As U.N. falters, Syria’s conflict threatens regional stability

(CNN) – It would be a mistake to write off threats of war against Syria from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as mere bluster, assuming that Turkey will maintain the status quo in valuing its relationship with the United States on one hand, while resisting Iran’s hegemonic ambitions on the other.

The recent cross-border confrontation could ignite regional convulsions as Turkey is sucked into Syria, leading to belated actions on the part of the international community.

The Assad regime knows its time is limited as the rate of military and intelligence officers defecting to Jordan and Turkey increases in momentum. Rebel attacks are inching closer to the heart of the Assad regime, such as the recent attack on the Syrian air force intelligence compound in the Damascus suburb of Harasta. This contributes to the regime’s recklessness in firing upon Turkey with impunity.

Ankara may also be emboldened by the fact that Iran, a key Assad ally, could be limited in its ability to intervene due to its economic woes at home. This week its currency – the rial – plummeted in value due to a combination of sanctions and Tehran’s own mismanagement of the economy. Turkey has less to lose by responding to Syrian aggression – this rationale is supported by recent reports that Iran has withdrawn from Syria 275 members from a special operations unit attached to its elite Quds Force.

Read Full Article: CNN

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

US Approach Towards the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

(ICT) – Presented at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Twelfth World Summit on Counter-Terrorism, Herzliya, Israel 10-13 September 2012

Have there ever been examples of despots and autocrats being moderated by being incentivised to do so by the international community? Can you think of any? The tides of tyranny have never been reversed by financial incentives.

On the contrary this has merely emboldened them and hardened their insatiable desire to maximise power. The Obama administration is in the process of emboldening the Muslim Brotherhood by finalising a $1-billion bailout for the Muslim Brotherhood, almost a third of its total burden. The Obama administration is also working with the (IMF) to secure a $5-billion loan for the regime. On top of that, U.S. officials are in the process of creating multiple funds and programs worth almost $500 million to help U.S. and Egyptian businesses connected with the regime. This would be in addition to the regular “security” and “foreign aid” packages. The State Department is also preparing to lead a delegation of dozens of U.S. companies to encourage investment in Egypt. The Obama administration was offering almost $500 million in loans and guarantees to Egyptian businesses.

Note these measures are not being advanced with an independent secular civil society, but with the regime. As such, the Obama administration is repeating the mistaken approach of successive US administrations. That is conducting a top-down approach that empowered autocrats at the expense of investing in a secular liberal civil-society. The Muslim Brotherhood’s slogan is ‘Islam is the Answer.’ Thus the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme leader, Muhammed Badi in Sept 2010 exhorted in a sermon that Muslims ‘need to understand that the improvement and change that the Muslim nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death, just as the enemies pursue life.’ Well let’s see whether the Koran alone has the ability to raise the Muslim world out of social and economic stagnation. Turkey has already cheated by combining Mohammed with Adam Smith. So much for the Koran superseding everything including the state. However, the US is enabling Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to cheat and not make ideological compromises by offering it freebies.

On the contrary, the US has stoked the fires of despotism in Egypt that has entailed alleviating the Muslim Brotherhood of the responsibility of fostering good governance and a coherent economic plan. Martin Kramer has expressed, ‘The Brotherhood has a so-called “Renaissance” plan for the overhaul of the Egyptian economy. I won’t pretend to judge its feasibility. Could modernization of tax collection double or triple tax revenues? Can Egypt double the number of arriving tourists, even while contemplating limits on alcohol and bikinis? Can a renovation of the Suez Canal raise transit revenues from $6 billion a year to $100 billion? Can Egypt’s economy surpass the economies of Turkey and Malaysia within seven years? These are all claims made at various times by the economic thinkers of the Muslim Brotherhood, who trumpet Egypt’s supposed potential for self-sufficiency.’ Plan B, Kramer outlines is a shakedown in what is termed as ‘Reparations’ from the West for its geo-strategic position. Martin Kramer was so right in his prescient assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood’s shakedown of the West which we already see in motion.

Read Full Article: ICT

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Beyond the bid The PA’s move towards statehood

(Janes Intelligence Review) – Although the Palestinian Authority’s application for full statehood to the UN General Assembly was celebrated vociferously in Gaza and the West Bank, little is expected to change. Barak Seener examines the strategy behind the bid and Israel’s reaction.
On 23 September, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas for- mally presented the PA’s application for full statehood to the UN General Assembly. This bid, which was greeted by celebrations in Gaza and the West Bank, followed months of speculation about whether Abbas would make the bid and how it might be received.

Abbas’ move came despite last-ditch efforts by Israel and the United States to prevent the formal application, with the US warning that such action could serve to undermine the long-running peace process. However, with the bid now having entered a protracted evalua- tion process at the UN, the focus has shifted back to events on the ground. In particular, the 18 October release of Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) soldier Gilad Shalit – who had been held by Hamas since June 2006 – in exchange for Palestinian prisoners has drawn a clear line of comparison between the approaches of Hamas and Abbas’ Fatah, and raised questions about which may prove more effective.

Underlying these different approaches is the long-term disjunction in terms of perception of the aims of the various actors in the peace process. While the common understanding, and generally that of various Western interlocutors in the process, is that the conflict centres on territory and nationalism, this is only part of the issue. If it were simply about territory, the peace process might have been resolved decades ago. Instead, a complex web of ideology and identity, often even within the PA, continues to drive efforts at dialogue. It is these two separate cur- rents within the negotiating process that have led to the dual-track approaches of Hamas and Fatah, and which will dictate the evolution of the peace process.

Ideological backdrop

Despite the ongoing emphasis on the need for Israel and the PA to return to negotiations, the long history of such talks suggests that dialogue is less a means to resolve the conflict than a flawed attempt to manage it. At root, the aim of resolving the conflict founders on the incompatibility of issues of ideology and nationality, rather than territory, as illustrated by the long- standing issue of recognition. It had been a long time coming when Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recognised a potential Palestinian state in a June 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. In recognising a two-state solution, Netanyahu opened himself up to vehement criticism from within his own Likud party, as well as his right-wing and religious coalition partners. Conversely, Abbas has said to the international community, “Do not order us to recognise a Jewish state.

We will not accept it.” Netanyahu must also contend with coalition partners, some of whom are religious nationalists who refer to the Jewish legal prohibition on ceding any territory of the land of Israel. The non-negotiable approach to the conflict is expressed in the Palestinian Liberation Organisation’s phased approach of 1974, which was to establish an “independent combatant national authority” over any territory that is “liberated” from Israeli rule through the “armed struggle” (seen by Israel and the international community as terrorism). (Article 2 of the constitution). Articles 4 and 8 respectively establish a sequence of destroying Israel using a Palestinian national territory as a springboard for operations leading the provocation to war that could attract the surrounding Arab states to attack Israel.

Negotiations have often contributed to the ongoing stalemate. The PA Minister for Jerusalem Affairs Feisal Husseini called the Oslo Accords, signed in 1993 and establishing a definitive framework for negotiation, a Trojan Horse. In an interview given to Egypt’s Al-Arabi newspaper in 2001, Husseini said: “Had the US and Israel not [thought], before Oslo, that all that was left of the Palestinian national movement and the Pan-Arab movement was a wooden horse called Arafat or the PLO, they would never have opened their fortified gates and let it inside their walls… The Oslo Accords were a Trojan Horse; the strategic goal is the liberation of Palestine from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea.” It is this approach that frames both Abbas’ decision to bid for Pales- tinian statehood and Hamas’ prisoner exchange agreement, although the two appear very differ- ent on the surface.

Read Full Article: JIR_Palestine

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Rescuing the Rebels

(RUSI) – Western policymakers may weigh up a number of ways to help the rebels in Libya – what should not be in doubt, however, is their obligation to provide some much-needed assistance.

In the run-up to and since the passing of UN Resolution 1973, Western powers have insisted that they draw their legitimacy from the Arab League’s call for action. While symbolically important, questions can be asked regarding why legitimacy should – or, indeed, whether it even can – be derived from a group of largely autocratic nations, whose regimes by and large hardly recognise the value of universal human rights in their own societies. The legitimacy of moving to protect civilians vulnerable to slaughter is intrinsic. It does not need to be attained by the endless pursuit of consensus, let alone from those who do not embrace those principles.

The Arab League is acting disingenuously by claiming that their criticism of the weekend’s military strikes is due to their opposition to the shelling of civilians. Member states appreciated that the broad definition of Resolution 1973’s ‘protecting civilians and civilian population areas’ would entail military strikes against Qadhafi’s air defence systems and advances on rebel towns. Furthermore, there have thus far been no independent verifications of the Qadhafi regime’s claims of the numbers that have been killed by the strikes.

The UN’s doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (elsewhere referred to as ‘R2P’), which advocates intervention if leaders are unable or unwilling to prevent humanitarian atrocities, or are complicit in causing them, is an extension of the Western liberal traditions that embraced universal human rights. Representatives of the Arab League are left wanting regarding the satisfactory adoption of these principles, and are suffering a credibility problem as rulers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen are busy suppressing their own opposition. Leaders of the Arab League who claim to be supporting the armed pursuit of these principles abroad will not succeed in duping their own people. Domestic oppositions can see the manner in which their governments are attempting to hedge their bets by applying such double standards – and their discontent will not be assuaged by their rulers’ superficially benign foreign policy.

Read Full Article: RUSI

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

How Moderate is the Muslim Brotherhood?

(RUSI) – Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has blindsided the West, and appears as a pluralistic movement. As a result, the US National Security Council has emphasised that the US has not ruled out ‘engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood as part of an orderly process’.1 Yet the Brotherhood is locked in endless debate between those who aspire to instant jihad − citing Mohammed’s small armies defeating much larger ones as in the battles of Badr and Uhud − and others who advocate a multi-generational process of ‘da’wah’ (persuasion via example and preaching), as well as deception. Some analysts look to Islam’s past traditions to prove this point. Strategies can involve the use of concepts such as ‘taqiyyah’, a process that includes lying to enemies to conceal one’s true intentions, which Raymond Ibrahim claims is widespread in the Islamic world. Forms of taqiyyah can include collaboration with the enemy or ‘hudna’, a ceasefire that provides organisations like Hamas time to replenish their weapons stocks. The ultimate objective is the attainment of power.

Da’wah and taqiyyah were strategies employed by the Iranian revolutionary Ayatollah Khomeini in the late 1970s in his dealings with the United States. Khomeini shrewdly echoed what the international community wanted to hear and spoke of pgge4nder equality and thepvgio8 lation of human rights by the Shah. History will recall how Khomeini later proceeded to brutally purge all those who had previously constituted his coalition to advance his Islamist agenda. Thus Khomeini laid down the blueprint that has been followed by Islamist groups across the Middle East: the more distant from power, the more moderate and democratic their rhetoric. The greater their proximity, the more openly anti-Western and undemocratic their agenda becomes.

Read Full Article: RUSI Newsbrief_March_2011_Seener

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Israel’s Geographic-Demographic Threat to Identity

(RUSI) – Mahmoud Abbas has begun galvanising the Arab world to embrace a one-state solution. He said to reporters in Saudi Arabia, ‘From a historical perspective, there are two states: Israel and Palestine. In Israel, there are Jews and others living there. This we are willing to recognise, nothing else.’ Yet a two- state solution does not reduce the Israeli-Arab challenge to Israel’s Jewish character − which calls for turning it into a ‘state of all its citizens’ or a binational state. In 2008, at the eighth annual Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade, Israeli- Arab MK Ahmed Tibi accused Israel of having established an ‘apartheid state’. Thus Israel’s unwillingness to coherently identify how to maintain its Jewish identity before conducting negotiations with its Palestinian counterparts has enabled both sides to demographically challenge its existence.

Israeli-Arabs

In December 2006, the Israeli-Arab Higher Arab Monitoring Committee advanced a one-state solution in a document entitled: ‘The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel’. The report called for a ‘consensual democracy’ that incorporated the presence of both Palestinians and Jews.1 Israeli-Arabs may not accept a ptgw3o-state solution wpigth7 a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders and could advance a programme for self- determination. Israeli-Arabs pose a conundrum to Israel’s political establishment: if Israel reaches an agreement with the PLO, Israeli- Arabs will proceed to challenge the PLO’s status. On the other hand, if negotiations fail, a two-state solution will be questioned, allowing in its stead a one-state solution.
A two-state solution would not necessarily prevent Israeli-Arabs taking up the cause of the Palestinians as they did during Israel’s military operations in Gaza in 2008. In 2000, a poll published by Israeli daily newspaper Yediot Ahronot showed that 66 per cent of Israeli-Arabs would support the Palestinians in any confrontation with Israel, while only 13 per cent would support their own country.2

Israel’s Strategic Deficit

Israel’s sudden fear of a one-state solution should have been anticipated for decades. It is indicative of the absence of a culture in Israel that encourages long-term strategic thinking. This in turn has polarised Israeli society vis-à-vis its territorial borders. As a result, Israel’s political establishment has maintained an incoherent approach to its demographic balance, oscillating between outright denial of the threat and expression of the urgent strategic challenge it poses.

Read Full Article: RUSI Newsbrief January 2011

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Targeting Israelis via International Law

Barak Seener - Strategic Intelligentia

(The Middle East Quarterly) – Based on principles derived from the Hague and Geneva conventions, individuals have been brought to trial for war crimes, crimes against peace, and crimes against humanity. The outstanding examples of such trials were those held at Nuremberg after World War II where numbers of leading Nazis were brought to court for some of the many crimes committed by Germany under the Third Reich. The shadow of those trials is still visible today. In July 2009, John Demjanjuk, a Ukrainian accused of crimes while working for the Nazis as a concentration camp guard was deported from Canada to Germany to stand trial. On a smaller but significant scale, cases have been brought against individuals responsible for the genocide that took place during the Bosnian war of 1992-95. More recently, however, individuals and organizations with political grievances have started to make use of war crimes legislation in order to pursue a variety of officials from states equipped with well-run courts and tribunals, notably the United States, Great Britain, and—most of all—Israel. Should this matter to us? Aren’t war crimes clear and cut; shouldn’t those who commit them be pursued with the full force of the law? This essay tries to answer those questions and others

The poster of Dan Halutz, former IDF chief of staff and Israeli air force commander, is an example of attempts to delegitimize Israel and present its officials as war criminals for conducting antiterrorist actions.

Again and again attempts have been made to indict Israeli soldiers and civilians as war criminals when their only crimes have been to thwart terrorist actions or punish those responsible for murder.[1] A boost was given to this gambit when speeches at the Durban Conference on Racism in 2001 branded Israeli antiterrorist actions as “war crimes” and condemned Israel as “an apartheid state” that has committed ethnic cleansing and acts of genocide. This has set the tone for a series of attempts to summon Israelis before foreign courts, from Ariel Sharon and Amos Yaron (particularly with regard to the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Beirut, which had already been investigated by Israel’s own Kahan Commission),[2] to Avraham (Avi) Dichter for the assassination of a Hamas leader while he was director of the Israeli security service, Shin Bet, to Doron Almog, an Israeli general accused of mass murder in 2002, and Moshe Ya’alon, former head of Israeli military intelligence (and later chief of staff), indicted for bombings in Qana, Lebanon, in 1996.
The sweep of charges is wide. The individuals charged have been important figures in Israeli life and major contributors to Israel’s security. Attempts to charge them with crimes against humanity have never been matched by calls to indict Palestinian terrorist chiefs. The bias is very clear, and it is inspired not by humanitarian concerns or a desire for justice but by political motives.

(for all references see the source article)

Read Full Article: The Middle East Quarterly

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Israel’s Strategy Deficiency

Strategic Intelligentia

(The National Interest) – Israel’s unilateral ceasefire in Gaza has left Israel with no strategic goals achieved. As attested by the Winograd Commission-set up by the Israeli government in 2006 to draw lessons from the then-recent war with Hezbollah-Israel, so adept at engaging tactically, cannot consolidate gains due to its numerous contradictory goals. One is forced to recall Kissinger’s statement decades ago that Israel does not have policy, but politics.

On January 16, 2009, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This statement constitutes the basis of U.S.-led interception of smuggled weapons into Gaza by monitoring the Persian Gulf, Sudan and neighboring states. The United States is taking a leading role in lending its military and intelligence assets, including detection and surveillance equipment, to governments in the Middle East that are allied with this endeavour. Why did Israel not push for this mechanism during the eight years it was being bombarded with rockets? Why did the Bush administration rush it through before it left office?

Ceasefires, like the one recently declared at the end of the conflict in Gaza, have traditionally been used by terrorist organisations to build up their weapons capabilities. They aren’t effective in the long term. The current ceasefire could heighten Hamas’s stature by recognizing it as a party and give it greater legitimacy. Hamas remains in possession of at least several hundred rockets, some of which are able to reach major population centers, and several others are still being lobbed at Israel.

Hamas’s capacity to rapidly reconstitute its capabilities was facilitated by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who sought a ceasefire in and of itself without caring about its effectiveness at preventing smuggling and enhancing security for Israel. To this end he declared: “We cannot wait for all the details, the mechanisms, to be conclusively negotiated and agreed, while civilians continue to be traumatized, injured or killed.” Similarly, when asked about the exact details of the agreement, and what new contributions it provides, Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni acknowledged, “This is a beginning . . . I completely agree that we have now an understanding and it needs to be translated, also in the future, to more concrete measures.” Israel’s subscription to the vague agreement with the United States monitoring weapons smuggling into Gaza reflects the ambiguous aims that it had in going to war in the territory in the first place.

Read Full Article: The National Interest

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Transparently Corrupt

Strategic Intelligentia

(The National Interest) – The most transparent thing about the Palestinian Authority is its wastefulness. If the international community is serious about jump-starting the peace process, it can start by holding the PA accountable.

Without transparency, how can a government properly represent its people, let alone function properly? Western democracies police their own governments rigorously, but, unfortunately, these same countries fail to hold the recipients of their aid to the same robust standards. The international community’s support of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is a striking example of and a cautionary lesson in the perils of bankrolling a corrupt regime while turning a blind eye to its dysfunction. The PA’s lack of transparency, democracy and civil society has exacerbated hostilities with Israel, resulted in internecine conflict and served as an incubator for Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. But despite all this, $7.4 billion was pledged to the “Palestinian State” for 2008-2010 at the Paris Conference. The international community must cease paying endless lip service to the creation of a viable Palestinian state. Instead, it should force PA accountability through international donations, making contributions contingent upon transparent governance and setting benchmarks for the establishment of a stable and democratic state infrastructure.

Corruption thrives in the PA, as those controlling the purse strings benefit from the absence of accountability and by embezzling funds earmarked for critical infrastructure projects. Far from attempting to generate a dynamic economy, the PA-first under Yasir Arafat and now under Mahmoud Abbas-perpetuates a system based on monopolies in various industries granted by PA officials in exchange for kickbacks. At times during Arafat’s reign, a third of the PA’s budget went for “expenses of the President’s office,” without further explanation, auditing or accounting. The international community, particularly European governments, disbursed funds, often in bags of cash delivered directly to Arafat, watching silently as billions of dollars of international aid disappeared into personal bank accounts. Officials throughout Europe ignored the evidence of this widescale corruption.

Read Full Article: The National Interest

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.

Re-evaluating the Links Between the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Threat of Global Jihadism

Strategic Intelligentia

(The Henry Jackson Society)B.M.S. Your new book, ‘The Fight for Jerusalem’, is unique as it effectively manages to fuse both contemporary realities and policy analysis with the historical, cultural, religious and even archaeological backgrounds to the region. This is rarely achieved as focus is usually granted to only one of these factors at best. You demonstrate how historically, territorial concessions that are made as part of conflict resolution have become springboards for further terrorist attacks elsewhere in the world. In over a decade’s worth of experience with the ‘land for peace’ paradigm, has Israel not realized that this has generated further attacks? Why does it continuously revert back to this failed approach?

D.G. We have a deep perceptual problem across the Western alliance about how to halt the advance of radical Islam. Unfortunately many in the West believe that radical Islam springs up from ongoing political grievances with respect to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Indeed many European leaders are convinced that if they could resolve tomorrow the Israeli- Palestinian conflict, this would lower the flames of radical Islamic rage, weaken al-Qaeda, and improve the security of the Western alliance including the security of Europe.

However in ‘The Fight for Jerusalem’, I demonstrate that this assumption is completely false. In fact what leads to the spread and growth of radical Islam are not political grievances, but rather a sense of victory. That is the gasoline that is fuelling the engine of al-Qaeda. We also see this in several historical examples. al-Qaeda was not formed in relationship to any of Israel’s wars whether it be in 1948, 1948 1956, 1967 or 1973, but in 1989 when the Soviet Union was defeated in Afghanistan and withdrew. That led the founders of al-Qaeda to conclude that they had just defeated a superpower. They had scored a huge victory against the great powers of the day and they were replicating Islamic history. In the 7th Century, the armies of Mohammed and the early Caliphs eventually decimated both the Persian and Byzantine empires, and spread Islam from N. Africa to China.

Essentially what we learn from the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan is that the sense of victory that the Arab mujahadeen who fought there had, led them to conclude that they should form al-Qaeda and challenge the other great Superpower-the US along with its allies. A second time a withdrawal has a powerful impact upon the growth of Jihadism is when Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon. That led to the perception that, “Israel had a national will as thick as a spider web”, to quote Sheikh Hassan Nasralla, the Secretary General of Hezbollah. It was followed by a massive rearmament of Hezbollah by Iran.

Read Full Article: The Henry Jackson Society

Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.