Assessing Obama’s Mosque Speech on Islam

1350By Daniel Pipes
Special to IPT News
February 8, 2016

Wishing to address growing anti-Islamic sentiments among the American public, Barack Obama ventured on Feb. 3 to the Islamic Society of Baltimore (sadly, a mosque with unsavory Islamist associations) to talk about Islam and Muslims. The 5,000-word speech contains much of interest. Here’s an in-depth assessment of its key points:

OBAMA: a lot of Americans have never visited a mosque. To the folks watching this today who haven’t — think of your own church, or synagogue, or temple, and a mosque like this will be very familiar. This is where families come to worship and express their love for God and each other. There’s a school where teachers open young minds. Kids play baseball and football and basketball — boys and girls — I hear they’re pretty good. Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts meet, recite the Pledge of Allegiance here.

PIPES: All true, but what about the dark side, the unique and repeated role of mosques in parlaying totalitarian ideas and fomenting violence? That goes unsaid in the president’s rose-colored presentation.

as Muslim Americans, you [worry that] your entire community so often is targeted or blamed for the violent acts of the very few.

Obama makes Muslims sound like innocent bystanders when there’s a perfectly reasonable fear of them due to (1) so much violence emanating from this 1 percent of the U.S. population and (2) non-violent Muslims showing sympathy for the violent ones.

The Muslim American community remains relatively small—several million people in this country.

This is a coy way for Obama to walk back his exaggerated 7 million figure of 2009 without explicitly saying so.

recently, we’ve heard inexcusable political rhetoric against Muslim Americans that has no place in our country.

A veiled critique of Donald Trump that Trump deserves.

No surprise, then, that threats and harassment of Muslim Americans have surged.

That’s ridiculous. In so far as there has been a surge of threats and harassment – and this is open to doubt given the disreputable nature of the reporting – this is due to Muslim violence. Reasonably, non-Muslims worry that a co-worker will behead them or attack them at a party, that they’ll be bombed attending a sporting event, or rammed into by planes when working at their offices. To blame non-Muslims for this commonsensical, life-preserving fear is to confuse symptom with cause.

For more than a thousand years, people have been drawn to Islam’s message of peace.

Some converts, to be sure, have been attracted to the peaceable side of Islam but many others have seen it as a militant force and converting as joining a winning team. Look at the Western converts who have gone to ISIS as one subset of these. Again, Obama just focuses on the cheery dimension and ignores the unpleasant one.

the very word itself, Islam, comes from salam — peace.

How can a person in a position of responsibility say something so patently wrong? Islam means submission, and does not derive from peace. As I explained in 2005, “There is no connection in meaning between salām and islām, peace and submission. These are two distinct words with unrelated meetings.” Shame on Obama.

For Christians like myself …

Standing in a mosque, Obama presumably feels a need to remind his audience that he’s not a Muslim. He would be more convincing if he could get his autobiography straight. For example, he sometimes declares he has “always been a Christian” and at other times that he “didn’t become a Christian” until after college. It would also help if he could date this important milestone rather than offer, in the view of Jason Kissner, an associate professor of criminology at California State University, Fresno, there are “two completely contradictory accounts” regarding its time frame.

Muslim Americans keep us safe. They’re our police and our firefighters. They’re in homeland security, in our intelligence community. They serve honorably in our armed forces.

Again true, but again not mentioning the other side – the persistent penetration of American security and military services by Islamist enemies.

it is undeniable that a small fraction of Muslims propagate a perverted interpretation of Islam.

Here we go again, Imam Obama declaiming on what the proper and the perverted interpretation of Islam are. He’s done this before, as have many other non-Muslim leaders, including prior U.S. presidents. It’s silly and embarrassing.

right now, there is a organized extremist element that draws selectively from Islamic texts, twists them in an attempt to justify their killing and their terror.

It would be more accurate to replace this with “right now, there is a organized extremist element that draws on medieval Islamic texts and interprets them in medieval ways to justify their killing and their terror.”

Part of what’s happened in the Middle East and North Africa and other places where we see sectarian violence is religion being a tool for another agenda — for power, for control.

This is typical left-wing materialism, which sees religion as a vehicle for something else, usually connected with economic benefit. No, the Islamists are true believers who engage in violence to pursue their vision, not for power as an end in itself, as Obama insists.

Thomas Jefferson’s opponents tried to stir things up by suggesting he was a Muslim – so I was not the first. No, it’s true, it’s true. Look it up. I’m in good company.

I did look it up – in Jefferson’s Religion, a 2007 book by Stephen J. Vicchio, and found no evidence that Jefferson was called a Muslim. His opponents called him names such as “French infidel,” “confirmed infidel,” “howling atheist,” and “fanatic,” but never “Mahometan.”

just as faith leaders, including Muslims, must speak out when Christians are persecuted around the world – or when anti-Semitism is on the rise – because the fact is, is that there are Christians who are targeted now in the Middle East, despite having been there for centuries, and there are Jews who’ve lived in places like France for centuries who now feel obliged to leave because they feel themselves under assault — sometimes by Muslims.

It’s not a complete or coherent sentence but it does correctly demand that Muslims speak out against religious persecution and it does note that Jews in Europe are “sometimes” (really, nearly always) attacked by Muslims. It’s a relief to see the dark side peek through for an instant.

the suggestion is somehow that if I would simply say, these are all “Islamic terrorists,” then we would actually have solved the problem by now, apparently. (Laughter.)

This is a cheap laugh line. No one thinks the problem of Islamist violence would be solved by Obama using the right wording; many, including me, however, say that he can’t properly address the problem unless he accurately identifies it.

Groups like ISIL are desperate for legitimacy. They try to portray themselves as religious leaders and holy warriors who speak for Islam. I refuse to give them legitimacy.

In fact, ISIL (or ISIS, Islamic State, Daesh) could not care less what Obama or other non-Muslims think of it. It cares only about the views of Sunni Muslims. So, Obama can deny it legitimacy all he wants; ISIS won’t notice or care.

the notion that America is at war with Islam ignores the fact that the world’s religions are a part of who we are. We can’t be at war with any other religion because the world’s religions are a part of the very fabric of the United States, our national character.

By this infantile logic, Hitler could not have been at war with Judaism because Jews were part of the very fabric of Germany.

the best way for us to fight terrorism is to deny these organizations legitimacy and to show that here in the United States of America, we do not suppress Islam; we celebrate and lift up the success of Muslim Americans.

No, the best way to fight Muslim violence is by (1) getting out of the way of law enforcement and others on the front line and (2) helping anti-Islamist Muslims find their voice.

we can’t suggest that Islam itself is at the root of the problem. That betrays our values. It alienates Muslim Americans. It’s hurtful to those kids who are trying to go to school and are members of the Boy Scouts, and are thinking about joining our military.

This nicely summarizes the Establishment mentality that one must not publicly connect Islam to violence; just whisper this behind closed doors.

Muslims around the world have a responsibility to reject extremist ideologies that are trying to penetrate within Muslim communities. Here at this mosque, and across our country and around the world, Muslim leaders are roundly and repeatedly and consistently condemning terrorism.

The equation of “reject[ing] extremist ideologies” and “condemning terrorism” reveals Obama’s facile understanding of the Islamist challenge, reducing it merely to wanton political violence. Stop that violence and the problem is solved. Hardly; for lawful Islamism poses a deeper threat than some bomb-totting fanatics.

this is not a clash of civilizations between the West and Islam. This is a struggle between the peace-loving, overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world and a radical, tiny minority. And ultimately, I’m confident that the overwhelming majority will win that battle. Muslims will decide the future of your faith. And I’m confident in the direction that it will go.

I would phrase it quite differently but I endorse these sentiments.

If you’re ever wondering whether you fit in here, let me say it as clearly as I can, as President of the United States: You fit in here – right here. You’re right where you belong. You’re part of America, too. You’re not Muslim or American. You’re Muslim and American.

I endorse this as well.

We are blessed to live in a nation where even if we sometimes stumble, even if we sometimes fall short, we never stop striving for our ideals. We keep moving closer to that more perfect union. We’re a country where, if you work hard and if you play by the rules, you can ultimately make it, no matter who you are or how you pray. It may not always start off even in the race, but here, more than any place else, there’s the opportunity to run that race. …

After more than 200 years, our blended heritage, the patchwork quilt which is America, that is not a weakness, that is one of our greatest strengths. It’s what makes us a beacon to the world.

These are unusually patriotic and warm words for the United States from a leftist who rarely has much good to say about his own country. Good to hear them.

In all, this speech gets much more wrong than it gets right, from factual mistakes to evasions to distortions. It does get a few points right, especially toward the end, but as a whole, it’s a typically shoddy Obama production.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2016 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

***

Frank Gaffney discusses the President’s rhetoric while visiting a Jihadist mosque in America on Tipping Point with Liz Wheeler:

Also see:

The Danger of Partial No-go Zones to Europe

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
December 29, 2015

Partial no-go zones in majority-Muslim areas are a part of the urban landscape from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, with the French government alone counting 751 of them. This shirking of responsibility foreshadows catastrophe and calls for immediate reversal.

I call the bad parts of Europe’s cities partial no-go zones because ordinary people in ordinary clothing at ordinary times can enter and leave them without trouble. But they are no-go zones in the sense that representatives of the state – police especially but also firefighters, meter-readers, ambulance attendants, and social workers – can only enter with massed power for temporary periods of time. If they disobey this basic rule (as I learned first-hand in Marseille), they are likely to be swarmed, insulted, threatened, and even attacked.

 

Illustration on European “no-go” Muslim-dominated zones by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times.

This situation needs not exist. Host societies can say no to the poor, crime-ridden, violent, and rebellious areas emerging in their midst. But, if governments need not abdicate control, why do they do so? Because of a fervent, slightly desperate hope to avoid confrontation. Multicultural policies offer the illusion of sidestepping anything that might be construed as “racist” or “Islamophobic.”

This abandonment is no minor aberration but a decision with grave consequences – consequences far deeper than, say, not controlling a crime-ridden American city like East St. Louis. That’s because Muslim quasi-no-go zones fit into a far larger political context, with dual Western and Islamic dimensions.

If the deadly triad of imperialism, fascism, and racism represent all that the West has to offer, no wonder immigrants to Europe, including Islamists, are treated as superior beings due supine deference. They exploit this by acting badly – drug dealers ruling the roost, a gang raping 1,400 children over a period of 16 years, and promoting violent ideologies – with near-impunity because, after all, the Europeans have only themselves to blame.

tyranny of guiltWestern: Avoiding confrontation reflects a deep-seated ambivalence about the value of one’s own civilization and even self-hatred of the white race. The French intellectual Pascal Bruckner noted in his 2006 book La tyrannie de la pénitence (English: The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism) that leftist thinking “can be reduced to mechanical denunciations of the West, emphasizing the latter’s hypocrisy, violence, and abomination.” Europeans preen as “the sick man of the planet” whose greed and false notions of superiority causes every problem in the non-Western world: “The white man has sown grief and ruin wherever he has gone.”

Muslim: Partial no-go zones also result from an Islamic drive for exclusion and domination. Mecca and Medina constitute the official, sovereign, and eternal Muslim-only zones. For nearly fourteen centuries, these two Arabian cities have been formally off-limits to kafirs, who trespass at their peril; a lively literature of non-Muslims who penetrated their holy precincts and lived to tell the tale goes back centuries and continues still today.

Other Islamic no-go zones also exist. Before losing power in 1887, the Muslim rulers of Harar, Somalia, for centuries insisted (in the words of a British officer) on the “the exclusion of all travellers not of the Moslem faith.” In like spirit, women in hijabs scream at non-Muslim visitors to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to make them feel unwelcome and so stay away. In the West, lawful Muslim-only enclaves represent one drive for Muslim autonomy and sovereignty; the Muslims of America organization, with its 15 or so no-go compounds bristling with arms and hostility on private property dotted around the United States, represents another.

 

A sign prohibiting non-Muslims from entering Mecca.

Unlike places like East St. Louis, Muslim-majority partial no-go zones have a deeply political and highly ambitious quality to them. Indeed, it is not far-fetched to foresee them turning into Muslim autonomous zones applying Islamic law and challenging the authorities. The mix of feeble European governments and a strong Islamic drive for power points to future unrest, crises, breakdown, and even civil war.

Some believe it is already too late to avoid this fate. I disagree, but if catastrophe is to be avoided, the job to dismantle all partial no-go zones must be started soon and executed with a swift determination based on a renewed sense of self-worth. Two universal principles should guide European governments: attaining a monopoly of force and applying the same code of law to all citizens.

Domestic peace in Europe and perhaps other regions, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States, demands nothing less.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Dec. 29, 2015 addendum: This analysis builds on my first-hand reporting published as “Muslim ‘No-go Zones’ in Europe?” in the Daily Caller on Dec. 2, 2015.

Why the Paris Massacre Will Have Limited Impact

by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
November 14, 2015

The murder of some 127 innocents in Paris by a jihadi gang on Friday has again shocked the French and led to another round of solidarity, soul searching, and anger. In the end, however, Islamist violence against Westerners boils down to two questions: How much will this latest atrocity turn public opinion? And how much will it further spur the Establishment to deny reality?

As these questions suggest, the people and the professionals are moving in opposite directions, the former to the right, the latter to the left. In the end, this clash much reduces the impact of such events on policy.

Public opinion moves against Islamists specifically and Islam more generally when the number of deaths are large enough. America’s three thousand dead on 9/11 stands out as by far the largest mortality but many other countries have had their equivalent – the Bali bombings for Australia, the railroad bombing for Spain, the Beslan school massacre for Russia, the transportation bombings for Britain.

Sheer numbers are not the only consideration. Other factors can multiply the impact of an assault, making it almost the political equivalent of mass carnage: (1) The renown of those attacked, such as Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands and the Charlie Hebdo office in France. (2) The professional status of the victim, such as soldiers or police. (3) High-profile circumstances, such as the Boston Marathon bombing.

3300In addition to the over 27,000 attacks globally connected to Islam since 9/11, or more than 5 per day (as counted by TheReligionOfPeace.com), a huge increase in illegal immigration from the Middle East recently exacerbated feelings of vulnerability and fear. It’s a one-way street, with not a single soul ever heard to announce, “I used to worry about Islamism but I don’t any more.”

These cases make more Westerners worried about Islam and related topics from the building of minarets to female infibulation. Overall, a relentless march rightwards is underway. Surveys of European attitudes show 60 to 70 percent of voters expressing these concerns. Populist individuals like Geert Wilders of the Netherlands and parties like the Sweden Democrats are surging in the polls.

But when it comes to the Establishment – politicians, the police, the press, and the professors – the unrelenting violence has a contrary effect. Those charged with interpreting the attacks live in a bubble of public denial (what they say privately is another matter) in which they feel compelled to pretend that Islam has no role in the violence, out of concern that to recognize it would cause even more problems.

These 4-P professionals bald-facedly feign belief in a mysterious “violent extremist” virus that seems to afflict only Muslims, prompting them to engage in random acts of barbaric violence. Of the many preposterous statements by politicians, my all-time favorite is what Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, said about the Charlie Hebdo jihadis: “They’re about as Muslim as I am.”

This defiance of common sense has survived each atrocity and I predict that it will also outlast the Paris massacre. Only a truly massive loss of life, perhaps in the hundreds of thousands, will force the professionals to back off their deeply ingrained pattern of denying an Islamic component in the spate of attacks.

That pattern has the very consequential effect of shutting out the fears of ordinary voters, whose views thereby have negligible impact on policy. Worries about Shari’a, rape gangs, exotic diseases, and bloodbaths are dismissed with charges of “racism” and “Islamophobia,” as though name-calling addresses these real issues.

More surprising yet, the professionals respond to the public’s move to the right by themselves moving to the left, encouraging more immigration from the Middle East, instituting more “hate speech” codes to suppress criticism of Islam, and providing more patronage to Islamists. This pattern affects not just Establishment figures of the Left but more strikingly also of the Right (such as Angela Merkel of Germany); only Eastern European leaders such as Hungary’s Viktor Orbán permit themselves to speak honestly about the real problems.

Viktor Orbán's Hungary may not last long in the EU. Or maybe he is the group's future leader?

Viktor Orbán’s Hungary may not last long in the EU. Or maybe he is the group’s future leader?

Placing the murderous rampage in Paris into this context: it will likely move public sentiments substantially in one direction and Establishment policies in quite the opposite way, therefore ultimately having only a limited impact.Eventually, to be sure, voters’ views will make themselves heard, but decades later and more weakly than democratically should have been the case.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum.

Turkey Is on the Path to Rogue Dictatorship

by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
October 26, 2015

Should President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party not win a majority of seats in the Nov. 1 vote, the mainstream media hold that his power will diminish. The headline of a much-circulated Reutersanalysis sums up this view: “Erdoğan seen with little choice but to share power after Turkish vote.”Agence France-Presse predicts that winning less than half the seats “would again force [the AKP] to share power or call yet another election.” Almost identically, Middle East Online sees this situation forcing the AKP “to share power or organise yet another election.” And so on, almost invariably including the words “share power.”

The Supreme Election Board (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu) oversees voting in Turkey; will it be forced to rig the election on Nov. 1?

The Supreme Election Board (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu) oversees voting in Turkey; will it be forced to rig the election on Nov. 1?

But what if Erdoğan chooses not to share power? He then has two options. If the results are close, election fraud is a distinct possibility; reports suggest sophisticated software (think Volkswagen) to skew the results.

If the results are not close, Erdoğan can sideline the parliament, the prime minister, the other ministers, and the whole damn government. This sidelining option, which the press ignores as a possibility, follows directly from Erdoğan’s past actions. Since he left the prime ministry in August 2014 to become Turkey’s president, he has diminished his old office, depriving it of nearly all authority. He turned it over to a professorial foreign-policy theorist with no political base, Ahmet Davutoğlu, and controls him so tightly that Davutoğlu cannot even decide on his own aides(who also double as Erdoğan’s informants).

At the same time, Erdoğan built himself a 1,005-room presidential palace housing a staff of 2,700 which constitutes a bureaucracy that potentially can take over the other ministries of state, leaving a seemingly unchanged government in place that behinds the scenes follows orders from the palace.

Erdogan and Davutoglu

Erdoğan will surely sideline parliament as well; not by turning it into a grotesque North Korea-style rubber-stamp assembly but into an Egypt- or Iran-style body consumed with secondary matters (school examinations, new highways) while paying close heed to wishes of the Big Boss.

Then, to complete his takeover, he will deploy his many tools of influence to control the judiciary, the media, corporations, the academy, and the arts. He will also shut down private dissent, especially on social media, as suggested by the many lawsuits he and his cronies have initiated against ordinary citizens who dare criticize him.

At this point, the Hugo Chávez/Vladimir Putin of Turkey, the one who compared democracy to a trolley (“You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off”) will truly have arrived at his destination. As a reward, he may even declare himself the caliph of all Muslims.

Chavez abd Putin

Returning to the present: The number of AKP seats in parliament hardly matters because Erdoğan will do what it takes, legally or illegally, to become the new sultan. He will not have to “share power,” but will seize more power by hook (sidelining parliament) or crook (electoral fraud). Foreign capitals need to prepare for the unpleasant likelihood of a rogue dictatorship in Turkey.


Oct. 26, 2015 update: Kadri Gürsel explores various possibilities should the AKP not win a majority of the votes, including Erdoğan forcing a third round of voting. But he does not raise the sidelining of parliament as one of the president’s choices.

Also see:

Erdoğan Leads Turkey to the Precipice

by Daniel Pipes
Australian
October 17, 2015

[N.B.: The Australian‘s title is “Would-be dictator Erdogan leading Turkey to the precipice” and its version uses Australian spelling]

The Republic of Turkey is undergoing possibly its greatest crisis since the founding of the state nearly a century ago. Present trends suggest worse to come as a long-time Western ally evolves into a hostile dictatorship.

The crisis results primarily from the ambitions of one very capable and sinister individual, Turkey’s 61-year old president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A career politician who previously served four years as the mayor of Turkey’s megacity, Istanbul, and then eleven years as the country’s prime minister, he forwards two goals hitherto unknown in the republic: dictatorship and full application of the Shari’a, Islam’s law code.

During his first eight years of power, 2003-11, Erdoğan ruled with such finesse that one could only suspect these two aspirations; proof remained elusive. This author, for example, wrote an article in 2005 that weighed the contradictory evidence for and against Erdoğan being an Islamist. A combination of playing by the rules, caution in the Islamic arena, and economic success won Erdoğan’s party, Justice and Development (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), increasing percentages of the vote in parliamentary elections, going from 34 percent in 2002, to 46 percent in 2007, to 50 percent in 2011.

That 2011 election victory, his third in succession, gave Erdoğan the confidence finally to remove the armed forces from politics, where they had long served as Turkey’s ultimate power broker. Ironically, this change ended the increasing democratization of prior decades for his fully taking charge allowed Erdoğan to develop an oversized ego, to bare his fangs, flex his despotic muscles, and openly seek his twin objectives of tyranny and Shari’a.

Indeed, Erdoğan made his power felt in every domain after 2011. Banks provided loans to the businessmen who kicked back funds to the AKP. Hostile media found themselves subject to vast fines or physical assault. Ordinary citizens who criticized the leader found themselves facing lawsuits, fines, and jail. Politicians in competing parties faced dirty tricks. Like a latter-day sultan, Erdoğan openly flouted the law and intervened at will when and where he wished, inserting himself into legal proceedings, meddling in local decisions, and interfering with police investigations. For example, he responded to compelling raw evidence of his own and his family’s corruption by simply closing down the inquiry.

3284

The Islamic order also took shape. School instruction became more Islamic even as Islamic schools proliferated, with the number of students in the latter jumping from 60,000 to 1,600,000, a 27-fold increase. Erdoğan instructed women to stay home and breed, demanding three children apiece from them. Burqas proliferated and hijabs became legal headgear in government buildings. Alcohol became harder to find and higher priced. More broadly, Erdoğan harked back to the piety of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), eroded the secular republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Atatürk, and positioned himself as the anti-Atatürk.

Erdoğan also faced some serious problems after 2011. The China-like economic growth slowed down and debt spiraled upwards. A disastrously inept Syria policy contributed to the rise of the Islamic State, the emergence of a hostile Kurdish autonomous area, and millions of unwelcome refugees flooding into Turkey. Foreign relations soured with nearly the entire neighborhood: Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Athens, the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus, and even (Turkish) northern Cyprus. Ties also went south with Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. Good relations were limited to Doha, Kuala Lumpur, and – until recently, as shown by the many indications of Turkish state support for the Islamic State – Raqqa.

Erdoğan has pugnaciously responded to this predicament by stating, “I do not mind isolation in the world” and even to suggest that other leaders were “jealous” of him. But he fools no one. The old AKP slogan of “Zero problems with neighbors” has dangerously turned into “Only problems with neighbors.”

If Erdoğan’s base loves his strongman qualities and stands by him, his aggressive actions and policy failures cost him support, as major blocs of voters rejected him, especially Kurds (an ethnic minority), Alevis (a religious community spun off from Islam), and seculars. The AKP’s vote dropped accordingly from 50 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in the June 2015 elections, a reduction that meant its losing a long-standing majority in parliament and the numbers to govern on its own.

The poor showing in June 2015 blocked Erdoğan from legitimately gaining his dream powers as executive president. But being the politician who stated long ago, when mayor of Istanbul, that democracy is like a trolley, “You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off,” he predictably did not let something as petty as election results get in his way. Instead, he immediately began scheming to get around them.

He opted for a pair of tactics: First, he rejected power sharing with other parties and called another election for Nov. 1; in effect, he offered Turks another chance to vote as he wanted them to. Second, after years of negotiating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê‎, or PKK), Turkey’s leading Kurdish violent insurgent group, he renewed war on it. In doing so, he hoped to win over supporters of the anti-Kurd ethnic Turkish nationalist party, Nationalist Action (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, or MHP).

These tactics appear to be futile; polls show the AKP losing as many Kurds as it gains Turkish nationalists, and so likely to fare in November about the same as it did in June. But the tactics are highly consequential, tearing apart the body politic, creating tensions and prompting violence. The current round began in July with the bombing of peace marchers leaving 33 dead, followed by PKK retaliation against representatives of the state, a Kurdish town placed under siege, and twin bombings in the capital Ankara (widely considered ultimately attributable to Erdoğan) which killed 105 peaceful protestors. And yet two weeks remain before voting day …

Polls of Turkish voters since the June 7, 2015 elections.

In other words, Erdoğan’s obsession to win a parliamentary majority is doing fundamental damage to the country, damage that takes it to the precipice of civil war.

What makes the situation slightly absurd is that, whatever the results of the Nov. 1 election, Erdoğan will doggedly continue his campaign to become dictator. If he cannot do so legitimately, he will do so illegitimately. Repeating what I wrote just before the June election, “how many seats the AKP wins hardly matters. Erdoğan will barrel, bulldoze, and steamroll his way ahead, ignoring traditional and legal niceties with or without changes to the constitution. Sure, having fully legitimate powers would add a pretty bauble to his résumé, but he’s already the tyrant and Turkey’s course is set.”

Assuming the AKP does not win the votes necessary to make Erdoğan a legal strongman, how might he manage this illegally? The past year, since he became president, offers a hint: Erdoğan has bleached the once-powerful prime minister’s office of its authority. In all likelihood, he will extend this process to the rest of the Turkish government by setting up an alternative bureaucracy in his huge, new presidential palace, with operatives there controlling the ministries of state. An apparently unchanged formalistic structure will take orders from the palace autocrats.

Likewise, the parliament will remain untouched in appearance but voided of true decision making. Civil society will also find itself under palatial control as, exploiting his financial and legal levers, Erdoğan shuts down publicly dissenting voices in the judiciary, the media, the academy, and the arts. In all likelihood, private dissent will next be proscribed, leaving Padishah Recep I master of all he surveys.

What will he do with this authority? In part, he will exult in it, in the unbridled range of his ego and his writ. Beyond that, he will use this might to advance his Islamist agenda by harking back to the Ottoman imperial legacy, further undoing the Atatürk revolution, and imposing Sunni Islamic laws and customs. Just as autocracy came to Turkey in tranches, so will Shari’a be implemented piecemeal over time. The processes already underway – Islamic content in schools, women urged to stay home, alcohol disappearing – will continue and accelerate.

Assuming that Erdoğan’s mystery diseases stay under control, this Islamist idyll contains just one flaw: foreign relations, the most likely cause of its demise. Unlike a fellow dictator like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who had the good fortune to rule in the placid confines of South America, Erdoğan is surrounded by the world’s most crisis-ridden region. His domestic success increases the chances of an ego-driven blunder that diminishes or ends his rule. Tense relations with Iran and Russia over the fighting in Syria offer one temptation, as the seemingly purposeful Russian penetrations of Turkish airspace highlight; or with Israel over Jerusalem or Gaza; or with Cyprus over the newly discovered gas fields.

(With this prospect presumably in mind, Erdoğan’s son Bilal recently relocated to Bologna, Italy, supposedly to work on a Ph.D. thesis; a whistleblower plausibly claims Bilal from there will manage the family’s vast fortune.)

Refep ans son Bilal

When the Erdoğan era expires, the country will be much more divided than when it began in March 2003 between Turk and Kurd, Sunni and Alevi, pious and secular Sunnis, and rich and poor. It will contain millions of difficult to assimilate Syrian refugees and Kurdish areas declared independent of the state. It will be isolated internationally. It will contain a hollowed-out government structure. It will have lost the tradition of legal impartiality.

Erdoğan’s larger accomplishment will have been to reverse Atatürk’s Westernizing policies. Whereas Atatürk and several generations of leaders wanted Turkey to be in Europe, Erdoğan brought it thunderingly back to the Middle East and to the tyranny, corruption, female subjugation, and other hallmarks of a region in crisis. As Turks struggle over the years to undo this damage, they will have ample opportunity to ponder the many evils bequeathed them by Erdoğan.

Also see:

Middle East Provocations and Predictions

by Daniel Pipes
Mackenzie Institute
September 9, 2015

The Middle East stands out as the world’s most volatile, combustible, and troubled region; not coincidentally, it also inspires the most intense policy debates – think of the Arab-Israeli conflict or the Iran deal. The following tour d’horizon offers interpretations and speculations on Iran, ISIS, Syria-Iraq, the Kurds, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel, Islamism, then concludes with some thoughts on policy choices. My one-sentence conclusion: some good news lies under the onslaught of misunderstandings, mistakes, and misery.

Iran

Iran is Topic No. 1 these days, especially since the nuclear deal the six great powers reached with its rulers in Vienna on July 14. The “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” seeks to bring Tehran in from the cold, ending decades of hostility and inducing Iran to become a more normal state. In itself, this is an entirely worthy endeavor.

The problem lies in the execution, which has been execrable, rewarding an aggressive government with legitimacy and additional funding, not requiring serious safeguards on its nuclear arms program, and permitting that program in about a decade. The annals of diplomacy have never witnessed a comparable capitulation by great powers to an isolated, weak state.

The Iranian leadership has an apocalyptic mindset and preoccupation with the end of days that does not apply to the North Koreans, Stalin, Mao, the Pakistanis or anyone else. Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i et al. have reason to use these weapons for reasons outside of the normal military concerns – to bring on the end of the world. This makes it especially urgent to stop them.

Ali Khamene'i (r) is often placed along side Ayatollah Khomeini in Iranian iconography.

Ali Khamene’i (r) is often placed along side Ayatollah Khomeini in Iranian iconography.

Economic sanctions, however, amount to a sideshow, even a distraction. The Iranian government compares to the North Korean in its absolute devotion to building these weapons and its readiness to do whatever it takes, whether mass starvation or some other calamity, to achieve them. Therefore, no matter how severely applied, the sanctions only make life more difficult for the Iranian leadership without actually stopping the nuclear buildup.

The only way to stop the buildup is through the use of force. I hope the Israeli government – the only one left that might take action – will undertake this dangerous and thankless job. It can do so through aerial bombardment, special operations, or nuclear weapons, with option #2 both the most attractive and the most difficult.

If the Israelis do not stop the bomb, a nuclear device in the hands of the mullahs will have terrifying consequences for the Middle East and beyond, including North America, where a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack must be considered possible.

To the contrary, if the Iranians do not deploy their new weapons, it is just possible that the increased contact with the outside world and the disruption caused by inconsistent Western policies will work to undermine the regime.

ISIS

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS, ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) is the topic that consumes the most attention other than Iran. I agree with Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, that Iran is a thousand times more dangerous than ISIS. But ISIS is also a thousand times more interesting. Plus, the Obama administration finds it a useful bogeyman to justify working with Tehran.

Emerging out of almost nowhere, the group has taken Islamic nostalgia to an unimagined extreme. The Saudis, the ayatollahs, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Shabaab each imposed its version of a medieval order. But ISIS went further, replicating as best it can a seventh-century Islamic environment, down to such specifics as public beheading and enslavement.

This effort has provoked two opposite responses among Muslims. One is favorable, as manifested by Muslims coming from Tunisia and the West, attracted moth-like to an incandescently pure vision of Islam. The other, more important, response is negative. The great majority of Muslims, not to speak of non-Muslims, are alienated by the violent and flamboyant ISIS phenomenon. In the long term, ISIS will harm the Islamist movement (the one aspiring to apply Islamic law in its entirety) and even Islam itself, as Muslims in large numbers abominate ISIS.

One thing about ISIS will likely last, however: the notion of the caliphate. The last caliph who actually gave orders ruled in the 940s. That’s the 940s, not the 1940s, over a thousand years ago. The reappearance of an executive caliph after centuries of figurehead caliphs has prompted considerable excitement among Islamists. In Western terms, it’s like someone reviving the Roman Empire with a piece of territory in Europe; that would get everybody’s attention. I predict the caliphate will have a lasting and negative impact.

Syria, Iraq, and the Kurds

In certain circles, Syria and Iraq have come to be known as Suraqiya, joining their names together as the border has collapsed and they have each simultaneously been divided into three main regions: a Shiite-oriented central government, a Sunni Arab rebellion, and a Kurdish part that wants out.

This is a positive development; there’s nothing sacred about the British-French Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916 which created these two polities. Quite the contrary, that accord has proven an abject failure; conjure up the names of Hafez al-Assad and Saddam Hussein to remember why. These miserable states exist for the benefit of their monstrous leaders who proceed to murder their own subjects. So, let them fracture into threes, improving matters for the locals and the outside world.

As Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis fight Iranian-backed Shi’i jihadis in Suraqiya, the West should stand back from the fighting. Neither side deserves support; this is not our fight. Indeed, these two evil forces at each others’ throats means they have less opportunity to aggress on the rest of the world. If we do wish to help, it should be directed first to the many victims of the civil war; if we want to be strategic, help the losing side (so neither side wins).

As for the massive flow of refugees from Syria: Western governments should not take in large numbers but instead pressure Saudi Arabia and other rich Middle Eastern states to offer sanctuary. Why should the Saudis be exempt from the refugee flow, especially when their country has many advantages over, say, Sweden: linguistic, cultural, and religious compatibility, as well as proximity and a similar climate.

The rapid emergence of a Kurdish polity in Iraq, followed by one in Syria, as well as a new assertiveness in Turkey and rumblings in Iran are a positive sign. Kurds have proven themselves to be responsible in a way that none of their neighbors have. I say this as someone who, 25 years ago, opposed Kurdish autonomy. Let us help the Kurds who are as close to an ally as we have in the Muslim Middle East. Not just separate Kurdish units should come into existence but also a unified Kurdistan made up from parts of all four countries. That this harms the territorial integrity of those states does not present a problem, as not one of them works well as presently constituted.

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THE MIDDLE EAST PROSPECT

unholyalliancePowerline, by Scott Johnson, July 12, 2012:

The David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Texas retreat took place last month in Dallas. I have posted videos of the presentations by Stanley Kurtz and Bret Stephens at the retreat. Other videos from the retreat are posted here.

In the video below, Daniel Pipes presents a survey of the Middle East in the Age of Obama. It works as an excellent companion to Stephens’s presentation; Pipes provides a regional close-up following Stephens’s global view (to borrow the title of Stephens’s weekly Wall Street Journal column). As with the the other two videos, I commend this one to your attention with the thought that it is worth your time. Even if you follow the news closely I think you are likely to learn something from this presentation.

The son of Richard Pipes, the prominent historian of Russia, Daniel Pipes is a brilliant student of the Middle East. He is the author of notable books including The Rushdie Affair and, most recently, Nothing Abides.

One of the ladies at PolitiChicks caught up with Pipes after his presentation in Dallas last month. She asked him to identify the greatest threat to the United States (video below). Let’s just say that we’re on the same wavelength.

I have been a reader and fan of Pipes for a long time. I saw him speak about Islamic terrorism before a campus audience at Yale in 2005 or so. He struck me as a scholar with the soul of a warrior. I caught up with Pipes in Minneapolis in 2012 when he was in town for a family wedding and posted a brief video in which I inarticulately asked him about the current relevance of the Rushdie affair here.

***

Politichicks also interviewed Andrew McCarthy. They discussed threats to U.S. & justice for Benghazi

Failed analysis offered as remedy to “failed ad”

Islamic-Jew-hatredJihad Watch, by Robert Spencer, May 26, 2015:

While Pamela Geller lives under armed guard over a live and imminent threat from the Islamic State, Daniel Pipes seizes the opportunity to…defend the freedom of speech and decry the threats against her? No. He chose instead to attack her ad criticizing Islamic anti-Semitism.

More below, and Pamela Geller has additional important information here.

“SEPTA ad campaign a spectacular failure,” by Daniel Pipes, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 26, 2015:

Did a controversial, austere, black-and-white advertisement that ran for one month on Philadelphia buses achieve its goal of winning sympathy for Jewish victims of Muslims?

The ad was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative and placed on buses operated by SEPTA, the regional-and state-run authority. The ad read: “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Quran. Two thirds of all U.S. aid goes to Islamic countries. Stop the hate. End all aid to Islamic countries. IslamicJewHatred.com.” A November 1941 photograph ran with the caption, “Adolf Hitler and his staunch ally, the leader of the Muslim world, Haj Amin al-Husseini.” SEPTA received $30,000 to run the 30-by-80-inch ad on 84 buses out of SEPTA’s 1,400 buses during April.

No, the ad failed to achieve its goal, and spectacularly so. Count the ways:

To begin with, the text is factually inaccurate. Husseini was never “leader of the Muslim world.” He was a British appointee in the Mandate for Palestine, where Muslims constituted less than 1 percent of the total world Muslim population.

The term “leader of the Muslim world” is a perfectly reasonable summation of Husseini’s power and influence. Yes, he was appointed Mufti of Jerusalem by the British. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the end of the caliphate, by virtue of his position alone as Mufti of the third holiest city in the Muslim world, Husseini had as good a claim as anyone to being the foremost authority in the Muslim world as anyone.

What’s more, the British appointment is not remotely the whole story of the Mufti’s influence. While he lived in Berlin from 1941 to 1945, he made broadcasts from Berlin in Arabic, appealing to the entire Arabic-speaking world to support the Nazis, and raised up a Muslim SS division in Bosnia, where no one seems to have rejected his authority on the basis that he was a British appointment for Jerusalem only.

Even as National Socialist Germany collapsed in defeat and ruin, he didn’t lose his influence. In 1946, the Arab League appointed al-Husseini not just a member, but the chairman, of the Arab Higher Committee. The Arab League was founded in Cairo in 1945 by Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan (Jordan from 1946) and Yemen (North Yemen, later combined Yemen). Are those countries not the heart of the Muslim world?

The Arab Higher Committee, with Husseini as its chairman, wielded so much influence that it was given the same diplomatic status as the Jewish agency for Palestine in the partition of Israel in 1948. The political committee of the general assembly of the United Nations, without a dissenting vote, decided to invite the Arab Higher Committee to testify before it on the issue of Israel and the Arab Muslims.

Second, Husseini’s meeting with Hitler did not represent a permanent or universal alliance between Muslims and Nazis; it was a one-time, opportunistic consultation between a fugitive Palestinian figure and his patron.

Pipes reveals that there is a bit more going on in this photo than a “one-time, opportunistic consultation” by noting in passing that Hitler was Husseini’s “patron.” (Incidentally, Pipes’ reference to Husseini as a “Palestinian,” however, is anachronistic, as the Muslim Arabs of Palestine were not referred to as “Palestinians” until the Soviets and Arafat invented the “Palestinian” nationality in the 1960s, so as to defuse Israel’s image as a tiny Jewish state arrayed against numerous surrounding huge Arab states: an even smaller people was invented, menaced by the mighty Israeli war machine.)

In any case, “Husseini’s meeting with Hitler did not represent a permanent or universal alliance between Muslims and Nazis,” but the meeting was far more than a “one-time, opportunistic consultation,” either. Husseini was important enough in Berlin to play a role in the Third Reich’s extermination of Jews. SS Hauptsturmfuehrer Dieter Wisliceny, a close collaborator of Adolf Eichmann, testified that “the grand mufti, who had been in Berlin since 1938, played a role in the decision of the German government to exterminate the European Jews the importance of which must not be disregarded. He had repeatedly suggested to the various authorities with whom he had been in contact, above all before Hitler, Ribbentrop and Himmler, the extermination of European Jewry. He considers this as a comfortable solution of the Palestine problem. In his messages broadcast from Berlin, he surpassed us in anti-Jewish attacks. He was one of Eichmann’s best friends and has constantly been cited him to accelerate the extermination measures. I heard say that, accompanied by Eichmann, he has visited incognito the gas chamber in Auschwitz.”

The statement referred to in the affidavit was made by Eichmann in his office in Budapest on June 4, 1944; the confirmation by Wisliceny was given some days later, also in Budapest.

Further, according to testimony at the Nuremberg trials, “the mufti was a bitter arch enemy of the Jews and had always been the protagonist of the idea of their annihilation. This idea the mufti had always advanced in his conversations with Eichmann.”

Eichmann had before all this been in charge of efforts to deport the Jews from Europe. After the Mufti weighed in, the Nazi efforts shifted from deportation to extermination — confirming Wisliceny’s account.

Third, the ad’s demand makes no sense: How does ending $10 billion in U.S. military assistance to Afghanistan “stop the hate” against Jews? How does continuing it encourage “Islamic Jew-hatred”?

As Dr. Pipes well knows, anti-Semitism is rampant in the Islamic world, including in Afghanistan. The ad is calling for U.S. aid to Muslim countries to be contingent upon their efforts to end anti-Semitism — efforts which are non-existent at this point. U.S. aid continues to encourage “Islamic Jew-hatred” (Pipes’ sneer quotes betray his unwarranted skepticism regarding the concept) by doing nothing whatsoever to counter it.

But more important to the ad’s failure was the hostile response it provoked. Rather than win support for Jews as victims of Muslims, it instead rallied the Philadelphia establishment to support Muslims as victims of Jews. A Jewish Exponent headline summed up the reaction: “Contempt for SEPTA Bus Ads Brings Groups Together.” Mayor Nutter convened an outdoor meeting under the city’s famous LOVE sculpture that brought together activists, clergy, journalists, and intellectuals, where he denounced the “misguided and opportunistic political tactics” behind the bus ad….

Pipes goes on in this vein for several paragraphs, detailing the opposition to the ad from various Leftist multiculturalists. It is surprising that he accords such respect to this opposition, since those he invokes — the Philadelphia mayor, Leftist Jewish groups, a Roman Catholic archbishop — have never shown any awareness of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat or of Islamic anti-Semitism, or any indication that they have any will at all to oppose them, even with the most watered-down and empty of gestures. Nor will he ever win their love except by engaging in empty, toothless gestures of his own. One would think that he would have been tipped off to how clueless and compromised SEPTA is by the fact that it, as he puts it, “sent a long valentine to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)” — but he seems to think this is more our fault than SEPTA’s.

If the first rule of advertising is to make sure to convey your message effectively, this inaccurate, strange, and aggressive bus advertisement must rank as an all-time disaster, damaging the cause it meant to serve while helping those it intended to harm. It’s like a Coke ad that sends customers flocking to Pepsi.

In reality, the ad seems to have very neatly smoked out those who are compromised and unwilling to state unpopular and unwelcome truths from those who are willing to grasp the nettle and stand for the truth no matter what may come from the cowards, trimmers, and collaborators of the world.

But as an alternative, Pipes offers his “militant Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution” mantra, which stands out now as one of the most spectacularly failed analyses in the entire sorry history of the “war on terror”:

How might have the ad been more effectively composed? Simple: by distinguishing between the religion of Islam and the totalitarian ideology of Islamism, as in, “Radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution. Non-Muslims and patriotic Muslims must band together to fight ISIS, Boku [sic] Haram, CAIR, and ISNA. Islamist-Watch.org.” The picture might have featured novelist Salman Rushdie talking to television host Bill Maher, a liberal who criticizes radical Islam.

“Moderate Islam is the solution,” eh? Well, here we are almost fourteen years after 9/11, and where is it? There is Zuhdi Jasser, there is Tawfik Hamid, there is Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, there is a handful of others, but what they offer is a non-traditional Islam with no foundation in Islamic theology or history, and no significant backing among Muslims. There is no large-scale movement among Muslims to combat the Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other jihadis, much less CAIR and ISNA. There is no moderate Muslim organization with a large membership or influence among Muslims. I share Pipes’ hope that such an org eventually arises, but how long are we going to keep counting on it when it is so obviously not happening?

It’s a soothing solution for the ignorant and uninformed (such as Mayor Nutter, Catholic archbishops, liberal rabbis, etc.), but it is hardly a viable solution, and it is a manifestly failed analysis. Yes, Dr. Pipes, such an ad would have made everyone feel good. But it would have recruited absolutely no “new cadres for the battle against our common foe, the Islamists,” and would not have sparked the public debate that our ad sparked, that drew attention to numerous important issues, including the war against the freedom of speech, the nature of Islamic anti-Semitism, and more.

Failed analysis is not the solution; it’s the problem. Want proof? Run your ad, Dr. Pipes, and see what will happen: absolutely nothing.

Also see:

ISIS Attacks on the West

by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
May 22, 2015

The May 3 assault on a Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, prompted much discussion about the assailants’ connections to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh. Did ISIS run them as agents? Are they part of a new network of terror in the West?

Clearly, the Garland jihadis had some connections to ISIS. The leader, Elton Simpson, used Twitter to trade calls for violence with Muhammed Abdullahi Hassan (also known as Mujahid Miski), 25, an ISIS recruiter who grew up in Minneapolis. On April 23, Hassan tweeted: “The brothers from the Charlie Hebdo attack did their part. It’s time for brothers in the US to do their part,” attaching a Breitbart.com story about the Muhammad cartoon contest. This appears to be what brought the Garland event to Simpson’s attention; Simpson retweeted this call to action and responded: “When will they ever learn. They are planning on selecting the best picture drawn of [Muhammad] in Texas.” Hassan then further goaded Simpson: “One individual is able to put a whole nation onto its knees.”

 

The tweet that began the assault that took place ten days later in Garland, Texas.

After the Garland attack, ISIS took credit for it, calling the gunmen, Simpson, 30, and Nadir Hamid Soofi, 34, “two soldiers from the soldiers of the caliphate” whose deaths would win them “the highest rank of paradise.” Its Bayan Radio exploited the attack to warn Americans that “what is coming will be worse and more bitter,” with “soldiers of the Islamic State” doing “terrible things.”

 

Elton Simpson pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIS.

But, so far as is known, neither Simpson nor Soofi took money from ISIS, received arms or training from it, discussed their plans with it, or sought its permission to proceed. Nor did either of them visit Syria or Iraq.

This fits a pattern: ISIS does not plan and direct attacks but takes advantage of its high profile to incite Muslims to turn against their non-Muslim neighbors, as happened already in Oklahoma City. It offers spiritual guidance, target selection, and inspiration; it is not in the business of logistics, command, and control. When it claims credit, it claims so for inspiration, not organization.

Therefore, one can probably dismiss as braggadocio ISIS’ boast to have trained 71 soldiers in 15 of the U.S. states who are “ready at our word to attack any target we have desired,” much less that 23 of them have volunteered for “missions like” the Garland attack. But U.S. law enforcement does follow thousands of individuals like Simpson and Soofi who communicate with ISIS and could at any time erupt into to violence. The years-long surveillance of Simpson, after all, proved useless. The “lone wolf” concept has become irrelevant at a time of global jihad, when every pious Muslim is potentially a “soldier of the caliphate.”

 

The scene of the Garland, Texas, attack.

Unlike Al-Qaeda (whose model we are more familiar with), which communicates intensely with its agents and directs their moves in detail, ISIS is not primarily in the business of organizing elaborate plots to strike Western infidels. Rather, it aims to control territory in the Middle East (such as in Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq). It calls Western Muslims to move to Syria; attacks in the West are only a fallback, primarily promoted by smuggling its members across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Nonetheless, the ISIS model is the more dangerous. Its attacks may be amateurish and less deadly than Al-Qaeda’s but they potentially can occur far more often. Its assaults are easier to foil but harder to anticipate. The ISIS approach is the more effective if one counts not corpses but political impact – for example, dissuasion from ridiculing Muhammad.

In other words, inspirational links are more worrisome than organizational ones. All ISIS needs do is publish a target’s name in its magazine or tweet encouragement on social media and a potential army is notified; it need not develop secure communications, train cadres, move money across borders, choose and scope out targets, order strikes, and give tactical directions.

A BBC analysis misses the point when it holds that if ISIS can “prove that it planned and directed [the Garland attack] – rather than just staking a claim after the event – then that would be a significant development.” Not so; ISIS is all the more formidable for not planning and directing but simply talking and writing.

Indeed, just as the Iranian regime presents the greatest danger to the Middle East, ISIS presents the next, more evolved, and most threatening form of Islamist violence in the West. Will these mortal enemies be recognized in time?

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Daniel Pipes outmaneuvers RT reporter in interview on the Iran negotiations

Russia-Today-LogoRussian news channel RT’s Oksana Boyko aggressively interviews Daniel Pipes on the Iran negotiations and Obama’s handling of foreign policy. Pipes handles it masterfully!

h/t Vlad Tepes

Daniel Pipes explains “the Obama doctrine” on foreign policy

obama-foreign-policy (1)

Published on Apr 12, 2015 by Rebel Media

Ezra Levant reports for TheRebel.media:

Dr. Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum says that there’s a coherent strategy underpinning the apparent chaos we’re witnessing around the world, especially in the Middle East.

Pipes explains that the situation makes sense if viewed through the lens of an “Obama doctrine”: “Snarl at your friends, smile at your enemies.”

Part of it is incompetence on the President’s part, says Pipes, but much of what’s happening is the direct result of Obama’s anti-American ideology — and even his personal psychology.

This thought-provoking, in-depth interview covers a lot of ground: the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and much more.

Decoding the Obama Doctrine

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
April 6, 2015

James Jeffrey, Barack Obama’s former ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Iraq, has this to say about the administration’s current record in the Middle East: “We’re in a goddamn free fall.”

Count the mistakes: Helping overthrow Muammar Qaddafi in Libya, leading to anarchy and civil war. Pressuring Husni Mubarak of Egypt to resign, then backing the Muslim Brotherhood, leading now-president Sisi to turn toward Moscow. Alienating Washington’s most stalwart ally in the region, the Government of Israel. Dismissing ISIS as “junior varsity” just before it seized major cities. Hailing Yemen as a counterterrorism success just before its government was overthrown. Alarming the Saudi authorities to the point that they put together a military alliance against Iran. Coddling Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, encouraging his dictatorial tendencies. Leaving Iraq and Afghanistan prematurely, dooming the vast American investment in those two countries.

And, most of all: Making dangerously flawed deals with the nuclear-ambitious mullahs of Iran.

 

Qaddafi of Libya, an Obama success story?

Is this a random series of errors by an incompetent leadership or does some grand, if misconceived, idea stand behind the pattern? To an extent, it’s ineptitude, as when Obama bowed to the Saudi king, threatened Syria’s government over chemical weapons before changing his mind, and now sends the U.S. military to aid Tehran in Iraq and fight it in Yemen.

But there also is a grand idea and it calls for explanation. As a man of the left, Obama sees the United States historically having exerted a malign influence on the outside world. Greedy corporations, an overly-powerful military-industrial complex, a yahoo nationalism, engrained racism, and cultural imperialism combined to render America, on balance, a force for evil.

Being a student of community organizer Saul Alinsky, Obama did not overtly proclaim this view but passed himself off as a patriot, though he (and his charming wife) did offer occasional hints of their radical views about “fundamentally transforming the United States.” On ascending to the presidency, Obama moved slowly, uneager to spread alarm and wanting to be reelected. By now, however, after six full years and only his legacy to worry about, the full-blown Obama is emerging.

 

Saul Alinsky, the community organizer par excellence. (And whom the author of this article met in about 1965.)

The Obama Doctrine is simple and universal: Warm relations with adversaries and cool them with friends.

Several assumptions underlie this approach: The U.S. government morally must compensate for its prior errors. Smiling at hostile states will inspire them to reciprocate. Using force creates more problems than it solves. Historic U.S. allies, partners, and helpers are morally inferior accessories. In the Middle East, this means reaching out to revisionists (Erdoğan, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic Republic of Iran) and pushing away cooperative governments (Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia).

Of these actors, two stand out: Iran and Israel. Establishing good relations with Tehran appears to be Obama’s great preoccupation. As Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute has shown, Obama during his entire presidency has worked toward rendering Iran what he calls “a very successful regional power … abiding by international norms and international rules.” Contrarily, his pre-presidential friendships with truculent anti-Zionists such as Ali Abunimah, Rashid Khalidi, and Edward Said point to the depth of his hostility toward the Jewish state.

The Obama Doctrine demystifies what is otherwise inscrutable. For example, it explains why the U.S. government blithely ignored the Iranian supreme leader‘s outrageous “Death to America” yelp in March, dismissing it as mere domestic pandering, even as Obama glommed onto the Israeli prime minister‘s near simultaneous electoral campaign comment rejecting a two-state solution with the Palestinians during his term of office (“we take him at his word”).

 

Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamene’i can say most anything and Obama won’t mind.

The doctrine also offers guidelines to predict possible developments during Obama’s remaining tenure, such as: Wretched P5+1 deals with Iran compel Israel’s government to attack Iranian nuclear facilities. Gentle policies toward Damascus clear the way for the Assad regime to re-extend its power. Ankara chooses to provoke a crisis in the eastern Mediterranean over Cypriot gas and oil reserves.

The great question ahead is how, in their wisdom, the American people will judge the Obama Doctrine when they next vote for president in 19 months. Will they repudiate his policy of shuffling and contrition, as they comparably did in 1980 when they elected Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter? Or will they choose four more years of it, thereby turning the Obama Doctrine into the new norm and Americans into European-style remorseful masochists?

Their verdict in 2016 has potentially world-historical implications.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Why Yemen Matters

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
March 28, 2015

The Middle East witnessed something radically new two days ago, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded to a plea by Yemen’s president and led a 10-country coalition to intervene in the air and on the ground in the country. “Operation Decisive Storm” prompts many reflections:

Saudi and Egypt in alliance: Half a century ago, Riyadh and Cairo were active in a Yemen war, but then they supported opposing sides, respectively the status-quo forces and the revolutionaries. Their now being allies points to continuity in Saudia along with profound changes in Egypt.

Arabic-speakers getting their act together: Through Israel’s early decades, Arabs dreamt of uniting militarily against it but the realities of infighting and rivalries smashed every such hope. Even on the three occasions (1948-49, 1967, 1973) when they did join forces, they did so at cross purposes and ineffectively. How striking, then that finally they should coalesce not against Israel but against Iran. This implicitly points to their understanding that the Islamic Republic of Iran poses a real threat, whereas anti-Zionism amounts to mere indulgence. It also points to panic and the need to take action resulting from a stark American retreat.

Arab leaders have a long history of meeting but not cooperating. From the right: King Hussein of Jordan, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Yasir Arafat of the PLO, and Muammar Qaddafi of Libya in September 1970.

Yemen at the center of attention: Yemen played a peripheral role in the Bible, in the rise of Islam, and in modern times; it’s never been the focus of world concern – until suddenly now. Yemen resembles other once-marginal countries – the Koreas, Cuba, the Vietnams, Afghanistan – which out of nowhere became the focus of global concern.

The Middle East cold war went hot: The Iranian and Saudi regimes have headed dueling blocs for about a decade. They did combat as the U.S. and Soviet governments once did – via contending ideologies, espionage, aid, trade, and covert action. On March 26, that cold war went hot, where it’s likely long to remain.

Can the Saudi-led coalition win? Highly unlikely, as these are rookies taking on Iran’s battle-hardened allies in a forbidding terrain.

Islamists dominate: The leaders of both blocs share much: both aspire universally to apply the sacred law of Islam (the Shari’a), both despise infidels, and both turned faith into ideology. Their falling out confirms Islamism as the Middle East’s only game, permitting its proponents the luxury to fight each other.

The Turkey-Qatar-Muslim Brotherhood alliance in decline: A third alliance of Sunni revisionists somewhere between the Shi’i revolutionaries and the Sunni status-quotians has been active during recent years in many countries – Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya. But now, in part thanks to diplomacy initiated by the brand-new King Salman of Saudi Arabia, its members are gravitating toward their Sunni co-religionists.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has done something unprecedented in putting together a military coalition.

Isolated Iran: Yes, a belligerent Tehran now boasts of dominating four Arab capitals (Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut, Sana’a) but that’s also its problem: abrupt Iranian gains have many in the region (including such previously friendly states as Pakistan and Sudan) fearing Iran.

Sidelining the Arab-Israeli conflict: If the Obama administration and European leaders remain obsessed with Palestinians, seeing them as key to the region, regional players have far more urgent priorities. Not only does Israel hardly concern them but the Jewish state serves as a tacit auxiliary of the Saudi-led bloc. Does this change mark a long-term shift in Arab attitudes toward Israel? Probably not; when the Iran crisis fades, expect attention to return to the Palestinians and Israel, as it always does.

American policy in disarray: Middle East hands rightly scoffed in 2009 when Barack Obama and his fellow naïfs expected that by leaving Iraq, smiling at Tehran, and trying harder at Arab-Israeli negotiations they would fix the region, permitting a “pivot” to East Asia. Instead, the incompetents squatting atop the U.S. government cannot keep up with fast-moving, adverse events, many of its own creation (anarchy in Libya, tensions with traditional allies, a more bellicose Iran).

Impact on a deal with Iran: Although Washington has folded on many positions in negotiations with Iran and done the mullah’s regime many favors (for example, not listing it or its Hizbullah ally as terrorist), it drew a line in Yemen, offering the anti-Iran coalition some support. Will Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i now stomp out of the talks? Highly unlikely, for the deal offered him is too sweet to turn down.

American diplomats meet again with their Iranian counterparts to capitulate on yet another difference.

In sum, Salman’s skilled diplomacy and his readiness to use force in Yemen responds to the deadly combination of Arab anarchy, Iranian aggression, and Obama weakness in a way that will shape the region for years.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

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Islam Bulldozes the Past

by Daniel Pipes
Washington Times
March 20, 2015

The recent bulldozing by the Islamic State (ISIS) of the ancient cities of Nimrud, Hatra, andKorsabad, three of the world’s greatest archaeological and cultural sites, is just this group latest round of assaults across the large area under its control. Since January 2014, the flamboyantly barbaric ISIS has blown up Shi’i mosques, bulldozed churches, pulverized shrines, and plundered museums.

Worse, the ISIS record fits into an old and common pattern of destruction of historical artifacts by Muslims.

Some attacks target the works of other, rival religions, such as Orthodox churches in northern Cyprus (since 1974), the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan (in 2001), the Ghriba synagogue in Tunisia (2002), an historic Hindu temple in Malaysia (2006), and the Assyrian antiquities (“idols”) in Mosul (2015). On a personal level, a Saudi national smashed historic statues at the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple in Tokyo in 2014. Nor is this danger over: Islamic leaders have bruited plans to destroy Persepolis in Iran, St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai, and the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

After the 1974 invasion, Turkish forces made many churches in northern Cyprus fit only for animals.

In some cases, conquerors turn non-Islamic holy places into Islamic ones, thereby asserting the supremacy of Islam. This can be done by converting them into Islamic sanctities, such as the Kaaba in Mecca, the Cathedral of St. John in Damascus, and the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; or building on top of them, such as Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, India.

Muslims of one denomination sometimes destroy the legacy of other Islamic sects. Recent examples include the tomb of Sidi Mahmoudou, a medieval structure in Timbuktu (2012), Sufi tombs in Libya (2012), and the libraries of Mosul (2015). But best known is the Saudi destruction of antiquities inMecca since the 1990s, applying strict Wahhabi principles of non-intercession; even Muhammad’s tomb in Medina is in jeopardy.

The Taliban blew up a monumental sixth-century Buddha statue in 2001.

Destruction also accompanies the fighting of war; the Syrian conflict since 2011 has been particularly devastating in this regard, with battles causing severe damage to such grand antiquities as the Citadel of Aleppo, the Umayyad Mosque, and Crac des Chevaliers. Alongside, smuggling and other profit-making activities to pay for war costs leads to the wholesale stealing and trafficking of rare antiquities; UNESCO reports, for example, that the ancient Syrian site of Apamea is “completely destroyed.”

Ancient artifacts might even be demolished because their space is needed for something deemed urgent. The Palestinian Authority threw out precious Temple Mount archeological remains as mere rubble in 2000 to build a mosque. In 2013, Hamas bulldozed part of the 3,000-year-old Anthedon Harbor in Gaza for military purposes and the Turkish authorities damaged the Byzantine-era walls of the Yedikule Gardens to build a decorative pool.

Al-Qaeda bombed the Ghriba Synagogue in Tunisia in 2002.

Finally, there are gratuitously self-inflicted cultural wounds. These include the pillaging of Iraqi museums, libraries, and archives (2003), the burning in 2011 of L’Institut d’Égypte and looting of the Egyptian Museum, the 2013 destruction of manuscripts in Timbuktu and the ransacking of the Mallawi Museum in Minya, Egypt, and the 2014 destruction at the Saeh Library in Tripoli, Lebanonand at the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo.

Why does Islam inspire its adherents to annihilate their own patrimony? Because humiliation establishes and reinforces one’s superiority. Destruction of infidel remains confirms the superior power of Muslims and, by implication, the truth of Islam. In parallel, eliminating the vestiges of Muslim rivals establishes the superiority of Islamism over other, less assertive interpretations of Islam.

ISIS blew up Shi’ite mosques in Mosul in 2014.

While the seizure and appropriation of other monuments began at the very inception of Islam (i.e., the Kaaba), the destruction that has reached orgiastic heights with ISIS is something new; note that nearly all the examples listed here date from the twenty-first century. Turned around, those recently-destroyed antiquities survived so long because Muslims had left them alone. In this regard, things are far worse these days than ever before – not a surprise, as Islam is in its worst shape ever. All other major religions have moved beyond such crudely violent impulses whose motive is unacceptable and whose results are tragic.

Is there a Middle Eastern country that exults in its multi-religious heritage, celebrates ancient artifacts on coins and stamps, builds fabulous museums for its antiquities, treats archeology as a national pastime, and studies manuscripts rather than burns them? Well, yes, there is. It’s called Israel. The rest of the region could learn a thing or two about historical appreciation from the Jewish state.

Both the name of the Quwwat al-Islam (“Power of Islam”) Mosque in Delhi and the fact that it was built with materials from “27 idolatrous temples” point to Islamic supremacism.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.


Mar. 20, 2015 addendum: For more details on most of the incidents mentioned above, see my blog, “Islam vs. History.”

Why Politicians Pretend Islam Has No Role in Violence

by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
March 9, 2015

Prominent non-Muslim political figures have embarrassed themselves by denying the self-evident connection of Islam to the Islamic State (ISIS) and to Islamist violence in Paris and Copenhagen, even claiming these are contrary to Islam. What do they hope to achieve through these falsehoods and what is their significance?

First, a sampling of the double talk:

President Barack Obama tells the world that ISIS “is not Islamic” because its “actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith.” He holds “we are not at war with Islam [but] with people who have perverted Islam.”

British

Prime Minister David Cameron and U.S. President Barack Obama agree that violence perverts Islam.

Secretary of State John Kerry echoes him: ISIS consists of “coldblooded killers masquerading as a religious movement” who promote a “hateful ideology has nothing do with Islam.” His spokesperson, Jen Psaki, goes further: the terrorists “are enemies of Islam.”

Jeh Johnson, the U.S. secretary of Homeland Security, assents: “ISIL is [not] Islamic.” My favorite:Howard Dean, the former Democrat governor of Vermont, says of the Charlie Hebdo attackers, “They’re about as Muslim as I am.”

Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, has declared himself a Muslim?

Europeans speak identically: David Cameron, the Conservative British prime minister, portrays ISISas “extremists who want to abuse Islam” and who “pervert the Islamic faith.” He calls Islam “a religion of peace” and dismisses ISIS members as not Muslims, but “monsters.” His immigration minister, James Brokenshire, argues that terrorism and extremism “have nothing to do with Islam.”

On the Labour side, former British prime minister Tony Blair finds ISIS ideology to be “based in a complete perversion of the proper faith of Islam,” while a former home secretary, Jack Straw, denounces “the medieval barbarity of ISIS and its ilk” which he deems “completely contrary to Islam.”

Across the channel, French president François Hollande insists that the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher criminals “have nothing to do with the Muslim faith.” His prime minister, Manuel Valls, concurs: “Islam has nothing to do with ISIS.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte echoes the same theme: “ISIS is a terrorist organization which misuses Islam.” Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a left-wing German politician, calls the Paris murderers fascists, not Muslims. From Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agrees: “Extremism and Islam are completely different things.”

This is not a new view: for example, prior U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also aired their insights about what is and is not Islam, though less assertively.

Summarizing these statements, which come straight out of the Islamist playbook: Islam is purely a religion of peace, so violence and barbarism categorically have nothing to do with it; indeed, these “masquerade” and “pervert” Islam. By implication, more Islam is needed to solve these “monstrous” and “barbaric” problems.

But, of course, this interpretation neglects the scriptures of Islam and the history of Muslims, steeped in the assumption of superiority toward non-Muslims and the righteous violence of jihad. Ironically, ignoring the Islamic impulse means foregoing the best tool to defeat jihadism: for, if the problem results not from an interpretation of Islam, but from random evil and irrational impulses, how can one possibly counter it? Only acknowledging the legacy of Islamic imperialism opens ways to re-interpret the faith’s scriptures in modern, moderate, and good-neighborly ways.

Why, then, do powerful politicians make ignorant and counterproductive arguments, ones they surely know to be false, especially as violent Islamism spreads (think of Boko Haram, Al-Shabaab, and the Taliban)? Cowardice and multiculturalism play a role, to be sure, but two other reasons have more importance:

First, they want not to offend Muslims, who they fear are more prone to violence if they perceive non-Muslims pursuing a “war on Islam.” Second, they worry that focusing on Muslims means fundamental changes to the secular order, while denying an Islamic element permits avoid troubling issues. For example, it permits airplane security to look for passengers’ weapons rather than engage in Israeli-style interrogations.

According to non-Muslim politicians these Taliban members have nothing to do with Islam.

My prediction: Denial will continue unless violence increases. In retrospect, the 3,000 victims of 9/11 did not shake non-Muslim complacency. The nearly 30,000 fatalities from Islamist terrorism since then also have not altered the official line. Perhaps 300,000 dead will cast aside worries about Islamist sensibilities and a reluctance to make profound social changes, replacing these with a determination to fight a radical utopian ideology; three million dead will surely suffice.

Without such casualties, however, politicians will likely continue with denial because it’s easier that way. I regret this – but prefer denial to the alternative.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2015 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.


March 9, 2015 addendum: For many more details on the cases cited here, see my weblog entry “Islam vs. History” at DanielPipes.org.

 

 

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