Category Archives: Islam

Why not an independent Kurdistan?

Colleagues:

Following our presentation on ISIS/The Islamic State, many of you showed considerable interest in knowing more about the Kurdish people and prospects for an independent Kurdistan.

William Galston at the Council on Foreign Relations has advocated for U.S. recognization of an independent Kurdistan, arguing that, “The Middle East is being remade, and the U.S. needs all of the friends it can get”. Galston argues that multi-ethnic democracy is a noble idea, but it doesn’t seem feasible in current circumstances. For the remnants of the Ottoman Empire, he argues that having large multi-ethnic countries inevitably will lead to dictatorship or anarchy. He said there is nothing sacred about the post Ottoman State system in the Middle East, “and no good reason why the U.S. should be worshiping at it’s alter”.

Of course constructing an independent Kurdistan would be extremely difficult, as the Kurdish people live in four major countries and have a presence in several others. Still, the Kurds are clearly one of our few friends in the Middle East, and maybe it is time to look more closely at what an independent or semi-autonomous Kurdistan might look like. This is more feasible considering the improved relationship between Turkey, where the majority of the Kurds live, and various Kurdish political entities.

We asked Larry Martines, our resident expert on the Kurds, to prepare a background paper on the Kurdish situation in view of the changing relationship with Turkey, driven largely by the ISIS advances. Click Here to Download

I think that you will find the attached paper on the Kurds to be of great interest and worth a serious look.

Ty

“Islamic Jihad in Africa” Presentation

PowerPoint of the Presentation on

the “Islamic Jihad in Africa”

NSF participants heard a most riveting and complete presentation on the “Islamic Jihad in Africa: Expanding Threats in the War on Terrorism”. Doctor/Colonel Dick Hobbs and retired Foreign Service officer Ted Morse led the discussion that focused on the co-opting by Al Qaeda of formerly nationalist Islamic movements in Northern and East Africa into the worldwide jihad.

Militant Islam has been active in Africa for several decades.  Much of their terrorist activity was started by smaller national groups fighting for local agendas.  But with the heightened commitment to the worldwide Jihad agenda of establishing the Islamic Caliphate (empire), and pressure on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the international Jihad movement has decentralized and energized the local movements. That has resulted in jihadi strategies, tactics and personnel that are more focused on confronting Western culture, institutions and people, not just local enemies any longer.

Hobbs and Morse pointed out that Islamic insurgencies have developed increasing numbers of followers and militant participants within in the large (est. 400 million) Muslim population on the African continent. They are now joined or led by committed Islamists hardened in other conflicts or recruited (from many countries, including some from the United States) to expand Jihad into regional and international conflicts.

They noted that Al Qaeda central in Pakistan has been weakened by the loss of many leaders, primarily by targeted U.S. drone strikes.  However, the al Qaeda franchises in the Middle East are still operating effectively.  In addition, al Qaeda has increased its contacts and support for groups in Africa which pose a growing threat.
Morse and Hobbs described the extent of expanding militant Islam in Africa and analyzed the extent that this expansion represented a threat to US interests–in Africa, America and the international War on Terrorism.

Both NSF members have extensive experience in this area. Retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and international consultant Ted Morse has 50 years experience in Africa and other international conflict zones, including two tours in Iraq. A specialist on Muslim countries, he has lived and worked in several developing countries with large Muslim populations. Colonel/Dr. Richard Hobbs is a former Middle East Officer, author, and a specialist on Islam and Africa. He is a retired combat infantry officer, professor, and businessman. Hobbs has worked, taught, and written in the international arena for over 50 years, including at the Pentagon, the State Department, and in international operations for a major corporations.

We have attached the Hobbs-Morse PowerPoint presentation for your review.

CLICK HERE

  • Ty

Final Announcement: December 5th Meeting

Please note that this meeting has been shifted from Dec 4 to Dec 5!

The National Security Forum presents 

Islamic Jihad in Africa:

Expanding Threats in the War on Terrorism

With

Col/Dr Richard Hobbs and Diplomat Ted Morse

The Ramada, Thursday, December 5, at 9:00 am

Al Qaeda is co-opting formerly nationalist Islamic movements in Northern and East Africa into the worldwide jihad. Increasing terrorist conflicts are the result throughout the continent.

Militant Islam has been active in Africa for several decades.  Much of their terrorist activity was started by smaller national groups fighting for local agendas.  But with the heightened commitment to the worldwide Jihad agenda of establishing the Islamic Caliphate (empire), and pressure on Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the international Jihad movement has decentralized and energized the local movements. That has resulted in jihadi strategies, tactics and personnel that are more focused on confronting Western culture, institutions and people, not just local enemies any longer.

Islamic insurgencies have developed increasing numbers of followers and militant participants within in the large (est. 400 million) Muslim population on the African continent. They are now joined or led by committed Islamists hardened in other conflicts or recruited (from many countries, including some from the United States) to expand Jihad into regional and international conflicts.

Al Qaeda central in Pakistan has been weakened by the loss of many leaders, primarily by targeted U.S. drone strikes.  However, the al Qaeda franchises in the Middle East are still operating effectively.  In addition, al Qaeda has increased its contacts and support for groups in Africa which pose a growing threat.  Among numerous attacks in Africa are Benghazi, which cost the loss of four Americans, including our ambassador, and the attack on a mall in Nairobi which led to 67 deaths.

Key issues that will be addressed include: What is the extent of expanding militant Islam in Africa? What are the threats they represent to US interests in Africa, America and the international War on Terrorism?  How is the US responding and how should the US respond to these threats?

These topics will be explored by two of our NSF members who have extensive experience in this area. Retired Senior Foreign Service Officer and international consultant Ted Morse has 50 years experience in Africa and other international conflict zones, including two tours in Iraq. A specialist on Muslim countries, he has lived and worked in several developing countries with large Muslim populations. Colonel/Dr. Richard Hobbs is a former Middle East Officer, author, and a specialist on Islam and Africa. He is a retired combat infantry officer, professor, and businessman.  Hobbs has worked, taught, and written in the international arena for over 50 years, including at the Pentagon, the State Department, and in international operations for a major corporation.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $5 for students with ID; free for WWII veterans), so recommend you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some coffee and conversation.

Kindly RSVP on our website by clicking here or you may RSVP by phone (775) 746-3222 or email to twcobb@aol.com. We are also now accepting credit cards at the door for your convenience.

 

The Islamic Revolutionary Guards

 

THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARY GUARDS CORPS

The Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC), while officially a branch of the Iranian military, has far reaching powers and functions within the Islamic Republic of Iran. The IRGC has a core responsibility of protecting the Islamic establishment, in addition to more traditional military functions such as border security, preventing foreign intrusions, and protection of the national command authorities—especially the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The IRGC is much more than a traditional military service, as Eliot Assoudeh denotes in this perceptive and very informative analysis (attached). Assoudeh demonstrates that the Guards not only rule over the conventional military, but have assumed many key economic and governmental functions in society. The Guards intervene in domestic as well as international affairs without much restriction, and are deeply involved in a wide range of economic activities. Its economic pursuits are so vast that it is regarded as the “third wealthiest organization” in Iran!

The IRGC performs many more ideologically oriented functions in Iranian affairs, including insuring the loyalty of the regular military. It has oversight of the intelligence organizations, maintains the long range missile stockpile, and supports Islamic causes abroad. In addition, it maintains its own ground, aerospace, and naval forces, as well as the paramilitary Basij militia. The Guards also have a primary responsibility to stifle domestic dissent.

In this regard, the future relationship between the Guards and the new Presidency of Rouhani will be of key importance. As Assoudeh notes, the IRGC has expressed strong criticism of the recent conversations that Rouhani had with President Barack Obama.

Iranian born Eliot Assoudeh provides the readers of this Forum with a most interesting overview of the founding and evolution of the Revolutionary Guards, with an emphasis on the expanded role the IRGC has taken in both domestic and foreign affairs. He examines the Guards’ influence in neighboring countries, some of that exercised through its elite Quds Force and its commander, General Soleimani. Now a PhD candidate at the University of Nevada-Reno, Eliot Assoudeh will be a welcome speaker at an upcoming Forum on this topic.

I am certain you enjoy his analysis!

–       Ty

CLICK HERE:  Assoudeh: Iranian Revolutionary Guards

Crisis in Egypt

Egyptian military ousts Morsi,
suspends constitution

Colleagues: I had just posted a summary of views on the crisis in Egypt when the news broke that the military had indeed removed President Morsi from power. While the situation is still unclear, here is the latest report I have received:

The Egyptian military removed President Mohamed Morsi from power Wednesday and suspended the constitution in moves it said were aimed at resolving the country’s debilitating political crisis.

In a televised address to the nation after a meeting with a group of civilian political and religious leaders, the head of the powerful armed forces, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, said the chief of Egypt’s constitutional court “will assume the presidency” on an interim basis until a new presidential election is held. Sissi said the interim president — Adly Mansour, Egypt’s top judicial authority — will have the right to declare laws during the transitional period.

The announcement came as huge crowds of pro- and anti-government protesters massed in the streets of Cairo and the army deployed armored vehicles. In the afternoon, a top adviser to the embattled Morsi had declared that a military coup was underway and warned that “considerable bloodshed” could ensue.

“Measures announced by the armed forces’ leadership represents a full coup, categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation,” Morsi tweeted from his official Twitter account Wednesday night following Sissi’s statement.

In a video apparently shot with a shaky cellphone camera, Morsi later declared that he was still the “the president of the republic” and said Egypt’s 2011 revolution against authoritarian rule had been “stolen.” The video, which did not reveal Morsi’s whereabouts, circulated on social media sites late Wednesday.

Liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei and the heads of Egypt’s Coptic church and highest Islamic institution, al-Azhar, also spoke Wednesday night, following Sissi.

“This will be the beginning of a new start for the 25th of January, that the Egyptian people have initiated to regain their freedom and dignity,” ElBaradei, who had been selected in recent days by other opposition activists to represent them, said in a short address. He referred to the date in 2011 that marked the beginning of the Egyptian revolution against longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

In a meeting with “religious, political and youth symbols,” the military accepted a “roadmap that will achieve a strong Egyptian society that does not alienate any of its children or strains, and ends this division,” Sissi said.

He said a government of technocrats would be appointed to run the nation during the unspecified transition period. Sissi called on the Egyptian supreme court to establish election laws so that new parliamentary elections can be held.

The armed forces chief said a new media “code of ethics” would be adopted, establishing “values and ethics for the media to follow.” He did not elaborate.

Sissi said “peaceful protests” could continue, but he warned that the military would respond with “strength and determination” to any outbreaks of violence.

The announcement sparked cheers and celebration among Morsi opponents packed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
///////////

While the coup has obviously overshadowed the analysis below I posted earlier today, I think it still provides good background perspectives to keep in mind.

EGYPTIAN CRISIS NEARS BOILING POINT
WHAT WILL THE MILITARY REALLY DO?

Colleagues:

The situation in Egypt is critical and has passed the boiling point.

The military appears to have laid down an ultimatum to President Morsi and the Muslin Brotherhood to be more inclusive, bring differing parties together, and halt the path in implementing Islamist rule.

The following are some quick observations on the crisis.

First, I asked Dr. John Jandali about the fealty of the officer corps as it was my understanding that Morsi, shortly after he took office, fairly well gutted the “old guard”. My impression was that Morsi had pretty well eliminated those who were closely tied to Mubarak and had placed younger officers more sympathetic to the Brotherhood in command positions.

John’s response:

Ty,

You are absolutely correct in stating that Morsi has replaced the Old Guard with officers affiliated with, or at least sympathetic to, the MB. However, the assertion some make that “the Egyptian military does not want to take over governance of the country” is in my view questionable.

Granted that the top leadership in the Egyptian military structure is firmly in the hands of officers loyal to Morsi and the MB Party, there is never any guarantee of total and absolute loyalty of the junior officer corps in the military to the party in control of the state. If popular resentment and demonstration against the regime should continue and accelerate, and result in death and injury to demonstrators on the hands of security forces, comparable to the anti-Mubarak popular revolt, who knows what the military stand will be. Who knows if another Jamal Abdul-Nasser may be hiding in the wings, conspiring with other junior officers, and preparing a coup that would place the military in power again in Egypt? John

Here are some late-breaking observations courtesy of the Foreign Policy.com website:

Egyptians are anxiously awaiting the 5 p.m. deadline that the military has set for President Mohamed Morsi to meet the demands of the increasingly large protests in Cairo. If Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-led government is unable to reconcile with the protesters, the army has reportedly drawn up a plan to suspend the constitution and put an interim government in place. The military has reportedly summoned civilian political leaders including former U.N. diplomat Mohamed El Baradei to a meeting ahead of the deadline.

At least 18 people were killed and 300 injured in clashes near a pro-Morsy rally at Cairo Univeristy according to Egyptian authorities. The military has also apparently stepped up its crackdown on senior Muslim Brotherhood members, arresting the bodyguards of the movement’s unofficial leader, Khairat al-Shater.

In a long speech last night, Morsy rejected calls for his resignation or early elections. “The people empowered me, the people chose me, through a free and fair election,” he said. He vowed to remain to resist efforts to force him from the presidency, saying, “If the price of protecting legitimacy is my blood, I’m willing to pay it.”

Morsi defiant as deadline approaches

Facing mounting pressure and the end of the military’s 48 hour deadline, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi delivered a defiant speech Tuesday evening firmly rejecting calls for his resignation and declaring himself the country’s “guardian of legitimacy.” Hours before the deadline, Defense Minister Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has convened a crisis meeting with top military commanders to discuss the country’s developments and prepare for a path forward. Opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei, the grand sheikh of al-Azhar, and the Coptic pope are also reportedly meeting with top military commanders today. Egyptian military sources report that the generals have already devised a plan to enforce their 48 hour deadline. Elaborating on their “roadmap” to “fulfill the people’s demands,” the generals announced on Tuesday their intention to suspend the existing constitution, appoint a “committee of experts” to draft a new charter, form a three-member interim presidential council led by the chief of the constitutional court, and insert a military figure as interim prime minister.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters took to the streets for the third consecutive day to demand the president’s “removal or resignation,” while Morsi’s Islamist supporters held massive rallies throughout the country. Morsi’s defiant stand, combined with unrelenting public pressure and the military’s alleged plan to enforce the deadline, portends a looming confrontation with the potential to unseat Egypt’s president by the day’s end.

‘The Egyptian Military’s Playbook’ (Jeff Martini, RAND Corporation)

“An intervention absent Islamist support would risk an Algeria-like scenario, in which the military’s overturning of an Islamist electoral victory led to a civil war that embroiled the country throughout the 1990s. To mitigate against the possibility of a violent response, the military could try to coax the Muslim Brotherhood to the bargaining table with the opposition. Failing that, it could try reach out to Islamists from outside the Muslim Brotherhood, such as the Salafists, or breakaway groups, such as the Strong Egypt and Center parties.

Second, if the officer corps learned anything from leading the political transition in 2011 and 2012, it is that a go-it-alone approach pushes the public to lay all its grievances on the military’s doorstop. This time, the generals could not rule by fiat with only the window dressing of a civilian government. Instead, they would need to form an actual caretaker government — with explicitly defined authorities and representation from across Egypt’s ideological spectrum — that could oversee affairs before new elections.

Building a real caretaker government is easier said than done. There are few consensus figures in Egyptian politics today. Abdel Moneim Abu al-Futuh, who was a Muslim Brotherhood stalwart and presidential candidate last year, has revolutionary credentials and boasts some cross-ideological appeal. But he is also one of the more vocal critics of military rule. Another option would be the al-Nour party. Although it sits to the right of the Muslim Brotherhood in its politics, it has tried to play an intermediary role between the Muslim Brotherhood and the NSF. But al-Nour would be anathema to many secular Egyptians. As for the antagonists, the Muslim Brotherhood has no interest in sharing power with the opposition, which it continues to see as a small minority trying to overthrow an elected leader. At any rate, any division of the cake is likely to lead to squabbling within the non-Islamist bloc that is, for the moment, united only by its contempt for the Islamists.”