Danny Glaser: Iran and Hamas are United in Their Desire to Wreak Havoc in the Region

Daniel L. Glaser’s remarkable career in the U.S. Treasury Department culminated in his appointment as Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing in the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence — a position he held from 2011 to January 2017. In the course of his work, he tracked the flow of funds between a range of rogue states, including Iran, and the gamut of terror organizations, including Hamas. In his interview with Majalla, Glaser spoke to the strong connection between Iran and Hamas and charges of corruption among Hamas leadership figures. He appraised the commitment by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to clamping down on Hamas, and noted new opportunities for broader regional cooperation to counter terrorist groups. What is the nature of Iranian support for Hamas? Iran supports terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East and beyond. Iran has long had a foreign policy and a regional policy based on trying to upend the regional order. It is a foreign policy based on trying to destabilize governments and project power throughout the Continue Reading…

Centrism for Britain and Tolerance Across the Mid-East: An Interview with Tony Blair

by Mostafa El-Dessouki and Joseph Braude In 1997, 43-year-old British Labour Party leader Tony Blair became the youngest Prime Minister of the United Kingdom since 1812. He held the position for ten years — presiding over war, peacemaking, a transformation of his party, and the globalization of the British economy. He brought a new spirit of openness to the workings of government. He played a vital role in the brokering of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. On the world’s stage, he supported humanitarian interventions in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and proved a staunch military ally to the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since retiring from government, Blair has been a leader in efforts to forge a peace settlement between Israelis and Palestinians. He has promoted interfaith tolerance and understanding through the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. And by way of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, he has supported national development worldwide through good governance and cultural reform. In this exclusive interview, Prime Minister Blair called Continue Reading…

The Samad Initiative: A Call for a Shakeup in Arab-Israeli Engagement

by Jasmin Muhanna It is frequently reported that Israel and Sunni Arab states coordinate privately to confront security challenges from Iran, its proxies, and Sunni jihadists. But beyond the narrow realm of government, the conceptual fault lines of Arab-Israeli conflict remain largely in place. In most Arab countries, entrenched sociopolitical forces opposed to better ties still dominate the discourse and cripple dissenting voices, drawing their mandate from Israeli settlement construction and their lifeblood from the pains of terrorism and occupation. Inside Israel, most of the population has grown indifferent to the surrounding region and lacks the language tools necessary to engage Arabs intimately even if they could. The impasse is especially tragic for those areas wracked by proxy war and mass killing, from Yemen to Syria and Iraq, which stand to benefit the most from the pooling of Arab and Israeli resources, civil technology, and expertise. As long as the discourse itself remains a battlefield, it is not feasible to build public consent for Arab-Israeli partnership in the areas where Continue Reading…

A new video proposes a new way to fight terror

Most of my activity in Arab countries aims, in one way or another, to help build international partnerships with local actors supportive of liberal universalist principles. The many obstacles to such ventures include linguistic and cultural barriers, suspicion about foreign involvement in domestic affairs, and plain old ignorance on both sides of the divide. In trying to help bridge these gaps, I’ve begun to produce short bilingual online videos that expose viewers to specific opportunities for human engagement — and offer a means to establish direct, personal contact with a potential partner in one click. The productions are made possible by support from the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. For your viewing pleasure, here’s a sneak peek at the latest installment ahead of its formal launch. It’s called “Outside the Box.” It introduces the “culture of lawfulness movement” — civic actors in the US, Latin America, Europe, and elsewhere who fight organized crime by promoting the rule of law — and argues for their relevance to stabilization efforts in war-torn Arab lands. You can watch it by Continue Reading…

A Saudi comic spoofs ISIS; A new step toward Saudi-Israeli rapprochement

The following is a new edition of Pax Arabica, Joseph  Braude’s weekly newsletter. To subscribe, click here. I’d like to share two items with you this week, each providing a glimpse into how proponents of social reform in Saudi Arabia have been striving to advance their goals. – Last month at the Andrew W. Mellon auditorium in Washington, America Abroad Media honored Nasser Al-Qasabi, a leading Saudi comic actor whom I’m proud to call a friend. He climbed to stardom in Saudi Arabia with a bold weekly comedy show called Tash Matash (“You either get it or you don’t”), which spoofed the country’s religious police, male chauvinism, clerics’ domination of the educational sphere, and corruption in government. More recently, his pan-Arab hit show “Selfie” told the story of a middle aged man who ventures into ISIS-land to persuade his son to abandon jihadism and come home to Riyadh. Season 2 took on the Sunni-Shi’ite divide, through the story of two Saudi families, one from each sect, whose sons were mixed up at birth. Continue Reading…

Saudi youth initiatives: Some links for researchers

My FPRI E-Note of October 20 provides an assessment of the results of a new poll of Saudi public opinion that focused on the country’s youthful majority. The purpose of this blog entry is to provide some links for researchers interested in learning more about a series of government-sponsored youth projects, mentioned in the piece, that have been launched under the umbrella of the “Misk Initiative.” Insight into prospects for the success of “Vision 2030” may potentially be gleaned by gauging the rollout of these initiatives and how the population responds to them. As I note in the piece, “Vision 2030 only works if young people adapt to a new ‘knowledge economy’ and help shore up a social safety net for those who lag behind.” Those are the goals that inform Misk. For the Foundation’s home page in Arabic, click here. For the English-language page, click here. Its Twitter feed in Arabic [email protected] For those interested in following domestic Saudi social media chatter about the group, here is the Arabic hashtag which the Foundation itself promotes, whereas this is Continue Reading…

Invading Mosul; Remembering the Taleban’s Phone Company

Small point, as Iraqi and coalition forces fight to take back Mosul: What happens to phone communications in the city? Back in 2001, on the eve of the American-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan, I helped a journalist study the Taleban’s phone company — by calling in and having a series of conversations with the main switchboard operator in Kabul. (It was interesting to discover that a New Jersey man had built it on behalf of the Taleban, with an assurance from Bin Laden that “his people would not be harmed.”) Anyhow, as aerial bombardment of Kabul commenced, I kept in touch with the operator and learned that, apparently, pains were being taken to avoid targeting telephone infrastructure. The reason? An American defense expert said, “Simple. If we take out their phones we won’t be able to listen in on the conversations.” The New York Times described our research here. The Jordanian news service Al-Bawaba reported on it here, and here’s the article in USA Today.

Some thoughts about the aftermath of the JASTA veto override

The public discussion over JASTA has evolved — at that, rapidly — in recent weeks, as the hypothetical “veto override” became a reality. In venerated opinion pages such as that of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, three substantial arguments against the bill emerged: First, concerns were raised that the bill, in greenlighting American courts to prosecute any foreign government — including even American allies — would create a dangerous precedent. It would invite, for example, the victims of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings in Japan to sue the United States for the killing of hundreds of thousands. Or perhaps, for example, the victims of the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam would sue the U.S. in a Vietnamese court. American assets, spread as they are in banks and businesses throughout the world, would be vulnerable — as would American soldiers and diplomats — to confiscation or even arrest. A Wall Street Journal editorial added, moreover, that “Given America’s role in international banking, for instance, or its support Continue Reading…

Former Ambassador Jim Jeffrey: The biggest threat in the region isn’t ISIS but Iran

Between 2007 and 2012, career ambassador James Franklin Jeffrey served as Deputy National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, then, under the Obama Administration, as United States Ambassador to Turkey and Iraq. Now a member of the Defense Policy Board and a prominent voice in the Washington policy discussion, he has emerged as a critic of Obama Administration policies in Syria and the Iranian nuclear accord. In an exclusiveinterview with Asharq Alawsat, he discussed his own vision for a more robust Syria policy, shifting American public opinion on foreign military deployment, concerns about Iran, and the current frontrunners in the candidacy for President of the United States. Q: You call for the United States to use air and ground forces to create a “safe zone” in Syria. Explain the proposed plan. A: It would be an area under the control of a combination of American, Turkish, local, and basically Sunni Arab forces from various population groups that we’re in contact with — and, I’d hope, other members of the Continue Reading…

An Interview with Fran Townsend

Frances Townsend  is the former Homeland Security Advisor to United States President George W. Bush. She chaired the Homeland Security Council and reported to the President on homeland security policy and counterterrorism policy. She previously served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism. Subsequently, in her life as a private citizen, she has become a trusted analyst on security and foreign affairs on American TV news networks, such as CNN. She also serves as President of the “Counter Extremism Project” — a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization formed to combat the growing threat from extremist ideology. In this interview, Ms. Townsend reflects on her experiences representing the President in Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, her views on the Obama Administration and the next American president in terms of foreign policy, and her own perspective on Iran and the conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere. Q: What is your overall view of the state of White House policies toward Washington’s traditional allies Continue Reading…