March 13th, 2012
04:00 PM ET

Questions we dare not ask about Iran

Editor's Note: The following is an edited transcript of Ed Husain's remarks in the video below. Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Author of "The Islamist," he can be followed on Twitter via @Ed_Husain.By Ed Husain, CFR.org

This is conventional thinking among American foreign policy elites on Iran’s regime:

– It is an anti-Semitic regime.

– It wishes to destroy Israel.

– “Regime change” in Iran will result in the halting of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Am I wrong? If not, then the above assumptions illustrate how we are influenced by flawed thinking. More worryingly, it is a deeply disturbing sign of how American public discourse on Iran is leading the United States to yet another “war of choice.” FULL POST

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Topics: Iran
February 24th, 2012
02:24 PM ET

Husain: Could Afghan violence spread?

Editor's Note: The following is an edited transcript of Ed Husain's remarks in the video below. Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Author of "The Islamist," he can be followed on Twitter via @Ed_Husain.

The protests sweeping Afghanistan in relation to the allegations of copies of the Quran being burned by NATO forces are protests that thus far have been contained within Afghanistan.  But unless this risk is managed, there is a real chance that these could spread beyond Afghanistan.

Now, the background to this is simple. The Bagram Air Base thought that in its detainee libraries there were excessive collections of what they called "extremist material." In an attempt to clear out that library they also included other literature and, as it happened, among this collection there were copies of the Quran. Those were burnt alongside other literature and copies of the burning were then somehow disseminated on the Afghan media and on the Internet.

Soon afterwards, the Taliban and others got involved in this whole incident and made it part of a wider narrative that America is here to humiliate Afghanis, Islam, and Muslims. They said that this incident was not just a standalone incident but last month American soldiers had urinated on the dead bodies of Taliban soldiers, that Americans earlier in February had killed eight Afghan soldiers, which was by all reports an accident but that was played out as part of a greater American conspiracy to humiliate Muslims, Afghanistan, and Islam. FULL POST

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Topics: Afghanistan • Islam
February 21st, 2012
09:46 AM ET

Husain: Let the Europeans lead on Syria

Editor's note: Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Author of "The Islamist," he can be followed on Twitter via @Ed_Husain. For more analysis of U.S. options in Syria, visit their Expert Roundup.

By Ed Husain, CFR.org

Syria, like much of the Middle East, is in flux. U.S. policy options must reflect this fluidity, but also not lose sight of regional priorities including threats from Iran, the rise of virulent anti-American radicalization in Pakistan, social and political fragility in Saudi Arabia, increasing instability in Egypt, uncertainty in Yemen, and now the officially declared entry of al-Qaeda cadres into the mix in Syria. There are limits to U.S. power: The more it is spread, the greater the challenges, and the less effective it will be in yielding results.

Going forward, therefore, I suggest the following:

First, given other regional priorities, the United States should be once removed from the Syrian conflict. Let the Europeans lead. Assad's wife is British. He was educated in Britain. His father-in-law, Fawwaz al-Akhras, lives in London and has been the go-to man for politicians and others. Britain, Turkey, the Arab League, and Russia are already working together to broker a ceasefire in Homs. That work deserves U.S. diplomatic support. Cessation of violence must be the immediate priority. FULL POST

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Topics: Foreign Policy • Syria • United States
Husain: Why the U.S. still can't count on Iraq
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki and President Barack Obama shake hands during a news conference in Washington on Monday.
December 13th, 2011
10:30 AM ET

Husain: Why the U.S. still can't count on Iraq

Editor's note: Ed Husain is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Author of "The Islamist," he can be followed on Twitter via @Ed_Husain

By Ed Husain - Special to CNN

Nearly 4, 500 American soldiers lost and, 32,000 wounded. A trillion dollars of borrowed money to remove Saddam Hussein and create an Iraq that would not only be safe from possessing weapons of mass destruction but also friendly toward the United States. These are the United States' heavy sacrifices in blood and treasure. One can be forgiven for expecting some Iraqi support for U.S. foreign policy aims in the region.

On Monday, the Iranian-backed prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki, met with President Barack Obama at the White House to express his thanks for liberating Iraq from Hussein and discuss next steps. The frosty news conference afterward told us that all was not well. Tense, lacking in warmth and smiles and with public disagreement about Iraq's neighbor, Syria,the appearance did not reflect a productive meeting.

As the United States formally ends the almost nine-year war and nears the end of its troop withdrawal, there is still much at stake - and it's not the relatively tiny Iraqi nation of 30 million people, but U.S. influence and foreign policy objectives in the region.

Read on here.

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Topics: Iraq
Was Senator Kerry right to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood?
Head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, U.S. Senator John Kerry visits Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square on March 20, 2011. (Getty Images)
December 12th, 2011
12:30 PM ET

Was Senator Kerry right to meet with the Muslim Brotherhood?

Editor's Note: Ed Husain is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. You can follow him on twitter @ed_husain.

By Ed HusainCFR.org

There is much anger among many Egyptian secular liberals about Senator John Kerry’s meeting with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on Saturday. Soon, in Washington, DC, Republican lawmakers will chide Senator Kerry too. I am no friend of the Muslim Brotherhood, but old policies of isolating the Muslim Brotherhood are no longer viable in the new Middle East.

Meeting only with secular Egyptian leaders such as presidential candidates Mohamed ElBaradei or Amr Moussa yields very little political profit for the United States, and results in a net loss of remaining credibility for Egypt’s secularists. By meeting with Islamists, the United States ensures political gains for the short to medium term. FULL POST

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Topics: Egypt • Foreign Policy • Islam • Politics
November 16th, 2011
02:21 PM ET

Husain: The rise of intolerant Salafists in Egypt

Editor's Note: Ed Husain is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. You can follow him on twitter @ed_husain. 

By Ed HusainCFR.org

The following is a political ad released in Egypt in support of the Salafist political party Hizb al-Noor.

To view this video on YouTube.com, click here.

Products of Saudi Arabian Islam, protected and nurtured by Egypt’s former president Mubarak, Salafists are a rising force in Egypt: a country that is increasingly torn between the false political choice of secularism and Islam.

Initially opposed to the Egyptian revolution, Salafists have now created several political parties in an attempt to out-Islam other Islamists, most notably the Muslim Brotherhood. Salafists matter because they practice, preach, and seek to popularize a puritanical form of Islam that is alien to Egypt. Their entry into politics is part of their strategy to attempt to introduce their reading of shariah as state law.

The video above is a slick production of the campaign anthem of the largest Salafist political party, Hizb al-Noor, meaning “Party of Light.” Despite the beauty of shots of the countryside and everyday life in the three-minute clip being distributed on DVD across Egypt, it is telling that no women appear and imagery of  Egypt’s Copts is absent in this propaganda tool. The omission of Copts is important because Salafists have been accused repeatedly of whipping up anti-Christian sentiment in Egypt. Adhering to hard-line, literalist, and contested interpretations of Islam, no music is allowed, but acoustic humming is used to get around the self-imposed music ban. FULL POST

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Topics: Egypt • Islam • Politics
October 29th, 2011
03:23 PM ET

A step backwards for Saudi Arabia

Editor's Note: Ed Husain is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The following is his First Take, reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

By Ed HusainCFR.org

I was in Saudi Arabia when King Fahd died in 2005. There was genuine remorse among Saudis young and old at the passing of the king. Portraits of the king covered car windows for weeks - a spontaneous and unprecedented outburst of Saudi national grief. There was also hope that the new king, Abdullah, would help bring Saudi Arabia into the twenty-first century. That dream ended yesterday with the appointment of Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz as crown prince, or de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia as King Abdullah continues to undergo hospital treatment for his declining health condition.

In the corridors of power in Washington, DC, and London there was some relief that Prince Nayef, as expected, had become crown prince. In contrast, young Saudis on Twitter, Saudi democracy activists and vocal women were filled with foreboding as to what lies ahead in their country. Granted, Nayef has been a vociferous enemy of al Qaeda elements inside Saudi Arabia and eliminated hundreds of operatives, while arresting thousands since 2003. But this was not because he opposed jihadi ideology or Islamist thinking. His public attacks on the Muslim Brotherhood come not because he differs with their brand of Salafi Islam, but because they seek to undermine the House of Saud. FULL POST

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Topics: Saudi Arabia
October 21st, 2011
08:01 AM ET

In Gadhafi's end, new NATO challenges

Editor's Note: Ed Husain is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The following is his First Take, reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

By Ed HusainCFR.org

The chaotic manner in which Moammar Gadhafi was allegedly captured, injured, and then killed is emblematic of the mismanagement and blunders of the Libyan National Transition Council. Worse, the barbaric manner in which - at least according to several photographs - the killers surrounded his blood-soaked corpse does not bode well for the emergence of a democratic culture inside Libya soon.

Within an hour of reports of Gadhafi being captured or killed, NTC leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil was preparing to brief the world's media while two of his colleagues, Information Minister Mahmoud Shammam and military commander Abdulhakim Belhadj, were already briefing the press in an attempt to undermine his moment in the limelight, despite close coordination by the NTC with NATO and Western publicity agencies. This sequence of events tells us about the infighting that dominates the rebels who are now Libya's government. Underlying this is the complex network of tribes across the country that will now question the legitimacy and authority of the NTC. FULL POST

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Topics: Libya
October 5th, 2011
11:00 AM ET

Is the U.S. better off sticking with Syria's Assad?

Editor's Note: Ed Husain is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

By Ed HusainCFR.org

It is fashionable in Western capitals to call for regime change in Syria, but with what consequences? The two overarching arguments to remove Syrian president Bashar al-Assad are that his regime is a bastion of anti-Americanism and that he is an Iranian proxy. Recent reports of civil war in Syria and opposition demands of a no-fly zone will only lead to more violence from the Assad regime.

I have nothing but profound admiration for the courageous protestors who risk their lives daily in some of Syria’s major cities, organizing protests through networks of local coordination committees. This weekend’s opposition meeting in Istanbul, though fractious and acrimonious, is a sign of attempts at unity among Syrian democracy activists. However, the lesson from Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya is that this generation does not possess the political networks or clout to mobilize the masses after the overthrow of a regime - the revolutionary booty almost always goes to Islamist and salafist movements, at least for now. FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • Syria
Women in Saudi Arabia: Too little, too late
Saudi women wait for their drivers outside a shopping mall in Riyadh. (Getty Images)
September 28th, 2011
12:27 PM ET

Women in Saudi Arabia: Too little, too late

Editor's Note: Ed Husain is a Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.

By Ed Husain, CFR.org

It tells us much about the modern media and blogosphere when we get excited about news from Saudi Arabia that essentially means very little. Can women in Saudi Arabia run for office in this Thursday’s municipal elections? No. Can they vote? No. But a post-dated political check by an ailing monarch has made global headlines. And yet, a woman sentenced to ten lashes today in Jeddah for violating a driving ban has received no media attention (thus far).

King Abdullah, by all accounts a relative reformer, promised over a decade ago that he would “open all doors for Saudi women to enable them to make their full contributions to the nation…which is in great need of them,” yet to this day in Saudi Arabia women cannot work in most sectors. In 1961, the first elementary schools for girls were opened in Saudi Arabia by King Saud, ushering in an age of hope that women would be educated, work and enjoy equal status. Fifty years later, that promise is yet to be realized.

FULL POST

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Topics: Human Rights • Politics • Saudi Arabia • Women
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