Mideast Expert Bard: Radical Islamist Rise Alarming

Saturday, 10 Dec 2011 02:03 PM

By Paul Scicchitano and Ashley Martella

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Radical Islamist advances throughout Middle East, including substantial gains in Egyptian elections, are very troubling, policy expert Mitchell Bard tells Newsmax.

"There's no question it's alarming to see radical Islamists come to power in various places in the Middle East and be on the verge of taking over, perhaps, Syria, Egypt - maybe even Jordan in the future," Bard said during an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV.

"The record of many of these radical groups is that they don't believe in democracy. They believe in one vote, one time, and they want to impose a kind of theological curtain over the people - much like what is the case in Iran today," said Bard, author of "The Arab Lobby: The Invisible Alliance That Undermines America's Interests in the Middle East."

Story continues below video.



Islamist parties captured more than 60 percent of the vote in the first round of Egypt's parliamentary elections, according to partial results. The Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, garnered 36.6 percent of the vote. The Nour Party, a more hard-line Islamist group, captured 24.4 percent, according to figures from the High Election Commission.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar spent tens of millions of dollars on the elections to ensure a big win for the Muslim Brotherhood, according to LIGNET.com. www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Saudi-money-Egyptian-election/2011/12/06/id/420127

The results are only a partial indication of how the new parliament will look, as two more rounds of voting in 18 of Egypt's 27 provinces are scheduled through January.

Although there is a danger that Egypt and other Arab countries might become puppet states of Iran, significant religious differences probably would avoid that peril, Bard said.

"It's possible, but in most cases, these are Sunni-dominated countries that are not necessarily in line with all of the theology - very much opposed to some of the theology - of the Shiite-led government in Iran," he said. "There is likely to be some common cause in terms of belief in Shariah law, in opposition to the United States and possibly to Israel and other western interests, an involvement in terrorism. So it could create a broad alliance across the Middle East of radicalism that will indeed threaten American interests, Israel and Europe."

The Arab lobby appears to have enjoyed greater success than the pro-Israel lobby in President Barack Obama's administration, Bard told Newsmax.

"The pro-Israel lobby certainly has some influence, but you can look at the policies of Barack Obama in the first two years, or other presidents like Jimmy Carter or Dwight D. Eisenhower, to see that the pro-Israel lobby has very limited influence on policy," he said.

"If you look at what the Saudis in particular are doing, however, they have a great deal of influence in undermining our interests in the Middle East, in compromising our values and threatening our security," said Bard, who has written and/or edited 21 books primarily on Israel and the Middle East.

The approach of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a national pro-Israel organization, is a study in contrast with its Arab counterparts, he said.

"AIPAC is very influential in helping to get aid for Israel," he said. "But AIPAC also happens to help some of the Arab countries get aid as well, including the Palestinians, the Jordanians and the Egyptians, whereas the Arab lobby tends to lobby almost entirely negatively. That is, rather than lobby for the Palestinians, or for peace, they tend to lobby mostly against Israel, trying to drive a wedge between the United States and Israel."

The United States has focused largely on protecting the flow of oil in the region, he said.

"Arabists in the State Department, who are really part of the Arab lobby, have traditionally made the case that in order to guarantee oil we have to appease the Arab oil producers in much of the Arab world," Bard said. "And part of appeasing them, they've argued, is to have a much less warm relationship between the United States and Israel."

But that's not necessarily true, he insisted, saying: "Historically, the truth has been exactly the opposite. The stronger the relationship between the United States and Israel, typically the better the relationship the United States has had with most Arab countries."

Bard, executive director of the nonprofit American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise and director of the Jewish Virtual Library, said peace is possible in the troubled region.

"Israel has a peace treaty with Egypt and with Jordan, which shows that it is possible for Israel to achieve peace with its Arab neighbors so long as those Arab leaders are willing to recognize Israel's right to exist and to agree that they will live in peace beside Israel," he said. "So far, no Palestinian leader has been willing to do either of those things, nor have the Saudis and other Arab leaders."

He believes the best prospect for peace lies in the so-called two-state solution.

"The belief is that this is a land that both peoples claim and that it has to be divided in some way where both will enjoy self-determination and autonomy," he said, adding that it is essentially the same approach that the United Nations advanced 60 years ago.

"The problem was that the Jews at the time were willing to accept the compromise to share the land, and the Arabs were not," Bard said. "Unfortunately, that's still the case today, where the Palestinians aren't willing to accept a compromise where there is a Jewish state living beside a Palestinian state."

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