STREAMING LIVE: Alastair Crooke On The (Islamist) Elephant in the Room


Tom Kutsch is a Research Associate at the New America Foundation/Middle East Task Force.
At a recent event at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Rob Malley aired a very sly caution for the Obama administration on Israel-Palestine: “the Bush administration has left a doubly harmful legacy: It did the wrong things poorly, which creates the illusion that somehow they can be done well.”
A particular case in point is the ongoing reluctance of the new administration (and Western governments more broadly) to jettison the Bush-era policy toward Islamist groups like Hamas.
The current administration surely recognizes the folly the Bush administration made in encouraging Palestinian elections in 2006 and then refusing to deal with Hamas after its stunning electoral victory, but it has yet to replace the old policy.
Many Middle East watchers (see, for instance, the recent bipartisan statement shepherded by the U.S./Middle East Project) have come to the realization that continuing the Bush administration’s policy of isolation vis a vis Hamas does little to address the question of how to put the Palestinian “Humpty-Dumpty” back together again.
Think it’s a tactical mistake to deal with Hamas? Fine. But that begs a larger strategic question: how, exactly, can any reconciliation between a fractured Palestinian polity between Gaza and the West Bank (essential for future agreements) not somehow involve the group that is actually ruling the former.
And remember, recognizing the Hamas reality is not synonymous with direct American negotiation; it just means the U.S. shouldn’t actively attempt to obstruct ongoing reconciliation attempts between Hamas and Fatah.
Nor would a change in policy somehow constitute a mealy-mouthed, weak-kneed capitulation to “Islamofascism” as some commentators seem to insinuate when on the topic of negotiating with one’s enemies. Even if Hamas turns out to be bluffing on its past indications of a pragmatic policy toward Israel, the track record of foreign policy absolutism in dealing with the reality of this Islamist movement in the last 8 years doesn’t exactly inspire confidence for the future.
Thus far, the current administration has been unwilling to engage with the Hamas reality. It instead favors the Bush-inherited “three no’s contingency”: that the Islamist group, if it is to be viewed as a legitimate actor, must reverse its trifecta of not recognizing Israel, not abiding by past PLO agreements, and not pledging to cease violent means to achieve its goals.
Given the increasing disrepute among Palestinians with which many in Fatah have fallen, it’s unclear exactly how such a status quo policy caveat will achieve the national security interests of America (let alone those of Israel or the Palestinians).
This is surely one illusion that, good intentions not withstanding, the Obama administration would do well to reconsider.
To flesh out these and other issues related to Islamist movements in the Middle East, the New America Foundation is hosting an event TODAY from 12:15 to 1:45pm EST with Alastair Crooke, Founder and Director of Conflicts Forum.
He will be discussing the theme of his new book, Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution, which explores what he calls the “Islamist Revolution” in the Middle East, offering some strategic insights into the origins and logic of Islamist groups which have adopted military resistance as a tactic, and how this impacts American and European policy options in the Middle East.
Joining him as moderator and respondent respectively, will be Middle East Task Force Co-Directors Daniel Levy and Amjad Atallah.
— Tom Kutsch


4 comments on “STREAMING LIVE: Alastair Crooke On The (Islamist) Elephant in the Room

  1. Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi says:

    The irony of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that the policy of false dawn has been shown both by the European Union( the advocate of soft-power doctrine in the Middle east) and by Washington since the scope of the Mideast conflict resolution has always been hibernated in the political vicissitudes shown by the history of sixty years of the power politics in the region, and of course, the matter that Hamas is there or not seems to be a secondary issue.


  2. TonyForesta says:

    Though we divide occasionally Mr Clemons, I applaud the great work you do, in gleaning a wide array of relevent voices on these epic and farreaching issues. It is a truly impressive and important discussion you inspire and propagate. Ten Thousand Thanks.
    The Palestinian people legitimately elected Hamas as their government. Upon what right does America supercede the voice of the Palestinian people and refuse to recognize the duly and rightfully democratically elected government of Hamas.
    We frame them as terrorists, as we are terrorists by their metrics. Who is right, and who is wrong, and who is week and who is strong?
    This horrorshow conflict will never be resolved because vampires on all sides relish in the blood and want and seek the blood of innocents to feed their power.
    Until and unless the vampires, the remora’s are removed from the system and any discourse – there will be no end to horrors of the Israeli/Palestinain conflict.


  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Netanyahu Govt Won’t Support Two-State Solution
    Mitchell Fails to Get Israeli PM’s Support for Peace Process
    by Jason Ditz, April 16, 2009
    In meetings today with top Israeli officials, US Mideast envoy George Mitchell emphasized the Obama Administration’s support for the creation of a Palestinian state. He was, however, unable to secure any assurances from officials in the Netanyahu government that they would support such a deal.
    Well, so much for Levy’s nattering about a President “Israel can’t say no to”.


  4. ... says:

    i don’t think the idea was ever to “put the Palestinian “Humpty-Dumpty” back together again.” from my pov, the usa and israels intent has always been to break it apart and make sure it never can work… how else to explain the usa’s actions in the region? the usa is okay with state sponsored terrorism by countries like israel and itself, but is not okay with an organization that is a direct byproduct of the same – hamas… the truth of the encouraged palestinian elections is plain for everyone to see… we want democracy for others when we get want, but not if we don’t… the usa has completely negated itself, and obama has done nothing to change any of it…


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