OAKLAND, August 27, 2013 — Lisa Daftari is a Fox News Middle East analyst with expertise in counter-terrorism. She combines keen insight and intelligence. With events in the Middle East dominating the headlines, she sat down for an interview to discuss possible solutions.
Asked whether the best path to dealing with Iran involves diplomacy, sanctions, or forcible regime change, she answered, “A bit of all of the above, but with full understanding of how the Islamic Republic regime operates and how it has responded thus far to previous olive branches. What the Obama administration has failed to do is to rethink their foreign policy when it fails.
“Diplomacy is always the right starting place. Once it’s clear the regime will only use negotiations to play out the clock and advance its nuclear agenda while at home persecuting Christians and other minorities, cracking down on its vibrant youth population, diminishing Internet freedom, arresting, imprisoning and even killing journalists, bloggers and photographers, while abroad having a hand in the Syrian massacre that has killed 100,000 people so far, this is not a regime that wants peaceful negotiations.
“Sanctions are effective to the extent that they are enforced and targeting only the regime. Sanctions won’t directly bring about regime change or deter the nuclear agenda. The regime has structured two separate economies — one for the people and one for the government. The people are shouldering the brunt of the sanctions. The price of food and basic items has skyrocketed and the people are feeling the pinch. This got the people to the streets for the grassroots uprising in 2009.
“Our administration really lost a pristine opportunity to support a genuine movement that could have had long-lasting and meaningful results for the people of Iran, the region and American interests. We should have continued to apply international pressure through economic isolation and simultaneously supported the grassroots movement to have political and social change in the hands of the people. Sadly, the Iranian regime has the upper hand now.”
Turning to Syria, “Let’s start with what shouldn’t be done. There should never be empty threats. If we are drawing red lines, let’s keep them. If we say there will be consequences to using chemical weapons, then there should be. Over a year ago, President Obama talked about the Bashar al-Assad regime having consequences if they use chemical weapons. It appears they have used chemical weapons against the people twice. What is to deter them from using them again? Perhaps this time against our allies in the region or even passing it off to proxy groups that can use it against the U.S.
“The second complicated factor regarding Syria is that after we waited, we finally decided to arm the rebels. We have no idea who the rebels are and the argument that these weapons can fall into the wrong hands is stronger than ever. Had we armed the ‘rebels’ at the beginning of the conflict, the rebels were of a purer Syrian breed. Now, as time passed, we know for a fact that volunteer al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Quds Force and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards flooded the country and are there on the ground.
“That brings the third and perhaps most dangerous aspect of the Syrian conflict — Iran. Iran has had a hand and clear public incentive in propping the Assad regime and providing weapons, training and manpower to fight off the rebels. Iran not only has boots on the ground in Syria, the instability and violence have overflowed into Lebanon and Iraq too. It has often been believed that all roads to peace run through Jerusalem. If we want stability and peace in the region, we will have to focus on Tehran.”
She concluded with Egypt.
“If we want to see a stable and thriving Egypt in the next decade, the U.S. has to assist the Egyptians in improving their economy. We have to remember that revolutions, or Arab Springs in this case, don’t happen because of people’s lofty ideals of democracy and freedom. They happen because people are unemployed and hungry. That’s when they go out into the streets.
“In Egypt, we have a large, youth-dominated population of 85 million that could not be sustained by the economy. You had educated young people who could not get jobs.
“In helping the Egyptian economy, that means first, taking this talk of cutting aid off the table. We didn’t cut aid under Morsi, who was not acting in our interests; why would we cut aid now? The Saudis and Kuwaitis have jumped right in and see their own interests met by giving aid to Egypt. They want to prevent these radical, terrorist elements from sprouting up and gaining momentum in their countries. They are paying big bucks to Egypt and can easily replace U.S. influence with their money and moral support of the current crackdown of the Muslim Brotherhood — the same crackdown the Obama administration has condoned.
No one wants violence and bloodshed in Egypt. The interim government and military exhausted every course before disrupting the Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins. They knew it would be bloody and would have to get worse before it could get better. They invited Muslim Brotherhood leaders to join in an inclusive interim government that would evolve into a viable government through elections. The Brotherhood declined the offer, effectively saying they would rather burn churches, kill civilians and spill Egyptian blood. What is going on in Egypt is not a civil war or a peaceful uprising that can be dismissed as dissent. It is a nation deep in the throes of a bloody war on terror.
I have been talking to people in Egypt hourly throughout this uprising, and there is a united front that is based on nationalism and secularism. Even those Egyptian Muslims who regularly attend church are telling me that religious leaders are no longer backing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The violence has opened up their eyes. It’s time we open up ours too.”
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”
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