The Demise of the Arab State, Re-Tribalization, and the Emergence of “Jihadistans” in the Next Five Years
March 15, 2017
Robert R. Reilly:
Our speaker tonight is an old friend, Dr. Shmuel Bar, who served for thirty years in the Israeli government. First, in the Israeli Defense Forces intelligence and then in the analytic and operational positions in the Israeli office of the Prime Minister. Since the 1980s, Dr. Bar has concentrated on the ideology and operational codes of Islamic fundamentalist movements and particularly the jihadi movement that later evolved into Al Qaeda. He’s adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and he’s author of Warrant for Terror: The Fatwas of Radical Islam and the Duty to Jihad, one of the best books on that subject. I couldn’t recommend it to you highly enough. I do have to tell you that when I asked Shmuel what he would like to speak on tonight, he gave my the longest topic that anyone has submitted at Westminster. I’ll just read it for you, so you can get the full flavor: “Scenarios for the Middle East: The Next Five Years Demise of the Arab State, Re-Tribalization, the Emergence of Jihadistans and Proxy-stans, and the Contemporary Great Game.” If you had to take a breath while saying that, I would understand. And he agreed to that elide down to the topic tonight, “The Demise of the Arab State, Re-Tribalization, and the Emergence of Jihadistan in the Next Five Years.” Please join me in welcoming Shmuel Bar.
Thank you very much. It’s a pleasure to be here. So, since you already read out the entire title, I don’t have anything left to say. I think that we have a tendency to look at the Middle East and to say, you know, we’re looking at what’s happening now, and it’s always- it’s always the things that happened yesterday, and so we say this happened in Aleppo, this happened in Iraq, and this, and we lose sight of the trends. We lose sight of the big picture.
I’ve been doing for quite some years, scenario-izing of the Middle East. In May 2010, I was asked by the U.S. Department of Defense to offer scenarios for the Middle East and I offered a number of scenarios. Two of them were the fall of the Egyptian regime as a result of protests when Mubarak is ill and cannot control it. His aides and his deputies are not able to take decisions because they’re not used to making decisions because they’re used to a charismatic and centralist leader. The regime falls and the Muslim Brotherhood comes to power. At the same time my scenario for Syria was that I described Syria being like King Solomon in the story in the Qur’an of King Solomon. King Solomon was old and he was about to die. He beseeched allies and said, “How can I, the wisest man in the world, die in bed?” He said, “No, you can die standing up on two staffs, commanding the world of the djinn,” the genies. So he does and he dies. The genies see him and they think he’s still alive. They continue to obey his last order until earth worms eat up his two staffs, his body falls, and only then do the genies realize that their fear of his last order and they start behaving- doing what they want. And I said this is Syria. It’s beginning to erode and it will erode into an Awali-stan, a jihadistan in the north, a tribal-istan, and the area in the south. Now, these projections, at the time that I made them, there was potential for these things to happen, and we have to divorce ourselves from the current event and to look at the underlying features of theater or the underlying features of an entire area in order to try and understand where they can lead.