Putin Is No Partner in the War on Terror

Although Russia claims to be fighting Islamic State alongside the U.S. and its allies, David Satter argues that nothing could be farther from the truth. Moscow’s brutal bombings of civilians and support for Iran and Syria run contrary to American interests, and Russian intelligence may even be abetting terrorists when it finds them useful. (Free registration required.)

Ayman al-Zawahiri, [now] the head of al-Qaeda, was arrested in Dagestan in 1996 while en route to Chechnya to survey the possibility that it could be used as a safe haven for Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the terrorist organization that he [then] headed which became famous for its role in the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. At the time of his arrest, Zawahiri was one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. . . . He arrived in Russia on a phony passport and claimed to be working for an Azeri trading company. . . . Zawahiri ended up spending six months in jail, . . . spent another ten days meeting with Islamists in Dagestan, and then left Russia for Afghanistan, where he joined Osama bin Laden and began to plan the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Something similar happened with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston-marathon bomber. Then there are Russia’s ties to IS:

With the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, there is evidence that Russia is facilitating the transfer of dangerous radicals from the North Caucasus to the war zone, where they fight for IS. . . . Among those showing up in IS-controlled territory are radical preachers from Dagestan, [who have become the organization’s main recruiters in Iraq]. . . . In the meantime, the number of casualties in armed clashes between insurgent forces and security forces in the North Caucasus has declined by about 50 percent since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, a sign that many members of the Islamist underground in the North Caucasus are now fighting in the Middle East.

[But beyond such malign activities], the most important reason why Russia cannot be a U.S. ally in the war on terrorism is that its geopolitical goals are fundamentally different from, and often opposed to, those of the United States.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Al Qaeda, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy, Vladimir Putin, War on Terror

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy