Romney Adviser: US Must Side with ‘Civil Society’ in Middle East
For insight and perspective of what to expect from Mitt Romney on Middle East foreign policy -- should he be elected -- I spent time this past weekend with Dr. Walid Phares. Phares is a foreign policy adviser to the Romney campaign and co-chair of the campaign’s Middle East advisory group.
I find him a particularly interesting individual, given that Phares has been warning the West about the threat posed by radical Islam for the better part of 25 years, and his selection by Romney caused outrage and criticism from both CAIR of Hezbollah.
Q: Why were CAIR and Hezbollah so upset when you joined the Romney campaign?
Phares: I’ve written five or six books that explain basically their strategies… They are not going to be very happy with an individual who knows their strategies and can help the campaign and the American public understand… Hezbollah is an ally of Iran and CAIR is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood in this country.
Q: CAIR denies being a front for the Muslim Brotherhood and in fact has even conducted sensitivity training for the FBI, the U.S. armed forces, and several law enforcement agencies. How certain are you about their direct relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood?
Phares: There is little doubt that CAIR is linked to these organizations [Muslim Brotherhood], and it’s not a secret for those who are in the business of understanding the relationships, including Arab analysts, who have published about CAIR being a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Q: If elected, explain how Mitt Romney’s foreign policy towards the Middle East might differ than that of President Obama’s.
Phares: It’s going to be completely different and going in a direction. First, not only re-establishing United States credibility worldwide, which is very important, but also re-establishing national security policies. Specifically, making sure we are stopping Iran from producing the bomb, expanding their influence in the Middle East, penetrating Iraq, funding Hezbollah in Lebanon -- which, by the way, is penetrating Latin America and coming to your California and Arizona borders.
Q: Wait a minute. The blogs were abuzz with the story of radical Islamic groups in Latin America several years ago. Why haven’t we heard more about this lately?
Phares: The Iranian regime has established a presence in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, and they are trying to penetrate the United States… Unfortunately, the Obama administration is not focusing on explaining this to the American public, and they are actually banning the use of words in the analyst community that would help detect that threat. You cannot use the very words which in the Arab world that are being used, and I think that is a very big mistake.
[Back to your original question,] we are going to be (different) by partnering with the right people in the Middle East.
Q: In your opinion what, if any, have been the consequences of President Obama’s decision to not get involved in the Iranian revolution of 2009, while at the same time, getting involved in all the other Arab Spring uprisings?
Phares: President Obama’s decisions have had huge consequences, and look at the results… The Obama administration has meddled (in countries) wherever the Islamists took over. In Iran we had an historic opportunity with 1.5 million people, mostly youth, 60% under the age of 20, rising up against the Ayatollah regime.
In June of 2009 the President unfortunately was badly advised, and he made the statement, "We don’t want to be seen as meddling in Iranian affairs," and that caused the Iranian Green Revolution to stop.
Q: Let’s go back to something you said a moment ago. Earlier you said a Romney administration would stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons. How?
Phares: Governor Romney wrote an excellent article in the Wall street Journal in the fall. One of our strategies with Iran is to partner with the Iranian civil society. He (Romney) had in mind what happened in June of 2009. His policy is going to be very different than the Obama administration.
Imagine if -- in the near future -- we had millions of Iranians in the streets. What is going to be the position of President Romney? To support them, of course. And I think this is the wise and right decision to take… and of course all options are on the table, including strikes if the Iranians aim weapons at democracies and other countries.
Q: If Mitt Romney is elected President, he is going to have to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt from day one. What might that look like?
Phares: The beginning of the revolt in Egypt was begun by real [authentic] civil society. Students, women, Christian Copts, Facebook people, lawyers, and the middle class. Then days after it began, the Muslim Brotherhood organized and penetrated (the revolt), and the Obama administration engaged with whom? Not the youth and secular forces… it engaged with the Muslim Brotherhood and put pressure on the Egyptian armed forces to step aside and create some sort of understanding with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood used the military to weaken the seculars inside Egypt, and now they have won the election and now they are going to put pressure on the military. Unfortunately, the Obama administration… instead of partnering with the people of Egypt who are part of a civil society… they partnered with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Q: I’m detecting a trend here. So earlier when you said, “We are going to be partnering with the right people in the Middle East,” you are saying the Romney administration can be expected to support students, women, the middle class -- the civil society, as you call it -- when they turn out in large numbers calling for change?
Phares: Yes. The Governor is very open to dealing with civil societies in the Middle East.
Q: Benjamin Netanyahu said on Face the Nation, "We have unquestionable, fully-substantiated intelligence that this [terrorist attack in Bulgaria] was done by Hezbollah backed by Iran." Should the Israelis retaliate against Iran with disproportionate force, as many are calling for?
Phares: The Israeli clock is different from the American clock because they have limited time, limited geography, and limited means. If the Israelis would realize the Iranian regime is fixing nukes on weapons that can reach Israel, this would be the time to act, and they are not going to look elsewhere and going to do what they have to do and make the phone call later.
My final comment is that at this historic point in time, it is important for the American people to be well informed.
You can listen to my entire interview with Dr. Walid Phares here. We were also joined by the brother of Ann Romney, Dr. Jim Davies.