Walid Phares Walid Phares blog brought to you by History News Network. Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 Zend_Feed_Writer 2 (http://framework.zend.com) https://www.historynewsnetwork.org/blog/author/20 The AP Capitulates to the Muslim Brotherhood Credit: Wiki Commons.

In a stunning move, the Associated Press (AP) capitulated to pressures by the Islamist group Council on American–Islamic Relations (CAIR) to drop the use of the term "Islamist" when describing self-declared Islamist militants and movements. The AP's retreat is indicative of a crumbling of parts of the so-called "mainstream media" in its reporting about the Middle East, the Arab world and the Muslim world. By retreating from describing the Islamists as Islamists, AP isolates itself from the rest of the international media, which uses the term Islamist naturally and consistently with its Arabic translation and meaning. More importantly, the AP is isolating itself from Arab media. For while the media in the region use the terms "Islamy" or "Islami" (Islamist) to identify all movements that aim at the establishment of an “Islamist” state, regardless of these various movements’ strategic agendas, from the more political Muslim Brotherhood to the radical Salafists and the extremist al Qaeda, the AP will be entering the foggy zone established and encouraged by advisors of the Obama administration, where definitions are twisted by “Islamist lobbies” backed by petrodollars’ power.

The term “Islamist” is the most accurate term to translate “Islami” and “Islamy,” which in the original language means a militant movement working towards an ideological goal, particularly the establishment of a government based on a strict version of Sharia law. The term “Islamist” was created in Arab political culture, precisely to distinguish the militants from regular Muslims whose goals do not necessarily include establishing an Islamist state. All Arab media, in addition to European, Asian, African, Russian and Latin American media outlets, use the term on a daily basis. It clarifies to their readers and viewers that not all Muslims are Islamists inasmuch as not all Christians are fundamentalists, or all Hindus are not ultra-nationalists, etc.

By eliminating the term “Islamist” from the media and political dictionary, the public will revert to using more ambiguous terms, such as Muslim radicals or extremists, among others, which would actually have two negative effects. One, it would blur the difference between moderates and extremists in the Muslim world, and two, it would provide the actual extremists or militants a cover within society. In short, by eliminating the term “Islamist” as identification of “militants,” we would be running the high risk of having the actual Islamists merging with Muslim society and claiming they are simply devout individuals. In the Arab world and the rest of the international community, a clear distinction has been established between the “Islamist militants” and the rest. Even the Islamists themselves are proud of this terminology. Brotherhood, Salafists, Jihadists and Khomeinists, all use this term while disagreeing who among them deserves it best. Hence, the concept is as rooted as all well-established categories in Middle East politics. So why would Islamist lobbies in the United States wage a campaign to ban the use of the term for what it means and force media, particularly the influential news agencies, to refrain from identifying the militants as “Islamists”?

Ostensibly, it's precisely for that purpose. The narrative strategy employed by the Brotherhood-inspired pressure groups, such as CAIR, ISNA and others in Washington, is to deny the public the ability to distinguish between Islamists and Muslims or to understand that there is an ideological movement that is attempting to drive politics within a much wider and diverse community. In short, the lobbies aim at establishing as an accepted reality that all true Muslims are Islamists, and hence criticism against their own brand of Salafism is a criticism against the entire community. In the region, long established political narrative has made a difference between Muslims who follow Salafism, and thus are called Islamists, and the rest of the communities who happen to be Muslims but do not subscribe to the Salafi Islamist brand. Once the West identifies the brand or the political ideology, it would be able to operate strategically and isolate the extreme from the mainstream. However, by forcing the media and the government in the U.S. to blur the difference, the Islamists would be wrongly perceived as more religious Muslims than usual, not as an ideological current with a political agenda. This would have significant negative consequences on de-radicalization domestically and clearly affect U.S. foreign policy. Washington would be incapable of identifying the radicals from the moderates.

The AP move, according to observers, "is part of a wider push to remove the capacity to identify the Jihadi threat from the public narrative." I warned about this propaganda warfare waged by the lobbies as early as 2005 in my book Future Jihad -- as well as in my 2007 book War of Ideas. Observers in the region, particularly in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon, noted that while an uprising is brewing against the Brotherhood and the Salafists in the Arab world, Western governments, particularly the U.S. bureaucracy, are making concession after concession to the pro-Brotherhood lobbies in America.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/151468 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/151468 0
Boston Terror: Part of a War That Has Not Ended

Two devices were set off at the terminal phase of Boston’s historic marathon. They blew up, killing and wounding a number of citizens, children and adults. According to law enforcement sources, more bombs were set to explode but did not. These facts, and maybe more, compelled authorities to identify the bombing as a “Terror Act,” and both the administration and Congress are dealing with the killings as such an attack. The main focus should be to determine who was behind the attack because the reason for it was pretty obvious: it was to terrorize the American public and to intimidate the U.S. government. The “why” is clear; the “who” remains to be determined, and it could be quickly unveiled.

The administration has to be very careful yet vigorous in addressing this attack on the homeland, regardless of who is behind it. Careful because in the case of domestic homegrown Terror, U.S. ultra-nationalist extremists have the capacity and have shown their ability to perform terror in a bloody fashion. The Oklahoma bombing of the mid-1990s is evidence of their capacity to improvise and strike decisively in urban areas. Their motives are ideological but also psychological. They are at war with their perception of the American government. However, if the domestic extremist factor is involved, the administration must rush to draw a line between terrorism and legitimate political opposition to Government. Any political error could fuel the extremist groups and alienate more citizens, giving the radicals a wider scope for recruitment. If this act or other possible future acts of terror come from U.S.-based terrorism, the administration should move to unite the aisles and isolate the extremists, right-wing or left-wing.

The jihadist possibility

If evidence confirms a “Jihadi” nature, which could occur as soon as perpetrators with links to al-Qaeda or sympathizers to the organization are identified, the administration should move swiftly and resolutely. With the Benghazi debacle still on Americans minds, delaying such identification or describing it as a workplace or public café violence would be a disaster. If it is “Jihadi” linked or inspired, call it what it is and inform the American public that this is part of al- Qaeda’s war on America. Politics must be sidelined. Though the Obama administration announced to the nation after the killing of Bin Laden and al-Awlaki that “al Qaeda is on the run and on its path of decline,” let that assertion not cast a shadow on reality. This country is in a state of War with al-Qaeda and its allies, foreign or domestic, and such attacks are part of that war, which since its start has never subscribed to international law or morality. And America is not alone in this struggle, for today’s Zawahiri Terrorists are striking in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia; it is a global confrontation, with strikes reaching U.S. soil as it slams other allies Overseas. The Boston massacre, if linked to self-described “Jihadists,” should not be seen strategically as out of the blue. In this case, it is part of a war that has never ended, an unfinished war that our withdrawal from Iraq, our projected pull out from Afghanistan, the elimination of old al-Qaeda figures and Washington siding with the Brotherhood in the Arab Spring, were not able to end. The investigation must be very thorough as “Jihadi Terrorism” could also be manipulated by the Iranian regime and its extensions such as Hezbollah. The world of terror is murky and complex. As in the Middle East, Tehran can use its own “Mujahidin” to send messages of intimidation to the U.S.

U.S. security policy needs revision

But whatever the inquiry will find out, the Boston massacre is evidence that U.S. national security policy needs revision. Better, clearer and transparent communications with the public have to be redesigned. American citizens must, like people in countries facing terrorism worldwide, be made aware that their daily lives are still at risk and thus the national defense effort is still a must.

In any case, this country is facing tremendous challenges and growing Terror threats. The targeting of men and women, girls and boys at peaceful and joyful events can happen anywhere, anytime, and our society must internalize this reality. The Boston attack was not the first indication of this, for there were many attempts in recent years. We always argued that one attempt we do not stop would become the one bloody disaster that would shock us but should not surprise us. This is a vision of urban warfare that the Terror forces have brought to our national soil. The enemy, domestic or foreign, is not packing up after this bloodshed; it will try to repeat its attempts. The Terrorists have no defined patterns which are going to show us predetermined paths for violence as some commentators naively pretend. Once inside “the belly of the beast,” as the enemy perceives America, every aspect of our lives can be targeted. We need to adapt and win.

The article appeared on Al Arabiya first.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/151574 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/151574 0
How the State Department Gets the Niqab Wrong The State Department recently issued a report denouncing what it called "a spike in anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe and Asia." It said that "Muslims also faced new restrictions in 2012 in countries ranging from Belgium, which banned face-covering religious attire in classrooms, to India where schools in Mangalore restricted headscarves." The State Department report confuses religious persecution, which is to be condemned, with politicization of religions, which is a matter of debate and includes strategies of which the U.S. government should not be a part nor within which the U.S. government should side with one faction against another. If countries ban the right to pray, broadcast and write about theology, any theology of any religion, this would be against human rights. Belgium and India do not ban religions per se. In fact, they are more tolerant regarding diverse religious practice than most of the members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. The Obama administration is not criticizing secular European and Asian Governments for deciding to ban prayer or theologically philosophical dissertations, but rather criticizing these countries for banning the hijab or niqab in public places.

In the Muslim world, there is a diversity of choices for females. The burka is not the only free choice.

The Obama administration understands the wearing of the hijab as religious injunction to all Muslims. This is not the case, as senior theologians have decreed, including al Azhar, and the niqab is not a universal Muslim obligation as one can see in fifty-three Muslim-majority countries. It is a matter of choice.

The organized groups calling for a systematic imposition of the niqab are Islamist forces. This translates politically into an official endorsement of the Obama administration of the Islamist political agenda under the camouflage of religious rights. The niqab is part of the political agenda of radical Islamists, indicating that the Obama administration is now directly or indirectly backing one faction in the Muslim world, the Islamists, against another faction, the moderates and liberals.

The Obama administration, by using the charge of Islamophobia against countries that oppose the political agenda of an ideological and political faction known as Salafists and Khomeinists, has become a partner with these factions against secular, liberal, reformist movements who do not abide by the niqab rule. It is one thing to defend religious communities and something else to defend the agenda of ideological factions. The niqab is part and parcel of the ideological agenda advocated by the Islamists, not a tenet held by all Muslims. If the Obama administration is worried about the Islamist agenda not yet met by European and Asian countries, it should claim so, but the administration cannot claim defense of a religious injunction to all Muslims while the latter have no consensus on the matter.

It has been noted over the past few years that U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East, the Arab world and Muslim-majority countries has been increasingly under the influence of pressure groups implementing the doctrinal and political agendas of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranian regime. The State Department has been made to believe that the Islamist agenda and the beliefs and values of all Muslims are one, which is a grave mistake. The Obama administration should have learned from recent lessons as well as those from the past. Popular majorities in countries affected by the Arab Spring, particularly in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen are not necessarily followers of Islamist principles. Rather, strong oppositions representing a vast swath of civil society are demonstrating vividly against the Islamist regimes produced by the Arab Spring. The issue of hijab and niqab is one of the many issues that divide Muslim-majority societies. The Brotherhood and the Iranian regime claim that the veil should be a manner of the female’s uniform, not only in the region but also for the women of Muslim communities in the West. This is the reason their lobbies are portraying the hijab and niqab as an obligation to all Muslim women, thus a collective religious right, above all other considerations in secular societies, including gender equality and public security matters. This is a wrong interpretation for the U.S. to take as it misrepresents the facts. The veil, as a collective uniform for women, is not a matter of full consensus in Muslim-majority societies. It is an expression by Islamist political factions that desire the expression to become an obligation. As simply an expression, it cannot be imposed on all Muslims, nor can it be extrapolated to be understood as a fundamental right to all members of society.

We therefore recommend to the U.S. government and other governments around the world to make a basic distinction. The rights of prayer and its offshoots are universal to Muslim communities; such rights should then have consequences in and on Western and other non-Muslim countries. But the matter of hijab and niqab is a political right, not a religious one. And as a political right, it follows the limitations placed on it by the laws of the land. Even political rights can be obtained given hospitable circumstances, but the United States should not be siding with one political faction against another political faction in an ideological debate in the Muslim world and among Muslim communities in the West and Asia. If Washington espouses the agenda of Islamists, it would become part of the industry of Islamophobia, that is to create fear about religious persecution in order to support the political agenda of authoritarian Islamist factions.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/151971 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/151971 0
Woolwich’s Jihadi butchers: their non-spontaneous words matter

The savage slaughtering of a British soldier on the streets of Woolwich, England is not a common random crime; it is an act of terror, an expression of relentless war that is inspired by a jihadist ideology and sponsored by an international network of Salafist indoctrination. The reason we are making this assertion hours after the killing is to simply repeat what we have underscored in reports on similarly-inspired bloody attacks in the West in recent years. Rather, it is to prevent disorienting a shocked public by propaganda being diffused by apologists spreading intellectual chaos, covering up for the real culprit, and confusing audiences in Great Britain and around the world with irrelevant arguments. We will hear some pushing the argument of root causes being the Western presence in Muslim lands. The two assassins made sure to shout their “political motives” and the cri de guerre, “Allahu Akbar,” in a determined way. They said their actions were in response to Western occupation of Muslim lands. That is the same excuse that was repeatedly given by Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda jihadists in the 1990s, and increasingly since 2001. The two perpetrators are British citizens, but they act as citizens of the “umma” in defense of an emerging Caliphate. They do not speak on behalf of a community; they speak on behalf of a movement that claims to speak on behalf of a community. In short, they are jihadists, regardless of whether they are rank and file al Qaeda or not. They are part of a movement solidly anchored in a doctrine whether they act as individuals, a pair, or two commandos dispatched by a larger group.

The attackers spoke openly to witnesses on the street where they committed their treachery and spoke with predetermined certainly, not spontaneity. "We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you. We must fight them (the infidels-kuffar) as they fight us.” These words matter, not because of their content alone, but because they come from the Salafi jihadi dictionary used by committed operatives, fighters and killers around the world. In his letter to the American people Osama bin Laden said, "It is commanded by our religion and doctrine that the oppressed have a right to return the aggression. Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge." The commander of al Qaeda and his successor and other jihadi leaders around the world, have consistently used the expression “as long as we won’t have our security, you won’t have yours.” Translated strategically, the proposition means that as long as the enemies of the jihadists are obstructing the rise of a Caliphate, a Taliban-style empire to cover one fifth of the Planet for starters, all those who resist are enemies and will be treated with the full force of militants continually produced by pools of indoctrination.

The Woolwich butchers had no personal quarrel with the UK soldier they hacked to death with medieval weapons. They had no mandate from the Afghani people to commit bloodshed in Great Britain as a way of provoking a withdrawal. The mandate the two terrorists acted upon was from a standing, growing, creeping political ideology with a name, Salafi jihadism (al Salafiya al Jihadiya). Some will rush to connect their words to Islamic religious texts, invoking verses and chapters. Others will rush in another direction to counter attack by charging “Islamophobia” as the root cause of the craziness of the perpetrators. Some may fall into the trap of making the link proposed by the terrorists, that their killing is necessary for the liberation of a “Muslim land.” But the Arab Spring, gone bad with the rise of Islamists across North Africa and the Levant, is sending us a strong message: Civil societies in the region, youth, women and minorities dislike the “Islamist fascists,” a term used by Muslim democracy activists from the Arab world and Iran to describe the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafists and the Khomeinists. This refutes the notion that the killers have any shred of legitimacy. Add to this illegitimacy, even in regulated conflicts, the Woolwich murders are war crimes, regardless of the motives. Verses or not, Afghan related or not, the terrorists who beheaded the British service member on an English street are war criminals, just as Major Hassan of Fort Hood and the Tsarnaev Terrorists of Boston are. Moreover the butcher Jihad of England has precedents in Europe. In March 2011 a Terrorist shouting "Allahu Akbar" opened fire on a bus carrying U.S. airmen in Frankfurt, Germany, killing two and wounding two others before his gun jammed and he was subdued. In 2012 a Jihadist known as Merah had killed twelve French citizens with a rifle, including members of the military, in Toulouse and Montauban. Similar attempts were stopped across Europe over the past few years.

Jihadists kill the British, Americans, Spaniards, Swedes, French, inasmuch as they kill Malians, Algerians, Tunisians, Tanzanians, Iraqis and Pakistanis. They are as keen to kill Muslims they describe as apostates (Mushrik) as they are to butcher those they label “infidels” (kafir). This assassination is one in a long chain, on many continents, at the hands of a terror movement inspired by a radical ideology, often described as “criminal” by Western leaders including by the US Administration, but never explained. This is where the British people should be looking and where the international community should act. Expose the specific doctrine that generates violence and identify the networks that propagate it and produce jihadists. Otherwise, humanity will be living in fear, waiting for the next bloodshed, always between one terror attack and another. The methods implemented in these war crimes are not the main issue; the focus should be on what binds them together. Nuremberg’s proceedings are just few decades behind us. They showed the world that Nazism created the greatest barbarism of the twentieth century. Jihadism is now seizing the twenty first century. Lessons should be learned.

Dr. Walid Phares is a Congressional advisor and the Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Legislative Group on Counter Terrorism. He is the author of several books on Terrorism including The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/151998 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/151998 0
The US Strategies for Syria  

Two years and three months after the start of the Syrian revolution and its subsequent transformation into a full-fledged civil war, the United States stands at a historic crossroads; intervening with the goal of crumbling the Assad regime and assisting in erecting an alternative power in Damascus or backing the opposition to a point where the regime has no other choice than to negotiate at Geneva. The latter scenario would predicate Assad’s gradual exit that would surrender the country to a combination of political forces but satisfy all regional and international players on the Syrian scene.

This week, the Obama administration stated it would begin the process of arming the trusted opposition and may consider many more measures, including possibly, but not yet, a limited no-fly zone over the beleaguered country. But even at this point, the U.S. end game in Syria remains unclear as long as the administration has yet to explain its regional strategic plans regarding Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand and the Salafist Jihadist militias fighting the prior on the other hand. For sending weapons to the opposition, though legitimate and in order to fend off Assad’s Iranian backed forces, raises significant broader questions. Who in the opposition will receive the arms and be responsible for their use? What will be the next steps after the opposition is armed and supplied? Will it be a long haul war between two equal forces with thousands more civilian casualties, or will the equipping of the Free Syria Army (FSA) create a new balance of power that will lead both sides to realize that a military solution is not going to happen and Geneva is the only remaining choice?

Analyzing the regime

Looking at the behavior of the Assad regime, particularly since it took back the city of Qusayr in the center of the country, not only has it broken the opposition’s momentum, but it has moved on the offensive in several areas of the country. In our estimate, the unwillingness of the regime to accept a balance of power with the opposition as a basis for political negotiations, and the unwillingness of Russia to pressure its allies in Damascus and Tehran to accept real power sharing, is what prompted Washington and its allies to beef up the capacities of the anti-Assad coalition and explore the more lethal options of no fly-zones over the country. In short, there is so far no path for a real political solution in Syria, excluding one or the other of the fighting parties. Faced with this reality, the United States must contemplate new strategies regarding Syria’s war that could reshape its entire Middle East policy.

Why take a new path?

In the first months of 2011, when the “Arab Spring” exploded, Washington followed the strategy of shepherding the “rebels” as they made progress against the regimes in North Africa and Yemen. In Tunisia and Egypt, the protesters obtained moral and political support from the Obama administration which enabled them to crumble the pro-American regimes, allowing the most organized among them –the Muslim Brotherhood – to form new governments. In Libya, Qaddafi had no regional allies and was far from Russian logistical supplies. The Obama administration extracted Chapter 7 based U.N. resolution 1973 and launched NATO strikes against the regime until its demise. It worked.

Regarding Syria, the Obama administration decided to let the revolt brew as occurred in Egypt during 2011, hoping that the mass demonstrations would collapse Assad or would at least psychologically convince the Army to move against its own commander-in-chief. It was an erroneous assessment, and a precious year was lost. During the early stages of the revolution in Syria, the movement was led mostly by liberal and secular forces organizing demonstrations, marches and protests in Damascus and several Syrian cities. That year, U.S. forces were still deployed in Iraq and along the borders with Syria. Quick action coordinated with Turkey, Jordan and other partners, in the interest of an erupting civil society would have most likely forced Assad to quit power and seek refuge inside the Alawi region or in Iran. President Obama should have finished the Syria quagmire before Iraq’s pullout. The U.S. was already deployed along Syrian borders with equipment, air force and more importantly, a heavy deterrent against Iran. Assad was practically surrounded; Iran was kept at bay and Turkey was yet untouched by its own protests. Even more significantly, al-Qaeda, via Jabhat al-Nusra, was not yet deeply deployed across the Syrian opposition. The first year of the Syrian crisis, from April 2011 to April 2012, embodied a major U.S. failure in Syria. Washington allowed the landscape to change so dramatically that by early 2013, Syria’s geopolitical realities have changed profoundly.During the last part of 2012, the tense presidential election campaign in the U.S. prevented a risky decision by the incumbent President to launch any lethal action in Syria for fear of losing constituents both on the left and in the center. That year transformed the terrain irreversibly. Civil demonstrations practically receded, and the street fighting was taken over by ferocious players. On one hand, the regime entered the fray of suppression full force, not only with air force and heavy tanks and artillery, but aided by Hezbollah militias operating out of Lebanon and backed by the Iranian Pasdaran (a subset of the Iranian armed forces) and supplies coming through open Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian borders, open due to the U.S. pullout. The military capacity of the regime multiplied, and its brutality deepened. On the other hand, the Free Syria Army made of offshoots from the regular army had formed, but in parallel, Jihadist militias, including the al-Qaeda linked al-Nusra Front had emerged and spread throughout the various zones of rebellions. The secular and Islamist components of the opposition are hard to distinguish. In addition to the evolution of both sides, chemical weapons were used, even if in a limited manner, by the regime and some have been falling into the hands of the Jihadists.

Facing a great decision

Now in mid-2013, the Obama Administration must make a much greater decision, graver and riskier than those before, but unavoidable. It needs to act, but be able to act at a level equal to the challenges emerging from the many mutations of the conflict. After a crucial battle in Qusayr in central Syria during the month of May, and thanks to the participation of Hezbollah, well-trained special-forces and Iranian military advisors, Assad troops overran the rebels’ positions in the strategic city and the regime moved onto the offensive on several fronts against the opposition. Washington had been hoping, before the Qusayr battle changed the status quo on the ground, that Russia would convince the regime to make dramatic concessions in Geneva. But Assad’s forces leaped forward to crush their opponents in a way that would allow them to use Geneva’s negotiations to their advantage. This, in turn and at last, prompted the Obama administration to approach from a different path, to openly arm the insurgents and possibly set up a no-fly zone over Syrian skies.The move is in the right direction, but late and slow. Nevertheless, it needs to be developed strategically and comprehensively. Washington’s engagement plans must incorporate vital sub-strategies to address the ramifications of a Syria intervention, regardless of the latter’s scope and size. Here are the main strategic challenges to address:• Who is and will be the strategic partner inside Syria militarily and politically from start to end? Who will end up seizing ministries in Damascus and impose security and stability once the change occurs? It needs to be clarified before, not as or after the campaign begins.• What will the Arab participation be in the projected U.S. effort? How far will the Gulf countries, Jordan and also Turkey, go in supporting the campaign, especially if Iran counters these efforts?• What is the strategic plan of engagement if Hezbollah and Iran respond to U.S. involvement? Is there a Washington global response to an Iranian counter in Syria or in the region?• Last and not least, what will Syria look like after the Assad regime is gone? A democracy, an Islamist regime or a military government?It is crucial to understand and evaluate the strategic choices of the United States before the engagement begins so that all actors are aware of the process and of its consequences.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/152288 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/152288 0
The Nile of Democracy will Flood Egypt's Jihadists Credit: Wiki Commons

As soon as the Egyptian military asked President Mahmoud Morsi to step down and dismantle his Islamist regime, millions in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and towns celebrated the end of what they felt was a dangerous, fascistic regime. But despite an overwhelming popular support for the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood from power, some U.S. leaders, starting with President Barack Obama and later joined by Republican senator John McCain, expressed their rejection of the move because they argued it was “directed by the Egyptian military against a democratically-elected government.”

Awkwardly, the United States executive branch, along with some of its supporters in the legislature, sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, known to be hardcore Islamists, against a wide coalition of democratic and secular forces which called on the military to help them against what they perceived an oppressive regime. Why would Obama and McCain end up backing the Muslim Brotherhood while the liberals and secular forces of Egyptian civil society rise against the Brotherhood? The chaos in Washington has several roots but one global fact is clear: U.S. foreign policy has lost momentum in the Arab Spring.

The first waves of the revolution in January 2011 were launched and inspired by secular and reformist youth. The first Facebook page of the “Egyptian Revolution” attracted 85,000 likes. Many of these early online supporters hit Tahrir Square and drew up to a million citizens from the middle class, from labor, students, women, and minorities. The revolution was the baby of moderate, secular and democratic segments of Egyptian civil society who have never spoken in public or taken action on the streets. Once the U.S. and international community recognized them as peaceful demonstrators, the Muslim Brotherhood rushed in and created their own “quarter” inside the Square.

From there on, the Brotherhood maneuvered between the military and the youth, pitting one against the other and taking full advantage of the Obama administration’s vigorous support. In June 2012, Mahmoud Morsi won Egypt’s presidential election. This election was praised as “democratically held” by Washington and the Western foreign policy establishment. While vastly questioned by the Egyptian opposition, the results were accepted as a democratic fact, internationally. Morsi was “democratically elected” in as much as the opposition was not able to draw any attention from a U.S.-influenced Western coalition. The sour reality was more of a Washington endorsement to the Brotherhood, trusting their ability to change towards the better, than a truly popular representation. All observers agreed that half of the Morsi voters were not even members of his party, but were rather simply opposed to the other candidate, a remnant of the Mubarak regime.

Morsi then used the next twelve months to deconstruct every aspect of the democratic achievements of the initial Egyptian revolution. He issued a presidential “constitutional decree,” modifying the constitutional basic rights of Egyptians with major setbacks for women, minorities and seculars and without consultations with the opposition. On those grounds alone, Morsi has committed a breach in constitutional and human rights of Egyptians. He then attempted to transform the leadership of the Army and security forces into Brotherhood extensions; appointed extremist governors throughout the country, including a member of a terrorist group as a governor of the Luxor district, a target of the group’s terror strikes in 1997. In parallel, the Brotherhood regime allowed Islamist militias to grow across the country and opened a dialogue with al-Qaeda linked groups in Sinai. In foreign policy, Mursi stood against the African campaign against al-Qaeda in Northern Mali; consolidated ties with the ICC-indicted head of Sudan’s regime, General Omar Bashir; hosted terror group Hamas in Cairo, aided the Nahda Party in Tunisia as the latter reduced women’s rights in their country and established cooperation with the jihadi militias of Libya, one of which was responsible for the Benghazi attack against the U.S. consulate in September 2012. In 2013, Mursi presided over a rally to support the A-Q affiliated al Nusra Front in Syria and backed suicide fatwas issued by his allies.

On the economic level, the Brotherhood regime mismanaged the country’s fledgling finances while at the same time receiving significant funding from the United States, Europe and Qatar. The social disparities already monumental under Mubarak became epic under Morsi.

The Brotherhood regime, though democratically elected, has deconstructed the democratic legitimacy of the one-time election process by becoming an isolated oppressive elite ruling the country at the expense of all other citizens. One election rendered Morsi a legal president, but by his anti-democratic actions, the legitimacy of his presidency was lost.

Unfortunately, Egypt has no recall process or impeachment mechanisms. Besides, the Brotherhood had secured as much power as the German Nazis and Italian Fascists had in pre-World War II Europe after being elected at the helm of the legislative and executive powers by the power of brown and black shirts. Egypt’s democratic forces had no choice but to resort to demonstrations and free expression. They have staged march after march since the end of 2012, but the U.S. and Europe remained silent. The Brotherhood took the deaf-ears policy of the West as an endorsement to their agenda and applied more violence against their opponents. The liberal opposition appealed to the Army for months, to no avail. It was only when civil society revolutionary groups mobilized the masses against the Brotherhood suppression that Egypt was closer to its second revolution. Revolutionizing the Arab Spring, The grassroots organization Tamarod (meaning "rebellion") called for a national popular demonstration to vote with their feet for the removal of Mursi on June 30, 2013.

Very few in the West paid serious attention to Tamarod and its bottom-up uprising. The second wave of the Arab Spring was boosted by the shocking practices of the Islamist regime in Cairo. On Sunday, June 30, more than 22 million Egyptians marched in their capital and in other cities. Statistically, this was the largest demonstration in history, topping the Cedar and Green Revolutions of Lebanon and Iran combined. What was morally left of Morsi’s regime was shattered by this referendum in the streets. The demonstrators were three times the total numbers of his votes one year ago. A petition calling for his resignation gathered another 22 million signatures. But Morsi refused to resign and ordered his followers via a live speech, to mobilize for “jihad till death.” Responding to a nation gathered on the streets, the Egyptian Army stepped in to prevent a civil war and to end a regime-coup against its own people. The shock of removing Morsi reverberated worldwide. The people’s revolution in Egypt was the accomplishment of the real Arab Spring, at last. The overwhelming majority of Egyptian citizens that took part in the second revolution prompted the country’s armed forces to remove the Muslim Brotherhood and contain the Jihadists across the country.

Sadly, the Obama administration resisted the popular revolt, arguing Mursi was “democratically elected,” forgetting that he governed oppressively. Some international media also endorsed Mursi and his followers as armed Islamists roamed throughout Egypt, killing and maiming. The second Egyptian revolution is now facing and will be confronting for a long time the counter revolution forces including a non-repentant Ikhwan and a myriad of dangerous jihadi terrorists. Egypt will have to fight this cancer for years, but thanks to its courageous civil society, it has already survived the extremists’ yoke. Egypt will not be Iran. The millions who took to the streets formed a Nile of democracy that will flood the Jihadists of Egypt. It will be long and hard, but the Egyptian Spring is now, finally, in progress.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/152522 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/152522 0
Muslim Brotherhood's "Urban Jihad" Wages Terror War on Egypt's Secular Revolution

On June 30, according to BBC, thirty-three million Egyptians marched against the Muslim Brotherhood regime, accusing Morsi's elite of oppression, militia enabling, backing Jihadists, suppressing women and minorities, and economic failure. President Mohammed Morsi responded by a call for Jihad and promised a "bloody answer" with the help of his militia. A civil war was about to explode. Responding to the overwhelming popular revolt, as one third of Egypt's 90 million were marching in the streets, the Egyptian military technically refused to take orders from Morsi and dismissed his government on the grounds they posed a direct threat to the country's national security. As an interim management for the country, the military asked civilians to form a cabinet in order to oversee another transition to democracy. Heavily criticized in the West by the Ikhwan's friends and partners, General Abdelfattah al Sisy asked the public to prove to the international community where they stood, whether the people of Egypt wished to confirm the June 30 revolution or rather desired the return of Mohammed Morsi. While in the public square of Rabia Adawiya close to 700,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist allies and factions marched for the Islamist state and the return of their leader, across the rest of Egypt, from Tahrir Square and seemingly in all Egyptian cities, close to 40 million civilians demonstrated against the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt's voice overwhelmingly spoke to irreversibly confirm their stance on July 26.  

The Ikhwan, however, decided to re-seize the country by way of "Urban Jihad." And as al Qaeda linked cells waged terror attacks in Sinai, the Ikhwan built two armed enclaves in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood, who are now acting as an urban insurgency across Egypt, in addition to the Jihadists of Sinai, have seized several blocks and two public sites, Rabia Adawiya in Cairo and the area close to Cairo University, using women and children as shields while launching raids against other neighborhoods. The Egyptian armed forces avoided using immediate maximum force in order to avoid large scale violence, but also to show that the people of Egypt are the ones resisting the Brotherhood's terror.  

Egypt's civil society was fast to respond to the Urban Jihad. A female leader of secular democratic movement Tamarod in Egypt, responsible for mobilizing for the June 30 revolt, told al Arabiya that "the Egyptian people [are] fighting a Terrorist Cancer inside the country." She said "the Ikhwan are using women and children as shields to demand the reinstatement of a fascist state ruled by the Islamists. Such a regime will crush women, liberals and Coptic Christians. The armed militias of the Brotherhood are threatening our civil society and our freedom. Egyptians will never accept these terrorists to rule over our destiny and the future of our children." The Brotherhood are backed by al Jazeera anchors who have been accused by the seculars of "helping in mobilizing the Islamists of Egypt." As an example, at 10:15 AM (EST) Wednesday, al Jazeera pressured the representative of the Islamist al Nour Party, which is not taking part in the confrontation in Egypt, to engage in the urban insurgency. The anchor repeatedly summoned al Nour to "join the fight on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood." An observer in Cairo said "al Jazeera is now acting as a direct propaganda tool of the Muslim Brotherhood insurgency. And since this tool is owned and funded by the Qatar regime, the latter assumes responsibility for the bloodshed taking place in the country."

Muslim Brotherhood Pogrom against the Christian Copts RagesBut more tragic are the attacks now waged across Egypt against Christians and Muslim seculars, including police stations. Reports from Egypt revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood have burned many Coptic Churches, including in Suhaj, over the past 40 hours. (Link to al Ahram Canada, reporting on Muslim Brotherhood burning churches across Egypt)

Troubling reports by "Middle East Christian Alert" are showing dramatic pictures of churches across Egypt burned by Muslim Brotherhood terror militias. These pogroms are waged, according to government, media and civil society reports, by the Muslim Brotherhood Organization in Egypt. These reports are solid evidence of the open transformation of an Ikhwan regime into a terrorist organization, similar to Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda.

Brotherhood Militia Massacring Egyptian Police Officers

Reports from Egypt are now confirming that the Ikhwan Islamist militia has committed a series of massacres across Egypt, including the execution of Egyptian police officers in several cities and towns. In Miniah, the Ikhwan militia controlled four police stations and seized all weapons inside these offices. Al Qahira TV reported: "dozens of Jihadist detainees were released by the Ikhwan." "The Jihadi rage of the Brotherhood is uncovering their mask" said an observer in Washington. “With this barbaric behavior in its own country, the Muslim Brotherhood has to be classified as a ‘terrorist organization’ and not a ‘loose federation of secular and moderate reformers’ as the top intelligence director in the U.S. claimed a few years ago." The observer went on to argue that "the massacre of Police officers and soldiers, the torture of citizens, the rape of women, the burning of Christian churches and the use of mosques by jihadi snipers is a clear indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood as a Terrorist organization. Those who represent its interests in the United States should be ashamed."

International Alignment

Internationally, the AKP Government of Turkey and the Khomeinist regime in Iran accused Egypt's Government of perpetrating a "massacre against the people." An observer in Cairo said "the Islamist regimes in the region are watching a democratic revolution ending the violent Ikhwan regime in Egypt. These regimes fear popular revolutions in their own countries led by civil society forces." In Beirut, the Committee Mashreq, a coalition of Middle East Christian NGOs, and in Washington the Middle East American Coalition for Democracy accused the Ikhwan of "pogroms against the Christians in Egypt" and called on the United Nations to condemn the terrorist attacks against the Copts and other citizens of Egypt.

At last, the Government of Egypt responded to the repetitive calls from Egypt's civil society to save the country from the Brotherhood's Urban Terror. Egyptian security forces, applying international norms in counter insurgency, moved on Rabia Adawiya and other armed militants spots in the Capital, forcing the Ikhwan leaders to flee. This could be the beginning of the end to the urban Jihadi insurgency but could also be the beginning of an all out Terror war waged by the soon to become the underground Ikhwan cells along with al Qaeda groups against the new post Brotherhood Egypt. Egyptians are fighting their own war on Terror, in their own midst. So are other Arabs. Western democracies should be on the side of civil societies seeking real democratic freedoms not on the side of Jihadists promising just elections   

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153032 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153032 0
A King for the oppressed—Not a King for the oppressors Dr. Walid Phares is the author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East and of the forthcoming book The Lost Spring in March 2014

As Americans and humanity celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of justice, equality and freedom, there are millions around the world who continue to suffer discrimination and oppression of the kind the African American pastor and leader struggled against until he paid the ultimate price for his engagement. MLK, Jr. led a tireless civil rights movement to end segregation and inequality—and to help his community and all citizens attain dignity under a one flag, one law for all. America has been identified for decades as the greatest liberal democracy in history and around the globe, in part, due to this man’s journey for public good. It has taken similar struggles by Americans from all races, ethnicities and religions—who from the founding fathers to modern times have made sacrifices in blood and treasure—to produce who we are as a nation, composed of both natives and émigrés. But the destiny of the United States has also been to advocate for freedoms within all nations—from South America to the beaches of Normandy, from the dissident workers of Poland to the Kurds and Shia of Iraq. Wrong are those who deny this liberating role of our nation to tens of millions around the world. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s struggle for justice inside America can only strengthen America’s stand for freedom around the world. Dr. King contributed to American freedom so that the United States could better contribute to the liberty of others around the world. Hence, the natural course of history has led men and women around the world to expect the legacy of MLK, Jr. to be a legacy of hope for them. On the African continent, the perception of the African American civil rights leader is one of emancipation from oppression and liberation from terror and pain. In Sudan, African indigenous peoples in Darfur, in the Beja province, in Nubia and in the Nuba mountains see King as a model to follow as they seek to free themselves from the Jihadist segregationist regime in Khartoum. In southern Sudan, black resistance against northern fundamentalist supremacy has been in line with its American inspirer—for decades. In Nigeria, civilian victims of Boku Haram hope to have a Martin Luther King, Jr. of their own to lead the country away from terror. In North Africa, millions of Berbers often march in Kabylia and other Amazigh regions in attempts to claim their minority rights. In Egypt, Copts have been brutalized and have been assigned second class citizen status, the very injustice against which the Georgia pastor fought. The message of Dr. King is universal inasmuch as Ghandi’s was. The Kurds, the Christians in the Middle East, women in the Arab world and Iran, and millions of other suppressed humans around the globe can identify with the man who envisioned equality in the United States. These peoples seek that same dream for themselves. Unfortunately, recent U.S foreign policy, particularly in the Greater Middle East, has not reflected Dr. King’s vision and aspirations. For more than five years, the ideals of Martin Luther King, Jr. have been absent in Washington’s attitudes, even when the current administration spoke about or acted within that vast region—a region immersed in injustice and inequality. In June 2009, MLK, Jr. would have stood with the millions marching for freedom in the streets of Iran. Contrary to the dream Americans claim to embrace, the U.S. government refused to encourage them and instead allowed the dictatorial rulers to crush them. In Lebanon, the United States sat idly by while witnessing the killing of leaders, journalists and human rights activists at the hands of Hezbollah. In Egypt and Tunisia, the United States partnered with the Muslim Brotherhood, not with the people. Similarly, in Libya, our government worked with the violent militias and not civil society forces. Beyond even the actions of our policymakers, there are American advocacy groups—who claim Dr. King’s legacy as their own—protecting the genocidal regime of Khartoum. Based upon the way he lived his life and the principles he espoused, it is easy to imagine that Martin Luther King, Jr. would be furious at those who claim his vision and legacy in their speeches but stand with oppressors around the world in their actions. He was a King for the peoples—not a King for the regimes, a liberator of the oppressed—not an enabler for terrorists.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153287 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153287 0
A Miracle on the Nile Dr Walid Phares is an advisor to members of the US Congress on the Middle East and the co-secretary general of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism. He is the author of several books including The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East. His forthcoming book The Lost Spring will be out in March 2014. www.walidphares.com 

A miracle on the Nile has been accomplished this week. Tens of millions of Egyptian citizens from all walks of life, Muslims and Christians, conservatives and liberals, seculars and religious, young and old, and in some instances, healthy and sick, have come out to cast a vote in the referendum of the century: either to say yes to new moderate constitution, relatively democratic, or to say no and revert to an Islamist constitution adopted by the previous Muslim Brotherhood regime.Most likely, an overwhelming majority of voters will chose to move away from the 2012 Islamist regime of Mohammed Morsi and select a more liberating draft, one that reinforces fundamental rights to women and minorities. The referendum will seal a popular uprising that exploded almost a year ago, and culminated in two gigantic peaceful demonstrations last summer against the political oppression of the Ikhwan regime.In short, we are finally witnessing a real democratic revolution emerging in the largest Arab Muslim majority country in the world. As predicted in my book, The Coming Revolution, published before the Arab Spring, the first unorganized wave of protests against authoritarianism would unsettle dictators only to open the door to allow very well organized Islamists to seize power, albeit by elections. But soon enough thereafter, as we are seeing in Egypt and Tunisia, a third wave, more conscious of the totalitarian goals of the fundamentalists and better organized as civil societies, will topple the nascent Islamist regimes before they take root. This wave will redirect the countries back toward the initial dreams of the Arab Spring. Few in the West are catching the nuances of this three stage evolution of the uprisings. One major reason behind that inability to understand the immensely positive news coming out of the Nile Valley is the coordinated and powerful push back against the anti-Brotherhood revolution, funded by petrodollars and unfortunately disseminated by large segments of specialized Western academia and mainstream media.Indeed, most of the American foreign policy establishment, in and outside government, has taken a friendly attitude toward the Muslim Brotherhood since the start of the “Spring” for a variety of reasons, the central one being the immense influence the Islamists enjoy and have enjoyed within the Middle East Studies circles in North America for decades. It is natural that when the Brotherhood finally seized power in the region, and in Egypt, their sympathizers would praise them and criticize their opponents in the West. Even after tens of millions of Egyptians rose against the Ikwan regime, apologists in U.S. media relentlessly described the Islamists as moderates and the masses as hysterically pro-military. Egypt’s civil society revolution, if anything, broke the myth of a balanced and fair Western press.But the most worrisome in Western Muslim Brotherhood apologia is the extent to which it went to cover for the Islamists and smear the silent majorities of the region. The apologists, while hesitantly admitting that Morsi’s regime “displayed mistakes,” criticized the masses of Egypt for provoking a regime change. The critics argued that Egypt’s opposition should have waited for the next election and sought to win them. This hypocritical argument did not inform the Western public of the real threat to democracy in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood have hijacked the mechanism that oversees the elections in a way that ensures no future elections would have ever brought back an opposition to power via the Islamist institutions. Such control is similar to what happened in Iran and was also the case in the Soviet Union. It is true that Morsi came to power via democratic elections, which some argue he had rigged, but regardless of that charge, he nevertheless transformed the country in a fascist state, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in the 1930s: elected almost-democratically, but ruled undemocratically. In such a situation, the Egyptian people acted better than peoples in any other nation in the world. They went by the book and achieved a miracle on the Nile. In June, a petition to recall Morsi gathered 22 million signatures, the largest in the Arab world. The Islamist dictator resumed his authoritarian actions and unleashed his brown shirts on demonstrators. The army did not budge.On June 30, thirty three million citizens from all walks of life marched peacefully in Cairo and other cities demanding Morsi’s resignation. Normally, when an overwhelming popular majority demands recall, chief executives resign and call for new elections. Instead, in a speech in response to the recall, Morsi declared Jihad, opening the path for regime sponsored terror against his own people. It was at that time that the armed forces, led by General Abdelfattah el Sisee, asked the president, who had turned to violence, to refrain and find a solution with the opposition—but to no avail. The popular revolution, defending itself against a violent, even if elected, president wanted him out, wanted the armed forces to organize the interim government and commit to a referendum followed by legislative and presidential elections.The Muslim Brotherhood unveiled their masks by transforming their movement, once removed from power, to a massive armed insurgency while al Qaeda linked Jihadists went on a rampage in the Sinai. The Ikhwan shredded their own legitimacy when they leaped to terror, exactly as did the national socialists and fascists of Europe when they destroyed their own legitimacy when they submitted their voters and citizens to bloodshed. Egyptians moved courageously, step by step, to form an interim government, create a constitutional committee, fight the Jihadists in Sinai, and resist the Brotherhood urban violence across the country. No military regime was established—though the army was capable of having generals directly rule the country. Egypt has passed the era of military coups and regimes, despite the accusations by pro-Ikhwan elites in the West.The latest stage in Egypt’s march towards the real Spring was the first fully democratic referendum in the modern history of the Arab world. Twenty three million voters participated in the constitutional exercise that uprooted any legitimacy to the Muslim Brotherhood’s claims of being elected. Three to four times more Egyptians voted against the Islamist constitution than all the Morsi voters, which included those who voted for him simply as a protest against Mubarak. The Egyptian people are finished with the Ikhwan for good, legally, politically and morally, even if the sympathizers of the fundamentalists are still loud in the West. The country is marching firmly towards the future. They will have legislative elections and then a presidential election and will certainly have lots of problems, all characteristic of a new Arab democracy working its way toward becoming a Mediterranean democracy, somewhere between Turkey and Spain – two countries with comparable military and Islamist pasts.What the public needs to understand is that a miracle took place on the Nile. An Islamist regime on its way to becoming a Taliban-like power was unsettled by a peaceful popular revolution. There will be debates about the role of the military, the future of the Brotherhood, and the social disparities in the country. But none of these issues can overshadow the fact that a Middle Eastern people rose successfully against totalitarianism with non-violent means, that a silent majority spoke loudly, and that democracy has claimed a major victory—sadly against the goals of current U.S. policy.The Obama administration, badly advised, sided with the Brotherhood since the Cairo speech in 2009, shepherded them to power as of 2011 and showered them with massive support. But the people of Egypt has spoken and rejected the Ikhwan as of 2013.It is time for Washington to listen and correct its policies in 2014.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153288 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153288 0
In Africa, France Must Lead or Fall As French President Francois Hollande visits Washington and meets President Barack Obama and his administration, the talk in town by think tanks and media focuses on the declared joint interest between the two powers in fighting terrorism in Africa, particularly in North Africa and the Sahel region. Optimists claim Hollande and Obama, both on the left side of the political spectrum in their respective countries, can agree on many domestic social and economic issues but not on as many foreign policy matters. Paris and Washington have had several issues of disagreement regarding crises in the Greater Middle East over the past few years. The Hollande visit in 2014, however, seems to seek common ground in some areas—particularly in counterterrorism.

On Syria, France displayed more determination than the United States to support the opposition, particularly in the earliest stages of the revolt in 2011. Over the three years of the Arab Spring, Paris worked hard at the UN Security Council and with Arab moderates to support the opposition, mostly the Free Syria Army, to topple Assad. Last summer, the French stood staunchly by the Obama administration when it appeared to be readying for a strike on Syria’s chemical weapons, Paris was disappointed when Washington made an about face and asked the Russians to find a political solution. France found itself in the unattractive position of the only great power rooting for military strikes, a position it has retreated from since.

On Iran, France also was surprised with the speed with which the Obama administration declared its initiative for a nuclear deal. As was the case with Syria, France remained tough on the issue of Iran’s nuclear challenge only to find itself somewhat abandoned—as did Saudi Arabia and other Arab moderates. The strategic assessment in Paris did not predict the depth of the Obama commitment to a deal with the Iranian regime. France is now realizing that Washington has engaged in a direction where confrontation with the Ayatollahs—other than in narrative—has been abandoned. Some credit Paris’ strong stance on Assad and Iran’s regime to the heavy financial investment of Qatar in France as the rich Gulf monarchy has vowed to topple Assad while also being an active supporter of the Syrian opposition. Hollande’s options are very limited on the Levant’s issues. France has historical (and direct) interests in Lebanon, which is dominated by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. Washington, however, has no intention to engage in a third war anywhere from Baghdad to Beirut—as long as it considers a deal with Iran a high priority and an attainable goal. Paris’ only option is to convince Qatar to lower expectations on regime change in Syria and toe the Washington line east of the Mediterranean while waiting for the Obama administration bet on a rapprochement with Iran to bear fruit—or to fail.

On Africa, however, France cannot follow the American lead; France must lead or fall. What is at stake in North Africa and the Sahel is France’s global strategic depth. From Morocco to Tunisia, with the powerful Algeria in between, a greater Maghreb is struggling between Islamists and seculars. It is in Paris’ national interest to see the seculars and moderates win the day. Otherwise, Islamist-led governments south of the Mediterranean may block French interests and cut the European country off from Saharan and sub-Sahara Francophone Africa. France is somewhat relieved that Tunisia has momentarily moved away from Nahda’s Islamist regime and is satisfied that Morocco’s real power continues to be in the hands of the King not his Islamist cabinet—and that Algeria remains out of Islamist control…even though its government is not a great friend of the French. Ironically, the Obama administration has so far stood on the other side of the divide. Similar to its partnership with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Washington favored Nahda in Tunisia and their Islamist comrades in Morocco. Hollande and Obama will not find any common ground in North Africa, particularly because the U.S. administration continues to back –though not publicly—the Ikhwan in Egypt even while that country is moving away from the Islamists and by ripple effect from the Obama administration. In fact, one should not be surprised that Egypt and France will find themselves in the same battle trench—against the Islamists.

Paris’ greatest strategic challenge remains in the Sahel region, which stretches from Senegal to Eastern Sudan. Al Qaeda and its Jihadists have been penetrating the area from Mauritania to Chad, to the Central African Republic CAR, using the large depots of weapons controlled by Salafi militias in Libya since the fall of Gaddafi and profiting from weak central states in the region. France had to send an expeditionary force into Mali in 2013 to stop al Qaeda from seizing the country. This year, French troops were dispatched to CAR. Washington is providing logistical and intelligence support to the French, hence cooperation is on against al Qaeda. But the breadth of such anti-Jihadist alliance between France and the United States has to become much more comprehensive and pursue not just the terrorists, but the ideological roots of the terror networks. The Obama administration has decided to ignore the ideological factor and refuses to mobilize civil society forces to fight the Jihadists. Hollande may seek a greater logistical support from Obama to pursue the radicals in the Sahel, but he will find little commitment to a full war against the Jihadist movement in that region. Washington wants to go only against what it calls “the core” of AQ, i.e., the men who actually worked with Bin Laden. What Hollande will not receive from Obama is systematic support for a war against the AQ branches, affiliates and ideologically motivated militants. Washington’s advisors have, unfortunately, convinced the Obama administration that the terror problem will be eliminated if a dialogue can be established with the Islamist militias. Africa’s Jihadists will be solely a French problem—at least till 2016.                                                                                                    


Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Coming Revolution. His forthcoming book, The Lost Spring will be published in March 2014. Dr Phares is a co-Secretary

General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism TAG. He has introduced his latest book in French, Du Printemps Arabe  a l'Automne Islamiste (Hugo Press) at the European Parliament last November

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153292 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153292 0
The Strategic Consequences of an East-West Ukrainian Split

The world is now experiencing the reality of two Ukraines rising out of this former Soviet Republic. The main overarching question to be considered from the Kremlin to the White House is about the strategic consequences. How will these two entities coexist, who will become their allies, how will this divide affect regional alliances and international politics? Another series of perhaps even more dramatic questions may also arise regarding the distribution of power between these two entities—as it pertains to Moscow’s position, possible intervention and reaction to what it may consider a Western advance into its southern flank. It may be too early for daily observers and political analysts focusing on the tactical considerations to weigh in. There is an endless number of situations that may go awry and clashes to calm down—not to mention the rising tensions between the West and Russia over Ukraine, but on the global scale, in a historic perspective, the dice have been irreversibly rolled: the two peoples forming the Ukrainian nation have now separated on the ground after the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych from his presidential palace in Kiev. Two authorities have been declared within the country, one declared by the parliament and the other by eastern local governments in the provinces. After months and weeks of confrontation in Kiev’s downtown, a violent outburst between the demonstrators and the police forces led to a long-brewing explosion. The clashes showed the depth of disagreement, but they did not create it. European mediations and road maps were not expected to succeed since the issue was not about a new election or even about corruption. Such political crises are omnipresent within all countries experiencing transition, but the problem in Ukraine was one on a greater scale.

Historically, from before, during and even after the end of the Cold War, there were two cultural views in the country that became Ukraine after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Western Ukraine, a land of farmers and Catholics, has been looking toward Europe—where other former Eastern bloc members Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic ended up after the Cold War. Eastern Ukraine, closer to Russia, industrial and mostly Orthodox, has been looking toward Moscow as their historical ally. These were, in fact, two nations contained in one set of borders, a phenomenon experienced by dozens of official nation-states around the world, such as in Czechoslovakia, Georgia, former Yugoslavia and Cyprus. Some of these bi-national states can manage the internal differences as relative successes of institutionalized liberal democracies, such as in Canada and Belgium. Others descend into violence and chaos—as in Syria, Lebanon and Sudan. Czechoslovakia underwent the swiftest separation in the history of the world between its two “peoples.” But Ukraine’s politicians, dismissing the fact that their constituencies were culturally divided, vied for two decades for “all of Ukraine.” Both sides claimed the entire country as part of their universal views. Governments and oppositions succeeded in power, but the deeper issue of identity was never addressed. Each camp accused the other of corruption, un-patriotism and violence, and both sides felt they represented the “true values of the country.” But it was a country of two peoples, a matter Ukrainian politicians and many of their intellectuals refused to admit.

The 2014 urban explosion in Kiev and across the country unleashed the profound realities, rocketing them to the surface. The president represented the “Eastern side” of Ukraine, and the opposition and its bloc in parliament represented the “Western side” of the same country. The deepening clashes in the capital ignited the underlying cultural differences into political action. Within days, the towns and villages along the Polish borders declared their rejection of Kiev’s government. And after the capital fell into the hands of the protesters, backed by their lawmakers, the provinces in the East gathered under one leadership to reject the new government. Ukraine is now two—regardless of how events develop from here.   

The geopolitical consequences, hard to discern in the fog of confrontations to come, are nevertheless projectable. The Europe Union will move to link up with and absorb Western Ukraine. It may be slow and gradual, but it will eventually happen. Millions of skilled workers in those provinces are needed by Europe’s economies. Russia will cast its strategic umbrella over Eastern Ukraine and notify the West that any further advance into their core ally will be a crossing of a red line, prompting Moscow’s direct intervention. Western Ukraine will become a partner of European countries, and some will welcome them warmly, such as Poland and the UK.  Others, such as France, will be more cautious partners, fearing Ukraine’s Russian sympathies. Eastern Ukraine will find itself a direct ally of Russia and will insure to the latter greater facilities on the Black Sea. In fact, the core strategic interest Moscow has in Ukraine—with or without President Putin—are the seaports of the Black Sea, the only operational bases for Russia’s southern fleet throughout the year. If these ports fall under Western Ukraine, Russia will consider it as a casus belli, and Russia may move militarily on the ground. If these ports remain under Eastern Ukraine’s Kharkov’s control, the balance of power may be seen as maintained.

The battle for Ukraine could have an impact on many strategic levels in the Middle East and other regions. In Syria, Assad’s regime will lose meaningful Russian logistical support if Crimea goes west. Iran’s Ayatollahs would also feel the impact if Russia emerges weaker from the confrontation. The impact could be felt as far as Venezuela and the Pacific depending on how Ukraine’s domestic strife evolves or resolves. The hope now is that Washington will play smart cards and transform the dividends of the outcome into gains for freedoms around the world. The last few steps in U.S. foreign policy, however, have not been encouraging.

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Iran' Nuclear Deal: Washington’s greatest mistake

The damage done is severe, and a remedy seems out of reach unless earth shattering changes are applied to Washington’s foreign policy—either under the incumbent’s administration or the next. The common core of U.S. strategic mistakes has been the perception of partners in the region since day one of the post-Bush presidency. While Bush’s narrative on backing pro-democracy forces was right on track, the bureaucracy’s actions betrayed the White House’s global aim. By the time the Obama administration installed itself on Pennsylvania Avenue in 2009, little had been accomplished by the Bush bureaucrats in regards to identifying these pro-democracy forces and supporting them. When the current administration replaced Bush, however, civil society groups in the Middle East were systematically abandoned—aid to their liberal forces was cut off and engagement with the radicals became priority. The mistakes of the Bush bureaucracy became the official policy of the Obama administration.

Washington’s “new beginnings” in the region moved American Mideast policy in a backward direction on two major tracks. The first derailment was to partner with the Muslim Brotherhood, not the secular NGOs, in an attempt to define the future of Arab Sunni countries. The second was to engage the Iranian regime, not its opposition, in attempt to define future relations with the Shia sphere of the region. These were strategic policy decisions planned years before the Arab Spring, not a pragmatic search for solutions as upheavals began. Choosing the Islamists over the Muslim moderates and reformers has been an academically suggested strategy adapted to potential interests—even though it represents an approach contrary to historically successful pathways.  In June 2009, President Obama sent a letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader asking for “engagement.” This move, coupled with Obama’s abandonment of the civil revolt in Iran that same month, sent a comforting message to the ruling Khomeinists: The United States is retreating from containment and will not support regime change in Iran. That undeniably emboldened Tehran to go on the offensive in the region after less than a decade of status quo.

The nuclear program was boldly defended despite American and UN economic sanctions; Iranian penetration of Iraq deepened; support to Hezbollah escalated with a presidential visit to Lebanon by Ahmedinijad; and aggressive backing of pro-Iranian elements in Arabia was sustained. The Arab Spring revealed more assertive Iranian behavior as Pasdaran and Hezbollah militias were dispatched to Syria in support of the struggling Assad regime. Across the region, the Ayatollahs increased their support to regimes and organizations bent on crushing civil society uprisings and also clamped down on their own oppositions—both inside the country and abroad. Tehran used Washington’s unending search for dialogue with the Ayatollahs as an opportunity to attack the exiled Iranian community inside Iraq, one of the best cards in the international community’s hands to pressure the Iranian regime. The tragedy of dismantling Camp Ashraf ran parallel to a systematic persecution of Iranian dissidents who rose in 2009 against the mullahs. U.S. retreat from Iran’s containment led to an unparalleled bleeding of the political opposition, the only long term hope for a real change in Iran.

The Obama administration’s abandonment of Iran’s people was made complete through Washington’s dangerous deal with Tehran. After months of secret negotiations and immediately after abandoning the Syrian opposition to vie for themselves against Iranian-backed Assad forces towards the end of the summer, the U.S. administration announced an interim nuclear agreement with Iran. To the astonishment of Iran’s opposition, not to mention Arab moderate governments, European countries including France, and a majority in Congress, the Obama administration began easing sanctions on Iran in return for a promise by the Khomeinist regime that it would lower its uranium production to an internationally acceptable level. Without any significant leverage on Tehran, having sidelined the Iranian opposition, the White House has no guarantees that Iran’s regime is backing off from nuclear strategic weaponry. Worse, Washington started almost immediately to transfer billions of dollars from “frozen accounts” back to the Iran regime’s coffers.

From an initial conceptual strategic mistake, the Obama administration moved to implement the most dangerous component of the new policy: Not only ending economic and political pressure, but sending financial support to a terror regime still on the offensive in the region. The hundreds of millions of dollars already received by the Ayatollahs can be, and actually most likely are being, recycled through the Pasdaran into subversive operations against the country’s liberal opposition, the Iranian exiles, Arab governments and U.S. interests worldwide. The “deal” will go down in history as one of the worst political acts in the West, second only to the signing of a piece of paper in Munich that claimed to be a deal to save the Peace. History has already taught the world, at a very high price, the consequences of dealing with devils.

Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Coming Revolution (2010) and of the forthcoming The Lost Spring (March 2014)

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153300 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153300 0
THE LOST SPRING IS COMING This month, my book The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid will be in libraries across America and online. This new book, published by Palgrave-McMillan in New York, is an analysis of the evolution of the Arab Spring and its future. It also addresses other democratic revolutions, upheavals and civil wars in the Middle East, including events in Iran, Turkey, Sudan, and beyond.


In Future Jihad (2005), a book that was selected for the U.S. House of Representatives Summer Readings 2006, I projected the rise of the global Jihadist movement, including its surge in the West. My previously most recent book published in English, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East (2010), predicted the Arab Spring, its successive waves, and the civil wars it would cause. I projected three cycles before they even happened: the rise of civil societies, the takeover by Islamists, and the comeback of the seculars to push back against the Islamists. And this is the very pattern we witnessed in both Egypt and Tunisia. My book in French, Du Printemps Arabe a l’Automne Islamiste (From the Arab Spring to the Islamist Fall), which was published in November 2013 in Paris and launched at the European Parliament in Brussels, described the global race between Islamists and seculars in the region.  


My new book of 2014 is taking analysis and projections even further. It explains why the West and the United States failed to predict the Arab Spring and why they failed to handle it effectively. The book also addresses the direction these upheavals are headed and how to correct U.S. policy before irreparable catastrophe strikes the region. From bloody and expanding civil wars in Syria, Iraq and Libya to the fight against terror in Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia; from genocide in Sudan, Darfur and beyond to the persecution of Christian and ethnic minorities and the rise of al Qaeda and Hezbollah; so much in the region appears hopeless, but one must also recognize the emergence of reformers, women, minorities and civil societies.


In The Lost Spring I tackle the deep impact the “Islamist lobby” in the West has developed regarding U.S. foreign policy and show the link between petrodollars influence, Middle East studies, and the political weapon of Islamophobia—designed by this influential network to weaken American support to Middle East, Arab and Muslim democrats actively opposing Salafists, Khomeinists, and Jihadists.  


In essence, I argue that the Obama administration made strategic mistakes from the moment it took power in 2009—by striking the wrong alliances while simultaneously abandoning friends and ideological allies. I share with readers what could have been more effective policy had the election of 2012 had swung in the other direction. As a senior national security and foreign policy advisor of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, I had prepared alternative ideas for the Middle East — ideas a Romney administration could have adopted. 


Introducing the book to the public, the publisher’s reviewer wrote: “One of the greatest unanswered questions after the massive and violent changes that hit the Middle East in 2011, known to some as the “Arab Spring” and to others as the “Islamist Winter,” is how the West failed to predict both cataclysmic seasons in world affairs and to meet their challenges. The so-called spring didn’t last long, quickly unraveling into a collection of civil wars, civil unrest, and secessions.  The author argues that Washington is too hesitant to take action when necessary, that U.S. policy is highly disoriented on counterterrorism efforts, and that the effects of these errors have already proven costly. In Benghazi, U.S. foreign policy failed to see the explosions coming, didn’t meet the challenges of political transformation where and with whom it should, and failed in isolating the Jihadi terrorists worldwide. Too many strategic errors were committed. In this fascinating new book, the author, the only expert who accurately predicted the Arab Spring, will foretell a major demise in U.S. and Western policies in the Middle East, unless a deep change in strategies and policies is made in Washington and around the world.

Nevertheless, the book argues that although there is still a chance to avoid catastrophe if the current administration and Congress implement dramatic change in foreign policy, there will be a high price for the next administration to pay if Washington maintains its current direction. I know readers will enjoy reading this historical-future analysis, and I am looking forward to their reactions and the debate it will generate. 



Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Coming Revolution and of the new book The Lost Spring coming out in March 2014. He advises members of the U.S Congress and the European Parliament on the Middle East. www.walidphares.com


Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153302 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153302 0
Arab moderates' ‘Iran problem’ is in Washington visit to Saudi Arabia undertaken by U.S. President Barack Obama has raised more questions in the Arab media than any other visit by a superpower leader to any country in the world.

The visit came at the heels of severe crises in international relations—from Crimea to Kiev, Libya’s resurging violence, the unending war in Syria, an escalating security breakdown in Yemen, urban terror in Egypt, and car bombs in Lebanon and Iraq.

The most important question regarding the visit was raised by Arab and Saudi journalists: “Why is this visit taking place now, and at whose request?” Analysts are justified in their confusion as America’s president has not visited the Kingdom since 2009.

Obama reassures

So there must have been an unusual motive for this journey, a few months after the conclusion of a nuclear deal with Iran and the deal over Syrian chemical weapons possessed by President Bashar al-Assad. Saudi officials revealed that the visit was at the request of the White House and aimed at “clarifying some of the steps Washington has taken in the region, including about Syria and Iran.”

Hence the second question was about substance: what are the disagreements between Riyadh and the Beltway, and are they uniquely about the new U.S. policies regarding Damascus and Tehran?

International media discussions and think tank analyses agreed on the notion that the Obama administration wanted to reassure Saudi Arabia, and perhaps its allies in the region, that the United States had their backs in case of Iranian aggression and that the nuclear deal with the Ayatollahs “won’t be a bad deal”—to use the words of President Obama.

(File photo: Reuters)

That may be true, but as I argued on Al Arabiya, there is much more to the summit than just a "clarification of U.S. foreign policy." The issue is about Arab mistrust of Washington’s choices in the region and shift of partnership.

Not just Saudis, but the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, as well as Jordan and Kuwait, and to some extent Yemen have been frustrated with the Obama administration for over two years now regarding a number of highly sensitive dossiers related to a common threat.

Obama missing the mark on Iran

As we have learned over the past weeks, a bloc of Arab moderate countries from the most populous (Egypt) to the wealthiest (Saudi) have put the Muslim Brotherhood on their list of terror organizations and withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, which is now standing accused of provoking Brotherhood subversion in all these countries.

Thus the first Arab frustration with the Obama administration has been the latter’s partnership with an organization that has been attempting to seize the control of almost a dozen countries in the Arab world. Washington’s backing of Islamists against popular majorities in Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula has left a deep scar in Arab -American ties.

These maladroit choices, influenced by a growing “Islamist lobby” in Washington, have dealt a blow to the traditional trust between Arab allies of the United States. But another dossier seems to have also deepened the crisis between the two sides.

Last fall, the Obama administration abruptly ended a potential campaign to strike at the Assad regime chemical weapons system, which according to several reports had been used against civilians. Washington used a Russian initiative to abort the move, thus enabling the Baathist dictator to resume his massacres inside his own country.

Weeks later, the Obama administration conducted the most radical change of foreign policy in the region by cutting a political deal with the Iranian regime over the nuclear crisis. Without any guarantees, the United States began lifting sanctions and the White House threatened to veto any new sanctions leveled by Congress.

What is more, the Obama administration began releasing billions of dollars in frozen Iranian assets back to the Mullahs’ regime while companies rushed to Tehran to infuse cash and conduct business.

Predictably, the Khomeini regime resumed its build-up of strategic weapons, mainly missiles, and continued meddling in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and most worrisome to the Gulf, in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. In the eyes of Arab moderates in North Africa and the Levant, Washington has gone too far by partnering with the Muslim Brotherhood and shielding Iran’s regime.

Arab countries speak out

The Saudis, backed by the UAE, Bahrain, and behind the scenes by Egypt, Jordan and many forces opposed to the Islamists and the Ayatollahs, moved to signify to the Obama administration that a red line was crossed. Endorsing the Brotherhood was a mistake, but cutting a deal with the Iranian regime was a greater one.

The Arabian allies of the U.S. could not understand how a U.S. administration, after three decades of systematic collective policy of isolation of the Tehran regime, rushes to establish bridges with Iran without even consulting with allies. Some commentators have even uttered the word “betrayed.”

But the fortunes of this U.S. policy have been missing luck lately. In Egypt, a coalition between a popular majority and the army crumbled the ousted Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi regime, while in Tunisia the Nahda withdrew from the government under the seculars’ pressures.

On Syria, all American promises haver failed, as Iraq and Lebanon are falling under Iran’s increasing influence. With a region almost lost, the Obama administration had little choice but to attempt to salvage its influence by seeking accommodations with the Saudis—now more influential than before because of its good ties to the new Egypt.

It seems that the Saudi king has conveyed to President Obama the deep concerns and, most likely, their stance on Iran and the Brotherhood. The focus now is to see whether Washington’s foreign policy circles will change direction after this visit. The Iran problem of Arab moderates is not simply within the region, it is mostly in Washington.

Will the administration realign with the moderates in the region and consider working with the Iranian opposition, or will it continue in its deal with the regime and lose several allies America has gathered in the greater Middle East over the last few decades?

----------Dr Walid Phares is the author of the newly released The Lost Spring: US Policy in the Middle East and the Catastrophes to Avoid. He also serves as an advisor to members of Congress on the Middle East.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153329 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153329 0
Media elite's extreme fascination with the Jihadist individuals’ personalities hurts the victims of the Boston bombing Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153330 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153330 0 The Khomeinist Dome: Iran's Larger Nuclear Strategy

The Iranian global construct can be perceived as a “Khomeinist Dome.” Iran’s strategy has been twofold—and sustained over decades, not simply implemented over the past few years and months. The regime has two simultaneous goals. One is to create a defensive sphere over the forthcoming strategic weapon before it is unveiled, and two is to suppress any internal opposition to the regime’s policies. The “dome” is a complex integration of Iranian foreign policy: Terrorism backing, using financial luring, exploiting Western weaknesses while at the same time expanding influence in the region so that by the time the greater shield is established, most U.S. and allied measures will be useless.

The regime knew all too well, years ago, that if they produced one atomic weapon (or even two) without being able to protect it, they would run into the almost certainty of military action by the West and/or by Israel to disable it. They were unable to circumvent this strategic theorem for decades, at least since the end of the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-1987. The issue for them was not about obtaining the nuclear weapon, but how to deter their enemies from destroying it. Iran did not have the geopolitical or economic capacities, nor the international stature of either India or Pakistan, to produce large scale numbers of bombs and later announce them the way south Asia’s nuclear powers detonated their devices in 1999. Hence Iran’s grand strategy to equip itself with the ultimate weapon was different—and thus far successful.    

After the Soviet collapse, Tehran knew Israel, or possibly a U.S. administration, would bomb the nuclear installations, not to mention the location of a potential weapon. The Israeli raid on Osirak in 1981 was clear evidence of Western determination to strike at a nuclear weapon in the hands of a dangerous regime. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the coalition’s massive response in 1990-1991 also told the Khomeinists that a post-Cold War West is more assertive than under the previously bipolar world. Finally, the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003 brought two powerful and hostile armies to Iran’s two borders. Tehran’s reading of the landscape change was so nervous that it declared itself as abandoning its nuclear ambitions, almost simultaneously with Moammar Gaddafi. The fear of being toppled by outside military forces pushed Iran to hide its nuclear ambitions while awaiting the outcome of the regional evolution.

By 2005, as the U.S. offensive in the Middle East came to a halt, the Iranian regime displayed its hardliner face with the coming of Mahmoud Ahmedinijad to power. >From then on, the grand strategy of the atomic conquest went full steam ahead. On one track, Iran activated the production of nuclear material, making Bushehr and its sister sites the center of international focus. Washington responded with targeted sanctions, well-crafted but aiming at pressuring Tehran to halt the project. The failure of the sanctions-only policies to exert a full strategic halt was caused by the inability of the West to support a strong and organized Iranian opposition inside the country with a significant presence in neighboring Iraq. Sanctions to pressure, without a real resistance movement to push the regime into a corner, were doomed to fail and they did.

But the Iranian regime’s wider strategy was to create a shield for the nuclear weapons as they were produced. In fact, the Ayatollahs calculated that they would only unveil the weapon if and when it is protected. Hence, while the U.S. focused primarily on the fissile material, the fast track production of missiles was never stopped. The greater dome strategy includes missiles, anti-aircraft systems, geopolitical space and terrorism.

A large missile force, which would target a wide spectrum of cities and sites, has been under construction for years. In addition, the regime has been attempting to obtain advanced anti-aircraft missile systems to protect the potential offensive missiles. And when the two structures are fully ready it will be a greater challenge to eliminate the entire network as it would be armed with nukes and other WMDs while also surrounded with a vast AA system; all the while, the uranium production is moving forward. In parallel, Tehran has been expanding its reach in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Arabian Peninsula and parts of East Africa with its influence and through terror networks. Once the combination of all the above systems is in place, the bomb will come, but not before.

The Khomeinist dome is about preparing for the nukes before they are displayed and claimed. It is about signaling to the West that once the greater Iranian power is asserted, there will not be a first indefensible bomb. Rather, Iran will jump to the level of unstoppable power with a vast network of retaliation as deterrence will have been achieved. Unfortunately, Western posture towards Tehran has only helped in the building of the dome: sanctions worked but were limited, all Iran’s other military systems were unchecked, and its interventions in the region unstopped. Worse, a nuclear deal with the U.S. injected time and energy into the regime’s veins.

At this point, the regime is out to complete the buildup of its strategic shield while offering to slow down its fissile material production. Once the dome is complete, the nuclear material production will speed up, and by the time the West realizes the maneuver, the Middle East will have changed forever.

Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Lost Spring: US Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid. He advises members of Congress on Terrorism and the Middle East.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153341 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153341 0
Washington’s strategic mistake in Iraq: Abandoning Iran's exiled opposition It has already been established, including in my recently published book The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid, that Washington has undertaken two global mistakes in its regional policies. One was the partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood and its backers in the Arab world, a policy that caused a major popular uprising in Egypt against the Ikhwan regime – and the rise of a block of moderate Arab governments in the Gulf and beyond in opposition to the Brotherhood’s power. The other global U.S. foreign policy mistake was the deal struck between the Obama administration and the Iranian regime based on the idea that engagement would moderate the Ayatollahs’ grand designs. But as one can clearly see, all Khomeinist promises have been evaporating as their military and militant machines grow by the day—despite the so-called “interim nuclear deal.” In short, Tehran has been outmaneuvering the West, particularly the United States, in regards to its long term strategic goals. And this is not a new phenomenon. Iran has been practicing this astute deception for years, particularly since 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Iraq. As we look back at the major triumphs for the Khomeinist regime over the past decade, it is painfully apparent that the single most dangerous move by Tehran’s services and supporters has been implemented inside Iraq and, unfortunately, right in front of the Americans’ eyes.


As is true for all totalitarians in history, the Iranian regime’s greatest fear comes from any potential opposition that is able to mobilize the masses and organize them, demonstrating a capability to shake the very foundation of the regime. For decades, the Khomeinists have clearly exhibited a zero-tolerance for any form of meaningful opposition and have successfully rebuffed any serious challenges to their regime. Since the implementation of the Islamic Republic, thousands of citizens have been executed and tortured. The arm of the regime went so far as to assassinate political opponents in foreign countries—with no regard for international law. In 1999, the regime clamped down on a widespread student revolt on campuses. Such suppression of demonstrations continued relentlessly over two more decades, culminating in the crushing of the June 2009 popular revolt.


The most dangerous of all known oppositions to the regime, however, has undoubtedly been the exiled Iranian community and its organized forces in Iraq. Since year one of the Khomeinist takeover in Tehran, thousands of citizens—mostly members of the revolutionary group “Mujahidin Khalq” (known also as the MEK)—flocked to neighboring Iraq as they fled the bloody repression in Iran. Naturally, the Saddam regime—at war with Khomeini—gave them safe haven and allowed them to stay. The notion of “Saddam protection” was used by the Iranian propaganda machine to tarnish the group’s legitimacy. The latter, stuck in Iraq, had two options: leave Iraqi exile and lose the only strategic territory contiguous to Iran from where they could reach out to their people—or run the risk of being painted as Saddam’s protégés. Their choice was to weather Iraq’s regime and create a base from which to launch their return. That base was called Camp Ashraf.


Iran’s regime used all possible tactics to harm the exiles, but the fall of Saddam finally gave them an opportunity to move directly into Iraq. Under the Bush administration, U.S. protection of the Iranian exiles was fair, generating years of MEK assistance in intelligence and counterterrorism. The exiles, considering themselves as allies of the Americans facing al Qaeda and Tehran’s militias, advised U.S. forces on an array of defense and human rights related issues. Washington’s partnership with the Ashraf community, however, made one mistake between 2003 and 2009: it did not build a serious strategic alliance that could have enabled the Iraq-based Iranian opposition to grow to a point where it could have mobilized the masses inside Iran with full backing of the U.S. and the Coalition. Seven years of properly engineered Western support to the exiles could have generated a massive geopolitical challenge to Iran’s regime and, by ripple effect, to its nuclear menace.



In 2009, the Obama administration changed course with Iran. In June of that year, President Obama sent a letter of engagement to Grand Ayatollah Khamenei. That same month, the U.S. president signaled his administration would not side with the demonstrators in Tehran and other Iranian cities. U.S. policy regarding the Iranian opposition has also changed since. Funds which had been authorized to Iranian dissidents by the previous administration were cut off. Ashraf was abandoned, leaving MEK vulnerable to attack by pro-Iranian security elements, as of 2009, even under the watchful eyes of the U.S. military. All signs indicated that the Obama administration had agreed to abandon the exiles in return for Tehran’s willingness to engage politically. The opposition group, attacked again in 2011, was relocated from Ashraf to another site farther from the borders, known as Camp Liberty in 2012. But the harassment by the Baghdad-led pro-Iranian authorities escalated as Tehran refused to tolerate any presence of freedom activists in the country just over their border. Though MEK was removed from old U.S. and European terror lists, which had handicapped the resistance group, Iran’s offensive against them proves that Washington’s abandonment of this organized force in Iraq is turning into a victory for the Ayatollahs. Free from an active challenge to their power, whether it be inside or outside the borders, the Iranian regime is now concentrating on consolidating its domination in Iraq—and from that country, its influence in Syria and Lebanon. Washington’s strategic error is enormous…it would be the equivalent of the British removing General De Gaulle and his Free French Forces from England while Hitler was preparing for his onslaught.  


Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Lost Spring: US Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid. He advises lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic          

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153348 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153348 0
The Handshake in Paris that Could Undermine both Syria and Iran

Dr. Walid Phares is the author of The Lost Spring: US Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid. He advises members of the US Congress and the European Parliament on the Middle East.

Iran News Update

One single handshake between a man and a woman in Paris may have significant ripple effects across the Middle East and the Arab world; a handshake that should have happened long time ago between leaders of the region’s opposition movements struggling for more pluralistic countries in the region from North Africa to the Levant. Visiting Ms. Mariam Rajavi—the head of the Iranian Council of national resistance, Ahmad al Jarba—the President of the Syrian National Coalition—posed for a picture that will produce earth shattering effects for Damascus and Tehran. The two leaders in the photo represent the largest political opposition forces against the two members of the “Axis of Evil,” the Khomeinist regime of Iran and the Baathist regime of Syria. Commenting on this encounter, the Director of al Arabiya Abdul Rahman al Rashed, wrote:

“Meeting with Rajavi is a smart move because it’s the first practical response against the Iranian regime which is actually leading the war in Syria and supporting it with funds and manpower. There’s no longer a justification for the Syrian opposition to respect anything when dealing with the Iranian opposition. Engineer Mariam Rajavi is one of the figures who harm the Iranian regime the most, and the latter has failed to eliminate her.”

Indeed, for the Syrian opposition leadership to meet with the Iranian opposition’s most organized and effective group is a strategic move that should have happened months ago, or even at the beginning of the Syrian revolution in 2011. The encounter of the two opposition movements against the terror-enabling—and  practicing—regimes in the region, particularly in Tehran and Damascus, is a logical response to the iron clad collaboration between the two regimes, now fighting a joint war in Syria against the uprising and cooperating against Arab moderate countries such as Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. As an observer of democracy movements in the Middle East for more than three decades, my question is not about what such convergence might produce, which is easy to answer. Rather, my question is: Why didn’t such a counter-axis come to life years ago, even as early as the 1980s?

Historians will rapidly discover that the two opposition movements were failed by the democratic system due to the significant lobbying power possessed by the two regimes within the West, particularly in the 1990s. Though Tehran and Damascus’ ruling elites were perceived as terrorists by Washington and many of its allies, the Syro-Iranian axis managed to block their respective oppositions from gaining traction within the West, let alone to coming together as a joint regional force. The Assad regime skillfully discredited its opponents—both Syrians and Lebanese—for many years within the Beltway. It was only after the Iraq invasion of 2003 that the Bush administration moved seriously against the Syrian regime and helped push it out of Lebanon. The Iranian opposition, particularly the PMOI, was branded by Tehran as “terrorists” while half of the region’s terror networks were commanded by the Ayatollahs. Stunningly, the most efficient Iranian opposition network was sanctioned as “terrorist” under the Clinton Administration, delaying the weakening of the Khomeinist regime by more than a decade.

Incredibly, the bad guys in the region were manipulating U.S. policy on their own oppositions, a Machiavellian achievement to be analyzed in political deception studies. In 2009, the Iranian opposition was abandoned by the Obama administration while at the same time the White House was labeling Assad as a reformer. During such faulty foreign policy times, it was barely possible for the two opposition movements to sustain survival, let alone to unite their efforts. In 2011, the golden opportunity to come together for Syrian and Iranian oppositions was again missed. Had Washington managed to strengthen the PMOI inside Iraq and help Syria’s opposition set up bases in that same country while U.S. and Coalition forces were still in charge, the Assad and Khomeini regimes would have been countered with serious and challenging opposition movements solidly based in Iraq. But the Obama administration acted in the Middle East to satisfy U.S. domestic politics. It evacuated Iraq by the end of the year without any guarantee for the MEK’s Camp Liberty, which was ravaged by local pro-Iranian forces. And by neglecting to back a moderate opposition in Syria during that same year, it lost a strategic opportunity to end the horrors in that country.

Three years later, the two opposition movements are probably realizing that coming together is a smart move, regardless of U.S. foreign policy. By simply meeting for a photo op, they have already changed the psychology of regional politics. The main lesson here is that democracy forces in the Middle East have now realized that they need to follow the interests of their people, even in the absence of Washington’s backing. Egypt’s Tamarod movement organized a revolt against the Muslim Brotherhood in spite of the Obama administration’s partnership with Morsi’s regime. The Tunisian liberals rose against the Washington-backed Islamic Nahda. In Libya, General Haftar has moved against the Islamist militias which were identified as the NATO-backed “rebels” against Gaddafi even while one of these militias killed an American ambassador and his colleagues in Benghazi. It seems that an independent political wave has started. An alliance of peoples is rising against the various “axes of evil,” against Jihadists or Iranian-backed forces.

The Syrian opposition is tired of the ineffective and lax U.S. initiatives on Syria, and the Iranian opposition is frustrated with the U.S. granting Iran’s regime more recognition via the “interim nuclear agreement.” The Jarba-Rajavi meeting may not reverse the Tehran-Damascus offensive in the region…yet. But a historic momentum has been created.

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153358 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153358 0
The Free Iran we can work with National Council of the Iranian Resistance (NCRI) proved just the opposite. It drew close to 100,000 Iranians from around the world and included the participation of prominent public figures from the United States, Europe and the Middle East. In her speech to the world, thanks to a powerful organization of the event, the leader of the Iranian Resistance, Ms. Maryam Rajavi, reminded those listening that an alternative to the Islamic Republic regime exists on the political map. The crushing of the 2009 demonstrations and the invasion of Ashraf in 2011 did not shut down the opposition. The June 2014 Paris rally demonstrated that political opposition to the regime is as strong as it has ever been. More international politicians than ever before, from all along the ideological spectrum, expressed solidarity with the MEK-led movement in exile. The high level of participation by Iranian youth and women provided further evidence that the spirit of the opposition has consolidated and has grown more abiding. Media coverage was also greater, and—ironically—Arab participation, including both Sunni and Shia, was wider.     The Iranian national resistance was able to show the world that despite systematic criticism and regime propaganda efforts, there is an alternative that has popular support and is capable of challenging the medieval regime currently ruling the country. In short, there is another Iran that continues to flourish and grow in exile. The choice is up to the United States and the West: Continue to feed the ambitions and the life of the Jihadi regime in Tehran—or help its alternative replace it with a pluralistic, secular and peaceful government.   Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Lost Spring: US Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid. He is a Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism. www.walidphares.com ]]> Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153413 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153413 0 Both Pope and Patriarch now worried about Middle East Christians; too little, too late? Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153545 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153545 0 Sydney's Lesson: The Mutant Jihadists are coming Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153551 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153551 0 The Unknown and suppressed story of the last days of South Lebanon's "belt" facts, and now come the questions:   Why did Israel surrender the "security zone" in south Lebanon to the Syrian-dominated government of Beirut and eventually to the Iranian-backed militia? There are answers to this question, but they won’t come until a new reading of the history of the Lebanese War is made available. The answers will surprise many, but not all, of the readers. Another question arises as well: Was there an alternative to an Israeli withdrawal and a Hezbollah takeover? The answer is yes, but it is almost totally unknown to the Lebanese public. Following are few pieces of it.   As of 1996, a plan submitted to the United Nations by Lebanese civilian committees in south Lebanon and backed by Lebanese Diaspora groups called for an Israeli withdrawal from the security zone, including Jezzine and Marjeyun, and for putting the 120,000 people from all communities (Christians, Shia, Sunni and Druse) living in that area under a direct UNIFIL command under a Chapter 7 Resolution, to be issued before any Israeli withdrawal. The project resembled the initiative that became UNSCR 1559 eight years later, which was also initiated by emigres groups overseas. The group in charge of the initiative for south Lebanon toured the UN and the U.S. Congress for support. Israel was suspicious of it, Iran and Syria were fighting it with rage, the Hariri government opposed it, and the anti-Syrian opposition dodged it.   Imagine an Israeli withdrawal without a Hezbollah conquest, with local Lebanese police stations in charge of security and a stronger UNIFIL protecting the area. Then imagine a Cedars Revolution followed by a Syrian withdrawal with a south free from Hezbollah. Use your imagination and you would understand that the alternative to the May 2000 Hezbollah so-called liberation would have been an Israeli pullout, a Lebanese liberation of their own soil, growing into a Syrian pullout, followed by a gradual disarming of Hezbollah. Today, in 2015, Lebanon would have been celebrating the tenth anniversary of a country free from Syrian occupation and an armed Hezbollah with a fully independent Lebanese Army.   But the tougher question: What was the position of the anti-Syrian occupation politicians, particularly the Christians among them, when they were approached regarding support for the internationalization of the south? Shockingly, the answer was a resounding no to such a pre-1559 resolution. More details will be revealed in time, but the politicians argued that "if Israel can be made to pull out, it would put 'moral' pressure on Hezbollah to disarm." This reckless logic led to the loss of a Lebanese opposition backing of such an initiative, a UN disinterest, an American shifting of policies, an Israeli regressive attitude, a Syrian-Iranian victory, and Hezbollah reaching the zenith of power.        Liberating a piece of Lebanon in 2000, leading to a final liberation of Lebanon in 2005, was possible. This possibility, however, was crushed by the poor vision of Christian-Lebanese politicians and by a shrewd pro-Iranian camp. There are dozens of questions and a slew of counter arguments to this assertion, but we will leave the debate for my memoirs and for historians to research. On this May anniversary of the fall of the "belt," it was important to let the public know that there is an alternative history to what they know.                                                                                                             ******   Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Lost Spring and a professor of Middle East Studies. He was the author of the NGOs draft memo introducing UNSCR 1559 in 2004 ]]> Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153631 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/153631 0 US policy towards Iran must focus strategically

Back in 2009 when a million Iranians took to the streets to reject the results of a manipulated Presidential election, we called for all-out US support to the protesters as they turned against the regime itself. The backing we suggested referred to political, moral and eventually peaceful logistical support, including broadcast, communications, and similar media allowing the opposition to express itself inside and outside the country. The world has seen briefly then, thanks to Twitter and YouTube, gigantic marches across the capital—but also acts of repression, including the shooting of young protester Neda. The regime shut down civil society’s media just before it clamped down on the protesters. Unfortunately, the US official positioning in June 2009 allowed Iran’s regime to eliminate its non-violent opposition faster than projected. One cannot destroy a million plus demonstrators unless there is certainty there will be no retribution. By stating that the US would not be taking sides between demonstrators and the Ayatollah regime—the words of President Barack Obama—indirectly gave a green light to the regime to crush the upheaval. The Obama administration was about optics: “The US should not be seen” as siding with Iran’s demonstrators because this would allegedly turn the country against the demonstrators. These talking points reflected the interests of the regime in Tehran, for American silence would demoralize the protesters, would demobilize allies and partners, and would freeze the use of international institutions to pressure the oppressive government in Iran—and it did.

Ironically, the same administration did not hesitate to openly call for the downfall of Egyptian, Tunisian. Libyan and other authoritarian heads of states two years later during the “Arab Spring.” So what was it about Iran’s democratic revolt of 2009 that forced the Obama team to abandon the millions of youth and workers in Iran as they rose? During that same month, President Obama sent a letter to Ayatollah Khamanei seeking engagement, which eventually led to a change of US policy towards Iran and the production of the “Iran Deal.” Abandoning the people on the streets of Tehran in 2009 was not some random tactical mistake; it was strategic policy that sacrificed democracy in Iran in order to establish an economic and political partnership with the regime. That US policy must change as we are witnessing its failures. Iran’s regime was given the opportunity to crush its popular opposition, export its military and militias to four countries in the Middle East, build a fleet of missiles, and keep its options open to produce and deploy nuclear weapons.

Today, the world is watching—again—many demonstrations taking place in Iran. The protesters come from all walks of life, spreading across the country beyond Tehran. They have been angry at the financial disparities and are now calling for the fall of the regime. Note also that many among the protesters were children during the 2009 upheaval. It is clear: the wave comes deep from within civil society. This a historic moment that needs to be seized by the United States and the international community to assist a peaceful political change in Iran, a change that would end half of the war on terror and set the track for peace and social prosperity. But what exactly should the US do?

 First, speak and speak loudly, shatter the silence. Supportive tweets by President Trump are crucial because they can be read by Iranian youth, women and workers and can serve as a morale booster to Iran’s civil society, to the silent majority and to ethnic minorities. Just the opposite of what former administration officials are prescribing: more of the same silence that suffocated the 2009 revolt. However, the President’s tweets should present a focused content that can help allies, partners and the Iranian opposition understand what Washington wants and can do. Presidential tweets can be a formidable game changer if they are disciplined and prioritized. So are Congressional tweets from both parties.

Second, US diplomacy can and should raise the bar by speaking up as Ambassador Haley is doing at the UN Security Council, and as Spokeswoman Heather Nauert at Foggy Bottom and NSC staffers are voicing at the White House. But beyond lamenting the actions of the Iranian regime, what is needed next is the formation of a large coalition of countries ready to act at the UN, flanked by a larger alliance of NGOs ready to take it to the streets and social media. If Haley’s efforts at the UNSC are vetoed by Russia, she should call on a meeting in support of the Iranian people. Dozens of Arab, Muslim, Latin American, Asian, and African delegates will show up. Some East European countries may also join in. The US can convene a coalition of the willing to pressure Tehran.

Third, the Iranian opposition—particularly those in exile—must help the US and the world mobilize by uniting themselves first. The Western based Iranian groups need to stop unproductive competition, think of the now and not of who will seize power later, and appear together and in solidarity on the international scene. The “I am Iran” slogan must be put on the side for now, and a vast national unity coalition of emigres and exiles should be formed and petition the UN, UNHRC, EU, and other organizations to lend them support. Keeping in mind that the real actors on the ground inside Iran, that is the protesters, are the ones to be supported in their quest for democracy. The diaspora should back them up, and once the change is achieved, let a free competition be the fair game for all to form future governments.

Fourth, US policy must present a rational and strategic agenda regarding Iran’s protests. The administration’s narrative must be unified, and the administration must reach out to Congress and coordinate a comprehensive strategy. A bipartisan platform needs to be built as a basis for a national US approach to the matter. We strongly suggest the appointment of an “Iran coordinator,” as long as the crisis is ongoing, to maintain cohesiveness between all US government entities and to reach out to regional and international players, as well as the Iranian opposition. Someone who understands both the opposition and the strategies of the regime as well.

Fifth, the US and its international coalition must provide strategic non-military support to the Iranian people, ethnic majority and minorities alike, including efficient means of communications with powerful internet access. Along with broadcast abilities, both those funded by the US such as radio Farda and VOA Faris, and private sector networks. Coordinate with partners in the region to broadcast into Iran in Farsi and other languages, and work with humanitarian NGOs to assist the victims of violence in Iran

Six, extend assistance to civil societies in the region, particularly in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, targeted by Iran regime’s militias, so that they can also put pressure on Tehran to cease its interventions in the region.

Seven, continue to block the shipping of Iranian missiles to countries overseas, including in the Middle East, starting with Yemen.

Now that Iran’s civil society has risen, it is the moral obligation of the international community to not only express solidarity with the latter but also to provide support—within the limits of international law—so that Iran’s silent majority can bring about political change to that ancient country, ruled by dictators since 1979.

 Dr Walid Phares is a professor of political science, and served as Foreign Policy advisor to Donald Trump in 2016 and senior national security advisor to Mitt Romney in 2011-2012. Author of several books including The Lost Spring: US Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid

Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154051 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154051 0
The US must support the democratic revolution in Venezuela for the sake of the Hemisphere With the mass demonstrations in Caracas and other Venezuelan cities spreading and persisting against the Maduro regime, Washington and other Western capitals are quickly shifting gears to support a change of government in the embattled country. This is a crucial moment as a major anti-American, pro-Iran, Marxist regime in the Western Hemisphere is facing an existential crisis from within. What should the United States and its allies do now?

The fact that there are now two leaders both claiming to be the legitimate President of Venezuela is a direct consequence of years of oppression, first by the Chavez regime and then continued by Maduro. The far-left radical group that seized power and allied itself with authoritarian regimes in Latin America and beyond failed to meet the basic economic needs of Venezuelans, despite the fact that the country has one of the largest reserves of oil and energy in the world. Shortages of food and supplies led to demonstrations under Chavez—and when hyperinflation and economic collapse intensified under Maduro, so did the demonstrations.

Maduro then waged a massive suppression campaign against the protesters, leading to bloodshed, mass arrests, torture and disappearances, all documented by international organizations. Political violence, and social and economic collapse then led to a severe refugee crisis, with more than three million Venezuelans crossing into Colombia and Brazil and spreading across South America. Another extension of the crisis could lead to the exodus of more than five million citizens. On these grounds alone, the United Nations and the outside world have the obligation to intervene. But Maduro is not without friends.

Over the past few years, the Chavista/Maduro regime built strong bridges to the far-left governments of Latin America, establishing relationships with Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and, at some point, the Lula establishment in Brazil. The Marxist network backed the “Caracas Stalinists” and blocked international efforts to save democracy in Venezuela.

Moreover, for more than a decade, another radical regime established roots in the country—the Iranian regime and its ally Hezbollah. Maduro’s bureaucracy recruited elements allied to Tehran, and Hezbollah established its headquarters in the country for operations across South America and the Hemisphere. It has been reported that Maduro’s Middle Eastern guests took part in the repression against Venezuelan citizens.

The current wave of confrontation between the opposition and the regime is different. The elected speaker of the National Assembly, liberal politician Juan Guaido, was able to find a process to impeach Maduro after Maduro’s reelection in the highly corrupted voting process last May. The Parliament removed Maduro and installed Guaido as interim President, but the armed forces and militias of the regime are still backing the communist dictator despite the widespread demonstrations across the country.

As the number of citizens killed and wounded by the regime rose, Washington moved against Maduro. The Trump administration, followed by the Organization of American States (OAS)—the equivalent of the EU for the Hemisphere—and recognized the interim President, then by Canada and a growing number of governments worldwide. The administration’s move against Maduro is led by Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, both seasoned strategists on countering radical regimes. The swift US decision left little choice to the other international parties: they were either with an oppressive regime or with the people of Venezuela. Following suit, France, the UK, and the EU announced they will give eight days to Maduro to accept a new free election, monitored by the UN—otherwise they will deal with Guaido as President.

The battle raged at the UN Security Council where Russia, Iran, Cuba, and Nicaragua blasted the US for “meddling in Venezuela’s internal affairs,” while the UK and a large alliance of Latin American, European, and Arab countries led by the US continued to isolate Maduro and his radical allies. What can and should the Trump administration do from here on out?

I recommend the following to Washington and the Trump administration:

  • Make the case that the battle in Venezuela is between the people and this oppressive, illegitimate regime, with immense ramifications for the health, security, and freedom of millions of Venezuelans.

  • Make the case that those forces meddling in Venezuela are Iran, Hezbollah, Cuba, and Russia.

  • Expose the governments who are siding with Maduro while pocketing US aid.

  • Ensure that the vast coalition led by the US includes all possible countries from around the world, including Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

  • Provide direct support to interim President Guaido and his government, on all levels.

  • Ask the Maduro regime to evacuate the Venezuelan embassy in Washington and ask the Guaido government to take over.

  • Channel humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan refugees on Colombian and Brazilian borders under the supervision of the OAS and the UN.

  • Call on the Venezuelan armed forces to cease its operations against demonstrators and side with President Guaido, and sever all ties to Iran and Hezbollah assets in the country.

  • Bring prosecution against the Maduro regime for crimes against humanity in the International Criminal Court.

  • Stand ready to respond to a call from the legitimate President of Venezuela to intervene if Maduro forces engage in mass bloodshed or a coup against the Parliament and the interim President.

  • If the Trump administration holds firm on these ten points, the Maduro regime will fall and a democratically elected new government in Venezuela will emerge, bringing peace and security to the country and the region.


    Dr Walid Phares is Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group, a former foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump and a former national security advisor to Mitt Romney. 

    Email: Phares@walidphares.com

    Facebook/Twitter/Instagram @walidphares   

    Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154178 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154178 0
    From Warsaw to Tehran, will freedom ring? This week, the United States and Poland will jointly host a ministerial meeting to “promote peace and security in the Middle East” with a focus on Iran’s “destabilizing role in the region.” The international gathering to be held in Warsaw on February 13 and14 has already been portrayed by Tehran as a US led effort to further isolate and crumble the Ayatollah regime. This first of its genre conference, aiming at mitigating both the Iranian regime and all Jihadists in the region, is important and must be successful. Here are my thoughts:

    Need for internationalization

    Months ago, I proposed via media and social media, both in the United States and the Middle East, that the next stage of pressures on the Iran regime should include internationalization of the response. My proposition was prompted by the Trump administration’s escalation of sanctions and the ongoing debate over the future of pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. My argument was that unless Washington musters a greater coalition to provoke change inside the country, sanctions won’t be enough to cause change. Economic sanctions need time to take effects and many players, including our own European partners, are working on circumventing them.  

    Poland’s role

    In parallel, I was meeting with Polish officials during the Fall of 2018 to discuss new Polish and European policies to defend the small minorities in the Middle East, including Yazidis and Christians. One of the suggestions I made was to hold a conference on Middle East minorities in Warsaw. I argued that Poland’s experience with Soviet totalitarianism would provide insights and perspectives helpful against Jihadi totalitarians, ISIS and al Qaeda. From that angle, I suggested a conference on Middle East global issues, including security, civil societies and terrorism. I was glad to learn few weeks ago that the US and Poland agreed to hold such a conference in Warsaw, looking at the whole region.     

    Middle East and Iran

    I had already argued that it would be preferable to design the summit as focusing on "Middle East Security, Stability, and Human Rights." Though the chief focus—particularly for the United States—would be containing the Iran regime and the threats it poses, the summit would also discuss and address various conflicts such as those in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and Libya, as well as tensions and terrorism in Lebanon, Tunisia, and Egypt and Morocco. The summit would discuss the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and the Iran-Saudi and ongoing Turkish-Kurdish conflicts. In sum, it is of great importance that the Warsaw summit is perceived as an international platform, not only for discussion, but for assisting in solving the global crises in the Greater Middle East.

    Strategic Messaging

    It is important that the strategic messaging for the summit insists that more ideas be added to the existing ones so that the discussions are diversified—thus maintaining the theme of containing radical regime threats, including Iran, while still expanding the scope of the summit to cover a score of issues, including the question of civil societies, minorities, women and energy. I see the Warsaw meeting as a continuation of the Riyadh Summit of 2017. There needs to be a permanent forum tackling the crises of the Middle East. Warsaw is a perfect fit for this role


    The US and Poland are well positioned to invite the largest possible number of governments to attend. Mobilizing Arab participation in the Warsaw Summit—particularly the countries of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Jordan—would supplement the strategic messaging of the gathering. As with the coalition to support the Venezuelan parliament, a coalition to contain Iran and counter extremism in the Middle East should be wide and include European Governments, the Arab Coalition, and as many countries as possible from Latin America, Africa and Asia.

    Partnering with opposition

    However, as I argued in my book The Lost Spring and many articles, it is essential that all international conferences dealing with Iran engage the Iranian opposition, both inside and outside the country. Just as Juan Guaido, the current transitional President of Venezuela, was reached out to by the US and the OAS, the Warsaw conference must identify and connect with moderate democratic leaders of the Iranian opposition.

    After Riyadh, the Warsaw summit is another good idea. I hope that after Warsaw, Tehran will feel the winds of change blowing too.



    Dr. Walid Phares is Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group (TAG), a former foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump and an author


    Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154181 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154181 0
    Post Warsaw summit, what next with Iran? The international community has been monitoring the large coalition of governments that gathered from several regions to meet last week in Warsaw to discuss what was described as a summit to promote security and stability in the Middle East—but which was seen by many players as an attempt to form a front to pressure and isolate Iran’s regime as a way to thwart its ambition to develop its nuclear arms arsenal and its already significant missile force. Now that the summit is over—and the debates were colourful—the question becomes, what will happen next? What should the international community do? What should the Trump administration’s role be? To know where we are going, we have to know what road we are on—and to understand what road we are on, we must understand where we came from.


    Many factors led to the grand reunion in Poland’s capital. One factor was the necessity for the United States to take a strong second step after President Donald Trump levelled more biting sanctions on the Islamic Republic last fall. It became imperative for Washington to find new tools to pressure the Ayatollahs beyond the sanctions, as the European Union has been committed to finding ways to bypass the US measures against Tehran. A second factor was the increasing concern in the Gulf that Iran was advancing on all fronts, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Third was the shift in power in Washington, DC, after the Democrat opposition obtained a majority in the US House of Representatives, leading to the prospect of a strong push back against Donald Trump’s plans for Iran. Add to that, a Senate resolution to punish the Arab Coalition war in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthis.

    Many in the US government and in the private sector were looking for new strategies to move forward with the pressures against Iran. Among the ideas proposed (I had the privilege to be one of the authors of one such proposal), was to hold a Middle East centred summit in Warsaw to address many critical issues in the region, including terrorism, Iran threats, ISIS, and minorities. I had suggested the choice of Warsaw at a meeting with a Polish minister visiting Washington, DC, in the fall, arguing that the capital of a former member of the Soviet bloc would be symbolic for the peoples in the Middle East seeking freedom from authoritarianism. Weeks later, Poland and the United States announced the summit, surprising many observers.


    However, the large coalition invited to participate—reaching close to 65 participating governments—represented multiple views on the goals and optics of the summit. While the Trump administration affirmed strongly via Secretary Mike Pompeo’s statements that the gathering was aimed at isolating Iran internationally and to force it to abandon its expansionist policies in the Middle East, other countries, particularly in Europe and including co-host Poland, underlined that the chief goal of the conference was to address all security challenges in the region, including Iran, Yemen, Syria, ISIS and other conflicts. The US and Israel, and to a certain extent the Gulf states, were dead set on taking action against Tehran for its military intervention in four countries in the Middle East. Other coalition countries, though recognising the missile threat coming from Iran, preferred the idea of using Warsaw’s summit as a platform from which to launch initiatives into the Middle East, set up a forum for future debates, and engage the NGO community for further action.


    The most stubborn resistance against the Warsaw summit came from other European quarters in Brussels, where the European Commission and the foreign affairs committee opposed the idea of an international coalition to act against Iran’s policies. Rather, the EU hastened its steps to establish a mechanism to provide a secure channel of trade with Tehran, bypassing US sanctions. Brussels warned Poland that further rapprochement with the US on Iran could affect European assistance to Warsaw. The Polish government, under pressure from both Brussels and Washington is indeed walking a tight rope, but they remain determined to lock arms with the Trump administration.


    While most of Western Europe, including Germany and France, continue to adhere to the JCPOA and abstain from backing US measures against the Iran regime, Eastern and Ccentral Europe differ in some ways. In addition to Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia, known as the “Visigrad countries,” are closer to the US position in general—as a counter reaction to Brussels’ injunctions to accept a quota of refugees coming from the Middle East and Northern Africa. Furthermore, the Baltic States, fearing Russian moves, strategically depend on the United States for defence. In Latin America and Africa, governments are divided between standing with the US and standing with Russia and China, thus indirectly with Iran. One difference this year is that with Bolsonaro’s election, Brazil has shifted towards the US. Last, in the Middle East divisions are clear: the Arab coalition stands firmly against Iran, and the latter is backed by its proxies in the region, while Turkey and Qatar both flirt with Tehran.


    Within the beltway, both parties are united on sanctions against Tehran, but a far-left slice of the Democratic Party opposes them, while a small group of conservatives is opposed to a clash with the Ayatollahs and Assad. Both dissenting groups represent the impact of the Iran lobby.


    In these post Warsaw times, I recommend integrating the sanctions system within a more comprehensive strategy to bring change to Iran’s behaviour. Sanctions alone will take time and aren’t guaranteed. We should engage the internal opposition inside Iran and identify a new leadership for the opposition, comparable to Juan Guaido in Venezuela—and include a wider number of countries within the Warsaw process, including Indonesia, Brazil and India, to ensure a universal approach to the crisis.

    The international community—and the Trump administration—should also capitalise on the summit’s momentum to address the other crises involving Iran—in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon—to use them as leverage to produce the change needed in Teheran and the entire Middle East for regional peace and security.

    Dr Walid Phares is the Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group (TAG) and a former foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump.

    Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154188 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154188 0
    The Dubai Revolution


    I have followed the rise of the Dubai phenomenon in the Gulf and the Arab world for years, either via friends and family who worked, lived and visited there, or via media and other reporting. As for the UAE in general, the understanding of Dubai’s role in the Gulf and the Middle East was limited to its commercial and economic offerings and development, which was computed only statistically. In the post 9/11 era, many Americans grew suspicious about what was perceived as a wave of funds coming from the Gulf to assist extremists around the world. This popularized picture of “nefarious Petrodollars” was used by many quarters, initially aimed at tarnishing the Emirates’ image worldwide. Such perceptions obfuscated the value of what that part of the Gulf was producing for the world (and we are not talking about energy and oil) while simultaneously allowing the other side of the Gulf—Iran—to take advantage.

    But the change in American optics regarding the young principalities reversed the trends of fear and limited information as the region entered the so-called Arab Spring. The first signal coming from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was its announcement of one of the most comprehensive lists of terror entities in the world. Abu Dhabi’s government drew my full attention in 2014 when they assigned designations to all the terrorist and extremist entities operating in the Arab world, including a few operating in the West. This announcement and the statements made by the UAE leaders, including those made by its Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed, were a benchmark in the history of ideological counter terrorism—not only in the region, but worldwide. This laid the foundation for a larger gathering of members of what would later become the Arab Coalition against Terrorism. In November of 2016, I had the privilege of meeting and chatting with the UAE’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. I also had a comprehensive dialogue with Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdallah at his residence in Abu Dhabi. The depth of these conversations convinced me that the UAE was the factory producing the most advanced strategic thinking aimed at defeating extremism and building the core of Arab moderate societies. But there was a social experiment at the core of this Emirati reformation. I discovered it in Dubai, the beating heart of the Gulf.   

    The city, known for having become the jewel of the Gulf, with its skyscrapers, cutting edge infrastructure and titanic businesses, has a human dimension that competes with its modernity and socio-economic progress. The UAE has been mutating into an epitome of the future modern Arab state, and Dubai has become a model for Arab megapolises of the future, as stated by two Gulf leaders, Mohamed bin Zayed (MBZ) and Mohamed bin Salman (MBS). Rightly so, as MBS said: “Dubai is the future of the Arab world.”

    I saw the phenomenon with my own eyes last month when I was invited by the Dubai Press Club to participate in the Arab Media Forum along with dozens of journalists, writers and media personalities from across the region. The theme of the impressive convention was to look at the future of media in the region and how the media can be used to advance the cause of moderation, deradicalization and future technological advancement. The gathering was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum—Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, who shared his futuristic vision for Dubai’s emirate and city. The media event, with publishers and powerful voices, male and female, from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Yemen, and many other Arab countries in addition to the emiratis, showed me the next stage in communication in the region. While al Jazeera of Qatar and al Aalam of Iran are resisting change and hanging on to the old bellicose narrative, the Dubai school of thought displayed a smooth transition towards tolerance, optimism and progress. Seeing, hearing and interacting with men and women of the print and electronic press pushing for a positive, more humane narrative in a highly combative region, is inspiring. I could feel the change, see the future and bathe myself in the nearly tangible hope.

    The “Dubai spirit” I experienced in 2019 convinced me that there is another path in the Arab world, a path that will convince the West that all is not lost and that there could be a brighter future for the region despite Jihadists and Ayatollahs. But that glimpse of future is also very convincing for Arabs and Middle Easterners. Across the city—whose skyline looks like it belongs in a Hollywood movie, I saw people from dozens of ethnicities, religions, sects and traditions. It was something close to the peaceful cities found in “Star Wars”—with a Planet Naboo-like environment. And that is what I found across from quasi-medieval Iran’s Islamic Republic on the other side of the Gulf. Something almost surreal. The feelings I had while strolling in the city reminded me of Beirut before 1975, the then-called Paris of the Middle East. I wasn’t too off in my vision. The leader behind this urban revolution, Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid had himself pointed out that his dream for Dubai was started in pre-war Beirut. Thus, the latter, which was seen as the jewel of the Arab world from the 1950s to the 1970s, has been reborn in the Emirates as a new global, more advanced and thriving megapolis in the 21st century.

    The luxurious lifestyle, abundance and peaceful features of Dubai, are not its ultimate features. For as I witnessed in Lebanon decades before, all of the similar urban wealth disappearing under the thunder of terror, then war, occupation and stagnation. Furthermore, as the region is flirting with tensions arising from US-Iran confrontation, the Gulf cities could find themselves the target of extremists in the region. America is a strong partner to the Arab Coalition, and no aggression will be tolerated, as it was demonstrated when Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990. The UAE and its partners in the Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, have enough strength and determination to deter any enemy. But the real assets of the emirates, and in particular Dubai as its largest most sophisticated city, are its population and its leaders.

    It is no wonder why the city is sought by millions of visitors from around the world, even by citizens from countries whose regimes harbor jealousy and contempt toward the Peninsula’s fastest developing urban center.  Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al Maktoum has built a city its competitors respect and whose admirers wish to emulate. The one day I spent in the emirati desert—from the city all the way to the frontier of the Rubh al Khali (Empty Quarter)—taught me the same type of humility I experience when I walk along the slopes of high mountains. From Dubai’s skyline to the stars above the sandy dunes, there is a perfect storm brewing in Dubai. One that is renewing the old Bedouin character of persistence and marrying it to the cutting-edge civilizational achievements rising along the coast of the Gulf. What I saw there was a mix of the old sophisticated Beirut, the imposing power of New York, and the sweetness of Miami. These three cities have been known for their economic success and vast diversity. Dubai’s revolution, if anything, provides a glimpse into a more hopeful, post-extremist Arab world.   


    Dr Walid Phares is the Co Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group TAG. A former advisor on foreign policy to Donald Trump and a former national security advisor to Mitt Romney. He is the author of many books including "The Lost Spring." 

    Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154214 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154214 0
    The Game of Drones With the downing of a US drone flying in international air space over the Gulf by Iranian antimissiles rockets, the region has entered into, what I coin as, the Game of Drones. Both sides and their allies have been flying unmanned military planes for a while now, from Yemen to the waterways across the Gulf to Iraq and Syria. But with the first official robotic clash between Iran and America over the skies of the Middle East, we may witness a new era of drone wars.

    Naturally, experts would project a win for US higher technology over Iran's less advanced weaponry system, mostly acquired from North Korea, China and Russia. However, in what I call the "Game of Drones" the equation is not only about technological superiority, but about geopolitical conditions. Here is why.

    Iran's regime has been developing and acquiring missiles, anti-missiles missiles, and long-range rockets for a few years, particularly since the Obama Administration released billions of dollars in frozen assets based on the Iran Nuclear Deal. Tehran has been boasting about its new "strategic capabilities," claiming it has reached a strategic parity with Israel, the Arab Coalition and the United States. It has asserted that it has a combo of unmanned flying weapons which can inflict high level of destructions on its enemies, particularly American forces in the region.

    Last year, Iranian drones pierced Israeli airspace. For many months, the IRGC was flying weaponized drones in Syria and Iraq's airspaces. But more importantly, the Khomeinist regime equipped their allies in Yemen, the Houthi militias with all sorts of missiles, from ballistic ones to drones, which were fired on targets in Saudi Arabia, including airports and oil installations. According to reports, one Houthi missile targeted a US Navy ship in the Red Sea more than year ago but was downed in time. The Iran controlled Yemen "missile force" seemed to be the platform threatening Arab Coalition and US assets in the region. Hezbollah's missile force in Lebanon has been the oldest deployed robotic army also commanded by the Pasdaran.

    The US military presence in the Middle East has always been equipped with missiles and drones, as well as the Navy equivalent deployed in the region. But with Iran's escalation since the designation of the IRGC as a terror entity and the biting economic sanctions on Iran's regime, Washington deployed additional assets, including battleships, an aircraft carrier, B-52s and Patriot missiles batteries. The US deterrence force, though impressive, has one mission so far, that is to deter Iran from attacking US forces in the region. It does not have a task to destroy Iran's military might, because of domestic political opposition. The Ayatollahs' strategists understood this equation and thus have apparently adopted the "Game of Drones," strategy.

    From Yemen, they coordinate Houthis drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and potentially ships in the Red Sea. In Syria and Iraq, Pasdaran's drone force would eventually target US military bases. In Lebanon, Hezbollah's drone force is on reserve to act. But the main body of the Iranian unmanned fleet would operate in the Gulf area against US and Arab Coalition targets. Tehran's drone game is to harass US deployment and show deterrence against Washington. But aren't the Ayatollahs concerned about a massive US retaliation 'a la Reagan' in the 1980s? It doesn't seem that Iran's strategists believe that the Trump Administration would respond strategically to limited drone gaming. They may have been advised that the White House isn't in a position to wage a large size operation, hence pushing Iranians to pursue a brinkmanship strategy: attacking US assets, absorbing possible US retaliation, but winning the last round, as they think.

    Let's see.

    Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154222 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154222 0
    The Corona Virus War: The Genesis Strategic Perspective

    There are quite a few emotional and passionate narratives circulating in the press and on social media regarding the coronavirus, COVID-19, and understandably so as it has caused the death of tens of thousands and has been wreaking economic havoc throughout the country and the world. And because the events are still unfolding, and there is so much chatter on this topic, the time is right to start thinking about the current crisis in strategic terms.

    First, perspective is needed. There have been many viruses that dominated headlines in the past decade or two – H1N1, SARS, West Nile…all causing death, hospitalization and affecting lives and communities, along with medical breakthroughs and health and scientific innovation. But the history of viruses stretches back much further, thousands of years. Viruses are found throughout all of recorded human history. And the death toll of these plagues?

    Not in the 10s of thousands. Not even in the millions. But a death toll of tens of millions. When looking back at antiquity, entire civilizations have been wiped out by viruses.

    But even recorded history does not tell the entire story. If you ask biologists and virologists, they will tell you we are talking about a phenomenon that is older than humans, viruses being around for 200-250 million years, and there has always been a confrontation between viruses and life on the planet. Thus, the first part of strategic perspective is understanding that what we are dealing with right now is, in historical terms, very recent. The war has only recently evolved to take on the most advanced species on earth: Us.

    History also teaches us that all viruses are cyclical, and the same virus will come back and visit us, so now is the time to think strategically about how to address future clashes between humanity and viruses in this new war. And this is doubly important now because it may be the single most important debate in terms of public health – and not just for months or years, but decades, perhaps even after all of us on earth now are gone.


    Unanswered Questions – and Consequences


    There has been much debate among public figures, in the media, about the genesis of COVID19. So question Number 1 is very simple: Where did COVID19 actually start?

    We know it had its genesis in China in the province of Wuhan. That is not debated. It did not start in Greenland. It did not start in Australia. It started in China. There may be a debate over what it should or should not be called, but there is no debate that it started in China. The debate instead is over whether it started in the city wet market (animal market) or in a lab.

    This is an important distinction because knowing the answer will lead to developing best practices and strategies for avoiding similar future outbreaks. But it is also an important distinction because of the legal and political consequences of the answer to that question.

    If it was in a lab, then a conversation with the Chinese authorities is required to discuss the security of these biological labs. The international community will be very adamant about the discussion and implementation of its outcomes, which might include new security measures for biological labs, and not just in China. If the origin of this virus was a lab, that means the security of that lab lapsed, and China – as host to this lab – is ultimately responsible.

    Believing it began in a lab has led to conspiracy theories that this virus is a weapon, but let’s just work with the data available. The US government at this point believes it was an evolution of the SARS virus, either under Chinese government control to research it or to find antidotes.

    But even if it came out of the wet market, there should again be laws and regulations to prevent new outbreaks in the future. Either way, countermeasures need to be put in place.

    And regardless of the specific origin (market or lab), we know the genesis was in China, so we will have to deal with the Chinese government. And we cannot continue in international relations as if nothing has happened. The cause needs to be addressed.


    Second, there will have to be a discussion about reparations. Such a conversation will be complex, an international negotiation process with multiple parties and unintended consequences, but it is a tunnel we will have to travel through.


    China’s Response

    Now the third point, and this is critical: What did the Chinese authorities do?

    Let’s be clear: This question would apply to any other government. It could have been in Russia. It could have been in America. It could have been in Italy – instead of being the recipient, they could have been responsible for the crisis…And any other country might be responsible in the future. So the third question here is simply: What did the authorities do? Because their response is crucial to how the crisis developed.

    According to the information that we have, the Chinese authorities secured the Wuhan province with enormous force. The authorities sealed off the population of Wuhan from the rest of China. This is significant because that measure protected the most important Chinese strategic centers – the capital Beijing – and its economic center Shanghai. There was no travel between Wuhan and Beijing. There was no travel between Wuhan and Shanghai. The province was closed off completely.

    But there was a breach. The breach – by Chinese authorities – was to allow citizens and resident nationals in Wuhan to fly, not anywhere within China, but out of China from Wuhan. And that is the genesis of the worldwide crisis.

    There was a crisis inside China – similar to what happened in Africa with Ebola – but the world crisis came from the very simple fact that although China did not allow flights between Wuhan and other locations in China, they did allow flights from Wuhan to other parts of the world—where the virus took off infecting the rest of the planet.

    The US Mobilization

    We know that at the end of December, early January, Chinese authorities sealed off the province where the virus started but did not stop the flights from Wuhan to the rest of the world. But the second side of that equation becomes: When did the world mobilize? When did the United States mobilize and start to respond?

    From the moment I saw those videos coming out of Wuhan on YouTube and social media I understood that if this virus was spreading person to person and if there was an operation to seal off an area with a population of millions, it meant that this virus is indisputably going to jump to other countries. And if it jumps to other countries, it is going to get to the United States because we are a global society. So as I was watching the transatlantic and transpacific flights continuing, I started my own personal mobilization: Reading what I could find about the health crisis and taking some personal measures, such as with travel and social interactions by the end of January and of course early February.

    Likewise, governments were reacting, collecting information and mobilizing based on what they learned.

    But what about The United States?

    Information was coming to Washington, to the administration, to the agencies. There is also now talk of an intelligence assessment that was communicated to the administration and to committees in Congress – in the Senate and the House. But I didn’t see hearings throughout January, till February, where the virus was addressed by Congress. If there was an intelligence report, I saw no reaction by the members in charge in Congress, no indication of intelligence dealing with the matter.

    The attention in Congress in January, especially in the House of Representatives, was instead focused on measures being taken against the President of the United States.

    Now the administration received that assessment – maybe in more detail, and maybe the president moved at a slower pace in order to collect more information before full mobilization because executive action is just that: action. And executive actions need to be prepared, but the executive branch, unlike the legislative branch, does not simply hold hearings. The White House executes plans. And at the time, there was strong opposition to the actions proposed.

    It is important to understand the timeline (and the political atmosphere) to add perspective to why we acted when we acted.

    The decision to shut down flights from China was the first and probably the most important strategic decision issued by the White House at the end of January. That was the beginning of our process, but the Trojan horse was already inside our walls. The events of December and most of January invited it in as tens of thousands of people who came either from China directly to the United States or through Europe or other countries ended up spreading the virus.


    Hindsight is 20-20


    Historians might and should ask: What was the US government doing? How did it perceive the threat? What were the real possibilities of dealing with matters in terms of the executive branch, in terms of tension between the administration and Congress during the heated politics at the time?

    The reality of the matter is that by end of January it was too late for a full and clear interception.

    If China had warned us, we would have shut down those flights a month and a half prior.

    If, instead of a focus on only the impeachment process, a debate was possible in the first two to three weeks of January building consensus between Congress and the administration, action would have been taken at the beginning of January, not at the end of January.

    So the Chinese delayed our response by a month and a half and then our political process delayed it another month. And this is why by January 30, when the countermeasures by the United States were implemented, they were relatively late.

    Even if we had had the opportunity to shut down the flights earlier on, we still would have encountered cases of coronavirus because we wouldn’t have been able to shut down everything by the time the information came all the way through the agencies and through the media.

    Even if the Chinese had told us in December, there still would have been hundreds of people who would have communicated the virus either via direct flights to the United States or via flights to Europe and then from Europe, or other countries like Japan, to the United States. So even if actions were taken one or two months before they were ultimately implemented, we still would have had the coronavirus, albeit in a very limited way. More significantly, then, we would have had information from the Chinese, and we would have been working with them and their firsthand knowledge.

    Had there been a united position in Washington instead such a deep paralyzing division at the time, imagine the full strength of the US government and people coming against the threat in in December or January instead of prepping for this battle in February or March.


    Reckless Accusations


    There is one last matter to be addressed when discussing this health crisis from a strategic position.

    When the US decided to shut down the flights from China, I was very concerned to hear at least three bodies accusing that decision of being racist.

    Shutting down flights from China because of a virus is not racist. It is a health measure. China should have asked the US to shut its border in the same way the US and Canada together decided to shut down the northern border. In the same way the United States and Mexico jointly decided to shut down the southern border.

    The accusation alone is a dangerous one, but the three entities that made the accusation exponentially increase the strategic risk.

    It came, first, from China. China who knew better. China who sealed Wuhan from the rest of the country. China who prevented these flights from landing anywhere else in China. China who is responsible for releasing the virus.

    It came, second, from the World Health Organization. We still have, on record, the director of the W.H.O. calling this decision by the US racist.

    We shut down flights to stop anybody coming from abroad with that virus – including Americans. (We did treat Americans differently by allowing them to come but forcing a 14-day quarantine.) This was not a message to the outside world that “We don’t want you to come.” We actually truly desire these millions of people to visit. It is part of our economy. We have the largest visiting population in the world. America has the largest tourism industry on the globe.

    So with the World Health Organization leveling this accusation of racism against the president of the United States – regardless of who the president is (Democrat, Republican, Obama, Bush, Clinton) – instead of focusing on world health, there is something deeply flawed within the system that needs to be addressed.

    And thirdly, we heard the accusation from politicians here in the United States. This is not a matter of free speech. The opposition can say whatever it wants, but reckless, ignorant accusations must be pointed out and addressed as such. To call a measure for national public safety, if not national security, racist, should it be said by politicians in Congress or in the media, sets a dangerous precedent.

    If we continue to entertain such notions in the realm of national safety and national security, it endangers the country – and the world. Support of such dangerous rhetoric coming from academia and the media and political hardliners needs to stop. This is where the intellectual community should come together and discuss how to separate politics from crises. When we are as a nation making decisions, taking steps in regard to all Americans and their safety, health and security, there need not be any politicization. This is very dangerous. Reckless. Irresponsible.

    Though this is in the past, this recklessness needs to be debated. It needs to be discussed because there will be another crisis. We don’t need to enter the next unchanged. Instead, we need to achieve national consensus to completely separate politics from the public health of Americans and from the national security of Americans. Doing so might also help to allay fears and calm destructive passions when we need level heads the most.

    Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154343 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154343 0
    Iran’s coronavirus strategy: Neglect its people, revive its proxies Iran’s strategies to ride the recent wave of events, both in the region and with the United States, is on the minds of many observers of the Middle East.

    Before the coronavirus outbreak, Iran was attempting to survive the critical months leading up to the US presidential elections, the outcome of which could either crush or unleash Tehran’s interim and long-term goals.

    Now, Tehran is attempting to use the COVID-19 pandemic to quell issues at home and to consolidate its proxies, while the world’s attention is focused on the health crisis.

    Pre-coronavirus events

    Toward the end of last year, after three months of unending demonstrations inside Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-controlled regime calculated that any longer stretch of popular uprisings would eventually lead to paralysis of the system, especially considering the biting US sanctions against them.

    All calculations indicated an eventual socio-economic collapse and chaos, leading to a long, protracted revolt – so Tehran’s rulers chose to escalate against “foreign enemies” to silence the domestic one - its own people.

    First to bear the ire of the Ayatollahs were Gulf leaders. From missiles fired by the Iran-backed Houthi militia from Yemen at targets in Saudi Arabia, to the sabotage of UAE ships, to a blatant missile bombardment of Aramco, the regime aimed for a long-distance ballistic war with “enemy regimes.”

    The US, however, did not let this go unanswered and responded with deployment-deterrents in the Gulf region, upsetting Iran’s intentions.

    Because the Trump administration became a formidable obstructive force, having pulled out from the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal and designating the IRGC as a terror entity, Tehran turned its ire - and fire - toward the US military presence in Iraq.

    Tehran directed its Iraqi militias, the infamous Hashd Shaabi, and terror group Kataib Hezbollah to aggress American units.

    Washington, unlike during the Obama years, responded heavily against the militias, eliminating the very top of the chain of command, military commander Qassem Soleimani, leaving the regime and its allies in the region—including Lebanese Hezbollah—in a state of shock.


    Iranian women carry a portrait of slain Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, on the 40th day of his killing in a US drone strike. (AFP)

    From January until the coronavirus pandemic, Iranian plans have been obstructed. Unable to slam the Gulf states with frontal attacks because of US deterrence, shocked by the American responses in Iraq, and sinking into an expanding domestic revolt, the regime was in its worst shape.

    It had no choice but to wait out the Trump administration’s last ten months in the hope that the President’s opposition would prevail at the ballot box. The month-long impeachment hearings against President Trump in Congress encouraged the Ayatollahs to be patient for what they projected to be Trump’s demise in the fall.

    The pre-coronavirus Iran strategies were simply to maintain the status quo, avoid enflaming tensions with US forces, and rely on domestic American politics to remove the administration-obstacle by end of year.

    Iran’s coronavirus blessing

    Then came the coronavirus from Wuhan. Iran was the second country to witness a nationwide spread, most likely due to heavy international travel between Iran and China.

    The illness saturated most Iranian cities and towns without relief since its incapacitated government had spent its cash and the Iran nuclear deal money on itself and on militias across the region, instead of equipping the country with a capable health infrastructure. Deaths rose, but demonstrations died out inside Iran.

    People in protective clothing walk past rows of beds at a temporary 2,000-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients set up by the Iranian army in northern Tehran, Iran, on Thursday, March 26, 2020. (AP)

    Though many Iranian officials contracted COVID-19, the upper echelon of the regime understood the opportunity this crisis provided to evade an effective mass uprising. And across the Atlantic, the United States was badly hit by the virus with tens of thousands of deaths and a bleeding economy.

    COVID-19 became a double blessing for the Khomeinists. It smashed the uprising at home and is keeping the Americans busy in their homeland.

    Iran’s coronavirus strategy

    Iran quickly took advantage of the world panic regarding the plague with revised strategies taking shape by mid-February. New plans capitalized on America’s inward focus toward saving its population and the Gulf States and Israel’s refocused scramble to fight the spread. Basically, Iran has been moving swiftly to regroup, reorganize, rearm, redeploy and further dominate its four “colonies.”

    In Iraq, the IRGC has been consolidating the militias. In Syria, Iran is assisting President Bashar al-Assad in retaking Idlib province and encircling the Kurdish areas. In Lebanon, Hezbollah is clearly in charge of the new cabinet. And in Yemen, the Houthis are dodging UN solutions and ignoring ceasefires proposed by the Arab Coalition.

    Iranian activities are picking up on several continents, including an air bridge with Maduro’s regime in Venezuela.

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, wearing face masks as protection against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), meet in Damascus, Syria, in this handout released by SANA on April 20, 2020.

    Tehran’s coronavirus strategies are quite somber. Unimpressed and unmoved by the death toll among its own people, the regime is investing all it can to exploit the global crisis and strengthen its strategic position—with its eyes fixed fast on November 4.

    It is developing its ballistic missiles (some even under the camouflage of a no-longer-secret military space program) while also investing heavily in worldwide propaganda efforts against the US.

    Last, but not least, its long lobbying arm is pushing to weaken Trump’s ability to retaliate with impact on Congressional anti-war legislations barely vetoed by the White House. Add to it the perception in Tehran that the US riots would also help mitigating a US action against the regime. 

    Iran is preparing for two eventualities. If Donald Trump loses in November, the Ayatollahs will enjoy victory and a return to the benefits of the Iran Deal—in a stronger position than at the end of 2019.

    And if Trump wins a second term, the regime wants to be as ready as possible with a new balance of power in the region and maximum deterrence capabilities.


    Dr. Walid Phares is a Middle East expert, author and former Donald Trump foreign policy advisor. He serves as a Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Grou

    Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154374 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154374 0
    The neo-Taliban and the super-jihadi state The shock left by the reckless withdrawal from Afghanistan ordered by the Biden administration has had significant dramatic consequences among the Afghan population, particularly its women, youth and minorities. The bloody repression waged by the jihadi militia targeting service members, journalists, civil society activists, and ethnic communities across the country is only the beginning of what could become a decades-long saga for a nation that has already suffered more than a half century of tragic wars. But this catastrophic surrender of an ally country to a terror army also leaves a deep impact in the hearts and minds of most American citizens. They wonder how it was possible that their government first negotiated with a jihadi terror network—and before it reforms and renounces violence! How was it possible to engage with them in Doha without the participation of the duly democratically elected government? And how is it even conceivable that a US administration practically coordinated and collaborated with the Taliban takeover of the presidency, parliament, ministries and armed forces installations with $80 billion worth of American made weapons and equipment? The sheer size of this reckless and suicidal act of collaboration with jihadi terrorists goes against everything the United States stands for and has fought against since 9/11. How did Washington sink to this low?

    Post 9/11 Consensus 

    After 9/11, a bipartisan national consensus was built in the US about a sustained strategic response to the mass jihadi terror executed by Al Qaeda in New York, Washington, DC, and Pennsylvania, killing about 3,000 people. The gist of that consensus was to remove the Taliban regime, dismantle Al Qaeda and, as importantly, empower the Afghan people, government and army to build and defend their nascent democracy against jihadi militias of all types. This was confirmed by the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission in 2004. The US national security doctrine since was focused on striking Al Qaeda, not just in Afghanistan, but also around the region and the world. The jihadi terror group had repeatedly taken aggression against the US homeland with about 50 planned attacks, some bloody, and by striking democracies and Western allies around the world, from Spain to the UK, Russia, France, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and many others. The US strategic goals aimed at keeping the Taliban guerilla at bay in Afghanistan until two conditions were met: The establishment of an Afghan army capable of leading the fight with ally support, and counter-radicalization efforts to remove extremist material from the educational system and assist in the rise of civil society forces. That was the goal.

    The Bush "War on Terror"

    The Bush administration, which was in charge during the attacks and the years that followed, removed the Taliban from power, followed Al Qaeda to Tora Bora and waged counterterrorism campaigns against affiliates on four continents. Furthermore, the US engaged in a mass reconstruction of Afghanistan, mimicking the Marshall plan after WWII, and attempted to strengthen "democratic institutions" in that country. The early stage of elections and counter extremist efforts peaked between 2002 and 2006. However, after the defeat of the Republicans in the 2006 midterm elections and the rise of an opposition majority in both Houses, the Bush administration was delayed, paralyzed and blocked from resuming its counter jihadi strategies in Afghanistan. Afghan democracy was launched, but its support from Washington dwindled.

    The Obama strategies

    With the election of Barack H Obama as President in 2008, a massive change in US foreign policy was felt across the Middle East. Obama signalled his tilt towards co-opting the "political Islamists," starting with an historic speech delivered at the Cairo University in June 2009, where the "fight against Islamist ideology" was replaced with a pragmatic partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, US bureaucracies shifted from campaigning against "Islamic fundamentalists" to campaigning to absorb them in preparing for their potential return or arrival to power across the Greater Middle East. This was the case during the so-called "Arab Spring" of 2011, via an opening on the Ikhwan in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and beyond. His administration, when they pulled out from Iraq by 2012 -prompting the pro-Iranian militias to return- had to face the blitz of an ISIS Caliphate that rose in reaction to the post-withdrawal militia takeover. Thus, after Iraq, the Obama administration had to postpone a potential deal with the Taliban that was to be the basis for a pull-out from Afghanistan much earlier. In 2014, Washington had to take down ISIS in Iraq and Syria before a deal on Afghanistan with the Taliban, an impossible equation to impose on the American public while ISIS was rising. Besides, the Obama team was focusing on the Iran deal talks and wanted to achieve that deal first, before entering the fray of a Taliban Deal.

    The Trump short term

    The Trump campaign committed to dismantle ISIS, push back against the Taliban and counter the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. Once in the White House, the Trump Pentagon gradually reduced geographical Daesh control and kept the support going for the US mission in Afghanistan. But after the 2018 midterms, when the Democratic opposition seized the congressional majority again, plans for Afghanistan changed. The Trump administration decided to engage in talks with the Islamist militia under Qatar’s mediation, but the “deal” that was reached (which I did criticize then) put conditions on a return of the Taliban to Kabul. The latter had to engage in dialogue with the elected government, eventually disarm, integrate the armed forces, and form a national unity government with the other political parties. Perhaps the Trump plan was to defend the slogan of “ending wars” and then adopt a tougher stance with the Taliban after re-election. But after “difficult elections,” it was a Biden administration that decided the future of Afghanistan.

    Biden's exit from Afghanistan

    Within just a couple months after inauguration, the old Obama plans were reactivated, and the Taliban Deal signed by the Trump administration was remodelled into a new deal, accepting Taliban control of the country and government in exchange for change of policy by the jihadi militia and a commitment by the Taliban of "non aggression against the United States." The Biden administration met with the Taliban in Doha and announced them as its new partners and the leaders of the new government in Kabul. In addition, the White House was adamant in refusing any military support to the Afghani military when attacked by Taliban so that there is no reengagement. That, by itself, signalled to the Afghan state that America had shifted alliance from the democratically elected government and parliament of Afghanistan to the Taliban forces it fought for twenty years. Without air support, and more importantly the imposing voice of America in the regional and international arena, the battle was lost for the Afghan state, already undermined by corruption yet willing to fight nevertheless. The Taliban invaded the country, the army crumbled, and many fled into exodus.

    The new Jihadi state

    The neo-Taliban, though they haven't reformed ideologically, have been using modern PR techniques from their political operation in Doha, and are obliterating their opposition in Afghanistan via executions and fighting the last free enclave in the Panjshir valley. They immediately went back to their old ways of oppressing women, youth and minorities. But two differences play to their advantage. One, the US has withdrawn and the Biden administration is ready to enter political and financial partnership after some stabilization. Two, the Taliban seized $80 billion worth of US military equipment and arms, which they will use to fulfil their agenda. So, what is that agenda?

    First, fully eliminating the domestic opposition, seizing the border, and opening their regime to jihadists from around the world. Afghanistan will become the top jihadi state in the world. Al Qaeda, Haqqani, and even ISIS will eventually be incorporated in its power, despite initial clashes over control. "Intra jihadi deals" will be cut, even if occasionally skirmishes and power struggles take place.

    The decision, by the Biden administration to go back to the original Obama plans to collaborate with the Islamists has major challenges, as this risk could apparently assist in the rise of a super “Islamic Emirate,” which will irreversibly become—as ISIS was—a building block for another jihadi Caliphate. The new regime will target Tajikistan and central Asia, India, the Arab Gulf, Egypt, Europe, and in the end could clash again with the US. The likelihood of the Jihadists’ fantasy of a medieval Caliphate with modern weaponry could masterialize.


    Dr Walid Phares is the author of 14 books, including "Futre Jihad" and "The Lost Spring" at Palgrave. He is the co-secretary general of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group (TAG) and has been a foreign policy advisor to members of Congress. 



    Fri, 08 Dec 2023 02:28:35 +0000 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154544 https://historynewsnetwork.org/blog/154544 0