Global Review had the pleasure to have another interview with Daniel Pipes, expert on Islam and counterjihad about the threat of a nuclear Iran. Daniel Pipes (born September 9, 1949) is an American historian, writer and political commentator. He is the president of the Middle East Forum (MEF) which was the mastermind of the Victory Project which has now incorporated as a strategy in the IDF strategy. Daniel Pipes is also publisher of its Middle East Quarterly journal. His writing focuses on American foreign policy and the Middle East. He is also an Expert at Wikistrat.
After graduating with a PhD from Harvard and studying abroad, Pipes taught at a number of universities including Harvard, Chicago, Pepperdine, and the U.S. Naval War College. He then served as director of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, before founding the Middle East Forum. His 2003 nomination by U.S. President George W. Bush to the board of directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace was protested by Arab-American groups, and Democratic leaders, who cited his oft-stated belief that victory is the most effective way to terminate conflict.
Pipes has written a dozen books, and served as an adviser to Rudolph Giuliani´s 2008 presidential campaign. He was in 2008–11 the Taube Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Stanford University´s Hoover Institution.
Daniel Pipes has his own blog at: http://www.danielpipes.org
Global Review: The European Union claims that negotiations with Iran have hammered out a document concerning its nuclear activities acceptable to both Washington and Tehran. Will a new JCPOA be signed?
Daniel Pipes: It is nearly impossible to gauge this from the outside. On the one hand, Joe Biden desperately wants a deal; on the other hand, Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamene’i has grave doubts about it. Will the former keep making concessions that finally convince the latter to proceed? Or does Biden have a red line beyond which he will not go? If you press me for an answer, I am inclined to say Biden has no red line and an agreement will be signed.
GR: If the Islamic Republic of Iran’s efforts to build a nuclear bomb reach the point of no return, how should the U.S. and Israeli governments respond?
DP: I am hoping that the Israelis, who have extraordinary sources of information on the Iranian nuclear program, will not let things reach that point. I am not ready to make plans for Iranian nukes.
GR: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps now openly threatens New York City. Does this imply that the mullahs have global goals?
DP: Yes, but that is nothing new. From its origins in Ayatollah Khomeini’s imagination, the Islamic Revolution aspired to be a global movement. Threatening a distant city with nuclear destruction, however, is alarmingly novel and dangerous.
GR: Did the 2020 assassination of Qasem Soleimani, head of the Quds Force, affect Iranian capabilities or ambitions?
DP: Many analysts predicted at the time of his death that his death would severely impair Iranian foreign initiatives. I disagreed, seeing him as just a capable bureaucrat within a large system. The 2½ years since his death suggest I was correct, for Iranian aggression continues undiminished.
GR: What are the Russian and Chinese strategic goals vis-à-vis Iran?
DP: Both see Iran as a useful ally against the West, but Beijing more so than Moscow. Xi needs its energy resources and wants it to serve as a major entry point for the Chinese Communist Party in the Middle East; Putin sees Iran as a rival in both the energy sphere and in Syria.
GR: Might Russia or China stretch their nuclear umbrella to protect Iran from Israel?
DP: I cannot imagine that, for neither regime wishes closely to tie itself to the mullahs in Tehran.
GR: Pro- and anti-Iranian forces in Iraq, led respectively by Nouri al-Maliki and Muqtada al-Sadr, are engaged in a fierce struggle for power. What does this signify and where is it leading?
DP: One specialist on Iraqi public opinion, Munqith Dagher, holds that the conflict is both personal and ideological. Maliki represents “a globally-oriented Shia Islamist doctrine” and Sadr forwards “a nationally-focused Iraqi Shia political Islamist doctrine.” The former echoes Iran’s Khomeinist line of seeking world revolution; the latter “focuses on spreading Islamic principles in the state and working within the national political process without an end goal of establishing a greater Islamic state.” The national approach appears to be more popular than the transnational one. That is relatively good news.
GR: How important was Egyptian mediation in ending the recent clash between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)? How important was it in keeping Hamas out of that conflict?
DP: The Egyptian government played a positive role in this Gaza-Israel confrontation, as it has done in previous ones. In addition to the prestige of serving as peacemaker, it benefits by cooling down the Islamist war on Israel, something detrimental to its own interests because it riles up Egyptian Islamists. But I doubt Cairo had much of a role in keeping Hamas out of the fighting; Hamas decided this for its own reasons.
GR: Can PIJ outgrow its current limitations as an Iranian-funded jihadi group to become a mass movement and challenge Hamas for control of Gaza?
DP: I doubt that PIJ leaders or their Iranian patrons aspire to such a role. Both seem content to leave the burdens of governance to Hamas and to focus purely on jihad against Israel.
GR: Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority leader, is aging and ineffectual; can Hamas or rivals within the PLO overthrow him?
DP: Yes, that strikes me as a real possibility, especially if Israel’s security establishment abandons him. For, despite Abbas’ support for the murder of Jews, it does find him acceptable and supports his continued rule.
GR: Is Hadi Matar, the would-be assassin of Salman Rushdie, a lone wolf or an agent of Iran?
DP: The evidence so far suggests that he was inspired by Iranian ideology and had contact with its institutions but planned out the Chautauqua operation on his own. More information, however, might change this picture.
GR: Has the assault on Rushdie encouraged more such assassination attempts?
I have counted 22 Islamist assassinations or assassination attempts in the West since 1980. This is a rarified form of violence with only a handful of potential targets, with Geert Wilders probably the most prominent,so the attack on Rushdie will not likely have direct practical consequences. More important than this will be its political consequences, for example, affecting attitudes towards the pending nuclear deal.