Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review
 

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How Rabat Is Coping With ISIS Returnees

March 13, 2019  •  Al-Hurra Digital

Over the past decade, Morocco's extensive efforts to promote its brand of tolerant Islam as an antidote to the extremism of ISIS and other Islamic radicals has put the kingdom on the intellectual front lines of the "war of ideas" in the Muslim world. Less well known, however, are the country's domestic efforts to mitigate its own internal Islamist problem.

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After Summit Diplomacy Collapse, What's Donald Trump's North Korea Plan B?

February 28, 2019  •  USA Today

The abrupt end on Thursday of President Trump's much anticipated second summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam seems to have thrown a wrench into the administration's plans for peace with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The precise contours of why the talks broke down aren't fully clear as of yet. Going into the negotiations, the White House had hoped to be able to reach some sort of framework accord that would move the North Korean regime further toward denuclearization and détente. Indeed, even a more modest outcome — entailing a normalization of diplomatic ties between Washington and Pyongyang and some sort of arrangement to repatriate additional Korean War-era soldier remains — would have been a clear political victory for the Trump administration. It's not clear that either outcome is still possible. How fundamental the rupture between the two leaders actually is, and how unbridgeable the apparent political gaps, remains to be seen. There is still hope that, through the proper mix of political carrots and strategic sticks, the administration can coax the DPRK back to the nuclear negotiating table. Even so, in the aftermath of the scrapped summit, U.S. attention by necessity needs to turn to the formulation of a "Plan B" for dealing with the strategic challenge posed by the Kim regime.

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Refocusing On The Foreign Fighter Threat

February 25, 2019  •  Al-Hurra Digital

What is to be done with ISIS returnees? America's allies and partners have grappled with this question for more than a year now, ever since the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria began to crumble. But the issue has become more acute in recent days as a result of American policy. Last week, President Trump ignited a political firestorm in Europe when he asked EU states to absorb nearly a thousand foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria. "The United States is asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial," the president said via Twitter. "The caliphate is ready to fall." The rationale behind the Administration's request is clear. With the White House committed to a pullout of military troops from Syria, the Trump administration is worried that – unless properly controlled – former ISIS fighters might migrate en masse to Europe, leading to an uptick of terrorism there. But Washington's demand has had the effect of reigniting the debate over the best way by which foreign nations can cope with the challenge posed by returning foreign fighters. As of yet, there is no serious international consensus on the issue. Instead, various countries have adopted their own, divergent responses – ranging from forgiveness to punishment.

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Technology Is Making Terrorists More Effective — And Harder To Thwart

February 22, 2019  •  The National Interest

In January, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats appeared before Congress to deliver the U.S. intelligence community's most recent assessment of "worldwide threats" facing the United States. Of these, Coats' report made clear, terrorism continues to rank as among the most pressing. The collapse of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq has ushered in a new stage in the "war on terror"—one defined by an ongoing threat from ISIS factions, a resurgence of the Al Qaeda global network, and a growth in the capabilities of assorted Sunni jihadist groups in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. What Coats didn't say directly, however, is that each of these dynamics is being empowered by technological advances that are making extremist groups more connected, more resilient and more capable than ever before.

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The Limits Of Russo-Israeli Cooperation

February 21, 2019  •  The Hill

Can Israel really rely on the Kremlin to preserve its security? That question has preoccupied policymakers in Jerusalem ever since Russia's formal intervention into the Syrian civil war in September 2015. In the three-and-a-half years since, diplomatic contacts between Jerusalem and Moscow have ballooned, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu making multiple, high-profile trips to the Russian capital to coordinate his government's approach to Syria with Russia's presence and priorities there. For a while, at least, this strategy seemed to work. Netanyahu received repeated assurances from the Kremlin that it was committed to protecting Israel's northern border, and Russia's military made that mission a major part of its operations in the Syrian theater. The two countries also established a formal "deconfliction" mechanism to prevent military mishaps — a system that, despite some slips, has largely functioned as intended. Increasingly, however, there are signs that the Russo-Israeli understanding over Syria has begun seriously fraying.

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Books by Ilan Berman

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

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