The Need for Clarity in the War against Islamist Totalitarianism

Feb. 15 2017

Between, on the one hand, the Obama administration’s vague catch-all of “countering violent extremism” and the Bush administration’s overly broad “general war on terror” and, on the other hand, declaring war on Islam as such, Eran Lerman presses for a clear definition of America’s current conflict:

It is in the interests of all the key players to latch onto a coherent interpretation of who the enemy is and how to defeat it. That war could be called by the shorthand DIT, or Defeating Islamist Totalitarianism.

Modern Islamist totalitarianism draws on traditional elements in Islam, including the notion of jihad, the idea of Islam as a religion of conquest, and the central role of political power . . . in shariah. But it also draws on 20th-century models of political action from Lenin to Hitler. . . . This distinction has several implications.

First, modern political movements—unlike ancient religious affiliations—can be tested and broken on the field of battle. Their legitimacy flows from their success, not from the validity of their arguments, and will ebb with failure.

Second, drawing a clear line helps mobilize moderate and pragmatic Muslim forces that are elements of stability within the existing power system. These include Sufi mystics violently targeted by Islamist Salafists, as well as those, like the Egyptian president Mohammed Abdel Fatah el-Sisi, who speak the idiom of Islamic modernist “enlightenment” (tanwir) and rationalism (emphasized, for example, in the preamble to the current Egyptian constitution). All of these forces have a vested interest in the defeat of Islamic State (IS), Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Third, it suggests a workable agenda rather than a millennial war. IS and its ilk can and should be “eradicated” (to use President Trump’s term from his inauguration). Attention should then turn to the Iranian regime and its proxies, notably Hizballah, and subsequently to the Brotherhood and its offshoots, like Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, ISIS, Islamism, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

Mahmoud Abbas’s Appointment of a New Deputy Chairman Won’t Prevent a Violent Succession Struggle

Feb. 24 2017

Last week, amid ongoing concern over his refusal to choose a successor, the aging president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) elevated two of his associates to important positions within his Fatah party. Mahmoud al-Aloul, a PLO veteran who was close to Yasir Arafat’s inner circle, was named deputy party chairman, and Jibril Rajoub, who served as the head of Arafat’s Preventive Security Force in the West Bank, became the secretary general. The move, writes Yoni Ben Menachem, has calmed some of the internal tensions within Fatah, but only in the short run:

Both . . . Aloul and Rajoub, are unacceptable to the Fatah Central Committee as possible successors to Abbas as PA president or Fatah chairman. As soon as Abbas is in a state of incapacity, a harsh and violent succession struggle will ensue. . . .

Aloul and Rajoub are already making the most of their promotions to try and clear their path to the PA leadership and remove any obstacle in their way. . . . [The two] are themselves keen political rivals. But, although each sees himself as Abbas’s [rightful] successor, they appear to have a common interest in getting rid of [the current PA prime minister, Rami] Hamdallah, as quickly as possible. He does not belong to the Fatah movement and was appointed to the post because of his personal ties with Abbas. . . .

Abbas will have to contend as soon as possible with a pack of Fatah figures who want to succeed him. The pound of flesh he tossed to Aloul and Rajoub in the form of senior positions in the movement’s leadership will only satisfy them for a very short time. They will not stop trying to undermine him—especially Rajoub who is known to be a tireless subversive in Palestinian politics. Also involved in the effort will be [Abbas’s longtime rival Mahmoud] Dahlan and Marwan Barghouti, [the mastermind of the second intifada, who is currently in an Israeli prison], who are likely to join forces, and General Majid Freij, who has already forged ties with the new CIA chief Mike Pompeo.

The current calm in the Fatah leadership is only temporary. Despite Abbas’s new appointments last week, it could collapse at any moment.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Fatah, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs