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Dubious U.S. Mission in Syria
September 27, PressTV, The Debate

Interpreting the Arab Upheavals
September 25, Blouin News

Thinking about Kurdistan
September 12, ​Real News, The Blaze​

ISIS and the world's reaction to the Islamic caliphate
September 3, Sun News Network, The Arena with Michael Coren

The West Lacks a Plan
September 2014, factum (Switzerland)

Catching Up on Libya
August 27, ​Real News, The Blaze​

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Criticisms of the U.S.-led Air Campaign against ISIS

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 28, 2014

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The brief version:

  • Keep an eye on the ball: the Iranian nuclear build-up is 1,000 times a greater threat than ISIS.
  • Tehran should be left to deal with this problem, which threatens its allies in Damascus and Baghdad, and potentially even Iran itself.
  • Pipes' iron rule of war: Never initiate fighting unless prepared to do what is needed to win. (I.e., don't in advance rule out ground troops.)
  • The search for moderate opponents to the Assad regime is chimerical.
  • Destroying oil production facilities is almost always a mistake.
  • American efforts should be limited to (1) providing assistance to the Kurds and (2) humanitarian missions.

(September 28, 2014)

Erdoğan Fails to Conquer New York City

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 23, 2014

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The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, appeared at an hour-long on-the-record event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York yesterday afternoon. The complete – if not entirely coherent – transcript of the English-language simultaneous translation can be found at "A Conversation With Recep Tayyip Erdoğan." I attended the meeting along with many other members (so many attended that an overflow room was needed) and I offer some responses and reflections about him:

The Council hosts its fair share of heads of state and government, all of whom arrive surrounded by bodyguards and aides, but Erdoğan had a far more massive entourage than any I'd ever seen; by my estimate, they numbered 35, nearly all of them young men in dark suits. Odder yet, they took up the first three rows, where they sat spellbound to their leader's every word, as though they had never heard any of it before. Even before he spoke, then, the profusion of fluttering staffers conveyed an aura of grandiosity – as was no doubt their intended purpose.

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The Case for a Unified Kurdistan

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 16, 2014  •  National Review Online

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Is a united and independent Kurdistan a prospect we should welcome, or a dangerous idea that would create more problems in the Middle East than it would solve?

Philip Jenkins, a distinguished professor of history at Baylor University, sees the prospect of a grand Kurdistan, with Iraqi, Syrian, Turkish, and Iranian components, as "actively terrifying." I'd like to assure him that it also has the potential to be benign.

Professor Jenkins expresses his fears in an article entitled "The Case Against a Unified Kurdistan," which happens to be a direct reply to a recent NRO article of mine, "Hello, Kurdistan."

As his title suggests, Jenkins does not reject independent Kurdish polities everywhere. Indeed, he admits that an "excellent case" exists for supporting the one already in Iraq and he seems resigned to its Syrian counterpart. He also acknowledges that, "By the standards of the region, the Kurds are undoubtedly the good guys, the closest thing we might have to an actively pro-Western state." So far, we are in accord.

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Think Tanks for Sale or Rent

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 15, 2014  •  National Review Online

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In a eyebrow-raising 4,000-word exposé, "Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks" published in the New York Times on September 7, Eric Lipton, Brooke Williams and Nicholas Confessore look into the novel issue of foreign governmental financing for American think tanks.

The trio found that while the total scope "is difficult to determine … since 2011, at least 64 foreign governments, state-controlled entities or government officials have contributed to a group of 28 major United States-based research organizations." Using the sketchy available information, they estimate "a minimum of $92 million in contributions or commitments from overseas government interests over the last four years. The total is certainly more."

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There's No Difference between ISIS and ISIL

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 12, 2014  •  National Review Online, The Corner

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Some conservatives make an issue of the fact that President Barack Obama routinely refers to the organization that seized the Iraqi city of Mosul and declared a caliphate not as the "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria," or ISIS, but as the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," or ISIL. In his televised address about the group on Sept. 10, for example, he used the acronym ISIL twenty times.

The ISIS vs. ISIL controversy first emerged, as far as I can tell, when FoxNews.com published "Obama's Use of ISIL, not ISIS, Tells Another Story" on Aug. 24, an analysis of the two acronyms by Liz Peek of the Fiscal Times. Peek argued:

both describe the same murderous organization. The difference is that the Levant describes a territory far greater than simply Iraq and Syria. It's defined as this: The Levant today consists of the island of Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, and part of southern Turkey

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ISIS Is Not Islamic?

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 10, 2014

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In a televised address this evening, President Barack Obama outlined his ideas on how to defeat the Islamic State. Along the way, he declared the organization variously known as ISIS or ISIL to be "not Islamic."

In making this preposterous claim, Obama joins his two immediate predecessors in pronouncing on what is not Islamic. Bill Clinton called the Taliban treatment of women and children "a terrible perversion of Islam." George W. Bush deemed that 9/11 and other acts of violence against innocents "violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith."

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Hello, Kurdistan

by Daniel Pipes  •  September 10, 2014  •  The Washington Times

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Before welcoming the emerging state of Kurdistan in northern Iraq, I confess to having opposed its independence in the past.

In 1991, after the Kuwait War had ended and as Saddam Hussein attacked Iraq's six million Kurds, I made three arguments against American intervention on their behalf, arguments still commonly heard today: (1) Kurdish independence would spell the end of Iraq as a state, (2) it would embolden Kurdish agitation for independence in Syria, Turkey, and Iran, leading to destabilization and border conflicts, and (3) it would invite the persecution of non-Kurds, causing "large and bloody exchanges of population."

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What Egypt's President Sisi Really Thinks

by Daniel Pipes  •  Fall 2014  •  Middle East Quarterly

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Former air marshal Husni Mubarak, now 86, had ruled Egypt for 30 years when his military colleagues forced him from office in 2011. Three years and many upheavals later, those same colleagues replaced his successor with retired field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, 59. The country, in short, made a grand round-trip, going from military ruler to military ruler, simply dropping down a generation.

This return raises basic questions: After all the hubbub, how much has actually changed? Does Sisi differ from Mubarak, for example, in such crucial matters as attitudes toward democracy and Islam, or is he but a younger clone?

Sisi remains something of a mystery. He plays his cards close to the vest; one observer who watched his presidential inaugural speech on television on June 8 described it as "loaded with platitudes and very long." He left few traces as he zoomed through the ranks in three years, going from director of Military Intelligence and Reconnaissance to become the youngest member of the ruling military council, and then rapidly ascending to chief of staff, defense minister, and president.

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Basting Turkey's New Prime Minister

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 28, 2014  •  The Washington Times

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As Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ascends today to the presidency of Turkey, his hand-picked successor, Ahmet Davutoğlu, simultaneously assumes Erdoğan's old job of prime minister. What do these changes portend for Turkey and its foreign policy? In two words: nothing good.

In June 2005, when Davutoğlu served as chief foreign policy adviser to Erdoğan, I spoke with him for an hour in Ankara. Two topics from that conversation remain vivid.

He asked me about the neo-conservative movement in the United States, then at the height of its fame and supposed influence. I began by expressing doubts that I was a member of this elite group, as Davutoğlu assumed, and went on to note that none of the key decision-makers in the George W. Bush administration (the president, vice president, secretaries of state and defense, or the national security adviser) was a neo-conservative, a fact that made me skeptical of its vaunted power. Davutoğlu responded with a subtle form of antisemitism, insisting that neo-conservatives were far more powerful than I acknowledged because they worked together in a secret network based on religious ties. (He had the good grace not to mention which religion that might be.)

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Middle East Extremists Attack Their Supporters

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 26, 2014

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This weblog entry complements one dating from 2011, "Palestinians Attack Their Supporters." What had been a specifically abhorrent Palestinian specialty seems to be spreading, revealing yet another dimension of a sick region. (August 23, 2014)

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The Caliphate Brings Trauma

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 25, 2014  •  Aydınlık Daily (Turkey)

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Without warning, the ancient and long powerless institution of the caliphate returned to life on June 29, 2014. What does this event augur?

The classic concept of the caliphate – of a single successor to Muhammad ruling a unified Muslim state – lasted just over a century and expired with the emergence of two caliphs in 750 CE. The power of the caliphate collapsed in about the year 940 CE. After a prolonged, shadowy existence, the institution disappeared altogether in 1924. The only subsequent efforts at revival were trivial, such as the so-called Kalifatsstaat in Cologne, Germany. In other words, the caliphate has been inoperative for about a millennium and absent for about a century.

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The Muslim Brotherhood's Place in Islamist Politics

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 23, 2014

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For some observers, ​the Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood (Jama'a al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin), founded by Hasan al-Banna in Port Said, Egypt, in 1928, has become nearly equivalent with Islamism, the radical utopian ideology that seeks to make Muslims rich and powerful through complete and severe application of Islamic law, the Shari'a. One hears of the MB providing the key ideas, of it penetrating the U.S. government, inspiring the new caliphate, dominating the Turkish state, and more.

But this is inaccurate; while the Muslim Brotherhood is an important institution with international reach, it (1) is a specific organization that (2) represents only one of several competing Islamist strands. Other major strands include the Wahhabi, the Khomeinist, and the Deobandi. Different and competing visions, Sunni or Shi'i, each has its own tactics and personnel. For an analogy, think of the competing Communist strands: Troskyist, Stalinist, Titoist, Maoist, and so on.

For example, the Wahhabi doctrine of Arabia, and not the Muslim Brotherhood, has spawned such groups as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Therefore, "Muslim Brotherhood" should be applied to that organization and not as a synonym for "Islamism." (August 23, 2014)

Is CAIR Lying about a Rally for Hamas?

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 22, 2014  •  Gatestone Institute

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A "Stop the Bloodshed in Gaza" rally in downtown Miami on July 20 featured aggressive Islamist chants typical of anti-Israel events. In English, the demonstrators yelled "We are Hamas!" and "We are Jihad!" (as can be seen and heard here). In Hebrew, a Hamas partisan screamed at an Israel-supporter, "Son of a bitch" and "Go to Hell!" and made an obscene arm gesture. In Arabic, the crowd chanted the infamous "Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jew, Muhammad's army will return" (a reference to a massacre of Jews under the auspices of Islam's prophet in A.D. 629).

As I say, just a typical anti-Israel demonstration, and far from the worst. Typical – except that some of its sponsors desperately seek respectability.

In a July 23 report on the demonstration, investigative researcher Danielle Avel posted a scan of a glossy paper flier advertising the event, listing its seven sponsors:

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Lessons of the War in Gaza

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 9, 2014  •  National Review Online

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As Israeli operations against Hamas wind down, here are seven insights into the month-long conflict:

Missile shield: The superb performance of Iron Dome, the protective system that shot down nearly every Hamas rocket threatening life or property, has major military implications for Israel and the world. Its success signals that "Star Wars" (as opponents maliciously dubbed it upon introduction in 1983) can indeed provide protection from short-range and also presumably from long-range rockets and missiles, potentially changing the future of warfare.

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Monitoring the Caliphates' Spread

by Daniel Pipes  •  August 6, 2014

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In an analysis of the Islamic State's declaration of a caliphate on June 29, I predicted yesterday that this "will leave a legacy" because Caliph Ibrahim and his associates "have successfully resurrected a central institution of Islam, making the caliphate again a vibrant reality. Islamists around the world will treasure its moment of brutal glory and be inspired by it." This weblog entry follows up and keeps an eye on those new caliphates as well as on followers of Caliph Ibrahim who bring lands under his control:

Bangladesh: A group of Islamists pledged allegiance to Caliph Ibrahim. (August 6, 2014)

Boko Haram: Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, declared Groza, a just-seized town in northeastern Nigeria, to be placed under caliphate rule: "Thanks be to Allah who gave victory to our brethren in Gwoza and made it part of the Islamic caliphate" he stated in a 25-minute speech on video obtained by Agence France Press. AFP notes:

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