Week of August 12th, 2016

Executive Summary

The focus of the Washington community was split between presidential politics, the Olympics, and the Erdogan/Putin meeting.

The Monitor analysis looks at one of the most important voter blocks in American politics – the Hispanic vote. We note that although it is a fast growing voting block, the number of Hispanics who actually vote is dramatically less than either Black or White voters. Its importance is also diminished because most of the Hispanic voters are in politically uncompetative states – California and Texas.

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The American Enterprise Institute looks at how diplomatic shortsightedness empowered Hezbollah. They conclude, “Ten years on, it’s perhaps wise to sit back and consider the price of a premature ceasefire. Forget, for a moment, that Hezbollah has shed any pretense of being a Lebanese nationalist organization and instead fights in Syria on behalf of the Syrian government and the Islamic Republic of Iran… Hezbollah is a formidable force today not only because of Iran’s massive infusion of arms and equipment, but also because of the fickleness of diplomats a decade ago. Had President George W. Bush held firm to his principles, and had Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prioritized what was right above the affirmation of her peers, there would be no Sword of Damocles hanging over the region. Alas, because of decisions a decade ago, the question is not whether a new Israel-Hezbollah conflict will occur, but how many orders of magnitude greater the damage will be.”

The Foreign Policy Research Institute looks at the meeting between Turkey’s Erdogan and Russia’s Putin. They conclude, “The St. Petersburg meeting, write Gallia Lindenstrauss and Zvi Magen, “is likely to be a beginning of a new phase in Turkish-Russian relations.” It may very well mark the beginning of something wider, given the pivotal Kazakh and Uzbek roles in brokering the rapprochement between their neighbors. There is another, less noticed factor as well: as Mr. Erdoğan met with Mr. Putin in St. Petersburg, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu declared his country would suspend its migration agreement with the European Commission unless the Commission established a definitive date to abolish visa requirements for Turkish citizens. Where that goes is anyone’s guess. What is certain, however, is that Turkey’s traditional role as NATO’s “anchor” on the Black Sea is indeed ripe for revision, exactly how much and to what extent nobody today can know.”

The Washington Institute also looks at the Putin/Erdogan meeting. They conclude, “For the United States, it will remain unclear for some time to what extent Turkish-Russian ties will change as a result of recent developments, including today’s meeting. For instance, Russia may decide it needs YPG (Kurdish militia) assistance to help keep western Aleppo in the Assad regime’s hands, and move more slowly than Turkey expects in abandoning the YPD/PYD (the Kurds). Likewise, Erdogan may come under domestic pressure for jettisoning the anti-Assad rebels fighting to keep eastern Aleppo. Whatever the longer-term outcome, Putin will, in the coming days, lure Turkey with gestures such as the lifting of sanctions. Moreover, he could lend his political muscle in the Central Asian republics, where Gulen has his oldest and strongest networks outside of Turkey, toward cracking down on Gulen-affiliated institutions, a key desire by Erdogan from all his counterparts. Such gestures, paired with the possibility that Washington will fail to persuade Ankara that its extradition request for Gulen requires a thorough review, could nudge Erdogan more fully toward Russia.”

The Carnegie Endowment says Egypt musts diversify its oil based economy. They note, “Egypt has been a net oil exporter throughout most of its history. This made it possible for the country to benefit from higher global oil prices, especially following the two oil shocks of 1973 and 1979. The situation changed in 2006, when declining production and increasing consumption turned the country into a net oil importer. This trend was momentarily offset starting that year by discoveries of natural gas reserves. However, by 2012 Egypt had become a net importer of both oil and gas for the first time in its history, as gas consumption, like oil before it, came to exceed domestic production and as investment in the gas sector declined… While lower oil prices mean the Egyptian government can cut subsidies on hydrocarbons and lower its fuel import bill, this has not been enough to pull the economy out of its current crisis.”

The American Enterprise Institute asks, Will the Kurds save Turkey? They conclude, “The battle for political equality and the free expression of Kurdish cultural identity may be far from over in Turkey and the problems wrought by decades of both Kemalist and Islamist political abuse run deep, but by working within the system to check Erdoğan, all Turks can be grateful that their Kurdish brethren at least gave Turkey another shot at freedom.”

The American Enterprise Institute says the restoration of Al-Azhar University in Cairo could reduce radicalism in Egypt. In the past, the university has been a center of moderate Islamic thought and they suggest, “If Sisi can restore private religious endowments to al-Azhar but insist that it reform its religious curriculum and infuse it with secular subjects, he might both handicap the Brotherhood’s traditional recruitment and encourage religious Egyptians to see moderation as a path to a better life. In Morocco, such strategies have already born fruit. As the White House, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security seek to “counter violent extremism” at home and abroad, they should encourage states like Egypt to go back to the basics to restore traditional religious institutions, rather than embrace trendy programs like “finger paint therapy” and targeted computer games. Reforms and independence of traditional religious outlets like al-Azhar are paramount to returning the mantle to traditional religious scholars rather than to demagogues, populists, and extremists.”

The Washington Institute looks at the threat of radiological terrorism. They note, “There would likely be little physical damage in the vicinity of the RDD (radiological dispersion device) other than that caused by the explosive charge, though ground and structural contamination could be widespread and would require residents and businesses to relocate for a prolonged period during cleanup. The extent of the contaminated area would depend on the efficiency of the bomb design, the size of the plume created, wind and weather conditions during and shortly after detonation, and the impact of urban topography on wind currents. The most significant long-term effects of a dirty bomb could be psychological. Radiation is invisible, and many people nearby will fear the effects of exposure to radiation. Large numbers of unaffected individuals will seek medical treatment, overwhelming the medical system and reducing the quality of care received by those who really need it. And many more will worry that they will suffer adverse long-term effects due to possible exposure to radiation, whether or not they received a sufficient dose to cause concern.”

The Washington Institute looks at rebel gains near Aleppo. They note that this is Assad’s toughest battle and say, “The Syrian soldiers, particularly the Alawites, seem less determined to defend Aleppo than Latakia, Homs, or Damascus, because it is not their territory. As for their Shiite allies, if the fight against the jihadists remains a strong motivation, the city of the tenth-century Shiite prince Sayf al-Dawla al-Hamadani has even less symbolic power than Damascus, where the Sayyeda Zainab shrine is located. All that is known is that the siege of eastern Aleppo will be longer and much more difficult than that of Homs center, where only a thousand rebels occupied just half a square mile. Eastern Aleppo is eight square miles, with ten thousand rebel fighters. Aleppo is located in an Arab Sunni area very hostile to the Assad regime. In Homs, however, the countryside is mostly loyal to the regime, because of the Christian, Alawite, and Shiite presence and Hezbollah’s closing of the Lebanon border to rebels. Despite this, the Homs siege lasted more than eighteen months.”



Hispanic Voters 2016

For the last few elections, the Hispanic voter has been the Holy Grail of the electorate. While the Democratic Party has traditionally been the recipient of the Hispanic vote, the GOP has strived to increase the number of Hispanic voters who regularly vote Republican.

How important are Hispanics to both parties? The Hispanic eligible voter block is projected to be 40% higher in 2016 than in 2008.

On the downside, about half of Hispanic voters reside in states that are not battleground states – California and Texas. Since Texas is safely Republican and California is safely Democratic, Hispanics aren’t seen as critical as the Jewish vote, which is critical in several battleground states that will decide the election in 2016.

Despite that, in 2012, a postmortem by the GOP said that in order to win, the Republican Party, must reach out to minorities, especially Hispanics. However, recent surveys show that the GOP effort hasn’t been that successful.

Do Hispanics Want Trump or Clinton?

A Pew Research Center poll taken a month ago shows Hillary Clinton currently has a 66%-24% advantage over Donald Trump among Hispanic registered voters. In a three-way test, including Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, 58% of Latino voters support Clinton, 20% support Trump and 13% back Johnson.

This sounds bad, but is in line with previous presidential elections. Four years ago, Obama’s lead over Mitt Romney among Hispanics was comparable to Clinton’s lead over Trump today (69%-21%). And in the summer of 2008, Obama led John McCain 66%-23% among Hispanic voters.

According to national exit polls conducted after the 2012 election, Obama garnered 71% of the Hispanic vote while 27% voted for Romney. Obama’s national vote share among Hispanics was the highest for a Democratic candidate since 1996, according to an analysis of the exit polls by Pew Research Center.

There is a clear age difference, with younger Hispanic voters preferring the Democratic candidate. Among millennials (18 to 35 year olds), Clinton leads 71%-19%. Her advantage is smaller (65%-26%) among older Hispanics (those 36 and older).

Clinton’s lead is somewhat larger among Hispanic women than it is among Hispanic men. Among Hispanic women, 71% say they support Clinton while 19% say they support Trump. By contrast, among Hispanic men, 61% support Clinton and 30% support Trump.

Although these numbers are definitely more pro-Clinton, they generally reflect voters in general – young voters and women favoring Clinton more than older voters and men. In that regard, the Hispanic vote mirrors the general electorate more than many analysts admit.

This may be because as Hispanics spend more time in the US, they start voting and acting more like other Americans. And, this can be seen in Pew polling of Spanish speaking Hispanics, who are more likely first generation Hispanics, and comparing that to English speaking Hispanics who were more likely to be born in the US.

Clinton holds an 80%-11% lead among Hispanic voters who are bilingual or Spanish-dominant (those who are more proficient in Spanish than English) – these voters make up about 57% of all Latino registered voters. However, among the smaller group of Hispanic voters (43%) who are English-dominant – those who are more proficient in English than Spanish – just 48% back Clinton (41% would vote for Trump).

What this means is that the Democrats can rely upon the Hispanic vote now. But that is important only if Hispanics come out to vote.

In the past, Hispanics have been consistently underrepresented in the electorate, compared with their share of eligible voters or the overall population. In the Pew survey, only about half of all Hispanics (49%) say they are “absolutely certain” they are registered to vote. That compares with 69% of blacks and 80% of whites.

There are several reasons why the share of Hispanics who are registered to vote is lower than it is among blacks or whites. Many Hispanic immigrants may be in the U.S. legally but have not yet obtained U.S. citizenship. Many others are in the country as illegal immigrants. Both groups are not eligible to vote, yet they make up about 30% of all Hispanic adults.

Again, this indicates the ability of American culture to change the mindset those who become Americans and regular voters. Clinton holds an overwhelming (87%-7%) advantage over Trump among Hispanic adults who say they are not certain they are registered to vote.

This seems to indicate that as Hispanics meld into American culture, they will be less of a separate voting block – just as Italian-Americans and Irish-Americans did in previous decades.

The Future of Hispanic Voters

Not only is the Hispanic voter block the fastest growing one, it is starting to become a major portion of the young vote. According to a new Pew analysis of government data, Hispanic Americans who turn 18 are the primary source of new eligible voters as some 803,000 young Hispanic Americans turn 18 each year.

The Hispanic electorate is projected to reach 27.3 million eligible voters in 2016, up from 19.5 million in 2008. Most of this growth has come from Hispanic-American citizens entering adulthood. Between 2008 and 2016, a projected 6 million Hispanic-American citizens will have turned 18 and become eligible to vote.

This is greater than the number of Hispanics who immigrated and then have become American citizens. From 2008 to 2016, some 2.2 million foreign-born Hispanics are projected to have naturalized, becoming U.S. citizens and thus eligible to vote, according to Pew Research Center.

On the face of it, it appears that there will be a growing number of Democratic voters in the future. However, there are a couple of factors that must be noted.

As we noted, Hispanics are less likely to vote. As the number of eligible Hispanic voters has reached new highs with each election, so has the number of Hispanic non-voters. In 2008, a then-record 9.8 million eligible Hispanic voters did not vote. That number rose to 12.1 million in 2012, despite record turnout of Hispanic voters.

As a result, the Hispanic voter turnout rate declined from 49.9% in 2008 to 48% in 2012, reflecting slower growth in the number of Hispanic voters who voted, compared with the number of eligible Hispanic voters. Some of that is probably due to the fact that young voters are less likely to vote and a large portion of Hispanic voters are young.

Given this low turnout and the fact that many Hispanic voters reside in politically safe states, the Hispanic vote is not as critical as some demographic groups.

The Evolving Hispanic Voter

It’s also important to realize that Hispanic voters are evolving as they integrate into American society.

Today, the Hispanic-American is better educated than in the past. The Hispanic-American community has seen gains in both the share with some college education and those with at least a bachelor’s degree. As a result, Hispanic voters will have higher levels of education in 2016 than in any recent presidential election year. 48% of Hispanic voters ages 18 and older will have had at least some college education. 18% will have a bachelor’s degree or more.   Only 20% will not have completed high school.

Compare the current educational levels to the 2000 election. Then, 36% of Hispanic voters had completed at least some college. 11% had a bachelor’s degree and 32% did not finish high school.

Keep in mind that this educational improvement is behind other groups in America. In 2016, 63% of white voters will have attended at least some college, compared with 73% of Asian voters and 53% of black voters.

So, how do all of these factors impact the 2016 election?

First, remember that Hispanics aren’t a monolithic block. There are young and old Hispanics. There are Cuban Hispanics, Puerto Rican Hispanics, and Mexican Hispanics, who have differing views. There are first generation Hispanics and second generation (or more) Hispanic Americans who have widely differing views.

The result is that they will not vote in a block as Blacks did for Obama.

Admittedly, Clinton will win the Hispanic vote. But, the question is how many will come out and vote, who will come out to vote, and where they will be voting.

The key will be a shift of a small percentage of Hispanics in a few key states. And, we won’t know how they will break until November.




How diplomatic shortsightedness a decade ago empowers Hezbollah today
By Michael Rubin
American Enterprise Institute
August 11, 2016

On July 12, 2006, a Hezbollah unit crossed into Israel from Lebanon and ambushed two Israeli Humvees, killing three soldiers, injuring two, and capturing two. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called Hezbollah’s raid “an act of war.” When Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in May 2000, the Lebanese government refused to take responsibility for its own territory and instead ceded ­de facto control to Hezbollah.  The Israeli government held Lebanon as a whole responsible for the attack because Hezbollah’s attack was launched from Lebanese territory and Hezbollah was a Lebanese group. Simply put, Lebanon couldn’t have it both ways — embracing Hezbollah when it was political expedient but distancing itself to avoid accountability.

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To reduce radicalism in Egypt, restore Al-Azhar
By Andrew Terry
American Enterprise Institute
August 10, 2016

Al-Azhar University in Cairo has trained scholars in Sunni Islamic law for more than a millennium. Over the last two centuries, however, its authority has declined, undermined by Islamism and the political unrest that it exacerbates. As policymakers grapple with how to bolster moderation vis-à-vis Islam’s more radical interpretations, reinvigorating al-Azhar’s religious relevance across society should be the place to start. In Egypt, al-Azhar historically provided aid and education through its private religious endowments (awqaf). During the 19th century, Egyptian ruler Muhammad Ali nationalized the private religious endowments supporting al-Azhar in order to instead fund European-style schools designed to train government bureaucrats. The non-religious portion of al-Azhar’s curriculum fell by the wayside, as did much of the social services it provided.

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Will the Kurds save Turkey?
By Michael Rubin
American Enterprise Institute
August 10, 2016

In effect, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan sought to construct his own dictatorship methodically over the course of a decade undermining every potential check-and-balance within the system. He eviscerated the power and effectiveness of the military, for example, ended any pretense of judicial independence, hijacked the civil service, and then sought to undermine the press which might shine light on his more unsavory actions. All the while, however, the Kurds—treated with derision by so many generations of elite Turkish politicians—quietly organized, and ultimately propelled themselves into the single check-and-balance which Erdoğan was not able to overcome.

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Egypt’s Oil Dependency and Political Discontent
By Amr Adly
Carnegie Endowment
August 2, 2016

More than five years after the overthrow of then president Hosni Mubarak, the structural shortcomings that characterized the Egyptian economy before the January 2011 uprising remain in place. At the time, these contributed to the revolt against Mubarak’s rule, and today, unless they are addressed, the possibility of renewed political volatility remains very real.  For now, however, Egypt has stabilized politically relative to where it was a few years ago. This provides the government with an opportunity to embark on a thorough restructuring of the country’s model of socioeconomic development. The objective must be to establish an economic system based on inclusive growth that is capable of generating quality jobs that are sufficient in number to absorb the 600,000 new entrants into the labor market each year.

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Turkey: From “NATO’s Anchor” to What?
By John R. Haines
Foreign Policy Research Institute
August 9, 2016

On Monday, the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet Gazetesi published the backstory to President Recep Erdoğan’s meeting in St. Petersburg with Russian President Vladimir Putin on 9 August. The report credited two persons for acting as go-betweens in the eventual “rapprochement,” Ramazan Abdulatipov and Cavit Çağlar. A number of Russian and regional media outlets published accounts of the Hürriyet Gazetesi report. Welcoming Turkey’s “restoration of legitimate and constitutional order,” Mr. Putin said in St. Petersburg, “We have always opposed anti-constitutional actions.” The Kremlin used that same term—anti-constitutional actions (antikonstitutsionnykh deystviy)— in its official statement after Mr. Putin spoke to Mr. Erdoğan on 17 July in the aftermath of the attempted coup (a conversation, the Kremlin hastened to point out, Russia initiated): “Vladimir Putin…stressed the principled position of Russia regarding the categorical inadmissibility in the conduct of public affairs of anti-constitutional actions and violence.”

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The Potential for Radiological Terrorism by al-Qaeda and the Islamic State
By Michael Eisenstadt and Omar Mukhlis
Washington Institute
August 10, 2016
PolicyWatch 2671

Concerns about nonconventional terrorism at the Rio Summer Olympics, and reports that persons involved in the November 2015 Islamic State (IS) attack in Paris had conducted video surveillance of a scientist employed at the Belgian Nuclear Research Center, have revived fears that terrorist groups may be interested in building a “dirty bomb” using radioactive materials — also referred to as a radiological weapon or an explosive radiological dispersal device (RDD). Explosive RDDs are the type of radiological weapon most frequently mentioned in the media. They rely on an explosive charge to disperse radioactive materials to contaminate personnel and facilities in the vicinity of the blast and downwind, to disrupt lives and livelihoods, and to instill fear. Conversely, nonexplosive RDDs could involve the contamination of food, water, or air with radioactive material (for instance, via a building’s ventilation system). Some groups have reportedly even considered sabotaging or attacking nuclear power plants to create a radioactive cloud that would contaminate a large area. (Indeed, some media reports speculated that the aforementioned Belgian IS cell was contemplating such an attack.) This piece focuses on the threat posed by explosive RDDs.

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Turkish-Russian Ties after the Erdogan-Putin Breakthrough
By Soner Cagaptay
Washington Institute
August 9, 2016
PolicyWatch 2669

At their meeting in Moscow today, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, decided to take steps to normalize ties between their countries, a dramatic turnabout following several months of tensions in the wake of Turkey’s shoot-down of a Russian plane violating Turkish airspace. After the incident, Russia slapped Turkey with economic sanctions along with applying pressure in the cyber, military, and intelligence realms. And in Syria, where the two sides oppose each other in a proxy war, conflict had escalated, with Russia providing weapons to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Kurdish group tied to the Turkey-based Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which Turkey is currently fighting. In return, Turkey increased its support to anti-Assad rebels battling the regime around Aleppo. Recent events — including Ankara’s growing perception of being left alone by its Western allies after the failed July 15 coup, as well as ongoing Washington-Moscow talks to coordinate efforts in the Syrian civil war — have eliminated the rationale for animus between the two countries. Indeed, Turkish-Russian ties will improve further at this stage unless Washington steps in to prevent Erdogan from being courted by Putin.

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Aleppo: Is the Turnaround Sustainable for the Rebels?
By Fabrice Balanche
Washington Institute
August 9, 2016
PolicyWatch 2670

In the past two days, the rebels coming from Idlib have managed to link up with those besieged in eastern Aleppo. An open corridor in the city’s southwest, in the Ramouseh neighborhood, compensates for the rebels’ July 28 loss of the Castello Road, which had connected the rebel districts of eastern Aleppo to the outside. But Russian aircraft are heavily pounding this new crossing, which limits its use by the rebels. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported that although some trucks loaded with produce returned to eastern Aleppo to great fanfare on August 7, the food will scarcely change the lives of the area’s 250,000 residents. Western Aleppo is faring slightly better: the Syrian army opened a new supply route from the north, along a stretch of the Castello Road. Longer and more dangerous than the preceding exit route and capable of being closed off by a rebel offensive in the northwest, the road nonetheless provides reassurance to the 800,000 civilians who reside in western Aleppo.

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