Iran, al-Qaida Pose Greatest Threat

Monday, 24 May 2010 08:04 AM

By Walid Phares

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In an article published in the weekly review al Watan al Arabi, I outlined what I believe are America’s permanent strategic positions in the Middle East related to U.S. national security.

Based on my work with Congress on relevant defense and national security committees and on my interaction with tactical analysts in government and the private sector, the consensus reached so far is that the two main (and active) threats against national security in the post Cold War era are the Salafi-Jihadi global networks including al-Qaida; and what I coin as the “Iranian-led axis” which incorporates the Tehran Khomeinist regime, Hezbollah, the radical pro-Iranians in Iraq and in other Arab countries, and the Syrian regime’s Mukhabarat.

During my continuous interventions in Arab (and international) media I am frequently asked about America’s perception of the threat against its own national security.

Arab governments, intellectuals, legislators, and opinion makers are divided as to their readings of U.S. strategic perception. Unfortunately, American messaging in Arabic has been confusing over the years.

Thus, when U.S.-based researchers and commentators have an opportunity to help Arab audiences understand what are the fundamental threats that determine U.S. perception, they must engage in educating Arab readers and viewers.

In this last article in al Watan al Arabi I argued that U.S. administrations may develop various and different policies regarding the region of the greater Middle East, but the strategic threat against America remains clear and identified by national security and defense parameters.

Under the Bush administration there was a different narrative than under Obama, but al-Qaida and Iran still constitute a threat to the United States and as long as the threat continues, American strategies must cope with the challenge.

It is the attitude of the foes that determines how the U.S. must perceive them.

A clear and unequivocal U.S. reading would help allies and friends in the region align themselves strategically to deter their own threats. For example, it is useful for the Gulf states, North African countries, and Iraq to understand that until further notice, Washington perceives al-Qaida’s jihadi nebulous and the Iranian-led web as a global threat to the region.

Short of clarity, the region’s governments would sink in confusion. Thus, a reminder of American strategic priorities must be communicated in Arabic to the region’s audiences.

Regarding Iran, the U.S. must gather an alliance to stop their nuclear weapon development.

Regarding Lebanon, there should be a disarming of Hezbollah.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the armed local forces should be empowered and trained to fight the terrorists — both Salafists and Khomeinists.

To solve the Arab-Israeli conflict, the U.S. is seeking the establishment of a two-state solution with a viable Palestinian state and a secure and recognized Israel.

America stands by the Gulf countries versus Iran’s menacing build up. It should remain committed to aid Darfur against the genocidal regime in Khartoum. Syria’s regime is invited to disengage from supporting terrorism against its neighbors and Turkey’s AKP government must be reminded that its country is a member of NATO.

But Arab readers and viewers should also be advised that the United States is committed to human rights and democratic principles and that engagement with governments, including authoritarian regimes, must work for these principles and values.

I my article in al Watan al Arabi, I argued that administrations can change foreign policies, but that national security perception can only change with the transformation of the threat, its reduction, or its faltering.

It is indispensable that the peoples of the greater Middle East are kept informed about the long-term strategic directions of the United States so that the foes are not miscalculating and that the seekers of freedom are not discouraged from struggling.

Dr. Walid Phares is the author of "The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad." He teaches Global Strategies in Washington, D.C.

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