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

 

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