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The Era of Jihadist Insurgencies Is Over

Twenty years ago, inspired by Hizballah’s success in driving the IDF from southern Lebanon, Palestinian leaders unleashed the second intifada—a campaign of suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks intended to drive Israel from the West Bank and Gaza, and eventually to bring about its collapse. A year later, Americans saw al-Qaeda visit similar tactics on New York City and Washington, DC. Jonathan Spyer sees these events as ushering in an age of Islamist insurgency that, as the century enters its third decade, has finally come to an end:

From 2010 to 2014, Islamist popular mobilization and insurgency arrived in mass form in the heartland of the Arab Islamic world itself. This was evident in the rapid takeover of the Syrian rebellion by Sunni Islamist militias, in the Muslim Brotherhood’s brief triumph in Egypt, and reaching its purest, most unalloyed expression in the shape of Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate.

Look around the Arabic-speaking world today. Where does one find an insurgency led from below—a jihad, a popular revolt—of the kind premiered by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad during the second intifada and then witnessed on a vastly larger scale by the Syrian Sunni Arab rebellion and Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Islamist-dominated insurgency against the former Libyan leader Moammar Ghaddafi, and the mass civil revolts in Egypt and Tunisia? Nowhere.

The main legacy of Islamist insurgency’s tearing asunder of the Arab world, paradoxically, is the terminal weakening of a number of Arab states, and their penetration by a variety of regional and global non-Arab powers. These powers—Iran, Turkey, Russia, and the United States—make use of the remnant organizations of the insurgents as contractors and cannon fodder for their own designs.

Political Islam, meanwhile, has itself entered a new phase. No longer an insurgent banner, it is now a decoration used by powerful states as part of their justification of themselves. Today, it is borne along by Turkey and Iran, and this is its main remaining relevance. . . . The states have returned. The Middle East is entering a phase of great-power competition.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Al Qaeda, ISIS, Middle East, Radical Islam, Second Intifada

A Senior Saudi Political Figure Takes the Palestinian Leadership to Task

In an extended television interview with an Arab broadcaster, Prince Bandar bin Sultan—who served for twenty years as the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., for a decade as head of the Saudi National Security Council, and two years as intelligence chief—responded forcefully to the Palestinian claim that the Gulf states have, by normalizing relations with Israel, “stabbed the Palestinians in the back.” Defending Saudi devotion to the Palestinian cause, Prince Bandar delivered a lengthy history of his country’s role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, in which he bluntly upbraided Palestinian leaders, and Yasir Arafat above all, for squandering chances at statehood and for their lack of “ethics.” While Bandar’s sentiments can hardly be described as pro-Israel, he asserted that the Palestinian leaders are every bit as responsible as the Jewish state for the plight of their people:

[After the UN issued its 1947 Resolution 181 for partitioning Palestine], a Jewish state called Israel was recognized, which became a member of the United Nations. As for the Arab side, the Palestinians rejected the resolution, and as usual, we [Saudis] supported their rejection. Many years later, the main demand of our Palestinian brothers has been UN resolution 181, which is no longer on the table. No one is discussing it now. This was the beginning, and such events, as I mentioned, were repeated once, twice, and three times.

After the Oslo Accords, I asked Abu Amar, [i.e., Arafat], God rest his soul—and as they say remember the virtues of your dead—what he thought of the autonomy provisions [offered to the Palestinians under the 1978] Camp David Treaty. He said, “Bandar, Camp David’s autonomy provisions were ten times better than the Oslo Accords.” I said, “Well, Mr. President, why did you not agree to it?” He said, “I wanted to, but Hafez al-Assad threatened to kill me and to drive a wedge among the Palestinians, turning them against me.” I thought to myself, so he could have been one martyr and given his life to save millions of Palestinians, but it was as God willed it.

Bandar recounts another incident where he came to Arafat with an offer from the Reagan administration to pressure Israel into making concessions to the Palestinians, but Arafat stalled pointlessly until the offer expired. In short, Bandar’s view of things reflects the old adage “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

Read more at Al Arabiya

More about: Israel-Arab relations, Palestinians, Saudi Arabia, Yasir Arafat