May 24, 2010 | Energy Publisher

American Interests Targetted by Iran and Al-Qaeda

By Dr. Walid Phares

In an article published in the weekly review al Watan al 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 members of Congress sitting on relevant defense and national security committees and on my interaction with many strategic and tactical analysts across the Government and private sector fields for many years, the consensus reached so far is that the two main (and active) threats against U.S. national security in the post Cold War era are, and continue to be, the Salafi-Jihadi global networks including al Qaeda and a plethora of webs and organizations all marching in the same direction on the one hand; and on the other hand 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 the fundamental threats are that determines 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 the Obama administration, but al Qaeda 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 Qaeda'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 the 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 states solution with a Palestinian viable 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 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.

In 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 writes for and is the Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad. He and Khairi Abaza are senior fellows at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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