Iran's Influence Threatens Sunnis

By Jonathan Schanzer
The Philadelphia Evening Bulletin
March 22, 2007

While Washington inches toward the right combination
of carrot and stick to curb Iran, a shaken Sunni Arab
world - led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt - is scrambling
to offset the growing power of their Shiite rivals.

Things look bad from the Sunni perspective. Shi'ite
Iran is close to acquiring a nuclear weapon while also
threatening to wrest control of fragile Iraq and
Lebanon through militias that foment sectarian
violence. Further, Syria (a former Sunni ally) has
joined the Iranian axis. Iran's defense minister
considers "Syrian defense forces as our own," while
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei confirms that
Iran-Syria ties are "strategic."

As the religious leaders of the Sunni world, the
Saudis have the most to lose by Iran's power grab. The
largest stakes are in neighboring Iraq, which is in
danger of becoming an Iranian satellite, thanks to a
Shi'ite majority heavily influenced by Iran. Knowing
the stakes, the Saudis are fighting back in brutal
fashion; Saudi-trained or influenced Wahhabis are a
core component of the Sunni insurgency that targets
Shi'ite civilians in bloody attacks.

Some energy analysts also speculate that Saudi Arabia
may be manipulating the world oil supply to limit
Iranian profits. The financial magazine Kiplinger's
cites "conjecture that Saudi Arabia wants to keep the
price of oil at $50 to $55 a barrel to hobble regional
rival Iran by cutting its petro profits." While it is
difficult to imagine that the House of Saud would
adopt economic policies that would hamstring its own
economy, the possibility of such a measure underscores
the kingdom's desperation.

The Saudis are also worried about Iran's influence in
Lebanon. When Hezbollah, backed by Iran, launched war
against Israel in summer 2006, the Saudis surprised
Western observers by condemning Hezbollah's
provocations as "rash adventures carried out by
elements inside [Lebanon] and those behind them." The
Saudis, who are no friends of Israel, expressed their
anger that war was launched "without consultation or
coordination with Arab countries," exhorting Hezbollah
to end "the crisis they have created."

In attempt to counter Tehran, Saudi Arabia continues
to back Lebanese Sunni Prime Minister Fouad Sinoura
and maintains ties with other Sunni politicians. Some
analysts also believe the Saudis may be sponsoring
increased extremist activity in Lebanon as a means to
counter Hizbullah.

Meanwhile, the Saudis last month held talks with Iran
on ways to maintain calm in Lebanon, a state that both
countries consider vital to their regional interests.
The Saudis also brokered a February ceasefire in Mecca
between the Iran-backed Hamas fighters in the
Palestinian territories, and their Fatah faction
rivals. Although both Hamas and Fatah are Sunni,
analysts fear that Iran is building "Hamasistan" in
the Gaza Strip, where Iranian-sponsored radicalism
would rule the streets in the small territory home to
1.4 million Palestinians.

Egypt, the Saudis' top rival for Sunni Arab
leadership, has also grown alarmed over Iran's
influence in Palestinian affairs, which is
traditionally Cairo's turf. Responding to reports of
Hamas operatives training in military camps run by the
Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Egypt is
working to bolster the Fatah faction. Cairo is
training at least one battalion of 800 men to be
stationed in the Gaza Strip. These forces will likely
engage hostile Hamas fighters in the ongoing
internecine violence in Gaza.

More broadly, the prospect of an ascendant Iran has
shaken Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to the extent
that Mubarak's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, is
now working full-time on ways to undercut Tehran.
However, since Saudi Arabia assumed leadership in
mediating between Palestinian factions, Mubarak has
been marginalized. He is now looking for new ways to
project Egyptian strength.

Of course, Washington supports many of the current
Egyptian and Saudi Arabian efforts to challenge Iran.
However, policymakers are also aware that neither
Saudi Arabia, the bedrock of radical Wahhabi Islam,
nor Egypt, an ossified autocracy, are particularly
interested in the long-term strategic goals of the
United States in the Middle East. The Bush
administration should remind these Arab states that
Sunni radicalism and the democracy deficit still rank
among America's chief concerns in the region. These
issues must be approached with equal vigor once the
Iranian threat has been neutralized.

Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence
analyst, is Director of Policy for the Jewish Policy
Center. He is the author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle
East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.


Where Is International Community In Fighting Terrorism's Financiers?

By Jonathan Schanzer

Investor's Business Daily - March 9, 2007

When the Final Report on 9/11 Commission Recommendations was released Dec. 5, 2005, the Bush administration's efforts to combat global terroristfinancing received a deserving grade of 'A-minus' -- the highest grade afforded to all of the intelligence community.

While noting there was 'still much to do in the Gulf States and in South Asia,' the Final Report correctly observed 'significant strides in using terrorism finance as an intelligence tool,' and that U.S. efforts had 'won the support of key countries in tackling terrorism finance.'

Recently, however, international support for U.S.-targeted financial sanctions has waned. In addition to perennially obstinate Gulf countries such as Yemen, friendly countries such as South Africa and the United Kingdom pose a different set of problems and challenges.

Moreover, the United Nations is woefully unable (or unwilling) to provide the support necessary to properly combat terrorism finance. Thus, while America may be a tougher place for terrorists to move money, terrorists see growth opportunities around the world.

In January, for instance, the U.S. Treasury designated two South Africans, Junaid and Farhad Dockrat, as 'specially designated global terrorists' for their support of al-Qaida and the Taliban. The Treasury also submitted the Dockrats' names to the Sanctions Committee on al-Qaida and the Taliban at the U.N. Security Council.

One cousin was identified as having provided nearly $63,000 to al-Akhtar Trust, a charity that had been designated for providing support to al-Qaida.

The other cousin was responsible for raising $120,000 for Hazma Rabi'a, the al-Qaida operations chief killed by the U.S. military in 2005.

Rather than pursue these terrorists, South Africa, which had become a member of the U.N. sanctions committee in January, placed an indefinite hold on the proposed U.S. designation.

Thus, while American sanctions might freeze any of the Dockrats' assets that reach U.S. banks (the likelihood of that is now extremely low), the terrorist-funding cousins continue to do business in South Africa with impunity, all the while complaining about how the U.S. has accused them unfairly.

While the South Africans are obstructing U.S. designations within the construct of U.N. bylaws, Yemen is simply rejecting its responsibilities as a U.N. member state.

In December, Yemeni Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani accompanied President Ali Abdullah Saleh to an Organization of the Islamic Conference meeting in Saudi Arabia. Zindani, a known associate of al-Qaida and the founder of al-Iman University, which played a primary role in the radicalization of 'American Taliban' John Walker Lindh, was designated by the Treasury and the U.N. Sanctions Committee in 2004.

A closer look at the Zindani case reveals that the Yemeni government has taken little or no action to bar his travel or freeze his assets in compliance with its U.N. obligations.

While the U.N. does not appear to have the tools to enforce its designations, it also appears to lack the will to designate a number of dangerous terrorist groups that are critical to the current U.S. counterterrorism strategy.

Indeed, U.N. sanctions against terrorists can be levied only against entities associated with al-Qaida and the Taliban. This leaves out key Middle East terrorist targets, such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. Under the current sanctions regime, none of these suicide-bombing organizations has even a remote chance of being designated.

Surprisingly, while the U.N. turns a blind eye to Hamas, the U.K. is doing the same. Britain's H.M. Treasury and the U.K. Charity Commission, to cite a couple of examples, have declined to take action against a London-based Hamas front group known as Interpal. Also known as the Palestinian Relief and Development Fund, Interpal was identified by the U.S. Treasury as 'a principal charity utilized to hide the flow of money to Hamas' and a 'fundraising coordinator' for the organization.

Interpal was banned by Israel in 1998. The U.S. Treasury followed suit in August 2003 by designating the group pursuant to Executive Order 13224. British authorities, despite their close cooperation with the U.S. on a host of counterterrorism fronts, chose not to halt Interpal's activities. Interestingly, U.K. authorities froze Interpal's activities for suspected links to terrorism, but eventually allowed the organization to resume operation.

The U.K. record is not all bad. London has participated in key U.N. designations, such as the high-profile Feb. 8, 2006, takedown of several Libyan Islamic Fighting Group businesses, a charity and numerous individual financiers for the group.

Moreover, the U.K. just launched a new, strategic approach to combating the financing of terrorism titled 'The Financial Challenge to Crime andTerrorism.' This new approach may signal a more aggressive financial sanctions regime.

Thus, while America's strongest ally in the war against terrorism is still finding its way with regard to terrorism finance, much of the rest of the world lags woefully behind.

Without support from the international community, Washington's efforts to combat global terrorist financing are beginning to fall short, due to other countries' failings.

Indeed, America may be scoring successes at home, but it will not achieve its global objectives until the international community fully commits to the Bush administration's vision of an aggressive, worldwide campaign.

--Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of
policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He's the author of Al-Qaida's Armies:
Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror


Homegrown Pundit Appointed to Think Tank

March 08, 2007 - Bryan Schwartzman, Staff Writer

Ardmore native Jonathan Schanzer -- a scholar of Islamic fundamentalism and Middle East history who has written about the
operations of Al Qaeda and other terror groups -- has been appointed the director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank tied closely to the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The hope is that the 34-year-old can help the center -- founded in 1985 -- become a player in the ongoing policy debate about how best to use American power to confront radical Islam.

One of his main tasks will involve revamping the organization's quarterly publication, formerly known as Details, which was last published a year ago. (The powers that be haven't yet decided upon a new moniker for the magazine.) He will also organize lectures and programs.

"And there will be my own writing and speaking. The job will be an amalgam of all those things," said Schanzer.

A graduate of Lower Merion High School, who became a Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth Am Israel, Schanzer recently completed a two-year stint with the U.S. Treasury Department, where he worked in intelligence and analysis, and helped the government track the financial transactions of organizations that have funded terrorist activities.

Unlike its sister organization, the Jewish Policy Center is nonpartisan and focuses solely on issues, both foreign and domestic, according to Matthew Brooks, director of both the Jewish Policy Center and the Republican Jewish Coalition.

Brooks hopes the addition of Schanzer will help the center grow in reach and influence.

"We're not sort of a one-note band," said Brooks, also originally from Lower Merion. "In the past, we've focused on a number of domestic-policy issues, social-security reform, education. But right now, there is so much focus and attention on these critical foreign-policy issues."

Schanzer, a graduate of Emory University, had visited Israel several times growing up, but became fascinated with the place after spending a summer there while still in college. Several years later, he returned to Jerusalem, where he earned a master's degree in Middle Eastern history at Hebrew University.

While there in the late 1990s, Schanzer said he began to see growing similarities between the ideologies of Hamas and Al Qaeda, and the danger both of these groups posed to the United States and Israel. This marked a change in a young man who'd wanted to be "the next Dennis Ross" -- someone who would concentrate all his efforts on forging peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

"I realized that America's battle was beginning to look like Israel's battle," he said.

Schanzer returned to the United States shortly after the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, less than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks. He got his start in the think-tank world here in Philadelphia at the Middle East Forum, run by Daniel Pipes. He then moved on to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, during which time his work was published in several media outlets, including The New Republic and The Weekly Standard.

His byline virtually disappeared while he worked for the Treasury Department.

"I really missed the think-tank world," said Schanzer. "I missed the writing and publishing, and being able to speak to a wider audience."


Asking for It
A withdrawal from Iraq would invite more al Qaeda violence.

By Jonathan Schanzer
National Review Online - March 05, 2007

After four days of debate, the House of Representatives recently approved a non-binding resolution opposing President Bush's troop increase in Iraq by a vote of 246-182. According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the legislation was designed to "signal a change indirection in Iraq that will end the fighting and bring our troops home."

To be sure, withdrawal from the bloody fighting in Iraq might save lives in the short term. It would certainly provide relief from the relentless stream of bad news coming out of Baghdad. But has Congresss topped to consider the lessons to be learned from recent history, when Islamist fighters forced superpowers to surrender in a guerrillawar?

For those who have forgotten, the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan led directly to the burgeoning and metastasizing of the al Qaeda movement. Indeed, al Qaeda was founded in 1988 or 1989, as theSoviet army, which had occupied Afghanistan since 1979, began to buckle under the pressure of the U.S.-backed mujahideen war. Using CIA-supplied weapons, the Afghan fighters inflicted painful blows on the Soviets for as long as they occupied Afghanistan.

Finally, on February 15, 1989, the last Russian soldiers left that country.While Washington celebrated the defeat of the Soviets in Afghanistanas a CIA victory, the Arab and Afghan rebels cheered the Soviet withdrawal as a victory of their own. Indeed, bin Laden believed that Allah "provided us with his support and kept us steadfast until the Soviet Union was defeated."

With a perceived victory against a world superpower, the nascent al Qaeda organization grew in confidence, popularity, and numbers.Al Qaeda's success against the Soviets was shortly followed by another successful challenge to a superpower. Al Qaeda claims to have provided the weapons and training behind the 1993 "Blackhawk Down" incident, in which two American Army Blackhawk helicopters were shot down and a third crash-landed in Mogadishu, Somalia.

The result was that 18 Americans died and 78 were injured. Thus, bin Laden boasts, "America exited dragging its tails in failure, defeat, and ruin, caring for nothing. America left [Somalia] faster than anyone expected." The U.S. withdrew from its peacekeeping mission in Somalia in March 1994—less than two years after it entered the country, leaving the mission to flounder.

With two victories under its belt, al Qaeda was emboldened to carry out increasingly audacious attacks against the United States. From the twin embassy bombings of 1998 to the USS Cole bombing in 2000 to the September 11 attacks, bin Laden and his henchmen continued to issue direct challenges to the United States that went largely unanswered. Indeed, one could argue that U.S. inaction during the Clinton administration led to the perception that America was a paper tiger,which only encouraged al Qaeda to further test American will.

Consider this quote from bin Laden: "We have seen in the last decadethe decline of the American government and the weakness of the American soldier. He is ready to wage cold wars but unprepared to fight hot wars....We are ready for all occasions, we rely on God."

Al Qaeda and its affiliates are clearly willing to fight a hot war in Iraq. The White House and Pentagon, despite some painful lessons, have steeled their resolve to fight back. Washington's antiwar politicians, however, are proving to be the kind of American politicians that al Qaeda grew to count on during its rise in the 1990s.

A return to Clinton-style military decision-making would demonstrate an amnesia about the brutality of America's Islamist enemies. If the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 led to the growth of al Qaeda, and the U.Swithdrawal from Somalia in 1993 invited increasingly deadly attacks, an American retreat from Iraq would likely invite a new wave of violence at levels never before seen.

— Jonathan Schanzer, a former Treasury intelligence analyst, is director of policy for the Jewish Policy Center. He is the author of Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror.

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