Friday, June 21, 2013

Mordechai Kedar: Rouhani and Iranian Deceit



 

by Mordechai Kedar

Read the article in the original עברית
Read the article in Italiano (translated by Yehudit Weisz, edited by Angelo Pezzana)

To understand the election of Rouhani as president of Iran, several points must be clarified:

The first is the Shi'ite
practice of taqiyya. Ever since the birth of Shi'a in the middle of the seventh century CE, its adherents have been so persecuted by the Sunni majority that their lives were in constant danger and when they were caught, in many cases, they were brutally murdered. Over the years, in order to survive, Shi'ites developed the practice of taqiyya or "the need to survive", which enabled them to endure in a hostile environment despite their faith and their political leanings. A basic component of taqiyya is khoda'a, which means deception, or pretense. During the 1350 years of the conflict with the Sunnis, the Shi'ites have developed the practice of taqiyya and khoda'a into an art. They have become so adept at it, that polygraph tests cannot detect the physiological phenomena that usually occur when a person lies, (involving changes in perspiration,  production of saliva, heart rate, blood pressure, etc.) when the subject being investigated is a Shi'ite. And Western police departments are aware of this.

The second point is that the office of president in Iran is not like that in the United States, France or Brazil. In these states the president is the head of an executive pyramid, and his policy is the dominant factor in conducting the state's business, because there is usually  no authority above the president. In Iran, however, the presidency is the fourth level from the top, and there are three levels of religious authority above him: there is the supreme leader (today Ayatollah Khamene'i), under him is the Assembly of Experts and under that is the Council to Ensure the Interests of the Regime. All three of these agencies are staffed by religious authorities, and all of them are above the president, above the government and above the parliament. As a result, any Iranian "democratic" process has a very low level of authority, and the influence of the elected bodies on internal and foreign policy is quite limited.


Responsibilities of "the president" are also limited, and from our perspective, the salient point is that they do not include the nuclear project and the activity of the Revolutionary Guard. These two matters are managed directly by the supreme leader. The elected bodies cannot dislodge the supreme leader from his position. All of the candidates for president must pass a meticulous "kashrut" test, and only a candidate who is thought to be an integral part of the ayatollahs' regime can be a candidate in elections. Therefore, because of the limitations imposed by the structure of authorities as well as the candidate's personality, there is no chance that the  elected "president" will bring about a fundamental change to the character of the regime or in the way that the state functions.

The third point is that Iranian society is fairly secular, and it is estimated that about ninety percent of the citizens do not lead a religious way of life at all. The reason that the public appears to be religious, especially in the way the women dress, is because the government requires it. Most of the citizens were born after the Islamic Revolution, which occurred in the beginning of 1979, and it is precisely because of religious coercion that the youth leave the faith. But these youths know the rules of the game, and are reluctant to sacrifice their lives in order to replace a religious dictator with another sort of dictator; nationalist, for example, such as Shah Pahlavi in his time. The youth took part in the elections for president not because they like
any specific candidate or the way that the religious system controls their lives, but in order to achieve the best result from the elections within the context of existing conditions, and the best result, for them, is to elect a candidate who is not a devout traditionalist, but slightly more modern, moderate and attuned to the hardships of the people. There is no other game in the field, so they participated.

The fourth point is what happened in the elections of 2009. In those elections, the Iranian public felt that the result had been fabricated by agents of Hamene'i, and the reformist candidate who won - Mir Hossein Mousavi - was thrown aside so that Mahmud Ahmadinejad - who was then Hamenei's preferred candidate - could continue as president. As a result, the masses burst into the streets of the cities and the resulting violent demonstrations cost the lives of hundreds of people. In those days the heads of the Iranian regime feared that the demonstrations might bring about a revolution, so three jets were prepared in Teheran airport in order to rescue the heads of the regime in case rebels took over the country.


Hamene'i is afraid that a similar scenario might occur, especially because of the wave of revolutions in the Arab world that began at the end of 2010, and therefore, this time
he decided to "throw a bone" to the people, by allowing the elected candidate to be president and not manipulate the result of the elections. The evident joy that the youth in the streets showed in the beginning of the week was evoked by the fact that this time they managed to force their preference for president on the supreme leader.

The fifth point is the negotiations with Western countries about the nuclear project. These negotiations have been ongoing for almost 20 years and the Western countries have not been able to stop the project. Only the invasion of Iraq in 2003 caused a delay, because the Iranians feared that they would be next in line. Because they have since understood that the American tiger is just a paper tiger, they have renewed the operation of centrifuges, to the point that today they are on the verge of creating a nuclear bomb. Undoubtedly, the tactic of the Iranian negotiations, based on the practice of taqiyya and
khoda'a - pretense and deceit - has succeeded beyond all expectations, and has brought them to the gates of the nuclear club without having to pay an intolerable price.

The talk in Israel, the United States and Europe about attacking the Iranian nuclear project has convinced Hamene'i to present a pleasant, moderate, modern and multi-lingual image to the world, to fool the bleeding hearts in the West into thinking that Iran has become a normal, peace-loving state. It will take a month and a half for the new president to assume his new role, and until he begins to function it will take another few months,
more time will pass until the appointed time for the renewal of negotiations and then the world will find that nothing has changed, another whole year of futile negotiations will have passed, and meanwhile the centrifuges are spinning, the uranium is becoming enriched in military amounts and Iran will have managed to fool everyone again.

The sixth point is the Syrian matter. It is no secret that Iran is deeply involved  in the cruel civil war in Syria, which has deteriorated recently into a regional Sunni-Shi'ite war. The West has known for some time that Iran is part of the problem, and refuses to see it as part of the solution, because from the Iranian point of view,  Asad must continue in his role. Hamene'i assumes that a"pleasant" president will be more accepted in the West as someone with whom to discuss the events in Syria. This way, Iran will become part of the solution and will be able to impose its solution on the West - which has no desire to become actively involved. 


The seventh point is the economic sanctions, which have caused significant harm to the economic stability and therefore also the political stability of Iran. Hamene'i assumes that the
president's pleasant demeanor will make it easier for the people in the West to claim that the sanctions do not lead to the desired results, the suffering gets transferred onto the simple people and the nuclear project continues undisturbed anyway. Rouhani's pronouncements after the elections were exactly this. The Iranians know very well that there are many financiers and managers of Western companies - especially in Europe - who are burning to renew economic ties with Iran in order to share the profits from the oil, gas,  petrochemical industry and infrastructures of this country. A president of Iran who does not arouse opposition will help these greedy people to pressure their governments to renew the economic connections with Iran, both over the table and under it.

The result of all that is written above is that from the point of view of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamene'i, the new president of Iran should open a new page in the relations of Iran with the world as a sort of taqiyya and khoda'a, so that Iran will continue to be what it is - a dark and radical state, controlled by a group of narrow-minded ayatollahs who are stirring up the Sunni-Shi'i conflict and who threaten world peace with doomsday weapons that are meant to impel humanity into uncontrolled chaos,  thus bringing about the return of the Mahdi - the hidden imam - to impose the Shi'ite religion on the Sunni Islamic world in the first phase, and on all other parts of the world in the last phase. This is their world view, and it is their declared goal.


The Sunni Arab World is Quaking with Fear


All of the above is revealed and known to the rulers of the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The numerous Shi'ite communities that are distributed throughout all of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula threaten stability from within, especially in Bahrain, where there is still a Persian Shi'ite majority and an Arab Sunni minority that the British brought in to rule over the majority. Shi'ite Iran threatens all of the countries of the Gulf that are located within the range of its short range missiles, and it threatens to block the movement of oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, the bottleneck of oil exports from the Gulf.


These days, the Gulf countries are experiencing increasing anxiety, mainly because the Sunni residents of the Gulf are afraid that America will fall into the Iranian trap. With Obama's rise to power, especially since the Cairo speech in June of 2009, they have become concerned that he "will throw them under the bus" in his attempt to present a pleasant demeanor to the radical Islamists and especially to the Iranian Shi'ites.


They have seen the American weakness in negotiations with the Iranians and they have seen how, using deceit and deception the Iranians continue to gain more time to develop their regional hegemony by buying people off, frightening leaders and eliminating the opposition. The Iranian takeover of Iraq is proof for them that Iran is galloping ahead towards control of the Gulf while exploiting the American reluctance to the use of force because of the tragedies in Afghanistan and Iraq. In both of these countries, Iran played a significant role in foiling the attempts of the West to create orderly governmental systems.


The American Passivity Toward the Iranians,


In the Gulf, they are afraid that the Americans will be even more passive in dealing with the Iranians during the era of Rouhani. As a result, the countries of the Gulf - headed by Saudi Arabia - are now acting according to the saying "Ma bithak Dhahrak illa dhifrak" - "none can scratch your back except your own fingernail" - the Arabic version of "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?". The countries of the Gulf are acting against Iran with whatever means they can, mainly with money. They purchase arms and ammunition and smuggle these implements of war into Syria to support the rebels against Asad, the
darling of the Iranians and the backbone of their Arab project. Lately it has come to light that Saudi Arabia has purchased shoulder launched anti-aircraft missiles in Europe for the rebels in Syria.

At the same time, the countries of the Gulf have been supporting the Sunnis of Iraq, who also have been raising their heads recently,  attempting to destabilize the Shi'ite rule over the Land of the Two Rivers and harm another Iranian satellite. Sunni money from the Gulf comes to Lebanon too, to strengthen, arm and train the opposition to Hizb'Allah, and even Hamastan in the Gaza Strip has lately received half a billion petrodollars from Qatar so that it will not need to depend on Iran's good will. The talk about renewing relations between
ayatollahs' Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood's and Mursi's Egypt has had its effect, and Saudi Arabia has hurried to inject monetary support into the diminishing Egyptian treasury so that Mursi will be able to stay in power without having to ask for charity from the Ayatollahs.

For the sake of formality, Saudi Arabia sent a congratulatory message to the newly elected president Hassan Rouhani, expressing the hope for cooperation between the two countries, while everyone knows that the Saudis see the Shi'ites as infidels, "'Ajami"* Persians who don't even know how to speak Arabic, and they see the Iranians as the chief threat to the stability of the Saudi kingdom, which rules Mecca and Medina. The Saudis know very well how the Ayatollahs fantasize about the dissolution of the Saudi kingdom so that they can seize control of Mecca and Medina, the two holy places to Islam, rolling back the wheel of history to restore the Islamic Caliphate to the family of the prophet Muhammad, since it was stolen from him by the other families of the Quraysh tribe - the house of Umayya and the house of Abbas.


The West is not acquainted with Shi'ite culture and is not aware of the deep motives that drive Iran. The West keeps making the same mistakes over and over and does not learn how to deal with Iran. The only way to stop the Iranian nuclear project effectively is to surround Iran with all of the naval, air and ground forces of NATO and Australia, and to send the Iranians an unambiguous message saying: Iranian friends, your time is up and our patience has run out. You have exactly one week to dismantle your whole nuclear project, load it onto a ship and send it to us. In exactly one more week we begin to flatten you with continuous bombing, and we've already started warming up the engines. Don't call us and we won't call you. "Read our lips" because this time we are totally serious. Don't ask for an extension because you won't get it. You have a week, not one minute more."
 

The sharper, clearer and more credible this threat is, the less likely that it will be carried out. The more serious the countries of the West are, the more seriously Iran will take this threat. Until now Iran has not taken the threats of the West seriously, because they were not credible. This is the only way to stop the Iranian nuclear project, and if the West does not do this, the world will have to accept a nuclear Iran, which will allow Iran to threaten the whole region, the Middle East and the whole world with doomsday weapons in the hands of Ayatollahs, who deem themselves to be the earthly representatives of the Almighty, Who has made them infallible. Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran will cause the collapse of the international system that was formed after the Second World War to prevent global disasters like that war itself, and the result might be disastrous to the whole world.

They will use Hassan Rouhani to anesthetize the civilized world so that it will be unaware that it is being led to its end, the end that the Ayatollahs have designed.



*'Ajami in Arabic refers to a non-Arabic speaker, or illiterate person.


===============

 
Dr. Kedar is available for lectures

Dr. Mordechai Kedar
(Mordechai.Kedar@biu.ac.il) is an Israeli scholar of Arabic and Islam, a lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and the director of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. He specializes in Islamic ideology and movements, the political discourse of Arab countries, the Arabic mass media, and the Syrian domestic arena.

Translated from Hebrew by Sally Zahav with permission from the author.


Additional articles by Dr. Kedar

Source: The article is published in the framework of the Center for the Study of the Middle East and Islam (under formation), Bar Ilan University, Israel. Also published in Makor Rishon, a Hebrew weekly newspaper.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the author.

With Nothing to Lose: The Limits of a Rational Iran



by Prof. Steven David


BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 206

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Lost in the debate over Iran is the possibility that Iran is a rational actor that cannot be deterred. Historical examples show that even rational leaders, when faced with the loss of their regimes, are willing to destroy despite not having much to gain. Iranian leaders may strike Israel with nuclear weapons if they feel they have nothing to lose.

There is no debate that a nuclear-armed Iran would have the capability to destroy Israel. Israel is a small country, with half of its Jewish population and GDP confined to three cities (Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa); the destruction of any two of them would be devastating. Iran also has the technological means to launch such a strike. Furthermore, there is not much debate that Iran is gaining the capability to develop nuclear weapons, despite its denials. There is a debate, however, over how much of a threat a nuclear Iran would be to Israel, and whether it can be deterred. If it can be deterred, Israel can accept a nuclear Iran. However, if it cannot be deterred then all actions, including a military strike, would be preferable to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Can Iran Be Deterred?

On one side of the debate are the realists – among them former Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski and the late Kenneth Waltz – who claim that Iran is a deterrable country, led by rational and cost-calculating leaders who do not wish to commit suicide. Just as the Soviet Union, China, Pakistan, and North Korea were deterred from using nuclear weapons, they argue, so too Iran can be deterred from using nuclear weapons.

On the other side of the debate are those who argue that Iran may not be deterrable, and that a comparison to the Cold War is incorrect. Iran’s leaders could be religious fanatics bent on causing a global catastrophe that would usher in the “hidden Imam” and an Islamic paradise. Iran has the capability to transfer its weapons to terror groups, such as Hizballah and Hamas. Accidents, such as a mistakenly-detonated nuclear weapon, could trigger Iranian leaders to blame Israel and launch missiles. The lack of ties between Iran and Israel also limit Israel’s ability to deter Iran (as opposed to the Cold War, during which the US and USSR had diplomatic relations). Unauthorized launchings by lower-level government members could also conceivably occur. It is for these reasons, it is argued, that Iran cannot be deterred.

An overlooked possibility, however, is that Iranian leaders are rational but likely to launch nuclear weapons against Israel or the US anyway. This would happen if Iranian leaders feel they are at the point of being toppled from within. Facing the end of their rule, and possibly their lives, they are likely to lash out against Israel or the US in a parting shot for posterity.

Rational Leaders Behaving Erratically

History has shown us that several rational leaders, when faced with the end of their regimes, were willing to behave erratically. Waltz’s view that no leader would launch nuclear weapons against a nuclear-armed state, knowing that such an action would be suicidal, is called into question by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s behavior during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Castro’s ability to seize and hold onto to power for five decades proves that he was a rational actor. During the crisis, fearing for the survival of his regime, he lobbied Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to strike the US with nuclear weapons, knowing that such a strike would plunge the world into nuclear war and kill millions. What saved the world was not the rationality or restraint of Castro, who was determined to save his regime at all costs, but rather his lack of ability to start a nuclear war.

Another example is Saddam Hussein’s behavior during the First Gulf War in 1991. When faced with the loss of Kuwait and his hold on power, Saddam ordered his troops to set Kuwait’s 700 oil wells ablaze and pour 11 million barrels of oil into the Persian Gulf. Burning the fields caused an environmental hazard across the region and made no sense; it was destruction for destruction’s sake. This is yet another example of a desperate leader doing anything to hold to power when he felt threatened.

A third example is Syrian President Bashar Assad’s actions during the ongoing Syrian civil war, which has claimed almost 100,000 lives. US President Barack Obama threatened Assad that should the Syrian leader use chemical weapons he would be crossing a “red line” that would provoke an American response. In November 2012, Israel told the US that Syrian agents were loading Sarin gas into bombs. In March 2013 there was strong evidence that Assad used Sarin against insurgents and civilians in Aleppo, yet we have not yet seen an American response. It is clear that American deterrent threats against Syria have not worked.

What About Iran?

These examples can be reassuring when it comes to Iran, because none of them involve the use of weapons of mass destruction. Furthermore, the “Arab Spring” has not seen the use of such weapons despite losses of power across the region. This does not mean, however, that concerns over a falling Iranian regime are exaggerated. The above examples prove that it was not the rational behavior of leaders or deterrence that prevented catastrophe, but rather the absence of a key ingredient in each case.

There are three components of catastrophe: the leadership believes it has nothing to lose; it has extreme hatred against a country or group; and it has the capability to unleash weapons of mass destruction. Though Castro, Saddam, and Assad believed they had nothing to lose, and hated a country or group, they were each missing the capability to wreak havoc. This was also true in the “Arab Spring.” However, the Iranian leadership is close to meeting all of the requirements for disaster. The regime’s hold on power is increasingly shaky, especially in the wake of the “Arab Spring,” from which the winds of change may arrive in Iran. The leadership hates the US and Israel, and has made many statements threatening Israel’s existence. If the Iranian regime teeters on the brink of oblivion, all that would stop it from striking Israel is a lack of capability. With thousands of centrifuges spinning, Iran will soon get the capability to develop the nuclear weapons to do what it has threatened. If the prospects of horrendous retaliation were not enough to deter the above leaders, why should we expect the Mullahs to be different?

Conclusion

Israel is now considering launching a military strike on Iran. There are many reasons not to do so – it might not work; it might only help in the short term; Iranian retaliation would be costly; it could potentially damage ties with the US – but if Iranian cannot be deterred, a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable, whatever the cost. Israel will never know with 100 percent confidence whether or not Iran can be deterred, but is this uncertainty a risk it is willing to take?

As Iran’s leaders pursue their nuclear quest, Israel and the US have reason to be afraid. While there is hope that diplomacy and economic sanctions will divert Iran from its nuclear path, if they are not successful there may be no choice but a military option. Despite its horrendous implications, a military strike is preferable to a nuclear-armed Iran whose leaders are likely one day to find themselves with nothing to lose and everything to destroy.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

Prof. Steven David is vice dean for undergraduate education and a faculty member in the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. He is a member of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies’ International Academic Advisory Board. This Perspectives Paper is based upon a presentation given at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on June 11, 2013.

Source: http://besacenter.org/perspectives-papers/with-nothing-to-lose-the-limits-of-a-rational-iran-2/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Syria and Egypt Can't be Fixed



by David P. Goldman


Syria and Egypt are dying. They were dying before the Syrian civil war broke out and before the Muslim Brotherhood took power in Cairo. Syria has an insoluble civil war and Egypt has an insoluble crisis because they are dying. They are dying because they chose not to do what China did: move the better part of a billion people from rural backwardness to a modern urban economy within a generation. Mexico would have died as well, without the option to send its rural poor - fully one-fifth of its population - to the United States.

It was obvious to anyone who troubled to examine the data that Egypt could not maintain a bottomless pit in its balance of payments, created by a 50% dependency on imported food, not to mention an energy bill fed by subsidies that consumed a quarter of the national budget. It was obvious to Israeli analysts that the Syrian regime's belated attempt to modernize its agricultural sector would create a crisis as hundreds of thousands of displaced farmers gathered in slums on the outskirts of its cities. These facts were in evidence early in 2011 when Hosni Mubarak fell and the Syrian rebellion broke out. Paul Rivlin of Israel's Moshe Dayan Center published a devastating profile of Syria's economic failure in April 2011.

Sometimes countries dig themselves into a hole from which they cannot extricate themselves. Third World dictators typically keep their rural population poor, isolated and illiterate, the better to maintain control. That was the policy of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party from the 1930s, which warehoused the rural poor in Stalin-modeled collective farms called ejidos occupying most of the national territory. That was also the intent of the Arab nationalist dictatorships in Egypt and Syria. The policy worked until it didn't. In Mexico, it stopped working during the debt crisis of the early 1980s, and Mexico's poor became America's problem. In Egypt and Syria, it stopped working in 2011. There is nowhere for Egyptians and Syrians to go.

It is cheap to assuage Western consciences by sending some surplus arms to the Syrian Sunnis. No-one has proposed a way to find the more than US$20 billion a year that Egypt requires to stay afloat. In June 2011, then French president Nicholas Sarkozy talked about a Group of Eight support program of that order of magnitude. No Western (or Gulf State) government, though, is willing to pour that sort of money down an Egyptian sinkhole.

Egypt remains a pre-modern society, with nearly 50% illiteracy, a 30% rate of consanguineal marriage, a 90% rate of female genital mutilation, and an un- or underemployment rate over 40%. Syria has neither enough oil nor water to maintain the bazaar economy dominated by the Assad family.

Both were disasters waiting to happen. Economics, to be sure, set the stage but did not give the cues: Syria's radical Sunnis revolted in part out of enthusiasm for the ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and partly in fear of Iran's ambition to foster Shi'ite ascendancy in the region.

It took nearly two years for the chattering classes to take stock of Egypt's economic disaster. The New York Times' Thomas Friedman, the benchmark for liberal opinion on foreign policy, gushed like an adolescent about the tech-savvy activists of Tahrir Square in early 2011. Last week he visited a Cairo bakery and watched the Egyptian poor jostling for subsidized bread. Some left hungry. As malnutrition afflicts roughly a quarter of Egyptians in the World Health Organization's estimate, and the Muslim Brotherhood government waits for a bumper wheat crop that never will come, Egypt is slowly dying. Emergency loans from Qatar and Libya slowed the national necrosis but did not stop it.

This background lends an air of absurdity to the present debate over whether the West should arm Syria's Sunni rebels. American hawks like Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, to be sure, argue for sending arms to the Sunnis because they think it politically unwise to propose an attack on the Assad regime's master, namely Iran. The Obama administration has agreed to arm the Sunnis because it costs nothing to pre-empt Republican criticism. We have a repetition of the "dumb and dumber" consensus that prevailed during early 2011, when the Republican hawks called for intervention in Libya and the Obama administration obliged. Call it the foreign policy version of the sequel, "Dumb and Dumberer".

Even if the Sunnis could eject the Assad family from Damascus and establish a new government - which I doubt - the best case scenario would be another Egypt: a Muslim Brotherhood government presiding over a collapsed economy and sliding inevitably towards state failure. It is too late even for this kind of arrangement. Equalizing the military position of the two sides will merely increase the body count. The only humane thing to do is to partition the country on the Yugoslav model, but that does not appear to be on the agenda of any government.


David P. Goldman is an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, and the author of How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying, Too) and the essay collection It's Not the End of the World, It's Just the End of You.

Source: http://www.meforum.org/3535/syria-egypt-economy

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

Article In Pakistani Daily – 'Islam At War – With Itself'



by MEMRI


5342.jpg Pakistan and many Islamic countries are witnessing targeted killings of Shia Muslims by Sunni jihadi forces such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda (image courtesy: shiapost.om)

Given below are excerpts from an article that appeared in a leading Pakistani daily following the June 15, 2013 terror attacks in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Baluchistan province, where a female suicide bomber attacked a bus carrying female students and later the militants laid siege to a medical complex where the injured were being treated.

The article, titled "Islam at War – With Itself" by prominent commentator Murtaza Haider, was published by Dawn, a liberal Pakistani newspaper. In it, Haider argues that the debate in the Islamic world focuses on the conflicts where Muslims are oppressed by non-Muslims, while conveniently failing to raise a debate as to why Muslims are killing Muslims. 

Following are excerpts from the article:[1]

"From Aleppo In Syria To Quetta In Baluchistan, Muslims Are Engaged In The Slaughter Of Other Muslims"; "Many Wonder If The Belief In Islam Is Sufficient To Bind Muslims In Peace With Each Other"

"From Aleppo in Syria to Quetta in Baluchistan, Muslims are engaged in the slaughter of other Muslims. The numbers are enormous: over 93,000 killed in the Syrian civil war and over 48,000 dead in Pakistan [since 2004]. 

"Millions have perished in similar intra-Muslim conflicts in the past four decades. Many wonder if the belief in Islam is sufficient to bind Muslims in peace with each other.


"Since the end of the Second World War, the world has moved in two distinct directions. The West, mostly Christian, has tried to minimize the intra-European conflict and has largely been successful with some exceptions. The Muslim world, on the other hand, has fallen into one violent conflict after another, involving mostly Muslims. 

"Several intra-Muslim conflicts continue to simmer as proxy wars. In the '80s, the Iran-Iraq war alone left millions dead. More recently, a car bomb in Iraq on Sunday [June 16, 2013] killed another 39 in the sectarian warfare between the Shias and Sunnis that killed at least 1,045 in May 2013."

"The Overwhelming Evidence... Suggests That The Sectarian And Tribal Divisions Amongst Muslims And Justifying Violence In The Name Of Religion Are The Primary Causes Of Why Islam Is At War With Itself"

"As the violence amongst Muslims increases, most Muslims prefer denial, or look for scapegoats. Those in denial believe no such violence exists and the entire issue is made up by the Western-controlled media. Others blame it on scapegoats – Indians and Americans are the most frequently blamed. 

"The overwhelming evidence, however, suggests that the sectarian and tribal divisions amongst Muslims and justifying violence in the name of religion are the primary causes of why Islam is at war with itself.

"In Pakistan, confessions and appalling claims of responsibility by the spokespersons for the Tehreek-e-Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi should leave no doubt [as to] where the guilt resides. At the same time, the Pakistani intelligence agencies have put together incriminating evidence running into hundreds of thousands of pages against the extremist sectarian outfits, Al-Qaeda affiliates, the nationalist militias in Baluchistan, and others who have perpetrated indiscriminate violence against civilians and the state resulting in over 48,000 deaths since 2004.

"The hate-fuelled gulfs that divide Muslims are so wide that not only unarmed civilians, but doctors and others who try to save victims of violence are also targeted by the extremists. The attack on the Bolan Medical Complex on Saturday [June 15, 2013 in Quetta], which left scores dead, including four nurses, was not the first of its kind. A sectarian [Shia-Sunni] attack in Karachi in February 2010 was followed by a bomb attack on the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre Hospital where victims were rushed for treatment. More than 25 Shia Muslims perished in the two attacks."

"From The Very First Day, Muslims Are Taught That Their Belief In Islam Trumps All Other Identities That They May Hold"; "Why Then, Have Millions Of Muslims Died At The Hands Of Their Fellow Believers?"

"And while the Muslim-on-Muslim violence is claiming victims all over Pakistan, the violence against non-Muslims, including Hindus and Christians, often brings together Muslims of different stripes, who would otherwise be fighting each other, in attacking religious minorities.

"The targeted killings of university professors in Karachi and Quetta, the murder of Shia doctors and professionals, and the attacks on the shrines of patron saints [i.e. Sufi mystics] are all evidence of the fact that Muslims have been killing other Muslims while being motivated by hate and using Islam to justify violence.

"Why is that the belief in Islam is not sufficient to prevent violence amongst Muslims?
"From the very first day, Muslims are taught that their belief in Islam trumps all other identities that they may hold. Their skin color, tribe, caste, or creed – none matters once they enter the fold of Islam. Why then, have millions of Muslims died at the hands of their fellow believers?"

"Political, Religious, And Other Leaders In The Muslim World Have Kept The Dialogue Focused On The Conflicts Where Muslims Have Been The Victims"; "Seldom Has The Dialogue Focused On Why Muslims Kill Other Muslims"

"Political, religious, and other leaders in the Muslim world have kept the dialogue focused on the conflicts where Muslims have been the victims. The Bosnian conflict, the communal violence in India, which has caused the death of thousands of Muslims, and the Arab-Israeli conflict have been the focus of Muslim leaders. 

"Seldom has the dialogue focused on why Muslims kill other Muslims. And even if the topic ever comes up, it ends up being an exercise in mass scapegoating.

"Muslim societies have thus evolved into places where revenge is confused with justice, forgiveness with weakness, and peace with cowardice. These are the places where unholy men wage holy wars against unarmed civilians, pitching Muslims against other Muslims.

"Imagine the state of mind of the person who wore a suicide vest and boarded the bus carrying young women [on June 15 in Quetta] whose bright faces were lit with the pride of being educated. There was no reason to attack these innocent women who were unarmed and unrelated to any conflict. But that did not deter the suicide bomber who proceeded to kill them and herself in a suicide attack."

"A Group Of Men Chanted With Pride 'Allah-u-Akbar'..., Eulogizing The Female Suicide Bomber For Killing [Female Students]"; "This Was All Done In The Name Of Islam; This Will Be Repeated Sooner Than Later; Some Would Argue This Is Not The 'Real' Islam"

"Moments before the blast, the young women were ignorant of the pain that would soon be inflicted on them. They must [have been] smiling and talking to their friends, planning for the rest of the day and for what lay ahead in their lives. The suicide bomber looked at the faces of the women who, if given the opportunity, would most certainly have improved the plight of their impoverished nation...."

"Somewhere in or near Quetta, a group of men chanted with pride, 'Allah-u-Akbar' (God is great), eulogizing the female suicide bomber for killing the very women [students] who held the most promise for Pakistan. Their spokesperson called the news outlets to claim responsibility for the attack on unarmed women. Later, at the Bolan Medical Complex in Quetta, another group of men, armed with AK-47 and wearing suicide vests, engaged the security personnel in a standoff that left several more dead, including four nurses who were attending to the wounded from the earlier blast.

"This was all done in the name of Islam. This will be repeated sooner than later. Some would argue this is not the 'real' Islam. Does it really matter what real Islam is when its true followers cannot stand against those who use religion to commit genocide?"


[1] Dawn.com (Pakistan), June 17, 2013. The original English of the article has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

MEMRI

Source: http://memri.org.il/

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

The Religious War in the Middle East



by Ali Salim

The proposal of the United States for a Palestinian state and a joint Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli policing mechanism in the Jordan Valley seems like a pipe dream. That sort of suggestion, disconnected from reality, clearly indicates a dangerous lack of awareness concerning the increasing militant Islamic aggression toward Israel and the West.
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has been doing a lot of soul-searching these days. He has been assessing his options and those of his terrorist organization and wondering about the outcome. Despite his usual smug boasts, in his last speech he could not quite hide his fears, even though he was being recorded deep in his bunker in the southern Beirut suburb of Dahia.

Nasrallah is worried. Even though the forces of the Syrian regime, supported by armed Iranians and armed gangs of Hezbollah operatives, continue to slaughter their Sunni citizens using poison gas to realize local achievements, as in the city of Al-Qusayr, he is worried. Despite the state-of-the-art arms Russia recently presented to the Syrian regime, some of which are supposed to be delivered to him as well, he is worried. Despite victory propaganda spread by the Syrians and their collaborators, the man radiates pessimism

Apparently Nasrallah, Iran's indentured servant who sacrificed his men and all Lebanon on the altar of Iran's foreign interests, has finally realized that even if the Syrian regime survives and conquers the rebel strongholds and their supporters in the Syrian cities, and even if the Syrian resistance is obliterated, the defeat of the Syrian regime is approaching, as is the defeat of the Hezbollah operatives fighting for it, their deaths and massive defeat in Syria cannot be prevented, and the conflict between Shi'ites and Sunnis will worsen and spread.

All of what Nasrallah has finally realized came through loud and clear in his most recent speech broadcast by Al-Manar. As usual, his speech was rife with incitement and contempt for the "plots" of Israel and the United States to take over Syria and Lebanon, destroy the "resistance" led by the Assad regime and thereby prevent the total destruction of the State of Israel and the "liberation" of Palestine. This time, however, his hysterical attacks against the gangs of takfir (Muslims who accuse other Muslims of abandoning Islam and being infidels) exposed genuine fear.

Terrified, Nasrallah called the operatives of Al-Qaeda, the Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham --all acting aside the Free Syrian Army fighters opposing the regime, and against Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon -- dangerous gangs of takfir. He knows that they accuse Shi'ites, Alawites and Druze of having abandoned Sunni Islam, and that for the takfir, they are worse than infidels and should be put to death.

These gangs of takfir currently operating in Syria at the side of the Sunni rebels against Hezbollah are, in fact, genuine rivals of Nasrallah; he is more afraid of them than of Israel. The bloody confrontations in Syria cut through the boundaries between Sunnis and Shi'ites more than they did in Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain, and are approaching a religious explosion the likes of which has never been seen in the Middle East.

In the meantime the Muslim Brotherhood, not to be caught napping, has declared Hezbollah -- warring with Assad against the Sunnis -- an enemy of Islam that has "shown its ugly face." In Tripoli the Lebanese Sunni sheikh al-Rifa'i declared jihad on Hezbollah, and the Sunni Muslim leader close to Muslim Brotherhood circles and Hamas, sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in a sermon from Doha, called for every Sunni to join the battle against Assad and his collaborators. The leader of radical Sunni Islamic opposition group Ahrar al-Sham recently declared that the united Islamic state of "Greater Syria" (Alsham), to be established in Syria and Iraq, will eliminate Hezbollah and Iranian presence in the Middle east and expel Russia from Syria, depriving it of its warm water ports.

The signs that things were getting worse were clear in Hezbollah's Lebanese strongholds along the Syrian border. Last week the Syrian rebels launched two rockets at the outskirts of the plains of Brital in east Baalbek and Nahle on the Bekaa in Lebanon. In addition, 16 rockets and mortar shells were fired at the Baalbek region. The Grad missiles launched at the Hezbollah stronghold in Dahia in Beirut were part of the escalation, as were the bloody confrontations between Shi'ites and Sunnis in Lebanon, in which Hezbollah is specifically designated as an enemy of the Sunnis. The Lebanese demand for Hezbollah to disarm is growing louder. And it is now, as Assad, Iranians and Hezbollah operatives massacre Syrians and Palestinians in the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp, that Nasrallah's worries are multiplying.

Apparently even the Israelis consider Hezbollah's Iranian-inspired slogans about the liberation of Palestine, about the Israeli threat to Syria and Lebanon and about the historic role of the Assad regime in the anti-Israeli and anti-American resistance to be empty and pitiful. The slogans represent the fraud Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas perpetrate in the name of destroying Israel, liberating Palestine, ending American hegemony in the Middle East and glorifying Syria as the main axis in the fighting -- all for the purpose of completing the Iranian nuclear bomb project. In the past Nasrallah's speeches created solidarity with Iran and Hezbollah, drawing the Gulf states' attention away from the Iranian nuclear threat.

That particular concept is collapsing like an old worn-out tent in Syria and Lebanon. Desperate, Assad is considering declaring war on Israel as a way of evading being remembered by history as slaughtering his own people and being too much of a coward to face Israel. He represents his threats against Israel as the desires of the Syrian people, and blames Israel for giving military support to the rebels -- possibly hoping that such a confrontation will close the Syrian ranks behind him and force the rebels to join him. Apparently the Middle East is girding its loins for a full-scale, no-boundary war. Past conflicts and current internal frictions based on sectarianism, religion and ideology will join to crumble the artificially-created Arab states which until yesterday seemed perfectly stable.
Given the ongoing chaos in the Middle East and the collapse of the artificial Arab states based on the Sykes-Picot Agreement, the proposal of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for the creation of a new Palestinian state and a joint Palestinian, Jordanian and Israeli policing mechanism in the Jordan Valley seems like a pipe dream. That sort of suggestion, disconnected from reality, clearly indicates a dangerous lack of awareness concerning the Middle East past, present and future, a kind of Lawrence of Arabia optimism and romanticism which allows him to ignore the emergence of the increasing militant Islamic aggression toward Israel and the West. All that is left is to hope that somewhere in Washington people are really paying attention and preparing to deploy for the real, first priority inevitable battle against Iran and its satellites, with their capabilities dramatically to influence world peace.

I thought the question was a little bit different, what you asked. Should we sit and wait, or should we act? So I interpreted what the question was as, “should we move forward with an arrangement with the Palestinians now, or should we wait until we get clarity about the direction the region is going in?” And put that way, I have two sets of considerations to answer that question. First of all, with respect to the Palestinians. How many prime ministers have been in power since 1993? I’ve lost count. But I’ll say this: everyone has tried one way or another to advance towards a permanent status arrangement. And if there’s one thing that is crystal clear today it is that the gap between the parties, between Israel and the Palestinians, on all the key issues of permanent status, not just one, not just two, but all of them, the gap is too wide. The gap may be unbridgeable at present. If that is the case, then that has to be taken into account to answer your question.
I think the different Middle East we have today is one in which Israel and several Arab countries have similar threat perceptions. And if you look at the origins of Europe,  that we think of as a model, the European Union grew not out of the coal and steel community alone, but out of the common threat they faced from the Soviet Union.
- See more at: http://jcpa.org/article/the-israeli-presidential-conference/#6
I thought the question was a little bit different, what you asked. Should we sit and wait, or should we act? So I interpreted what the question was as, “should we move forward with an arrangement with the Palestinians now, or should we wait until we get clarity about the direction the region is going in?” And put that way, I have two sets of considerations to answer that question. First of all, with respect to the Palestinians. How many prime ministers have been in power since 1993? I’ve lost count. But I’ll say this: everyone has tried one way or another to advance towards a permanent status arrangement. And if there’s one thing that is crystal clear today it is that the gap between the parties, between Israel and the Palestinians, on all the key issues of permanent status, not just one, not just two, but all of them, the gap is too wide. The gap may be unbridgeable at present. If that is the case, then that has to be taken into account to answer your question.
I think the different Middle East we have today is one in which Israel and several Arab countries have similar threat perceptions. And if you look at the origins of Europe,  that we think of as a model, the European Union grew not out of the coal and steel community alone, but out of the common threat they faced from the Soviet Union.
We are facing two common threats: one, the Iranian threat, and the second one, the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood. And if we are smart, we can build some foundations of dialogue with key Sunni Arab countries. That, unfortunately, will have to be kept very quiet.
Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t want a negotiation right now. Maybe he looks at the region. In the old days, Mahmoud Abbas could sit down with Osama El-Baz and President Mubarak and they’d give him advice and give him support. Well now, you know who’s in control of Cairo? The sponsors of his enemies in Hamas, so it’s a much more difficult region not just for us, but for him.

 

The Changing Middle East. Why Israel Needs Defensible Borders.

What is happening in the region?  Some might say that the region is actually less threatening.  We don’t have the massive Soviet- equipped Soviet armored forces that could mass on our borders that we saw in ’73, and the Israeli army planned for years later.  But what’s happening is also very disturbing and something we have to take into account:  it’s the breakdown of countries.  It’s the breakdown of states into smaller statelets. 
We talk about Syria; is the future of Syria a Syrian state, or a breakdown into four or five states?  For years we talked about what will be Israel’s border, and some references are made to the ’49 armistice line, well, right now we’re in a position where the 1916 Sykes- Picot lines are about to melt down.  So the region could look very different. 
Will the Sunnis of Iraq unify with the Sunnis of Syria?  We don’t know; but one thing we do know is that all of the old states that were there a few years ago acquired immense arsenals of weapons.  Libya was known to be one of the biggest arsenals in the Middle East.  Of course, Sadaam had a huge arsenal of weapons, and we all talk about the chemical weapons and other weapons that the Syrian army has.  Well, those weapons are now flowing outward, and they will go into these little statelets, and so both the non-governmental terrorist organizations, as well as the statelets could pose serious problems to Israel and to our other neighbors. 
So I think, considering that we do not have an option, in my judgment, of a full permanent status agreement at this point, and considering that we have uncertainty, and yet a new round of threats in which lethal weaponry will go into the various new neighbors that are emerging, it becomes incumbent on Israel to guarantee its future, to make sure that it continues to adopt the principle of defensible borders.  If Israel were, for example, to leave the Jordan valley, that would be a national disaster.  And much of the weaponry, for example:  shoulder-fired missiles to take down aircraft begin to flow into the West Bank.  They are now in the Gaza Strip; they are not in the west bank.  And that’s only one example of how the immediate strategic environment could be changed if we made a mistake and assumed that we could go all the way in making the kinds of concessions that have been talked about in the past.
To summarize, what is important to recognize is, first of all, that if we go diplomatically forward, and I would recommend going diplomatically forward:  on more limited types of agreements.  But secondly, that diplomacy, for more limited types of agreements, must be based on maintaining Israel’s defensible military situation, and not assuming that in this new era we can let down our guard.

 

Iran and Its Leadership

With respect to Iran, look, it’s been said by everybody that the real power in Iran, the real decision-making on issues of nuclear weapons, nuclear arms control is in the hands of the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That is true, but the president can be influential, the president is part of a decision-making process. He can influence, but he can’t make the final, ultimate decision.
Now, I have to say I know a little bit about Hassan Rowhani. I wrote a book in 2009 called The Rise of Nuclear Iran. He’s the star of the opening chapter. Because Hassan Rowhani was a master of taqiyya, the doctrine of deception which Ayatollah Khomeni told the Shiites to use as much as possible, and deception means saying one thing and doing something else.
In fact he confessed in 2004, in a speech in Teheran, that while he was negotiating with the EU three: Britain Germany, and France -  and he was criticized for that negotiation because he went into a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment – he built, or Iran built the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan. Conversion is when you make the fuel that is injected into the centrifuges.  We won’t go into more detail here. He said “I negotiated, but we completed our nuclear program because of my negotiations.”
So, I don’t see him so much as a dove. I see him more as a fox. And hopefully the world will be aware of his contribution not just to diplomacy but also to the Iranian nuclear program.

 

The Arab Peace Initiative

I want to speak on something very specific, which is the Arab Peace Initiative. Look, the spirit behind the Arab world reaching out to Israel is something positive. The problem with the Arab Peace Initiative, and I refer to the statement made by Saud al-Faisal, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, in 2007. He was asked, ‘is it a take-it-or-leave-it initiative or is it negotiable?’ If it’s negotiable, let’s negotiate. But if it’s take-it-or-leave-it, here it is, you can’t even take the refugees and put them in Lebanon or in Jordan because it says there’s a whole prohibition about them receiving Arab nationality outside of Palestinian territory. So what I’m trying to say is this: it would be great if this was the basis for sitting down and we can bring our positions to the table, and they can bring their positions to the table and we can talk about it. We have to reach a deal with the Palestinians in any case. But unfortunately, as much as people get very excited about the Arab Peace Initiative, we’re not there yet.

 

Settlements in the Context of Arab-Israel Negotiations

The settlement issue shouldn’t be overrated. By the way, there was an amazing piece in the New York Times magazine, an interview with Mahmoud Abbas a few years back.  I don’t remember the name of the interviewer; he’s an academic from Canada, and the settlement issue came up, and Abbas said, ‘You know what?  The built up areas of all the settlements come to 1.2% of the West Bank.’  And he said, ‘And I offered Olmert a 1.9% land swap’.  In other words, ‘I was more generous with him than he actually needed.’  But he was trying to say that the amount of territory taken by the settlements, from his perspective, whether he’s right or not is another question, wasn’t terribly great.  The settlement issue was built up by various international players.  So let’s not overrate it today.  Arafat came to Washington to have Abu Mazen sign the Oslo agreements in 1993 without a settlement freeze.  Keep that in mind.  Put this in perspective.  There are far more important issues that are affecting the peace process than construction in the West Bank.

 

The Strategic Importance of the Jordan Valley

One month before he was assassinated, Yitzchak Rabin appeared in the Knesset to present the Oslo 2 interim agreement for approval. And it was a haunting speech because of the timing.
But what he did was, he laid out what he viewed as the future borders of Israel. With respect to the Jordan valley Rabin stated to the Knesset – we’re two years into Oslo, this isn’t a speech from the 70s, two years into Oslo – he says Israel must retain the Jordan valley in the widest sense of the term. He didn’t say whether we have to have sovereignty – I’ll admit that – but he made it very clear.
This was also the position of Arik Sharon. And when I was asked by Prime Minister Netanyahu to present to President Clinton the IDF security interests map that was done by the planning branch of the army, it included the Jordan valley. When Sharon asked me to make a presentation that he presented to President Bush in 2001 on Israel’s vital interests – when we went to the White House – it included the Jordan Valley.
So if Rabin, Sharon, the IDF interests map which was presented by Bibi Netanyahu in Washington, all included the Jordan Valley as a vital Israeli interest, I say it’s a vital Israeli interest.
- See more at: http://jcpa.org/article/the-israeli-presidential-conference/#6

Permanent Status Negotiations with the Palestinians

I thought the question was a little bit different, what you asked. Should we sit and wait, or should we act? So I interpreted what the question was as, “should we move forward with an arrangement with the Palestinians now, or should we wait until we get clarity about the direction the region is going in?” And put that way, I have two sets of considerations to answer that question. First of all, with respect to the Palestinians. How many prime ministers have been in power since 1993? I’ve lost count. But I’ll say this: everyone has tried one way or another to advance towards a permanent status arrangement. And if there’s one thing that is crystal clear today it is that the gap between the parties, between Israel and the Palestinians, on all the key issues of permanent status, not just one, not just two, but all of them, the gap is too wide. The gap may be unbridgeable at present. If that is the case, then that has to be taken into account to answer your question.
I think the different Middle East we have today is one in which Israel and several Arab countries have similar threat perceptions. And if you look at the origins of Europe,  that we think of as a model, the European Union grew not out of the coal and steel community alone, but out of the common threat they faced from the Soviet Union.
We are facing two common threats: one, the Iranian threat, and the second one, the threat of the Muslim Brotherhood. And if we are smart, we can build some foundations of dialogue with key Sunni Arab countries. That, unfortunately, will have to be kept very quiet.
Mahmoud Abbas doesn’t want a negotiation right now. Maybe he looks at the region. In the old days, Mahmoud Abbas could sit down with Osama El-Baz and President Mubarak and they’d give him advice and give him support. Well now, you know who’s in control of Cairo? The sponsors of his enemies in Hamas, so it’s a much more difficult region not just for us, but for him.

 

The Changing Middle East. Why Israel Needs Defensible Borders.

What is happening in the region?  Some might say that the region is actually less threatening.  We don’t have the massive Soviet- equipped Soviet armored forces that could mass on our borders that we saw in ’73, and the Israeli army planned for years later.  But what’s happening is also very disturbing and something we have to take into account:  it’s the breakdown of countries.  It’s the breakdown of states into smaller statelets. 
We talk about Syria; is the future of Syria a Syrian state, or a breakdown into four or five states?  For years we talked about what will be Israel’s border, and some references are made to the ’49 armistice line, well, right now we’re in a position where the 1916 Sykes- Picot lines are about to melt down.  So the region could look very different. 
Will the Sunnis of Iraq unify with the Sunnis of Syria?  We don’t know; but one thing we do know is that all of the old states that were there a few years ago acquired immense arsenals of weapons.  Libya was known to be one of the biggest arsenals in the Middle East.  Of course, Sadaam had a huge arsenal of weapons, and we all talk about the chemical weapons and other weapons that the Syrian army has.  Well, those weapons are now flowing outward, and they will go into these little statelets, and so both the non-governmental terrorist organizations, as well as the statelets could pose serious problems to Israel and to our other neighbors. 
So I think, considering that we do not have an option, in my judgment, of a full permanent status agreement at this point, and considering that we have uncertainty, and yet a new round of threats in which lethal weaponry will go into the various new neighbors that are emerging, it becomes incumbent on Israel to guarantee its future, to make sure that it continues to adopt the principle of defensible borders.  If Israel were, for example, to leave the Jordan valley, that would be a national disaster.  And much of the weaponry, for example:  shoulder-fired missiles to take down aircraft begin to flow into the West Bank.  They are now in the Gaza Strip; they are not in the west bank.  And that’s only one example of how the immediate strategic environment could be changed if we made a mistake and assumed that we could go all the way in making the kinds of concessions that have been talked about in the past.
To summarize, what is important to recognize is, first of all, that if we go diplomatically forward, and I would recommend going diplomatically forward:  on more limited types of agreements.  But secondly, that diplomacy, for more limited types of agreements, must be based on maintaining Israel’s defensible military situation, and not assuming that in this new era we can let down our guard.

 

Iran and Its Leadership

With respect to Iran, look, it’s been said by everybody that the real power in Iran, the real decision-making on issues of nuclear weapons, nuclear arms control is in the hands of the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That is true, but the president can be influential, the president is part of a decision-making process. He can influence, but he can’t make the final, ultimate decision.
Now, I have to say I know a little bit about Hassan Rowhani. I wrote a book in 2009 called The Rise of Nuclear Iran. He’s the star of the opening chapter. Because Hassan Rowhani was a master of taqiyya, the doctrine of deception which Ayatollah Khomeni told the Shiites to use as much as possible, and deception means saying one thing and doing something else.
In fact he confessed in 2004, in a speech in Teheran, that while he was negotiating with the EU three: Britain Germany, and France -  and he was criticized for that negotiation because he went into a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment – he built, or Iran built the uranium conversion plant in Isfahan. Conversion is when you make the fuel that is injected into the centrifuges.  We won’t go into more detail here. He said “I negotiated, but we completed our nuclear program because of my negotiations.”
So, I don’t see him so much as a dove. I see him more as a fox. And hopefully the world will be aware of his contribution not just to diplomacy but also to the Iranian nuclear program.

 

The Arab Peace Initiative

I want to speak on something very specific, which is the Arab Peace Initiative. Look, the spirit behind the Arab world reaching out to Israel is something positive. The problem with the Arab Peace Initiative, and I refer to the statement made by Saud al-Faisal, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, in 2007. He was asked, ‘is it a take-it-or-leave-it initiative or is it negotiable?’ If it’s negotiable, let’s negotiate. But if it’s take-it-or-leave-it, here it is, you can’t even take the refugees and put them in Lebanon or in Jordan because it says there’s a whole prohibition about them receiving Arab nationality outside of Palestinian territory. So what I’m trying to say is this: it would be great if this was the basis for sitting down and we can bring our positions to the table, and they can bring their positions to the table and we can talk about it. We have to reach a deal with the Palestinians in any case. But unfortunately, as much as people get very excited about the Arab Peace Initiative, we’re not there yet.

 

Settlements in the Context of Arab-Israel Negotiations

The settlement issue shouldn’t be overrated. By the way, there was an amazing piece in the New York Times magazine, an interview with Mahmoud Abbas a few years back.  I don’t remember the name of the interviewer; he’s an academic from Canada, and the settlement issue came up, and Abbas said, ‘You know what?  The built up areas of all the settlements come to 1.2% of the West Bank.’  And he said, ‘And I offered Olmert a 1.9% land swap’.  In other words, ‘I was more generous with him than he actually needed.’  But he was trying to say that the amount of territory taken by the settlements, from his perspective, whether he’s right or not is another question, wasn’t terribly great.  The settlement issue was built up by various international players.  So let’s not overrate it today.  Arafat came to Washington to have Abu Mazen sign the Oslo agreements in 1993 without a settlement freeze.  Keep that in mind.  Put this in perspective.  There are far more important issues that are affecting the peace process than construction in the West Bank.

 

The Strategic Importance of the Jordan Valley

One month before he was assassinated, Yitzchak Rabin appeared in the Knesset to present the Oslo 2 interim agreement for approval. And it was a haunting speech because of the timing.
But what he did was, he laid out what he viewed as the future borders of Israel. With respect to the Jordan valley Rabin stated to the Knesset – we’re two years into Oslo, this isn’t a speech from the 70s, two years into Oslo – he says Israel must retain the Jordan valley in the widest sense of the term. He didn’t say whether we have to have sovereignty – I’ll admit that – but he made it very clear.
This was also the position of Arik Sharon. And when I was asked by Prime Minister Netanyahu to present to President Clinton the IDF security interests map that was done by the planning branch of the army, it included the Jordan valley. When Sharon asked me to make a presentation that he presented to President Bush in 2001 on Israel’s vital interests – when we went to the White House – it included the Jordan Valley.
So if Rabin, Sharon, the IDF interests map which was presented by Bibi Netanyahu in Washington, all included the Jordan Valley as a vital Israeli interest, I say it’s a vital Israeli interest.
- See more at: http://jcpa.org/article/the-israeli-presidential-conference/#6

Ali Salim

Source: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/3766/religious-war-middle-east

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.