Preventing Jihadist Insurgencies from Gaining Ground

The United States can no longer afford to “react to threats after they have emerged,” argues Emily Estelle in a new report on the dangers posed by the violent strains of Salafism, the fundamentalist Islamic ideology espoused by Islamic State. Noting the growing power vacuum in the Middle East and the pressing challenges posed by Russia and China, Estelle outlines a path for the U.S. to “avert rather than mitigate [the] risk” of global Salafi-jihadist terror. Failure to do so, she contends, will exacerbate domestic tensions while accelerating wide-ranging threats to national security.

A new jihadist wave is the last thing Western policymakers want to recognize or prepare for. But Americans face a more serious terror threat than they realize. The global Salafi-jihadist movement, led by al-Qaeda and Islamic State, has not faded into irrelevancy but has grown greatly in manpower, wealth, capability, and geographical extent and is stronger by some measures than it has ever been.

The movement’s flashiest endeavors—spectacular terror attacks and a border-crossing caliphate—are in a lull that the largely temporary effects of counterterrorism pressure only partly explain. Deliberate adaptation is also at play; Salafi-jihadist leaders have learned to eschew direct attacks on the U.S. and European homelands, on the whole, to avoid drawing attention to their successes in putting down deep roots in many countries. But they have not given up their aim—toppling and replacing states across the Muslim world—or their willingness to use terror attacks to achieve their ends.

Over the past two decades, the U.S. government has disaggregated threats and sought to manage them sequentially: small or lone-wolf attacks in the United States; resurgent Salafi-jihadist groups across Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia; government collapse in these regions; and mass-migration refugee crises driven by conflict and climate change. These problems range from manageable to inconsequential in the establishment worldview. But this approach fails to recognize the cumulative weight of these interconnected developments and the major threat they represent in combination.

Read more at American Enterprise Institute

More about: Islamism, Jihadism, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy