Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
Home  |  Bio  |  Mobile Site
Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

Latest Articles

The Danger Of Qatar's Duality

May 15, 2017  •  U.S. News & World Report

Can Qatar truly be considered an ally in the "war on terror"? Over the past decade and a half, the oil-rich Gulf emirate has emerged as a key player in U.S. counterterrorism efforts – and a major part of America's military posture in the Middle East. Washington's military partnership with Doha dates back to the mid-1990s, when the country agreed to pre-position equipment for a brigade of the U.S. Army, as well as to play host to an expeditionary wing of the U.S. Air Force. That presence was vastly expanded in the years that followed with the construction of a permanent air base at al-Udeid at a cost of more than $1 billion (a sum shouldered by the kingdom itself). Following the Sept. 11 attacks, al-Udeid's vast capabilities – including the longest runway in the Persian Gulf, and the capacity to accommodate almost 100 combat aircraft – made it a natural destination for the surge of forces that accompanied the George W. Bush administration's response to al-Qaida. Subsequently, the shift of U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia greatly expanded Qatar's importance to American military strategy. So, too, did the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, which cemented the kingdom's role as a key logistics and basing hub for coalition operations against the regime of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. So it has remained. Qatar currently serves as the forward operating headquarters for the U.S. Central Command, with al-Udeid now hosting over 10,000 U.S. military personnel, including the entirety of the Air Force's 379th Air Expeditionary Wing. And with the start of coalition operations against the Islamic State terrorist group over the past year, the kingdom has become a key command and control node for the air campaign being waged against the group by Washington and its political allies. But Qatar's positive role in Mideast security is counterbalanced by a decidedly more sinister one. While it has deepened its strategic partnership with the United States, the Gulf kingdom has also served as a key sponsor of a bevy of Islamist groups deeply hostile to U.S. interests.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles


How Qatar Helped Hamas Get Its Groove Back

May 2, 2017  •  The National Interest

On Monday, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that rules the Gaza Strip, thrust itself back into the international spotlight when it formally unveiled a new organizational charter. The long-discussed and much-debated document - launched with great fanfare by Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal at the upscale Sheraton Hotel in the Qatari capital of Doha - represents a new bid for relevance by the world's premier Palestinian Islamist movement. Hamas is in sore need of just such a facelift. In the past several years, because of strategic missteps as well as regional geopolitical changes, the organization has found itself isolated economically and neutered politically. Back in 2013, Hamas famously fell out with its major sponsor, Iran, when the two took opposing sides in the Syrian Civil War, leading Tehran to slash its funding for the group. (They have since reconciled). Relations between Hamas and Egypt have also soured significantly since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government in 2013. Morsi's successor, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has launched a major crackdown on the Brotherhood, seeing it as both a political and security threat - a perception that extends to the group's Palestinian branch as well. Tensions between Hamas and Saudi Arabia likewise remain high, due to Riyadh's long-standing hatred of the Brotherhood as well as its worries over Hamas's on-again, off-again dalliance with Shia Iran. Naturally, Hamas officials are working overtime to reverse these trends and improve their strategic position. Hamas's new charter is simply the most recent part of that process. But it is hardly a sign of newfound moderation, as many have been quick to assume. Despite some tactical changes in the text (most notably, the replacement of "Jews" with "occupiers" as the principal target of its animus), Hamas's long-standing objective of annihilating Israel is still very much in effect. Thus, the original Hamas covenant - released publicly in 1988 - called the creation of an Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, a formulation that precluded any sort of compromise with Israel. Similarly, the new charter notes that the group "rejects any alternative to completely liberating Palestine from the river to the sea." Hamas's efforts to destroy the Jewish state, in other words, can be expected to continue unabated. The real reason Hamas is now poised for a political comeback, however, has everything to do with Qatar. Over the past several years, amid deepening international isolation, the oil-rich Gulf kingdom has become a prominent political safe haven and a vital economic lifeline for the movement.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles


Blacklist The IRGC

April 25, 2017  •  U.S. News & World Report

What should President Trump do about Iran? Campaign rhetoric about a rapid dismantlement of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 powers has given way of late to policy inertia, as the new White House focuses on domestic challenges (like health care) and foreign irritants, such as Syria and North Korea. But there are now fresh signs that the White House could soon seriously rethink its Iran strategy. As it does, it would be wise to revisit one of its earliest foreign policy concepts, and one with the potential to dramatically alter the strategic equation vis-a-vis Iran: a comprehensive blacklisting of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles


Terrorism In Russia
Why The Problem Is Set To Worsen

April 6, 2017  •  Foreign Affairs

On Monday, the subway system of St. Petersburg, Russia's second city, was the site of a massive bomb blast that killed 14 commuters and wounded more than 50 others. (A second, unexploded device was subsequently found and defused by authorities.) The attack marked the most significant terrorist incident to hit the Russian Federation since December of 2013, when a female suicide bomber blew herself up in the main train station of the southern Russian city of Volgograd ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in nearby Sochi. But it is also much more. Monday's bombing is the latest sign of Russia's worsening terrorism problem, as well as a portent of things to come.

Continue to the full article  |  More articles


The JCPOA Helps Iran's Elites And Hurts Rouhani

March 29, 2017  •  Foreign Affairs

These are hard times for Hassan Rouhani. With fewer than two months to go until Iran's next national election, currently scheduled to take place on May 19, the long knives are out for the soft-spoken cleric who serves as the country's president.

Recent weeks have seen mounting criticism of Rouhani's stewardship of the Iranian government and the emergence of new challengers seeking to grab the political reins from the Islamic Republic's embattled incumbent. Both trends have also been blessed by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is pushing an increasingly populist - and protectionist - political line.


Continue to the full article  |  More articles

Books by Ilan Berman

Cover of Iran's Deadly Ambition Cover of Implosion Cover of Winning the Long War Cover of Tehran Rising

home   |   biography   |   articles   |   blog   |   media coverage   |   spoken   |   books   |   mailing list   |   mobile site