The Middle East: Policy Choices for the New Administration

The video of the Middle East Policy Council’s 70th Capitol Hill Conference is now available for on-demand streaming.

Speakers:  

Paul Pillar

Former National Intelligence Officer,
National Intelligence Council; Professor, Georgetown University

Scott McConnell

Founding Editor, The American Conservative

 

Jocelyne Cesari

Co-director, SAIS Global Politics and Religion Initiative; Research Associate, Harvard University

Nathaniel Kern

President, Foreign Reports

 


Moderator:

Thomas R. Mattair

Executive Director, Middle East Policy Council

 

PRESS RECAP

The Middle East: Policy Choices for the New Administration
Post-debate conference highlighted the domestic constraints to foreign policymaking

WASHINGTON, October 17, 2012 — The morning after the 2nd presidential debate between President Obama and Governor Romney, analysts convened for the Middle East Policy Council’s 70th Capitol Hill Conference. The conference addressed policy challenges in the Middle East awaiting the winner of the November election. The event speakers and a summary of their comments are below; for members of the press seeking a full transcript from the event, please e-mail mepc.press@gmail.com. Visit our website for full video from the event.

Thomas Mattair, Executive Director of the Middle East Policy Council, moderated the event. Four distinguished panelists joined him: Scott McConnell (Founding Editor, The American Conservative), Jocelyne Cesari (Co-director, SAIS Global Politics & Religion Initiative), Nathaniel Kern (President, Foreign Reports) and Paul Pillar (Former National Intelligence Officer, National Intelligence Council).

While addressing different topics, each speaker stressed the role of domestic politics — both here in the United States and the Middle East — to influence policymaking on a variety of fronts. Amidst the hyper-partisan climate in the United States at the moment, our speakers were in general agreement about the challenges the two U.S. candidates would ultimately face.

Scott McConnell observed that the powerful Israel lobby is exhibiting “cracks” and that the Democratic Party and mainline churches are tempering their support for Israel. He thinks that a two-state solution will no longer be feasible and the new administration will be challenged to maintain a “special relationship” with Israel while Palestinian interests are not met.

Jocelyne Cesari explained the nuanced political realms in nations transformed by the Arab Awakening and encouraged the next U.S. administration to appreciate the role of Islam in these emerging governments, discard the assumption that democracy is synonymous with secularism, and communicate with domestic societies to change their image of the United States.

Nathaniel Kern described the progress made in the U.S.–Saudi strategic dialogue since 2005 on issues including counter-terrorism, Saudi student visas and oil production but cautioned that the continued stability of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia could be complicated by a lack of progress on issues like the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and on Iran and Syria.

Paul Pillar conceded there is little the United States can do to shape events in Syria, while advocating a more flexible negotiating posture with Iran that will offer sanctions relief for Iranian cooperation. He thinks that President Obama will be more inclined to seek a diplomatic resolution to the crisis than Governor Romney.

An edited video by speaker, including a full transcript from the event will be posted in a few days at www.mepc.org and then published in the next issue of the journal Middle East Policy.

Contacts:
For interviews or other content associated with this event, please contact Rebecca Leslie– (202) 296 6767 – Rleslie@mepc.org

 

Interfaith leaders: NYPD ‘singled out Muslims’

Interfaith leaders in Jersey City say they’re in solidarity with Muslims who feel reports of the NY Police Department conducting surveillance of mosques and Muslim student groups crossed the line beyond acceptable counter-terrorism methods. (The Associated Press)

‘Free to be Me’ empowers young Muslim-American women

A seminar for young Muslim women in Southern California tackled three topics that Muslim women face daily: Self-esteem, media literacy, and health and wellness. The women of “Free to be Me” speak in their own words about the challenges of defending their faith.

Ray Kelly Resignation Called For By Muslims Angered By Anti-Islam Movie

NEW YORK — Muslim groups are calling for New York’s police commissioner to step down because of his appearance in a film they say puts their religion and its adherents in a bad light.

About 20 activists held a news conference on the steps of City Hall on Thursday and criticized Ray Kelly for giving an interview to the producers of the movie “The Third Jihad.”

The movie uses dramatic footage to warn against the dangers of radical Islam and shariah, or Islamic law. Muslim groups say it encourages Americans to be suspicious of all Muslims.

“Terrorism is an evil that must be eliminated, but one cannot fight wrong with wrong,” said Talib Abdur-Rashid, a Muslim cleric.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Thursday he stood by Kelly and the commissioner’s spokesman, Paul Browne. Activists had also demanded Browne’s resignation.

However, the mayor said Kelly would have to redouble his outreach efforts to Muslims.

“Anything like this doesn’t help credibility, so Ray’s got to work at establishing, re-establishing or reinforcing the credibility that he does have,” Bloomberg said.

In Police Training, a Dark Film on U.S. Muslims

Ominous music plays as images appear on the screen: Muslim terrorists shoot Christians in the head, car bombs explode, executed children lie covered by sheets and a doctored photograph shows an Islamic flag flying over the White House.

“This is the true agenda of much of Islam in America,” a narrator intones. “A strategy to infiltrate and dominate America. … This is the war you don’t know about.”

This is the feature-length film titled “The Third Jihad,” paid for by a nonprofit group, which was shown to more than a thousand officers as part of training in the New York Police Department.

The film is called The Third Jihad. It is 72 minutes of gruesome footage of bombing carnage, frenzied crowds, burning American flags, flaming churches, and seething mullahs. All of this is sandwiched between a collection of somber talking heads informing us that, while we were sleeping, the international Islamist Jihad that wrought these horrors has set up shop here and is quietly going about its deadly business. This is the final drive in a 1,400-year-old bid for Muslim world domination, we’re informed. And while we may think there are some perfectly reasonable Muslim leaders and organizations here in the U.S., that is just more sucker bait sent our way.

“Americans are being told that most of the mainstream Muslim groups are moderate,” says the narrator, “when in fact if you look a little closer you’ll see a very different reality. One of their primary tactics is deception.”
“This is the true agenda of much of Islam in America,” a narrator intones. “A strategy to infiltrate and dominate America. … This is the war you don’t know about.”

This is the feature-length film titled “The Third Jihad,” paid for by a nonprofit group, which was shown to more than a thousand officers as part of training in the New York Police Department.

TLC ‘All American Muslim” controversy

Special Coverage: Lowe’s pulls ads from TV show about U.S. Muslims

A decision by retail giant Lowe’s Cos. to pull ads from a reality show about American Muslims after protests from an evangelical Christian group has sparked criticism and calls for a boycott against the chain of home-improvement stores.

The retailer stopped advertising on TLC’s “All-American Muslim” after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Assn. complained, saying the program was “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.” The series, which has been on TLC at 10 p.m. Sunday since mid-November, follows the lives of five Muslim-American families in Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a sizable Muslim population.

The organization says 65 companies have left the show since it began urging advertisers to withdraw their support. Among those that have were Kayak, the travel Web site, and Lowe’s, the home-improvement retailer.

“All-American Muslim” has drawn an average-size audience on TLC on Sundays, typically a very competitive night on television. The series started out in mid-November with 1.7 million viewers, but subsequent episodes have been seen by about one million viewers. There was no noticeable bump on Sunday, a few days after Lowe’s decision first made news.

TLC declined to comment on the matter, other than to say that “there is strong advertiser support for the show.”
A number of politicians have denounced the decision by Lowe’s to withdraw its ads. On CNN on Monday, one of the two Muslim-Americans who have been elected to Congress, Keith Ellison, said the apparent decision by Lowe’s “has demonstrated a degree of fear that they don’t have to possess.”

“They don’t have to be afraid of a fringe group,” said Mr. Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat.
Ted W. Lieu, a California state senator, went further, stating in a letter to Lowe’s on Saturday that “if Lowe’s continues its religious bigotry, I will encourage boycotts of Lowe’s and look into legislative remedies.”
Celebrities including Mia Farrow and Russell Simmons have also supported “All-American Muslim” and criticized the decision by Lowe’s to withdraw from the series.

In a statement on its Facebook page, Lowe’s said it had “a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion” but had pulled its spots from the show because it “became a lightning rod” for “individuals and groups” with “strong political and social views.”

Kayak Defends Cutting Ties to ‘All-American Muslim’

Another company has pulled its ads from TLC’s controversial docu-series “All-American Muslim,” saying it did so because TLC “was not upfront with us about the nature of this show” and was deliberately “trying to pick a fight” over the series. The online travel company Kayak.com also says that its chief marketing officer watched a couple of episodes and thought they were lousy.

Kayak.com got swept up in the story about the decision by the giant home-improvement retail chain Lowe’s to yank its ads from the series, which is about five Muslim families in Dearborn, Mich. Lowe’s had become the target of a campaign by the conservative Florida Family Association, which said the show is “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

But on Wednesday, Kayak’s chief marketing officer, Robert Birge, sought to distinguish his company’s decision from Lowe’s: He savaged the Silver Spring-based TLC over its handling of the show in a “We Handled This Poorly” blog post on Kayak’s Web site.

“When TLC pitched ‘All-American Muslim’ to advertisers, it was characterized as a fair-and-balanced look at the life of an American Muslim. However, what was not disclosed was the preexisting controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich.,” Birge said in the statement e-mailed to The TV Column.