Peace picks July 27-31

1. Chemical Safety and Security: TSCA Legislation and Terrorist Attacks | Monday, July 27th | 2:00 – 5:00 | CSIS | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Chemical safety and security is one of the fundamental pillars of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), but the recent and ongoing use of dual-use chemicals such as chlorine in the Syrian conflict, several recent chemical accidents in the US, and congressional updating of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) have all raised these goals to a much higher level. This seminar will address three related safety and security issues: (1) new TSCA legislation in the House and Senate; (2) the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS); and (3) Global Partnership efforts to improve chemical safety and security of industry and transportation. The Proliferation Prevention Program will co-host this event with Green Cross International and International Center for Chemical Safety and Security (ICCSS). Speakers include: Ambassador Krzysztof Paturej, President of ICCSS Board, Michael P. Walls, Vice President, American Chemistry Council, Michal Ilana Freedhoff, Director of Oversight & Investigations, Office of Senator Edward J. Markey, United States Senate, Todd Klessman, Senior Policy Advisor, Infrastructure Security Compliance Division, Department of Homeland Security, Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins, US Department of State, Ali Gakweli, Deputy Government Chemist, Government Chemist Division, EU CBRN National Focal Point National Authority (CWC), Nairobi, Kenya. Moderators include: Paul Walker, Director of Environmental Security and Sustainability, Green Cross International and Sharon Squassoni, Director of the Proliferation Prevention Program, CSIS.

2. Hearing to Examine Iran Nuclear Agreement | Tuesday, July 28th | 10:00 – 2:00 | Rayburn House Office Building | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) on the hearing:  ‘This Iran deal is one of the most important in decades.  It reverses decades of bipartisan nonproliferation and regional policy, has several shortcomings, and demands the closest scrutiny.  Secretary Kerry and the other Administration officials will face tough questions before the Committee, as we continue our comprehensive review of the Iran deal and the Administration’s overall regional policy.’

Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) on the hearing:  “I look forward to hearing from Secretaries Kerry, Lew, and Moniz to discuss the Iran agreement. I have serious questions and concerns about this deal, and input from the Administration will be critical as Congress reviews the proposal.”

Speakers include: John Kerry, Secretary of State, Department of State, Jacob Lew, Secretary of Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury and Ernest Moniz, Secretary of Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.

3. Discussing American Diplomacy at Risk and the Second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review| Tuesday, July 28th | 11:00 – 12:30 | The Stimson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Government reform is an open ended process; large institutions that conduct our national security and foreign policies need to continually evolve, to adapt to changing realities in the international landscape, and to changes in our own society. Two recent reports address the challenge of aligning the internal structures and personnel practices of the Department of State to the 21st century world. 
 
The American Academy of Diplomacy has recently released American Diplomacy at Risk, examining how the professional foreign service is weakened by politicization and by failures to sustain relevant training and professional development for the work force.
 
The State Department itself has released its second Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, looks at recent reforms and innovations to make the department more responsive in an age of partnerships and collaboration with diverse state and non-state civil society players. Speakers include: Ambassador Ronald Neumann, President, American Academy of Diplomacy, 
Caroline Wadhams, Acting Director in the Office of the QDDR, State Department
, Ambassador Barbara Bodine, Director, Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and 
Julie Smith, Senior Fellow and Director of the Strategy and Statecraft Program, Center for New American Security
. 
Moderators include: 
Ellen Laipson, President and Chief Executive Officer, the Stimson Center
.

4. Can the P5+1’s Vienna Deal Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Breakout| Tuesday, July 28th | 11:45 – 1:30 | Hudson Institute | REGISTER TO ATTEND | The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed earlier this month in Vienna is the culmination of a longstanding Obama administration effort to resolve the international community’s nuclear standoff with Iran through diplomatic means. A host of serious questions surround the agreement, including the complexities of international law and politics necessary to enact its provisions, and the strategic calculations that Iran’s regional rivals will make in its aftermath. But the key question remains the most practical one: Will the JCPOA, advanced by its proponents as a far-reaching and robust arms agreement, actually prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?

Can the JCPOA’s inspection and verification regime, which allows Iran a 24-day window to prepare – or “sanitize”—any suspected site for on-site review, provide an effective guarantee against violations? What will it mean when the JCPOA expires in 15 years under the “sunset clause” and Iran becomes a “normal” nuclear power? And how, in the meantime, will the deal’s removal of existing sanctions against currently designated terrorists and terror-connected entities – like the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Qassem Suleimani, commander of IRGC’s expeditionary unit, the Quds Force – complicate efforts to constrain Sunni Arab states from pursuing nuclear arms programs of their own?

Speakers include: Senator Tom Cotton, U.S. Senator from Arkansas, Michael Doran, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, William Tobey, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and Hillel Fradkin, Senior Fellow and Director, Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World, Hudson Institute. Moderators include: Lee Smith, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute.

5. Hearing: Women Under ISIS Rule: From Brutality to Recruitment| Wednesday, July 29th | 10:00 – 1:00 | Rayburn House Office Building | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Speakers include: Sasha Havliceck, CEO, Institute for Strategic Dialogue, Ariel Ahram, Assistant Professor, Virginia Tech School of Public and International Affairs and Kathleen Kuehnast, Director, Gender and Peacebuilding, Center for Governance, Law and Society, United States Institute of Peace.

6. Panel: Scorecard for the Final Deal with Iran| Wednesday, July 29th | 12:00 – 1:30 | JINSA | REGISTER TO ATTEND | In Vienna on July 14, the P5+1 and Iran agreed on a final deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA). This report will analyze whether the JCPA addresses the Task Force’s questions and concerns about the framework agreement. Overall, the JCPA rolls back Iran’s breakout time and allows for broader verification, but only in exchange for key restrictions being removed in 8-15 years, R&D on advanced centrifuges, front-loaded sanctions relief – including up to $150 billion in unfrozen assets – with no automatic “snapback” mechanism, an end to the U.N. arms embargo against Iran and no anytime, anywhere inspections. Speakers include: John Hannah, 
Former National Security Advisor to the Vice President
Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Iran Task Force Member, Dr. Michael Makovsky
, CEO, JINSA, Dr. Ray Takeyh, 
Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
.

7. From Ocean of War to Ocean of Prosperity| Wednesday, July 29th | 4:15 – 5:15 | Carnegie Endowment for International Peace | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Over the past two hundred years, the Western Pacific has been the stage for war, peace, development, modernization, and prosperity. Its rich resources and vital shipping lanes are essential to the well-being of all countries within its bounds. Admiral Tomohisa Takei, chief of staff for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, will discuss the development of the U.S.-Japan relationship, Japan’s role in the region, and the future of a rules-based international order in the Indo-Pacific. Carnegie’s vice president for studies, Thomas Carothers, will moderate. Speakers include: Admiral Tomohisa Takei, Chief of Staff, Japan Maritime Self Defense Force, Thomas Carothers, Vice President for Studies, Director of Democracy and Rule of Law Program, Carnegie Endowment.

8. Empowering America: How Energy Abundance Can Strengthen US Global Leadership| Thursday, July 30th | 8:30 – 9:45 | Atlantic Council | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Please join Senator Lisa Murkowski, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Senator Mark Warner as they launch the task force report: Empowering America: How Energy Abundance Can Strengthen US Global Leadership.  Over the past few months, with the Senators as the Co-Chairs, the Atlantic Council convened foreign policy, defense, and energy experts to assess the foreign policy considerations of the US energy boom. The task force details the nature of our energy abundance, the importance of deploying our prowess in energy innovation and technology to others, and the ways in which we can pursue our responsibilities as a global leader on energy and the environment, while leveraging our supply abundance at the same time. It unequivocally determines that America must embrace this new tool to advance our global leadership on trade and security. Speakers include: Richard Morningstar, Director, Global Energy Center, Atlantic Council, Lisa Murkowski, Senator of Arkansas and Mark Warner, Senator of Virginia. Moderators include: David Goldwyn, Chairman of the Energy Advisory Group, Atlantic Council.

9. Threat of ISIS in Iraq: Views from the Ground| Thursday, July 30th | 10:30 – 12:00 | Stimson Center | REGISTER TO ATTEND | From enflaming sectarian tensions to undermining governance and economic development, the expansion of ISIS continues to pose grave risks to Iraq and the broader Middle East. Stimson and the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) invite you to join us for a discussion featuring views and perspectives from AUIS scholars and students examining the nature of the ISIS threat, and the related territorial, demographic and socio-economic consequences. Students from Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq will join us through video links.

10. Reviving Citizenship in Turkey through Citizen Journalism| Friday, July 31st | 1:30 – 2:30 | Freedom House | REGISTER TO ATTEND | Engin Önder is the co-founder of the Turkish citizen journalism initiative 140journos. Founded in 2012, 140journos is a collaborative information-gathering and dissemination project that has responded to the censorship and self-censorship of the official media in Turkey by taking matters into its own hands. After huge success as a Twitter-based livefeed that helped document the 2013 Gezi Park protests, in 2015 the project has transformed itself with a new approach that embraces interactive mapping, data visualization, and long-form reportage across multiple social media platforms. Önder will describe how the new 140journos is using citizen journalism to change the information ecosystem and restore the meaning of citizenship in Turkey. Speakers include: Engin Önder, Co-Founder, 140journos. 

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Education and change in Saudi Arabia

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 10.58.56 AMOn Tuesday, Atlantic Council hosted a panel discussion entitled Saudi Arabia’s Scholarship Program: Generating a “Tipping Point”?.  Panelists included Stefanie Hausheer Ali, Associate Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council, Dr. Rajika Bhandari, Deputy Vice President and Director of the Center for Academic Mobility Research and Impact, Institute of International Education, Samar Alawami, American University graduate of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program and researcher at the King Salman Center for Innovative Government Anne Habiby, Director, King Salman Center for Innovative Government, and Ambassador James Smith former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia.  Ambassador Francis Ricciardone, Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, and Vice President, Atlantic Council, moderated. The panelists discussed the transformative impact of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program on Saudi society and put this program in the context of foreign exchange programs worldwide.

Ambassador Ricciardone opened the discussion by recounting his visit to Saudi Arabia in May.  People think of Saudi Arabia as backward and conservative.  He found young people with international exposure who wanted to effect change.  Ambassador Ricciardone attributed this to the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which has made it state policy to send Saudis abroad to study.  It is similar to the Fulbright Program, which promotes American interests by sending Americans abroad to see how others think.  He asked the question of whether, à la Malcolm Gladwell, Saudi Arabia is reaching a tipping point where returnees from the program will transform the country.

Ali explained that she started studying the King Abdullah Scholarship Program because she met a number of Saudis from the program while studying at GW.  King Abdullah met with George W. Bush in 2005 and made the case that more Saudis should study in the US.  Bush agreed, and the number of Saudis studying abroad has skyrocketed from 5,000 in 2005 to over 200,000 today.  In 2014, only China, India and South Korea sent more students to the US than Saudi Arabia.  Approximately 30% of participants in the King Abdullah Scholarship program are women.  The program is merit-based and doesn’t just include wealthy Saudis.  Approximately 11% of Saudi higher education students are educated abroad; the average time abroad is 5 years.  In the US, they do ESL for a year or two, then a degree program.  Over half come to the US, but Saudi students are studying in 23 countries.  The program costs $6 billion/year or 3% of Saudi Arabia’s budget.  Saudi students contributed $3 billion to the US economy in 2014 and help break down Americans’ stereotypes about Saudis. Such stereotypes may include:

Dr. Bhandari spoke about the rapidly expanding number of globally mobile students.  Most study abroad programs focus on graduate students, because they provide a greater multiplier effect for their host countries, but the Saudi program involves many undergrads too.  These programs often promote vertical mobility.  Governments launch such programs for several reasons:

1. Promoting national development.

2. Increasing human capacity in key areas.

3. Reforming organizations or entire sectors.

4. Improving linkages with other countries.

5. Creating opportunities for disadvantaged societal groups.

More needs to be done in these programs to:

1. Engage alumni.

2. Provide students with re-entry support.

3. Study the impact of these programs.

Habiby spoke about the King Salman Center for Innovative Government.  It is the first private, nonprofit, Saudi think tank focused on improving government performance.  It tries to connect national government, local government and economics.  There is a lot of research in Saudi Arabia, but the Center makes this research more accessible.  Habiby stated that Alawami’s first project was to map the Saudi government from the 1920s to the present.  They look at case studies of which Saudi institutions are working. The King Abdullah Scholarship Program is one of them.  

Alawami explained that she is a product of the King Abdullah Scholarship program and obtained a bachelor’s in International Studies from American University.  The program is transforming Saudi Arabia into a knowledge society and giving Saudis the opportunity to meet those from other backgrounds, increasing tolerance in a traditionally tribal society.  Saudi Arabia starts teaching English in 6th grade, so the program improves participants’ English skills.  Saudis also learn better problem-solving skills.  They come back with best-practice advice for the Saudi education system.  The program opens up areas of study unavailable in Saudi Arabia, such as International Studies, and women in the program can study Petroleum Engineering, which they can’t do at home.  Saudis do internships abroad, which are uncommon domestically and provide essential practice.  When the students return to Saudi Arabia, they transform existing organizations or create new ones.

Friedheim Quad and the School of International Service at American University, where Samar Alawami studied through the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. PC: Eddie Grove
Friedheim Quad and the School of International Service at American University, where Samar Alawami studied through the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. PC: Eddie Grove

Ambassador Smith explained that the exponential growth in Saudi students in the US wasn’t planned or foreseen.  When he began his term in 2009, he figured that the King Abdullah Scholarship Program had plateaued and envisioned a focus on business, healthcare, and domestic education. However, early in his term he realized that visa wait times were a major issue.  King Abdullah asked him to do what he could to make sure Saudi students succeeded.  Ambassador Smith ensured that students would be first in line for visas, and streamlined the system to reduce wait times for visa appointments from 6 months to under a month.  When the State Department switched to an online system, he streamlined the system further and the wait time was reduced to only a few days.  This sent a message that the US cared about Saudis.  Then in 2010, the US increased the number of Saudi students allowed in.  In the past 15 years, Saudi went from 8 universities to 32.  Many returnees from the King Abdullah Scholarship program become professors.

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Energy markets: US up, Middle East down

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 4.00.31 PMThursday, the Atlantic Council hosted a talk on energy policy entitled “The Future of Energy Markets: The Other Middle East Revolution.” The event featured Majid Jafar, Chief Executive Officer of Crescent Petroleum as the key speaker. Richard Morningstar, Founding Director of the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council moderated the event.

Jafar recounted the changes in the energy markets in the past 15 years. In 2000, the price of oil was in the low teens and natural gas was $10. The US was an importing country, which meant it was building LNG terminals everywhere. The Middle East was relatively stable. More than a decade later, the price of natural gas has plummeted again, but the US has become an exporting country. The shale oil and gas boom has led the US to convert its LNG terminals for export. Equally if not more importantly, the Middle East has become very unstable.

US Private Sector

Jafar also emphasized the power of US private sector. He claimed the energy breakthrough was despite rather than because of government policy and lauded the US for its long-term strategic energy planning. The US has experienced a large drop in carbon emissions while seeing huge job creation in the oil and gas sector. In contrast, European countries, such as Germany, set ambitious targets like zero fossil fuels and made a mad dash for renewable energy sources. This move stifled the Germany economy and inflicted huge costs on Germany households and industries. Ironically, Germany is experiencing rising emissions and is having to import coal from the US.

Lessons Learned

The CEO shared three lessons he had learned from his experience in the energy industry:

  1. Do not underestimate the power of the US private sector, especially in the energy industry. Huge innovation can drive many changes.
  2. Never underestimate the ability of the Chinese public sector to complete their plans. The East-West pipeline is a classic reflection of the Chinese capability in completing large-scale projects.
  3. Never underestimate the ability of the Middle East public sector to get things wrong.

Jafar added that the unique US ecosystem cannot be replicated elsewhere. It includes infrastructure, capital markets, energy trading hubs, many small companies and a system of mineral rights. However, other countries can learn to provide better access to finance, encourage competition and transparency, and expand their private sectors.

The Middle East

The Middle East contains half the world’s proven oil and gas resources but accounts for less than a 1/3 of global oil exports and less than a 1/6 of global gas exports. The region has experienced a declining market share due to numerous conflicts, years of Iran sanctions and poor policies. Energy subsidies in particular pose major problems. The region has lost $225 billion to subsidies, which do not even help the poor people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries. The good news is that the current low oil prices provide many countries the opportunity to reform subsidies, because the gap between the market price and subsidized price is small.

Egypt is a good example. It has committed to reforming energy subsidies, because they are unsustainable and divert money from important areas of investment that create jobs. Egypt’s spending has been divided between debt service, salaries and subsidies, which left the government with little to spend on investment, infrastructure and jobs.

Another problem with the region is the dominance of national oil companies, which hinder competition and positive performance. When an energy minister is also the chairman of the oil company, there is no difference between the regulator and the regulated, which hurts policymaking. Some countries, such as Kuwait, Iran and Saudi Arabia, have realized this and partnered with private investment companies. Jafar said he is not calling for complete privatization, merely a bigger role for the private sector in developing state assets.

Iraq

Jafar also detailed Iraq’s important role in the energy world. The failing state is responsible for 40% of global oil export growth despite failure to pass hydrocarbon legislation, a lack of internal consensus on energy policy and the ISIS presence. Iraq’s production is nevertheless at an all-time high, making it the second biggest producer in OPEC. If Iraq gets its act together, it could produce 6-12 million barrels of oil per day. Iraq may have larger oil reserves than Saudi Arabia—at least 300 undrilled structures lie in the Western desert.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has done well in passing legislation, working with private companies and essentially getting the policy right. But it faces implementation challenges because the Baghdad government is unable to pay the KRG for its oil. In southern Iraq, the latest market methods have been used with transparent bidding rounds involving private companies. However, the decision to sign service contracts was a bad one, because it means southern Iraq has to pay private oil companies a fixed fee regardless of the price of oil. With the oil price collapse, southern Iraq can no longer afford to pay the companies and is discouraging investment. A new contract model is needed where companies receive a percentage of the government’s oil profits, as opposed to a fixed fee. More importantly, a stable security environment is needed to encourage continued investment.

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Women in countering violent extremism

Women and CVECountering violent extremism (CVE) has become vital to national security. On Tuesday, the United States Institute of Peace explored women’s role. The panel included Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the United Nations, Chantal de Jonge Oudraat, President of Women in International Security, Susan Hayward, Director of Religion and Peacebuilding at USIP and Jacqueline O’Neill, Director of the Institute for Inclusive Security. Kathleen Kuehnast, Director of Gender and Peacebuilding at USIP, moderated the event.

O’Neill talked about the importance of keeping our response to violent extremism in perspective. We often emphasize a securitized response, which undoubtedly is necessary. But a securitized response should not occur at the expense of solving broad, structural issues. We should not allow ourselves to be radicalized when countering extremism. A more appropriate approach would be to work on countering the “violent exclusion” of women and how that feeds into other problems.

Hayward explained the role of religion in CVE. She claimed it was critical to engage religious leaders and actors and use their authority to counter religion-based messages that legitimate and fuel extremism. In particular, she called for more women religious leaders to get involved. They can provide important psychosocial support, recognize radicalization and bridge religious divides.

Oudraat addressed three problems that dominate discussions on women and CVE:

  1. They ignore the gendered nature of security and are oblivious to the relationship between gender equality and status of women on one hand and violent conflict on the other hand.
  2. Many people have a misguided idea of the role and power of women in societies. There is a widespread idea that women are not visible in the public sphere, but are powerful in the private sphere, at home with their families, which makes them great agents for CVE. This is not true—a lot of women lack power even inside their families.
  3. Most of the discussions on women and CVE are not linked to the UN’s Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda. Gender equality is core to sustainable peace, so if we’re not linking CVE to the agenda, then we’re not taking the agenda seriously.

Chowdhury echoed Oudraat’s words and reiterated the importance of CVE as a component of the WPS. He said the agenda is centered on three pillars: participation, prevention and protection of women in conflict situations. The most important pillar is the first one, because if we have participation at all decision-making levels, it will ease the need for protection and prevention. Chowdhury emphasized maintaining a longer-term perspective in CVE. We often take the “hardware” approach to CVE by relying on military efforts. But we must also concentrate on promoting a culture of peace in which children grow up learning that they can resolve problems through non-violent means.

Chowdhury also called for a more determined and forceful approach towards inclusion of women. The world has paid “lip service” to women’s equality, but patriarchal attitudes have set us back time and again.

Bangura focused on women in ISIS, which understands better than state actors the importance of recruiting women and including them in governance. While the radical Islamic organization actively enlists smart women, we are still debating whether to include women in counterterrorism strategies. ISIS understands that when it targets women, it degrades, humiliates and destroys a society. In order to fight ISIS, we need to develop creative solutions, because our current tools are not sufficient. One solution is providing space for women in the counterterrorism effort, such as mothers who can provide insight on the radicalization process their children go through in order to join ISIS.

The panelists agreed that the international community must develop a more sophisticated understanding of gender dynamics as part of CVE. O’Neill and Oudraat pointed out that extremist groups’ ability to appeal to a man and woman’s sense of agency drives recruitment.

Chowdhury and Oudraat also stressed the value of National Action Plans (NAP) in future CVE efforts. These are plans that all UN member states are obligated to prepare, but so far only 43 out of 193 member states have prepared a plan. NAPs include each country’s comprehensive CVE strategy and bridge the distinction between what’s happening domestically and what’s happening internationally. These plans allow the international community to hold governments accountable for their CVE efforts, which is one way to extract national-level commitment. Tangible change should begin with serious treatment of women’s issues. Chowdhury warned that so long as millions of women are marginalized and impoverished, violent extremism will continue to spread.

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Fear of diplomacy

Sorry I can’t embed John Oliver’s commentary here at peacefare.net, but it is worth a few minutes to go enjoy it over at Youtube.

I can however offer this

from Connecticut’s Senator Chris Murphy, who is less funny but easily more interesting. His talk this morning at the Carnegie Endowment put the nuclear deal in the context of a Washington that is shies away from diplomacy–too risky–and tilts instead towards war, for which America is amply well-prepared. He also suggested that rejection of the deal would leave the US no other serious alternative, as the multilateral sanctions, constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and international inspections would evaporate.

This is the vital link in the logic that should lead to support for the deal even among those who don’t like it. Rob Satloff, whose writing I generally admire, argues that it is a false logic. The Congress can reject this deal, he suggests, and still get a satisfactory outcome. I find his argument thoroughly unpersuasive, stringing together an unlikely sequence of events that doesn’t even get us far into the future without resorting to war. Nor does he consider the reaction of the other countries that negotiated the deal.

Senator Murphy is far more realistic. He understands, I think, that rejection of this deal would be the equivalent in our time of Congress’ rejection of President Wilson’s League of Nations. It would put the US in the position of going to war as the only remaining resort rather than implementing an agreement four other permanent members of the UN Security Council find acceptable. Even Saudi Arabia and Israel, now strident opponents of the Iran nuclear deal, would not applaud the US as Iranian missiles rain down on Tel Aviv and the Kingdom’s oil fields. Instead they will be arguing for US ground forces to stop the barrage.

What happens if we reject the deal and refuse to destroy the Iranian nuclear program? Then Iran gets nuclear weapons quickly. Anyone worried about Iranian troublemaking in the region–an entirely well-founded concern–would then have a lot more to be concerned about. A nuclear Iran would no doubt throw its weight around more rather than less.

The Senator made a few other points worth mentioning in his post-speech conversation with Karim Sadjadpour. Even with the deal in force, he thinks the US will retain the right to impose sanctions on Iran for reasons other than nuclear issues. He suggested we would do so if Iran were to execute a terrorist bombing of Israeli tourists, for example. The Senator admitted that US companies are likely to be at a disadvantage in the competition for Iranian business. He thought US anti-bribery legislation would help to protect the business Americans do from capture by regime hardliners.

The Senator was hesitant on one issue: restoring diplomatic relations with Iran. That’s a long way off he suggested. He admitted that the US will need a real presence in Iran to ensure implementation of the agreement but was unwilling to commit to an interest section, suggesting instead that the IAEA inspectors might suffice.

In my view, they won’t, because their remit is entirely technical. I served seven years abroad in US embassies working nonproliferation issues. I think we need our own people in a diplomatically protected facility in Tehran, if only on two and three week trips. But maybe the time is not yet ripe for that proposal. Let’s get the agreement through the uphill fight in Congress first.

PS: If John Oliver didn’t satiate your taste for videos, try this less funny one from Jon Stewart last night (with President Obama).

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Countering Islamic extremism

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.24.16 PMOn Tuesday, the American Enterprise Institute hosted a conference on Islamic extremism, reformism, and the war on terror, which included a panel entitled Options for the Islamic World and the United States. Panelists included: Zainab Al-Suwaij, American Islamic Congress,
Husain Haqqani, Hudson Institute and former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States and Mohamed Younis, Gallup.  Danielle Pletka, AEI, moderated.

Pletka spoke of the need to be more frank about Islamic extremism.  Political correctness has dominated our national conversation. Both parties say Islamic extremism is not Islam.

The Great Mosque in Bahrain
The Great Mosque in Bahrain

But ISIS is a form of Islam, just not a positive form.  There is also bigotry.  There needs to be an intelligent debate.

Al-Suwaij noted that President Obama states that the US is not at war with Islam, but doesn’t distinguish between Islam as a religion and Islamism driven by ideologues and extremists.  We need to address these issues wisely, but firmly.  The majority of the problems in the Muslim world come from the lack of human rights.  Authoritarian rulers are the basis of extremism and support extremism.  The Muslim public realizes that radicalism is the biggest threat to them. If they see the US doing nothing about it, they assume that the US works with these groups.

The 9th-11th Century Khoja Mashad Mosque and Mausoleum in Shahrituz, Tajikistan, 20 miles from the Afghan border.
The 9th-11th Century Khoja Mashad Mosque and Mausoleum in Shahrituz, Tajikistan, 20 miles from the Afghan border

Haqqani explained that Islam is not monolithic.  We are dealing with a problem of those Muslims who are engaged in a war.  Muslims in the West are sensitive to criticism of their religion, but Western publics are not criticizing Muslim piety; they are criticizing beheadings.  The US made a critical error in the Cold War by using Islamic fundamentalism to counter Communism.  It worked in the short-term but backfired.

On Monday, David Cameron outlined a strategy for countering extremism, in which he stated: “We’ve got to show that if you say ‘yes I condemn terror – but the Kuffar are inferior’, or ‘violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter’ – then you too are part of the problem.”  Haqqani wants a similar statement from President Obama. Islamic extremism has to do with Islam because the extremists self-identify as Muslims.  An ideological counter-narrative is needed. US policy must include military, intelligence, ideological and law-enforcement components, but the ideological component is missing.  Haqqani argued that Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Muslim community of India don’t produce extremists because these countries allow more freedom for Muslim scholarly debate.  The West needs to give a voice to unheard Muslim voices and protect pluralism.

The ceiling of the mosque in Abu Ghosh, Israel.
The ceiling of the mosque in Abu Ghosh, Israel

Younis said there is not a war on Islam, but a war within Islam.  The US needs to support diversity of opinion in the Islamic world. There is a need to increase jurisprudential literacy among Muslim masses; there are plenty of Muslim scholars who counter extremism.  People have been convinced that joining the Muslim Brotherhood will get them into heaven, but this is not in the Quran.  There is a conflation of sharia (the ideals of Islamic law) and fiqh (the worldly implementation of sharia).  The premise of Islamic schools of thought has been debate; ISIS is antithetical to this and takfirism (excommunicating fellow Muslims) is not a traditional approach.

When Gallup polled Muslims about 9/11, the the minority who felt it was justified gave political reasons, not religious ones.  Younis has observed three main grievances:

  1. The perception of US political hegemony–the US doesn’t support self-governance for Muslims.
  2. Conflicts in the Middle East, including Iraq and Israel-Palestine.
  3. The perception that Islam is not respected in the West.
The 13th Century Sheikh Maslihaddin Mausoleum, Khojand, Tajikistan
The 13th Century Sheikh Maslihaddin Mausoleum, Khojand, Tajikistan

Younis asserted, however, that increased jurisprudential literacy cannot come from the the US government because it is not expert at reforming religion.  If we openly support pluralist voices, they will be accused of working for the West.  We need to  address the ecosystem that breeds extremism.  The Brotherhood appealed to Egyptians because it was the only group addressing the needs of much of the population.  We should focus on job creation, human capital, and youth engagement.

Al-Suwaij claimed that the US can help since we spend millions annually on promoting civil society, helping to catalyze the Arab Spring.  That did not turn out well, but we could use a similar mechanism to bring religious reform.

9th Century Minaret in Ayni, Tajikistan
9th Century Minaret in Ayni, Tajikistan

Haqqani thought extremism comes partly from grievances and partly from conspiracy theories.  The works of Sayyid Qutb argue that the West is corrupt and controlled by Jews.  The narratives that the Islamic world declined because of colonialism or that Islam is under threat are false.  The Islamic world was colonized because it was already weak.  The West must fight conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, and sectarianism; American academia, NGOs, and think tanks, can play a role.  The US government can facilitate.

Al-Suwaij asserted that a few years ago, the American Islamic Congress discovered that curricula at many Islamic schools taught hatred, anti-Semitism and violence.  Many Islamic groups on college campuses encourage Muslims to be more extreme or join radical groups abroad and encourage non-Muslims to convert.  Younis asserted that on one side, there are those who ask Muslims to condemn radicalism, despite the fact that Muslim groups have been doing so for years.  On the other side, there is the “Islam is peace” argument, which ignores the fact that some commit violence in the name of Islam.  This “food fight” is unhelpful.  Al-Suwaij noted that many of the condemnations that Islamic groups make in public don’t apply in small groups behind closed doors.  Even though Muslims have equal rights in the US, there is still anti-Western rhetoric.

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