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  • Author: Zvi Mazel
  • Publication Date: 05-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: There has been a significant presence of the Muslim Brothers (also known as the Muslim Brotherhood) in Qatar since the second half of the twentieth century. The first wave came from Egypt in 1954 after Nasser had smashed their organization. The next wave came from Syria in 1982 after Hafez el-Assad bombed their stronghold in Hama. The last group arrived after September 11, 2001 - from Saudi Arabia. In 1995, the present Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, deposed his father in a bloodless palace coup. One of his first steps was to establish the Al Jazeera satellite channel in 1996, which is the most viewed station in the Arab world with an estimated audience of some 60 million. There was never any doubt about the network's political orientation. Al Jazeera immediately launched scathing attacks on Israel during the Second Intifada and went on to incendiary broadcasts against the United States at the time of the Afghanistan conflict and over Iraq. It was later revealed to be in contact with bin Laden, and was the medium of choice for the video and audio cassettes of bin Laden and his men. During the U.S. war in Iraq, the Americans accused the station of being pro-Saddam, and after the war, of presenting the terrorist groups active in the country in a positive light. One of its reporters stationed in Baghdad always seemed to arrive suspiciously quickly, with his camera, at the site of terror attacks. During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Al Jazeera behaved as a Hizbullah spokesman. During the Gaza war, a senior Al Jazeera reporter stationed himself at Shifa Hospital, from where he broadcast a stream of carefully selected horror pictures. The Egyptian Maamun Fendi wrote in Asharq Alawsat that some 50 percent of the network's personnel belong to the Muslim Brothers. He believes that Qatar, by embracing the Brothers while hosting American bases, has found the perfect formula against retaliation by Arab leaders and attacks by Islamic extremists. Al Jazeera has become a weapon in the hands of an ambitious emir who may be driven by the Muslim Brothers and who is threatening the stability of the Middle East. With the Muslim Brothers increasingly aligned in recent years with Iran, by repeatedly attacking the Sunni Arab regimes and inciting against them, Al Jazeera is serving as an important instrument for Tehran and its effort to undermine their internal stability.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Islam, Mass Media
  • Political Geography: United States, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: There are voices in the Obama Administration who believe that the Kremlin is able and willing to exert pressure on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons. However, perceived geopolitical and economic benefits in the unstable Persian Gulf, in which American influence is on the wane, outweigh Russia's concerns about a nuclear-armed Iran. The Kremlin sees Iran not as a threat but as a partner or an ad-hoc ally to challenge U.S. influence. Today, both Russia and Iran favor a strategy of "multipolarity," both in the Middle East and worldwide. This strategy seeks to dilute American power, revise current international financial institutions, and weaken or neuter NATO and the OSCE, while forging a counterbalance to the Euro-Atlantic alliance. Russian technological aid is evident throughout the Iranian missile and space programs. Russian scientists and expertise have played a direct and indirect role in these programs for years. According to some reports, Russian specialists are helping to develop the longer-range Shahab-5, and Russia has exported missile production facilities to Iran. Moscow has signed a contract to sell advanced long-range S-300 air-defense systems to Iran. Once Iran has air defenses to repel Israeli or American air strikes and nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles, it will possess the capacity to destroy Israel (an openly stated goal of the regime) and strike targets throughout the Middle East, in Europe, and the Indian subcontinent. Beyond that, if and when an ICBM capability is achieved, Tehran will be able to threaten the U.S. homeland directly. Given the substantial Russian interests and ambitions, any grand bargain would almost certainly require an excessively high price paid by the United States to the detriment of its friends and allies. Russia simply does not view the situation through the same lens as the U.S.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Economics, Nuclear Weapons
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Scott Carpenter
  • Publication Date: 04-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: The Obama administration marks the return of a so-called "realist" approach and an intentional downplaying of President Bush's vision of an America that would use its power actively to advance freedom around the world. Few will lament the demise of Bush's "Freedom Agenda," which came to be seen as dangerous naivete which risked the stability of the region and with it Israel's security. The height of folly was the Palestinian elections in January 2006 when, in contradiction to the Oslo Accords, Hamas was allowed to compete and ultimately win without laying down its weapons. Too late, the administration recognized it could no longer take the risk of bringing potentially hostile forces to power through democratic elections. Unfortunately, neither approach addresses the structural and demographic time bombs in the region. A youth "bulge" requires the creation of 100 million new jobs by 2010, according to the World Bank. Yet if economic reform is to be advanced and sustained, democratic development must also take place. The U.S. government can use Arab governments' insecurity regarding Iran as leverage to encourage real reform. This is particularly true for Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia - now engaged in the ideological fight of their lives with Iran and its reactionary allies. Only by establishing a new bargain with these regimes that stresses the need for them to respect internal civil and political rights, while forging a joint response to the reactionary threat, can the U.S. offer a true alternative to theocratic and minority rule. This is not to say that democratic and economic reform need be the priority for the West, but it must remain a priority, if otherwise intractable problems which pose a longer-term national security threat are to be addressed. Allowing autocrats to continue to get away with inaction will simply make the coming tidal wave of Iranian-style revolutions larger and more damaging, placing Israel's existence in even greater jeopardy than it is now.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Foreign Policy, Democratization
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Egypt
  • Author: David Schenker
  • Publication Date: 03-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: In early March, two senior U.S. officials traveled to Damascus for the highest-level bilateral meeting in years, part of the new administration's policy of "engagement." Washington seeks to test Damascus' intentions to distance itself from Iran. While a "strategic realignment" of Damascus is unlikely, in the short term the diplomatic opening is sure to alleviate international pressure on Damascus. The Assad regime made no secret of its preference for Barack Obama last November. At the same time, Syrian regime spokesmen appear to be setting preconditions for an effective dialogue, saying Washington would first have to drop the Syria Accountability Act sanctions and remove Syria from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. U.S. diplomatic engagement with Syria comes at a particularly sensitive time, just a few months before the Lebanese elections, where the "March 14" ruling coalition faces a stiff challenge from the Hizbullah-led "March 8" opposition, and Washington has taken steps to shore up support for its allies. Should the U.S. dialogue with Damascus progress, Washington might consent to take on an enhanced role in resumed Israeli-Syrian negotiations. However, U.S. participation on the Syria track could conceivably result in additional pressure for Israeli concessions in advance of any discernible modifications in Syria's posture toward Hizbullah and Hamas. Based on Syria's track record, there is little reason to be optimistic that the Obama administration will succeed where others have failed. Washington should not necessarily be faulted for trying, as long as the administration remains cognizant of the nature of the regime. Damascus today remains a brutal dictatorship, which derives its regional influence almost exclusively through its support for terrorism in neighboring states and, by extension, through its 30-year strategic alliance with Tehran.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Washington, Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Lenny Ben-David
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: The appointment of former Senator George J. Mitchell as Middle East envoy was warmly received in Washington, Jerusalem, and Ramallah. Yet, the Middle East that Mitchell will confront today is much changed from the one he wrestled with eight years ago as chairman of the 2001 Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee, which was created to investigate the outbreak of the Second Intifada. The 2001 Mitchell Report was seen as an "even-handed" document, reflecting President Clinton's directive to "strive to steer clear of...finger-pointing. As a result, the committee attempted - even at the risk of straining credibility - to split the blame for the crisis. The Mitchell Committee could not ignore Palestinian terrorism and the Palestinian use of civilians as human shields. Israel's transgression - and there had to be one to balance Palestinian sins - was its settlement activity. The committee recommended a "freeze [of] all settlement activity, including the 'natural growth' of existing settlements." Israelis objected that the freeze - never mandated in the interim stages of the Oslo Accords - would serve to reward the Palestinians' terrorism. The committee was appointed before the 9/11 al-Qaeda attack. Its report came prior to the capture of two weapons-laden ships bound for Gaza - the Santorini in May 2001 and the Karine A in January 2002 - and prior to President Bush's 2004 recognition of "new realities on the ground [in the territories], including already existing major Israeli populations centers." Bush continued: "[I]t is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949." The 2001 Mitchell Report was issued years before Hamas' coup in Gaza. Hamas remains dedicated to Israel's destruction. Its alliance with Iran and its affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood mark Hamas as an enemy of moderate Arab regimes. Hamas may yet prove to be a fatal flaw to Mitchell's axiom that "there is no such thing as a conflict that can't be ended."
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, Islam
  • Political Geography: United States, Washington, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Shimon Shapira
  • Publication Date: 01-2009
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
  • Abstract: Immediately upon the end of the fighting in Gaza, the international community will enlist on behalf of an extensive rehabilitation project to enable the Palestinian population to return to their homes and get on with their civil and economic lives. It is of prime importance to prevent Iran from acquiring influence in post-war Gaza through any assistance programs. Following the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Iran and Hizbullah grasped the political and economic significance of the rehabilitation project in the Shiite areas of southern Lebanon damaged during the war. Hizbullah directed the rehabilitation work, while totally ignoring the central Lebanese government, and in this manner regained and even reinforced its influence within the Shiite community. Iran is already positioning itself for influence in post-war Gaza. On January 14, 2009, the Deputy Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Ali Akbar Mohtashami, arrived in Lebanon heading a 40-man delegation in order to direct Iranian support for Hamas. The main objective for Israel and the international community should be to deny Iran the attainment of this objective and to transform the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, into the principal factor, along with Egypt, entrusted with the rehabilitation work in Gaza.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Foreign Policy, War, Power Politics
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Palestine, Gaza, Lebanon