Islamic State’s Master Plan Revolves around a Long War with the West

April 21 2017

In The Master Plan, Brian Fishman traces the history of Islamic State (IS) from its origins as al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch through to the present. In many ways, Fishman argues, IS has remained loyal to a seven-stage plan drawn up by one of Osama bin Laden’s deputies shortly after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. Kyle Orton writes in his review:

Al-Qaeda held that while the “near enemy” (local Arab regimes) had the support of the “far enemy” (the West, led by the U.S.), it could not be toppled. The master plan identified two exceptions—Iraq and Syria—where the regimes could be brought down without a need to sever them from the West first. Indeed, at the time the plan was being written, Saddam Hussein was clearly on borrowed time, courtesy of the [imminent] U.S. invasion. . . .

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi [the founder of IS] was in Baghdad by May 2002 and found throughout Iraq large, powerful Salafist networks that allowed the IS movement to find a foothold quickly. The regime had allowed [these] networks to grow, partly due to Hussein’s increasing Islamization of the country, but also because a mortally weakened regime was unable to restrain them. . . .

Fishman’s book punctures a number of myths about the history of IS. It is often said that IS turned to international attacks when its “caliphate” started to contract. [But] IS was always focused on the West; it just had the West on its doorstep between 2003 and 2011 [in the form of American and allied forces in Iraq]. . . .

While Gulf donors and the Saudi government are [frequently accused of] assisting IS, the reality is that, to the extent states have assisted the rise of IS, the real villains are Iran, [which sheltered important figures during the movement’s formative years], and the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. Assad provided IS a hinterland that helped it ride out defeat in Iraq and facilitated its recruitment of foreign fighters during the entire period of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Once this terrorist network turned on his regime, the support did not end.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Al Qaeda, Iraq, ISIS, Osama bin Laden, Politics & Current Affairs, Saddam Hussein

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