Frank Gaffney: Welcome back. I'm very pleased to say our guest is Gregg Roman, the executive director of a terrific organization based in Philadelphia, the Middle East Forum. He is a man who has had considerable experience in the subject matter on which the Middle East Forum focuses, namely of course, the Middle East, but also threats to our country that emanate from it. He's also served as the political advisor to the deputy foreign minister of Israel and worked in the Israeli Ministry of Defense. Gregg Roman, it's good to have you with us, welcome back and happy new year.
Gregg Roman: Thank you, Frank. It's great to be here. I can't speak enough about the high accolades that Center for Security Policy gets in our responsible counter-Islamist circles and it's always a pleasure speaking with you and working with you.
A Field Guide to Useful Infidels new report from Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.
Gaffney: Thank you. Well, those counter-Islamic circles are usually derided by others. I did want to say a particular word of thanks to you and to the Middle East Forum for your excellent riposte to one of those who is constantly inveighing against all of us, the Southern Poverty Law Center, in your new product Field Guide to Useful Infidels. A very well done piece of work, I think, so thank you for that.
Let me ask you about this recent terrorist attack down in Florida, Gregg. You, of course, have a lot of experience tracking bad actors and one of the things that has thrown a lot of people off the scent in this case it seems, is that the alleged perpetrator, Esteban Santiago, first of all has a Hispanic name and second of all had time in the United States military.
Are there other things that we've learned about him that, however, suggest there may be more to it than that?
Roman: There are. There was a report that came out from Robert Spencer on Jihad Watch over the weekend, which was able to link Mr. Santiago to his viewing and consumption of information affiliated with Islamist propaganda.
I think that there's a key point here that not a lot of the mainstream media commentators have picked up on. Many of them have been categorizing this as a soldier that went to Iraq, viewed two of his close friends killed in a bomb attack, and came back and then started experiences post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. He was inebriated by mental health issues.
MEF director Gregg Roman
But what they don't try to connect is how someone who may have certain limited faculties ... can be influenced by Islamist propaganda. So, the mainstream media is calling this a case of depression gone wrong. Getting onto a plane, arriving in Ft. Lauderdale and committing a pre-meditated act of murder against five Americans.
What they're not doing is showing how the different groups, whether it be ISIS, global jihad, Al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood are able to take advantage of individuals with mental health issues ... to prey on individuals who may have a weaker mental disposition than others.
Gaffney: You know what's interesting, Gregg, though is what this guy was doing even before he went to Iraq, which was creating at MySpace recordings of Islamic music, some of it very explicitly in this sort of vein of Islamic supremacism. So it's a complicated bit of business, I think, to be sure, but the rush to say this has nothing to do with jihadism seems to me to be, as is often the case, misplaced.
Let me ask you about one other issue that I know is on your mind too, that I want to discuss in light of your experience in Israel, but also the great work that you do at the Middle East Forum, Gregg Roman. And, that is, what do you make of what Barack Obama is doing on his way out the door with respect to the US relationship with Israel, and more to the point, really, Israel's standing in the world?
Roman: I really think that for the last eight years, Barack Obama has been the architect for the step-by-step destruction, or the attempted destruction, and implosion of the US-Israel relationship.
"Obama has been the architect for the [attempted] step-by-step destruction ... of the US-Israel relationship."
I can remember going back to 2009 and 2010 when I was serving in the Israeli Defense Forces and working at the Ministry of Defense, where he would send his envoys, his political appointees to our offices and criticize us for alleged interference in Palestinian building, asking us to stop the natural growth of Jewish towns in the West Bank. And, he would every time come back with something else in a new message. Then, when we saw the settlement freeze end because of Palestinian intransigence, Obama blamed Israel.
When the second secretary of state under his administration, John Kerry, came in after Hillary Clinton left, we saw them attempt peace negotiations. After Israel made an offer, the Palestinians refused. Of course Obama blamed Israel. And then you saw a general slide into quiet of the Obama administration commenting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But this was not because Obama became frustrated with Israel, he was actually planning interference in the Israeli election and the last commenced elections trying to spend hundreds of thousands of American taxpayer dollars to underwrite organizations in Israel with the goal of trying to dethrone Benjamin Netanyahu, [prevent] him becoming prime minister for a fourth time.
Gaffney: Now, wait a minute. So, you're telling me that the man who has been, of late, railing about alleged Russian interference in American elections, has himself been deeply involved in trying to interfere with and, in fact, change the outcome of the election of a friendly nation Israel?
Roman: Correct. Correct. And he didn't treat Israel as a friendly nation. If you know this, there were three levels of his electioneering and interference in the Knesset elections. The first was by dispatching Democratic party advisors to Israel to advise Israeli opposition parties. Granted, Netanyahu also had the assistance of Republican-oriented election advisors. But Obama sending was consistent with Democratic party politics going all the way back to 1999 when Bill Clinton deployed the Ragin' Cajun, James Carville, to try to assist with the election of Ehud Barak, who was actually able to unseat Netanyahu.
Obama's administration made little secret of its preference for a change of leadership in Israel.
Now, fast forward sixteen years later to these last elections. It wasn't just sending political advisors. It was also providing international cover and attacks on the Israeli government that would provide election fodder for the Israeli opposition. The worst case of interference, was when the State Department directed, as I said before, hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Middle East Partnership Initiative, something called MEPI. It's a program ran out of the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, to support a get out the vote operation and an opposition research operation against the Likud Party and his coalition ally. All three of these efforts failed.
Now, when that happened, Obama realized that he had one last shot to try to undermine Netanyahu, his government, and largely the state of Israel on the national arena. Back in, I would say, November of 2015, President Obama started making inroads with the individuals in countries that he knew would be on the Security Council. He drafted a paper asking for State Department options to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a close on Palestinian terms, rather than those protecting our ally Israel. And we saw those actions starting back in June and July, when I first came out with reporting on what the State Department was planning on doing.
Gaffney: Let me ask you, Gregg Roman, in closing, do you anticipate that there will be further damage in this wrecking operation at the Paris conference on the 15th of January, and possibly at the UN Security Council two days later?
Roman: Obama has three options, and we'll start from least and then go to the worst. The first is a [White House] Rose Garden speech after the Paris peace conference, outlining his vision for a future Palestinian state. The second is that he brings those parameters to the Paris conference and has an international agenda drafted against Israeli interests in Paris and that may not arrive in the Security Council. The worst option, and this is something that we have to take into consideration, is that the Paris conference calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state, not through negotiations. It might then be backed by a UN Security Council resolution and we may even see President Obama recognize the State of Palestine.
Gaffney: This we'll be fighting tooth and tong, as I know will you Gregg Roman and Daniel Pipes and others associated with the important Middle East Forum. Come back to us very soon with your analysis and updates. In the meantime, folks, check out their great work at meforum.org. Gregg, thanks so much for your time today. Let's talk again very soon.