survival—a strategy aimed above all at maintaining “stability”—may have to be abandoned. Can it be replaced by a better one—and a more activist one?

z New Forces

The forces at work in the region are seen as operating in two directions. A disintegrative pull is evident everywhere. At the same time, however, integrative forces are also in play, presenting the possibility of new alignments and partnerships. Broadly speaking, these forces adhere

mainly to either nationalist or religiousideological visions. Most obvious among the nationalist forces are the Kurds. Barring disastrous factional infighting, the way seems open for a historic convergence of some 30 million Kurds and the potential emergence of a Kurdish national entity. Such an entity, encompassing the already autonomous Kurds of Iraq and Syria and the increasingly organized Kurds of Turkey and Iran, could dramatically recalibrate all regional balances. Another potential force is Berber nationalism in North Africa, affecting up to 35 million people spread out from Morocco to Tunisia. In their current state of organization, only the Berbers of the Kabylie in Algeria are seriously active in seeking self-determination; but this is a community on the march. Then there is the other important integrative factor: religion, or rather religious ideology. While in some cases this can break political entities apart, in others it can have the opposite effect. Visible in today’s ferment is the potential emergence of three large religious-ideological clusters, each vying with the others to assume leadership. To a great extent all three subscribe to a version of the Islamist ideology that entered the vacuum created by the demise of radical pan-Arabism. The best established and most salient among the three clusters is the radical Shiite grouping, led by Iran and comprising as well the Hezbollah-led Shiites of Lebanon and the Asad-led Alawite-Shiite alliance of western Syria, with the Shiite majority in Iraq similarly drifting toward Tehran’s orbit. Iran is also eyeing the siz-

able Shiite communities that form a majority of the population in Kuwait, Bahrain, and eastern Saudi Arabia—all in the hope of engendering a Shiite belt around the Persian Gulf. The second cluster is the populistSunni grouping led by Islamist Turkey and allied with Qatar and the various Muslim Brotherhood-inspired political movements in the region. It is currently in power in Yemen and Gaza, while forming the main political opposition in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Jordan. In Egypt, it was only recently ousted from power in the anti-Brotherhood military coup. This grouping supports democratic elections, in the expectation (usually correct) that it will emerge from them either victorious or as the main opposition party. The third cluster is authoritarianSunni, led by Saudi Arabia and including such traditional monarchies as Morocco, Jordan, and all Gulf nations except Qatar, as well as the Sunni leadership in Lebanon, the Mahmoud Abbas faction of the Palestinian Authority, and, its most important recent prize, Egypt led by General al-Sisi. Algeria seems also to be edging toward it. This grouping is in effect what remains of the former Arab Sunni majority that dominated the region for decades; now in retreat and on the defensive, it tends to distrust democracy and is allied to the various “Salafist” groups of purist Islamists who reject the Muslim Brotherhood as being too liberal and democratic. Each of the three clusters maintains close connections to terrorist organizations, which are activated at will against the others as well as against Western and Israeli targets. Moreover, to these three

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


groupings one may add a smaller one composed of the various Sunni jihadist groups, the most famous of which is alQaeda. These organizations, which for the most part do not accept the authority of any of the big three, are politically and numerically inconsequential. But they wield clout in their two fields of concen-

ing minorities would see Israel focusing on those who do not and cannot identify with any of the three Islamist groupings: the Christians and Druze of both Lebanon and Syria, and above all the Kurds. The last of these, while mostly Sunni, overwhelmingly tend to identify with their Kurdish nation and may potential-

The fierce contest for territorial control and political dominance among the pro-Turkey Muslim Brotherhood groups, the pro-Saudi Salafist groups, and the go-italone jihadists often eclipses the battle against Asad. tration: terrorism against Western targets worldwide and insurgency against nonSunni regimes. A good example of the complex interplay among all these forces is the current contest for leadership of those areas in Syria that have been liberated from the Asad regime (itself part of the Shiite grouping) and are now dominated by Arab-Sunni fighters. There, the fierce contest for territorial control and political dominance among the pro-Turkey Muslim Brotherhood groups, the pro-Saudi Salafist groups, and the go-it-alone jihadists often eclipses the battle against Asad. Israel is, to say the least, not a good fit for any of these regional groupings. Yet it must be said that in at least one respect, they represent an improvement over the formerly united anti-Zionist Arab front. As long as they continue to exist, they are likely to invest fewer resources in fighting the Jewish state than in fighting each other for dominance. They are also quite fluid and brittle, as we have seen in Egypt’s recent switch from the populist to the authoritarian grouping. Indeed, even in the three leading countries of Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, the internal political situation is far from secure, and a change of leadership, especially in Turkey, is hardly unthinkable.

z What can an activist Israel do?

On the first level, i.e., the immediate vicinity, an activist policy of support-


ly turn into one of the largest and most cohesive political powers in the region. Together with Israel, these groups might conceivably form a fourth, alternative group to the three Islamist clusters—one with a shared propensity in favor of selfdetermination, democracy, open societies, and open markets. In addition, Israel should obviously consider ways to weaken the three Islamist groupings by seeking out elements that might be tempted to secede. The most evident candidates are the Syrian Alawites; concentrated in the coastal area, they are now led by Asad and allied to the Shiite cluster, but this is a far from natural alliance. The Alawites do not subscribe to the tenets of Shiite Islamist ideology. (Regarded by Shiites as doctrinal heretics, they tend to be quite secretive and moderate in religious matters.) If the war in Syria concludes with the establishment of a self-governing Alawite zone, sooner or later its residents will have an interest in jettisoning the Asads and distancing themselves from the bear hug of fanatical Shiite ideology. A similar course might be followed in the long run with Iran’s restive Azeris, who make up some 20 percent of the population and are concentrated in the northeastern corner of the country (bordering on the Kurds and Azerbaijan). And then there is Sudan, where even after partition, a new civil war is looming between the

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

Arabic-speaking population of the north and east and the long-oppressed groups of the south and west who describe themselves as Africans (rather than Arabs) and now seek new allies. At the second level, that of peripheral strategy, the implosion of the Arab world has created a regional power vacuum unprecedented since World War I. The old peripheral strategy was predicated on the assumption that Ethiopia, Turkey, and Iran—the three main non-Arab powers at the edges of the Arab-speaking states— had in common with Israel both an interest in stemming pan-Arabism and the capability to influence the regional balance of power. In the latter decades of the 20th century, however, all three suffered a reversal, while Israel turned elsewhere. Ethiopia fell prey in 1974 to a Communist dictatorship, plunging it into a generation of famine, terror, civil war, and destruction ending only in 1991. In Iran, the 1979 revolution brought to power the radical Khomeini regime, which promptly fought a long and exhausting war with Saddam’s Iraq. Turkey, which fared somewhat better, nevertheless faced a serious and protracted problem of terrorism and underwent a number of military coups; and thanks to its faltering economy, its successive attempts to join the EU met with repeated rebuff. Now, all three are back on their feet. Ethiopia, having put its political and economic house in order, is today the most stable and important American ally in eastern Africa, cooperating with Washington in fighting Islamist terror in Somalia, defending the strategic city-state of Djibouti, and extending assistance to South Sudan; to the chagrin of the Egyptians, it is erecting the greatest dam ever built on the river Nile. Turkey, having enjoyed in the last decade both political stability and spectacular economic progress, has abandoned its EU-oriented strategy and, notwithstanding Prime Minister Erdogan’s current troubles, is now consolidating its role as a regional leader. Iran has already acquired a central role as patron and protector of all things Shiite; al-

signaled by the reluctance to employ military force or even direct diplomatic and economic pressure, would transform the regional equation and enable the entrance of new players. The Saudis, disquieted by American disarray, have already announced a major strategic “shift away” from Washington and, along with others in the region reliant on American support, are now seeking alternative options. As of now, Israel is not yet seriously readying itself for a serious American cutback, but some are already proposing that, in case it materializes, Jerusalem should seek to combine American support, however diminished

human lives. But the alternative is no less fraught with danger, and its cost will be measured in the expansion and consolidation of Israel’s enemies. It is also worth pointing to the moral dimension of the strategic choice at hand. Fomenting disarray and division among Israel’s enemies, helping them to crumble, is both an enticing prospect and a good in and of itself. But the activist course also has the clear advantage of working mainly in favor of those forces in the Middle East seeking self-determination, democracy, and liberty: the forces that brought into being the Arab spring. A change in this direction of a single important regime—a

Ofir Haivry: Israel in the Eye of a Hurricane

though still crippled by sanctions directed against its military nuclear program, it has successfully serenaded the West into easing up and off. Now the Arab collapse has drawn these powers from the periphery right into the thick of things, with, in the case of Turkey and Iran, decidedly challenging implications for Israel’s security. At the same time, however, a new periphery is emerging, as the formerly Soviet republics of the Caucasus, Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan present a possible counterbalance to the bordering nations of Turkey and Iran. Especially significant is oil-rich, Shiite Azerbaijan, wary of Tehran’s schemes against it, enjoying strong ties with Iran’s oppressed Azeris, and conspicuously friendly with Israel. Even Greece and Cyprus, uneasy at growing Turkish assertiveness, are strengthening their ties to the Jewish state, especially in the spheres of defense and energy policy. On the international scene, finally, there is no escaping the current troubles of the United States—and there is no lack of powers that would like to replace it, from the EU or some of its members (like France) to Russia and even China. As things now stand, none of these is equipped with the requisite combination of military, economic, and intellectual resources, and none seems up to putting its money and troops where its mouth is. The U.S. is still by far the only serious great power on the international scene, and for the foreseeable future there is no alternative to its might. Political will, however, is another matter, and in that respect Israel might indeed be facing a diminished American role, at least if elements within both political parties in Washington achieve their wish for a retreat from world leadership. At the moment, the U.S. is mired in a foreign-policy labyrinth of its own making; if this turns out to be a sign of things to come, Israel’s options will be severely affected. However implausible a complete disengagement of the U.S. from its strong commitment to Israel’s security may appear, even a relative retrenchment,

Especially significant is oil-rich, Shiite Azerbaijan, wary of Tehran’s schemes against it, enjoying strong ties with Iran’s oppressed Azeris, and conspicuously friendly with Israel. in scale, with the support of at least one other major ally. Since the EU, Russia, and China have significant limitations in this respect, a principal candidate for partnership is now India, an emerging giant making its first and very tentative steps on the world stage. Israel has already become India’s main supplier of military equipment, and there are growing ties of commerce, technology, and intelligence between the two countries, which also share a deeprooted democratic tradition as well as a strategic conflict with radical Islam.

z Conclusion

Such, then, is the new shape of the Middle East, and such are the dilemmas facing Israeli strategists and policy makers. There is no such thing as a strategy without a price; in choosing activism, Israel would be choosing to involve itself in difficult and uncertain ventures and to run the risk of failure and setbacks, including in the form of severe cross-border violence. Some failures will be costly in diplomatic and economic terms, others in

more Western-oriented Turkey, a non-Islamic Iran—would create a regional power shift as dramatic as anything witnessed in the last few years. At best, the activist strategy can go much farther. It can foster and assist newly emerging political entities in the region that will be far more favorably inclined to the existence among them of the Jewish state. Cooperating with peripheral powers from Greece through the Caucasus to Ethiopia can create a wider regional partnership whose scope might then extend outward toward international actors with shared values and interests. In the best of circumstances, an activist strategy can advance the process by which various former minorities become a strong and stable alliance of national communities, constitutionally inclined to democracy, free markets, and open societies. Ofir Haivry is vice-president of the Herzl Institute. This article was excerpted by permission from a longer essay in Mosaic. Read the full essay at

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


The End of the Modern Middle East? by Gabriel Scheinmann


ntil now, the post-Ottoman Middle Eastern order, fashioned by wartime exigency, imperialist ambitions, and ignorance of local identities, has survived independence, revolutions, and wars. A political map of the region sketched in 1930 looks nearly identical to one drawn in 2010. Even as the ongoing Arab revolt exposes submerged seams, Washington remains committed to defending the cartographic status quo. In contrast, the geopolitical evolution of modern Europe has entailed the gradual emergence of nation-states out of the ashes of numerous multi-ethnic European empires. Just as the concept of selfdetermination eventually led to the greatest period of peace in Europe’s history, the Balkanization of the Middle East, while violent at present, could lead to a more peaceful region in the future.

z The Post-Ottoman Regime

As it did in Europe, World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire radically transformed the political geography of the Middle East. Ottoman provinces became Arab kingdoms and Christian and Jewish enclaves were carved out in Lebanon and Palestine, respectively. Syria, Libya, and Palestine were names resurrected from Roman antiquity: Libya reappeared in 1934, Palestine was merely a Syrian appendage, and the French mandate marked the first time Syria had been used as the name of a state. Iraq had been a medieval caliphal province, whereas Lebanon was a mountain and Jordan a river. The new Arabic-speaking states adopted derivations of the Flag of the Arab Revolt, which had been wholly designed by British diplomat


Sir Mark Sykes. The four colors of the Arab flag—black, white, green, and red— each represented the standards of different Arab dynasties—Abbasid, Umayyad, Fatimid, and Hashemite—and remain the colors of half of today’s Arab states. Furthermore, the borders of the new states were determined not by demography, but by the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, which became the blueprint of today’s map. A large Kurdish population was divided among four states, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Shiite Arabs were similarly split, running from Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia. Alawites, a heterodox Shiite Arab sect, were subdivided, residing today along the northern Lebanese, Syria, and southwestern Turkish coasts. The Druze were distributed between what today is Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. Lebanon, supposedly a Christian redoubt, entailed large Sunni and Shiite Arab populations, as well as Alawi and Druze. At the dawn of the 21st century, minority ethnic groups ruled Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Bahrain, often repressively. By the 1960s, Arab republics outnumbered Arab monarchies, as coups were common and kingdoms were overthrown. Attempts to merge alien states— such as Syria with Egypt and Iraq with Jordan—were short-lived and repeated failure to excise the Zionist presence marked the end of the endeavor. Arab leaders proved more interested in maintaining their own European-delivered fiefs than in abdicating their cathedra for the greater Arab cause. Through it all, neither independence nor Israel had altered the imperial map. While the external borders remained

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

unaltered, ethno-religious strife was evident throughout. The creation of Greater Lebanon, turning a once Christian enclave into a multi-communal state, led to decades of discontent that ultimately erupted into a full-blown ethnic civil war, killing over 100,000. In Iraq and Syria, strongmen from minority groups adopted Baathism, a secular Arab nationalist ideology, in order to centralize power and subdue ethnic differences, but to little avail. Sunni Arab uprisings against an Alawite Arab regime in Syria in the 1980s and Shiite Arab uprisings against a Sunni Arab regime in Iraq in the 1990s were squashed. The Sykes-Picot order barely flinched. Similarly, varied efforts were made to forcefully marginalize Kurdish identity. Kurds were stripped of their Syrian citizenship in 1962 and both the Asad and Hussein regimes attempted to “Arabize” Kurdish areas by expelling local populations and supplanting them with Arabs from elsewhere. Saddam’s infamous gassing of large Kurdish populations in Halabja in 1988 and the broader al-Anfal ethnic cleansing campaign mar Kurdish history. In Turkey, Kemalism, also a secular-nationalist ideology, attempted to “Turkify” the country’s large population of Kurds, going so far as to denying their existence through the ubiquitous use of the term “Mountain Turks.” A Kurdish insurgency has blazed across southeastern Turkey for several decades, with upwards of 50,000 casualties. Even after excising themselves from direct regional control, external powers have repeatedly intervened to caulk the cracks exposed by ethnic violence. Twice, first in 1958 and again in 1982, American forces were sent to quell ethnic violence

z Looking in the Mirror

Ironically, today’s Europe, which also once consisted of multi-ethnic empires, is the result of a century of partitions, secessions, and wars of self-determination. The Ottoman Empire once ruled southeast Europe, including Greece, the Balkans, Romania, and Bulgaria. Prior to World War I, the Russian Empire roosted on eight modern European states. Norway achieved independence from Denmark and then Sweden only in 1905. AustriaHungary was a conglomeration that has given way to six independent nationstates. Nearly a century after its creation,

the dissolution of Yugoslavia—from whence comes “Balkanization”—has resulted, so far, in seven states. Meanwhile, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Belgium may look different in coming years as they grapple with Catalan, Scottish, and Flemish nationalism, respectively. Europe has become a bastion of nation-states—50 in total—and is a shining example of how squiggly borders can lead to greater peace and stability. Recent events in Ukraine only highlight this dynamic. With few exceptions, each European state now exclusively consists of a people with a shared ethnicity, a shared language, and a shared religion. The French speak French in France; Germans speak German in Germany. In contrast, the modern Middle East houses only four such entities—Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Turkey—and even these, as renowned Middle Eastern historian Bernard Lewis once wrote, have exceptions. “Iran” is a modern term, Arabic has no word for Arabia, and Israeli Arabs, without including those in the West Bank, comprise nearly 20% of the Jewish State’s population. Turkey’s supposed ethnic homogeneity ignores its 15-million strong Kurdish population and was achieved only following the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians and forced expulsion of 1.5 million Orthodox Greeks in the aftermath of World War I. Previous flickers of self-determination were contemplated, but never fully realized. President Wilson’s Fourteen Points included a specific reference to self-rule for the Ottoman Empire’s non-Turkish minorities, yet was never implemented. After expelling the Britishinstalled Hashemite ruler of Damascus in 1920, France, more aware of the ethnic mosaic than their cross-Channel collaborators, actually created five separate Levantine states based on the Ottoman vilayets: Greater Lebanon, an Alawite mountain state, a Druze mountain state, the State of Aleppo, and the State of Damascus. However, concerned that a rising Germany was making inroads into its colonies, France acquiesced to a unified Syria in 1936. Only Lebanon survived

as an independent entity and, even then, had incorporated large, non-Christian areas over French objections. Similarly, the 1920 Treaty of Sevres, which ended the war between the Ottomans and the Allies, granted immediate independence to the Hijaz and Ottoman Armenia—sometimes known as “Wilsonian Armenia” after the United States drew its borders—and eventual statehood to Ottoman Kurdistan. However, these arrangements were also quickly reversed three years later after Turkish forces smashed the Western-backed Greek and Armenian armies. A renegotiated settlement, the Treaty of Lausanne, ended the dreams of Greater Kurdistan and Greater Armenia and set the boundaries of modern Turkey. Implementation of any of these paths would have dramatically altered the post-Ottoman era.

Gabriel Scheinmann: The End of the Modern Middle East?

in Lebanon. After the Gulf War, Washington imposed no-fly zones in Iraq to protect the Kurds and Shia respectively from Sunni Baathist attacks. More recently, French and U.S. forces have tried to roll back a secessionist Tuareg state in northern Mali. Meanwhile, Washington flatly opposes Kurdish moves towards independence, chastising KRG-Turkish strategic cooperation and supporting Baghdad. Whatever the outcome in Syria, U.S. and European officials agree on keeping Syria intact. No matter the volatility, Washington, Paris, and London have clung onto the post-war order that they created. A reluctance to contemplate redrawing the map is understandable. Today’s Middle East is itself an example of poorly-executed partitions. Inviolable political borders are the defining characteristic of state sovereignty, without which the modern concept of citizenship or nationality is meaningless. Only in extraordinary circumstances and from positions of power, such as in Kosovo, do states support unilateral partitions. For example, Kosovo remains unrecognized by states that have secessionist movements of their own, such as Spain, Russia, and China. By violating the sanctity of sovereign borders, precedents become set. If Kosovars deserve self-determination, why don’t Tibetans, Catalans, or Chechens? In order to maintain global stability, states shy away from fiddling with borders, concerned that the redrawing may never end.

z The Identity Revolution

The map of the modern Middle East is potentially on the cusp of drastic changes. A renaissance in Kurdish nationalism, as a result of the U.S.-led liberation—their word—of Iraq, threatens to dramatically redraw the boundaries in the heart of the region. The semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq issues its own visas, hoists its own flag, and speaks its own language. A recent truce is intended to end the Kurdish armed insurgency in Turkey in return for far greater official Turkish recognition of Kurdish identity. As an outcome of the Syrian conflict, Kurds have declared a provincial government in the northeast corner of Syria, which they’ve renamed “Rojava” or Western Kurdistan. Kurds now control a 400mile-wide band of territory, from the Iran-Iraq border to the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain, and are expanding their jurisdiction. The U.S-led overthrow of the minority Sunni regime in Iraq marked an etcha-sketch moment in the modern Middle East. Majority Shiite rule returned to Baghdad for the first time since the seventeenth century, raising the hopes of beleaguered Shiite Arab populations in Ku-

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


Following World War I, the French and the British divided the territory that had been the Ottoman Empire. wait, Bahrain, and eastern Saudi Arabia. A recent Iraqi cabinet statement of support for the creation of three new provinces in western Iraq, giving Turkmen, Christians, and Sunni Arabs a greater share of the federal budget, will likely not satisfy newly dispossessed Sunnis who have demanded greater autonomy from Baghdad. Likewise, the Syrian uprising has unleashed ethnic sectarianism that claws at the current borders. Iraqi and Lebanese Shiite fighters have poured into Syria to help preserve Alawite rule in Damascus. Ethnic cleansing in coastal Syria has entertained talk of the creation of “Alawitistan”, an Alawite enclave protected by the mountains that could eventually stretch into northern Lebanon and Turkey’s Hatay province. The trans-national Islamic


State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is a key force in the Syrian rebellion and recently took over the major Sunni cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, as violence has spiraled to nearly 2007 levels. A Druze enclave could emerge in southern Syria, containing the nearly 1 million Lebanese and Syrian Druze. In the future, Iraq, Syria, and even Lebanon may only be rump states, as co-nationals seek to consolidate control across existing borders. While these changes could take decades to play out, new entities have already made their first leaps towards independence. In 2011, South Sudan seceded along ethno-religious lines, marking the first internationally recognized change in the borders of a Middle Eastern state in nearly 80 years. Meanwhile, Ghaddafi’s

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

downfall not only threatens to devolve power to Libya’s former city-states, but has also impacted the identities of Libya’s neighbors. In April 2012, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad declared the independence of northern Mali, setting in motion the French-led intervention to roll back the secession and restore Malian sovereignty last year. The “Arab Spring” has also roused Berber identity in Libya, Algeria, and Morocco, where a Moroccan minister spoke Amazigh, the Berber language, for the first time in parliament. Ending support for the Sykes-Picot order is not equivalent to unilaterally redrawing the map of the Middle East from Washington. Events on the ground, such as Kurdish nationalism, Alawite retreats, or Sunni Arab brotherhood, will drive these changes. The emergence of Kurdistan or Alawitistan or the shrinking of the Maronite enclave in Lebanon could partition clashing nations and dim long-running ethnoreligious violence. Like the Balkanization of Europe, cultures would still compete, but the reduced stakes could ultimately lead to a more stable and peaceful region. Writing in 1989, historian David Fromkin compared Europe’s political evolution to that of the Muslim Middle East. The length of time may be different, “but its issue is the same: how diverse peoples are to regroup to create new political identities for themselves after the collapse of an ages-old imperial order to which they had grown accustomed. The Allies proposed a post-Ottoman design for the region in the early 1920s. The continuing question is whether the peoples of the region will accept it.” A quarter-century later, Fromkin’s question is in the process of being answered. The peoples of the region no longer accept the post-Ottoman system and their calls for self-determination echo those of European peoples of the last few centuries. Perhaps we should heed their call. Gabriel Scheinmann is a PhD candidate at Georgetown University and an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc. An earlier version of this article appeared in The Tower Magazine.

The Real Realpolitik by Stephen Bryen


raq is in turmoil; Egypt is an outcast to the United States and starting to buy weapons from Russia; Iran is ascendant and increasingly aggressive; and the allied effort in Afghanistan is close to collapse. America has little or no credibility or influence. China is growing stronger, the Russians are assertive and brazen in Crimea, and our allies are increasingly uncertain and uneasy. Why? The legendary Hans Morgenthau, master of realpolitik, would say the United States has not pursued its national interest or applied a wise policy in support of those interests. This, in the end, is a policy and a moral failure, wasting economic and human resources and risking of lives of millions of people around the globe. Political realism, at its best, and Morgenthau was its best, was different from realpolitik in one crucial way: under its adherence to the wise and constructive use of power was a profound moral message. You are not a great power because you can launch drones from afar, or mow down your enemies with flying gunships. You are a great power when you articulate strategic objectives aimed at preventing aggression and upheaval, and using force, if needed, to drive home the point. America is a superpower, and as a result has a responsibility it probably does not want but cannot escape. Our government’s inability to find a coherent foreign policy and execute it in a clear and sensible manner stokes the isolationism coursing through the country. We need to re-think what we are doing and get it right; Morgenthau can help. Morgenthau postulated a theory of how nations behave, or should behave, based a modernized form of older, German thinking on international politics known as realpolitik. In its essence, realpolitik means that international politics

is primarily based on military and industrial power and not on moralistic ideas. A key modern example is Richard Nixon’s decision to recognize the People’s Republic of China. Prompted strongly by Henry Kissinger (often wrongly cited as the originator of realpolitik), the Nixon-China embrace came at the expense of Taiwan, which was not asked, but was simply derecognized. The embrace of China was to try to balance the hostile Soviet Union. For Nixon and Kissinger, the fact that China was at the time more extreme in its Communist views than the Soviet Union was

being used, but the benefits were considerable. The key to China’s future as a growing power was Western technology, especially American microelectronics and computer technology. China also was promised arms cooperation. In the early 1980’s, the Reagan administration jumped on the opportunity to help China modernize its arms industry, supplying important aerospace and underwater systems, including advanced torpedoes. The Tiananmen Square massacre put an end to burgeoning U.S. and European military cooperation with China, although some of the Tiananmen sanctions

You are not a great power because you can launch drones from afar. ... You are a great power when you articulate strategic objectives aimed at preventing aggression and upheaval, and using force, if needed, to drive home the point. of little importance. The Nixon-Kissinger goal was to tighten the noose around the USSR. Nixon and Kissinger had earlier pushed the idea of “detente” with the Soviet Union, thinking that the U.S. could use its economic power to dissuade the Russians from confrontation. But the Russians had other ideas, and continued their military build-up featuring the famous SS-21 mobile short-range nuclear missile aimed at Western Europe. With “detente” largely shredded and our European allies flirting more and more with the Soviets to avoid Russian political and military pressure, the China card was a way for the U.S. to draw off some of Russia’s military forces from Europe, especially nuclear missiles, which the administration hoped would shift to face China. China was well aware that it was

(on nuclear power plants and equipment and on space launch) were later substantially eased. But the transfer of advanced dual-use technology persists even today, long after the strategic idea behind it ceased to exist. The need to offset Soviet power evaporated with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the disintegration of the Russian empire (something Putin is working tirelessly to restore). The Tiananmen sanctions never addressed the transfers of critical technology to China. By the time sanctions were imposed, trade with China was was too lucrative for the U.S. and its European partners to sacrifice trade for any principle of democracy or human rights. Political realist Morgenthau and his predecessors would cringe looking at Western policy toward China, because of

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its clearly self-defeating and risky nature. The Chinese understand that they need continuing access to Western technology for both civilian and military development. For that reason, China uses the benefits of trade as a lever to extract advanced technology from the West, especially from the United States. China has a huge cyber espionage operation to learn as much as possible about American weapons systems (including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter) and to apply the technology to similar local programs. The U.S., afraid that China might stop “investing” in U.S. Treasury bonds and other financial instruments, does little to stop it. A current analogous case is Iran. The U.S. unilaterally lifted some sanctions on Iran claiming that the lifting of sanctions would lead to a comprehensive deal to stop Iran’s nuclear bomb building program. The notion was flawed from the start because of the difficulty of verification and the fact that some “military” installations were off limits. The deal did not include delivery systems, especially long-range missiles, which Iran continues to develop. And the sanctions, once lifted, created a frenzy of trade and business activity with European and American companies flocking to Iran to set up deals. And the State Department, which steadfastly had urged its European allies to restrain themselves from running to do deals in Iran, officially “encouraged” U.S. aerospace companies to apply for licenses to ship jet engines for Iran’s air fleet, the same air fleet that ferries supplies and troops in Syria. Morgenthau would be appalled. Iran is an expansionist country causing havoc in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, and expanding its influences far and wide, including in the Americas. Iran continues to threaten Israel. The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps was quoted by Iran’s Fars news agency saying Iran’s military has its finger on the trigger to destroy Israel as soon as it receives the order; the capacity to execute is irrelevant. In fact, Iran’s policies are not moderate and do not lead to any regional accommodation. The U.S. nuclear proposal fails to take any


President Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger of this into account, and so is strategically flawed and destabilizing. Morgenthau explained political realism as “national interest defined in terms of power,” while guarding against two fallacies: concern with motives and concern with ideological preferences. The core idea is that a rational international actor will follow the real interests of the state and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the real interests of the international community. An outside observer should be able to discern a country’s national interests and goals in its foreign policy, and how that aligns with national power defined in both military and economic terms. In short, it is possible to observe whether a country has a rational policy, or one that deviates from rational. At present, there are questions about the goals and objectives of U.S. foreign policy. But if we follow political realism and Morgenthau’s prescription, we should be able to detremine what our policy actually is, and whether it is coherent and aligned with our fundamental interests. It is, of course, entirely possible to have a disastrous foreign policy even if it is coherent and aligned with our interests. The U.S. has been grappling with this problem since the middle 1970’s, if not before, but it came into greater focus with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

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Before Iraq, the most important and costly conflicts in which the U.S. was directly involved were Korea and Vietnam. In the former, the U.S. and its allies were unable to achieve anything more than a truce, which has remained in effect since 1953. General MacArthur and President Truman had a serious argument over Truman’s approach to the war. Although at one point the U.S. considered using nuclear weapons against China and even went so far as to transfer authority to the Army for their use, the real flash point was over MacArthur’s vision of challenging the Chinese and pushing them out of Korea altogether, and Truman’s vision of negotiated deal. Ultimately, Truman relieved MacArthur from command. While Korea ended in a stalemate, Vietnam ended in a defeat for the United States. Despite constant support for North Vietnam by the USSR and China, the U.S. did not attack China or even propose the idea. Instead the U.S. tried to defeat North Vietnam through conventional battles on South Vietnamese territory, and an extensive bombing campaign aimed at supply routes (the Ho Chi Minh Trail) into South Vietnam from North Vietnam, Laos and a corner of Cambodia. Operating in heavily foliated areas and using networks of underground bunkers as storage depots,

economy. Intervention thus made sense from the point of view of vital American interests and in terms of global stability. What made less sense was to let the first Iraq war end without putting an end to other potential threats coming from Iraq in the form of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and delivery systems that could threaten the entire region. While the U.S. and the allies took steps to “manage” Saddam, the better solution would have been to topple the regime when they had the opportunity, replace Saddam with a government chosen from Iraqis in exile, and then leave. American leaders instead confused themselves, their supporters, and the public. The result was a geopolitical blunder and a much longer conflict that did not serve either American or regional interests. It paved the way for al-Qaeda and for Syrian and Iranian trouble making. Per Morgenthau, the blunder seems to have been caused by a faulty moral idea—that allied destruction of Iraqi forces, particularly the bombing of retreating Iraqi forces

full of armed, unemployed, and humiliated young men. In at the end, the U.S. would pull out, abandoning the rest of the country as it did the Marsh Arabs twenty years earlier, this time creating a power vacuum that Iran quickly filled. The U.S. could have done better, avoiding the occupation, strengthening bases in the area and stabilizing the region with a rapid action force. The U.S. could have created an independent Kurdish state— an area with significant oil resources and with a pro-American outlook. But lacking a strategy, and violating the fundamental principle of political realism, the U.S. wasted human and economic resources and failed to confront its emerging enemy, Iran. Similarly in Afghanistan, in a war that has virtually no strategic importance, the U.S. has invested its prestige, and that of its coalition allies, in trying to stabilize a corrupt government. It has failed to stop either al-Qaeda or the Taliban, the latter being well-positioned to grab power after the U.S. and its allies leave. In the meantime,

Stephen Bryen: The Real Realpolitik

the North Vietnamese were able to continue supplying their forces operating in the South. After Kissinger negotiated an accord with the North in Paris, the ARVN (South Vietnam’s army) had to carry on the fight alone. In April 1975, Saigon fell. Both the Korean and the Vietnam wars were limited because bigger players were either involved or lurking in the background. Was either conflict in the U.S. interest? Surely stopping China’s operation in Korea, which would have resulted in all of Korea in Chinese hands, was the correct policy. Keeping South Korea free was an important message that has, since that war, helped restrain China. Vietnam is different. While the U.S. was worried about a domino effect (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and more), the U.S. defeat and its aftermath did not work out the way we feared. Cambodia fell to the indigenous Khmer Rouge even before South Vietnam collapsed. Today, the U.S. has reconciled with communist Vietnam, and while Cambodia is still poor, it has a multi-party government. Laos is a socialist, single party country, poor, and with a poor human rights record. In sum, the U.S. investment in Vietnam, and in supporting Laos and Cambodia, was not really in the U.S. national interest. American willingness to fight there, and involve its allies (South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines), had no positive result for the United States and even less for the victims. Both Korea and Vietnam were socalled “limited” wars because of the threat of outside power intervention. However, neither the war in Afghanistan nor the war in Iraq is limited by any threat of outside intervention. Both are one-sided wars in the sense that it is a big power (and its allies) against far less powerful countries. The first Iraq war was caused by Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, which threatened Saudi Arabia, threatened oil supplies and supply systems to the U.S. and to America’s allies, and thus ensured that the United States would intervene. Had the U.S. taken a pass, a chaotic situation might have destroyed the global

In its essence, political realism means that international politics is primarily based on military and industrial power and not on moralistic ideas. along the Kuwait-Iraq highway (dubbed the Highway of Death) was an improper use of force. Thus President George H. W. Bush, on advice from his National Security Adviser, Gen. Colin Powell, declared a ceasefire on February 28, 1991. Letting Saddam Hussein off the hook set the stage for related tragedies, including the decimation of the southern Shiite Marsh Arabs, whose revolt was encouraged by the United States, which then abandoned them to Saddam’s helicopters and poison gas. The U.S. would return to Iraq, defeat the army, remove Saddam, and replace his regime with the costly and bloody American occupation. Disbanding but not disarming the Iraqi Army in 2003 was another faulty moral idea that encouraged the rise of militias

with very limited rules of engagement and unclear objectives, our forces continue to take casualties—including from “friendly” Afghan forces—and burn scarce resources. The big picture is that the U.S. is not acting as a great power or following the basic rules of political realism as laid out by Morgenthau. From the mistakes the U.S. continues to make in the Middle East, in North Africa, and elsewhere, it is not surprising that foreign leaders no longer look to Washington for guidance and help—or even with respect. Morgenthau did not live to see all this; perhaps it is best. Stephen Bryen, Ph.D. is a former Under Secretary of Defense.

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Understanding the Gulf States by Simon Henderson


oney, they say, can’t buy you everything. But in the conservative Arab states of the Persian Gulf (or the Arabian Gulf as they prefer to call it), money can buy a lot. What is the tallest building in the world? The Burj al-Khalifa in the sheikhdom of Dubai. What is one of the best airlines in the world? Washington, DC friends vacationing in Asia recently chose to fly there with Qatar Airways via Doha. The newness of aircraft, quality of onboard service and well-timed connecting flight trumped any political misgivings, such as Qatar’s support for Hamas in Gaza and the weapons it gives to some of the worst jihadists in Syria. This prosperity, of course, is a consequence of oil, but in regional terms, the Gulf Arab states—Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman—found oil late in the game. Oil was first discovered in Iran in 1908. The giant oilfield at Kirkuk in northern Iraq was found in 1927. The first oil on the southern side of the Gulf was found in Bahrain in 1931. Saudi Arabia, which now has the largest reserves of conventional oil in the world—between a sixth and a quarter of the total depending how you do the math—found its first oil only in 1938. Production did not take off until 1941. Oil was not found in Abu Dhabi, the leading emirate of the UAE, until 1958. It is now estimated to have around 6 percent of the world’s oil. Not bad, considering its population is less than one million. Apart from hydrocarbon riches, the distinguishing feature of the conservative


Gulf Arab states is their small populations. Saudi Arabia is the largest with a population of about 27 million though this probably includes at least 7 million expatriate workers. The smallest is Qatar, with about 2 million people but perhaps as few as 10 percent, 200,000, actual Qatari citizens. So it is hardly surprising that these fabulously oil-rich countries and, in the case of Qatar natural gas-rich, have now emerged on the world stage. Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Manama (Bahrain) are now iconic city-states, joining countries like Singapore and Hong Kong. Yet their entrance coincides with their region collapsing into turmoil. They have only been nation-states for a few decades yet their immediate future, what with an almostnuclear Iran and the turmoil of the “Arab Spring,” is uncertain. To make matters worse, the trend line is bad. Ten, or more

There is a major “but” in this sweep of analysis. The Gulf States, loosely grouped together since 1981 in the Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC, have seen crises come and go, but, with the exception of Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, have themselves been spared political catastrophe. Indeed, one could make the argument—and quite a few people do—that their quasi-monarchialbut-listening approach to government and administration has worked well. It hardly fits into the democracy playbook of liberals in the United States and Europe, but their general success has served to highlight of deficiencies of 1950s and 1960s Arab nationalist revolutions in Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Libya. The major problem would appear to be the growing internal contradictions among the GCC member states. In early March 2014, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and

Stability in the kingdom is maintained by conservative attitudes and generous distribution of subsidies and government jobs. If the oil price falls the government’s ability to maintain these handouts will be lessened. likely 20 years ahead, there is predicted to be an energy glut in North America (Canada, the U.S., and Mexico.) This will hammer oil and natural gas prices. So what if, collectively, you have more than 30 percent of the world’s oil and more than 20 percent of the world’s natural gas? Lower prices would certainly be to the benefit of the developed world but probably a disaster to the relatively undiversified economies of the Gulf Arabs.

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the UAE withdrew their ambassadors from Doha to protest Qatari meddling in the internal affairs of the other countries. Apparently there had been a row about this last year, which had led to an agreement in late November 2013. But Qatar was not living up to its side of the bargain. The root cause of the crisis was Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, though this was unstated. Indeed, the November 2013 pact had never been revealed

and the announcement of the withdrawal of ambassadors only emerged in a communiqué issued at the end of a meeting of GCC foreign ministers in Riyadh. Such a public schism opens to discussion consideration of whether the GCC as such will continue to exist. It wouldn’t be the first shakeup in national boundaries. When the British left the Gulf in the early 1970s, they created the UAE out of the emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras al-Khaimah, Fujairah, Ajman, and Umm al-Quwain. Qatar and Bahrain were originally intended to be part of the confederation as well but could not agree with the others on the terms. Taking each member state in turn:

z Saudi Arabia

The kingdom is facing a succession crisis. King Abdullah is 91 years old this year and his half-brother and designated replacement, Crown Prince Salman, is 78. Neither man is in good physical health. There are particular concerns about Salman’s mental abilities. Competition to replace either will likely be intense from sons and nephews, many of whom are more privileged than they are able. Stability in the kingdom is maintained by conservative attitudes and the generous distribution of subsidies and government jobs. If the oil price falls, the government’s ability to maintain these handouts will be

lessened. Uncertainties for the future include a drop in oil exports as more energy is consumed at home. The populace has become used to highly subsidized prices for gasoline and electricity. Re-educating them will be a challenge. The main foreign threat is Iran, which Riyadh sees as trying to achieve hegemonic status in the Gulf area. On the other side of the kingdom, Yemen is also watched closely because its population probably is larger than that of Saudi Arabia but is much poorer. Within Saudi Arabia, income disparity is an issue with many citizens living in comparative poverty. The tribes along the border with Yemen are suspected of dubious loyalty. On the other side of the country, on the Gulf coast, the population is largely Shiite, co-religionists of Iran and the neighboring island of Bahrain. Saudi Shiites are economically and politically disadvantaged. In addition, hardline Saudi Sunni clerics regard Shiites as not proper Muslims. The Saudi authorities handle the issue carefully but often badly. Any civil unrest could have wider consequences, as the area is also the epicenter of Saudi oil production and export.

z Kuwait

The ruler is Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, 84 years old, with a lifetime of government service and experience but

Simon Henderson: Understanding the Gulf States

Saudi Crown Prince Salman

now in poor health. The authority of the al-Sabah ruling family is limited by the high standing of other prominent families and a political system that makes for gridlock. The national assembly, the oldest established parliament-type system in the southern Gulf, is divided among hardline Sunnis, tribal elements, and Shiites, with a leavening of technocratic types. Once the most modern emirate in the Gulf, Kuwait has been overtaken by Qatar and the UAE, partly a consequence of never really recovering from the shock of Saddam Hussein’s invasion in 1990. There must be a concern that next time, American forces will not come galloping to the rescue. When Sabah retires or dies, the ruling family will nominate possible replacements but the final choice will be a compromise with the members of the national assembly.

z Bahrain

The island state has been wracked by political turmoil since February 2011 when pro-democracy supporters, aroused by the “Arab Spring” in other parts of the region, staged protests. The demonstrations rapidly took on a sectarian hue. The Sunnis disappeared, making the events into Shiite confrontations with Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim security forces. The main development since then has been the Shiites splitting into those advocating violence and, the apparent majority, those confining their activities to peaceful protests. A secondary, and probably more significant, change has been the emergence of Iranian backing for the violent groups. The initial protests had prompted the intervention of Saudi paramilitary and UAE police reinforcements. Neither group actually was involved directly in countering the demonstrations, though in March 2014, an Emirati police officer died when an improvised bomb exploded near a Bahrain police unit. Political reconciliation has been thwarted by differences within the Bahrain royal family on whether compromises should be made. The lead conciliator is Crown Prince

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Salman but he is opposed by hardliners, including the minister of the royal court and the commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defense Forces, collectively known as the Khawalid. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa vacillates between the two fac-

stadiums for the 2022 World Cup. The interesting question may be how long Saudi Arabia will put up with such nonsense. The al-Thani are a large clan and many members are excluded from political power. Hamad’s authority was questioned

All the GCC states have had and continue to have a dependence on the United States. None of them probably think they can rely on Washington for much longer, and certainly not forever. The sensible way forward would be to develop their unity— but this isn’t going to happen. tions. Failing political reforms, the more likely outcomes include more violence and fresh involvement by Saudi security forces. The House of Saud is anxious that violence in Bahrain does not spread to the kingdom and that political reforms do not encourage demands for matching gestures by Saudi Shiites. An outside possibility is that Saudi Arabia will seek political union with Bahrain.

z Qatar

The “bad boy” of the GCC, a status achieved under Sheikh Hamad who abdicated in June 2013, is an even more accurate label for his son and successor, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who is just 33. The country appears to be proud of its reputation for causing trouble whether it is allowing a platform for radical Muslim preacher Yousuf al-Qaradawi, supporting some of the worst jihadists Syria, or backing the Muslim Brotherhood in neighboring UAE. Having agreed to behave better at a meeting with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in November 2013, Sheikh Tamim then failed to deliver, prompting the withdrawal of their ambassadors by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE in March 2014. Having the world’s largest reserves of natural gas after Russia and Iran, as well as being the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) funds a lot of mischief as well as building soccer


because he gained power by overthrowing his father, a reclusive alcoholic. Could Riyadh—would Riyadh—fund a coup in Doha? The Qatari military is perhaps one of the few armies that the Saudis could actually defeat.

z United Arab Emirates

The ruler, Sheikh Khalifa, is “stable” after a recent stroke but had essentially already handed over the strings of power to his crown prince and half-brother, Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed, who is pro-American but, like many Gulf leaders, deeply skeptical of the Obama Administration. MbZ, as he is known, represents the new generation of Gulf leadership. The test will be how much he will be constrained by any need to maintain GCC consensus. Much is made of the UAE’s persistent dispute with Iran over three islands (Abu Musa, Little Tumb, and Greater Tumb) seized by Iran in 1970. MbZ’s views on these islands may be more conciliatory than thought, but sovereignty is claimed by the UAE member sheikhdoms of Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah and any compromise may threaten the confederation. Less noticed are two sources of territorial friction with Saudi Arabia—Riyadh’s seizure of land between Qatar and the UAE, removing the common border, and Saudi insistence that a huge oil field on the border lies totally within Saudi territory. The biggest threat

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is any military confrontation with Iran, which would ruin the commercial viability of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the UAE’s cashcows.

z Oman

Sultan Qaboos is the odd-man-out of the Gulf. He usually shuns GCC meetings. He takes positions unhelpful to the U.S.—until, of course, he could be helpful to Washington by facilitating the secret talks with Iran before the diplomacy on the nuclear deal opened up. In socioeconomic terms, Oman has got enough oil and gas to keep its relatively large population—about 3.1 million—happy. It is the one GCC country that had genuine “Arab Spring” type events in 2011 with riots by discontented youth quashed by a combination of firmness and government handouts. Qaboos believes his people love him. Perhaps most do, perhaps not. His unmarried status and lack of any heirs is a source of disquiet and occasional ridicule. At 74 years old, the question of “who will succeed Qaboos?” is becoming increasingly relevant. And Oman’s strategic position, on the southern side of the Strait of Hormuz, will remain vital for Gulf energy flows even if the U.S. becomes effectively energy independent. All the GCC states have had and continue to have a dependence on the United States. None of them probably think they can rely on Washington for much longer, and certainly not forever. The sensible way forward would be to develop their unity— but this isn’t going to happen. Alternatively, they can look for another security partner. China is the name that springs to mind but there is little immediate evidence that this is going to happen. There remains the prospect of cutting an unpalatable deal with Iran. So far, perhaps with the exception of Oman and perhaps Qatar, this option is being rejected. It makes for a worrying future. Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and Director of the Gulf and Energy Policy program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Iran’s Nuclear Shadow by Emanuele Ottolenghi


uring the past decade, Western diplomats have been engaged in protracted negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Iran over its nuclear program. Though a deal remains elusive, Western policymakers remain adamant that an agreement is possible. Much of their optimism is driven by a willingness to test the proposition, put forward by their Iranian counterparts, that Iran does not seek nuclear weapons on religious grounds. Iran has tirelessly presented itself as a victim of Western arrogance – a much maligned and misunderstood country–whose history proves, in its leaders’ minds, that Iran never sought to threaten anyone. Iran, they opine, is a benign power whose aspirations to regional prominence and global influence should be recognized and accommodated. Iran, they quip, never attacked anyone. Iran, they insist, is in fact an ideal partner for Western powers – better relations would be mutually beneficial in more than one sphere. Iran’s Supreme Leader, they posit, has repeatedly ruled out nuclear weapons as “un-Islamic” – and therefore Western suspicions should dissipate. Iran is adamant, therefore, that the decade-long diplomatic quarrel should subside; since Iran’s nuclear aspirations cannot possibly be construed as a threat to anyone.

z Iran’s History of Protagonism

The most risible of all propositions, which seek to minimise the impact of an Iranian nuclear capability, is that Iran has never threatened anyone. It did. It does. And it will continue to do so in its subtle and not-so-subtle ways. To Iran’s credit, the Iran-Iraq war – the only occasion when Iran fought a conventional war under the Islamic Republic’s regime – was initiated by Iraq, not Iran. Even so, Iran

has been involved in aggression ever since the Peacock Throne was replaced by Khomeini’s Revolution. First, within months of the Revolution, the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized and about seventy U.S. diplomats were taken hostage for more than a year. Since then, Iran has made extensive use of suicide bombers, exporting their lethal menace to areas where its enemies could be slaughtered in great numbers. In 1983, its wholly-owned Hezbollah proxy struck first the U.S. Embassy in Beirut (sixty dead), and then the barracks of the U.S. Marine peacekeepers in Beirut (two-hundred-and-forty-one dead) and the barracks of the French peace-keeping paratroopers (fifty-three dead). The then-prime minister of Iran, Mirhossein Moussavi, who in 2009 rose to fame for galvanizing Iran’s reformist forces against then-President Ahmadinejad, was directly involved in the decision to order the attack. Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad was responsible for the kidnapping and murder of U.S. diplomat William Buckley in Beirut in 1984. Hezbollah was responsible for the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and the cold-blooded murder of an American passenger on board – U.S. Navy diver, Robert Dean Stethem. In the midst of the hijacking, his body was thrown onto the tarmac of Beirut airport after he was executed. U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel W. Higgins had a similar fate three years later: in February 1988 he was kidnapped and murdered by Hezbollah while serving with the United Nations Truce Supervisory Organization (UNTSO) in southern Lebanon. Then, in April 1988, a car bomb exploded outside a USO club in Naples, killing five, including one U.S. sailor, Angela Santos. A group called the Organization of Jihad Brigades (OJB) claimed responsibility.

Although a Japanese Red Army terrorist was later convicted for the attack, the State Department considers the OJB to be an affiliate of Hezbollah. The use of front organizations did not end in 1988. Two car bomb attacks against American targets in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (on November 13, 1995) and Dahran, Saudi Arabia (on June 25, 1996), were claimed by a shadowy group called the Islamic Movement for Change. Five U.S. servicemen died in the first attack, and nineteen in the second. Though some assume this group to be an al-Qae’da affiliate, many sources link it to Iran – and there would be little contradiction if this had been a joint operation, since Osama bin Laden’s franchise, at that time based in Sudan, was benefiting from the help and training of Imad Moughniyah, the Lebanese terror mastermind of Hezbollah. Speaking of Moughniyah, Iran was certainly responsible for the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires (twenty-nine dead) and of the Jewish communal organization AMIA in 1994 (eighty-five dead, mostly non-Jewish Argentine citizens). Following the AMIA attack, Argentina’s authorities issued an international arrest warrant for several Iranian officials – including the thenserving president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, his foreign minister, Ali Velayati and Ali Fallahian, who was the minister of intelligence at the time. In addition to its campaign of massmurder across the world, Iran also fanned the flames of conflict across the Middle East and Europe, dispatching assassins to kill its opponents in exile, often in friendly countries. Fallahian, for example, is wanted for the murder of four Iranian Kurdish dissidents in Berlin in 1992 (the Mykonos restaurant attack) and later was accused of having ordered the murder of

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


prominent dissidents inside Iran as well. The trail of death left behind by Tehran’s assassins is considerable – the most prominent being, probably, former Iranian Prime Minister Shahpour Bakhtiar, who was murdered in his Paris home in 1991. But the list of Iranians murdered at the hand of the regime is long – more than a hundred prominent activists, former member of the Shah’s army, civil service or political elites, and agitators from disparate opposition movements. More often than not, they met their death in Europe, where they thought they had found a safe haven. Their assassins frequently managed to flee – and those who were caught were often acquitted, or freed too soon. Whether exiled or foreign, Iran’s victims share a similar background – they are ideological threats to the purity and the survival of the Islamic Revolution – and a similar fate–violent death or a life as fugitives.

z Ideology and the Bomb

To sum up, Iran has not launched a war in the traditional sense of the term – not yet, at least. But it is hardly a hapless victim. Many Western diplomats tend to downplay this history because they assume that Iran’s misdeeds are the offshoots of a bygone era – the revolutionary convulsions of a regime that has since settled into the region and only wishes to be recognized. This optimism is misplaced though, because Iran remains, in rhetoric and actions, a revolutionary power. Iran is not putting forward its nuclear achievements as a negotiating chip in a grand bargain with the West that is the prelude to accommodation and coexistence. Nor is Iran pursuing a nuclear option for purely defensive purposes. Iran does not simply aspire to obtain weapons that will deter enemies and guarantee its survival. Iran is seeking instruments of ideological coercion and intimidation, and a tangible threat such as a nuclear arsenal is a portentous political tool to advance its ideological agenda. Iran is


Nuclear facility in Arak, Iran. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons) less likely to drop nuclear weapons on the heads of its enemies and more likely to use them as a way of expanding and consolidating its influence. Iran’s revolutionary ideology postulates that the Islamic Republic exists as a tool for “the realisation of God’s will on earth.” Iran’s Supreme leader is “God’s shadow on earth,” and as such, his word is final on what constitutes the realisation of divine will on earth. Opposing Khamenei’s will on the nuclear issue – and he has repeatedly said that Iran’s nuclear program is the realisation of God’s designs – is equivalent to opposing God. What, then, are the goals that God supposedly bestowed on Iran which nuclear weapons would serve? God’s design is surely not so Iran-centric as to limit itself to deterring Iran’s enemies and guaranteeing the integrity of its borders. More likely, God wants Iran to become the beacon of Islam and to reassert Shiite predominance over the Sunni world. Khomeini himself explained that, “we shall export our revolution to the whole world. Until the cry, ‘There is no God but God’ resounds over the whole world. There will be struggle.” Nuclear weapons greatly enhance the ability of a country like Iran, blessed with oil riches, to export its dream – by persuasion, if possible; by force, if necessary. Naturally, while Islam is central to Iran’s revolutionary ardour, Persian na-

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

tionalism and its aspiration to assert Iran as the dominant power in the region, are still very much alive. Persian nationalism, combined with Khomeini’s radical understanding of Islamic governance, creates an explosive cocktail: Iran obsessively sees itself as the target of plots and conspiracies. Its sense of vulnerability is in stark contrast with the greatness to which Iran aspires – a greatness which Islamic revolutionary zeal has exponentially enhanced beyond Iran and the region. In these circumstances, the combined weight of destiny, paranoia and zeal makes the bomb a profoundly dangerous instrument in the hands of those who are determined to promote imperialist aspirations. Iran’s ideological push toward the bomb today rides on this explosive combination of the divine and subversive – a recipe that makes Iran a country constantly searching for a new regional status quo. The new world that Iran seeks to create will be dominated by Tehran. It will be characterised by fierce competition with the U.S. for hegemony over the Gulf and by efforts to cement alliances to confront Iran’s ideological antagonists: America and Israel first, and Saudi Arabia and the Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf. Iran would use its acquired nuclear capability as a force-multiplier in order to project its power across the region and beyond in unprecedented ways in pursuit of its imperial and revolution-

z New Power Abroad

Sooner or later, a revolutionary power aims to export its revolution, both as an instrument of radical change and as a tool to establish its hegemonic role. If that is so, then the revolutionary power sooner or later will find itself at war with its neighbours or other regional and global powers that see themselves as guarantors or beneficiaries of the status quo. In the case of Iran, the objective is to export Khomeini’s revolutionary vision. Such acts will sooner or later set Iran on a collision course and drag the Islamic Revolutionary Republic into theatres of conflict, near and far, wherever Iran sees fertile territory for intruding its vision. If that were to happen under a nuclear umbrella, Iran would be able to act with far more impunity that at present. Iran, for example, could blackmail its neighbours by issuing credible threats aimed at forcing them to reduce oil production quotas, thereby raising world prices. Iran could also link levels of supply to political change. It could, say, demand a reduction in the U.S. presence in countries like Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, insisting that Iran alone would “protect” the waterways. While the focus of concern is usually the Gulf – the immediate repercussions of a nuclear Iranian almost certainly would be felt there – Iran’s nuclear arsenal would extend its shadow into the oil- and gasrich Caspian basin, too. As the Georgia crisis of August 2008 and the 2014 Russian occupation of the Crimea peninsula clearly indicate, the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian basin is strategically vital for European interests. Much like Russia, Iran could exploit its nuclear status to blackmail neighboring countries to the north, too, with the aim of controlling energy prices and, by extension, the policies of European countries that are most dependent on those supplies. It is wrong to assume that in this area Iran’s bullying tactics may be opposed by Rus-

sia. After all, the Kremlin is on the same page as Iran when it comes to energy prices. Europeans look to Iran as a potential solution to their dependence on Russian energy supplies and Russian-controlled energy routes. But if Iran and Russia join forces, their ability to fix prices and determine supplies may match OPEC. A nuclear Iran could seek closer cooperation with Russia precisely in this area. Iran might be able to manipulate prices in a far more direct and protracted manner when it actually acquires nuclear capability. The price of oil is destined to remain affected as long as regional instability persists. A nuclear Iran would compound that instability for decades in a far more damaging way than it can through the occasional harassment of U.S. warships by fast-moving dinghies. Nor will Iranian interference stop at

denounce the 1991 agreement with the U.S. for the prepositioning of military equipment, could rescind its assent to the stationing of U.S. forces at the Juffair naval base and quickly demand that they evacuate. What would the U.S. do, faced with the dilemma between acquiescence to the decline of its influence in the Gulf and the possibility of a direct military confrontation against a nuclear armed Iran? Hegemony does not require bombs to rain down on neighbours. Simply possessing the option is enough to scare others into submission and force even the most formidable adversaries to change their strategic calculus to your advantage. And while submission might be the political posture of states in the area, individuals might choose to seek safer shores for their businesses and their endeavours. An

Emanuele Ottolenghi: Iran’s Nuclear Shadow

ary ambitions.

Iran is less likely to drop nuclear weapons on the heads of its enemies and more likely to use them as a way of expanding and consolidating its influence. threats and provocations over oil prices. There is further potential for Iran to project its aggressive power in the drive to expand its influence. For one, its Gulf neighbours, already at a significant disadvantage, would be unable to resist Iranian interference. With significant Shiite communities across the Gulf, Iran might be tempted to use the model of Russia’s intervention in Georgia and Crimea “on behalf of its ethnic kin” to act in a similar way “on behalf of the Shiite populations” in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.

z Subverting Regional Stability

Such provocative demands could be made with greater effect if backed by even a tacit nuclear threat. Would Europe risk Paris, London or Rome for Manama? What if Iran engineered the overthrow of the monarchy and got a friendly Shiite government installed? Instigated by Tehran, a new regime could move quickly to

exodus of elites would not be a surprising side-effect of Tehran’s nuclear rise. Bahrain is not the only Gulf country to fear Iranian interference. Iran could destabilize any country in the area, support subversion inside their territories and use the threat of Armageddon to coerce their governments. Even Saudi Arabia, which, unlike the Gulf emirates, is not a tiny citystate but a powerful and populous nation, is bound to suffer, perhaps even more than its smaller Gulf neighbours. Ever since the Islamic Revolution, Tehran has been competing with Saudi Arabia for dominance within the Islamic world. Indeed, Khomeini defined the Revolution as an attempt to redress the “wrongs” of Islamic history. This was generally interpreted to mean the restoration of Shiism and the successors of Imam Husayn as the rightful heir to the Prophet after the Sunnis defeated and martyred him in Kerbala in the seventh century. The Saudis, for their part, regard Shiism as apostasy.

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


And then there is the millennia-old rivalry between Persia and Arabia which still exists. A nuclear-powered Iran would finally be in a position to humiliate the Saudi monarchy and destabilise it from within, perhaps even bring it down. This could be achieved by financing and supporting terror inside the Kingdom by targeting sensitive and strategic oil sites inside Saudi Arabia, which are largely inhabited by Shiites. Iran could promote Shiite insurgencies, as it is already doing in Yemen. It could use the four-hundredthousand Iranian residents in the Emirates to wreak havoc among the flourishing but fragile economies of the Gulf. It could intimidate its rulers and force them to expel Americans on their soil. It could even force the indigenous rulers themselves to go. Nor would it end there. Iran could demand safe and unfettered passage for its navy through the Suez Canal in order to supply its proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, in the Mediterranean. Iran has already created a bridgehead in Sudan. Its ships already travel the busy waterways of the Red Sea to carry illicit cargoes to and from Iran. What its fleet is doing now quietly, clandestinely and circumspectly, a nuclear Iran could do openly, brazenly, and impudently. Iran’s potential for blackmail would stretch beyond its immediate neighbourhood. A nuclear Iran would certainly continue to support terrorist organisations across the region and beyond. Today, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza operate under the aegis of Iran. They are trained, funded, ideologically guided and politically supported by Tehran, which also supports Shiite militias in Iraq, Shiite guerrillas in Yemen, as well as elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Already an actor in all these theatres of conflict, Iran’s behaviour could degenerate still further. Today, it is trying to gain a foothold in those areas by destabilising them. Tomorrow, supported by a nuclear fist, Iran will become indispensable to solving all of those conflicts (most


of which it instigated and nourished in the first place). The solutions that Iran would be prepared to accept would not be to the liking of the West. But at that point, the West, expelled from the region, will have lost its voice. Finally, one cannot rule out the possibility that Iran might transfer weapons of mass destruction to its clients. Iran is equipping Hezbollah with missiles that are capable of carrying non-conventional warheads. Iran might soon be able to hand a briefcase nuclear device to a terrorist commando. As the French security and non-proliferation expert Bruno Tertrais says, “If you like the way Hamas and Hezbollah are behaving now, you are going to love it when Iran goes nuclear!” And Iran has a history of operating in the shadows, through proxies and alter-egos that do its bidding while the leadership in Tehran pleads innocence and laments threatening conspiracies against a peaceloving nation.

z Iranian Aspirations Beyond the Gulf

All these are strategies Iran could adopt and goals which Iran could achieve once it has nuclear capability. But Iran aspires to much more than just removing America from the Gulf or empowering Shiite communities in the region. Iran’s true wish is to export the revolution, as France did after 1789. The French armies did not invade and conquer Europe only to raise the revolutionary flag on the palaces of Europe’s ruling dynasties. They aspired to export the universal values of July 1789 beyond their borders, changing the social structures and balances of power in European societies. Iran wants nothing less. Regional hegemony would not stop at a confrontation with America. Alongside Iran’s embassies and military bases would sprout myriad “revolutionary cultural centres,” a massive physical presence of Iranian emissaries and institutions. Iranian money would pour into projects (it already does in places like Lebanon and Syria) and Iranian missionaries would

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

spread Iran’s version of Shiism throughout the region. Soon, the project would cross the waters, a symbol of Iran’s rising power and prestige in the Levant and the Gulf. European diplomatic sources indicate that Iran’s missionary activity is already in full swing in Europe among Sunni Muslims. As the champion of the oppressed, Iran could easily appeal to Muslim grievances and use its ecumenical approach to “resistance movements”– regardless of whether they are Sunni or Shiite – to win the hearts and minds of Europe’s Muslims. Through the Trojan horse of political causes, Iran could aspire to win their loyalties and convert them in due course. Iran would claim patronage over Shiite communities throughout Europe and would offer its protection to Muslim communities outside the Middle East. Iran already transformed South Lebanon into an Islamic Revolutionary republic in its own image. Iran would aspire to do the same elsewhere. And it might just succeed if its quest is backed by the might of a nuclear arsenal.

z Nuclear Prestige

The prestige of a nuclear arsenal and its emergent military power would exponentially enhance Iran’s reach, influence and power. Tehran makes no secret of its aspiration to become the reference point for all anti-Western and anti-global movements. Today’s Iran dreams of transforming itself into a Soviet Union redux, racing to the aid of anti-Western revolutionaries. Tomorrow’s nuclear Iran will be able to fulfill that dream. It will be in a position to act as the sponsor for myriad radical, possibly violent, groups. Tehran will then be a small step from being a potent sponsor of subversion throughout the world – and with nuclear weapons in its arsenal, there will be little succour for those who wish to stop Iran from succeeding. Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Middle East Atlas Doesn’t Exist on the Ground An inFOCUS Interview with Maj. General (res.) Amos Gilad Maj. General (res.) Amos Gilad is Israel’s Director, Policy and Political-Military Affairs and Chair, Security Relations with Regional and Strategic Partners of the Ministry of Defense. During his illustrious career he has served as Coordinator of Government Operations in the Territories; Head, Military Intelligence Research Division; Spokesperson, Israeli Defense Forces; and Acting Military Secretary of the Prime Minister and Defense Minister. inFOCUS Editor Shoshana Bryen caught up with him in Washington recently, and he offered a wide-ranging picture of Israel and its neighborhood.

inFOCUS: This issue of inFOCUS Magazine is called “Nations, Borders and Conflict,” and generally looks at Israel’s neighbors. As you do the 10,000-

foot view of the region, with the exception of Tunisia, the whole thing looks quite bleak. Are there places about which you feel optimistic?

Ethnic enclaves in Syria. (Map: Wikimedia Commons)

Amos Gilad: I don’t like optimism or pessimism. In reality, Israel is in a difficult area and there are both advantages and disadvantages in our position. The main issue for our security is to prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons; they don’t have them yet, but they are getting closer. This is a threat to the entire international community and the whole world needs to prevent a nuclear Iran, but only for Israel is it an existential threat. At the conventional level, Israel has created impressive deterrence. Hezbollah has 100,000 rockets in Lebanon, but they won’t attack us because they know what will happen. We defeated the terror that emerged in the West Bank in 2000 (what is sometimes called the “second intifada”). We do not have complete deterrence in Gaza, but it is almost complete. Our relations with Jordan and Egypt— with whom we have peace treaties—are stable. And the good news is that we have the best relations with the Arab world in terms of security that we have ever had. But, you know, when you forecast the future, every forecast is “subject to change.” Iran means every word of its threat to exterminate Israel. They might not

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


launch an immediate attack against Israel but Iran poses all kinds of concerns. It supports Hezbollah, which is an entity within a state in Lebanon. They do have 100,000 rockets aimed at all parts of Israel. Al-Qaeda is growing in Syria, organizing itself using its own forces and foreign volunteers. There are fighters from other countries in Syria. They could leave and carry terrorism to their own countries and places beyond. To sum up, this is a period of both Israel’s best security and unprecedented challenges. The main threats are to the population, not to the army, which creates different requirements for defense, but we can do it.

iF: How helpful is the United States in your security planning? AG: Security cooperation with the United States is a major pillar in our national security. It is hard to imagine what Israel would do without American support, and we must continue our unique relations with the US.

iF: Would you talk about Israeli-Egyptian relations? You said recently that Egypt would end up stable, but not a democracy, and that from Israel’s standpoint, stability is crucial—and Egypt is crucial. How can the U.S. best aid Egypt in a transition to a stable, economically viable country? AG: Egypt is the most important country in the Arab world, even with its economic troubles—you have to put it in context. The Muslim Brotherhood had taken hold of government in Egypt. It was the first time in its history, beginning in 1928, that the Muslim Brotherhood had a state structure, but its ideology sought to create Sunni Empire, which is a religious empire without states. They used Egypt to have the benefits of a state and threatened Jor-


dan. Their aim beyond that was to get rid of Israel. They had an alliance with Turkey and with Hamas and they were about to become very powerful. The al-Sissi government has outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and it is weaker in Jordan now as well. Hamas is feeling the pressure in Gaza. Saudi Arabia has supported Egypt because it eliminated the Brotherhood. Israel’s security relationship with Egypt is stable—it is not Canada and the United States—but the peace holds. Egypt is a proud country that seeks respect, so they should be engaged with respect. Other countries should consider the advantages of Egypt under this government. Under extremist rule, Egypt can be dangerous. Egypt produced Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al-Qaeda. It is always better to have balanced and moderate leadership.

iF: The U.S. appears to have embarked on a plan to “win” the Iranians back into a responsible place in the region by lifting sanctions and hoping the public will demand a continually improving economy. This relies on the idea that President Rouhani is, in fact, a “moderate” and that he can sell a mandate for an improved economy to the Ayatollah

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

Khamenei—whether or not Iran maintains its nuclear arsenal at the end. AG: President Obama’s leadership on sanctions was important; without him there would be no sanctions—and sanctions are the reason Iran has decided to talk to the “Great Satan.” The sanctions posed an existential threat to regime control, which is the Iranians’ priority. The present alleged moderation is meant for consumption by the West and Rouhani is the best marketing agent I’ve seen—he repeats the same lies in a more moderate tone. Israel’s concern is that an interim agreement may make it impossible to reach a final agreement that will keep Iran from having nuclear weapons. The nuclear issue is the main issue, but I would say too that Iran supports terror and engages in terror all over the world. Mainly, it fails. But there have been many attempts to murder and assassinate Israelis—diplomatic personnel or the spouses of Embassy personnel. We are dealing with a vicious regime that poses also a military threat through Syria and Hezbollah.

iF: The Syrian war seems to have sunk into a place from which Asad can’t exactly win, but from which he will not be ousted. Is it possible that Syria will be carved into autono-

Kurdish State? Is that something Israel would welcome? How might it interfere with Israel’s relations with Turkey, which still appear to be mired in political quicksand?

AG: The Syrian military has the full support of Hezbollah and Iran. Beyond that, Syria doesn’t exist as a country. One-third of its population is refugees and there have been atrocities beyond imagination. But it is unlikely to split into neat areas. The country is simply coming apart and there is no winner, just chaos. The larger concern is that from the weak body of Syria, al-Qaeda will threaten Israel, Jordan, Europe and even the United States. Al-Qaeda grows and becomes more capable in a vacuum—and Syria right now is a vacuum. The state is being dismantled. It is segmenting, but not splitting apart—it is like volcanic lava. What we have in the region is a “new map of chaos.” With the exception of kingdoms and natural countries like Egypt, the map in the atlas doesn’t exist on the ground.

AG: The Kurds are smart—they haven’t asked for an independent country, which would have to be agreed to. But they have established a state. They have a military, an independent economy, and they govern themselves where they are. They believe that a strong economic and military allow them to live in an independent way. From their point of view, this is better. Prime Minister Erdogan in Turkey faces challenging elections this spring, local, municipal, as well as at the state level. He has many challenges. Economic relations between Israel and Turkey are flourishing, but there is nothing military, and normal diplomatic relations haven’t been resumed yet.

iF: Does that open the possibility of Kurdish autonomous areas, or even an independent

iF: One thing that has become clear from the Syrian war is that it is unlikely to be contained to just the territory of Syria. There are foreign fighters on both sides and presumably some of them will go back


to where they came from - with additional weapons, training and friends. One of the possibilities is increased influence for Salafi radicalism in the West Bank. Have you seen it emerge? How can the Government of Israel cope with it? AG: Peace with the Palestinians is a strategic choice for Israel, we believe in peace with the Palestinians. But you have a division even among Palestinian factions— Hamas wants to get rid of anyone who disagrees with it. There are Fatah officials from Gaza who were murdered by Hammas. And Hamas is trying to export its capabilities to the West Bank. Salafists are also trying to expand in the West Bank—why wouldn’t they? This is an ideology that does not have boundaries like a country. It spreads where it can and it is in the West Bank as well. But we are not alone in thinking about how to deal with it. Fatah recognizes that this is as much a threat to them as it is to Israel. So, even if we believe in peace with our neighbors, we understand that without Israeli security measures in the West Bank terror can arise from there again and attack both Israelis and Palestinians.

interview with Amos Gilad

mous zones? Would the Sunni zones be likely to be governed by jihadists or less extreme Sunnis? How does Israel find a reasonably secure place for itself under that circumstance?

informed analysis and opinion Sign up for the weekly newsletter online at

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


Identity and Loyalty in Islam and the Middle East by Harold Rhode


esterners strive to solve problems. When people appear obstinate, we often indignantly say, “Are you part of the solution, or part of the problem?” This is alien to Middle Eastern and Islamic culture. Middle Easterners cope with problems for which they know there are no solutions—akin to living with a chronic illness. Islam, for example, does not recognize the equality of all people. Muslims are the rightful rulers of the Muslim world. Non-Muslims who believe in God and who have a revelation from God before Islam do have the right to live in Muslim societies. They are called “dhimmis” which means, “protected people,” who can live in the Muslim world, albeit in positions of political and social infe-

part because its French-inspired Constitution, written when Maronite Christians were the largest confessional group, decrees that the Lebanese President must be a Christian. The anomaly of the Head of State being a non-Muslim is a driving force in Lebanese civil strife. Muslims rationalize it by comparing their prophet Muhammad’s temporary peace agreement with his enemies, until he could regroup and defeat them. This is also why Israel can never be accepted as a Jewish state. From the Muslim point of view, the land of Israel is Muslim territory because it was conquered by Muslims in 637 C.E., and will remain Muslim forever. The only way this might change is if Muslim scholars themselves re-examine their sources and try to find ways within

In the West, religious and national/ethnic identities are usually separate and do not necessarily overlap. In the Muslim world, however, ethnicity/nationality and religious identity are almost completely intertwined. riority. To be sure, they might become important. There have been Christian Foreign Ministers in Egypt (Butros Ghali) and Jordan (Marwan Mu’ashar), but Christians know they cannot hope to rule their countries. This is most clear in Egypt, where the Copts, native Christians descended from the ancient Egyptians, cannot aspire to become Egypt’s president because that position is reserved for a Muslim. Lebanon is in constant upheaval in


their tradition to come to grips with realities on the ground. Jews and Christians were forced to do this long ago as a result of political realities they had to face. But for now, it is hard to imagine that Muslims would do the same.

z Religious Identity

In the West, religious and national/ ethnic identities are usually separate and do not necessarily overlap. In the Muslim world, however, ethnicity/nationality and

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

religious identity are almost completely intertwined. A Lebanese Maronite, for example, shares more in common with non-Lebanese Maronite, than with a Lebanese Muslim. Their language, food, and culture might be different, but their point of view, their “Maroniteness,” is the core of their identity. The same can be said for Lebanese Druze, Shiites, and Sunnis. Religion and political identity almost always trump everything else—including citizenship. This puzzles Westerners for whom citizenship generally trumps, but in the Middle East, the boundaries of “countries” do not correspond with the history of the people living there. Many Sunni Jordanian families in Amman, for example, are intermarried with Sunni families from Damascus, which in Western terms is the capital of a different country. Muslims and Christians fought a bitter civil war in Lebanon in the 1970s. Maronite Christians, who led the fighting on the Christian side, are aligned with the Roman Catholic Church. At that time, there was also a civil war in Northern Ireland between Catholics and Protestants. Most Lebanese Muslims didn’t even know where Northern Ireland was, but they were very pro-Protestant because they believed they shared a common Catholic enemy. If we in the West are to understand how and why Middle Easterners make political decisions, we must understand how they view themselves. Clearly, Shiite identity unites Shiites throughout the world, irrespective of ethnicity or nationality. Arab and Iranian Shiites might hate each other—they have good historical

z Children Whose Parents Have Different Identities

In the United States, a child is a citizen if either parent is a citizen. Not so in the Middle East, where identity comes almost exclusively from the father. In Turkey, for example, Turks and Kurds freely intermarry. Intermarriage is so common that, from a Western point of view, one would think that Kurdish-Turkish difficulties should have abated as the groups blended together. But people take the identity of their fathers and if their father was a Kurd, they are Kurds, even if they have never lived in the traditional Kurdish area of southeastern Turkey, and even if they don’t speak Kurdish. A friend in Turkey had a Kurdish grandfather who married a Turkish woman. Despite the fact that they lived in southeastern Anatolia where Kurds strongly predominate, their child—my friend’s father—was raised in an almost completely Turkish-speaking household. The family moved to Istanbul, a Turkishspeaking city. My friend’s father married a Turkish woman who also spoke no Kurdish; their son—my friend—knows almost none. He has children and grandchildren, absolutely none of whom speak Kurdish. This family has been living in a completely Turkish environment for five generations. From the Western point of view, they are clearly Turks. Despite that, my friend, when asked about his identity, responded without missing a beat, “We are Kurds, of course!” This has caused even senior American diplomats to err. During a visit to Washington by the leaders of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurds were astounded to hear senior White House and State Department officials tell them they should not identify as Kurds, but rather as Iraqis. That is the equivalent of telling a man to stop thinking like a man and think like a penguin; the chances of success are infinitesimal.

Another example is the relationship between Iraqis and Kuwaitis. For generations, Iraqis from Basra in southern Iraq have married into Kuwaiti families. During both the U.S.-led coalition war in Kuwait in 1991, and the Iraq war in 2003, many people on both sides of the border were in political limbo, depending on who was winning. Women were

In 2007, when President Bush launched the Surge in Anbar—Western, Sunni-dominated Iraq—to put down the insurrection, there were 21 tribal groups: 18 opposed to us and 3 neutral. Within one year, we had eighteen on our side, and three waffling. What happened, and what does this tell us about the importance of the tribal structure in that area?

This puzzles Westerners for whom citizenship generally trumps, but in the Middle East, the boundaries of “countries” do not correspond with the history of the people living there. particularly affected because they acquired their husbands’ citizenship upon marriage and if the country of their birth lost, they would lose citizenship in their native land. If an American woman marries an Iranian or a Saudi, she becomes a citizen of her husband’s country. If the married couple wants to visit the husband’s homeland, she could only do so using a passport of her husband’s country. And once in the Middle East, she can only leave if the husband agrees. Identity is not a matter of choice. A man is what his father is and a woman is what her husband is. It is extremely difficult—and often dangerous—to try to change that identity. Conversion from Islam, for example, is punishable by death.

z Tribal Identities

To Western ears, the word “tribe” conjures up American Indians or nomads in tents. In the Middle East, however, the word “tribe” means large-group identity, usually of ancient origin. “Tribal” members can live in cities, be university professors, and even immigrate to the West, but they in some way still retain their tribal identity. Two of the largest tribal identities in the Middle East are Qays and Yemen, groups that trace their origins back to tribes in today’s Saudi Arabia and Yemen in the early days of Islam.

President Bush ordered the Marines to restore order. The Marines learned the local social structure in the area, and after putting down the revolt, used that structure as a basis for giving people incentives to stay within the system. The Surge succeeded because the Marines were the strongest “tribe.” The Marine “tribe” did not come to destroy the local order, but to make sure everyone got along. When local leaders realized it was in their interest to cooperate with the Marines they quickly jumped in to be on the winning team—the team that would ensure that their local tribal structure remained intact. Goods and services were distributed through that tribal network of notables, which strengthened the social structure that worked within that local culture. Then America abandoned Anbar, and Al-Qaeda and its affiliates were able to return to wreak havoc. Had the locals known that we would still back them up, even from the air, there would have been a much better chance that the fundamentalists would not have been able to return.

Harold Rhode: Identity and Loyalty in Islam and the Middle East

reason—but they also recognize that they have suffered and continue to suffer the same fate at the hands of the Sunnis.

z Clan/Family Identities

Extended family identities form an extremely important aspect of life in the Middle East. These relationships are much stronger than the so-called national identities based on borders created at the

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


Crusaders versus Muslims chess sets are still available in the markets of Jerusalem.

end of World War I. One of the most respected Sunni aristocratic families of Damascus Syria— the al-‘Azm family—has been prominent there since at least the 16th century. The family married into other prominent Sunni families throughout the Muslim world, including Istanbul. Were these families Turks or Arabs? It hardly mat-

continued to marry and interact as they had for hundreds of years. Another example is the relationship between today’s Jerusalem-based Nashashibi and Husseini families, great rivals in Jerusalem. Some years ago, I visited Naser alDin al-Nashashibi in his ornate Jerusalem house in Sheikh Jarrah. Across the

Identity is not a matter of choice. A man is what his father is and a woman is what her husband is. It is extremely difficult—and often dangerous—to try to change that identity. tered because they were all Sunnis. In the post-World War I era, when many states were created out of what had been the Ottoman Empire, Arab and Turkish nationalism became the rage and the borders of these newly created states were super-imposed on local identities. People carried documents declaring them citizens of this country or that, but their personal identities did not change, traditional marriage patterns continued and people on both sides of the new and arbitrary borders


street was the mansion of the al-Husseini family. These bitter rivals loathed each other, not because they disagreed politically, but because they both wanted to be THE most notable family in Jerusalem. One Nashashibi ancestor had been the mayor of Jerusalem. One Husseini family member had been the notorious Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem and friend of Hitler. Nashashibi spewed venom and vindictiveness about the Husseinis. On a visit to the Husseinis, I heard

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

the same about the Nashashibis. What was more important here, their national or religious identities—both were Sunni Muslims—or their personal rivalries? They both spent more time maligning each other than they did maligning Israel. On the other hand, Nashashibi told a story about his uncle by marriage, Ismet Inonu the second President of Turkey. He said that his aunt had married Inonu, who insisted on calling the Nashashibis “Ok Atan” which is the Turkish translation of Nashashibi (meaning spear/arrow-thrower). Nashashibi was very proud of his uncle by marriage and aunt, he told us. I asked, “Is your family Arab, and part of your family Turkish?” He answered that his family probably of Kurdish or Circassian origin, and had come from Egypt hundreds of years ago. So were they Arabs, Turks, Kurds, or Circassian? They were, he said, Sunni. As for the Husseinis, they believed their origins to be from today’s Saudi Arabia. Neither, therefore, is originally what is today understood as Palestinian.

z Sunni vs. Shiite

This brings us to what is probably the most important over-arching identity throughout the Muslim world—Sunnis

the Gulf States and Egypt), and a harmless enemy (kowtowing to Iran, doing nothing to stop Putin, and abandoning its Polish and Czech allies by withdrawing ballistic missile defense radars). Adding to the confusion, Arab Shiites also see Iran as their oppressor, trying to make Arab Shiites into Persians. Thus they feel

Sunni Arab fundamentalism? In the long run this is a much more dangerous force than Iran, once regime change occurs there. Most likely, a new Iranian regime would no longer have such a cantankerous relationship with the outside world, and might revert to its traditional position of seeing the U.S. and others as al-

When local leaders realized it was in their interest to cooperate with the Marines they quickly jumped in to be on the winning team—the team that would ensure that their local tribal structure remained intact. doubly abandoned. They cannot trust Iran, and now America is consorting with its enemy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, whom the Arab Shiites know hates America. According to the great scholar Fouad Ajami, Arabs Shiites are the stepchild of the Muslim world: hated by the Sunnis because they are Shiite, and despised by the Iranians because they are Arab.

z After Regime Change

Clearly, these Arab Shiites need reliable external allies with similar existential problems. Could these allies include the ‘Alawites in Syria, the myriad Christian groups still resident in the Middle East, the Druze, or even Israel? ‘Alawites and Jews are there to stay, and the Arab Shiites know that. All these groups together suffered from the vicissitudes of the extreme Islamic Sunni fundamentalist wave shaking up the region. And what about the Kurds, who are also overwhelmingly Sunni, but are oppressed both in Turkey and in the Arab world? Could they too join such an informal alliance? Moreover, could all of these groups also find common cause—at least temporarily—with traditional Arab Sunni notables and chieftains who themselves are almost under attack by the Sunni Salafi extremists? Could alliances—formal or otherwise—develop to defeat the scourge of

lies. The vast majority of Iranians want nothing more than to stop being pariahs; they deeply want to be part of the modern world and overwhelmingly hate the regime. After regime change, Iran would almost assuredly join the abovementioned alliance against Sunni fundamentalism, and would no longer be a threat to its neighbors. The Arab regimes across the Gulf could breathe a sigh of relief. Fantasy? Possibly. But understanding the Middle East and Islam as Middle Easterners and other Muslims do provides ways of addressing problems, even if they cannot be solved. It is time to rethink how we understand the Middle East and Islam, and when we learn how to view the world as they do, consider ways to manage these problems in ways that make sense to the Middle Eastern mind. The Middle East has survived for millennia, and has learned how to cope with problems—but not solve them. This is alien to us, but it may be the only way to stop the murder and mayhem they are inflicting on each other now.

Harold Rhode: Identity and Loyalty in Islam and the Middle East

vs. Shiites. As noted above, Middle Easterners accept that most problems cannot be solved, and that these problems come to the surface from time to time. The Sunni-Shiite split occurred when their prophet Muhammad died in 632 C.E. Upon his death, Muslims had to decide who should rule in his place. The group that eventually became known as the Sunnis prevailed; they had been the aristocracy of Mecca. The losers—eventually known as Shiites—were those who supported Muhammad’s family, and thought they should be the rightful rulers of Islam. (Editors Note: For more on this, see Rhode, inFOCUS Summer 2013.) Sunnis and Shiites are still fighting the battle that started almost 1400 years ago. Compare that to the American phrase, “That’s history,” meaning something that might have taken place last week. We look for ways to “let bygones be bygones,” shake hands, and move on, Middle Eastern culture has never developed ways to leave the past behind. Sunnis—about 85% of the Muslim world—see Shiites at best as misguided and have often discriminated against and murdered them. Shiites quake in fear of the next onslaught. No wonder that when Israel marched in southern Lebanon in 1982, the Shiites greeted the IDF with flowers and rice, seeing the Israelis as liberators from the yoke of Sunni Palestinian and Lebanese oppression. As a battered minority, Shiites look for outside strong protectors. Privately, many Shiites have learned to distrust the U.S., because in their experience the U.S. comes in, uses force, and then leaves. Why, the Shiites argue, should they throw their lot in with the Americans who do not stand up for them against their enemies? Are the Shiites happy now about President Obama’s attempt to negotiate with (Shiite) Iran, and abandoning America’s traditional allies—the Arab Sunni rulers of the Gulf and Egypt? Not exactly. Shiites cannot understand American behavior, because America has proven to be unreliable (regarding

Harold Rhode, Ph.D., served from 1982-2010 as an Advisor on Islamic Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He is now a distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


Arc of Instability or Shiite Crescent? by Clare M. Lopez


view is taking hold across the Middle East and beyond that the United States is determined to implement a policy of withdrawal from international leadership—or at least from leadership of the free world and those who dream of being part of it. Withdrawal from both Afghanistan and Iraq, where Islamic Law, the Taliban, alQaeda, and Iran already are moving to fill voids left by Western forces, set the stage for what increasingly is perceived as U.S. abandonment of natural and traditional allies throughout the region in favor of the equally jihadist Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and Shiite Iranian regime. Regional upheavals driven by al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood that began in 2010 are seen as having gotten their “green light” with President Obama’s June 2009 Cairo speech. Speaking directly to the Muslim Brotherhood representatives whom he’d invited sitting in the front row, the president spoke of a “partnership between America and Islam” and said that “America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.” The absence of a coherent U.S. national security doctrine that codifies a plan for dealing with jihadist adversaries, whether Shiite or Sunni, at the nation state or subnational level, undoubtedly contributes to the impression of U.S. policy as directionless and stumbling; absent such a strategy, adversaries like al-Qaeda and Iran have been swift to seize the advantage. A “New World Disorder,” as Foundation for Defense of Democracies’s Cliff May put it, is the result. Across the heart of the Middle East, the Levant, and northward to Turkey, expanding chaos defines the region as an


arc of instability where intra-Islamic sectarian strife rages and the U.S. appears undecided about whether to back Shiites or Sunnis. It has wound up supporting some of each, but never the pro-democracy groups that ought to be natural allies in efforts to nurture liberal civil society and hold the line against chaos and tyranny. The Iranian people and exiled opposition, at Camp Liberty and throughout the diaspora, despair of American help to stand up to bullies and thugs. The Jewish State of Israel, the most obvious of American partners in the Middle East, increasingly faces hostility and pressure from a U.S. administration apparently more interested in outreach to those who declare openly their genocidal intent. Against this backdrop, a number of complex and confusing conflicts are reshaping the region in ways that make it unlikely the status quo ante can be restored. Ancient hatreds and rivalries, not just between Shiites and Sunnis, but among ethnic, religious, sectarian, and tribal entities are shredding post-WW II maps drawn up by 20th century Western powers. Nation states such as Iraq and Syria, whose constituent ethnic and sectarian elements—Shiites, Sunnis, Alawites, Christians, Druze, Jews, and Kurds—were cobbled together by strokes of a pen and held together for decades only by sheer force of terror are now being torn apart. Thousands of jihadist militias with constantly shifting allegiances swarm across these landscapes, fighting the Nouri al-Maliki and Bashar al-Asad regimes and increasingly, each other as well. Chaos reigns and yet, behind the scenes, power brokers are moving pieces on the chess board, each seeking to shape

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

outcomes to best advantage. The central conflict at the moment that inexorably draws in all around it is the civil war raging in Syria since 2011. Originally an unarmed civilian uprising against the brutal Asad regime, over a period of months the government’s savage response ensured that the largelyMuslim Brotherhood-inspired opposition would arm itself in self-defense. Defectors from among Asad’s senior military ranks brought fighting capability and organization to what began as a rag-tag assortment of community-based militias. Soon enough, however, big power backers entered the fray on both sides. Tehran, which views Syria as a critical link to its Hezbollah terror proxies in Lebanon, committed quickly to keeping Asad and his AlawiteBaathist regime in power. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei initially provided financial and weapons assistance, then, as rival Saudi and other Gulf sponsors began to arm the rebels, upped the ante and sent additional IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), Quds Force, and MOIS (Ministry of Intelligence and Security) cadre as advisors and strategists. Soon enough, thousands of Hezbollah fighters also were ordered into Syria, as rebel forces began to seize more territory.

z Providing Weapons to the Fighters

By early 2012, President Obama had signed a Presidential Intelligence Finding to provide “non-lethal” assistance to the Syrian rebels, which were and remain heavily dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadists. The Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Con-

Clare M. Lopez: Arc of Instability or Shiite Crescent?

trol (OFAC) followed up in July 2012 with a waiver that authorized the Syrian Support Group to provide direct financial assistance to the Syrian Free Army (SFA). Unfortunately for the out-financed, outgunned, and out-numbered elements of the SFA that were genuinely pro-Western, the Syrian Support Group turned out to be a Chicago-based front group for the Syrian National Council (SNC), itself a MuslimBrotherhood-dominated political umbrella group, some of whose top members came from U.S. Brotherhood fronts such as CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), and IIIT (International Institute for Islamic Thought). Once again, instead of seeking out and supporting proponents of civil society, U.S. leadership systematically by-passed the liberals and selectively engaged with avowed jihadists. Weapons flowing in every direction only add to the conflagration. As post-Qaddafi Libya struggled to form a stable government, thousands of weapons looted from government stockpiles as well as shipped in under U.S. direction from Qatar and elsewhere during the 2011 revolution began now to flow outward, again with U.S. assistance, to Syrian

zam Brigades and Jabhat al-Nusra have struck repeatedly deep inside Hezbollah’s Dahiyeh stronghold in southern Beirut. Lebanon’s always-tense balance of power, which Hezbollah dominates, has been shaken—ironically by al-Qaeda, which Hezbollah itself trained in bomb making and explosives skills. Israel, too, has been drawn into the Syrian conflict, launching at least half a dozen air strikes intended to prevent Damascus from transferring qualitatively more sophisticated weaponry, usually missiles, to Hezbollah. The roles played in the Syrian civil war by Turkey and the U.S. are as complicated and contradictory as any. Early in the uprising, Turkey openly sided with the key Muslim Brotherhood rebel leadership, demanded that Asad step down, hosted the Syrian National Council, and worked with the CIA to facilitate the movement of fighters and weapons across Turkish territory and into Syria. According to Israel’s military intelligence chief, al-Qaeda has set up logistics and training camps for Syria-bound fighters in Turkey (as it has, even more surprisingly, inside Iran). The Free Syrian Army still runs its operations out of refugee camps strung along the Turkish-Syrian border while U.S. Special Forces train “moderate” elements of the FSA in Jordan. Additionally, Turkey has kept a wary eye on its restive Kurdish minority for signs of collaboration with Syrian Kurdish groups, which as it turns out, have sought mostly to stay out of the fighting while consolidating control over their own ethnic enclaves. Things took another unexpected turn in late 2013, when reports emerged of a budding rapprochement between Turkey and Iran. In January 2014, Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, beleaguered at home by a corruption scandal and acrimonious rift with erstwhile allies loyal to fellow Islamic neo-Ottoman Fethullah Gulen, flew to Tehran for two days of meetings with Iranian regime leadership figures. Although no senior U.S. administration figure has yet paid a visit to the Iranian Supreme Leader, relations between

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


battlefields. Thousands of jihadist fighters also began flowing into Syria from near and far. By 2012, Syria had become the number one global destination for hardline jihadist foreign fighters, who according to The New York Times, were also the ones receiving the majority of weapons shipped by Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Wall Street Journal reporting from early March 2014 indicated that Saudi Arabia, apparently with U.S. backing, has agreed to provide Syrian rebels with advanced weaponry, to include shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles. Unfortunately, the designated recipients are fighters from the Yarmouk-Brigade-dominated Southern Front—which collaborates with Jabhat alNusra, the Syrian al-Qaeda franchise.

z Adding to the Conflagration

Inevitably, as the conflict tore Syria’s complex ethnic and sectarian social fabric apart, it also has spilled across borders, threatening destabilization in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. That spillover includes massive numbers of refugees whose needs additionally strain the already stressed economies of Syria’s neighbors. Retaliatory car bomb attacks claimed by al-Qaeda affiliates including the Abdullah Az-

Iran and the U.S. likewise have warmed considerably since the (completely unacknowledged) Iranian collaboration with al-Qaeda in the attacks of 9/11 and the decade that followed of Iranian backing, funding, intelligence, and explosives supply to jihadist militias fighting, killing, and maiming U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. From the earliest days of the Obama administration, accommodation and outreach to Tehran have marked the theme of the bilateral relationship. Iranian and Hezbollah support to the Asad regime, continued harboring of al-Qaeda

recruit and train some of the 9/11 hijackers), and laid a wreath on his tomb. To top it all off, reporting since September 2013 indicates American officials are engaged at a minimum in indirect talks with Hezbollah (with the British as go-betweens) and perhaps are even in direct contact. For erstwhile U.S. partners in the region, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states, the spectacle of the U.S. not only engaging with the rising regional hegemon, but offering significant concessions with so little to show in return is disconcerting, to say the least—and likely

American capitulation to Iranian interests, to the detriment of U.S. national security interests and those of America’s regional allies, occasions deep concern and ultimately will do irreparable damage to both non-proliferation and stability objectives. cells on Iranian territory, Iran’s growing hegemony in Iraq, and holding of American citizen hostages (Christian pastor Sayeed Abedini and former FBI agent Robert Levinson) all notwithstanding, the Obama administration has focused single-mindedly on the nuclear negotiation process. Senior Iranian military and regime officials openly mock Secretary of State John Kerry and call Obama “the low-IQ U.S. president” while boasting of having bested the P5 + 1 negotiators who demanded so little while conceding all of the Iranian key objectives: the right to continued nuclear enrichment, retention of Low Enriched Uranium stocks, freedom to work on newer, faster centrifuges, ballistic missiles off the table, and best of all, the effective end of the international sanctions program. For good measure, just in case the contempt were not already glaringly obvious, in February 2014, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif traveled to Beirut for the annual commemoration of the 2008 assassination of top Hezbollah terror chief Imad Mughniyeh (who directed the 1983 Marine Corps barracks bombing and helped


will prove destabilizing as well. American capitulation to Iranian interests, to the detriment of U.S. national security interests and those of America’s regional allies, occasions deep concern and ultimately will do irreparable damage to both nonproliferation and stability objectives. The United States’ perceived acquiescence to an Iranian nuclear weapons capability may catalyze even worse sectarian conflict, as the Saudis in particular fear Shiite Persian designs on their east coast (where most of the Saudi oil wealth as well as its Shiite population are located). Prince Bandar’s failure to dislodge Asad may lead to more than his loss of the Syrian portfolio: leaks about the Saudis acquiring a nuclear capability from the Pakistanis have made their way into the open media. A regional race to match Iran’s nuclear capabilities would destroy whatever is left of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, taking with it any hopes for regional stability. Fragmented and uncontrollable as they are, the concentration of hard-core Islamic jihadist forces on the delivery end of well-funded backing from terrorsupporting states like Iran and Saudi

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

Arabia sooner or later is bound to expand operations beyond Syria. The threat from trained, battle-hardened, ideologically pumped jihadis, many hundreds of whom have come from Canada, the U.S., and Western Europe, cannot be confined to Syrian battlefields. Just as the Afghan mujahedeen, Chechen war veterans, and Iraqi terror militias eventually began to think about the “far enemy,” returned home, and moved on to other arenas, so too will these fighters. The threat to U.S. interests and those of our friends and allies and once again, even to the American homeland, is very real and only grows the longer conflict persists. Absent a national strategic vision of American leadership, the Obama administration not only fails to defend core U.S. interests, but has not even chosen between Shiite and Sunni, al-Qaeda and Iran. Instead, rather unbelievably, it’s managed to provide material support to them all. The U.S. failure to confront Iran’s jihadist Shiite regime and willingness to engage in a policy of appeasement toward that regime’s expansionist, genocidal, and hegemonic agenda matches up disturbingly closely to the blueprint of action laid out in Robert Baer’s 2009 book, “The Devil We Know.” Except for the confusingly simultaneous U.S. support for Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s neoOttoman ambitions and Syrian al-Qaeda and Brotherhood affiliates, it might seem U.S. policy to see what Jordanian King Abdullah called a “Shiite crescent” come into being. As it is, it’s merely a muddle of conflicting initiatives. The continuation of conflict, national disintegration, and internecine civil strife across this arc of instability is devastating to Iraqi, Lebanese, Syrian, and Turkish national cohesion, and left to run its course, threatens not just those already-fractured societies, but because of great power involvement, international stability itself. Clare M. Lopez is a strategic policy and intelligence expert with a focus on Middle East, national defense, WMD, and counterterrorism issues.

America Must Recognize Kurdistan by Sherkoh Abbas, Robert Sklaroff, and Joseph Puder


ow that the Geneva “peace” convocation has predictably collapsed, so too has America’s paradigm for Syria that—at various times—has favored Shiites (Alawite President al-Asad) and Sunnis (al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood). As the civil war rages on, America should instead support the newborn, self-ruling nonIslamist entity—Kurdistan—as a model for a coalition Syrian government. Kurds have unsuccessfully sought freedom and self-determination since dissolution of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the legal basis of their modern-day independence efforts. Perhaps a parallel history explains the longstanding friendship between Kurds and Jews, for the Kurdish experience (citing Sèvres) recapitulates Israel’s (citing Balfour).

z Kurds Have Struggled for Independence

The Kurds are an Indo-European ethnic group—descents of Medes and Hurrians—which has, for four millennia, inhabited a region that includes parts of present day Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan. Kurds are now largely Sunni Muslims, although nonMuslim Kurds are Jews, Christians, and Yazedi (who are, themselves, related to Zoroastrianism). About the time of the Arab conquests in the Seventh Century, the term “Kurd” (with Greek roots) was beginning to be applied as an ethnic description of the Persian-influenced Kurdish tribes. Kurds have historically befriended Jews, from Cyrus the Great (the only non-Jew to be viewed as a “messiah” for his decree to rebuild the Jerusalem

Temple in 539 B.C.E., as per Isaiah 44:24, 26–45:3, 13) to Sultan Saladin (who promoted coexistence of the three major religions in Jerusalem in 1187, abrogating the wishes of many Muslims and Christians.) A few short-lived Kurdish dynasties appeared between 830-1150 until the Seljuk Sultan Sandjar “Turk” annexed 17 Kurdish principalities by 1150 and officially established “Kurdistan Province.” The Kurdish dynasty, Ayyubid, founded by Sultan Saladin Ayyubi, took over the Muslim leadership. His empire lasted almost a century (1169-1250), and he garnered long-term Christian antipathy for having allowed Jews to return to Jerusalem en masse and for having expelled the Crusaders from the Middle East. In 1514, Turkish Sultan Selim I forged an alliance with the Kurds to protect its eastern borders from the Persian empire; in exchange for this support, Kurds attained self-rule in Kurdistan, yielding three centuries of peace, stability and cultural renaissance. The Bohtan (Botan) Emirate (18121848), declared by Bader Khan Pasha as the first Kurdish kingdom, was absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1908. After World War I, just as the USSR ultimately evicted Armenians, Kurdish interests were eroded by a sequence of treaties and betrayals. Kurds were promised independence in the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), which outlined a truncated Kurdistan located solely on Turkish territory (excluding Iran, British-controlled Iraq, and French-controlled Syria), but the treaty was supplanted by the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which was silent on the subject of Kurdish rights. In this fashion, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of mod-

ern Turkey, deceived the Kurds. The first Kurdish republic was formed in Eastern Kurdistan (Kurdistan of Iran) and lasted one year (1946-1947) until its leader, Qazi Muhammad, was executed by the Iranian regime. As a result, Kurds were not mentioned in any subsequent international document until 1991, when U.N. Security Council Resolution 688 outlined the fate of Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait had been reversed in the Gulf War.

z Kurds Merit Independence

Thus, just as Israel was re-established as a Jewish state in 1948, the Kurds have yearned for self-rule. They merit a homeland to allow their distinct history, language, and culture to flourish. Although they enjoy quasi-sovereignty in northern Iraq, they have been repulsed during recent decades in eastern Turkey and they have been brutalized in Syria and Iran. Perpetuating their promotion of tolerance from King Cyrus to Sultan Saladin are their staunchly pro-American and pro-Israeli views. An independent Kurdistan would therefore serve as a bulwark against Syrian antagonists, but they need support from the United States, as they are surrounded by armies that covet their oil-rich lands and seek their demise. Were the U.S. and Western Nations to support the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria and its allied Kurdish National Council of Syria forces—which dominate the Syrian Kurdish militia and political leadership—they could vet leaders of antiAsad forces among Turks or rebels supported by the Arab Gulf-States, lest support be rendered to Islamists of whatever stripe. This would yield the ability to form

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


a Republic led by an amalgamation of Kurds, non-Islamist Sunnis, non-Islamist Shiites, Assyrians, and Christians. Kurds know that nations formed by mirroring British and French spheres of regional influence—following myriad ideologies (from Leftists to Islamists)—have penetrated, derailed and undermined Kurdish movements aspiring for self-determination; which is why the Kurdish masses have resisted and rejected such tactics. Reversing American passivity would yield resistance to self-serving motives of those who resist Kurdish empowerment, particularly when it is possible to achieve incremental improvement in Syria that would promise the long-term stability of a representative government yielding, in turn, to the return of millions of refugees who had fled this war-torn country. Instead, America (officially, via humanitarian aid) and the Gulf States (overtly, militarily) support radical Pan-Arab Nationalists and Islamist groups such as the Syrian National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army (themselves encompassing terrorist groups such as The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS). Through it all, the Kurds have resisted pressure to join them against the Asad regime in exchange for the promise of being recognized as citizens. The Kurds reject such entreaties not because of fealty to the Asad regime, which continues to massacre its citizenry, but because they perceive the rebel groups as essentially no different than the regime regarding how they treat minorities, particularly Kurds. They recall these regime opponents supported father/son-Asad for four decades, aiding/abetting the oppression of the Kurds and they observe that these rebels want regime change simply to accrue power. Kurds, however, want the revolution to promote a moderate, peaceful and democratic government that would undo injustice perpetrated on Kurds, yielding freedom, democracy, human rights, and federalism.

z Kurds Continue to Struggle for Independence

To determine which group(s) merit


The PKK senior leadership does not advocate for an independent Kurdistan. It only demands freedom for Abdullah Ocalan. support, entities purporting to represent Kurds must be identified. Even before the two-and-a-half-year uprising against Asad, Kurds [including civic, religious, political and tribal leaders] supported regime-change. Now, they promote a new Federal Syria where Kurds and other minorities would achieve self-determination and prevent radical groups from controlling the nation. Conceptually, this resembles the governmental structure established by the United States Constitution, yielding a dynamic between a central authority that ensures security and the exercise of states’ rights. Operationally, this necessitates scrutiny of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK); the former controls much of northwestern Syria near the Turkish border, and the latter is tethered to Turkey (which is itself experiencing persistent internal turmoil). Ultimately, this would yield an independent Kurdistan and involvement of Kurds in the government of the remaining Syrian region. The PYD’s “Declaration of Local Autonomy”—that Rojava, the western Kurdistan Region of Syria, should become a Federal entity—trisects Kurdistan

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

by excluding regions north and northeast of Syrian Kurdistan. Recalling what transpired almost a century ago, it risks setting precedent that could yield support for a tyrant (such as Asad) and compromised territorial control. This is why most Syrian Kurds view it as insufficient, for they don’t want to facilitate efforts by their enemies to divide and conquer the pesky Kurds, and they certainly don’t want their independence movement to be hijacked. By supporting PKK/PYD, neighboring countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Russia) block efforts by as many as 4 million Kurds in Syria to create an independent Kurdistan that could then forge a confederation with 5 million in Iraqi Kurdistan; this forestalls establishing an entity similar to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq that is pro-West and pro-democracy, while being against radical Islamists and butchers like Asad. This is how Asad and Syrian opposition groups have collaborated to suppress and to divide the Kurds; this is why self-determination is mandatory—at least for Syrian Kurdistan. In Turkey, PKK’s senior leadership does not advocate an independent Kurdistan, perhaps because its top five senior

The Jewish Policy Center Board

there is a lot of readiness in Western Eumore helpful once he left office. rope toAmerica recognize anaindependent Lula’s A influence with Argentina’s leftfederation would provide friend Palestinwing president Cristina Kirchner was key ian state.” Indeed, the PA next set its sights in the of isa home battle on the EU,Iranian/Sovietinterested in building upon to the UDI effort.heart Argentina to between its success in Latin America to convince Latin America’s largestAsad Jewish and commusupported Islamist-dominated rebels, nity, making it a challenge for the lobby- enough members to also support the UDI. precluding both from emerging victorious. ing effort. But a simultaneous diplomatic effort by Walid Muaqqat, a veteran Pales- z Soft Subversion at Play Turkish leaders. in Cooperation pro- low for Syrtinian diplomat the region, with convinced Thepeaceful vote forinteraction Palestinianbetween statehood at regime Arab andgovernment Christian groups has led ian those living inand a Diaspora. the Argentine to announce the Kurds UN is and largely symbolic designed to having of been killed, kidnapped, entity—free standing or federated— its Kurds endorsement a Palestinian state, also This to create an international impetus for a and displaced from the region, relegating would provide America an ally in the in December 2010. boycott and divestment campaign to presthemThe to refugee status. of thetobattle Iran/RussiaWashington Post reported in Feb- heart sure Israel acceptbetween untenable borders in why,“was on May 4, 2014, in Dus- supported Asad and Islamist-dominated ruaryThis thatisthis a strategy Palestinian any final agreement. But the passage of seldorf, Germany, keythe figures from rebels, a bulwark against either ultimately diplomats repeated100+ across continent the UDI will upend decades of diplomatic around the world will convene to stratcontrolling the region. Kurds can to last year, taking advantage of the region’s work by the United States and help Europe egize regarding thisties initiative and to ex- retard radicalization of that the first Middle East growing economic to the Arab world to forge an agreement requires plain what it entails…for the Kurds, for by preventing and Sunnis recognition of Shiites Israel’s right to exist,from and and eagerness to demonstrate its indeSyria, for the region, andpowerful for the internaflags stand with Islamist might actually a chancecrescents; of creatpendence from Israel’s ally, the unfurling tional promote democracy, ing awould sustainable peace deal. The tolerspeed Unitedcommunity. States.” The Argentina endorse- they andboth the pro-Western which at which the U.S. and agenda, Israel adapt to ment, coupled with that of Brazil, started ance, compatible culture. za Kurds counter thesewith soft Kurdish subversion tactics will “me too”Model cascade,Non-Radical with countries like is Islam Chile, a strong ally of the U.S. and headed determine whether there is any chance for who lament the decision Abbas is President of the Kurdpeace, or whether misguided diplomacy, by aThose right-wing government, quickly not an- Sherkoh to create an independent Kurdistan after istan Assembly of Syria; Robert nouncing their endorsement of statehood once National again, will lead to war. the Gulf War (in lieu of the no-fly-zone) Sklaroff, a Republican Committeeas well. couldThe nowWashington be vindicatedPost by creation a Person, a physician-activist; and Joseph article of also JON B.isPERDUE is the director of Latin Homeland for Kurds in Syria, Iraq, Iran Puder, a registered Democrat, is Founder quoted Nabil Shaath, the Commissioner of America programs at the Fund for Ameriand Turkey; farRelations from providing sanctuary Director the Interfaith TaskInternational for Fatah, saying, and can Executive Studies, and is theofauthor of the forthfor would al- force for book, America (ITAI). “Ourcross-border next target isattacks, Westernthis Europe. I think coming Theand WarIsrael of All the People.

Chairman: Richard Fox Honorary Chairman: Sheldon B. Kamins Vice Chairmen: Marshall J. Breger Michael David Epstein General Counsel: Jeffrey P. Altman

Jon B. Perdue: Subversion and Palestinian Sherkoh Abbas,Soft Robert Sklaroff, and JosephStatehood Puder: America Must Recognize Kurdistan

leaders are non-Kurds, theyLula’s porlomat was also quotedalthough saying that tray themselves as Kurds. The chief Middle East freelancing wasPKK’s “transpardemand freedom for Abdullah ent” andisonly designed to gain Öcalan, support undermining the Kurds. This explains for a spot on Security Council. why working with status quo groups for almost az century has notthe yielded the emergence Supporting UDI of anBrazil independent Kurdistan. under Lula became When the firstterto rorism and instability abound, America unilaterally endorse a Palestinian state (inshould support an alternative thatinisDecemfriendside Israel’s pre-1967 borders) ly Western an independent berto2010, whichinterests, at the time undermined Kurdistan that could serve asIsrael a Homeland U.S. negotiations between and the and then, if desired, federate with Kurds Palestinians. He was also responsible living in neighboring countries. This latter for convincing the presidents of Argenalternative would serve to assuage worry tina and Uruguay to endorse a Palestinian that of a rogue nation to potentially state,creation and prompted Uruguay sponsor could inflame regional tension. two summits in support of the proposal. Also, Kurds havequiet been campaign hesitant to The Palestinians’ in support thecome PKKunder or the PYDscrubeUruguayeither has since greater cause neither pro-Western idetiny after Iran’sadvocates charge d’affaires, Hojjatollah als that resonate with the Kurdish people: Soltani, denied the Holocaust in a public human democratic republic, and speech rights, at the aUruguay-Sweden Cultural possible Also,“They their (the functional Center infederation. Montevideo. Nazis) track contrasted Kurdkilled record perhapshas a few thousandwith Jews,abut that ish culture that prioritizes family values, number of millions ... is a lie,” Soltani told moderation They have those gatheredand at thetolerance. event. conscripted 10-year-olds in child-soldier Lula was also the progenitor of the operations, property first Summit commandeered of South American-Arab (e.g., automobiles) to its fund their activiCountries (ASPA by Portuguese and ties, and compromised basicwhere Kurdish Spanish initials) in 2005, he inasterests when that dealing with become Syrian even and sured Abbas he would

Board of Fellows: Richard Baehr, William J. Bennett, Mona Charen, Midge Decter, David Frum, Rabbi Joshua Haberman, David Horowitz, Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Michael A. Ledeen, Michael Medved, Larry Miller, David Novak, Daniel Pipes, John Podhoretz, Norman Podhoretz, Dennis Prager, Tevi Troy, Ruth Wisse

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Spring 2014 | Fall inFocus: Borders, and Conflicts 2011 |Nations, inFocus: A Palestinian State?

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Terror Strikes Again in Egypt by Yoram Schweizer, Shlomo Brom, and Shani Avita


he collapse of government and the anarchy that spread over Egypt right after the Mubarak regime was toppled led to the release and escape from prison of many security prisoners, veterans of the terrorist organizations operating in Egypt beginning in the 1990s, some of whom were associated with elements identified with al-Qaeda and its affiliates. After they were freed, these activists joined terrorist groups in Sinai and also reinforced the groups of local Bedouins that began to act against the Egyptian government and law enforcement officials in the peninsula. Some even joined global jihadi elements operating outside of Egypt, assisting them in their activities and disseminating al-Qaeda ideology in various countries in the Middle East. The tighter links between terrorist elements in Sinai and global jihadists have led to an upgrade of the terrorist methods in Sinai, incorporating suicide terror, for example, which is the trademark of al-Qaeda and its affiliates. The attacks in Sinai have focused on the gas pipeline to Israel and Jordan as well as on Egyptian police and military targets, and there have been a number of well-planned showcase attacks against Israel, including sporadic firing of rockets toward the city of Eilat at the southern tip of Israel. Following the significant escalation in attacks against the army and police in Sinai after Mohamed Morsi’s ouster by the Egyptian military in July 2013, the military beefed up its forces considerably. Two additional battalions were sent to the Sinai, along with attack helicopters. This was coordinated with Israel, because it was necessary to make changes to the terms of the security annex of the IsraelEgypt peace treaty. As part of its operations, the Egyptian army also attacked the terror infrastructures in Jebel Hilal,


where there was a high concentration of jihadists hiding among the local population. In addition, it raided bases belonging to terrorist organizations in northern Sinai and carried out a broad wave of arrests and pinpoint strikes against their senior commanders and operatives. Egypt’s military regime sees the Hamas government in Gaza as one of the entities enabling jihadi terrorist groups to operate in and from Sinai. It claims that the operations are directed from the Gaza Strip and aided by operatives and weapons flowing not on the familiar track of weapons smuggled from Sinai into the Gaza Strip, but in the opposite direction, from the Gaza Strip to Sinai. Consequently, the current Egyptian regime sees a need for action against Hamas in Gaza as part of its fight against terrorism in and from Sinai. The Egyptian military has worked intensively in recent months to destroy the tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Sinai that operated under the supervision of Hamas. The goal is to stop the transfer of weapons and operatives from the Gaza Strip and to prevent terrorist elements from Sinai from using the Gaza Strip as a logistical hinterland and haven. It is also limiting substantially the legal passage in and out of Gaza through the Rafah border crossing. According to the spokesman of the Egyptian army, they have managed to destroy 1,320 tunnels to date. Recently, statements from Cairo have indicated that Egypt seeks to take more decisive action against the Hamas government in Gaza in order to punish and perhaps even to overthrow the terrorist organization. It is still too early to say whether these statements will have additional operational meaning or whether they are only a propaganda campaign intended to justify what the regime is already doing. Beyond the Egyptian government’s

inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

concrete complaints against Hamas, it sees the organization as organically related to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. The military regime that toppled Morsi and his government sees the jihadi terrorist attacks as part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s counter-offensive, comprising violent demonstrations and terrorist attacks. Whether or not the leaders of the current regime truly believe that these terrorist attacks are directed by the Muslim Brotherhood, leveling accusations against Hamas and pointing to the connection with the Muslim Brotherhood will serve the regime’s purpose of discrediting the Muslim Brotherhood. The most prominent of the terrorist organizations in Sinai is Ansar Bayt alMaqdis, which was formally established in 2011 following a series of terrorist attacks carried out by its members against the Egyptian gas pipeline in Sinai. When it declared its loyalty and swore allegiance to al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, the organization made clear its ideological identity and its world view. For his part, al-Zawahiri congratulated the organization on its operations and encouraged it to continue with its struggle against the infidel regime in Egypt and its American and Israeli partners, whom the organization eyes as key enemies. The upgraded terror activity in Sinai today is characterized by daily attacks on Egyptian police stations and soldiers, including execution of soldiers, bombings of buses and military vehicles, and suicide bombings against military and police targets. There are also attempts to assassinate senior military commanders such as General Ahmed Wasfi the commander of the Second Army, and kidnappings of government officials, who are released in exchange for large ransom payments, which in turn, help to finance these ac-

would do well not to intervene in the uncompromising fight Egypt has declared against the terrorist organizations. Any Israeli public intervention could help terrorist organizations that seek to portray the Egyptian struggle against them as connected to foreign interests–namely Israel. Therefore, intervention is ill advised while the Egyptians conduct the campaign as they see fit and according to their needs, subject to flexibility in the terms of the security annex of the peace treaty with Israel. It is essential that Israel avoid being dragged into provocations by Salafist jihadis in both Gaza and Sinai, who are seeking to escalate the situation between Israel on the one hand, and Gaza and Egypt on the other. The recent rocket fire from Sinai at Eilat, and at least some of the rockets fired from Gaza, toward Israel should also be seen in this context. For Israel the new situation poses also an opportunity to upgrade its relationship with Egypt based on the common security interests of the two states. Israel, which is interested in reinforcing the peace treaty with the biggest Arab state, and ensuring security at its border with Egypt, is strongly supportive of Egypt’s struggle against terror, specifically in Sinai. Israel has also a shared interest with Egypt in containing the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip by preventing smuggling of weapons and terror activists to Gaza, and also possibly in weakening it and eventually toppling it. The intensive Egyptian operations in Sinai are actually a realization of old Israeli demands. They are already having a strong effect on the Hamas government in Gaza. The smuggling of weapons to Gaza was almost completely cut, and it is the first time in recent years Hamas was not able to replenish its weapons inventories that were depleted in operation “Pillar of Defense” (November 2012). The Egyptian siege is also one of the reasons for a dramatic worsening of the economic situation in the Gaza Strip and a financial crisis of the Hamas government, causing a visible drop in the popular support for Hamas.

Hamas’ growing weakness is also increasing its interest in avoiding escalation with Israel. Thus, it is contributing to Hamas’ compliance with the cease fire and the relative quiet on the border with Gaza. Israel’s understanding of the security needs of Egypt in Sinai and its readiness to be flexible and agree to make modifications in the size and composition of Egyptian forces that are allowed to operate in Sinai has already improved the relationship between the two states and led to a very intensive continuous security dialogue between the security establishments of two states. However, what is still missing is a renewal of a dialogue in the level of the political leadership of the two states and the civilian ministries. The covert nature of the security dialogue makes it easier for the Egyptian regime to engage in such a dialogue with Israel. It is much more difficult to engage in a political dialogue with Israel when Egypt is going through a very unstable and sensitive period of transition after toppling of the Morsi government. Egypt is going to have elections to the parliament and the presidency in the midst of a rising terror campaign and volatile public opinion. It follows that Israel will have to adopt a policy that combines patience with restraint. It has to give the internal political processes in Egypt take their time, and in the meantime keep a low profile and avoid escalation in the borders with Sinai and the Gaza Strip. A military flare up in these borders is a clear interest of the Jihadi-Salafist groups as well as other terror organizations that wish to incite Arab public opinion in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab World against Israel. Israel should not fall into this trap.

Yoram Schweizer, Shlomo Brom, and Shani Avita: Terror Strikes Again in Egypt

tivities. In addition, there have recently been renewed attacks on the gas pipeline in Sinai that leads to Jordan, which in 2014 has already been attacked five times. Moreover, tourists visiting Sinai have also became a preferred target for terrorists as shows the recent suicide bombing carried out by Ansar Beit Al Makdis which was aimed at a bus carrying Korean visitors before they crossed the border into Israel in the town of Taba. In tandem, the struggle has spilled over to Egyptian cities, and a number of showcase attacks have been carried out in major metropolitan areas. These include suicide bombings against senior Egyptian officials, such as the failed attack against Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the operations of the internal security forces (the main fighters against terrorism) and the successful lethal attack on his deputy. In addition, Mohamed Mabrouk, the Egyptian Interior Ministry official responsible for dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, was assassinated, government offices in Cairo were attacked, and establishment and financial targets in Ismailiya and Suez were struck. The perpetrators justified their activities by stating that the current Egyptian government is illegal and illegitimate, and that the security forces sanctify the legitimacy of the infidel government. They believe the situation in Egypt confirms their claims that the democracy sought by the Egyptian citizens who carried out the revolution, which led to the election of the Muslim Brotherhood, was fundamentally flawed because it was a foreign element in a Muslim nation, which must conduct itself according to sharia laws. They charge that the al-Sisi government serves the interests of the United States and Israel and maintain that they will continue to use force until the government is deposed and a regime that operates according to Islamic law is established in Egypt. For Israel, the increase in terror activity in Sinai and in Egypt proper sharpens the danger developing on its borders from global jihadi elements in the south (as well as in the north). However, Israel

Yoram Schweitzer is a senior research fellow and director of the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at INSS. Brig. Gen. (ret.) Shlomo Brom is a senior research fellow at INSS. Shani Avita is an intern in the Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict Program at INSS.

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


One Slice of the Iraq War review by Shoshana Bryen


War Front to Store Front: Americans rebuilding trust and hope in nations under fire by Paul Brinkley Turner Publishing Company, 2014

mericans, by a fairly wide margin, tell pollsters that the Iraq war “wasn’t worth it.” This reflects, perhaps, an isolationist sentiment and desire to ignore a divisive and painful episode—a public more interested in “cocooning” than in foreign policy. The public can turn away and does. Policymakers and analysts, however, should require of themselves an understanding of the military, diplomatic, economic and social slices of the war, some of which were more successful than others. Both the interested public and the professionals would find War Front to Store Front by Paul Brinkley a very good slice of Iraq with which to start. The book could be subtitled: Hooray for Capitalism, Small Government and Leaving Business to Businessmen. Brinkley, an almost-but-not-quite-failed dotcom executive, was invited into government service in 2003 by Department of Defense officials who recognized his talent for logistics. Planning a Washington-based project to improve DOD contracting, Brinkley found himself in Iraq, a lone wolf business guru working outside most of the bureaucracy and reporting to the very highest levels of DOD. Before he returned to the private sector six years later, Brinkley also served tours in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Rwanda. In each place, his goal was to find competent local business people who could, with American private-sector business assistance, produce real, meaningful goods and services with which to improve their economies.

z “The Worst Thing You Can be is Successful”

He was very good at it, but never


inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts | Spring 2014

underestimate the power of bureaucracy. As Brinkley notes, “A humorous adage I often heard while in government, ‘the worst thing you can be in Washington is right,’ seemed to me to have an unfortunate variant, ‘the worst thing you can be in Washington is successful.’” On Brinkley’s first trip to Iraq in early 2006, he met with Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Commander of the Multinational Corps—Iraq (MNC-I). Chiarelli had made the intellectual connection between economic stability and long-term security. The more work (i.e., hope) the U.S. could provide, the fewer people would resort to the insurgency, Chiarelli and Brinkley agreed. Brinkley and his small team traveled extensively and mostly fearlessly around the country, including to insecure Sunni areas, to find businesses and businessmen they could support. Tapping associates in the U.S. and other countries, Brinkley restarted factories, provided on-the-job training for bureaucrats and managers, pulled cash that was fueling the insurgents out of the economy and helped restart the banking system. Tens of thousands of Iraqis owe Brinkley their livelihoods; not a bad return on investment. The book, however, could also be subtitled: Ten Ways to Ruin a Country.

z Ten Ways To Ruin a Country

Brinkley spent as much time battling the American bureaucracy as he did finding factories that could be made operational. His nemesis was the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which planned to redesign Iraq with no experience in the country and without regard for the people who lived and worked there. The CPA:

they had no direct experience with Iraq outside Baghdad, or with businesses in Iraq. Yet their opinions were firm and fixed. There was no room for debate or discussion. As far as they were concerned, Chiarelli was simply wrong.” Asked about the shuttered factories, the IRMO delegation said it was “shock therapy” just like in Eastern Europe. Brinkley pointed out that “comparing a shattered, war-torn economy like Iraq to Eastern Europe might not be the best comparison. After all, there was no European Union sitting next door to Iraq ready to move in, invest and hire Iraqi workers, as there had been after the cold war in Europe.” No dice. IRMO moved on to its next rote line: “Iraqis don’t have the skills necessary to compete in today’s world. It will take years before they are ready. And they have no work ethic. You are wasting your time trying to get productive work out of Iraqi factories.” Brinkley’s conclusion? “Regardless of what they thought, Iraq wasn’t some laboratory for a social science experiment.”

z “Real Countries”

That is the setup—all the rest is (very interesting and well-written) commentary. Brinkley developed enormous respect for the men and women in uniform—from enlisted personnel right up to the Flag and General Officers. He found American business people almost uniformly willing to consider Iraq in 2007-08, and many successful ventures took place. Afghanistan was harder, but even there, American companies, revved no doubt by Brinkley’s first-hand, on the ground research, showed up. Japanese, South Korean, German, and French companies did as well. A fifteen-month foray into Rwanda and an unsuccessful venture into Pakistan rounded out Brinkley’s service to the United States government. The most simple conclusions—that allowing skilled people to do what they do best is a good idea; and understanding that policy papers and Washington-based analysis will fold upon meeting conditions in the real

world regardless of how well-intentioned the wonks—seem the right ones. Brinkley provides two further themes that should be useful to Americans hoping to provide aid in less-developed countries: • First, Foreign Aid used to be easy. Send wheat, dried milk, vaccination kits, malaria nets and water purifiers for the poor and the sick (in bags promoting the USA or not) to keep them from dying. This is no longer the case. Social media and international communications have given people even in remote places the understanding that the world has more to offer than food on the dole; they want a society that will pay for the smart phone, the Vespa, the i-Pad and i-Phone and i-whatever. They want trade and commerce, profits, and the benefits of the 21st Century. And why shouldn’t they? • Second, government and large bureaucracies of government are equipped only to do the easy part. The failures of the immediate post-war period in Iraq were largely due to large bureaucracies— mainly the Coalition Provisional Authority, but also the State Department and USAID—not being flexible enough to read the signposts and provide the kind of aid Iraqi wanted. War Front to Store Front contains a deliberate editorial oddity. Brinkley is generous and very specific with his praise, naming names and pointing to dozens of people on his team, in Washington, and in the localities who believed in his mission and provided the very best kinds of government service and assistance. He has pointed barbs for a lot of specific people as well, but if you think he’s going unmask the villains, he mentions not a single one of them by name, title or description sufficient for identification. In the best tradition of American citizens, Brinkley is thus clearly marked a civilian doing government service, rather than a government operative writing a book.

review by Shoshana Bryen: War Front to Store Front

• Stood down the Army, sending hundreds of thousands of men with weapons home to places where a) there was no work and b) they were humiliated by their circumstance. • “De-Baathified” down to low-level government workers, removing people who knew how to run departments and industries, replacing them with people who were a) inexperienced and b) fearful. • Shut down all government-owned factories on the grounds that they were arms of the Ba’ath Party, taking no account of what a factory actually produced or how meaningful the jobs were in that particular place. • Took over banks and industry bank accounts, meaning that even if a factory received permission to reopen (Brinkley’s job) it had no money. • Removed tariffs from Iraqi goods, allowing neighbors to import to Iraq high value items had previously been domestically produced, and undermine local businesses and agriculture. • Handed out massive amounts of cash, allowing for massive corruption by Americans and Iraqis. • Funded the start of projects but failed to have enough cash in the pipeline to continue or expand successful undertakings. • Failed to take account of disparate regional conditions. The other two modes of destruction were arrogance and fearfulness, which should be considered at some length: Brinkley met with the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office (IRMO), follow-on to the CPA. “I asked about their travels around the country and how often they got to go see towns and businesses, to see first hand where there might be opportunities for positive effort to take place. This brought a litany of complaints about security and how the security situation was so bad they weren’t about to travel in the country. Most had not left the Green Zone in months; a few had never been ‘outside the wire.’ One had seen a factory in Baghdad, a large dairy processing plant that he described as the worst facility he had even seen. Other than that,

Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center and Editor of inFOCUS Magazine.

Spring 2014 | inFocus: Nations, Borders, and Conflicts


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Russia Occupies Crimea As the Spring 2014 issue of inFOCUS went to press, the Russians had swallowed the Crimean Peninsula, home to their Black Sea Fleet, but part of independent Ukraine. Professor Henry R. Nau wrote, “American foreign policy should seek to increase the number of regimes that are democratic, not just to preserve global stability or defend national borders. But it would seek to do so primarily on the borders of countries where freedom already exists, not in areas such as the Middle East [Iraq] or southwest Asia [Afghanistan].” Neighboring countries share history, culture and language even across artificial borders; East and West Germany were both Germany. It should not have been a surprise that the fall of communism came from Central Europe rather than Central Asia and that the two spheres developed differently over the past 20-odd years. Israel, at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, shares trade and politics to its West; Lebanon, in the same geographical space, shares to its East, with all that implies for the differences in their political development stemming from European liberalism or Middle Eastern religious retrogression. Attempting to insert democracy, or democratic norms in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan or even Egypt is tilling not only in rocky soil, but also in a desert—metaphorical and physical. Ukraine sits precisely on the East/West divide. Vladi-

mir Putin fervently believes he needs to recapture it because a) it is part of the Russian homeland; b) it would restore a large Slavic population to Russia to mitigate the effects of Slavic decline and Muslim rise in population—as part of a larger Russian effort to present itself as the “protector of Slavs” wherever they reside and whatever citizenship they hold; and c) as he said, the breakup of the USSR constituted “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century” in his eyes. Syria is important, Sochi was important, but Empire is the prize. It is vital, however, that the West pull Ukraine in tighter because a) Ukrainians believe in their nation—even Russianspeakers value independence. The Ukrainian experience inside Russia has forged nationalism that goes well beyond the flabby and bureaucratic EU and, increasingly, America. Jews have to worry about Ukrainian nationalism, but its fight for Ukrainian liberty and independence is worthy of support; b) democratic norms have grafted tentative roots there; to lose them is to lose a battle in the bigger war; and c) if not in Ukraine, where will “Europe whole and free” make its stand against the repressive forces of the Russian Empire? The Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, British, and AustroHungarian Empires are gone—but Putin believes the Russian one can re-emerge. The West cannot allow it.

Borders, Nations and Conflict • Spring 2014 • Volume VIII: Number 2  

inFOCUS Quarterly is the journal of the Jewish Policy Center. The opinions expressed in inFOCUS Quarterly do not necessarily reflect those...

Borders, Nations and Conflict • Spring 2014 • Volume VIII: Number 2  

inFOCUS Quarterly is the journal of the Jewish Policy Center. The opinions expressed in inFOCUS Quarterly do not necessarily reflect those...