News Analysis by Gregg Roman
Topics: 1. U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime; 2. Islamist influence on American politics; 3. Turkey and Saudi Arabia; 4. Gulf States Warming to Israel 5. Qatar's malign influence
1. U.S. sanctions against the Iranian regime - The Trump administration reinvoked sanctions against Iran but granted waivers to specific countries to avoid destabilizing the global market. These "snapback" sanctions will choke off Iran's oil and shipping industry, tightening the noose around the Iranian economy. Cash that Obama released to Iran under the JCPOA agreement was spent financing foreign terrorism and military adventurism abroad rather than invested in Iran's ailing economy.
Against the backdrop of increasing discontentment among the populace, Iranian president Rouhani will likely be challenged by conservatives. The result will be either a soft revolution against those in power, or a people united behind an anti-West government. Whether the Europeans comply with American sanctions or continue their economic ties with Iran will heavily influence the outcome.
2. Islamist influence on American politics – Voters in Minnesota and Michigan elected the first two Muslim women to serve in the U.S. Congress-- Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, respectively. Several Islamist organizations with ties to terrorist groups have each donated over $30,000 to Tlaib's campaign, including the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), and the Muslim American Society (MAS). Tlaib has been an outspoken opponent of Israel and associates with Islamists who approve of honor killings, wife-beating, homophobia, and restrictions on free speech.
In another Minnesota race, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison was elected attorney general despite alleged abuse of a former girlfriend. He has a long history with the Nation of Islam and its anti-American leader, Louis Farrakhan. Ellison has also lent his support to CAIR, the unindicted co-conspirator in a terror-financing trial. That the Democratic party doesn't question the affiliations of its representatives with individuals or groups who espouse anti-American hostility should alarm all Americans.
3. Turkey and Saudi Arabia - Turkey has led the charge investigating Saudi Arabia for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. With its imprisonment of journalists, denial of rights to academics and silencing of its president's critics, Ankara's human rights abuses are themselves appalling. Despite Turkish repression of its Kurdish minority, interventions in Iraq, and collaboration with Iran, formerly independent newspapers are now mouthpieces of the regime. Turkey is leveraging the Khashoggi murder to obfuscate its own nefarious behavior under President Erdoǧan.
4. Gulf States Warming to Israel – An emerging relationship between Israel, Oman, and the U.A.E. has signaled a significant sea change in the Arab world. Formerly hostile to Israel and in the pro-Palestinian camp, these Gulf states, along with Saudi Arabia, are forming strategic relationships and taking a pro-Western tilt to counter an increasingly hostile Iran. Israel participates in sports competitions and tech conferences and is represented in the U.A.E.'s international renewable energy institute. Oman is promoting a pan-Arab Israeli rail link running from Tel Aviv through Jerusalem and across Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Oman to connect Israel with the Gulf Arab States.
5. Qatar's Malign Influence - Qatar's role in torpedoing the proposed Palestinian International Terrorism Support Protection Act was investigated by MEF. The act would have punished countries like Qatar for giving sanctuary to Palestinian terror groups. The Qatari lobbying effort, led by Stonington Strategies, advocated for Qatar's interests and against American ones. It courted pro-Jewish community leaders and donated generously to their organizations in order to buy influence. Stonington is the subject of a lawsuit alleging an influence campaign run by a state-sponsored lobbying operation against an American minority group. In addition, a West coast businessman has sued Qatar for cyber-hacking hundreds of American officials.
Summary account by Marilyn Stern, Communications Coordinator for the Middle East Forum