Predictions by Daniel Pipes
"The Middle East is the graveyard of predictions."
-- Adam Shatz, The Nation, Aug. 4, 2014
Introduction: I like to say that history is the best preparation for understanding the present and predicting the future. Here is a collection of my predictions. Daniel Pipes
1980: Iranians will release American hostages before Reagan reaches office
"Why the Iranian Militants Will Free the Hostages" Business Week, December 8, 1980.
Because the war with Iraq makes it increasingly imperative that Iran resume normal relations, the Iranians are probably now prepared to release the captives. The timing of their release cannot be predicted, but it could well occur before Ronald Reagan takes office. President Carter will undoubtedly make every effort to bring them home before his term ends, and the Iranian leaders could well conclude that he will give them a better deal than Reagan.
1981: Pan-Arab dreams are futile and will always fail
"Understanding the Middle East: A Guide to Common Terms," International Insight, July/Aug. 1981.
A universal Arab state has widespread appeal but is utterly futile; Arabic speakers are too heterogeneous, too spread out, too fractured politically for them ever to unite. The total failure of repeated attempts at merger since 1958 (the most recent being between Libya and Syria) implies that future efforts will also collapse.
1982: Defeat of the PLO, increase in U.S. influence, end of Arab-Israeli wars
"Why Won't the Arabs Help the Palestinians?" The Wall Street Journal, July 20, 1982.
It probably will not matter much who wins in Beirut (that is, whether the PLO stays or goes), for regardless of that outcome, the fighting almost certainly marks the defeat of the PLO as the embodiment of the idea of destroying Israel. ...
The devastation of the PLO and Syrian forces will probably diminish Arab reliance on the Soviet Union (which can only supply them with more arms) and increase the influence of the United States (which has diplomatic leverage over Israel). This is probably the last major Arab-Israeli military confrontation for a long time to come, maybe ever.
1983: On the dangers of meddling in Afghanistan to stop the Soviets
In the Path of God (Basic Books, 1983), p. 162.
It would be even more of a mistake for the democracies to rally Muslim states against the USSR, an idea that won some support following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Any feelings aroused against the Communists, whether of a legalist or autonomist nature, would then rebound against the West too; kafirs have no business meddling in these highly charged domains.
1985: Radical Islam declares war on the United States
"'Death to America' in Lebanon," Middle East Insight, March/April 1985, p. 3.
The United States faces a new adversary, the radical fundamentalist Shi'i Muslim. He first appeared with the rise to power of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1978 and has grown more dangerous in subsequent years. His ideology, tactics, and goals make this enemy dissimilar to any encountered in the past. The scope of the radical fundamentalist's ambition poses novel problems; and the intensity of his onslaught against the United States makes solutions urgent.
1985: Beware Islamist forces in Afghanistan
"East and West in the Middle East" Middle East Focus, March 1985.
Some [Afghan] groups fighting the Soviet troops are led by fundamentalist Muslims, others have more Western-oriented leaders. Differences between these groups have great importance: not only do the fundamentalists have a tendency to fight the other groups - rather than the Soviet troops - thus weakening all resistance forces, but they have their own plans for the future of the country. Were the fundamentalists, who hate the United States as much or more than the Soviet Union, to prevail, the future Afghan government would pursue policies comparable to Khomeini's in Iran. To the contrary, were the non-fundamentalists to prevail, they would establish a government friendly to the United States. Should the mujahideen one day repulse the Soviet attackers, these differences will become critical to American interests in the area.
1985: Syrian Importance to the Arab-Israeli Conflict
"It's Syria That Counts in the Middle East." The Wall Street Journal, August 13, 1985.
the Arab-Israeli conflict will not terminate until a very different government takes power in Damascus.
1986: Alawis know they are in trouble with Sunnis
"Syria's Imperial Dream Foreign adventures shore up Assad's regime." The New Republic, June 9, 1986.
The Alawites, a small minority, know they cannot rule indefinitely against the wishes of more than half the population.
1986: Muslims must recognize Western primacy
P.J. Vatikiotis, Middle Eastern Studies, Oct. 1986, pp. 576-86, review of my 1983 book, In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power.
If Muslim culture is incompatible with its adoption, as Dr Pipes contends, then Muslims must either renounce their Islamicity or strive to attain such enormous power so as not to have to do that. ... If the connection of Islam with power and wealth was broken by the West's onslaught, surely Muslim fundamentalists at least believe it can be restored by an Islamic counteroffensive. In some significant respects Dr Pipes has couched his thesis and structured his argument in such a way as to preclude a symbiotic relationship between the Islamic world and the West at any time, unless the Muslims are prepared to recognize the civilizational primacy of the West in modern times, and accept the inexorable link between Westernization and modernization.
1987: Sunni-Alawi split after Asad
"Syria After Asad." World and I, February 1987.
Sunnis have a long list of grievances against 'Alawi rule. They dislike the domination of power by a people considered to be socially and religiously inferior. They resent the socialism which reduces their wealth, the indignities against Islam, the attacks on the PLO, and what they perceive to be cooperation with Maronites and Zionists. They live with the memory of Hama and other massacres.
This hostility weighs heavily on the leadership; indeed, bedrock Sunni opposition remains the Asad regime's greatest and most abiding problem. As a small and divided minority, the 'Alawis know they cannot rule indefinitely against the wishes of almost 70 per cent of the population [that is Sunni Muslim]. Further, the traditional place of 'Alawis in Syrian society and the manner of their ascent this century both make 'Alawi power likely to be transient. That Sunni Muslims see 'Alawi rule as an aberration probably bears on the future of political power in Syria as much as anything else.
In the likely event that the ruling elite fights among itself ... , 'Alawi weakness could provide the needed opening for Sunnis to reassert their power. The resentful majority population will fully exploit any faltering by the 'Alawis. The effects will be severe; as one analyst has observed, "in the long run, it is highly dangerous for the 'Alawis. If they lose their control, there will be a bloodbath.
For follow-up on this article, see my weblog entry, "'Syria after Asad'," March 30, 2011 and subsequent updates.
1988: Impact of a Palestinian state
"Imagine a Palestinian State: A Nightmare for the Arabs and for Israel." The New York Times, April 25, 1988.
no one should expect a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza to end the Arab-Israeli conflict: It would merely move it to a new stage ... A Palestinian state means new disasters for the Palestinian people and instability for the Arab states.
1988: The Nature of a Palestinian State
"Dim Prospects for Palestinian State." Indianapolis Star, December 26, 1988.
These [dismal] choices are the realistic alternatives facing the potential citizens of a Palestinian state. And should it be the PLO that runs that new state, we then have an even better idea of what lies in store for them. The PLO's record since its founding in 1964 has been an unhappy one of an arrogant leadership ruling with an iron fist and disregarding the interests of non-PLO Palestinians. There is no reason to expect this well-established behavior to change if the organization ever comes to power.
1989: The Coming Sunni Revolt in Syria
"The Alawi Capture of Power in Syria." Middle Eastern Studies 1989.
It appears inevitable that the 'Alawis - still a small and despised minority, for all their present power - will eventually lose their control over Syria. When this happens, it is likely that conflicts along communal lines will bring them down, with the critical battle taking place between the 'Alawi rulers and the Sunni majority. In this sense, the 'Alawis' fall - be it through assassinations of top figures, a palace coup, or a regional revolt - is likely to resemble their rise.
Contrast this with the views of most Syria specialists about the role of the Alawis, from the same article:
Analysts better disposed to Asad tend to discount ... the sectarian factor. ... John F. Devlin, for example, denies that the disproportion of 'Alawis in the army implies 'Alawi dominance of Syria. He would resist seeing "every domestic disagreement in terms of a Sunni-'Alawi clash." For him, the fact that 'Alawis are in power is basically accidental: "The Ba'th is a secular party, and it is heavy with minorities." Alasdair Drysdale calls it "reductionist" to focus on ethnicity, arguing that this is one of many factors-geographic, class, age, education, occupation-that define the ruling elite. According to Yahya M. Sadowski, "sectarian loyalties play an insignificant role in the Ba'th, and even confessional bonds are only one among many avenues by which patronage is extended."
1990: Palestinian Intentions vis-à-vis Israel
"Can the Palestinians Make Peace?" Commentary, April 1990.
there can be either an Israel or a Palestine, but not both. To think that two states can stably and peacefully coexist in the small territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is to be either naïve or duplicitous. If the last seventy years teach anything, it is that there can be only one state west of the Jordan River. Therefore, to those who ask why the Palestinians must be deprived of a state, the answer is simple: grant them one and you set in motion a chain of events that will lead either to its extinction or the extinction of Israel.
1990: Danger of American Occupation of Iraq
"War Now - Or War Later." The New York Times October 23, 1990.
if our side did reach Basra or even Baghdad and eliminated Mr. Hussein's regime, what next? The prospect of American occupying forces in Iraq fostering a new government in its own image would arouse tremendous hostility among some Iraqis and throughout the Middle East - and would probably fail.
1991: Dangers of American Occupation of Iraq
"What Kind of Peace?" The National Interest, Spring 1991, pp. 8-12.
an American military occupation of Iraq lasting for more than some months would probably lead to one of the great disasters in American foreign policy. ... the Iraqi populace can be counted on to resent a predominantly American occupying force. Occupying troops would find themselves victimized by suicide attackers, car bombers, and other acts of terror; the scene in Iraq would recall, on a much grander scale, the depredations suffered by the multinational forces in Lebanon during 1983-84. The Syrian and Iranian governments would actively sabotage the foreign presence (again, as they did in Lebanon). The populations of Saudi Arabia and Egypt would probably force their governments to turn against their non-Muslim allies. As the ignominy of sniper fire buried the prestige of high-tech military superiority, the famous victory achieved by Tomahawks, Tornadoes, and Patriots would quickly become a dim memory. The brilliant General Schwartzkopf would turn into a humiliated Schwartzkopf Pasha. ...
The phobia about non-Muslim forces makes the Middle East fundamentally different from other foreign regions in which the United States has fought large-scale wars; it presents the greatest single obstacle to American efforts to stabilize the region. These considerations lead me to conclude that the first imperative of U.S. strategy is not to keep large numbers of American ground troops for long periods in the Persian Gulf region. There must be no American occupation of Iraq, no NATO-like alliance with the Saudis and Kuwaitis, no permanent military bases in their countries.
"Why America Can't Save the Kurds." The Wall Street Journal, April 11, 1991.
In April 1991, when a debate was raging about the desirability of a U.S. intervention against the Saddam Hussein regime, I wrote about the prospect of U.S. forces occupying Iraq, "with Schwartzkopf Pasha ruling from Baghdad":
It sounds romantic, but watch out. Like the Israelis in southern Lebanon nine years ago, American troops would find themselves quickly hated, with Shi'is taking up suicide bombing, Kurds resuming their rebellion, and the Syrian and Iranian governments plotting new ways to sabotage American rule. Staying in place would become too painful, leaving too humiliating. ... Given the realities of Iraq - its predominantly Muslim culture in particular - we cannot remake or unmake Iraq. There is an inhumanity to Middle East politics that we can neither contain nor stop.
1992: Palestinian Attitudes toward Israel
In Jonathan R. Cohen, ed., My Brother's Keeper: World Conference on Anti-Semitism and Prejudice in a Changing World. Brussels: World Jewish Congress, 1992, pp. 165-69.
at the state level, anti-Semitism is receding, while at the level of individuals, at the level of Palestinians, it is increasing. To me this points to the increased possibility of Israel making a deal at the state level while having to tough it out and endure the attitudes, the wishes, the dreams, of the Palestinians.
1993: Putting Faith in the PLO
"Arafat Said Yes, But Most Palestinian Leaders Say No." The Wall Street Journal Europe, September 22, 1993.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin counts on the PLO-controlled area turning into an economically vibrant and politically stable state, hoping that once Palestinians become prosperous and bourgeois, they will lose their taste for radical ideologies and violence. Maybe; but the Middle East boasts plenty of rich and conservative societies ruled by extremely bellicose regimes (think of Libya, Iraq, and Iran). In this part of the world, leaders count much more than followers, and most Palestinian leaders remain unreconstructed.
1993: Importance of the Oslo Accord
"Arafat Said Yes, But Most Palestinian Leaders Say No." The Wall Street Journal Europe, September 22, 1993.
President Clinton described the signing of an agreement by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) nine days ago as a "great occasion of history." Yasir Arafat called it an "historic event, inaugurating a new epoch," while Israel's Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called it no less than "a revolution." As though to confirm this extravagant view, American newspapers devoted as many as seven full pages to the White House ceremony while television offered hours of uninterrupted programming. But a nagging question remains. Was it really such a major event? Probably not.
1993: Oslo Accord Helps Hamas
"Arafat Said Yes, But Most Palestinian Leaders Say No." The Wall Street Journal Europe, 22 September 1993.
Arab nationalists once lead the effort to destroy Israel; this accord ends that era and gives Islamists the chance to lead. ... The accord may actually widen the appeal of the fundamentalist organizations.
1993: Arafat's Intentions at Oslo
"Implications of the Rabin-Arafat Accord." Forward, September 24, 1993.
Mr. Arafat has merely adopted a flexible approach to fit adverse circumstances, saying whatever needed to be said to survive. The PLO had not a change of heart – merely a change of policy. ... the deal with Israel represents a lease on life for the PLO, enabling it to stay in business until Israel falters, when it can deal a death blow.
1994: Dangers from the Middle East to Americans
"The End of the Reign of Optimism in the Middle East." The Washington Times, March 16, 1994.
As Americans, there's little we can do if Middle Eastern leaders persist in deluding themselves that peace and economic growth are just around the corner. But we can ourselves understand that the Middle East is on a downward course and prepare accordingly. From our point of view, the Middle East increasingly stands out as a region that develops and exports problems, including political radicals, terrorism, drugs, unconventional weaponry, and conspiracy theories. We should recognize that this region resembles the Pacific rim less than it does Africa; and we should ready ourselves for the many troubles yet to come.
1994: Oslo Diplomacy Will Fail
"[Oslo Diplomacy:] Now for the Hard Part . . . " Forward, May 6, 1994.
Notwithstanding the economic agreement signed this week, the peace process between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Israel is in very bad shape, so bad that it may be on its way to failure.
1994: Israel's Respite is Temporary
"The Vision of Shimon Peres." Middle East Forum Wire, May 23, 1994.
Yes, the old danger to Israel from soldiers, tanks, and aircraft has virtually disappeared. It is not gone for long, however: a new danger of missiles and unconventional weaponry is but some years away.
1994: Radical Islam as the Enemy of the United States
"Islamic Fundamentalists are the New Big Threat to the West." The Philadelphia Inquirer, September 16, 1994.
With the decline of Marxism-Leninism, fundamentalist Islam now stands as the world's leading anti-American ideology.
1994: How the Iranians Will Try to Take Over Iraq, Post-Saddam Hussein
Michael Kramer, "The Political Interest the Cost of Removing Saddam," Time Magazine, October 24, 1994.
There's a "misunderstanding about Iran," says Daniel Pipes, a leading expert on Islam who edits the Middle East Quarterly. "Khomeini's successors, led by President Rafsanjani, are more moderate only at home, where they are trying—and failing—to marry market economics and fundamentalist ideology. Their foreign policy is in fact worse than Khomeini's because they also believe in Persian nationalism, which historically has meant that they want to control the gulf, as they've said repeatedly." But the Iranians are smarter and more subtle than the Iraqis, adds Pipes: "They'd want to take control of Iraq—at least—if Saddam were gone, but they'd likely create a classic satrapy rather than move to an outright annexation. They're not dumb enough to do something that offers a pretext for an American military response."
1994: Israelis would give up Golan Heights for mere words
"U.S. Troops in the Golan Heights?" The Washington Times, November 15, 1994.
Two facts have always to be kept in mind about [Syrian-Israeli] talks. First, over five decades, the Syrians have consistently been Israel's most ferocious and consistent opponent, so that Israelis are more suspicious of Syrians than any other Arabs. Second, the Israelis will be giving up a tangible asset (the Golan Heights, a great strategic position) for nothing but words in return.
1995: Arab Intentions vis-à-vis Israel
"The Word on the Arab Street on Israel," (with Tonya Ugoretz Buzby). The Wall Street Journal, June 8, 1995.
support for the peace process does not signal a change of heart in Arab attitudes toward Israel. Many supporters of peace are simply lying low until Israel weakens militarily. Yes, they seem to be saying, we realize there is no choice other than official reconciliation with Israel; we accept that. But no, we will not interact with Israelis – indeed, we continue to see violence against them as legitimate.
1995: Turkish Designs on Northern Iraq
"Hot Spot: Turkey, Iraq, and Mosul," Middle East Quarterly, September 1995.
Unnoticed by the international media, a brief controversy flared up in the Middle East during early May 1995, when Turkey's President Süleyman Demirel gave several interviews with Turkish journalists in which he called for a change in Turkey's borders with Iraq. While the controversy quickly disappeared, it raised an issue that could return.
Eventually, Demirel retracted his comments.
And so, the incident apparently came to an end, at least temporarily. But nothing was actually resolved and the Mosul issue could flare up into a crisis, especially if the Iraqi government continues to weaken.
1995: Arafat's Intentions vis-à-vis Israel
"Two-Faced Yasir," (with Alexander T. Stillman). The Weekly Standard, September 25, 1995.
Which is the real Arafat[, the peaceable or the bellicose]? A clue may lie in the revealing statement he made to a Spanish newspaper in October 1994, when asked if he differed from the Arafat of 1974, the one who appeared before the United Nations with an olive branch in one hand and a Kalashnikov in the other. "In no way at all," he replied. "I am not a chameleon, I cannot change my coat." By his own words, then, Arafat is the same person of twenty years earlier. The only difference is that, for the most part, he now holds up only an olive branch for the West and a Kalashnikov for his fellow Arabs.
1995: Radical Islam Declares War on the United States
"There Are No Moderates: Dealing with Fundamentalist Islam," The National Interest, Fall 1995.
Unnoticed by most Westerners, war has been unilaterally declared on Europe and the United States.
1996: Hafiz al-Asad Will Not Sign an Agreement with Israel
"Just Kidding: Syria's Peace Bluff." The New Republic, January 8 & 15, 1996.
Only relatively minor differences may separate [Syria and Israel], the sort that could be dealt with in a matter of weeks or maybe months; nonetheless, a Syrian-Israeli agreement seems not likely then or, indeed, so long as Hafiz al-Asad remains in power .... If peace itself spells little but trouble, the peace process brings many benefits. Assad's goal, then, is not peace but a peace process. He participates in negotiations without intending that they reach fruition. Engaging in apparently serious talks wins him improved relations with the West without having to open up his country.
1996: Asad and Alawis fear Sunnis
"Just Kidding: Syria's Peace Bluff," The New Republic, January 8 & 15, 1996.
Asad is recognized by few of the world's Muslims as a fellow believer. Rather, they see him as an 'Alawi, an adherent of a small, secretive post-Islamic religion found almost exclusively in Syria. This affiliation renders Asad an outsider in his own country. That 'Alawis have ruled Syria since 1966 has aroused great resentment on the part of the majority Sunni Muslim population. As a small minority, 'Alawis fear they cannot rule indefinitely against the wishes of almost 70 percent of the population. Were the resentful majority of Sunnis to reach power, they would probably exact a terrible revenge. At any rate, that is the worry 'Alawis express in private.
1997: Palestinian Turn toward Violence
"On Arab Rejectionism." Commentary, December 1997.
Engaging in a "peace process" with partners who reject one's very existence, or whose leaders can strike a deal only by thwarting the popular will, is fraught with danger. If Israel conveys a sense of war-weariness, negotiations will not lead to the compromises and accommodations it needs to gain from its neighbors. On the contrary, such a posture will encourage aggressiveness and cause adversaries to dig in their heels, secure in the belief that a strategy of patience and pressure will enable them, in the end, to prevail. This can be seen very vividly in the response of Palestinians to Israeli concessions: an escalation rather than a moderation of demands, and suicide bombing attacks against Jewish civilians that weaken Israel's resolve.
1998: Appeasement Will Bring on Violence
". . . Too Bad Their Minds Are Made Up." Forward, December 25, 1998.
If Israelis insist on pursuing the chimera of co-opting Palestinians by enriching them, they will sooner or later find themselves facing not just an overwhelming hostile people, but one that now has far greater means at its disposal. Eventually, Israelis will realize that, however unpleasant the prospect, they must resume their deterrence posture of old. ... the premature conclusion that Palestinians have closed down the conflict, when they in fact have not, is sure recipe for trouble.
1998: Radical Islam Declares War on the United States
"[Terrorism:] The New Enemy." The Wall Street Journal Europe, August 27, 1998.
A state of war exists between them and the West, mainly America, not because of the American response but because radical fundamentalist Muslims see themselves in a long-term conflict with Western values.
1998: Hafiz al-Asad Will Not Sign an Agreement with Israel
Review of Itamar Rabinovich, "The Brink of Peace: The Israeli-Syrian Negotiations." The Weekly Standard, November 16, 1998.
[Hafiz al-Asad] had no intention of ever signing a peace treaty with Israel. Instead, he kept the talks going and going, viewing them as an end in themselves. He wanted not closure but protraction; he wanted not peace but peace process.
1999: Hafiz al-Asad Will Not Sign an Agreement with Israel
"Assad Isn't Interested." The Jerusalem Post, August 29, 1999.
If one figures that Assad does not really want a deal, things fall into place. ... Assad is playing at negotiations but has no intention ever to conclude a treaty with Israel .... Assad's frail health could make him all the more reluctant to take risky steps.
"No Time to Cajole." The Jerusalem Post, December 21, 1999.
Time and again, he [Hafiz al-Asad] has manufactured a pretext to stay away from the table or stall the negotiations. I think he fears an agreement with Israel would signal to the Syrian population an opening to the West and an end to totalitarian rule. Whatever his reason, the recurrent pattern of avoiding progress leads me to predict that Damascus will again concoct a reason to abort this round of negotiations.
Nitzan Horowitz, "Clinton intervention likely to jumpstart talks between Syria, Israel," Ha'aretz, September 13, 1999.
Daniel Pipes, of the University of Pennsylvania, believes that Assad is interested in the peace process, but not necessarily in peace itself. "He'll always find an excuse to say no."
1999: Israel Heading for Trouble
"Lebanon Turns into Israel's Vietnam." The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 1999.
The current situation in Lebanon both symbolizes and deepens Israel's demoralization. Unless the country rediscovers its Zionist soul—not "Enough is enough!" but "Never again!"—it is heading for serious trouble.
1999: Israeli will pay for a precipitous retreat from Lebanon
"Lebanon Turns into Israel's Vietnam." The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 1999.
... if Israeli troops retreat from Lebanon, Hezbollah and the other instruments of Syrian aggression will turn their guns on Israel proper. As civilian casualties rise in the towns of the northern Galilee (and they have been almost non-existent in recent years), Israelis will relearn the old lesson that appeasing tyrants does not work.
1999-2000: Meaning of the Israeli Retreat from Lebanon
"Lebanon Turns into Israel's Vietnam." The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 1999.
if Israeli troops retreat from Lebanon, Hizbullah and the other instruments of Syrian aggression will turn their guns on Israel proper.
"Turning Defeat into Victory." The Jerusalem Post, March 31, 2000.
Syria wins when Israel retreats from southern Lebanon.
"A Pivotal Moment," The Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2000.
What happened in Lebanon will also affect Palestinian and Syrian relations with Israel. ... if, as the Right predicts, Palestinians and Syrians conclude from the Lebanese conflict that violence works, negotiations will falter and they will emulate the Lebanese by resorting to terrorism and confrontation.
2000: The Government of Israel will release Palestinian prisoners who killed Israelis
"Israel's Moment of Truth," Commentary, February 2000.
At the very end of 1999, when Prime Minister Barak took the unprecedented step of releasing two Palestinian prisoners who had killed Israelis, his action was met, predictably ... by the demand that Israel now let go all of the estimated 1,650 jailed Palestinians. No doubt, the demonstrators will eventually get their way. Israelis are on their own road to peace, and no "partners," however hostile, will deflect them from it.
For my 2013 commentary on the release of prisoners "with blood on their hands," see "Thoughts on the Release of 104 Palestinian Murderers."
2000: Syrian Withdrawal of Troops from Lebanon
Washington Institute for Near East Policy, "Syria-Lebanon-Israel Triangle: The End of The Status Quo?" May 19, 2000.
Speaking at a panel on May 19, 2000 – just 4 days before the unexpected Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and 22 days before the death of Syrian dictator Hafiz al-Asad – Daniel Pipes had the following exchange with Robert Satloff:
SATLOFF: When do Syrian troops leave Lebanon?
PIPES: I would say in five years. I'm an optimist.
SATLOFF: Mark that down, 2005. (Laughter.)
PIPES: I don't think the president of Syria is going to live much longer. I think there will be a rapid diminution of Syrian power, Syrian will to control the country, Syrian ability to control the country. I think the Lebanese will take heart and will make efforts to push out the Syrians—I don't think it's for very long. It's for as long as Asad lives plus, you know, four or five years.
The Syrian troop withdrawal was completed on April 24, 2005, twenty-five days ahead of five years.
2000: Israeli Optimism Misplaced
"Israel's Moment of Truth." Commentary, February 2000.
It might appear that things have never been going better for Israel, or worse for those who wish it ill. ... Taken together, all these factors seem to suggest that Israel has at long last achieved a definitive edge over its historic enemies. Such, indeed, appears to be the view of Israeli leaders themselves. Thanks to Israel's position of strength, Prime Minister Ehud Barak now speaks confidently of an "end to wars" and of his country's being finally accepted as a permanent presence by its neighbors. These sentiments are widely echoed both in Israel and in Washington. And yet—two trends suggest otherwise. The first has to do with Arab strengths, the second with Israeli weaknesses.
2000: Palestinian Violence on the Way
"Israel's Moment of Truth." Commentary, February 2000.
So badly do they want an Israeli agreement with Syria, [Israeli leaders] turn threats into concessions. In a similar spirit, they insist that the Palestinian Authority has fulfilled its obligations. They even portray a unilateral Israeli retreat from Lebanon as a threat to Syrian interests. Such self-delusion is pleasant enough - until reality hits. And it always does hit. The only question is when and where, and how terrible the toll will be.
"A Perverse Dynamic at Work." The Jerusalem Post, August 2, 2000.
As the Palestinians have become the beneficiaries of Israeli largesse, their earlier fear of Israel has been replaced with a disdain that borders on contempt. The result is plain to see. The Barak government signals a willingness to turn over about 90 percent of the West Bank, a much larger percentage than ever previously discussed, and the Palestinians react with indifference. Why bother with this, they ask each other. Why settle for anything less than full control of the land? At the very least, they can hold out for a better offer. Or they can turn to the alternative, the one that Hezbollah trail-blazed in Lebanon. Instead of the indignity of negotiations, Palestinians can resort to the (for them) more noble and redeeming use of violence to extrude the Zionists from every last meter of what they consider to be their land.
2000: Palestinian Violence a Turning Point
"Can Israeli-Palestinian Peace Ever Be Achieved?" CNN WorldView, October 1, 2000.
The Palestinians have grown more and more encouraged by what they see as Israeli weakness, and less and less inclined to negotiate and more tempted to follow this other path of pressure, of force, and that's what we see has now started and I expect, Andria, that this is going to last quite some while. I think this is a turning point.
2000: Taliban to Pay for Hosting Usama bin Ladin
"Most People Who Have Suffered from Islamism are Muslims." Rediff.com, December 4, 2000.
[The Taliban] have a mixed foreign policy. I know they are very cautious towards the USA -- they make no aggressive statements. On the other hand they do host Osama bin Laden, who has an extremely aggressive policy. I think it is very costly for them to host bin Laden.
2001: Sharon's Moment
"Is Sharon Dangerous?" The Jerusalem Post, January 31, 2001.
now, when Israel suffers from being seen as weak, Sharon could well be precisely what the country needs. His historical moment, it appears, has arrived.
2001: Mitchell Report to be Forgotten
"Mitchell Report Missed It." The Washington Times, May 30, 2001.
[The Mitchell commission report] is destined either to get in the way of a solution; or, more likely, to disappear quickly and without a trace.
2001: Need to See Radical Islamic Violence as a War, Not Crime
"Terrorism on Trial" (with Steven Emerson). The Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2001.
In conceptualizing the Al-Qaeda problem only in terms of law enforcement, the U.S. government misses the larger point: Yes, the operatives engage in crimes, but they are better thought of as soldiers, not criminals. To fight Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups requires an understanding that they (along with some states) have silently declared war on the U.S.; in turn, we must fight them as we would in a war.
Seeing acts of terror as battles, not crimes, improves the U.S. approach to this problem. It means that, as in a conventional war, America's armed forces, not its policemen and lawyers, are primarily deployed to protect Americans. Rather than drag low-level operatives into American courtrooms, the military will defend us overseas. If a perpetrator is not precisely known, then those who are known to harbor terrorists will be punished. This way, governments and organizations that support terrorism will pay the price, not just the individuals who carry it out. This way, too, Americans will gain a safety that presently eludes them, no matter how many high-profile courtroom victories prosecutors win.
2001: The Assad Dynasty Unlikely to Last
"Will the Assad dynasty last?" The Jerusalem Post, June 6, 2001.
At his first year's anniversary, ... Bashar [al-Assad] gives the impression of not being up to the job, but of bumbling through from one day to the next. Of course, he might evolve into a more decisive and effective ruler, but that can only happen if he manages to remain the ruler. Bashar's incompetence risks frittering away Hafez's hard-won power. Unless he is a whole lot craftier than he has so far shown, the days of the Assad dynasty may well be numbered.
2001: Arafat's death will split the Palestinian territories in two
"Israel May Be Winning." New York Post, December 17, 2001. When Arafat exits
the political scene ... The Palestinian Authority could well split in two, for it consists of two geographically separate regions (the West Bank and Gaza).
2002: Abdullah Plan to be Forgotten
"It's About Nothing." National Review Online, March 27, 2002.
Judging by the massive media coverage, the Arab summit taking place on March 27-28 in Beirut promises to be a turning point in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The primary source of excitement is Saudi crown prince Abdullah's proposal for Arabs to normalize relations in return for Israel returning to its June 1967 boundaries. But even the lesser aspects of this summit—Will Yasir Arafat be there or not? Why did Husni Mubarak decide against going? -- are headline, top-of-the-newscast material. But nothing of import will take place in Beirut. In fact, in a year's time this summit and the Abdullah plan will almost certainly be well forgotten.
2002: The current wave of Palestinian violence will end
"Hope for the Middle East [as Palestinians Face Defeat]," Slate, May 21, 2002.
Hussein Ibish predicts that "coming months will see an intensification of the [Palestinian] conflict" against Israel. But I expect otherwise; the current campaign of Palestinian violence will end before long, probably by the end of 2002.
2002: Arrest American Muslim Council Staff
"[The American Muslim Council:] 'Mainstream' Muslims?" New York Post, June 18, 2002.
Rather than endorse AMC by his presence, Robert Mueller should find other lunch companions next Friday. Then he should put the organization under surveillance, ascertain its funding sources, look over its books, and check its staff's visa status.
The head of the AMC, Abdurahman Alamoudi, was indeed arrested in September 2003 and signed a plea agreement admitting to his many crimes in July 2004.
2003: The Need for an Iraqi Strongman
"A Strongman for Iraq?" New York Post, April 28, 2003.
As for the coalition forces, after installing a strongman they should phase out their visible role and pull back to a few military bases away from population centers. From these, they can quietly serve as the military partner of the new government, guaranteeing its ultimate security and serving as a constructive influence for the entire region.
The approach outlined here undercuts the rage of anti-imperialism, finesses the almost certain violence against coalition troops and prevents the Iranians from colonizing Iraq. But the window of opportunity is closing rapidly: Unless the coalition appoints a strongman very soon, it will not achieve its ambitious goals.
Iraq needs - and I write these words with some trepidation - a democratically-minded Iraqi strongman. ... elections should begin on the local level. The press should inch toward full freedom, political parties should grow organically, parliament should gain in authority. The Shi'ites can develop democratic ideas, uninfluenced by Khomeinism. ... As for the coalition forces, after installing a strongman they should phase out their visible role and pull back to a few military bases away from population centers.
2003: U.S. Efforts in Iraq Will Fail
"Let Iraqis run Iraq." The Jerusalem Post, October 15, 2003.
These are valid reasons not to pull out [of Iraq] – but they lose their pertinence if one expects, as I do, that the mission in Iraq will end in failure. I predict that unhappy outcome not due to shortcomings on the American side but by calculating the US motivation for being there versus the Iraqi motivation to remove them.
The latter strikes me as more formidable. It reflects the intense hostility commonly felt by Muslims against those non-Muslims who would rule them. For examples, note the violence undertaken by (among others) Palestinians, Chechens, Kashmiris, and Moros.
From this pattern, I draw a rule of thumb: unless a non-Muslim ruler has compelling reasons to control a Muslim population, it will eventually be worn down by the violence directed against it and give up. Note that the US government has already given up twice in recent years, in Lebanon and Somalia.
The US-led effort to fix Iraq is not important enough for Americans, Britons, or other non-Muslim partners to stick it out. That is why I advocate handing substantial power over to the Iraqis, and doing so the sooner the better.
2004: Mahmoud Abbas will be irrelevant
"Arafat's Last Threat to Israel?" The New York Sun, November 9, 2004.
There will be no successor to Mr. Arafat - he made sure of that through his endless manipulations, tricks, and schemes. Instead, this is the moment of the gunmen. Whether they fight for criminal gangs, warlords, security services, or ideological groups like Hamas, militiamen grasping for land and treasure will dominate the Palestinian scene for months or years ahead. The sort of persons familiar from past diplomacy or from TV commentaries - Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Qurei, et al. - lack gunmen, and so will have limited relevance going forward. The Palestinian territories have already descended into a hellish anarchy and circumstances will probably worsen as the strongmen struggle for power.
2005: Islamists will win elections in Egypt
"A Neo-Conservative's Caution," The New York Sun, March 8, 2005.
should real presidential elections one day come to Egypt, Islamists will probably prevail there.
2005: Assad dynasty to be followed by Islamist rule
"A Neo-Conservative's Caution," The New York Sun, March 8, 2005.
Eliminating the hideous Assad dynasty could well bring in its wake an Islamist government in Damascus.
2005: More Violence after Gaza Withdrawal
"Ariel Sharon's Folly." The New York Sun, April 5, 2005.
The Gaza withdrawal will almost certainly increase Palestinian reliance on terrorism.
2005: Gaza withdrawal will inspire heightened Palestinian irredentism
"Today Gaza, Tomorrow Jerusalem," The New York Sun, August 9, 2005.
If Israel's critics are right, the Gaza withdrawal will improve Palestinian attitudes toward Israel, leading to an end of incitement and a steep drop in attempted violence, followed by a renewal of negotiations and a full settlement. Logic requires, after all, that if "occupation" is the problem, ending it, even partially, will lead to a solution.
But I forecast a very different outcome. Given that about 80% of Palestinian Arabs continue to reject Israel's very existence, signs of Israeli weakness, such as the forthcoming Gaza withdrawal, will instead inspire heightened Palestinian irredentism. Absorbing their new gift without gratitude, Palestinian Arabs will focus on those territories Israelis have not evacuated. (This is what happened after Israeli forces fled Lebanon.) The retreat will inspire not comity but a new rejectionist exhilaration, a greater frenzy of anti-Zionist anger, and a surge in anti-Israel violence.
2005: Turkey going Islamist
"Symposium: Turkey: The Road to Sharia?" FrontPageMag.com, May 6, 2005.
Turkey has been a friend; but I have grave doubts about its future status. ... I see Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the anti-Atatürk. He is young enough, clever enough, and popular enough to stay in power as long or longer than Atatürk and step-by-step, almost imperceptively, to undo the entire Atatürk revolution. ...
I expect the Islamists who run the AKP will ride the democratic process until the day arrives that they no longer find it serves their purpose, at which point they will circumscribe political participation or even terminate it. The people running Turkey today are not true democrats, who accept the vox populi, but soft totalitarians who learned their lesson from the failed Erbakan prime ministry of 1996-97 and intend not to repeat it. I have full confidence that they will not.
2005: Israel's Withdrawal from Gaza Means Further Violence
"Business as Usual in the Palestinian Authority." The New York Sun, May 17, 2005.
The planned Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in August is likely to precipitate new rounds of violence.
2006: Futility of an International Force in South Lebanon
"Hold Damascus Responsible. The New York Sun, August 1, 2006.
Background: As Israel's war versus Hizbullah wound down in mid-2006, the idea of an international force in Lebanon won near-universal, including even the Olmert government, which announced its agreement "to consider stationing a battle-tested force composed of soldiers from European Union member states." To this, I responded that
such a force will certainly fail, just as it did once before, in 1982-84. That was when American, French, and Italian troops were deployed in Lebanon to buffer Israel from Lebanon's anarchy and terrorism. The "Multinational Force" collapsed back then when Hezbollah attacked MNF soldiers, embassies, and other installations, prompting the MNF's ignominious flight from Lebanon. The same pattern will no doubt recur. Back then, Americans and others did not regard Hezbollah as their enemy, and this remains the case today, notwithstanding the war on terror; in a recent Gallup poll, 65% of Americans said their government should not take sides in the current Israel-Hezbollah fighting.
2009: Obama administration diplomacy vis-à-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict will fail
"A Rapid and Harsh Turn against Israel," The Jerusalem Post, June 4, 2009.
Reviewing the break with Bush-era diplomacy, in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted on May 27 that the Netanyahu government end residential building for Israelis in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, I flat-out predicted that
the new U.S. approach is doomed.
2009: U.S. Efforts in Iraq Will Fail
"Limping away from a Shattered Iraq," National Post, July 8, 2009.
I predict the massive American effort [in Iraq] will rapidly dissolve, fail, and be forgotten. Iraqis will deal poorly with such problems as terrorism, Sunni-Shiite tensions, Kurdish autonomy, Islamist ambitions, disappearing Christians, a fragile Mosul Dam, and an obsolete oil and gas infrastructure. Civil war remains a live prospect as sectarian fighting returns. Current evidence indicates that Iraqis cannot even maintain their billions of dollars worth of U.S.-donated military equipment.
As an American, I say good luck to Iraq but good riddance to U.S. control of its cities, goodbye to oversight of the economy and schools, farewell to worrying about inter-tribal relations and the Mosul Dam, and adieu to responsibility for terrorists and their victims.
Ironically, while occupation of Iraqi cities did deep and lasting damage to the United States, its beneficial impact on Iraq will likely be superficial and transient.
2011: Egypt in for a rough ride
"Why Egypt Will Not Soon Become Democratic." The Economist, February 4, 2011.
However looked at – abstractly or specifically – Egyptians are in for a rough ride ahead, without imminent prospect of choosing their leaders.
2011: Libya without Qaddafi will become anarchic
"Back to the Shores of Tripoli?" National Review Online, March 10, 2011.
That Libyans are starting to turn to Islamists for leadership, however, could turn Libya into another Somalia.
2012: Egyptian military setting up Islamists to fail?
"Egyptian Nuclear Power Plant Ransacked," DanielPipes.org, January 16, 2012.
Islamists lack real power but they appear to be in charge; so as Egypt heads into economic decay and social anarchy, they will receive the blame. Could this be what the crafty military tyrants want, so they can swoop in and "save" the country?
2012: Egypt's Islamists won't last
Are Egypt's Islamists Heading for a Fall?" National Review Online, February 4, 2012.
If Islamists strut about as though they rule Egypt, the population will blame them and their SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] allies – not the Tahriris – for its hunger. The anger could quickly turn ferocious. After waiting 84 years to attain legitimacy and power, the Muslim Brotherhood may find it got suckered into taking over the ship's helm just as it heads into an iceberg.
2012: Morsi's election is illusory
"Egypt's Real Ruler: Mohamed Tantawi," (with Cynthia Farahat), The Washington Times, July 11, 2012.
What does it mean that Mohamed Morsi is president of Egypt? Speaking for the American consensus, Bret Stephens recently argued in the Wall Street Journal against the consolation that the Muslim Brotherhood's victory "is merely symbolic, since the army still has the guns." He concluded that "Egypt is lost." We shall argue to the contrary: the election was not just symbolic but illusory, and Egypt's future remains very much in play.
2012: Consequences for Israel if Obama re-elected
"Romney vs. Obama vis-à-vis Israel," National Review Online, September 4, 2012.
should Obama be re-elected, the coldest treatment of Israel ever by a U.S. president will follow.
2012: On bad relations between Obama and Israel
"Romney vs. Obama vis-à-vis Israel," National Review Online, September 4, 2012.
it would be wise to assume that, if Obama wins on Nov. 6, things will "calm down" for him and he finally can "be more up front" about so-called Palestine. Then Israel's troubles will really begin.
2012: Morsi's future not assured
"Morsi Could Discredit Muslim Brotherhood Rule," (with Cynthia Farahat), The Washington Times, November 14, 2012.
Morsi's future is far from assured. Not only does he face competing factions of Islamists but Egypt faces a terrible economic crisis. Morsi's power today unquestionably brings major short-term benefits for himself and the Brotherhood; but in the long term it will likely discredit Brotherhood rule. In short, following thirty years of stasis under Mubarak, Egypt's political drama has just begun.
2015: Erdoğan's problems will be external
"Erdoğan Leads Turkey to the Precipice," The Australian, October 17, 2015.
[Erdoğan's] Islamist idyll contains just one flaw: foreign relations, the most likely cause of its demise. ... 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.
On Nov. 24, 2015, Turkish forces shot down a Russian Su-24 warplane allegedly flying over Turkey's airspace. Russia's President Vladimir Putin responded very harshly, calling this a "stab in the back" and the crisis was on.