T. Belman. This was first published on January 20/17. Did he get it right? The second article in the series will be posted tomorrow.
Francisco Gil-White is someone that I have known since shortly after 9/11. During the Iraq war that followed, when everyone was calling for Bush to “teach Iran a lesson” for killing American soldiers in Iraq, Gil-White wrote in Feb 2006, Will the US attack Iran? in which he predicted that the US would not attack Iran. He of course was right. In Sept 2016, he updated the article and published US and Iran: Friends of Foes
Israeli patriots expect him to be. After all, he postures as an enemy of Iran and ISIS. But, what evidence will be diagnostic that Trump really is delivering on his Mideast promises?
Plus ça change, plus ça devient le même.
The more it all changes, the more it becomes the same again.)
In his campaign, Donald Trump denounced indiscriminate immigration of Muslims and Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s presumed reluctance to confront the Islamic State (ISIS), Iran, and jihadist terrorism more generally. Excited Israeli patriots now await a tough line against jihadism in the Middle East and elsewhere. They dare to imagine a great US policy turnaround: a pro-Israeli Donald Trump.
My students and readers want to know what I make of him. Is he for real? Will anything change? DEBKAfile researchers say it will:
“Not much can be ascertained about President-elect Donald Trump’s administration future policies for the Middle East – any more than for most other parts of the world, except that his starting points are likely to be diametrically opposed to those of Barack Obama.”
But we must consider the hypothesis that nothing much will change, that all that sturm und drang was for show. For even before being sworn in, Trump is already singing different tunes. El Financiero (Mexico) was reporting in late Novemeber that Trump was already then, somewhat hurriedly, weakening or dropping his campaign promises. What he said about the border wall, global warming, and having Hillary Clinton tried—this was not, it seems, entirely serious.
And his Middle East promises? Among other things, Trump promised to “dismantle” the US nuclear treaty with Iran, echoing the criticisms made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he traveled to Washington to explain to Congress the danger to his country and to the world. That agreement, he said, will allow Iran to become a nuclear power.
The text of the treaty backs him up, for it frees up gigantic rivers of money for Iran without imposing an adequate inspections regime or proper guarantees. The facts: Iran has already received 100 billion dollars, and when she violates the terms of the agreement nothing is done about it.The damage is already done—thoroughly done—even if Trump keeps his word and abolishes the treaty.
But now that Trump is president-elect, “Netanyahu isn’t looking to end the Iran deal,” reports the Jerusalem Post. “[H]e instead is looking for Trump to have a firm stance against Iran.” Political grammar: if the ‘tough hawk’ ‘Israeli patriot’ in the Iranian crosshairs can live with the deal, Trump can back down.
What will the “firm stance against Iran” even mean, then? All sorts of pusillanimous proposals are being floated: renegotiate some points, do more conscientious inspections, re-impose sanctions to punish terrorist aggression. None of this will matter; it will be a distraction. To halt the growing power of Iran in Western Asia, and jihadism more generally, Trump will have to have a real face-off.
What is the probability of that? That is not the subject of this article. We are interested here in the following question: How can we evaluate what direction Trump is going in?
We will hear, no doubt, lots of anti-Iranian rhetoric, denunciations of jihadist extremism galore, and the obligated homilies about supposed US support for Israel. We hear it every time. But perhaps we should ask ourselves: What cold and hard foreign policy facts will be consistent with a true anti-jihadist and pro-Israel push?
We shan’t demand that Trump defeat jihadism. Simply that “his starting points” be “diametrically opposed to those of Barack Obama.” In which case he should implement, at bare minimum, the following policies: 1) no more weapons for the jihadists; 2) support for the Rojava Revolution; and 3) no to the ‘Two State Solution,’ and yes to exposing the ties that bind PLO/Fatah (the ‘Palestinian Authority’) and Iran.
No more weapons for jihadists
During his presidential campaign, Trump accused Obama and his ex-Secretary of State Clinton for the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS). He was right about this.
It has been amply documented that the Islamic State emerged from the US military prisons in Iraq, whose custodians, so obliging to the jihadists, made them lords of prison social life. There jihadists could recruit (by force, when necessary) and teach, using blackboards, the principles of jihad, how to make a bomb, and how to overcome fear to become a suicide bomber. The very general in charge called his prison system “jihadi university.”
After 5 years of this (a bachelor’s degree), US authorities dismantled the system and ¡they let everybody go! Then came the Islamic State. All of its main leaders, including ‘caliph’ Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, are graduates of this “jihadi university.” If that were not enough, after causing a civil war in Syria, the Islamic State received US-trained personnel and armament when the Syrian ‘rebels’ favored by the US government joined ISIS en masse.
|US policy created ISIS.|
If the Trump administration were to dry the channels that convey arms and training to the jihadists, that would signal a real change in policy. If, on the contrary, jihadists continue to be replenished by the United States and its allies, we will know there is continuity.
Support the Rojava Revolution
The great hope to reverse the jihadist trend is the Rojava Revolution, a multi-ethnic movement led by the Kurds in northern Syria, who are allied politically with the beleaguered Kurds of the PKK in Turkey, against whom Recep Tayyip Erdogan has launched a war of ethnic cleansing. The Rojavans have made impressive gains against the Islamic State despite fighting virtually alone while suffering Turkish bombs.
|HIR explains the Rojava Revolution.|
These Kurds and their Arab and other ethnic allies are almost all Muslim. They believe in popular democratic participation, gender equality, religious freedom, ethnic tolerance, and environmental sustainability. They protect, and bring into the democratic process, all ethnic and religious minorities in northern Syria. If they succeed, they will become a beacon of hope, empowering moderate Muslims all over the world to defend the democratic alternative.
Therefore, should Trump make a major push to mobilize US symbolic and military resources in favor of the Rojavans, creating an ideological and political oasis for freedom-loving Muslims, and strengthening the Islamic State’s nemesis, we would have a policy that is truly consistent with his public protestations against jihadism. It would be a geopolitical masterstroke not only for peace in the Middle East, but for the defense of the West. If, by contrast, an important effort to assist the Rojavan movement is not made, we will have to ask ourselves in what sense Trump’s government is opposed to jihadism, really.
No to the ‘Two State Solution’; yes to exposing the ties that bind PLO/Fatah (the ‘Palestinian Authority’) and Iran
Since Ruhollah Khomeini to this day, the Iranian ayatollahs have promised to exterminate the Israeli Jews. It follows that if Trump is really with Israel against Iran then he cannot favor an Iranian policy in Israel. He should therefore oppose that PLO/Fatah (better known today as the ‘Palestinian Authority’) be given a state in Judea and Samaria. Why? Because PLO/Fatah created the theocratic Iranian state of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. You read correctly.
Nobody remembers this. I saw this for myself 3 years ago when I traveled to Israel for a brief political-anthropology tour to understand better the Israeli patriots—the ‘right-wingers,’ as they are called. Not even these people, the most worried about Israeli security, can remember something that was on the front page of the New York Times in 1979: PLO/Fataharmed and trained Khomeini’s guerillas.
After the Islamic Revolution, PLO/Fatah functioned for a while as Khomeini’s de facto foreign ministry, and it helped to create SAVAMA, the Iranian secret police, and the Revolutionary Guard. The latter 1) protects the regime; 2) exports Iranian terrorism all over the world; and 3) created Hezbollah, the terrorist militia dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
This was all reported in the main newspapers between 1979 and 1981. Why? Because people’s relationship the world is mediated, and the media ceased making any mention of this a long time ago.
|HIR documents PLO/Fatah’s role in the Iranian Islamic Revolution.|
But anyone willing to invest 5 minutes will discover online an abundance of images of Yasser Arafat celebrating the Islamic Revolution with Khomeini in Teheran. He and Mahmoud Abbas—his longtime partner and PLO/Fatah co-leader—were the first international dignitaries who, immediately after the coup, alighted in Teheran for the festivities. The Iranian masses received Yasser Arafat like they would a messiah, and they competed to snatch the scarf on his head (keffiyeh) in hopes of treasuring it as a relic.
While Khomeini and his son announced that Iran’s priority would be ‘Palestine,’ Abbas explained to the Arab reporters in Teheran his ‘Plan of Phases.’ PLO/Fatah would promise peace in order to gain a piece of Israeli territory (first phase), and then they would proceed, with the help of Iran, to destroy Israel (second phase). Now they call it the ‘Peace Process.’
Nothing has changed. In August 2015, while Obama prepared the nuclear agreement with Iran, the official Iranian press reported a fact that the New York Times did not bother to share with Western audiences: PLO/Fatah and Iran renovated their vows with a “deal for all-out cooperation.”
What can Trump do?
In democratic politics you can only do those things which the population can understand. And in politics, as in language, if something is not grammatical it becomes difficult to understand. For many, to hear that PLO/Fatah must be removed from Israeli soil is like hearing some kind of sacrilege. After hearing this they will say: “What nonsense! Didn’t they tell us that the world’s geopolitical health hinges on concluding the Peace Process with a state for the Palestinian Authority?” Yes, they did tell us that. So it follows that, for someone who sees the world like that, to remove PLO/Fatah from Israel is not a ‘grammatical’ idea, in other words, it is not a ‘politically correct’ decision.
Can it become grammatical? Well sure, but only if the true PLO/Fatah—the true ‘Palestinian Authority’—first becomes well known to all.
Who could be the one to educate the public? Why Trump. If Trump really is the enemy of Iran and the friend of Israel that he so histrionically claims to be, then he can, perched on his new podium, holding his world megaphone, make known the relationship between PLO/Fatah and Iran. He can, by showcasing the evidence, explain that PLO/Fatah, allied with Iran, proposes to turn the entire Palestinian Arab population into a suicide bomber to exterminate the Israeli Jewish people.
Once everybody understands this, PLO/Fatah’s prestige will have been destroyed. Then Trump can propose that the genocidal instrument of Iran, and oppressor of the Palestinian Arabs, PLO/Fatah, be removed from Israel. When you say it like that it’s grammatical. It computes. And in this manner a true solution to the conflict may be found.
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In the blink of an eye, then, Trump can protect the Muslim and Jewish populations of the Middle East, jump-start a serious defense of the West, and turn around the chess game of world geopolitics. That—in principle—is the power of the president of the United States.
What can we expect? We suspect that, though the discourse will be different, Trump’s policies in the Middle East will be quite similar to Obama’s. We shall explain this suspicion in our following article.