by Barry Rubin
I did a lot of soul-searching before writing my latest article, “After the Fall: What Do You Do When You Conclude America is (Temporarily or Permanently) Kaput?” Of course, I believed every word of it and have done so for a while. But would it depress readers too much? Would it just be too grim?
Maybe U.S. policy will just muddle through the next four years and beyond without any disasters. Perhaps the world will be spared big crises. Possibly the fact that there isn’t some single big superpower enemy seeking world domination will keep things contained.
Perhaps that is true. Yet within hours after its publication I concluded that I hadn’t been too pessimistic. The cause of that reaction is the breaking story that not only will Senator John Kerry be the new secretary of state; that not only will the equally reprehensible former Senator Chuck Hagel be secretary of defense; but that John Brennan, the president’s counterterrorism advisor, will become CIA chief.
About two years ago I joked that if Kerry were to become secretary of state it would be time to think about heading for that fallout shelter in New Zealand. This trio in power — which along with Obama himself could be called the four horseman of the Apocalypse for U.S. foreign policy — might require an interstellar journey.
Let me stress that this is not really about Israel. At the end of Obama’s second term, U.S.-Israel relations will probably be roughly where they are now. Palestinian strategy — both by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas — has left the United States no diplomatic or “peace process” option on that front. The problem is one of eroding U.S. interests, especially the American position in the Middle East but also in other parts of the world.
You can read elsewhere details about these three guys. Here, I will merely summarize the two basic problems:
–Their ideas and views are horrible. This is especially so on Middle Eastern issues, but how good are they on anything else? True, they are all hostile to Israel, but this isn’t the first time people who think that way have held high office. Far worse is that they are pro-Islamist as well as dim-witted about U.S. interests in a way no foreign policy team has been in the century since America walked onto the world stage.
Brennan is no less than the father of the pro-Islamist policy. What Obama is saying is this: My policy of backing Islamists has worked so well, including in Egypt, that we need to do even more! All those analogies to 1930s appeasement are an understatement. Nobody in the British leadership said, “I have a great idea. Let’s help fascist regimes take power and then they’ll be our friends and become more moderate!” That’s the equivalent of what Brennan does.
–They are all stupid people. Some friends said I shouldn’t write this because it is a subjective judgment and sounds mean-spirited. But honest, it’s true. Nobody would ever say that their predecessors — Hillary Clinton, Robert Gates, and David Petraeus — were not intelligent and accomplished. But these guys are simply not in that category. Smart people can make bad judgments; regular people with common sense often make bad judgments less often. But stupid, arrogant people with terrible ideas are a disaster.
Brennan’s only life accomplishment has been to propose backing radical Islamists. As a reward, he isn’t just being made head of intelligence for the Middle East but for the whole world! Has Brennan any proven administrative skill? Any knowledge of other parts of the world? No. All he has is a proximity to Obama and a very bad policy concept. What’s especially ironic here is that by now, the Islamist policy has clearly failed and a lot of people are having second thoughts.
With Brennan running the CIA, though, do you think there will be critical intelligence evaluations of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizballah, or even Hamas? Is the CIA going to warn U.S. leaders about the repression against women, Christians, and moderates? Will there be warnings that Islamists are taking over Syria or reports on Islamist involvement in killing Americans in Benghazi? Can we have confidence about U.S. policy toward Iran?
To get some insight into his thinking, consider the incident in which a left-wing reporter, forgetting there were people listening, reminded Brennan that in an earlier private conversation he admitted favoring engagement not only with the Lebanese terrorist group Hizballah, but also the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Ask yourself this question: when an American intelligence chief told Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood was a moderate, secular group, who approved that line of argument?
Kerry, of course, was the most energetic backer of sponsoring Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad before the revolt began. Now he will be the most energetic backer of putting the Muslim Brotherhood into power in Syria. Here is a man who once generalized about American soldiers in Vietnam as being baby-killers and torturers (such things certainly happened but Kerry, made the blame collective, except for himself of course).
[ad] As for Hagel, suffice it to say that the embarrassing quotes and actions from him in the past — including his opposition to sanctions against Iran — fueled a response to his proposed nomination so strong that the administration had to back down for a while.
What would have happened if President Harry Truman turned over American defense, diplomacy, and intelligence in 1946 to those who said that Stalin wanted peace and that Communist rule in Central Europe was a good thing?
Obama has been president of the United States for four years. Yet in foreign policy, having some decent and competent people in high positions mitigated the damage. Well, the reins are now loosed; the muzzle is off.
I apologize for being so pessimistic, but look at the cast of characters. When it comes to Obama administration foreign policy’s damage on the world and on U.S. interests, one can only say, like the great singer Al Jolson, folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
To get a sense of his thinking, check out Brennan’s article, “The Conundrum of Iran: Strengthening Moderates without Acquiescing to Belligerence,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 618, Terrorism: What the Next President Will Face (Jul., 2008), pp. 168-179. Here’s the conclusion:
If the United States actually demonstrates that it will work to help advance rather than thwart Iranian interests, the course of Iranian politics as well as the future of U.S.-Iranian relations could be forever altered.
The Obama administration followed this advice during its first two years with the result being total failure. The theme of the 2008 article carries over to his view of the Muslim Brotherhood. If the United States shows it is friendly, helpful, and does not oppose their taking power, then revolutionary Islamists will become moderate.
For example, he also proposes a U.S. policy “to tolerate, and even to encourage, greater assimilation of Hezbollah into Lebanon’s political system….” This step, he suggests, will reduce “the influence of violent extremists in the organization.”
Of course, Hizballah does not need to stage terrorist attacks if it holds state power! Terrorism is only a tactic to seize control of countries. If you give revolutionaries their goal, then why do they need to continue using such a tactic? Yet putting them in power does not increase stability, improve the lives of people, or benefit U.S. interests. If al-Qaeda, for example, overthrew the Iraqi or Saudi government, you would see a sharp decline in terrorist attacks! If the Muslim Brotherhood rules Egypt, Tunisia, or Syria, it doesn’t need to send suicide bombers into the marketplaces.
The same, by the way, would apply to anywhere else in the world. If Communist rebels took power in Latin American or Asian countries, you wouldn’t find them hanging out in the jungles raiding isolated villages.
In Brennan’s terms, that means the problem would be solved. Instead, the correct response is parallel to Winston Churchill’s point in his 1946 Fulton, Missouri, speech: “I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.”
This is what Brennan — and the Obama administration — fails to understand regarding this point. The danger is not terrorism but a dangerous revolutionary movement that becomes even more dangerous if it controls entire states, their resources, and their military forces.
Barry Rubin is a professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, the Director of the Global Research and International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, and a Senior Fellow at the International Policy Institute for Counterterrorism. Rubin has written and edited more than 40 books on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, with publishers including Harvard, Yale, Oxford, and Cambridge University Press.
This article appeared originally on PJMedia
Should Egypt be considered an ally, neutral or an enemy?
by Raymond Ibrahim
Liberal talk show host Tawfiq Okasha recently appeared on "Egypt Today," airing a video of Muslims slicing off a young man's head off for the crime of apostasy -- in this instance, the crime of converting to Christianity and refusing to renounce it. The video—be warned, it is immensely graphic—can be seen here (the actual execution appears from minute 1:13-4:00). For those who prefer not to view it, a summary follows:
A young man appears held down by masked men. His head is pulled back, with a knife to his throat. He does not struggle and appears resigned to his fate. Speaking in Arabic, the background speaker, or "narrator," chants a number of Muslim prayers and supplications, mostly condemning Christianity, which, because of the Trinity, is referred to as a polytheistic faith: "Let Allah be avenged on the polytheist apostate"; "Allah empower your religion, make it victorious against the polytheists"; "Allah, defeat the infidels at the hands of the Muslims," and "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."
Then, to cries of "Allahu Akbar!"— Allah is greater!"—the masked man holding the knife to the apostate's throat begins to slice away, severing the head completely after approximately one minute of graphic knife-carving, as the victim drowns in blood. Finally, the severed head is held aloft to more Islamic slogans of victory.
Visibly distraught, Tawfiq Okasha, the host, asks: "Is this Islam? Does Islam call for this? How is Islam related to this matter?...These are the images that are disseminated throughout the electronic media in Europe and America…. Can you imagine?" Then, in reference to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis, whose political influence has grown tremendously, he asks, "How are such people supposed to govern?"
Only the other day, a prominent Egyptian Salafi leader -- referring to the canonical hadiths, including Muhammad's command, "Whoever leaves his religion, kill him" -- openly stated that no Muslim has the right to apostatize, or leave Islam.
Any number of Islamic legal manuals make explicitly clear that apostasy is a capital crime, punishable by death. The first "righteous caliph," a model of Muslim piety, had tens of thousands of former Muslims slaughtered—including by burning, beheading, and crucifixion—simply because they tried to break away from Islam. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, the most authoritative reference work on Islam in the English language, "there is unanimity that the male apostate must be put to death."
Finally, a word on the "prayers" or supplications to Allah made by the Muslim executioners in the video: these are standard and formulaic. In other words, these are not just masked, anonymous butchers who pray to Allah as they engage in acts of cutting throats and holding up heads, these are top-ranking Muslim leaders, who appear regularly on TV, who invoke such hate-filled prayers. See here for examples of Muslims supplicating Allah to strike infidels with cancer and disease "till they pray for death and do not receive it;" there are even formalized prayers in Mecca, blasted on megaphones as Muslims honor their obligation to go on a pilgrimage at least once in their lives, supplicating Allah to make the lives of Christians and Jews "hostage to misery; drape them with endless despair, unrelenting pain and unremitting ailment; fill their lives with sorrow and pain and end their lives in humiliation and oppression."
"Is this Islam?" You decide.
Raymond Ibrahim, a Middle East and Islam specialist, is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum. A widely published author, he is best known for his book, The Al Qaeda Reader . Mr. Ibrahim's dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Egyptian parents —has provided him with unique advantages to understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets.
This article appeared originally on StonegateInstitute.org
by Ryan Mauro
Osama Bin Laden (right) had more than a few good reasons to pick Yemen as the best opportunity to create an Islamic state.
Yemeni President Saleh was swept away in the Arab Spring, though the rest of his regime remains intact. The power vacuum that already existed under his rule has grown larger and Iranian proxies, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood are all pouncing on the opportunity at hand.
Yemen is the one country where Al-Qaeda is clearly advancing. It has taken over Abyan Province, where it has instituted strict sharia law, going so far as to publicly lash four people 80 times for consuming alcohol. Apparently, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula decided to ignore Bin Laden’s advice to wait three years before moving forward.
Al-Qaeda recently declared Shabwa Province to be part of its Islamic Emirate and has 300 operatives in the town of Azzan alone. It is looking to grab the city of Mukallah in the province of Hadramaut. Its ranks have been reinforced with up to 800 operatives from Somalia, where the group’s affiliate, al-Shabaab, has been taking a shellacking.
At the same time, Iran is again sending arms to its Shiite Houthi allies in the north, including the advanced explosively-formed penetrators (EFPs) that the regime has sent to Iraq and Afghanistan. A “relatively small but steady stream of automatic rifles, grenade launchers, bomb-making material and several million dollars n cash” are flowing to the Houthis. The Iranians are also courting members of Herak, which seeks secession for the south.
Don’t underestimate the damage that the Houthis can do. In 2009, Iran waged a very bloody proxy war against the Yemeni government using them. The Saudis were forced to militarily intervene, prompting the Iranians to threaten to spread the war into the Royal Family’s land. With the current Yemeni government so weak, it could be easy for the Houthis to establish an enclave loyal to Iran.
Politically, the largest party by far is Islah, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Islah will dominate any free election that is held. Among its top leaders is Sheikh Zindani, who the U.S. accuses of being linked to Al-Qaeda. Islah supports establishing a religious police.
The Salafists have enormous political strength in Yemen and they often clash with the Houthis. It is very possible that they will form independent militias and religious police forces. After all, it just happened in Tunisia. The ruling Tunisian government even legalized the Salafist-formed religious police.
There’s no way to positively spin what is happening in Yemen. The country is ripe for the picking and Islamists of all kinds see it.
Ryan Mauro is a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel.