October 19, 2018

Sunday Reads: Trump will defeat ISIS, The Arab states’ two-state solution, The Egyptian public & Israel


Aaron David Miller and Richard Sokolsky take a look at how Trump can take on Iran without sparking war:

Unless the administration has a clear end state in its sights and a viable road map for getting there, it will find itself on the short end of the stick in confronting Iran when vital American interests are not at stake and taking on Tehran will only make the situation worse.

Andrew Exum predicts that ISIS will fall during the Trump administration (and that Trump is going to take credit for it):

But the fall of the Islamic State is going to happen, and it’s going to happen on this president’s watch. Like the American jobs he claims to have created that were announced long before he took office, Trump will take credit for the Islamic State’s defeat. It will be in his 2020 campaign speeches, and it will be a cudgel with which he beats the Democrats each time they (or John McCain) point out his incompetence on issues of national security.


Dennis Ross doesn’t believe that Trump’s intention of involving the Arab countries In peace talks signifies a retreat from the two-state solution:

If Arab states decide that engaging on the peace issue with Israel makes sense, they will want to show that they delivered for the Palestinians what they could not produce for themselves. They won’t drop Palestinian demands, they will come to represent them.

The great irony may be that involving the Arabs is almost sure to ensure that there must be a two-state outcome if the effort is to lead anywhere. The Arab leaders cannot accept the Palestinians to be subsumed into an Israeli state.

Elliott Abrams examines the prospects of Trump’s “big deal” for Israel and Palestine:

But optimism should be restrained. Cooperating with Israel is always risky for the Arab states, which is why they do it in secret. It is a potential domestic political problem of great magnitude for them, so why should they risk it? The answer is that it would improve the lot of the Palestinians—but that has never been and is not now a compelling objective for most Arab leaders. It’s “nice to have” but not worth any real danger. They are most likely to try it if a strong and reliable American president presses them to do so, over and over again.

And that’s the rub here. Arab leaders do not yet know if they have a strong and reliable president with whom to work, or whether he is going to make this regional peace deal a major goal that he will pursue over time.

Middle East

Haisam Hassanein writes about the Egyptian public’s perception of Israel:

Observing Egyptian culture closely, including the way the young generation is taught to think about Israel, it becomes clear that the high-level relationship between the two countries would deteriorate should the shared security threats return to the pre-Islamic State level. Simply put, the Egyptian government would not have the incentive to continue building a covert relationship with a country viewed by the majority of Egyptians as the eternal enemy, expansionists desperate to take Sinai back and therefore a main reason to rally around the military.

The shaping of the young Egyptian mind on the subject of Israel starts in school, with the Islamic religious narrative that frames the Jews as traitors.

Rick Noack writes about a new report showing that the Islamic State’s “Business model” is failing:

“It is clear that the Islamic State’s business model is failing,” said ICSR director Peter Neumann. “It used to be the world’s richest terror group because it basically was a state. But its biggest strength at that time — the ability to loot and extract money through taxes in newly conquered territories — became its most significant weakness as it suffered battlefield losses.”

Jewish World

ADL head Jonathan Greenblatt is amazed Trump has not spoken up against anti-Semitism:

The issue is not whether Trump is anti-Semitic. The issue is whether he will stand up to anti-Semitism, let alone other forms of bigotry. And, as president, he will face far more difficult and daunting challenges in the years ahead, but speaking out against intolerance should be a no-brainer.

Tyler Cowen talks to Rabbi David Wolpe on leadership, religion and identity:

So if you want to attribute that to the fact that David listened to God, and that the Psalms are in fact an expression of David’s soul, I don’t have a problem with that. But if you want to be a pragmatist about it and just look at results, I would say that’s how you judge the success of a leader then and now.