March 23, 2018

A New Report Says America is Being Duped in Myanmar

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-Fifteen years ago this week, the United States invasion of Iraq began.

Before the statues of Saddam Hussein came down and U.S. forces transitioned to an occupation force two months later, a highly-decorated Special Forces colonel was asked to identify what it would take to stabilize Iraq and turn it into a functioning democracy. In the prescient report that he and his team delivered to U.S. Central Command, Colonel Tim Heinemann (Ret.), the Green Berets commander, was frank in his assessment. He argued that the U.S. military hadn’t developed the “street smarts” it needed in Iraq, hadn’t built relationships with the real power brokers on the ground, and hadn’t done enough to prevent Iraqi military officers from going underground as insurgents. The surest way to develop the insights necessary to stave off chaos, the report argued, was to engage tribal leaders in a massive counterinsurgency effort to build trust – in his words, “not just to share tea one-on-one with local leaders, but to share tea 10 times until they opened up.”

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December 13, 2017

Why is Siamak Namazi Still in An Iranian Prison?

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—Today in Iran, a good man, an American citizen, is languishing in a brutal Tehran prison. And so is his 81-year-old father.

Siamak Namazi is a friend of mine. An Iranian-born American with dual citizenship who loves Iran and considers it one of his two homes, Siamak has spent years going back and forth to Tehran as a businessman and a humanitarian, helping Westerners establish businesses on Persian soil that provide jobs and incomes for Iranian citizens. He sought me out early on, and I came to know him as a deeply thoughtful and honest man who is committed to improving the lives of the Iranian people while smoothing the relations between our two countries.

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November 24, 2017

The Rise of American Sharia in Alabama

by Stanley A. Weiss

An Islamic fundamentalist, using his faith as a club, declares his belief that faith should override secular rule of law and advocates for a form of Islamic law, called Sharia law—which some Muslims interpret as commanding that drinkers of alcohol be whipped and homosexuals and those who criticize the faith be put to death. In the face of such extremism, voices in western countries harshly criticize Muslim leaders, asking why there isn’t a loud chorus within the faith to shout him down.

We’ve wondered how people could tolerate and support extremists in positions of power who ignore civil law in the name of their radical religious values. What many Americans don’t realize is that it has happened here—and if we are not vigilant it will happen right here again: religious fundamentalists, much like the ones we criticize in the Middle East, who use their faith to subvert our Constitution.

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September 5, 2017

How to Solve Afghanistan – Permanently

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—He was an army chaplain serving in the war in Afghanistan.

The Reverend G.H. Gleig had seen battle after battle – and he emerged deeply disillusioned with what he saw. The war in Afghanistan was “a war begun for no wise purpose, carried on with a strange mixture of rashness and timidity,” he wrote after his return. “Not one benefit, political or military has been acquired with this war.”

Reverend Gleig’s words are more relevant today than ever — which is remarkable since he wrote them almost 175 years ago. Gleig was a chaplain in the British army. The war he participated in was the First Anglo-Afghan War, which lasted from 1839 to 1842. Like countless other foreigners whose warnings about fighting in a country known as “The Graveyard of Empires” have gone unheeded, Gleig’s words had little effect: Britain would go to war in Afghanistan two more times before realizing the futility of its efforts and withdrawing permanently.

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September 1, 2017

Saudi Arabia’s Influence on Indonesia’s Growing Islamic Extremism

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON—It went up in July, a 100-foot-tall testament to the fearless and fearsome warrior who became a god. And now it’s wrapped in a gigantic white sheet.

The statue of Guan Yu – a third-century Chinese General revered for his bravery and loyalty – met its undignified fate last month in the Indonesian province of East Java. Because of Guan Yu’s significance to Buddhism and Confucianism, which worship him as a god, hardline Islamic groups called it a blasphemous behemoth, took to the streets, and threatened to remove it. In response to the controversy, leaders at the Chinese Confucian temple where the statue stands decided to cover it.

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March 3, 2016

Where Have You Gone, Harry Truman?

by Stanley A. Weiss

Seventy years ago this week, in a quiet corner of Iran, the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union began in earnest over a missed deadline. For four years, American, British, and Soviet troops had been stationed in Iran, invited by the government there to help protect Persian oil fields from Hitler’s army. But there was an important caveat, agreed to in a 1942 treaty: all troops had to be gone within six months of the end of World War II. As the war wound down, Washington and London successfully pressed Tehran for oil concessions, and withdrew troops on time. But Moscow, denied the oil it believed it was due, found an excuse to stay – coming to the aid of Iranian Kurdish rebels in the northern regions of Iran. That’s where Soviet troops still sat when deadline day came and went on March 2, 1946, to the great displeasure of the person who mattered most – U.S. President Harry S Truman.

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February 18, 2016

Three New Realities in the Middle East for the Next American President

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON–There was a telling moment in last Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate that says a lot about America’s misadventures in the Middle East over the past 15 years. Donald Trump, the real estate developer and current front-runner who has done everything from calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants to ridiculing the war record of Senator and former prisoner of war John McCain, finally did something to cause the Republican establishment to turn on him. Questioned about the presidency of George W. Bush, Trump said that the Bush Administration “lied” its way into the Iraq war by hyping weapons of mass destruction; called the invasion itself a “disaster;” and reminded the audience that “the World Trade Center came down” on Bush’s watch. It was too much for the South Carolina audience, which booed him, and the other candidates, who unloaded on him. The irony is that the breaking point for Republicans was hearing Trump say something that was true.

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January 14, 2016

Five Saudi Imperial Projects the West has Slept Through

by Stanley A. Weiss

Horrified by the news that Saudi Arabia would set a record for beheadings in 2015 while continuing to fund radical Islamic groups across the world, I wrote a column last October arguing that it was time for the United States to reconsider its 70-year relationship with the kingdom in Riyadh. After the piece was posted, one of the friends I heard from was Terence Ward, author of the internationally praised memoir, Searching for Hassan.

Terry knows about Saudi Arabia: while born in Colorado, he spent his childhood in Saudi Arabia and Iran. Not only does he have a rich understanding of the deep conflicts within Islam and between nations in the Middle East, but as a man who is fluent in six languages — including Arabic and Farsi — his understanding of the subtleties of those conflicts go well beyond that of most Westerners.

As tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have rapidly escalated this month over Riyadh’s execution of a high-profile Shiite cleric, Terry reached out with a thoughtful perspective on Saudi Arabia and the West. I print it here in full:

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December 14, 2015

A Dangerous Game of Military Politics in Indonesia

by Stanley A. Weiss

This past spring, a former cabinet minister had an extraordinary meeting with the inexperienced first-term President of Indonesia, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. Upon his arrival at the President’s office, the visitor quickly dispensed with any niceties and delivered a candid message bordering on insubordination to the head of state.

“There is no nice way to say this,” he told Jokowi. “You are not presidential material, and your political influence is very low. Not only are you not the most powerful person in Indonesian politics – you might not even be the fifth most powerful person in Indonesian politics.” He then added, “The only way you will be more effective is if you build support with the military, and make certain that the military leadership supports you.”

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December 7, 2015

Resisting the Arabization of Islam in Indonesia

by Stanley A. Weiss

LONDON-It is a sign of the violent age we live in that there is a website in the United States devoted to updating daily deaths by gunfire. Last week, the Mass Shooting Tracker reported that in the first 334 days of this year, America had experienced 351 shootings in which four or more people were killed or injured — an average of more than one a day. And yet, aside from wondering what it will take for America to end its insane addiction to guns, few of these tragedies have garnered as much attention in the South Asian nation of Indonesia than last week’s horrific shooting in San Bernardino, California, where 14 were killed and 21 wounded at the hands of a young Muslim couple that were reportedly radicalized in Saudi Arabia.

For Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation – with more adherents of Islam than Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Jordan, Libya, Lebanon, and Palestine combined – the story of citizens returning home from the Middle East more extreme than when they left is an old one. But it is also a story generating fresh concern as a number of Indonesian Muslims are choosing to travel to Iraq and Syria to fight for the jihadists of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).

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