Category Archives: Middle East Conflict

Biden needs to uphold US law on pay-for-slay

The Biden administration claims it can restore funding to the PA without violating the Taylor Force Act.

Published in the Jerusalem Post.

In 2017, Congress passed the bipartisan Taylor Force Act (TFA) to put an end to the Palestinian Authority (PA) practice of using US taxpayers’ dollars to finance “Pay for Slay,” a policy rewarding terrorists and family members of imprisoned and deceased terrorists. The legislation’s clearly expressed goal is to deny the PA funding until it stops their program of incentivizing and paying for the murder of civilians. 

The bill was named after an American Army veteran who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and was killed by a Palestinian terrorist while visiting Israel. The PA media called his killer a “martyr,” and he was venerated throughout the Palestinian territories.

The Taylor Force Act requires the Biden State Department to issue a report to Congress for Acts of Terrorism. Despite the report’s conclusion that the PA “has not terminated payments for acts of terrorism to any individual (and) has also not taken proactive steps to counter incitement to violence against Israel,” the administration’s report states that the “Biden-Harris Administration has made clear its intent to restart assistance to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” 

Which is to say, they intend to ignore the continued support of terrorism and resume supplying the money. 

WORKERS CLOSE the aid distribution centers of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in Rafah in February, protesting against the reduction in food aid.
(photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

The Biden administration claims it can restore funding to the PA without violating the TFA. It claims its goal is to provide humanitarian assistance, rebuild trust with the Palestinians that was undermined by the Trump administration, economically stabilize the government while advancing the moribund peace process with Israel.

The Trump administration cut off funding to the PA and UNWRA, the UN agency that financially supports descendants of Palestinian refugees. The Biden administration is also planning as a goodwill gesture to reverse Trump’s decision to close the PLO / PA office in Washington, which was done to give more consequence to their continuing to incite and pay for terrorism. 

The State Department report is clear enough; it says the “PA expressed its intention to expend approximately $151.6 million in payments to convicted prisoners, administrative detainees, and former prisoners (and) expressed its intention to expend approximately $191 million in support of families of deceased Palestinians referred to as ‘martyrs’ by the PA.” In November 2020, PA President Mahmoud Abbas said they would “remain loyal to the souls of martyrs, the blood of injured, and the sufferings of prisoners… we will not abandon them.” 

The perverse incentive used by the PA is that the more gruesome and worse the attack, the more money the imprisoned “martyr” and his family receive through the PA’s Martyr’s Fund. The PA spends nearly $350 million per year on Pay for Slay, but just $220 million for its other welfare programs for the rest of its citizens. 

In Washington today, everything is seen through a political lens. In 2017, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said, “Abbas has to stop making payments to terrorists and their families, and all elected officials should call them out.” Will Schumer, now majority leader, challenge the president of his party to keep the pressure on the Abbas and enforce the law? Or will he go along with spinning some words to fashion a legal loophole to allow money to flow to the PA? The PA would like to create a legal fiction by distributing the money through the PLO, Abbas being both the president of the PA and head of the PLO. 

For the first time in 16 years, the Palestinian people will be voting for a new president and parliament. The list of potential candidates is not promising if you are looking for moderation. The leading candidates try to outdo one another with their non-conciliatory rhetoric and incitement of violence. 

The Biden administration should learn from prior administrations’ failures. America giving the PA carrots without reciprocal concessions has never been fruitful. As surely as the sun rises in the east, giving up leverage for nothing gets you nowhere with the PA/PLO. 

The administration needs to uphold the Taylor Force Act. 

Before the next war: Israel and the US should articulate a policy on proportionality

How can a democratic nation fight and defeat asymmetric enemies in the 21st century?

Previously published in the Jerusalem Report.

by Dr. Eric R. Mandel

The recent International Criminal Court decision to investigate Israel for “war crimes” in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) highlights not only the hypocrisy of the international community’s anti-Israel bias but the difficulty of militarily responding to terrorists who play by no rules.

Can America and Israel ever receive a fair hearing in analyzing the complexity and legality of their military actions against asymmetric actors? Especially when international bodies like the UN Human Rights Council are dominated by some of the worst human rights abusers in the world. These anti-American and anti-Zionist organizations have become weaponized political instruments in a war of lawfare against the US and the Jewish nation.

Israel faces asymmetric threats from Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iranian-controlled militias in Syria and Iraq. America has at least a 40-year history of fighting non-state actors in the Middle East – from the Iranian-orchestrated bombing of the US Embassy in Beirut to one of the worst asymmetric actors, Islamic State.

Israel’s dilemma is that what the US did to ISIS, with civilians embedded within its terrorist network, would not be tolerated by a world with double standards for the Jewish state. Israel will continually be delegitimized
for its response to attacks from civilian areas, where its enemy cynically uses civilians as human shields.

Proportional responses are a matter of ongoing debate in this murky environment. Let’s be clear: “Proportionate” does not mean that if Hezbollah or Hamas sends 100 missiles indiscriminately into Israeli civilian communities, Israel should be expected to send 100 missiles into Palestinian or Lebanese communities. That is immoral and would never even be considered by any democracy, especially Israel or the US.

Articulating a policy on what constitutes a proportional response in asymmetric warfare is both in American and Israeli interests. This past February, the US struck Iranian-controlled weapons depots in Syria in retaliation for an attack on American soldiers at a US base near the Erbil international airport. One American soldier was injured, but 22 Iranian militiamen of the terrorist organizations Kataib Hezbollah and Kataib Sayyid al-Shuhada were killed, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Is that proportionate or disproportionate?

According to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, “The strikes were necessary to address the threat and proportionate to the prior attacks.”

What is not acknowledged by critics is that it is well within the bounds of international law to retaliate even if the number of casual ties turns out to be more than were incurred, especially if the enemy deliberately uses civilians’ lives for propaganda purposes.

When civilians are inadvertently killed in homes where missiles are stored or whose living room is used as an entrance for an attack tunnel, is it still legal to attack those homes as long as you try to minimize civilian casualties? How do you cope when your intelligence finds kindergartens or hospitals used by terrorist organizations to store weapons or mount operations against your civilians? Israel has called off many operations, walking the fine line between a nation’s obligation to protect its civilians and its moral responsibility to minimize danger to the enemy’s non-combatants.

What is a proportionate response? It behooves Israel, the US and all Western nations not to wait until after civilians are killed in confronting an enemy, but to clearly state what proportionality is, and in a very public way.

Proportionality is wholly misunderstood by democratic governments, the press and the public. It is not the number of causalities that determines proportionality but the necessity of the military action balanced against the potential civilian loss.

Source: Alma Research and Education Center

As Victor Davis Hanson said, “Every Hamas unguided rocket is launched in hopes of hitting an Israeli home and killing men, women, and children. Every guided Israeli air-launched missile is targeted at Hamas operatives, who deliberately work in the closest vicinity to women and children.”

According to Human Rights Watch, no fan of Israel, for a specific attack on a military objective to be lawful, it must discriminate between combatants and civilians. The expected loss of civilian life or property cannot be disproportionate to the attack’s anticipated military gain.

Does Israel take care to avoid civilian casualties, even when they are purposely placed in harm’s way?

Asa Kasher, the co-author of the first IDF Code of Ethics, said, “We can’t separate the terrorist from his neighbors. The terrorists have erased the difference between combatants and non-combatants. They operate from within residential areas. They attack civilians. The world doesn’t have a clue what proportionality is. Proportionality is not about numbers.”

According to international law, the question of proportionality is whether the military benefit justifies the collateral damage. As for B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty, all have double standards. For them, there is the poor, pitiful side and the strong side. Testimony that comes from the pitiful side is taken at face value. They think it is immoral to give priority to the defense of the citizens of your state over the protection of the lives of the neighbors of the terrorists.”

The number of casualties, civilian or combatant, is not a determinate for proportionality. War crimes and proportionality are for those who target civilians, are indiscriminate in their attacks, or cause disproportionate civilian loss. Israel does not target civilians, but you would not know that from reading European newspapers or reports from so-called human rights organizations in which body counts determine proportionality.

Jeffery Goldberg, writing in 2014, hit the nail on the head in describing terrorist actors. “Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible. Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas. It is perverse but true. It is also the best possible explanation for Hamas’s behavior because Hamas has no other plausible strategic goal here.” This is the strategy of Hamas, Iran, Hezbollah and ISIS.

As Middle East analyst, British Col. (ret) Richard Kemp said, “Of course innocent civilians are killed in every war; war is chaotic and confusing, and mistakes are frequent, but mistakes are not war crimes.”

The problem is that the international community judges a disproportionate response by a body count. A democracy like Israel will always lose because its asymmetric enemy uses its citizens as human shields, hoping to
demonize Israel and deter legitimate use of force.

A few years ago, I spoke to the international medical director for Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, who told me that in the 300 villages he had visited in southern Lebanon, there was not one where missiles were not placed in civilian homes. This man was no Zionist.

All of this came to the fore in February when the ICC ruled that it is under its jurisdiction to investigate Israel for war crimes for its past military activity in the Gaza Strip. Also, it wants to determine if settlements in Judea and Samaria also constitute war crimes against the Palestinians.

The ICC is also supposedly looking into the potential war crimes of Hamas. Yet, it seems morally perverse to equate Hamas, a designated terrorist entity that indiscriminately targets Israeli civilians while using human shields to induce Israeli retaliation, with a democratic nation that tries as much as any other military on earth to minimize enemy civilian causalities. I have witnessed this firsthand along the Gaza border.

The three-judge panel ruling in favor of investigating Israel in 2021 is a far cry from former chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo, who said in 2006 that the ICC’s Rome Statute “permits belligerents to carry out proportionate attacks against military objectives, even when it is known that some civilian deaths or injuries will occur.”

The goal of Hamas and Hezbollah is to induce Israel to kill their civilians for political and diplomatic gain. Knowing international arbiters act only as bean counters plays right into their hands.

Whether from the north or south, Israel’s next war will again feature the use of human shields. This time it will be on a massive scale, with the inevitable international condemnation. Lt.-Col. Sarit Zehavi’s ALMA think tank, with the best expertise on Israel’s northern border, has documented many precision-guided missile factories purposely placed in civilian neighborhoods, next to schools, gas companies, and recreational facilities. It takes a herculean effort to fight UN officials and progressive media outlets who don’t hide their bias against Israel, choosing civilian body counts as their weapon to delegitimize Israel, knowing full well that Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to minimize civilians’ causalities.

Since the term “disproportionate” has been politicized and misused, it is appropriate to ask if an overwhelming response can be legal and justified if it acts as a deterrent to further attacks against your civilian population? What if it is the only effective deterrent against an asymmetric enemy that doesn’t play by international conflict rules, strategizing that it will not be on the receiving end of more missiles than it sends?

Can a case be made for a disproportionate response? Yes, it is called the Powell Doctrine and, in the long run, can decrease casualties by deterring the enemy. According to the late Charles Krauthammer’s interpretation of the
doctrine: “The key to success in a military conflict is the use of overwhelming force. For decades the US had followed a policy of proportionality: restraint because of fear of escalation. If you respond proportionately, you allow the enemy to set the parameters… you grant him the initiative.”

In 2006’s Second Lebanon War, Israel’s alleged use of disproportionate force deterred Hezbollah for nearly 16 years. Yet just two year later, the international community ganged up on Israel after Operation Cast Lead in 2008, alleging excessive force constituting war crimes that culminated in the infamous but now discredited and retracted Goldstone Report. The current ICC investigation against Israel for war crimes in 2014 is a continuation of the diplomatic war to discredit Israel and undermine its right to exist like every other nation in the world.

So what can US President Joe Biden’s administration do? It is in America’s interest to protect Israel and itself, so it shouldn’t wait until missiles fly in the next inevitable war. Being proactive before the next war, articulating an American policy on proportionality, would protect both your ally and yourself.

Sooner or later, the US will also be on the docket of the ICC for war crimes. In any war, bad things happen, and yes, war crimes occur. The difference is that for America and Israel, they are far and few between, are legitimately investigated, and punishment is meted out when warranted. Just ask the soldiers in Israeli or American military prisons.

The international community’s goal is to redefine proportionality and tar Israel and America by isolated incidents for political gain. Don’t be misled. Both nations follow the rule of law that is guided by their democratic values.

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the U.S. Senate, House and their foreign-policy advisers. He is a columnist for “The Jerusalem Post” and a contributor to i24TV, “The Hill,” JTA and “The Forward.”

Does the Biden administration believe Iran is behind most Shia militias?

by Dr. Eric R. Mandel

{Previously published in JNS}

A controversy that occurred during a recent question-and-answer session for reporters by Pentagon press secretary John Kirby may have revealed a troubling insight into the Biden administration’s approach in rebranding Iran’s problematic image. He claimed that Shia militias that are causing so much trouble in the Middle East are not Iranian-controlled. After criticism made its way into the public arena, Kirby partially walked back his statement in a subsequent press conference, agreeing that some Shia militias are Iranian-backed. Was this a Freudian slip, a trial balloon or a real insight into administration thinking?

There is a well-documented history of the Obama-Biden administration misleading the public about the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Therefore, it is prudent to ask if Kirby’s first answer to a softball question that should not have flustered an experienced spokesperson was an accurate representation of the administration’s thinking. It’s all part of a strategy to create the illusion that the Islamic Republic is not responsible for supporting the majority of Shia militias throughout the Middle East in the hopes that in preparing the ground to rejoin JCPOA, Iran will be more palatable to the U.S. public.

So a primer on Iranian-controlled Shi’ite militias and what the administration is doing is in order.

What Kirby may have been attempting to do is frame the situation as an internal ethnic conflict between Shi’ite groups who are independent of Iranian influence. However, the overwhelming evidence is that Iran’s strategy is to create Iranian-controlled militias in the region’s crumbling nations to exert control and undermine U.S. interests while threatening American allies.

Statements like Kirby’s intensify Israel’s well-founded fears that America wants to pretend it doesn’t see Iran’s malign activity. Instead, the administration chooses to put all of its eggs in the JCPOA basket, focusing on the nuclear issue while ignoring Islamic imperialism. Almost no serious military or intelligence analyst believes the Islamic Republic of Iran does not control Shia militias, such as the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq or Syria (local militias). Iran’s hegemonic ambitions carried out through its proxy network are a threat to be taken seriously.

A not-so-subtle warning for Israel not to attack Iran was posted by the White House in its Interim National Security Guidelines. The administration stated, “We do not believe that military force is the answer. … We will not give our partners in the Middle East a blank check to pursue policies at odds with American interests.” Is that a warning not to attack Iran in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon?

As in Lebanon, Iran is slowly swallowing Syria and Iraq. Iran’s Lebanese proxy Hezbollah is the dominant military force while effectively controlling its parliament. Iranian symbols appear everywhere, as though you were walking in Tehran. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) martyr Gen. Qassem Soleimani was commemorated this year throughout the country with a massive statue placed in the center of the Lebanese capital Beirut. At rallies, Lebanese citizens under Hezbollah’s thumb wave the Iranian flag, not the Lebanese one.

What is groundbreaking in Syria is that Iran not only sent its IRGC troops with its Hezbollah proxy but has now recruited former Syrian rebels of local Sunni militias to create a permanent Iranian presence. The blueprint is the Hezbollah model in Lebanon. Iran’s goal is to surround Israel with its militias, proxies and allies, including Sunnis who are easily bought for money, bread or ammunition. Just think of the Sunni Arab Hamas terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip working with Persian Shi’ite Iran.

Alma, Israel’s best source for independent research on its northern border, has documented Iran’s support and control of Hezbollah, Shia militias, and now Iranian-controlled former rebel Sunni militias. This is groundbreaking information. The militias receive orders and salaries from Iran in conjunction with a well-thought-out civilian investment to support a long-term Iranian military entrenchment. In this way, Iran effectively takes control of weak nation-states like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon. For example, Iran is heavily involved in Syria’s post-war reconstruction, buying agricultural land, establishing community and educational centers to promote the Islamic Revolution’s values among the local Sunni population.

One should bear in mind that the IRGC’s Quds force’s raison d’être since the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s is to spread the Iranian revolution throughout the Middle East while backing almost every terrorist Shia militia to further its goal. Thousands of IRCG soldiers and commanders operate beyond Iran’s borders, leading and strategizing on how to get the United States out of the Middle East and put Israel out of existence.

This is based on the concept of velayat-e faqih, or “guardianship of the jurist,” which gives absolute religious authority to the Iranian Supreme Leader, who is in charge of the world’s Shi’ites. Shias are thereby obligated to support the Islamic revolution everywhere in the world. The Biden administration should be cautious replacing radical Sunnis like ISIS and Al-Qaeda with extremist Iranian Shi’ism.

More than half of the pieces are in place to surround Israel. Next on the target list is the West Bank and Jordan to surround Israel with the threat of missiles and militias under Iranian control. All in preparation for a day when Islamist Iran unleashes its proxies to devastate Israeli civilians and destroy Israel’s infrastructure, with the hope that Israelis will abandon the Zionist experiment.

Going forward, U.S President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin should make clear the obvious. Iran is responsible for Shia militias’ creation and actions that threaten Middle East stability and American soldiers’ lives, and that rejoining the JCPOA should not obscure that fact.

Dr. Eric R. Mandel is the director of MEPIN, the Middle East Political Information Network. He regularly briefs members of the U.S. Senate, House and their foreign-policy advisers. He is a columnist for “The Jerusalem Post” and a contributor to i24TV, “The Hill,” JTA and “The Forward.”

The 2016 agenda for the Middle East

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

2016 is shaping up to be one where America may contribute to human suffering, undermine its essential allies and make common cause with the world’s chief state sponsor of terrorism.

I recently returned from two days of meetings in Congress with senators, congressmen and foreign policy experts.

It’s easier to find an Israeli in Saudi Arabia then it is to find anyone in Congress willing to give a vigorous defense of the president’s Middle East strategy. The vacuums created by America’s hasty withdrawals have left the region in chaos.

Five reasons we have lost the trust of those who looked to us for stability in the region are:

1. The administration’s abandonment of the Iranian people during the Green Revolution of 2009, a potentially real Persian Spring, unlike the chimera of the Arab Spring.

2. The abandonment of American ally Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and the president’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood as a legitimate democratic movement. The administration could not differentiate between an election and democracy, or realize that the Brotherhood spawned Hamas and the leader of al-Qaida.

3. The public snubbing and creation of daylight between Israel and the US in 2009, sending a clear message to America’s other allies in the region that the US could abandon them too.

4. The administration’s abandonment of its own red lines on Syrian chemical weapons, indicating to America’s adversaries that our threats are hollow.

5. The abandonment of our president’s vow to see Syrian President Bashar Assad go makes America seem irresolute.

As Anshel Pfeffer wrote in Haaretz:

• Four years ago President Barack Obama announced that “Assad must go.”

• In December Secretary of State John Kerry said “The United States [is] not seeking…regime change [in Syria]”

• Last week White House press secretary Josh Earnest insisted that “our position hasn’t changed.”

So what are the dos and don’ts for 2016 for the US in the Middle East?

Regarding the Islamic State (IS): • Despite IS’s high-profile brutality and terrorism that may be our most immediate threat, in the long term, Iran’s desire for hegemony and nuclear weapons is still No. 1. A close second is the inevitable quest by others in the region for nuclear weapons in response to Iran.

• America needs to realize that even if IS is militarily defeated, this will not be the end of radical Sunni Islamism. The anti-Western militant Islamist mentality permeates much of the Sunni world, and will survive more than one lost battle.

• America needs to lead and pressure the Gulf Sunni Muslim states, Jordan and Egypt to create a real Sunni Arab coalition army of literally tens of thousands of troops to fight IS.

• Don’t think that a Sunni Arab army alone can effectively destroy IS. Only American leadership, including American troops, can make this happen.

• Create the long overdue no-fly zone and Syrian safe haven to stem the tide of refugees leaving Syria.

• Remember the words of ambassador Dennis Ross: “The priorities of the Arab leaders revolve around survival and security. [Their] domestic stability comes first.”

• Don’t forget that most of our Sunni allies are allies of shared interests, not shared values. They are on the whole misogynistic, homophobic, anti-Semitic and illiberal.

Regarding Syria:

• Do not empower or legitimize Assad; it only empowers Iran, Hezbollah and the Russians. They are not America’s friends. Degrade IS and Assad, in that order.

• Do not try and recreate a Syrian state along the Skyes-Picot borders. Humpty Dumpty cannot and should not be put back together.

Regarding Iran:

• Don’t be fooled and think that Iranian nuclear aspirations have been quelled by the JCPOA, the Iran Deal.

• In 2016, America must impose consequences on Iran when it breaks UNSC resolutions, as it did in performing illegal missile tests in October and December.

The president promised that the nuclear deal would not stop our sanctioning Iranian human rights abuses and terrorism. Hold him to his word.

Regarding Israel and the Palestinians:

• It is time to stop coddling Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and begin to publicly criticize the PA for its blatant anti-Semitic incitement and corruption, and failure to prepare the Palestinian people for compromise and acceptance of a Jewish state.

• America must return to its stance that Israel is its primary ally in the region.

• Remember that even America’s adversaries will respect the US for refusing to abandon its allies.

• In 2016, come to the realization that the path forward should include legitimizing Israeli building within existing settlement blocs that have been part of every American-endorsed land swap deal.

• Do not think that the Arab world’s priority is the Palestinians; it is not.

• Do not stop all PA funding, as Hamastan or worse could follow. Israeli security experts recommend we continue the funding.

• Don’t listen to progressive leaders like J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami and his ilk, who want the president to bring an imposed solution for the conflict to “the UN Security Council for approval.”

Two terrorist threats that must not be forgotten in 2016:

• The terrorists’ quest for nuclear and radiologic materials, and the threat of a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) that could fry our electric grid.

Regarding the EU labeling of goods from over the Green Line: 

• Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that labeling Israeli produced goods from over the Green Line is not a boycott.

It is a boycott, and will inexorably lead to a boycott of all of Israel in the future.

• Do ratchet up the Congressional pressure on the EU with tangible consequences for its boycott of Israeli goods from over the armistice line. The Lowey, Roskam, Engel and Royce House Resolution denouncing the European Commission labeling guidelines on Israeli products from the West Bank was a good start.

Regarding the international community:

• The UN has become an anti-American organization with a majority of non-democratic tin-pot dictatorships that actively work against our foreign policy interests. We must abandon the notion that a UN vote is what gives the stamp of consensus of the civilized world for security decisions that put our safety, resources and soldiers on the line.

• Do not fund UNESCO, whose politicized anti-Israel agenda has compromised its humanitarian mission.

• America must realize which self-proclaimed human rights organizations and NGOs are in actuality vehicles for anti-American agendas.

• America must finally come to the realization that it is counterproductive to count descendants of the original Palestinian refugees as refugees, as mandated by UNWRA. This must end. America has the leverage, as it is the No. 1 financial supporter of UNWRA.

President Obama is unlikely to change course in 2016. So while Iran cyber-attacks America’s infrastructure and breaks UNSC resolutions on missile testing, the president still claims the Iran nuclear deal is a winner. And while the president still claims victory with a hollow UNSC resolution to end the regional war in Syria, the Syrian people remain cannon fodder for both IS and Assad.

With such a distorted view of reality, 2016 is shaping up to be one where America may contribute to human suffering, undermine its essential allies and make common cause with the world’s chief state sponsor of terrorism, Iran, in Syria, with the help of Hezbollah and Russia. After seven years, we have to say this is not naiveté; it is a deliberate strategy of executive overreach that flies in the face of American values and damages our national security interests.

The author is the director of MEPIN™ (Middle East Political and Information Network™) and a regular contributor to The Jerusalem Post. MEPIN™ is a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.


It’s Time for the Sunni World to Come to Terms with Israel

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post.)

If the Arab world could come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state with a Muslim minority in its midst, then it might offer enough cover for the Palestinian Arabs to move forward.

I recently had the privilege of being the keynote speaker for the Defense Industry Offset Association, an organization of American defense contractors doing business in the Middle East. The members were well informed and receptive to a presentation of a multifaceted Middle East that does not fit into a 140-character tweet.

I discussed “Understanding the Complexities of the Middle East: America’s Challenge for the 21st Century.”

I shared my view that American foreign policy experts still seem to be out of step with the reality of a Middle East where American compromise and outreach are perceived as weakness, and are unilateral. One need look no further for evidence of our diplomatic naiveté than Iran’s masterful manipulation of the American negotiators.

My talk was a journey into the ever-changing Middle East, where today’s accurate analysis may become obsolete before the sun sets.

I spoke about:

1. The war between the Sunnis and Shi’ites, led respectively by the Saudis and Iran.

2. The security implications for America and her allies if a final deal with Iran leaves it as a nuclear threshold state.

3. The root causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

4. The war for Sunni supremacy between Turkey and Qatar on one side, and the more American-oriented Saudis, Egyptians and Gulf States on the other.

I tried to disabuse them of the simplistic analysis of many “mainstream experts” who think Israel is the primary obstacle, and that Israeli acquiescence is all that is needed for regional stability.

Middle East pundit Fareed Zakaria of CNN is a case in point: “First, there is the disappearance of the Arab threat [to Israel]… it’s gone….Of course, there is Iran’s nuclear program, though it has significantly slowed for now… [Israel] has built a wall that reduced terrorist attacks against Israel to virtually zero… [And] with so many stars aligned in Israel’s favor… it is a golden opportunity…staring Netanyahu in the face.”

Where shall I begin? It is certainly true that some Sunni Arab nations are more preoccupied with killing Shi’ites rather than Jews for the time being. But the “golden opportunity” is a two-way street; the Sunni nations must come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state living securely within the greater Arab and Muslim world.

Israel has been willing to meet with the greater Arab world to negotiate a regional agreement, although not the “take it or leave it” Arab Peace Initiative that would leave Israel with indefensible borders, and would leave unresolved the Palestinian right of return. After years of anti-Jewish incitement, the conservative Gulf States are afraid that a public initiative for normalization of relations with Israel could threaten the stability of their regimes.

Last week, Israel Radio reported that Israeli and Gulf State diplomats met in Jordan to discuss common security interests. This is a golden opportunity for US President Barack Obama to facilitate reconciliation between Israel and the Sunni Arabs, and to encourage them to emerge from the shadows and publicly meet with Israeli officials.

Zakaria ignores the fact that up until now the only thing that has united the Shi’ites and Sunnis is their hatred of Israel. Sunni governments need to distance themselves from Sunni non-state radical actors, and reconcile with Israel for their own long-term economic prosperity.

In Iran, while the ayatollah pragmatically has decided to pause some of the nuclear activity, this cannot blind Zakaria to the fact that Iran has hoodwinked the Obama administration into accepting its right for nuclear enrichment, accepting the buried nuclear enrichment facility of Fordow, and convincing the American negotiators to ignore the continued transgressions of the 2013 Joint Plan of Action.

When the president signs a final agreement with Iran this summer, Israel and the Gulf States will have to deal with a “nuclear threshold” Iran that may or may not be rational. Its supreme leader wants to “raze Tel Aviv and Haifa to the ground” and “annihilate” Israel. He also wants Mecca and Medina in Shi’ite hands. (Even President Obama last week told The Atlantic’s Jeffery Goldberg that the supreme leader is an anti-Semite.) Zakaria also incorrectly believes that Israel’s security fence, which he inaccurately describes as a wall, is the primary reason why Israel has sustained so few terrorist attacks from the West Bank.

In fact, it is Israel’s physical presence within the West Bank and the human intelligence it gathers because it controls the disputed territory that, according to many Israeli military officials with whom I have spoken, explains the decline in terrorist activity.

Zakaria seems oblivious to the fact that Israel has tried multiple times to return the vast majority of the territory to the Palestinian Arabs at great risk to its own security.

But Zakaria is as silent as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was to an Israeli offer in 2008, or to an American initiative in 2013 to restart talks.

Ironically, the last two people who want Israel to withdraw from the territories are President Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan. Both know that without Israel in the West Bank, Hamas will take over the West Bank, and Jordan will likely fall to a terrorist entity. That does not mean Israel cannot withdraw from some territory, but it does mean that any immediate withdrawal will depend on a strong Israeli presence – not only for the Israel’s sake, but also for the survival of the Palestinian Authority and Jordan.

There truly is a window of opportunity, but it is not up to Israel alone. Somehow, Zakaria and his ideological fellow travelers must abandon their belief that the tiny state of Israel is all-powerful against 400 million Muslim Arabs, whose landmass and population dwarf the minuscule Jewish state. If, however, the Sunni Arabs conclude that acceptance of a Jewish state in their midst will not crumble the edifice of the 1,400-year history of the Islamic religion, they will receive overwhelming reciprocity from Israel, while immediately advancing their economic vitality by integrating with the advanced Israeli economy.

If the Arab world could come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state with a Muslim minority in its midst, then it might offer enough cover for the Palestinian Arabs to move forward, ending incitement, and actually responding to realistic conflict resolutions.

How’s this for the headline of Zakaria’s next article: “Will the Arab World Miss its Golden Opportunity To Make Peace with Israel?”

The author is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political and Information Network), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders. He regularly briefs members of Congress on issues related to the Middle East.


Why America Needs Israel

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post.) 

While Israel stays the course, the Obama administration has turned American foreign policy on its head.

“The US-Israeli alliance now contributes more than ever to American security”
– Michael Eisenstadt and David Pollock, The Washington Institute

The Obama Doctrine on foreign affairs is not only to nurture a new relationship with Iran, but also to find opportunities to weaken the longstanding bonds between America and Israel.

For years, Israeli and American interests were virtually identical: stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Muslim world, fighting Iranian hegemonic ambitions and opposing state sponsorship of terror. The president’s new vision for an Iranian-dominated Middle East certainly will come at Israel’s expense.

While Israel stays the course, the Obama administration has turned American foreign policy on its head.

The Obama Doctrine of engaging our enemies and distancing ourselves from reliable allies may defy logic, but does fit with the president’s progressive worldview of an America that has done more harm than good in the world. President Obama offers carefully chosen words of support to those who care about the US-Israel relationship, but his words are constantly betrayed by his policies and actions regarding the Jewish state.

As Sohrab Ahmari, editorial-page writer for The Wall Street Journalin London, opined in Commentary, “The worse the White House’s treatment of Jerusalem gets, the more ardent its pro-Israel rhetoric becomes…The Jewish state now faces a White House that is oblivious to regional realities, is disdainful of the Israeli body politic, and is flirting with the lexicon and tactics of delegitimization…To radically alter the US-Israel relationship, the White House also needed the backing of a domestic lobby (J Street) to counterbalance the pro-Israel establishment…The administration’s bet all along has been that it can degrade the alliance from within while maintaining an outward narrative of stalwart support for Israel.”

The president and his advisers have repeatedly acted as if Israel were the main obstacle to regional stability and American interests. His plan since taking office has been to realign the Middle East with the anti-American Islamic Republic, while treating Israel as a liability, not a strategic security asset.

So the question Americans should ask is, “Is Israel an indispensable national security asset that the president is abandoning, or is it a dispensable ally?”

Let’s start with intelligence sharing. Many American analysts believe that Israel provides significant and vital information to our country, often more than our NATO allies. Turkey is a perfect example. They are the eastern flank of NATO, but are an untrustworthy partner aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, a State Department-designated terrorist organization. In an article titled, “Turkey Breaks From the West on Defense,” the Wall Street Journal last week reported that Ankara chose a Chinese missile defense system which “threatens intelligence cooperation” among the NATO allies.

So who is the reliable intelligence ally, Israel or Turkey? Intelligence is a difficult game. With the American withdrawal from many theaters of operation in the Middle East, Israel’s vital strategic location and human intelligence have become indispensable for our security. We can use all the help we can get.

Our own CIA and National Intelligence Estimates are often flawed or politically manipulated. One only has to look at the CIA’s 1978 analysis before the overthrow of the Shah that stated, “Iran is not in a…pre-revolutionary situation,” or in October 2002 when the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concluded that Iraq “could make a nuclear weapon,” or the 2007 NIE report, which falsely claimed that Iran had stopped its nuclear weaponization program.

According to the Washington Free Beacon, Israel “is providing significant intelligence support in the US-led campaign against…ISIS [Islamic State]. Israeli satellites overfly the battle area at angles and frequencies unavailable to American satellites.”

If Israel did not exist, America would have to create it. That would be nearly impossible; creating a liberal democracy that serves as a fail-safe ally in the region is nearly impossible today. Our history of alignment with Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes, who do not share our values and whose indigenous populations are decidedly anti-American, has at best a checkered history.Israel is a nation surrounded on all sides by enemies who want to annihilate it.

Because of the repeated wars of self-defense, Israel has unfortunately become a test tract for American munitions, and treatment of those wounded in combat. American’s armed services have utilized this live battlefield experience that has saved our soldiers lives, while increasing the chance of success of future American military missions. American anti-missile defense is greatly enhanced by the Israeli experience, and the forward positioning of American arms in a stable nation is vital to American military planning.

According to the Washington Institute, “Israel’s military research and development complex has pioneered many cutting-edge technologies that are transforming the face of modern war, including cyber weapons, unmanned vehicles (land robots and aerial drones, sensors and electronic warfare systems), and advanced defenses for military vehicles.”

The morality and professionalism of the Israel Defense Forces are unique in the Middle East, and are closely aligned with our national values. America has learned from the Israeli military experience how to fight an ethical war against non-state actors that use human shields in urban areas. At home, our homeland security and counter-terrorism efforts would be dramatically weaker in strategy and effectiveness if we did not have the Israeli experience and know-how.

The chaos of today’s Middle East and the threats to American interests would be exponentially greater if Israel hadn’t destroyed the Iraqi and Syrian nuclear reactors. Imagine Islamic State today with captured nuclear material. My meetings with top Israeli defense and political leadership unanimously show a profound appreciation of America’s generosity in supplying military aid. But it is not a one-way street. Most of the military aid allocated to Israel is spent in the United States, creating nearly 70,000 jobs in America.

Americans are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Israel because of our shared values and Western outlook.

Americans know instinctively who our friends are, and whom we should not trust. They know that President Barack Obama’s realignment with the worlds’ leading state sponsor of terrorism at Israel’s expense is against American interests. Just look at the polls.

Americans do not want their country to legitimize a nation (Iran) that a hangs homosexuals and imprisons American journalists and priests. Americans want our country to support Israel, as clearly evidenced by Congress’ bipartisan support for the Jewish state and its people.

Finally, there are the Israeli medical, scientific and innovative breakthroughs that have enriched all of our lives. From voicemail to the USB, American computer and tech companies gravitate to Israel for its research and development. In medicine, from developing devices that enable the paralyzed to walk, to cures for previously untreatable diseases, to cutting edge scientific breakthroughs, Americans are happier and healthier because of Israel. Israel needs America for its friendship, diplomatic protection, shared military development and foreign aid. But America also needs a strong Israel for our own national security interests.

The author is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political and Information Network), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.


A Conversation with Bret Stephens

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

‘I’m not sure Obama believes in ‘American indispensability,’ says ‘Wall Street Journal’ columnist Bret Stephens in his critique of the Administration’s foreign policy.

Bret Stephens writes Global View, The Wall Street Journal’s foreign affairs column, for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. He is the paper’s deputy editorial page editor, responsible for the content of the opinion pages in the Journal’s sister editions in Asia and Europe, as well as a member of the editorial board.

Previously, Stephens was editor- in-chief of The Jerusalem Post, a position he assumed in 2002 at the age of 28. He is the author of America in Retreat: The New Isolationism and the Coming Global Disorder, published by Sentinel Books in November 2014.

Will We Acquiesce to Terror and Self-Censor Free Speech?

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

But it is not just Islamic State and Iran that suppress freedom of speech. Almost every Muslim nation does it to one extent or another.

“We are not all Charlie … Certainly much of journalism is not Charlie … CNN, the Associated Press, and the many other media organizations that are cowering before the threat of totalitarian violence represent something other than bravery.” – Jeffery Goldberg, The Atlantic, January 8, 2015

Tens of thousands of people in the Muslim Middle East have been jailed, tortured and killed for exercising free speech, for following a different religion, or for yearning for Western democratic protections. You would never know it from reading much of the American mainstream media, but there is no truly free Muslim nation in the Middle East, where freedom of speech and the press are not tolerated for long.

Journalists are jailed and tortured in the Palestinian Authority, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

All of these states have sharia law as part of their constitutions; freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and criticism are not welcome. Intolerance is the norm, and violence often follows. Our press, human rights organizations and academic campuses are complicit in failing to publicize these abuses. US President Barack Obama’s comments after the Islamist attack on freedom of speech contributed to the problem. He said that a commitment to free expression “can’t be silenced because of the senseless violence of a few.” A few? What planet is he living on? Violence against freedom of speech and thought is the norm in the Muslim world. This is not an indictment of Islam; it is the reality of how Islam plays out in the 21st century, unlike the practice of some forms of Islam in the Middle Ages. The suppression of freedom of speech, the press and religion are in large part why 200,000 Syrians were killed, and eight million have been made homeless.

But it is not just Islamic State and Iran that suppress freedom of speech. Almost every Muslim nation does it to one extent or another. Just ask the Baha’i in Iran, the Kurds in Iraq or Christians living anywhere in the Middle East.

In America, the media have been self-censoring information for years, so as not to offend Islam. This is because they choose not to differentiate between radical Islamism and the non-violent Islam of the majority.

So their default position is to claim that Islam is not involved in the radical extremism that infects a significant part of the Islamic world. They should heed the words of Bernard-Henri Levy in The Wall Street Journal: “Those whose faith is Islam must proclaim very loudly, very often and in great numbers their rejection of this corrupt and abject form of theocratic passion… Islam must be freed from radical Islam.”

The Danish Muhammad cartoon controversy of 2005- 06 inflamed the entire Muslim world with massive protests, and caused at least 200 deaths. American journalism was AWOL then in a bow to political correctness, as they are today by not publishing the Charlie Hebdo images. Unfortunately, many of today’s editors learned their political correctness while students at America’s monolithic-thinking academic institutions.

America has a rich history of embracing the “marketplace of ideas,” which demands that journalists publish offensive cartoons to allow the American people to decide for themselves among all of the messages in the “marketplace.” Editorials, op-ed articles, and analyses are the appropriate vehicles with which to argue whether any form of expression is offensive, or beyond the pale to the Muslim community.

The ACLU once argued for the right of American Nazis to march in Skokie, Illinois, a march that offended to the core the large population of survivors of the Shoah living in Skokie. Today, in contrast, the progressive far Left, whether in academia, media, or in human rights organizations, raises its voice only for causes deemed politically acceptable or “worth” defending.

Unfortunately, anti-Semitism is not among those causes. You won’t find them defending the rights of marginalized pro-Israel voices on college campuses, who regularly are shouted down by Islamist-sympathizing students and their organizations. Hypocritically and paradoxically, they defend the right to shout down pro-Israel voices as an expression of free speech; they have no problem suppressing speech that offends their political sensibilities. Anti-Semitism grows on campus with the silencing and intimidation of pro-Israel voices, with nary a Progressive defender in sight.

But can free speech go too far? Of course. If the speech bleeds into action it can and should be stopped. If the speech calls for immediate violence, is seditious, or otherwise poses an immediate danger to people, courts have the power to “stop the presses.” Editors should use the same barometer for self-censorship. Vigilance is needed, as the challenge to radical Islamism must not give succor to xenophobic and far-right groups that are not only anti-Muslim, but also anti-Semitic.

So what should be done? Publish the Muhammad cartoons, and the caricatures in Charlie Hebdo. Just as in the case of the North Korean threat against the movie The Interview, the best response is more access – not less access. Demand America’s universities protect the free speech of all voices on campus, and protect Jewish students from anti-Semitic attacks. Demand university professors protect the free speech of students who fear grade reprisals for speaking up to professors who impose their political agendas in class. Finally, demand that our media and journalists practice their professions honestly, by not editorializing our news, or suppressing controversial information.

The power of your voice may be ignored but not the power of your purse. Say no to limitations on free speech.

The author is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political and Information Network), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.

A US Strategy to Win the War against Radical Islamism: Like Playing Chess in 5 Dimensions

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)
What should the next American national security team discuss in their first meeting in January 2017?

“We can attack Daesh [Islamic State]… we can constrain it financially… but as long as the idea of Daesh remains intact, they have yet to be defeated…

We’re not just fighting a force… we’re fighting an idea” – Retired US General John Allen, leader of the global campaign against Islamic State “The Muslims explicitly say that they did not come to Europe in order to become European, but to Islamize Europe… Anyone who wants to listen can listen. Anyone who doesn’t, they can wait for the next catastrophe.” – Professor Raphael Israel, Hebrew University

In my previous column, I identified the challenges that America, Israel and the West face to defeat the ascendancy of radical Islamism.

What should the next American national security team discuss in their first meeting in January 2017 to begin in earnest the long march against radical Islamism? Will they develop creative solutions for conflict management? Here is a proposed agenda of that meeting:

1. You cannot wait for the next terrorist mega-attack on America or the West before acting

It is a matter of time before radical jihadists attempt a large-scale attack intended to fundamentally shake the American national psyche. It is possible that the next generation of Islamist terrorists will change their strategy to small-scale attacks on soft targets.

Regardless of the method, Americans should learn from the Israelis about how to survive and remain a vibrant liberal democracy in an age of asymmetric recurrent terrorism.

2. Differentiating friend from foe in the war against Islamism The new age of radical Islamism makes it hard to identify and differentiate one’s friends from foes. In reality, we will need to work with many uncomfortable bedfellows.

Managing these relationships will take constant re-evaluation and sophisticated conflict management, a skill set lacking in the naïve “Kerryian” approach.

Turkey is a good example. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey has transformed into an Islamist state that has become a danger to NATO. Turkey directly and indirectly supports Islamic State, Iran, and undermines American interests in the region by weakening our NATO coalition. Unfortunately, NATO prefers to ignore facts. Future American presidents will not have that luxury.

There are two possible approaches to make Erdogan less confrontational.

Turkey has felt betrayed by the US over the crisis in Syria, with the American abandonment of its promise to help overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. Erdogan has a point. An answer for rapprochement is through coordination with Turkey against Assad.

It is in American interests to create a no-fly zone in northern Syria. This could be the price for Turkish participation against Islamic State. Removing Assad serves American interests by weakening our major Islamist threat in the region, Iran. A regime change in Syria may not be possible at this time, but America should not work or support the butcher of Damascus. Our goal is his ouster.

Another avenue for cooperation with Turkey is through shared economic energy interests in the Mediterranean.

Turkey wants to be a gateway for Israeli natural gas production en route to Europe, and America could facilitate this deal between two vital allies (who also are bitter rivals).

3. Don’t interfere in Islam

According to retired US General John Allen, leader of the global campaign against Islamic State, the goal of the current campaign against it is the “rescue of Islam.” He speaks about the “threat that Daesh is to [the Muslim] faith.” He is correct that Islam must be rescued from radical Islamism. But, with due respect, this is a prescription for failure if America, the demonized infidel, leads the rescue effort. Islamic nation-states and visionary Muslim leaders must lead the rescue of Islam.

4. Democracy is not an election

Repeating a failed strategy is bad foreign policy, and the definition of insanity. The West must acknowledge that it was a mistake to base a Middle East strategy on the belief that a Western perspective of rule of law, justice, tolerance, homosexual and women’s rights, and freedom of speech and press, could be imposed on a region not ready to accept it.

Tunisia aside, almost all of the liberalism of the Arab Spring was crushed by Islamists, who usurped the liberal minority. The one place our Western democratic ideals could have taken root was during the 2009 Iranian Green Revolution, but President Barack Obama abandoned the Iranian people. This cannot happen again.

The State Department needs a new playbook. They must understand that tribe and clan in the Middle East are more important than nation-state identification and that placating enemies in that region is interpreted as weakness. Just look at President Obama’s well-intentioned (but ultimately failed) outreach to the Muslim world and Iran, which has caused more harm than good.

Going forward, our primary objective is to find allies in the Muslim world intent on fighting radical Islamism.

We need to be pragmatic and only incrementally look for small opportunities to increase democracy in the region. Again the State Department must be reminded that an election is not democracy.

5. Educating the American people

The next administration must educate the American people about the dangers radical Islamism can pose to our homeland. This will require leadership and honesty in managing expectations, and explaining what will be needed to prevail in this long-term conflict.

6. The rules of international law in the age of Islamism

According to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, “Under international humanitarian law and the Rome Statute, the death of civilians during an armed conflict, no matter how grave and regrettable, does not constitute a war crime… A crime occurs if there is an intentional attack directed against civilians (principle of distinction) or an attack is launched on a military objective in the knowledge that the incidental civilian injuries would be clearly excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage (principle of proportionality).”

However, as Françoise Hampton of the University of Essex points out, “The greater the military advantage anticipated, the larger the amount of collateral damage – often civilian casualties – which will be ‘justified’ and ‘necessary.’” We must develop new rules for asymmetric warfare against an enemy that uses civilians as human shields and children as suicide bombers. The administration must explain to its citizens what “proportionate” and “disproportionate” use of force mean in this context. When diplomacy fails and military operations are chosen, a legal justification for use of force must be made. We will lose a war of proportional responses to a terrorist enemy who has no rules and is fighting for regional and worldwide hegemony.

A healthy debate among the American people must take place to ensure that all points of view are heard, and that we continually self-examine our actions and strategy, while not nitpicking every failed mission. This debate should take place before a military operation kills scores of innocent civilians who were purposely embedded in terrorist bases. We Americans adhere to international law, just not the politicized version of that law that is advocated by the UN and far-left progressive apologists and anarchists.

This will serve the next administration well. Otherwise, the inevitable parade of dead babies intended for propaganda points will stop the war on radical Islamism in its tracks.

7. The clock is ticking

With every year that passes, radical Islamists, whether in Iraq, Syria, Iran or Nigeria, incite and indoctrinate tens of millions of children.

Today’s Pakistani radical Islamists who support the Taliban were children indoctrinated in the Wahhabi madrassas in the 1980s. Likewise, the Afghani children of the 1980s were brainwashed by the Mujahedeen, the forerunner of the Afghani Taliban.

There is no time to wait to begin the war against radical Islamism.

8. Cooperation with the Chinese

The next president needs to develop a strategy of shared interests to get the Chinese on board against the common enemy of radical Islamism.

China fears the rise of radical jihadists in its outlying provinces, and is troubled by terrorist incidents and threats in its major inner cities. One of the tools to bring China on board is their Achilles heel of dependence on fossil fuels, and America’s future glut of oil and natural gas. Despite today’s short-term drop in oil and natural gas prices, fossil fuels will remain a key to China’s economic prosperity in the 21st century.

9. Energy as a tool in the war against radical Islamism

Natural gas and oil are key geopolitical leverage chits in the war against radical Islamism.

Israel’s Mediterranean natural gas potential may allow it to develop relationships in the Middle East and Europe that are now severely strained. If handled with the proper American diplomatic cover, it can be a potent weapon in the war against radical Islamism, building new alliances of convenience.

10. Can Russia be brought on board?

Russia is an even more difficult problem, as Russian President Vladimir Putin seems more likely to confront and challenge America despite his nation’s economic fragility. Is it possible that there is a window of opportunity to engage Russia because 50 percent of its income is from fossil fuels sales, and the steep drop in oil prices is creating havoc with the ruble and unnerving the Russian people? The Russians fear unrest in their southern Muslim provinces and neighbors. Increasing American fossil fuel production is the most tangible way to keep pressure on Russia and other anti-American despots such as Iran and Venezuela.

11. Iran is the most dangerous player in the Islamist world

President Obama last year said that Iran is a “force for stability” in the Middle East. If a bad deal is signed with Iran, the war against radical Islamism will be infinitely more difficult to win. It may be too late for the next administration, but if Iran is found to have returned to its clandestine nuclear work, a return to punishing sanctions (coupled with revenue loss from the fall in oil prices) will be our best leverage against this anti-American Islamist theocracy.

Regime change really is the only answer to dealing with Iran in the 21st century. The current Iranian leadership is absolutely untrustworthy and cannot be expected to keep its commitment to any signed document.

That does not mean we get involved directly or through military action, but it does mean that if the Iranian people rise up again against the authoritarian “mullahcracy” we should be there for them – unlike our abandonment of them in 2009.

12. Nuclear proliferation in the war against Islamism

Nuclear proliferation with the potential for nuclear material getting into the hands of non-state Islamist terrorist actors will be dramatically increased if any deal is signed with Iran. None of the Sunni nation-states trust Iran to remain true to its word and, one way or another, will acquire nuclear reactors and material to enrich uranium or plutonium.

Many of these Sunni states have ties to terrorist organizations, or could become unstable. Populist Islamic movements like the Muslim Brotherhood are waiting for the opportunity to overtake any Muslim nation. Egyptian Islamist Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi of Egypt may have been a harbinger of this coming danger.

13. Pakistan cannot move to the dark side

Pakistan is the most vivid example of the dangers of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Sunni Islamist terrorists. We must support the current Pakistani government to fight the Pakistani Taliban. The problem is that the Pakistani government supports the Afghani Taliban, and sometimes works with the Pakistani Taliban (when it is not trying to kill them). We have no choice but to do what we can to manage and support the Pakistani government, no matter how untrustworthy it is, because we cannot let their vast nuclear arsenal fall into the hands of a Pakistani-Taliban government.

14. Iraq at the crossroads of radical Islamism

Iraq is at the crossroads of the Sunni- Shi’ite divide that animates much of the complexity and rivalry in the Middle East.

America has allowed Iraq to become a puppet satellite state of Iran. If America cannot revive its influence in Iraq and distance the Arab Shi’ite Iraqi leadership from the Persian Shi’ite Iranian influence, the options will be limited.

America must find a way to get the new Iraqi prime minister, Haider Abadi, to distance himself from Iran and commit to working with Iraq’s Sunni and Kurdish population to fight Islamic State. If this is not possible, America eventually may need to reconsider the option of a divided Iraq, with a northern Kurdish state, a Shi’ite state in the south, and a moderate Sunni center state.

Again, it will be incumbent on American leaders to explain to the people of the world that Iraq, like most nation-states in the Middle East, is an artificial construct, and does not date back from time immemorial.

America does not have the power to make these grand changes happen by itself, and certainly not in the short term. But since this conflict will span decades, these options should not be dismissed just because they currently may be impractical.

15. Arab states must build a sustainable coalition

The building of a coalition of Sunni states to fight Islamic State and its offshoots is imperative. These states want to fight the populist Islamist movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, but they will need American leadership and support. American leverage and trust with Sunni states will evaporate if America follows its current course to partner with Iran.

16. America should foster a rapprochement between Israel and the Gulf States

The seedlings of the current covert alignment between Sunni States and Israel must be nurtured, as their cooperation will be an important aid to coordinate intelligence in the fight against radical Islamism.

17. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will distract from the war against radical Islamism

If only the Palestinian-Israeli conflict could be resolved, the relationship between Israel and the Sunni states might be more likely. So the thinking goes, which is why the US wants to pressure Israel to capitulate to the Palestinians. Hopefully, the next administration will realize that true progress in managing this conflict is up to the Palestinians – not the Israelis – to compromise on Jerusalem, demilitarization, right of return and the Jordan River Valley.

Can any clear-thinking person actually believe that with Islamic State so close to the Jordan River Valley, Israel could contemplate giving it over to Palestinians who could in short order be controlled by Hamas? Finally, in the war against radical Islamism there can be no daylight between the US and Israel.

Eric Edelman, Dennis Ross and Ray Takeyh, writing in The Washington Post opined: “The core of the US alliance system in the Middle East remains our close partnership with Israel. The value of US deterrence is not enhanced by perceptions of discord in that essential relationship.”

This new regional strategy can form a basis for a new and nimble American foreign policy that finally recognizes the primary enemy of America and the West is in the 21st century.

The author is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political and Information Network), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.

How to Fight a Civilized War against an Uncivilized Enemy

(Previously published in The Jerusalem Post)

This is not a war of financial resources; it is a battle of power and determination.

How do you fight a war against an enemy who loves death more than they love life? How do you fight a war against a people who, in the name of religion, deliberately kill, enslave and torture innocent children, women and men? How do you maintain a moral compass while confronting an enemy with no respect for the rules of war? To begin to answer these questions, we must start with an honest examination of our security interests.

In this “war,” military operations will likely be choices of last resort, but our chance for success will be drastically limited unless we confront this enemy as if we were in a full-scale military confrontation. Our current ad-hoc military operations, i.e. drone strikes, will be ineffective over the long term unless they are part of a comprehensive strategy with a clear vision for success.

Seventy-nine years ago, we faced an enemy that was pure evil, and it was known as Nazism. But then, unlike now, we knew that absolute evil had to be extinguished by one means or another.

In the case of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the answer was their unconditional surrender.

In the case of Communism during the Cold War (remember Ronald Reagan’s “evil empire”?), there was no quick exit. There were many military battles and diplomatic skirmishes fought over decades, with no end in sight, until the very end. Yet the non-wavering vision in each case was to bring home as complete a victory as possible, knowing that America and the West were in the right, and the enemy was beyond the civilized pale.

Today’s “evil empire” is radical jihadist Islamism, the 21st century version of Nazism. The jihadists of all sectarian stripes, i.e. Sunni and Shi’ite, expect victory, because their (accurate) assessment of the West is that it does not have the willpower to fight an enemy without a clear exit strategy, or one that may not be vanquished in their lifetime. So we need to ask ourselves: • Are we willing to map out an effective and flexible strategy to destroy, or at least profoundly weaken, radical Islamism, knowing many obstacles and setbacks lie ahead? • Is there a visionary Western leader on the horizon in the 21st century who can look beyond our need for instant gratification and explain that we must confront the menace of jihadism because over time it could destroy and threaten all that we hold dear? • Does the West in the era of 24/7 instantaneous news coverage have the “stomach” to fight a war where all of its actions will be under a magnifying glass, and withstand the inevitable accusations of war crimes for killing civilians purposely embedded within terrorist operating bases? • Can the West fight an enemy that measures success in centuries, has infinite patience, and has tens of millions of adherents and supporters? • Is it too late for America and the West to act? The answer to that last question is no, but it seems that only the Israelis understand the existential dangers posed by radical Islamism. Perhaps that is because it is their survival that is most obviously threatened by it.

There is no appeasement or placation that can satisfy radical Islamism. Until America realizes that our way of life is endangered by the growing radical threat of jihadists, we will be fighting with two hands behind our back.

How does one define radical Islamists? Today’s flavor of the day is the Sunni Islamic State. However, whether Sunni or Shi’ite, Arab or Persian, radical Islamists should be viewed by the West as sides of the same jihadist coin. We must not be confused by the fact that sometimes they are at each other’s throats as mortal enemies, and sometimes cross sectarian lines to work together against the greater evils, i.e. America, Israel and the West.

The next American president must abandon the idea that there are good and bad radical Islamists. The Sunni Islamic State must be defeated, but the danger of radical Iranian Shi’ite Islamism is more likely to be a greater threat to America and Western interests over the long term.

The Obama administration mistakenly believes that Shi’ite Islamist Iran needs to be embraced as part of the solution against radical Islamism. Nothing could be further from the truth. It also mistakenly embraced the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood as the face of moderate Islamism. American allies like Jordanian King Abdullah knew better, and chastised America by stating that the Muslim Brotherhood is simply a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Muslim nation-states must, for their own self interest, become the leaders in this war against radical Islamism.

This is anti-Islamist, not anti-Islam. This can only happen if the strategy has the buy-in of the Sunni nation-states, i.e.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Gulf States, and includes the Kurds, the Turks and Shi’ites who do not support the Iranian regime. Getting into bed with allies like the Wahabi Sunnis of the Arabian Peninsula is certainly distasteful, but it is necessary for success at this point.

The complexity of this overwhelming grand vision should be self-evident. Different theaters of action against differing radical Islamist groups will require different strategic partners and ever-changing strategies. The tools will include support of allied nation-states, recruitment of dissidents, diplomatic pressure, economic incentives and disincentives, clandestine actions, counterterrorism, effective use of social media, and, yes, military operations, among many other possibilities.

The potential length of this conflict makes this war much more analogous to the Cold War than WWII, but even that analogy is a stretch, as this conflict will be profoundly different. This is not a war of financial resources; it is a battle of power and determination.

As was the case for WWII and the Cold War, the war against radical Islamism is a fight against ideologies that want to destroy our freedoms and our way of life.

The author is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political and Information Network), a Middle East research analysis read by members of Congress, their foreign policy advisers, members of the Knesset, journalists and organizational leaders.