Daniel Pipes

Daniel Pipes

Daniel Pipes (www.danielpipes.org) is the Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution and director of the Middle East Forum, a public policy institute that seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle East.

Tragedy looms as Iraqi authorities threaten by April 30 to expel 3,400 Iranians, members of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq. MeK members rightly fear for their lives if pushed across the border for the Iranian regime criminalizes membership in the MeK and abominates the organization, its determined foe.

Some background: Saddam Hussein allied with the MeK (also known as the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, or PMOI) against their common enemy in Tehran. Following the U.S.-led conquest of Iraq in 2003, MeK members living in Iraq acquired “protected persons” status and entered a political limbo, neither friend nor enemy of the occupying powers. With the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops and increasingly close ties between the Iraqi and Iranian governments, MeK circumstances worsened to the point that in April 2011 Iraqi troops attacked Camp Ashraf, its Iraqi home since 1986, killing 34 people and injuring 325.

Cooler heads prevailed after this dangerous flare-up. With U.S. government approval, Baghdad signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the United Nations in December 2011. In it, the government of Iraq committed to the relocation of Camp Ashraf (renamed Camp New Iraq) residents to a temporary transit facility, where the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) would begin the process of transiting MeK members in Iraq to refugee status, a necessary first step to resettle them outside Iraq.

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It is the far-flung, easternmost island of Greece, 80 miles from Rhodes, 170 miles west of Cyprus, but just one mile off the coast of Turkey. Kastelorizo (in Greek, Καστελόριζο; or officially Megisti, Μεγίστη) is tiny, comprising just five square miles, plus some yet smaller, uninhabited islands. Its 430 inhabitants are way down from 10,000 in the late nineteenth century. The Lonely Planet travel guide has picked it as one of the four best Greek islands (out of thousands) for diving and snorkeling. There’s no public transportation from nearby Anatolia, only from distant Rhodes by airplane or ferry.

That Athens controls this wisp of land implies it could (but does not yet) claim an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Mediterranean Sea that reduces the Turkish EEZ to a fraction of what it would be were the island under Ankara’s control — as maps reproduced from the Cypriot newspaper I Simerini illustrate. The top map shows Greece claiming its full 200-nautical-mile EEZ and controlling Kastelorizo EEZ (indicated by the red arrow); the bottom one shows the Greek EEZ minus Kastelorizo (indicated by the white arrow).

Were Athens to claim its full EEZ, Kastelorizo’s presence would make its EEZ contiguous with the EEZ of Cyprus, a factor with great import now, at a moment of massive off-shore gas and oil discoveries. Kastelorizo with an EEZ benefits the emerging Greece-Cyprus-Israel alliance by making it possible to transport either Cypriot and Israeli natural gas (via pipeline) or electricity (via cable) to Western Europe without Turkish permission. This has taken on special urgency since November 4, when Turkey’s minister for energy, Taner Yıldız, announced that his government would not permit Israeli natural gas to transit Turkish territory; Ankara will likely also ban Cypriot exports.

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(photo credit: Stelios Zacharias)

It’s not every day that someone like the U.S. Secretary of Defense forecasts an ally’s move, but this just happened when Leon Panetta said that he believes, in the paraphrasing of a Washington Post reporter, that “there is a strong likelihood that Israel will strike Iran in April, May or June.” Thoughts on this unusual statement:

It’s a paraphrase: For delicate statements, top officials prefer indirection and written words. It offers wiggle room and reduces tensions. Asked whether he disputed thePost report, Panetta inscrutably stated: “No, I’m just not commenting. What I think and what I view, I consider that to be an area that belongs to me and nobody else.” (Contrast this episode with Barack Obama talking about drones in front of the cameras, an indiscretion that won him trouble, including a lawsuit from the ACLU.)

It might be disinformation: In the mirror world of nuclear diplomacy, we on the outside have almost no way of discerning wheat from chaff. Panetta could be sending a signal to Tehran as opposed to telling the truth. The same applies to other news, be it assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists or sales of ordnance to Israel. Wait a decade to learn what’s really happening now.

Tehran is determined: Iran’s supreme guide, Ali Khamenei, again confirmed that nothing and no one will impede his regime from acquiring nuclear weapons, announcing that “Sanctions will not have any impact on our determination to continue our nuclear course.” I believe him. Just as the North Korean regime allowed its subject population to starve in the pursuit of nukes, so will the Iranians pay whatever price.

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Between 1967 and 1993, just a few hundred Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza won the right to live in Israel by marrying Israeli Arabs (who constitute nearly one-fifth of Israel’s population) and acquiring Israeli citizenship. Then the Oslo Accords offered a little-noted family-reunification provision that turned this trickle into a river: 137,000 residents of the Palestinian Authority (PA) moved between 1994 and 2002, some of them engaged in either sham or polygamous marriages.

Israel has two major reasons to fear this uncontrolled immigration. First, it presents a security danger. Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet security service, noted in 2005 that of 225 Israeli Arabs involved in terror against Israel, 25 of them, or 11 percent, had legally entered Israel through the family-unification provision. They went on to kill 19 Israelis and wound 83; most notoriously, Shadi Tubasi suicide-bombedHaifa’s Matza Restaurant in 2002 on behalf of Hamas, killing 15.

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South Sudan, Israel’s New Ally

It’s not every day that the leader of a brand-new country makes his maiden foreign voyage to Jerusalem, capital of the most besieged country in the world, but Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, accompanied by his foreign and defense ministers, did just that in late December. Israeli PresidentShimon Peres hailed his visit as a “moving and historic moment.” The visit spurred talk of South Sudan locating its embassy in Jerusalem, which would make it the only government anywhere in the world to do so. This unusual development results from an unusual story.

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Egypt’s Sham Election

By Daniel Pipes and Cynthia Farahat

According to Egypt’s elections committee, the Muslim Brotherhood won 37 percent of the vote of the first round of voting in Egypt, and the Salafis, who promote a yet more extreme Islamist program, won 24 percent, giving them together a jaw-dropping 61 percent of the vote.

This stunning result prompts two questions: Is this a legitimate or rigged outcome? Are Islamists about to dominate Egypt?

Legitimate or rigged? No one took seriously Soviet elections with their inevitable 99 percent returns for the Communists, and, while the process and outcome of the Egyptian elections are less blatant, they deserve similar skepticism. The game is more subtle, but it’s still a game, and here is how it’s played:

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Friendless in the Middle East

The Arab upheavals of 2011 have inspired wildly inconsistent Western responses. How, for example, can one justify abiding the suppression of dissidents in Bahrain while celebrating dissidents in Egypt? Or protect Libyan rebels from government attacks but not their Syrian counterparts? Or oppose Islamists taking over in Yemen but not in Tunisia?

Such ad hockery reflects something deeper than incompetence: the difficulty of devising a constructive policy toward a region where, other than in a few outliers (Cyprus, Israel, and Iran), populations are predominantly hostile to the West. Friends are few, powerless, and with dim prospects of taking control. Democracy therefore translates into hostile relations with unfriendly governments.

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Confidently commenting on the execution of Libya’s long-time dictator, Barack Obama stated that “the death of Moammar Qaddafi showed that our role in protecting the Libyan people, and helping them break free from a tyrant, was the right thing to do.” About his own decision to pull all U.S. troops from Iraq in two months’ time, Obama asserted that “in Iraq, we’ve succeeded in our strategy to end the war.” He then drew triumphalist conclusions from these developments, bragging that they show “the tide of war is receding” and “we’ve renewed American leadership in the world.”

How handy: As Obama’s disliked domestic policies (especially concerning health care and employment) sink his popularity, he now claims foreign-policy successes. Democratic Party flacks tout his international achievements: “Terrorists and dictators,” says one, “lacking the filibuster, have no effective defense against Barack Obama.”

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Cyprus on the World Stage

Cyprus, an island near Turkey and Syria of roughly 1.3 million inhabitants, finds itself on the cusp of momentous change. As it belatedly makes its grand debut on the world stage after domestic Greek-Turkish communal issues have consumed its first 51 years of independence, it faces both great opportunity and great danger.

That communal problem originated in 1570, when the Ottoman Empire conquered the island and its almost entirely Greek-speaking Orthodox Christian population. Over the next three centuries, immigration from Anatolia created a Turkish-speaking Muslim minority. British rule between 1878 and 1960 left this situation basically unchanged. In 1960, at the time of Cypriot independence, Turks constituted one-sixth of the population.

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