Wednesday, November 10, 2004

rand report shia sunni

New Rand study suggests exploiting Sunni, Shiite and Arab, non-Arab divides to promote the US policy objectives in the Muslim world
By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

A new Rand Corporation study suggests that Sunni, Shiite and Arab, non-Arab divides should be exploited to promote the US policy objectives in the Muslim world.

The recently released Rand study - titled “The Muslim World After 9/11” – was conducted on behalf of the US Air Force. One of the primary objective of the study was to “identify the key cleavages and fault lines among sectarian, ethnic, regional, and national lines and to assess how these cleavages generate challenges and opportunities for the United States.” The research brief was issued by the Rand Corporation under the title: US strategy in the Muslim World after 9/11.

“The majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, but a significant minority, about 15 percent of the global Muslim population, are Shi’ites….. The expectations of Iraqi Shi’ites for a greater say in the governance of their country presents an opportunity for the United States to align its policy with Shi’ite aspirations for greater freedom of religious and political expression, in Iraq and elsewhere,” the study said.

The study pointed out that with the moves toward rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh, there are reports that Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ites are now turning from Iran and placing their hopes on the United States.

“Their expectation is that any move toward democracy in Iraq would give the Shi’ite majority a greater say in the politics of that country and increase their ability to help their brethren in Saudi Arabia. Such expectations could present an opportunity for the United States to align its policy with Shi’ite aspirations for greater freedom of religious and political expression and a say in their own affairs in countries controlled by others.”

On the division between the Arab and the non-Arab worlds, the Rand Study pointed out: “Arabs constitute only about 20 percent of the world’s Muslims, yet interpretations of Islam, political and otherwise, are often filtered through an Arab lens. A great deal of the discourse on Muslim issues and grievances is actually discourse on Arab issues and grievances. For reasons that have more to do with historical and cultural development than religion, the Arab world exhibits a higher incidence of economic, social, and political disorders than other regions of the so-called developing world.”

“By contrast, the non-Arab parts of the Muslim world are politically more inclusive, boast the majority of the democratic or partially democratic governments, and are more secular in outlook. Although the Arab Middle East has long been regarded (and certainly views itself) as the core of the Muslim world, the most innovative and sophisticated contemporary work in Islam is being done on the “periphery”—in countries such as Indonesia and in Muslim communities in the West, leading some scholars to ask whether Islam’s center of gravity is now shifting to more dynamic regions of the Muslim world.”

The Rand Report holds the post independence political and economic failures responsible for the current political environment of the Muslim world in general and the Arab world in particular. “Many of the ills and pathologies that afflict many countries in this part of the world and that generate much of the extremism we are concerned about derive from—and contribute to—economic and political failure.”

This situation, the study argued, leads to the concept of structural anti-Westernism (or anti-Americanism). “This concept holds that that Muslim anger has deep roots in the political and social structures of some Muslim countries and that opposition to certain U.S. policies merely provides the content and opportunity for the expression of this anger.”

According to the Rand study, “outside the Arab Middle East, Islamization has involved the importation of Arab-origin ideology and religious and social practices— a phenomenon that we refer to as Arabization.”

The Rand study said that a number of critical or catalytic events have altered the political environment in the Muslim world in fundamental ways. “Catalytic events include the Iranian revolution, the Afghan war, the Gulf War of 1991, the global war on terrorism that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the Iraq war of 2003.”

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Kashmir conflict, the study said, are not catalytic events per se but rather chronic conditions that have shaped political discourse in the Middle East and South Asia for over half a century, the study said.

The Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Kashmir have retarded the political maturation of the Arab world and Pakistan by diverting scarce material, political, and psychic resources from pressing internal problems, the study added.

The Rand study called for madrassa and mosques reforms in the Muslim world and suggested that US should “support the efforts of governments and moderate Muslim organizations to ensure that mosques, and the social services affiliated with them, serve their communities and do not serve as platforms for the spread of radical ideologies.” In chapter on Islam & Politics in Pakistan, the Rand Study even suggested that there should be government appointed and paid professional imams in all mosques to promote “civil Islam”.

“While only Muslims themselves can effectively challenge the message of radical Islam, there is much the United States and like-minded countries can do to empower Muslim moderates in this ideological struggle,” said Angel Rabas, RAND senior policy analyst and lead author of the report. “The struggle in the Muslim world is essentially a war of ideas, the outcome of which will determine the future direction of the Muslim world and profoundly affect vital U.S. security interests,” he added.

The Rand Study also calls on the United States and its allies to support efforts in Muslim nations to:

* Create a strong and vocal network to unite the fractured voices of moderate Muslims. This can provide moderates with a platform for their message and provide alternatives to extremist movements. An external catalyst may be needed to give life to this goal.
* Support Muslim civil society groups that advocate moderation and modernity. The United States may have to assist in the development of civil society institutions where they do not currently exist.
* Disrupt radical networks. Engage Islamists to participate in the political process, and strengthen relations with the military in Muslim nations. In the war against terror, the U.S. should demonstrate that its efforts are meant to promote democratic change.
* Reform Islamic schools. Educational systems have long been a vital component of radical Islamic indoctrination and recruitment. The best way to counter this is to help Islamic schools ensure they are providing modern education and marketable skills for future generations.
* Create economic opportunities in Muslim nations, particularly for young people. Economic assistance programs will not guarantee an end to extremism or terrorism, but could reduce the perception that the U.S. relies solely on military instruments. Creating jobs and social services would also give young people an alternative to radical Islamic organizations.

In March 2004, the Rand Corporation released a report - titled “Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies” – that called for supporting the modernists Muslims against “fundamentalists and traditionalists” and promoting Sufism to formulate a market economy version of Islam.

Angel Rabasa, RAND senior policy analyst, is the lead author of the 567-page new study. Other authors of the study include Cheryl Benard, author of “Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, and Strategies” and Christine Fair, formerly of RAND and now at the U.S. Institute of Peace heading by Daniel Pipes.

also the article entitlted: U.S. Strategy in the Muslim World After 9/11 follows below:

Rand Project Air Force Research official brief
U.S. Stratey in the Muslim World After 9/11


In light of 9/11 and the war on terrorism, it is important for U.S. leaders to develop a shaping strategy toward the Muslim world. This study describes a framework to identify major ideological orientations within Islam,examines critical cleavages between Muslim groups, and traces the long-term and immediate causes of Islamic radicalism. It also outlines political and military strategies available to help ameliorate conditions that produce extremism.

The tectonic events of the past three years — including September 11 and the war on terrorismin Afghanistan, Iraq, and beyond — have dramatically affected the Muslim world and attitudes toward the United States. However, some of the dynamics that are influencing the environment in Muslim countries are also the product of trends that have been at work for many decades.The continuation of these trends will make management of the security environment in the Islamic world more difficult in years to come and could increase the demands on U.S. political and military resources. Consequently, it is important to develop a shaping strategy toward the Muslim world that will help to ameliorate the conditions that produce religious and political extremism and anti-U.S. attitudes. The U.S. Air Force asked RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF) to study the trends that are most likely to affect U.S. interests and security in the Muslim world. Researchers developed an analytic framework to identify the major ideological orientations within Islam, to examine critical cleavages between Muslim groups, and to trace the long-term and immediate causes of Islamic radicalism. This framework will help U.S. policymakers understand the political and military strategies available to respond to changing conditions in this critical part of the world.

Attitudes Toward Democracy and Nonviolence Are Key Markers

The Muslim world encompasses a band of countries stretching from Western Africa to the Southern Philippines as well as diaspora communities throughout the globe. Researchers developed a typology to differentiate Muslim religious and political currents according to their overarching ideologies, political and legal orientations, preferred forms of government, attitudes toward human rights, social agendas, links to terrorism, and propensity for violence. Based on these markers, Muslim groups fall within a spectrum from those that uphold democratic values and reject violence to those that oppose democracy and embrace violence. This typology can help U.S. policymakers identify potential partners in the Muslim world who may cooperate in promoting democracy and stability and countering the influence of extremist and violent groups.

Cleavages Within the Muslim World Pose Challenges and Opportunities

In addition to the ideological differences noted above, certain divisions cut across the Muslim world and have implications for U.S. interests and strategy: Sunnis and Shi’ites. The majority of Muslims are Sunni. Shi’ites, who number about 15 percent of the world’s Muslims, are dominant in Iran and are politically excluded majorities in Bahrain and the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, as they were in Iraq prior to the removal of Saddam. The United States may have an opportunity to align its policy with Shi’ite groups, who aspire to have more participation in government and greater freedoms of political and religious expression. If this alignment can be brought about, it could erect a barrier against radical Islamic movements and may create a foundation for a stable U.S. position in the Middle East.

Arab and non-Arab Muslims. Arabs constitute about 20 percent of the world’s Muslims. The Arab world exhibits a higher incidence of economic, social, and political disorders than other regions of the so-called developing world. By contrast, non-Arab sectors of the Muslim world are more politically inclusive, boast the majority of democratic or partially democratic governments, and are more secular in outlook. Although the Middle East has traditionally been regarded as the “core” of the Muslim world, it appears that the center of gravity may be shifting to non-Arab sectors. The most innovative and sophisticated thinking about Islam is taking place in areas outside the Arab world such as Southeast Asia and in the diaspora communities of the West. The United States should pay attention to these progressive developments because they can counter the more extreme interpretations of Islam held in some parts of the Arab world.

Ethnic communities, tribes, and clans. The failure to understand tribal politics was one of the underlying causes of the catastrophic U.S. involvement in Somalia. Ten years later, the U.S. government still knows very little about Muslim tribal dynamics in areas where U.S. forces are or may be operating. As the United States pursues an activist policy in disturbed areas of the world, it will be critical to understand and learn to manage subnational and tribal issues.

Conditions, Processes, and Catalytic Events Fuel Islamic Radicalism

Researchers identify both ongoing and immediate causes for the spread of Islamic radicalism over the past several decades. More or less permanent conditions in the Muslim world, such as the failure of political and economic models in many Arab countries, have fueled anger at the West, as disenfranchised Muslims have blamed U.S. policies for their own countries’ failures. This “structural” anti-Americanism is not amenable to amelioration through political or diplomatic means. Moreover, the decentralization of religious authority in Sunni Islam has opened the door for extremists with scant religious credentials to manipulate the religion for their own ends.

Several processes have developed over time to aggravate Islamic radicalism. The Islamic resurgence in the Middle East over the past 30 years and the exportation of Arab ideology and religious practices to the non-Arab Muslim world have increased support for fundamentalism. Radical Islamic ideology has spread to tribal societies that lack strong central political authority (e.g., Pashtun areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan), producing a mix that some observersbelieve “leads to bin Laden.” Moreover, radical Islamists have succeeded in forming networks that support fundamentalist and even terrorist activities through funding and recruitment. Many of these networks provide social services to Muslim communities, making them difficult to detect and disrupt. Finally, the emergence of satellite regional media such as Al-Jazeera has provided a powerful means to reinforce anti-American stereotypes and narratives of Arab victimization that play into radicals’ agendas.

Beyond these long-term factors, certain catalytic events have shifted the political environment in the Muslim world toward radicalism. Major events include the Iranian revolution, the Afghan war with the Soviets, the Gulf War of 1991, and the global war on terrorism after September 11. The Iraq war and the removal of Saddam Hussein have surely had an effect on the Muslim world, but the long-term implications remain to be seen. A stable, pluralistic, and democratic Iraq would challenge anti-Western views in the Middle East and would undermine extremist arguments. On the other hand, if Iraq reverts to authoritarianism or fragments into ethnic enclaves, then U.S. credibility would diminish and radical groups would have greater opportunities to take hold.

The United States and Its Friends and Allies Can Help to Ameliorate Negative Trends in the Muslim World
How can the United States respond to the challenges and opportunities that current conditions in the Muslim world pose to U.S. interests? Researchers suggest a variety of social, political, and military options:

Promote the creation of moderate networks to counter radical messages.
Liberal and moderate Muslims have not formed the effective networks that radicals have. Creation of an international moderate Muslim network is critical to transmitting moderate messages throughout the Muslim world and to provide protection for moderate groups. The United States may need to assist moderates who lack the resources to create such networks themselves.

Disrupt radical networks.
It is important to understand the characteristics of radical networks and their support communities, how they communicate and recruit, and any weaknesses they have. A strategy of “nodal disruption” would target these critical areas, breaking up radical groups and empowering Muslim moderates to take control.

Foster madrassa and mosque reform.
There is an urgent need for the United States and the international community to support reform efforts to ensure that madrassas provide a broad, modern education and marketable skills. One course of action is to help establish or strengthen higher education accreditation boards that monitor and review curricula in state and private schools. Although outsiders may be reluctant to involve themselves in ostensibly religious affairs, ways may be found to support the efforts of governments and moderate Muslim organizations to ensure that mosques do not serve as platforms for radical ideologies.

Expand economic opportunities.
The ability of some radical organizations to address entrenched social and economic problems has created a growing base of support for their politics. Provision of alternative social services in many places might help to indirectly undercut the appeal of the extremists. In particular, the United States and its allies should focus on initiatives that improve the economic prospects of the young. Programs that promote economic expansion and self-sufficiency can help reduce the opportunities for extremists to exploit economic hardship and the perception that the United States has only military interests in the Muslim world.

Support “civil Islam.”
Support of “civil Islam”—Muslim civil society groups that advocate moderation and modernity—is an essential component of an effective U.S. policy toward the Muslim World. Assistance in efforts to develop education and cultural activities by secular or moderate Muslim organizations should be a priority. The United States and its allies may also have to assist in the development of democratic and civil society institutions.

Deny resources to extremists.
A complementary element of the strategy of supporting secular or moderate Muslim organizations is to deny resources to extremists. This effort needs to be undertaken at both ends of the radical funding cycle, in countries where funds either originate (e.g., Saudi Arabia) or are channeled (e.g., Pakistan) to support extremist groups.

Balance the requirements of the war on terrorism with the need to promote stability in moderate Muslim countries.
The United States should ensure that the actions it takes do not play into the hands of radicals, who depict such moves as a war against Islam. The United States should demonstrate that its efforts are not meant to strengthen authoritarian or oppressive regimes, but to promote democratic change.

Seek to engage Islamists in normal politics.
A difficult issue is whether developing Muslim democracies should allow Islamist parties that may not have fully credible democratic credentials to participate in politics. While there is always a danger that an Islamist party, once in power, may move against democratic freedoms, the inclusion of such groups in open democratic institutions may encourage moderation in the long run. An unequivocal commitment to nonviolence and democratic processes should be a prerequisite for inclusion.

Engage Muslim diasporas.
Diaspora communities are a gateway to networks and may be helpful in advancing U.S. values and interests. The United States, for instance, can work with Muslim nongovernment organizations in responding to humanitarian crises.

Rebuild close military-to-military relations with key countries.
Military establishments will continue to be influential political actors across the Muslim world. Therefore, military-to-military relations will be of particular importance to any U.S. shaping strategy in the Muslim world. Rebuilding a core of U.S.-trained officers in key Muslim countries is a critical need. Programs such as International Military Education and Training (IMET) not only ensure that future military leaders are exposed to American military values and practices but can also translate into increased U.S. influence and access.

Build appropriate military capabilities.
The United States faces a need to reduce the more obvious aspects of its military presence in sensitive areas of the Muslim world, while working to increase different types of presence (e.g., intelligence, psychological operations, and civil affairs such as medical assistance). The U.S. military should improve its cultural intelligence through more Arab, Persian, and African regional and language specialists.

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