Archive for March 15, 2017

There’s An Emerging ‘Alt-Jihad’ Movement In The U.S. – But It’s Not Muslims Who Are Pushing It…

March 15, 2017

There’s An Emerging ‘Alt-Jihad’ Movement In The U.S. – But It’s Not Muslims Who Are Pushing It…,  independent Journal ReviewDr. Zuhdi Jasser, March 15, 2017

(Please see also, Is Muslim Reform Even Possible? — DM)

Getty – MAHMUD HAMS

The alt-jihad consists of non-Muslims who refuse to leave room for even the remote possibility of branding Islam and any faithful Muslims into modernity. The alt-jihad is simple, simplistic, self-serving and dangerous. It attempts to deny Muslim dissidents any space, hope, or support whatsoever we so urgently need to make headway. Their parroting of Islamist tyrannical rhetoric and their slash-and-burn approach only strengthens the hold Islamist extremists have on Muslim communities.

[T]he alt-jihad does not care about solutions, especially those advocating American ideas against theocracy within the House of Islam. The alt-jihad does not care about advocating American ideas for the freedom and liberation of secular movements across the planet (the only real allies of the US) that separate mosque and state. No. It’s only about convincing the rest of America and the West that the entire religion of Islam is the monolithic problem and there is no viable path within towards modernity.

No different from the useful idiocy of Islamist apologists who choose willful blindness, the alt-jihad are useful idiots for Islamist jihadists who also view Islam as one interpretation and true Muslims as only sharia supremacists. The alt-jihad is another willfully blind dead-end.

*****************************

The “alt-right” and the “alt-left” are recent terms to describe extreme sides of the political spectrum. While the members of the “alt-“ movements may feel comfortable trying to attach themselves to other travelers on the right and left, most members of the traditional conservative and liberal spectrum reject the extreme un-American nature of the alt-movements.

The insidious, myopic, and extreme nature of one movement in particular has inspired me to coin a new term: the “alt-Jihad.”

Everyone knows the “jihad” of violent and Islamist supremacism. Jihadists are those who advocate the establishment of a caliphate, or any so-called “Islamic state,” via violent or nonviolent (but no less supremacist) means.

The Muslim community worldwide is comprised of 1.6 billion individuals, each with their own relationship to the faith. There are those Muslims who subscribe to the forms of global jihadism of the 56 Islamic states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Most people understand that while they may be a plurality of Muslims, they are a minority. The rest of us – the vast majority – reject it.

The ideological divisions are far more complicated and to that end, I was recently interviewed in the Federalist: “A Muslim Reformer Speaks about his Battle Against Islamism and PC.” Steve Postal interviewed me to commemorate the one year anniversary of the founding of the Muslim Reform Movement. Our declaration is a must read for Americans who seek to find ways to ideologically discern which Muslims share our American values and are working with us versus those who are Islamists.

Most Americans have long known the American ‘petro-Islamic’ establishment who have long been the “useful idiots for Islamism” who “willfully blind” themselves to the evils of Islamism in the name of progressive politics. Sen. Ted Cruz had hearings on this “willful blindness” last year.

A deceptively similar yet polar opposite (alt-side) is the willful blindness of the ‘alt-jihadists.’ Alt-jihadists support, empower, flaunt, and legitimize Islamist radicals and their leaders by branding all Muslims and all Islam as one and the same, and deeming us all to be enemies of freedom.

Alt-jihadists are non-Muslim thought leaders who are defined by two characteristics. Regardless of their intentions, first, they view Islam as a terminal monolith, a supremacist political ideology leaving no room for a distinction between the faith of Islam and Islamism. Second, they universally dismiss and vilify anti-Islamist reformers not as Uncle Toms but essentially similarly calling them “liars” and “illegitimate.” Alt-jihadists take it upon themselves to excommunicate anti-Islamists reformers from their monolithic version of Islam.

These two characteristics, like the apologists, only end up serving entrenching the global jihad and its Islamist monopoly from which the alt-jihadists claim to want to save the world.

The alt-jihad consists of non-Muslims who refuse to leave room for even the remote possibility of branding Islam and any faithful Muslims into modernity. The alt-jihad is simple, simplistic, self-serving and dangerous. It attempts to deny Muslim dissidents any space, hope, or support whatsoever we so urgently need to make headway. Their parroting of Islamist tyrannical rhetoric and their slash-and-burn approach only strengthens the hold Islamist extremists have on Muslim communities.

The alt-jihad does not sincerely seek for Muslims to find solutions to the problems plaguing our communities, but rather seeks the containment, if not the elimination, of Islam as a faith. Some even seem to advocate that this happen “by any means necessary.” For the alt-jihad, there is no hope for modernization of Islam – there are terrorist Muslims, and terrorist Muslims-in-waiting.

In the past few weeks the alt-jihad criticism of our work has spiked. Is something afoot? Stephen Kirby penned this for Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch.org: “Muslim Reform Group reached out to 3,000 US Mosques, got only 40 responses.” Kirby is the head of the Act for America Des Moines Chapter, and like Carl Goldberg here in Arizona, has long trolled our work, blindly striking us at the knees whenever possible.

Among many deceptive missives he wrote this patronizing fatwa (legal ruling) from his own quasi “sharia court:”

But I would like to save the Muslim Reform Movement (MRM) time and non-Muslims money. Instead of a new study on why the MRM has virtually no Muslim support, I will provide the answer: in terms of Islamic doctrine, the MRM declaration is blasphemous, and the MRM should not be surprised that over 99% of the larger Muslim community does not want to join in with that blasphemy.

It is only attention from the non-Muslim world that will enable the Muslim Reform Movement to remain on life-support, visible but irrelevant.

There you have it. With the strike of a few keystrokes from a comfortable bunker in that Iowa haven of anti-Muslim engagement, Kirby rendered his fatwa. His like-minded echo chamber across the blogosphere has since reposted these words of mass destruction and dancing gleefully on our grave.

That was not from the propaganda arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s PressTV, or Qatar’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s AlJazeera, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’s state TV, nor the propaganda of American Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups – it was from the alt-jihad.

Kirby was only to be then echoed by the fatwas of Diana West at the Daily Caller (Islam Catastrophe Continues), John Guandolo at UTT  (Unfit for Duty), and Militant Islam Monitor to name but a few in the metaphorical Alt-Jihadi Shura council. Their primary target was hit pieces on Sebastian Gorka, but why pass an opportunity to collaterally eulogize Muslim reformists? Therein alt-Jihadists declared the Muslim Reform Movement “an abject failure”, “utter nonsense” and “a personal fantasy Islam.”

The alt-jihadists malignantly took one fact about the poor response we received from American mosques and willfully disregarded the rest of the interview and the body of our 13 years of work at the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) and the new Muslim Reform Movement. Instead of honestly dissecting strategic position papers like this one: Fighting for Victory against Islamism: A Blueprint for how the West can Counter Islamist Tyranny, the alt-jihadists trip over themselves to dance on the graves of Muslim dissidents.

Beyond being destructive, the entire premise of the alt-jihad is absurd: we put out our challenge to the self-appointed leaders of the community to prove that it’s true that the vast majority of the Islamic establishment would not sign our declaration. We’ve been saying essentially that since our founding. Our effort was another public demonstration of that fact, with a new way to demonstrate it to the broader Muslim community, who are now able to see which principles their self-appointed leaders refuse to sign on to.

We admit the majority have been asleep. The alt-jihad claims in an un-American blindness to the anti-theocrats that we have no oxygen to breathe in the House of Islam.

This didn’t start this month. Alt-jihadists declared our reform movement dead on arrival at our outset in December 2015, much as they did over ten years ago with AIFD when we launched. Kirby had issued his fatwa declaring our “still-birth” days after our first press conference in December 2015: The Muslim Reform Movement plays Fantasy Islam. His Wahhabi sharia court “welcomed his readers to a personal version of Islam that had nothing to do with Islam”.

Classic alt-jihadism. The alt-jihadists have for years invoked takfirism (excommunication) against our work. But who needs an Iranian or Saudi Islamist Supreme Council of Inquisition when we have Stephen Kirby (July 2015, Dec 2015), Diana West (2012), Robert Spencer, and others to dismiss reformist dissenters inside the House of Islam as illegitimate Muslims?

But really. What brilliance and foresight does it take to defeat a nascent dissident reform movement by declaring it DOA? The alt-jihadi cabal’s arguments are not bolstered by their own strongly held Islamic interpretations, exegesis, and beliefs but rather by simply conveniently parroting the tyrannical dogma of their favorite Islamist theocrats. After I initially debated Stephen Kirby in Omaha, he went on to write the “the Lure of Fantasy Islam.” The archetypal alt-jihadist, he dismisses my own knowledge of Arabic, Qur’an, and Hadith, and instead with no rationale just regurgitates irrelevant fatwas of salafi-jihadis.

We offer theological deconstructions of Salafi-jihadi arguments and the alt-jihad’s only response is to channel the scoffing of the Islamist establishment.

There is far more than one interpretation of Islam. Our belief is that the future of freedom depends upon the victory of the Muslim Reform Movement over Islamists. And as I stated in the Federalist, Muslim interpretations of Islam cannot ever be reformed under the boots of tyrannical regimes across the 56 OIC Muslim majority nations who torture and assassinate dissidents.

But the alt-jihad does not care about solutions, especially those advocating American ideas against theocracy within the House of Islam. The alt-jihad does not care about advocating American ideas for the freedom and liberation of secular movements across the planet (the only real allies of the US) that separate mosque and state. No. It’s only about convincing the rest of America and the West that the entire religion of Islam is the monolithic problem and there is no viable path within towards modernity.

In fact, if the OIC had sought to create both, Orwellian foils and promoters of their own global supremacist form of the Islam of their sharia states, the alt-jihadists would be it. My attempts to graciously address the “concerns” of the alt-jihad are not new. I’ve engaged Robert Spencer in a debate on his conclusions regarding the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in 2010. Pamela Geller also ruled in her fatwa that I practice my own “Private Islam.” As I said in my response to similar dismissals from Pamela Geller’s in 2011, one of her numerous lies exposed was that I was “kicked out of my mosque.” Then she doubled down and I was somehow “kicked out of his mosque twice.”m I was never kicked out and never said I was. The fact they intentionally ignore is how I actually publicly took on the leadership of our mosque here: “I was bullied for criticizing Hamas.”

Alt-jihadists live in a world where truth and intellectual credibility are optional. They have one purpose: to obstruct any hope or path towards a solution within the House of Islam.

Despite the now over 14 Muslim leaders in the US, Canada, and Europe that launched our diverse Muslim Reform Movement and their diverse followings, the alt-jihad waits to impugn motives, declare us liars, or declare themselves more informed about Islam – much like the playbook of every OIC tyrant and government paid Islamist cleric across the planet would also do. But they are the traditional global jihad.

The wind beneath the sails of the traditional global jihad is the alt-jihad.

Lastly, make no mistake. The opinions of alt-jihadists are free speech. But their disagreements with us reformers are neither professional, respectful, nor hopeful of our space within the faith. They are only dismissive. Defeatist. Islamist. Exactly how the Saudi government, Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, or Khomeinists scoff at Muslim thinkers and reformers as “un-Islamic,” the alt-jihad does the same. Their work never sees the hope of our reforms for the possible synergy of secularism with our interpretations of Islam. Instead, they empower the Islamist establishment.

It is actually rather bizarre that their like-minded ideological bedfellows in takfir (the declaration of another Muslim as not being ‘Muslim’ or ‘Muslim enough’ in their behavior or ideas) are the Islamist supremacists. They seem to have all the conclusions and answers about who is and who is not a legitimate Muslim thinker.

Alt-jihadism at its core is takfirism by any other name.

No different from the useful idiocy of Islamist apologists who choose willful blindness, the alt-jihad are useful idiots for Islamist jihadists who also view Islam as one interpretation and true Muslims as only sharia supremacists. The alt-jihad is another willfully blind dead-end.

Jamie Glazov Moment: Joy Reid’s Smear of Sebastian Gorka and other Counter-Jihadists.

March 15, 2017

Jamie Glazov Moment: Joy Reid’s Smear of Sebastian Gorka and other Counter-Jihadists via YouTube, March 11, 2017

(The following video, praising both Robert Spencer and Juhdi Jasser, was posted a few days before Robert Spencer posted an article about the futility of the Muslim Reform Movement and personally attacking a leading proponent, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser. Mr. Spencer stated, inter alia,  

There are many viable strategies, most completely untested, for resisting the global jihad, but in the fifteen years since 9/11 it has become clear that supporting Muslim reformers is nice identity politics and makes some people feel as if they’ve headed off charges of “racism” and “Islamophobia” from the Left, but where are the Muslims who are saying, “I supported the jihad and was about to join ISIS until I heard Dr. Jasser”? There are no such people. Jasser mentions Raheel Raza; she spoke after me at an event in Toronto last year, and said that she read the Qur’an every morning and denounced terrorism. That’s very nice, but all it did was confuse the audience about the ways in which Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims. Is Raheel Raza going to jihadis and explaining to them how they’re misreading the Qur’an? Somehow I doubt it.

. . . .

It’s no wonder that Zuhdi Jasser, with his Blaze program, and his CPAC speech, and his Fox appearances, and the uncritical adulation of so very many non-Muslims on the Right, is feeling insecure and threatened: his position is incoherent, and somewhere in his heart of hearts, even he knows it. And so not content with all the fame and fawning and financial advantages, he lashes out against the few remaining people who dare to challenge him on the facts, desperate to destroy us. He is in this doomed to fail as spectacularly as he has in trying to reform Islam, because there is just one weapon we have that he does not: the truth. [Emphasis added.]

In some respects, Robert Spencer diatribe intersects with that of Joy Reid. She seems to contend that all Muslims are good, and Spencer seems to contend that none are amenable to a Muslim reformation and all favor Sharia law, even in America. I do not know the source of the “financial advantages” Dr. Jasser allegedly gets from the Muslim Reform Movement, but assume that his funding comes from his medical practice.– DM

 

Is Muslim Reform Even Possible?

March 15, 2017

Is Muslim Reform Even Possible? Clarion Project, Elliot Friedland, March 15, 2017

(I corresponded with Clarion Project yesterday, calling their attention to an article by Robert Spencer which I consider an unwarranted and nearly incoherent ad hominem hit piece directed at Dr. Jasser and the Muslim Reform Movement in general. I suggested that “A coherent and temperate response is needed.” Clarion responded this morning with this article. Please see also, The Grand Mufti of the Stealth Jihad: Zuhdi Jasser Says “There’s No Greater Threat” Than Pamela Geller and Her Colleagues— DM)

Jasser clearly enunciated in his podcast that the debate on whether Islam is compatible with modernity is an important debate that can be had. But he objects to alt-jihadists whom he says “push an extreme singular interpretation of Islam as the only Islam that prevents and dictates to the Muslim world and to Muslims like myself who is and is not a Muslim.” He slams this line of argument as being akin to the takfirism practiced by jihadists who excommunicate those who disagree with their vision of Islam.

****************************************

Clarion advisory board member Dr. Zudhi Jasser has hit out of critics who claim that Muslim reform movements are bound to fail because they are not accepted within the Muslim community.

He made his comments during an hour- long episode of his podcast Reform This! on The Blaze, titled “Alt-Jihadists: Useful Idiots of the Global Islamist Establishment.”

You can listen to the full episode here:

(The audio is at the link. — DM)

Jasser named specific figures as “alt-Jihadists:” Stephen Kirby, Diana West, Robert Spencer, John Guandolo, Clare Lopez and Pamela Geller.

Jasser clearly enunciated in his podcast that the debate on whether Islam is compatible with modernity is an important debate that can be had. But he objects to alt-jihadists whom he says “push an extreme singular interpretation of Islam as the only Islam that prevents and dictates to the Muslim world and to Muslims like myself who is and is not a Muslim.” He slams this line of argument as being akin to the takfirism practiced by jihadists who excommunicate those who disagree with their vision of Islam.

“The key to alt-jihadism,” Jasser writes, is the belief that reform is not possible that Islam is etched in stone as being theocratic, as being supremacist and totalitarian and that the sharia state, the Islamic State of Islamic jurisprudence is fascistic and borne out of theocracy and is unreformable.”

Robert Spencer responded to Jasser’s podcast in a lengthy piece on his website Jihad Watch.

Spencer’s argues, “… in the fifteen years since 9/11 it has become clear that supporting Muslim reformers is nice identity politics and makes some people feel as if they’ve headed off charges of ‘racism’ and ‘Islamophobia’ from the Left, but where are the Muslims who are saying, “I supported the jihad and was about to join ISIS until I heard Dr. Jasser”? There are no such people.”

Spencer later adds, “I’d love to see Islamic reform succeed. I’m just not willing to kid myself or others about its prospects, or pretend that it has a greater standing in Islamic doctrine or tradition than it does.”

These are important questions that must be addressed honestly.

But Spencer misses the point in three key ways:

Firstly, Spencer’s arguments belie the fact that Islam has already changed many times throughout the centuries. It has seen intellectual flourishing, such as in the Abbasid House of Wisdom, and iconoclastic destruction, such as that meted out against Hindu India by the Ghaznavid Empire, or, of course, the contemporary Islamic State (who cited the exploits of Mahmud of Ghazni in the latest issue of their propaganda magazine Rumiyah). Just like Christianity has gone from the charity of St Francis of Assisi to the torture chambers of the Inquisition to fighting for both the abolition of and the maintenance of slavery in the 19th century.

To take but two recent examples: In 2016, the Marrakesh Declaration saw more than 250 scholars from around the Muslim world convene at the request of the King of Morocco (a direct descendant of Muhammed himself and hardly a marginal figure) to “AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.”

Closer to America, since 2013 the Muslim Leadership Initiative has seen Muslim leaders from America come to Israel to learn about Jews and Zionism, abandoning the decades long opposition to any interaction at all with the Jewish state within the establishment leadership in the Muslim community. Although this provoked a massive backlash, the fact that it happened at all is monumental in showing that it is possible to have a dialogue and move towards solutions to some of the seemingly intractable inter-communal problems that we face.

Secondly, Spencer does not acknowledge the damage done by rejecting Muslims like Jasser. When Muslims like Jasser are not seen as authentic by non-Muslims, it makes it that much harder for him to pitch to Muslims that his path will lead to acceptance. Fear is an incredibly powerful factor in politics. If Muslim communities fear they will be excluded no matter what, that non-Muslims have no interest in protecting them or their rights and are only interested in them as opponents of jihad, they have little incentive to speak out.

Thirdly, Spencer does not recognize that these things take a long time. Even within living memory, the West has seen monumental cultural shifts, on women’s rights, on gay rights, on race relations. These changes have pushed the contemporary West further in the direction of upholding human freedoms than any other civilization in the history of the world.

But those changes, begun with the French and American revolutions, took a long time. In France, a jealous husband could legally murder a cheating wife and her paramour on the spot (if he caught them in his house), as recently as 1975. Switzerland didn’t give women the right to vote until 1971 in federal elections. The last canton to grant women’s suffrage on local issues did so in 1991. The last state to criminalize marital rape was North Carolina, in 1993. Technically speaking, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is ruled “by the grace of God” by a hereditary monarch who is also the head of the established church and styled “defender of the faith,” the clergy of which sit in the national legislature.

Culture is no excuse for abuse. But equally it is unreasonable to expect monumental societal shifts to take place in a few short years. The Syrian Civil War is still raging, protests across the Muslim world recur frequently. Saudi women now have the right to vote in municipal elections. Prince Alwaleed said they should be permitted to drive. Baby steps yes. But steps nonetheless.

Muslim Reform is happening. Just slower and more quietly than Robert Spencer would like.

Do you agree or disagree? Join the conversation on Twitter using #AltJihad or write to us at info@clarionproject.org

Just in from our top contributor and administrator Dan Miller !

March 15, 2017
I look forward to Clarion’s response to the Spencer hit piece. Thank you for the heads-up.
I had sent a similar request to AIFD and hope for a response from Dr. Jasser as well. As noted in my request to AIFD, I am an editor of Warsclerotic, an aggregation blog published in Israel and started by Joseph Wouk (the son of Herman Wouk, author of Caine Mutiny, Don’t Stop the Carnival, etc). I stated that I would like to publish Dr. Jasser’s response.
After I had sent my e-mails, another editor at Warsclerotic (there are three of us), who goes by the nom de plume “Joop,” posted an ad hominem hit piece by Pamela Geller to the same effect as Robert Spencer’s.  Here’s a link:
 
Following the article, “Joop” also linked and commented favorably on Spencer’s article.
 
When I saw the article and comment at Warsclerotic, I seriously considered resigning as an editor because I was embarrassed to be associated with a site that publishes such trash; I am not aware of any previous such incident at Warsclerotic
 
I am sending blind copies of this e-mail to the other editors, in the hope that the Geller article will be taken down.  I have posted many of Dr. Jasser’s YouTube videos and interviews; “Joop” has commented on each to the effect that “a mooslime is a mooslime is a mooslime” —  i.e., the are all the same and reformers are either lying or are not “real” Muslims. Before giving further thought to resigning, however, I would like to publish your response to the Spencer and perhaps the Geller article and, should AIFD provide one, it as well.
Thank you and Clarion for your excellent work supporting the Muslim Reform Movement. President Trump is in a position to replace CAIR and other Islamist groups in the “countering violent extremism” program with AIFD and perhaps Clarion project. I very much hope that he does.
Dan Miller

Abbas to Trump envoy Greenblatt: Peace deal is possible

March 15, 2017

Source: Abbas to Trump envoy Greenblatt: Peace deal is possible – Arab-Israeli Conflict – Jerusalem Post

By
March 14, 2017 22:26

Greenblatt described his meeting with Abbas on Twitter as “positive” and “far-reaching.”
Greenblatt Abbas

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday told Jason Greenblatt, US President Donald Trump’s special representative for international negotiations, that a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is possible, a US Consulate statement said.

“President Abbas told Mr. Greenblatt that under President Trump’s leadership a historic peace deal is possible, and that it will enhance security throughout the region,” the statement said.

Greenblatt and Abbas met at the Mukata, the PA presidential headquarters in Ramallah on Tuesday, in the second meeting between the Palestinian leader and a member of the new US administration.

Abbas met with CIA Director Mike Pompeo in Ramallah in mid-February.

The meeting was also attended by PLO Executive Committee Secretary-General Saeb Erekat, Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeinah, and PA General Intelligence Services Chief Majid Faraj.

Greenblatt told Abbas that President Trump is committed to working with Israelis and Palestinians to achieve a peace deal through direct negotiations, the statement added.

Trump has said that he wants to achieve the “ultimate deal” between Israel and the Palestinians, but has not clearly committed to a specific formula to resolve the conflict.

“I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like…I can live with either one,” Trump told a White House press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on February 15, bucking years of firm, US government commitments to the twostate solution.

Abbas also committed to preventing incitement and incendiary rhetoric, according to the statement.

Netanyahu has argued that Palestinian incitement is a major stumbling block to the peace process and a source of violence against Israelis.

US UN Ambassador Nikki Haley pressed Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour in a meeting in early March to take actions to end incitement on the Palestinian side.

PA President Abbas has said on numerous occasions, including a recent meeting with group of Israelis in Ramallah, that there is incitement on both Palestinian and Israeli societies, and called for the revival of a tripartite Israeli- Palestinian-American anti-incitement committee to deal with the issue.

Abbas and Greenblatt discussed plans to develop the Palestinian economy and providing more economic opportunities, the statement continued.

The Palestinian gross domestic product currently stands at approximately $300 million annually, far less than neighboring Israel’s GDP, which is upwards of $12 billion.

Palestinian leaders have expressed interest in cooperating with the US and Israel to improve the Palestinian economy, but have stressed that such efforts need to be a part of a plan to establish an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas also said “he would create an atmosphere conducive to making peace and would heighten his outreach efforts to the Israeli public,” the statement said.

Abbas has met with many groups of Israelis over the past year as a part of meetings organized by the Palestinian Committee for Interaction with Israeli Society, an initiative led by Fatah leader Muhammed al-Madani.

Greenblatt described his meeting with Abbas on Twitter as “positive” and “far-reaching.”

Greenblatt also met with a number of other Palestinian groups on Tuesday, including a group of entrepreneurs, students in Bethlehem, PA security officials, and residents of refugee camp north of Ramallah.

Tuesday’s meeting with Abbas comes less than a week after Abbas held his first phone call with Trump, in which the two leaders stated their desire to work to achieve a peace agreement. The call came as a relief to Palestinian officials, who were disappointed that Trump had not contacted the Palestinian leader earlier.

On Monday, Greenblatt met with Netanyahu for five hours at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu said at a press conference on Tuesday that his talks with Greenblatt were “good,” “extensive,” and “candid in the positive sense of the word.”

In an apparent reference to efforts to come up with guidelines with the US to govern future settlement construction, Netanyahu said, “I can’t tell you we reached an agreement, but i think we heard each other out in a serious and friendly way and I think we will probably conclude this effort.”

Netanyahu also said that he made clear to Greenblatt that he intends to build a new settlement for the former residents of Amona, an illegal outpost that was recently evacuated.

The settlement would be the first new government- approved settlement built in the West Bank in more than 25 years.

Off Topic – Intel CEO: We think of ourselves as an Israeli company as much as a US company

March 15, 2017

Source: Intel CEO: We think of ourselves as an Israeli company as much as a US company – Israel News – Jerusalem Post

By
March 15, 2017 05:06

“I just want to say that it will be centered here in Jerusalem.”
PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates Intel CEO Brian Krzanich yesterday.

PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu congratulates Intel CEO Brian Krzanich yesterday at his office on Intel’s acquisition of Mobileye, as (from left) Mobileye CTO Amnon Shashua, Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Mobileye president Ziv Aviram look on.. (photo credit:CHAIM ZACH / GPO)

Intel’s $15 billion plans to acquire Jerusalem’s Mobileye not only demonstrate the company’s belief in Israeli innovation, but also position the country to become the global leader in autonomous driving, according to the chip giant’s CEO, Brian Krzanich.

“We think of ourselves as an Israeli company as much as a US company,” Krzanich said at a Jerusalem press conference on Tuesday evening at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The day before, Intel declared its intentions to acquire Israel’s autonomous driving company Mobileye for about $15 billion – the biggest deal to hit the country’s hi-tech industry. Alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Mobileye’s leaders Ziv Aviram and Amnon Shashua, Krzanich stressed how the deal will enable Israel to accelerate and steer the international autonomous vehicle industry.

“This is one of the largest acquisitions in Israel, but it’s also the second-largest acquisition effort that Intel has done in history of the company,” he said.

The firms announced a definitive agreement on Monday for Intel to acquire Mobileye, a global leader in the development of computer vision and machine learning for advanced driver assistance systems and autonomous driving. According to the agreement, an Intel subsidiary will launch a tender to acquire all of the outstanding ordinary shares of Mobileye for $63.54 per share in cash, amounting to an equity value of about $15.3b. and an enterprise value of $14.7b.

While Intel is acquiring Mobileye, the companies have decided to base their future autonomous driving operations at Mobileye’s Jerusalem headquarters, with the company’s cofounder, chairman and CTO Amnon Shashua leading operations there.

“I am really excited about this collaboration,” Krzanich said. “I just want to say that it will be centered here in Jerusalem, led by Amnon. He will lead Intel’s overall autonomous vehicle efforts, across the whole company, not just here in Israel. We will be folding in operations in the US underneath the operations here.”

The forthcoming acquisition, which is expected to be concluded in about nine months, marks Intel’s regard for the innovation that comes out of Israel, where the company has had operations for 40 years, according to Krzanich.

The deal also speaks to Intel’s understanding that autonomous vehicles are going to make the world a safer environment, with lower energy usage and improved city life, he said.

With Intel’s autonomous driving operations about be headquartered in Israel, under Mobileye’s Shashua, the country will have an opportunity “to lead how these autonomous vehicles go out on their own, interact with cities, interact with government agencies and really set the standards for how this gets implemented into the world,” Krzanich added.

Netanyahu and Cohen praised the deal, both stressing how important the acquisition will be for the Israeli economy and for the country’s image as a hi-tech hub worldwide.

“This opens up avenues for the Israeli economy, for growth that we see, for all our collective and individual purposes,” Netanyahu said.

“The world sees in Israel a center of innovation that is unique. I think outside the United States, this is the other place where you see this cross-fertilization of great minds that are producing new conceptual products that are indeed changing the world, changing the world for the better.”

As the distinction between hi-tech and low-tech continues to disappear across every sector, the future, the prime minister stressed, “belongs to those nations who innovate.”

“The significance here for Israel and for the world is not merely that the Israeli economy is going to grow more robust and that there are going to be more jobs in Israel,” Netanyahu said. “The significance is that if you want to see the industries of the future, which I think are the industries of the present, come to Israel, and I’m very glad Intel has already done that.”

All in all, the transaction is expected to bring about $1b. in tax revenue and add about 3,000 jobs for Israelis, according to Cohen.

“But what is important for us is not only the tax that the government will receive, but that Mobileye will be a leading company worldwide,” he said.

Prior to the press conference Tuesday evening, Intel and Mobileye managers also held a meeting with Transportation Minister Israel Katz that. During the meeting, Katz announced his intentions to sign an order requiring all new vehicles imported to Israel on or after January 1, 2018 to have at least two driver assistance safety systems – for lane departure control and frontal distance monitoring.

“Intel has invested more than $15b. in the company’s vision and believes in its capabilities in the field of smart vehicles and alert systems that will save lives,” Katz said.

“The State of Israel will soon be the leader in futuristic transportation and the use of smart technologies and a center of knowledge for saving lives and preventing accidents on roads.”

At the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday evening, Shashua – who will be leading Intel’s autonomous driving division – expressed his confidence that Intel and Mobileye’s decision to come together will enable the innovators to truly make an impact on the sector.

“It’s not about money,” Shashua said. “It is about extending our possibilities.”

Mobileye had already begun to spread its wings into areas that demanded a number of new resources, such as mapping, systems building and intelligence – tools that Intel had at its fingertips, he explained.

“If we want to change the world, be the key player in autonomous driving, we have to think about it as an industry,” Shashua said.

“Once we think about it as an industry, it makes a lot of sense to join forces.”

Trump’s Middle East Policy

March 15, 2017

Source: Trump’s Middle East Policy

President Donald Trump has managed in his first six weeks to appoint key foreign policy advisors and executives, but he still has to appoint hundreds more who may have an influence on the direction of policy in the Middle East, although the influence of key personnel is likely to continue to be pivotal.

Like previous White Houses, its foreign policy staff is not of one mind; they also reflect some key constituents that helped elect the president, most likely those who have foreign policy axes to grind. At the risk of over simplification, the president’s team is composed of several factions including two main groups:

The Movement: These are some dedicated political supporters who believe that “Trumpism” is more than a party, more than an effort to win one or two national elections. Trumpism is a political movement that is changing the United States into a populist system that defends the average citizen against the conceited political and cultural elite, which has dominated the U.S. since the Reagan Administration. This “Movement” believes in reducing the powers and capabilities of the Federal Government even going so far as “destructing” the Federal establishment. The Movement believes in unlimited and unrestrained capitalism. It is a nationalist movement that thinks “America first”; it does not support globalization unless the U.S. dominates.

The Movement Guardians are staunchly anti-Muslim, and to a lesser extent, other religious and/or cultural minorities. Some believe in the inevitability of a major war between the U.S. as the leading “Christian” country and the infidels with whom the U.S. is engaged in a clash of civilizations. Only total defeat of Muslims or at least their religious/political ideology would ensure U.S. security. The other war that the Movement would support is a war with China, which is considered a threat to U.S. primacy and which unfairly dominates the U.S. economy by creating a Chinese monopoly over production of consumer goods, and currency manipulation.

The Movement guardians include Stephen Bannon senior counselor to the president; Michael Flynn the first National Security Advisor; Jarred Kuchner the president’s son-in-law; David Friedman, proposed Ambassador to Israel, and Sebstian Gorka, self-proclaimed expert on political Islam and former Breitbart’s national security editor who will be the resident brain on terrorism. The alt-right is clearly anti-Muslim; its anti-Israel and anti-Semitic original positions have now been largely reconciled.

The Pragmatists: The U.S. Federal Government is a huge enterprise; many are attracted to serve in positions of authority under nearly any president; almost any American would find it difficult to say “no” if offered a job by the president. The Pragmatists include General Mattis, Secretary of Defense; General John Kelley, Secretary of Homeland Security; Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; and Robert Pompeo, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

After six weeks, both camps have scored successes. The Movement Guardians wrote the travel Ban on Muslims arriving from 6-7 countries; managed to appoint an Israeli/American extremist as U.S. ambassador to Israel; vetoed the appointment of a Palestinian/American as an official of the United Nation; and hosted Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House. The Pragmatists re-wrote the Muslim travel ban Executive Orders. The edge as of now favors the Movement Guardians. Coming conflicts between the two camps will make this Administration’s future worth watching.

Negative Vibes

It may be easier to start with what policies initiated by previous administrations will the Trump Brain Trust reverse or abolish.

Discontinue support for Syrian insurgents. After giving large amounts of financial and technical support (about $500 million annually) for the last six years, the United States has not succeeded in the formation of a pro-US military force that is capable of replacing the Syrian regime. Part of the Trump Pragmatic Approach is accepting the military changes on the grounds that see Russian air and ground forces as crucial to any political settlement in Syria.

The age of the Neo-Cons is ending. President Trump has carefully side stepped those American “pundits” who advised the Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama administrations, and who created a messier situation not only for the native inhabitants of the Middle East, but for the U.S. as well. The president has clearly rejected Neo-Con nominees for major foreign policy positions in his Administration: Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, and Ambassador to the United Nations.

The Policy of divide and ruin may now end. The Neo-Con-originated policy of attacking, ruining, and then leaving one country in the region after another, meanwhile encouraging future division of the targeted country into smaller political units may now be ended. Dividing and ruining Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, to be followed by Iran and perhaps others, will not make the U.S. more secure, will not lessen formation of forces that oppose the U.S., and would certainly demand expenditure of more scarce resources. The president has repeatedly decried the foolish expending of trillions of dollars in wars of choice that have minimal returns.

No more nation-building. The president does not subscribe to the fiction perpetrated by the last five administrations that the U.S. was concerned about turning dictatorships in the Middle East into liberal democratic societies; the U.S. has not fostered one single democracy. The previous practices of regime change will end. Admiration for “strong man rule,” in Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will be the norm.

The Seven Pillars of Trump Policy

1. Primacy of Israel: Statements by presidential candidate Donald Trump and later as president leave no doubt that he is fully committed to not only Israel’s survival but to its dominant position in the Middle East; the president is intent up on supporting any and all actions and policies supported by the current Israeli elite. Future policies toward Israel and its neighbors will be in line with this undoubted support. The U.S. is not interested in appearing “neutral” between Israel and its neighbors. This is a stand fully in agreement with another Trump-stated foreign policy objective: the U.S. stands fully with its “true” friends, the foremost among them being Israel. The U.S. will assist Israel militarily, economically and diplomatically. Non-vetoing a U.N. resolution critical of Israel will not be repeated.

Settling the Israel-Palestine conflict may not be critical to a comprehensive policy in the region, but its “management” will be important to other U.S. objectives. In the long run it matters not whether the two parties opt for a one-state solution, a two-state solution, any other solution, or no solution at all. Such a determination does not limit the U.S. options of occasionally making friendly suggestions. Thus far, the U.S. has hinted at one solution, but has not submitted any. The president announced publicly that he has a really far-reaching proposal that will be submitted on a regional basis. Has he really developed one? The president most likely was briefed on a regional plan that was being discussed by the Obama Administration in 2016. Former Secretary of State John Kerry, in consultation with President Sissi of Egypt and King Abdullah of Jordan, reached an agreement with Prime Minister Netanyahu that included the following points:

A. Settlement of the Israeli-Palestine dispute can best be achieved at the regional level.

B. Settlement will be announced at a summit conference, perhaps in Cairo.

C. The settlement will be based on the two-state solution, with some modifications.

D. Normalization of conditions with other Arab states will follow.

E. The Palestinians will be given greater local authority, but remain within Israel security zone.

F. Palestinian economic development will be encouraged.

G. Further expansion of settlements will be halted.

Kerry received a copy at a private dinner with Netanyahu in a restaurant in Rome on June 26, 2016. Secretary Kerry promised to bring in Saudi Arabia and other “Sunni” states. To obtain greater support within Israel, Netanyahu proposed a national unity government that would include leaders of the Zionist Camp party, specifically Isaac Hertzog and Tsipi Livni. The latter two wanted a copy and a letter affirming Netanyahu’s commitment, for both doubted his intentions; a final draft of the document was given to Hertzog on September 13, 2016, he then proceeded to discuss its contents with Arab diplomats. It did not take long before Netanyahu began to prove Hertzog and Livni right. He began to play for time, as Secretary Kerry told him bluntly, once he realized that Candidate Trump had a chance of winning. By January 2017 he had fully taken back his support for the two-state solution.

The president may keep some of the components of the Netanyahu-Kerry plan, and incorporate them in his vision for a new Middle East. The president has already asked for and obtained temporary suspension of new settlements.

2. Defeating ISIL: Since Donald Trump entered the presidential race he vowed to obliterate ISIL, and heaped much criticism on President Obama for allegedly not taking the war to ISIL, even accusing Obama of being the father of or creator of ISIL. Once elected, Trump directed the Secretary of Defense to submit a plan within thirty days that would lead to ISIL’s defeat. The Pentagon’s plan is now proceeding. ISIL has been losing power and has been degraded for the past year or so; its main external supporters (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey) were losing influence on the Syrian battlefield, as well as in Iraq. Casualties among its ranks were not being replaced once these and European powers decided to withhold replenishing their ranks. ISIL’s revenues from oil and other sources were nearly cut in half. The land under its control has been gradually reduced in size. Iraqi and Syrian forces were doing much better in combating ISIL’s forces.

The U.S. military wanted to carry out an air and ground operation on territory marked by two cities: Raqqa, a Syrian city in the west, and Al-Mosul, an Iraqi city in the east. In the west, the U.S. finds possible allied forces already on the ground; they include Turks, Syrian Kurds, Russians, and Syrian regime forces, all fighting ISIL and some fighting each other. In Mosul, there are Iraqi Kurds, Turks, Shi’a militias, and forces of the Iraqi Government. Deciding the future of the land now occupied by ISIL can prove to be more difficult than dislodging ISIL. For now, the U. S. does not want armed conflict among its allies, and definitely wants to see a U.S.-Russian alliance against ISIL TheTrump Administration must deal first with promises made by the Obama Administration, and they were many and contradictory. The Turks have been assured that Kurdish expansion in Syria will be very limited; the Kurds in Syria believe that territory liberated with their help will be annexed to Iraqi Kurdish areas; the Syrians and Russians are convinced that the U.S. supports the unity and sovereignty of Syria. The Iraq side is equally messy with Kurds wanting to expand their borders, the Shi’a militias wanting a liberated Mosul without Kurds or Sunnis, and Sunni Arabs wanting a home preferably in Mosul. While worried about Turkish troop concentration around the town of Manbij, some eighty-five miles north of Raqqa, the U. S. will rely on about 50,000 Syrian regime and Syrian Kurdish forces in attacking Raqqa. The U.S. has a freer hand in Mosul; it has air and artillery superiority and has a supportive Iraqi government.

It is only a matter of time before the fall of ISIL. Will the Trump administration win the peace to follow?

3. Russia is not our enemy: The president has been consistent during his campaign in treating Vladimir Putin cordially, refraining from calling Russia names, and stating on more than one occasion that he wished to maintain friendly relations with Russia. He welcomed joint U.S.-Russian action against ISIL and other Islamist terror groups. He called for reconsideration of the objectives and tactics of NATO, the most adamant anti-Russian alliance. The European Community, a long-term target of Russian resentment, is made a target for his criticism. Post-election furor over Russia’s influence on the presidential election and the latent anti- Russian Washington suspicions of Russia may force the president to modify his plans for Russia. One signal of this trend may be his nomination of Ambassador Jon Huntsman rather than former Republican Representative Dana Rohrbacher, the first candidate and outspoken critic of NATO.

Shift to China: The Obama decision to shift U.S. attention to the Far East and South Asia, and away from the Middle East, fits in easily with Trump’s world outlook, his attitude towards globalization, rebuilding America’s prestige, and his populist nationalism. The Trump Administration will continue the shift. We can look to East Asia for more U.S. military, economic, and diplomatic actions in the next four years.

4. No war with Iran: Holding the view that Israel must be the uncontested regional power, and listening to Israeli pleadings that the future of the Jewish people in Israel and the world is jeopardized by the oft repeated claims that Iran has every intention of killing off all Israelis, once Iranians acquire the required killing weapons, Trump was long viewed as one who would find a reason to decimate Iran. Everyone knows of his Jewish daughter, and Jewish grandchildren. Benjamin Netanyahu has warned for the last twenty years that Iran will acquire nuclear weapons next year or the year after. The same Netanyahu assembled some of the wealthiest Israeli supporters to back Candidate Trump if he would only attack Iran.

But again, expected and unforeseen factors (The Black Swan effect so familiar to the president’s inner circle) argue against war with Iran, or indeed any major military opponent. First, the American people or a substantial portion of them including the president’s own supporters are not itching for another war in the Middle East (undoubtedly the president can change many minds should he opt to). Second, the American military does not cherish a major extended and bloody war in the Middle East that may perhaps sacrifice a significant percentage of U.S. troops (ten percent or more of the country’s fighting force) when the U.S. cannot afford that loss since it has to plan for possible war with China. War with Iran would bring within range of Iranian missiles large concentrations of U.S. troops in Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar and the UAE. Third, the Obama Administration has shown the advantages of “normalizing” relations with Iran through diplomatic engagement. Fourth, the multi-party agreement on Iran’s nuclear arms effectively took the air out of Israeli drumming for war sails. Finally, there are no longer forces in Washington or London that are calling for occupation of Iranian oil fields as was the case in the early years of Bush 43.

White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaking at CPAC. (Michael Vadon)

A war with Iran will surely expand to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and perhaps Palestine and Saudi Arabia. It may also risk war with Russia. A war on Islam is not what the U.S. needs especially when Russia is now an important regional power. Stephen Bannon’s prediction of one major Trump war in the region may be avoided. The same may not apply to smaller wars, where U.S. casualties can be held to a few thousand. U.S. over-emphasis and reliance on the military to counteract terrorism is bound to engage U.S. forces in Yemen, Somalia, Mauritania or elsewhere. The resignation of General Flynn, another Islam-phobe and war hawk and a paid lobbyist for a Muslim country, reduces the likelihood of war against Islam. Despite earlier rhetoric and ongoing calls for war, the Trump Administration is not likely to wage war against Islam.

5. Pragmatism: Trump is not the Terminator. He is a negotiator.

Carlos Slim

The billionaire has never been known as an ideologue but as a businessman who always wanted to succeed. He is also a television producer to whom public performance and drama are important. Such a man is likely to be careful as he deals with an unstable region of the world. He is likely to choose friends and foes very carefully. President Trump is a realist not a religious or political ideologue.

The Middle East as viewed by the president is not a crucial region for survival of the U.S. or its economy, as it was viewed a few short years ago. The Middle East is not an important source of energy resources; in terms of oil and gas it no longer amounts to much since the U.S. is now self-sufficient or nearly so. President Trump is the first American president since FDR who does not have to worry about Arab sheiks or emirs posing a threat to cheap energy; he is the first president who does not need to repeat President Carter’s worries over waiting lines at gas stations. This reality will force him and his team in directions of which no one can be sure. He may not “grab” Iraqi oil as he stated on his visit to the CIA on January 21 of this year, but he may succeed in taking half of Kurdish oil to defray the cost of defending Kurdish independence. His Secretary of State certainly demonstrated similar Pragmatism when he, as CEO of Exxon, made his oil deal with Iraqi Kurds, ignoring the Obama Administration.

It would be a miracle if President Trump learned the other lessons from the Iraq experience, such as the wisdom of such attacks, or the dos and don’ts of occupation of other lands, or how to deal with conquered people, or with a counter insurgency. For the lessons of Iraq to be analyzed and absorbed takes decades if the Vietnam experience is a guide.

Pragmatism may not give the president many clear-cut options, for example when he realizes that a region he inherited is now and continues to be fragmented along sectarian lines, thanks to actions by recent U.S. administrations and close U.S. allies. The president would take advantage of the Sunni-Shi’a divide, which he did not create but is likely to use.

The president will be very selective in identifying regional “friends.” His economic nationalism and business background will steer him towards countries that could enhance America’s wealth or could be targets for, or sources of investments. The U.S. would have only two friends: Israel and Saudi Arabia, with Israel remaining the number one partner. Secretary of Defense James Mattis may have his way and manage to add the United Arab Emirates; it has been reported that the Secretary looks kindly at the UAE and Jordan.

6. Access to post-oil wealth: The president knows that oil and gas resources have not disappeared from the Middle East although they are dwindling; they are still important for the producing countries, and for many other countries around the world that import oil and gas.

The president will continue to exercise great care in approaching them. But the president is a canny international businessman who greatly understands that several Arab countries are leaders in world finances. He knows that a significant percentage of the U.S. foreign debt, about six trillion dollars, is held by foreign nations led by Japan and China. Saudi Arabia alone holds over one hundred billion dollars of U.S. debt and The Gulf States are a source of investments in the growing U.S. economy.

The Gulf States are making plans to replace their fossil fuels with another lucrative resource: cash.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia aims to become a financial powerhouse; its oil reserves are dwindling, so they better make a decent return.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has been making a pitch to U.S. firms: help us build our investment prestige, and you can run money for us. The PIF is looking for investment opportunities at a large scale. PIF has committed $45 billion to a new technology fund. With the addition of ARAMCO, the Saudi Fund will have more than $160 billion in assets; another $27 billion have been added from official reserves. By 2020 the PIF plans to use half of its assets (not tied up in ARAMCO) making investment abroad. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) manages $792B in sovereign wealth. Kuwait Investment Authority is the fifth largest sovereign fund with assets of over 550 billion dollars.

The Pragmatist President will not ignore these possible investors for long.

7. A Trump Gran Design: President Trump and his foreign policy team have already told us much about their vision for the Middle East, although they are still working to make a comprehensive and consistent approach. U.S. foreign policy generally remains pretty constant even when new parties take over. Important changes may take place; it remains to be seen how much will actually change in U.S. policy towards the Middle East due to Trump’s assumption of power.

Plans by the Bush 43 Administration to recreate the Middle East in a new image (their grand design for a new Middle East) has not succeeded. The Trump Administration will try its hand, and come up with a catchy title for a reshuffled Middle East. America’s greatness will appear in yet another scheme for the region. The president will not be able to resist the power to draw new maps of the region, as several European and some Americans have tried.

The New Trump Middle East will be a three-tiered panorama.

The U.S. Orbit

Israel has advocated a new alignment to be headed by itself and Saudi Arabia, the Sunni Alliance, or the pro-West, pro-American block. Its membership will be limited to states that wish to “normalize” relations with Israel despite the formal state of war that exists with that country, and who consider Iran to be a greater threat. If one adds ample financial resources that is a requirement for friendship future membership will be easily limited to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, and Qatar. Ultimately Israel would like to see these Arab countries as a market for Israeli goods, and a source of investment in Israeli firms, all connected with a network of railways.

Two other Sunni countries would be included if security conditions with Israel allow: Jordan and Egypt. Both are in serious financial conditions and will need to be assured of Saudi sponsorship. The block needs Jordan for geographic connection with the Gulf; it needs Egypt for numbers of consumers and fighting capacity. Oman is to be excluded since its practices in foreign policy fall closer to the U.K. and would better be a part of the European orbit.

Russian Orbit

Sunni/Shi’a division, the Syria experience, and Russia’s changing role in the region have created a block of nations led by Russia that includes: Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Thousands of Iranians have fought and died in Syria; thousands more will continue to cooperate with Iraqi government forces, and with Shi’a militias. If the U.S. and Saudi Arabia control eastern Syria after defeat of ISIL the region will see substantial bloodshed. U.S. and Saudi effort to disrupt Iran-Iraq-Syria movement of goods and personnel will require placement of troops in eastern Syria for many years. Chances of violent confrontation will be daily events.

Russia will continue to be the sole arms supplier to its partners. Iran, much like Syria, will offer Russia harbors and air bases. Iraq’s control by Iraqi Shi’a will assure its membership in the group, regardless of agreements between Iraq and the U.S. the rate at which Iraq joins will depend on how U.S. relations proceed with Iraqi Kurds and naturally with Turkey.

European Orbit

The president has often spoken of the need to give NATO some meaningful role if it is to no longer be the main anti-Russian alliance. Given the president’s demonstrated preference for white Europeans, his loud support for European efforts to stem North African migration, and his calls for Europeans to share the cost of their defense, it is likely that he will ask European powers to “police” North Africa. He and his team are likely to see the colonial experience of European powers as added qualifications for new control of the region, perhaps under the excuse of fighting “terrorism.” The future of Libya can be left to the French or Italians; France had decades of experience in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania. The French Government will welcome a resurrected French dominion; it may even do more should Marie Le Pen become the next president. None would remember that France, Italy and the U.K. were failures at controlling the native folks.

To be determined

Nothing in this presentation should imply that the Trump Team has a detailed plan for the Middle East because they do not. Once they begin to address the region’s problems they will find out just how complex they are.

One of the most complex will be relations with Turkey, a country with regional interests, membership in NATO, and a neighbor of Russia. High on Turkey’s interests is the future of the Kurdish separatist movement within Turkey, and in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. has since at least 1991 supported Kurdish separatism and independence. If the U.S. continues to support Kurdish independence, urged by its friends Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Turkish Government will look kindly at steps to improve relations with Russia.

The second country where policy decisions are needed will be Yemen. The Trump Administration can continue the unrealistic assumption that this land is dangerous because of the presence of a handful of al-Qaeda supporters, and come to a realistic decision about a country with ineffective leadership threatened by attack from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and a significant minority and uprising from its Shi’a population. Supporting Saudi Arabia/UAE will continue to bring charges of supporting aggression; reaching an accommodation internally may strengthen Iranian hand. Question: can the Trump Administration live with another aggression by one of its best friends?

Somalia has had no working government for over twenty years despite various U.S. experiments; a U.S. citizen leads the last government as its president. Mass killings have dominated the scene. The U.S. has not allowed any group that has support of Somalis to control the government. It is not likely that this policy will change.

Finally, the Trump policymakers are being told that he need not pay attention to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since there are more important issues: ISIL, Sunni-Shi’a conflict; Syria’s reconciliation; the future of the Kurds, or any of other current issues. The president will lose control of the Middle East if he buys into such diversions. President Trump cannot and should not stop considering this conflict as the prime issue in the region.