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The Left. vs. Israel

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 30, 2016  •  Washington Times

Since the creation of Israel, Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims have been the mainstay of anti-Zionism, with the Left, from the Soviet Union to professors of literature, their auxiliary. But this might be in process of change: as Muslims slowly, grudgingly, and unevenly come to accept the Jewish state as a reality, the Left is becoming increasingly vociferous and obsessive in its rejection of Israel.

Much evidence points in this direction: Polls in the Middle East find cracks in the opposition to Israel while a major American survey for the first time shows liberal Democrats to be more anti-Israel than pro-Israel. The Saudi and Egyptian governments have real security relations with Israel while a figure like (the Jewish) Bernie Sanders declares that "to the degree that [Israelis] want us to have a positive relationship, I think they're going to have to improve their relationship with the Palestinians."

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Cruel Hoax: The Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 28, 2016

In a unanimous voice vote on May 17, the U.S. Senate approved the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which permits victims of terror attacks and their surviving family members of on U.S. soil to bring lawsuits against foreign governments for supporting terrorism. In particular, it permits lawsuits against the Saudi government for its alleged role in 9/11.

Arguing in favor of the bill, Sen. Chuck Schumer noted that, "If the Saudis did not participate in this terrorism, they have nothing to fear about going to court. If they did, they should be held accountable."

In turn, the Saudis threatened to sell off their holdings in U.S. government paper; but while this has been rumored to amount to $750 billion, recent disclosures indicate that it amounts to a not-too-impressive $117 billion.

But then, a week later, it became clear why JASTA passed the Senate without opposition. At the last moment, Schumer inserted an addition that nullifies the bill's purpose. Paul Sperry, who broke this story in the New York Post, explains:

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Finally Getting Serious about Identifying Islamists?

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 23, 2016

After the jihadi attacks in Paris in January and November 2015, the French intelligence agency Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure (DGSI, General Directorate for Internal Security) began to scrutinize personnel at the city's airports.

As Adam Sage reports for the Times of London in "Islamists defy checks to work at Paris airport," DGSI then began doing what is normally unheard of: Looking intently at Muslims among the 82,000 employees at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to see who they are, what they believe. Specifically, it

was ordered to check all Muslims with airside security passes in airports. Radicals were to be weeded out. More than 60 passes were withdrawn for "inappropriate behaviour", such as a refusal to trim a beard or to shake hands with female colleagues. Some employees had their passes withdrawn for praying in Salafist mosques, others because a copy of the Koran was found in their lockers. Some were said to have expressed support for the jihadists who killed 130 people in Paris six months ago.

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Erdoğan's Self-Indulgence

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 20, 2016

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Republic of Turkey's brilliant if evil president, so dominates his country's political scene that he can afford a bit of self-indulgence. And so he does just that. Consider the two dominant themes of Turkish public life at present:

  • Refusing to change the anti-terrorism laws to comply with demands by the European Union: If Erdoğan would make this meaningless semantic concession (he could still arrest anyone he wants, just on a different charge), he would win the gigantic benefit of visa-free travel for 75 million Turks to the EU's Schengen Zone, a benefit that would potentially solve everything from his Kurdish to his Syrian refugee problem.
  • Changing the constitution to change a parliamentary democracy into a presidential system: Erdoğan has been obsessed with this transformation for years even though, already enjoying all the powers the constitution might grant him, and more, he has no need for it.

One watches with morbid fascination as a skilled, once-restrained politician loses all sense of proportion as his power grows, reaching the point where vanity drives his demand for these constitutional and anti-terrorism baubles.

This is no minor matter but points to Erdoğan's likely political demise as he edges toward making one error and one enemy too many. (May 20, 2016)

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The Saudi Solution
Accommodations are plentiful in the kingdom for Sunni Muslim migrants

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 18, 2016  •  Washington Times

As European governments slam the gates shut on illegal Middle Eastern immigrants, where can Syrians and others go to, not far from their homelands, for safety and employment? The answer is obvious but surprisingly neglected: to Saudi Arabia and the other rich Arab sheikhdoms.

The more than one million migrants who boated, trained, bussed, and walked to northern Europe in the past year overwhelmed the continent's capabilities and good will. Those large numbers were then exacerbated by crime and disease, an unwillingness to assimilate, a drive to impose Islamic laws, and such outrages as the Cologne taharrush (mass sexual assault) and the attacks in Paris and Brussels.

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The "Shocking Document" that Shaped the Middle East Turns 100

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 9, 2016  •  Washington Times

The Sykes-Picot accord that has shaped and distorted the modern Middle East was signed one hundred years ago, on May 16, 1916. In the deal, Mark Sykes for the British and François Georges-Picot for the French, with the Russians participating too, allocated much of the region, pending the minor detail of their defeating the Central Powers in World War I.

Sykes-Picot (official name: the Asia Minor Agreement) bears recalling because its profound two mistakes are in danger of being repeated: one concerned form and the other substance.

Form: Negotiated in secret by three European imperial powers, it became the great symbol of European perfidy. Not surprisingly, the Allied Powers secretly carving up the central Middle East without consulting its inhabitants prompted an outraged response (George Antonius, writing in 1938: "a shocking document ... the product of greed at its worst ... a startling piece of double-dealing"). Sykes-Picot set the stage for the proliferation of a deeply consequential conspiracy-mentality that ever since has afflicted the region.

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Ted Cruz for President

by Daniel Pipes  •  May 2, 2016

As a conservative who believes in individual responsibility, limited government, free markets, caution in making social changes, and a robust foreign policy, all my adult life I have been a Republican and (with the single exception of an eccentric race for attorney general in Philadelphia, when the Democrat was tougher than the Republican) I always vote Republican.

But the Republican presidential primary of 2016 is unlike any other because the most popular candidate – Donald J. Trump – not only ignores conservative values but, to put it delicately, lacks the knowledge, experience, dignity, and character to serve as president of the United States.

In this spirit, along with 120 others, I signed a Mar. 2 "Open Letter on Donald Trump from GOP National Security Leaders" that asserted we "commit ourselves to working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted to the office." I wrote an article for the Philadelphia Inquirer titled "There's a Name for Trump's Brand of Politics: Neo-fascism." I regularly tweet with the #NeverTrump hashtag.

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ISIS is Collapsing

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 19, 2016  •  Miami Herald

I predict that the ISIS state in Syria and Iraq will collapse as fast as it arose. Indeed, I will go out on a limb and say I expect it to be gone by the end of 2016.

That the Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) will be gone is predictable because all totalitarian states eventually disappear due to three main developments: cadres become disillusioned, subject populations suffer, and external enemies increase in number. All these problems afflicted, for example, the fascist states of World War II as well as the Soviet bloc.

ISIS will collapse quickly because it suffers from an extreme form of these problems.

Disillusioned cadres: The heaven-on-earth ISIS promises its recruits turns out to be closer to hell, prompting many recruits to flee and many more to want to. Growing numbers of ISIS fighters lack loyalty to the group, toiling only for the money or out of fear. The reasons can be as mundane as bad food and as elevated as bad theology, but grievous disappointment is the common theme coming from the ranks of ISIS members. Radical ideologues evolve into penitents; drug-addled fighters end up as near-vegetables.

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Does Israel Need U.S. Jewish Support?

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 18, 2016  •  Israel Hayom

Elliott Abrams began a conversation by asking what has caused American Jews to distance themselves from Israel and finding the main cause to be the 50-to-60 percent rate of Jewish intermarriage with non-Jews.

Martin Kramer then added a second factor: the changing balance of power between American and Israeli Jews. "When the state of Israel was established in 1948, there were six million American Jews and 700,000 Israelis: a proportion of nine to one. ... today, the ratio of American to Israeli Jews is one-to-one—about six million in each country. In another twenty years, there will be well over eight million Jews in Israel, and probably fewer than six million in America." Nor are numbers the whole story: "these Israelis are economically prosperous and militarily powerful" even as "Jewish political clout" erodes in the United States. As a result, Israelis pay less attention to American Jewish opinion, which in turn leads to American Jewish alienation.

I agree with both their arguments and should like to add a third perspective:

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The UAE's Fragile Good Life

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 11, 2016  •  Washington Times

ABU DHABI - In a region of civil war (Syria, Yemen, Libya), hardening dictatorship (Turkey, Egypt), nuclear build up (Iran), and potential water calamity (Iraq), where in the Middle East outside Israel can one find the good life? Surprisingly perhaps, in the United Arab Emirates, a country in the Persian Gulf.

Despite the country's many challenges – proximity to Iran and Iraq, almost no natural fresh water, oil prices tanking, 8/9ths of the population foreign, violent Islamists lurking – its 10 million inhabitants live well.

Two basic facts set the scene. First, the UAE has the near-unique distinction of being (along with Switzerland), a country ruled by committee, a unique one: the seven rulers of the seven individual emirates. Further, those rulers are embedded in extended and influential families. This combination makes it difficult for one individual to dominate the country or to rule as a narcissist. At the same time, each sovereign (notably, the emir of Dubai) enjoys wide latitude within his own domain, giving each emirate a distinct character.

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MEF's Surprising Straw Poll on Trump

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 10, 2016

The Middle East Forum sent out a questionnaire over my name on April 5 to its mailing lists asking a single question: "How do you see Donald Trump as the Republican Party's presidential candidate?" We then offered four replies:

  • #MakeAmericaGreatAgain - Trump, with enthusiasm.
  • #BetterTrumpThanHillary - Trump, but not happy about it.
  • #NeverTrump - Anyone but Donald Trump.
  • No opinion.

We let the straw poll run for five days and had 3,637 replies. Of these, 23 percent express enthusiasm for Trump, 42 percent unhappily prefer him to Hillary, and 32 percent say no, never.

Some observations about these results:

1. From a macro point of view, this is a rough split into thirds, pointing to the supreme divisiveness of Trump's candidacy.

2. The one-fifth for Trump roughly equals the national average, where he gets about two-fifths of the Republican vote and close to zero of the Democratic one.

3. Nearly two-thirds of our audience would vote for Trump in the general election, a much larger number than expected and completely out of line with national polling. This points to vehement anti-Hillary sentiments among MEF readers.

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There's a Name for Trump's Brand of Politics: Neo-fascism

by Daniel Pipes  •  April 8, 2016  •  Philadelphia Inquirer

Of his many outrageous campaign statements, perhaps Donald J. Trump's most important ones concern his would-be role as president of the United States.

When told that uniformed personnel would disobey his unlawful order as president to torture prisoners and kill civilians, Trump menacingly replied "They won't refuse. They're not going to refuse, believe me." Responding to criticism by the speaker of the House, Trump spoke like a Mafia don: "Paul Ryan, I don't know him well, but I'm sure I'm going to get along great with him. And if I don't? He's gonna have to pay a big price." Complaining that the United States' international standing has declined, Trump promised to make foreigners "respect our country" and "respect our leader" by creating an "aura of personality." Concerning the media, which he despises, Trump said, "I'm going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money."

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Turkey's Erdoğan Gambles and Loses

by Daniel Pipes  •  March 19, 2016  •  Australian

The Republic of Turkey, long a democratizing Muslim country solidly in the Western camp, now finds itself internally racked and at the center of two external crises, the civil war in next-door Syria and the illegal immigration that is changing European politics. The prospects for Turkey and its neighbors are worrisome, if not ominous.

The key development was the coming to power of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2002, when a fluke election outcome gave him total control of the government, which he then brilliantly parlayed into a personal dominion. After years of restraint and modesty, his real personality – grandiloquent, Islamist, and aggressive – came out. Now, he seeks to rule as a despot, an ambition that causes his country incessant, avoidable problems.

Initially, Erdoğan's disciplined approach to finance permitted the Turkish economy to achieve China-like economic growth and won him increasing electoral support while making Ankara a new player in regional affairs. But then conspiracy theories, corruption, short-sightedness, and incompetence cut into the growth, making Turkey economically vulnerable.

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Iraq's Coming Apocalypse

by Daniel Pipes  •  March 13, 2016  •  Washington Times

No, it's not ISIS or rampaging Shi'i militias. It's the Mosul Dam, Iraq's largest, and its possible collapse, perhaps leading to millions of deaths. Those in the know worry catastrophe could strike this spring, as snows melt and build an uncontrollable water pressure.

Hastily built in wartime for the dictator Saddam Hussein by a German-Italian consortium, the Mosul Dam was located where it is because one of Hussein's cronies came from the area and used his pull, despite the fact that engineers knew from the start that its porous gypsum base could not sustain such a huge structure.

What was then called the Saddam Dam opened in 1984 and within two years needed constant grouting, that is, day and night infusions of microfine cement, lots of it – 200 million pounds over the decades – to keep it from collapsing. The grouting keeps the foundational problem from worsening but does not solve it.

The years went by; fortunately, there was no disaster on the American watch. Then, during a fateful ten-day period, August 7-17, 2014, the Islamic State (ISIS) seized control of the dam. While the group neither sabotaged nor blew up the structure, grouting stopped for six weeks and the whole repair regime – especially the skilled workers and the supply of cement – henceforth became less consistent.

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India-West Asia Relationship Can Swing Either Way

by Daniel Pipes  •  February 24, 2016  •  Hindustan Times (New Delhi)

NEW DELHI – Although it's been a quarter-century since India came out from its era of socialist economics and pro-Soviet foreign policy, recent discussions I held with intellectuals in New Delhi and elsewhere suggest to me that foreign policy specialists in this ascending power are still fundamentally thinking through their role in the world, especially vis-à-vis the United States, China, and what they call West Asia (i.e., the Middle East).

Although the first two countries rightly attract most attention, the Middle East presents acute challenges to India – plus a dash of opportunity. Here's a review of principal connections to that volatile region:

Islamism: Islamic influence has historically nearly always moved from the Middle East to other regions, including South Asia, and almost never the reverse. At present, that is the case with the Islamist doctrine – the contention that to become rich and strong, Muslims must revert to a medieval model and fully apply Islamic laws – which bellows out most strongly from Saudi Arabia and Iran targeting, respectively, Sunni and Shiite Muslims worldwide. Their influence radicalizes traditionally moderate Muslim populations in many regions (such as the Balkans and Indonesia) and carries extraordinarily dire implications for India, whose vast Muslim community of 177 million represents far and away the largest religious minority in the world. (The 67 million Christians in China rank second.)

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