Kenneth Pollack, Paul R. Pillar, Amin Tarzi, Chas W. Freeman, Jr.
The following is an edited transcript of the seventy-seventh in a series of Capitol Hill conferences convened by the Middle East Policy Council. The meeting was held on July 21, 2014, at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC, with Thomas R. Mattair moderating. The video can be accessed at www.mepc.org.
THOMAS R. MATTAIR, executive director, Middle East Policy Council
With the latest round of Israel-Hamas hostilities giving way to a tense truce and cease-fire negotiations in Cairo, the Palestinian national-unity agreement has suddenly, and unexpectedly, become central to the thinking of all major players. What had looked strongly like a pro forma and essentially failed political initiative may be salvaged and transformed by the Gaza war into a centerpiece of the post conflict scenario. It will not, in reality and in the short term, involve full Palestinian political reunification.
ANNE JOYCE: It is a widely held view in the United States that it is the fault of the PLO that peace hasn't been achieved between Israel and its neighbors and that talks could begin immediately upon the PLO's recognition of Israel's right to exist. Is this view based on fact?
Abdullah K. Al Shayji
The drift and incoherence of U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration has not gone unnoticed in the Arab world and the Middle East, especially among America's Arab Gulf allies. Former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Chas Freeman could have been channeling Gulf elites when he said: "Americans no longer command the ability to shape trends in the Middle East. Almost no one expects us to do so."1 The United States and its strategic allies in the Gulf have increasingly divergent visions of how regional politics should operate.
Ali Oguz Dirioz and Benjamin A. Reimold
When the government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) issued a policy statement in April 20081 indicating that the country was seriously considering developing a civilian nuclear-power program, it set the region and the world speculating as to the possible motivations behind such a move at that time. Since that date, the UAE has aggressively forged ahead, signing bilateral agreements with nuclear-supplier countries while increasing cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in support of its bid to add nuclear power to its national energy portfolio.
Qatar has been one of the most active states during the Arab Spring. It has broadly supported the uprisings with media coverage on Al Jazeera, the Doha-based news channel, as well as with financial, diplomatic and material support for protagonists. Often Qatar threw its support behind Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood to the extent that some kind of direct, intimate relationship was assumed to exist between the two.
The 2002 U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was a major intelligence failure, distorted by a pervasive policy climate that assumed that Iraq did indeed have active WMD programs, including nuclear weapons. What has remained unknown, however, is that intelligence assessments on Iran's nuclear program displayed the same systemic distortions that led to the Iraq WMD fiasco.
On November 24, 2013, after nearly two-and-a-half years of significant economic pressure on Iran by the United States and Europe, the two sides reached a Joint Plan of Action for six months (also referred to as the interim agreement). The agreement entered into force on January 20, 2014, and was extended for a period of four months in late July 2014.1 In return for a temporary and partial suspension of the American and European economic sanctions that had been imposed on it, Iran agreed to constrain its nuclear activity.
Ioannis N. Grigoriadis
The discovery of oil and natural-gas reserves in the Middle East at the beginning of the twentieth century changed the fate of the region. From a backwater of international politics, the Middle East became central to international strategic rivalries. Almost a century later, energy discoveries in the Eastern Mediterranean are unlikely to bring about such tectonic shifts in the strategic fortunes of the Levant. Yet they have generated a fresh interest in their potential impact on existing regional disputes and power constellations.
Salem Y. Lakhal
On January 14, 2011, thousands poured into Habib Bourguiba Street, the symbolic heart of Tunis. They streamed in front of the Interior Ministry and broke through security barriers as they raced through downtown streets. Chanting and waving placards, they denounced the security forces and the party that had been in power since Tunisia's independence from France in 1956. The protesters called for karama (dignity), for hurriyyah (freedom) and for President Ben Ali to step down.
The invasion of northwestern Iraq by the Sunni-extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) and the subsequent mobilization of Shia militias mark the latest challenge in Iraq's ongoing struggle to forge long-term stability. The primary driver of this crisis is not stagnating socioeconomic development or an acute lack of services, prominent issues in other countries in the region.
Emil A. Souleimanov
From its onset in 2011, the civil war in Syria has attracted foreign fighters from all over the world. Since around 2012, volunteers of North Caucasian origin, including Chechens, Dagestanis, Ingush and others have been at the forefront of international mujahedeen — a force of true believers of distinct backgrounds who have joined the war to advance what they consider to be the cause of Islam.
It was timely enough to publish a book titled Will the Middle East Implode?
Sometimes conventional wisdom develops around a major issue of public policy and becomes firmly entrenched even though it is not fundamentally true. The first ingredient for this to happen is usually a grain of truth, around which the crystal of embellishment can grow.
Like Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon had a distinguished military career before ascending to the premiership of Israel. As political leaders, each of them initiated bold and innovative steps in the quest for a just and lasting peace with the Palestinians.
This new translation of Tawfiq al-Suwaydi's Memoirs, originally written in the late 1960s, may sound like a voice from the distant past, given the cataclysmic events currently shaking Iraq, but it is a fascinating tour de force on earlier attempts of the British and the Iraqis at nation
It has been said that whenever a new book is published, one ought to read an old one. Such a policy on the part of a reviewer might strike some as foolhardy, but there are merits in reminding oneself of certain important, even foundational, texts in a given area of study.