On Wednesday, Professor Daniel Pipes, noted columnist, author and lecturer, director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University, spoke in Jerusalem on the topic of “Radical Islam and the Real Obstacles to Middle East Peace.”
His talk was sponsored by Hadar-Israel, Council for Civic Action, an organization dedicated to securing Israel’s future through its citizens and headed by prominent national figures such as former ambassador Dore Gold and IDF general (res.) Uzi Dayan.
During his talk, Pipes said that he wants "to defeat radical Islam", or Islamism, which he defined as the third of three radical utopian movements, along with Fascism and Marxism. According to him, while the other two did not survive over time since they did not learn from their failures and stuck with “brutal violent totalitarian ways” right to the end, Islamism, on the other hand, has learned and is not making the same mistakes now as it did 30 years ago. Pipes brought forward Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan as the model of what he called “a second generation of Islamist takeover” which uses democracy to legitimize itself.
Pipes addressed the Obama Administration’s tendency not to criticize the Iranian regime, and said that it is embarrassing that leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown condemn Iran, while President Barack Obama does not. He added that while Obama’s tendency not to criticize Iran is not having any effect, neither did the Bush Administration’s policy to criticize Iran. The example of the failure of the Bush policy, said Pipes, is Hamas, a terrorist organization that was elected and came to power in democratic elections.
He said that he endorsed the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but in both cases he thought that Americans should overthrow the regime and then “hand the keys over to the kingdom.” He believed that what President Bush tried to do in these countries was too ambitious.
“We Americans rehabilitate countries,” said Pipes. “Well, you don’t always succeed at that. My prediction now, and I’m sorry to make that prediction and I hope I’m wrong, is that both Afghanistan and Iraq are doomed in the sense that our trillion dollars, [and] our 400,000 deaths will have been seen in retrospect as wasted.”
Pipes described the regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan as “kept regimes”, which make their own decisions but are there by virtue of the support of coalition forces. “Take those [forces] away and the regimes will fall, especially given the Iranian and Pakistani interests in these two countries,” he said.
Another example of a kept regime is Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas. Pipes said that without Israeli security support and foreign aid, Abbas would be gone from power. He posited that such regimes are obviously not a “healthy development.”
Turning to the conflict between Israel and the PA and the United States’ attitude towards this conflict, Pipes explained that Israel’s priority is clearly Iran, while the American priority is the Palestinians. He explained the reason for this as “linkage”, meaning that the Americans believe that all the problems in the Middle East are made worse because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In terms of the peace negotiations, Pipes said: “I see a possible deal where Israelis make concessions against their better judgment in order to get some concessions on Iran.”
INN commentators noted that this might eliminate looming danger from Iran in the short term, but the long term results of concessions to the PA might be just as disastrous for Israel.