Week of August 21st, 2015

Executive Summary

Although America is still in its summer vacation period, several papers were produced, especially on the Iranian nuclear deal.

The Monitor Analysis looks at the two frontrunners for the presidency in 2016 – Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton.  Although the two are the frontrunners for their respective parties, they both have serious problems that could keep them from winning their party’s nomination.  Trump, although voicing concerns of the average American voter, is not the typical Republican presidential candidate and is likely to falter.  Clinton, although in the mainstream of Democratic thought, has several scandals surrounding her, including the fact that she used a private email server as Secretary of State to transmit secret documents – a serious issue that raises questions about her trustworthiness.

Think Tanks Activity Summary

The CSIS looks at the partisanship of the current debate in Washington on the Iran nuclear deal.  They conclude, “It does, however, seem far better to focus on making the agreement work than focusing on a veto fight or partisan divisions that accomplish nothing in the U.S. interest. From a practical political viewpoint, both sides in this partisan debate should also ask just how much damage they will do to the credibility they have and the public support they win by dividing so clearly on self-seeking partisan lines at the expense of the national interest. One does not win an election by shooting oneself in the mouth.  Most importantly, as long as the agreement is in force, the key issue will be for the U.S. to show Iran there are no good alternatives, there will be no time at which the agreement’s goals will be forgotten, and that the United States will stand by its allies.  Not every form of partisanship has to be destructive. There are some games where both sides can win.”

The Heritage Foundation says the deal with Iran will increase the likelihood of war in the region.  They note, “The Iran agreement does not stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. It may slow it down, but in 15 years Tehran is free to do what it wants. For the region, the signal couldn’t be clearer. Iran is going nuclear, if not soon, then at least in 15 years.  Saudi Arabia and Turkey are not going to sit on their hands waiting to see what happens. They will prepare not only for the worst but also the inevitable: a nuclear Iran. It will be only a matter of time before they start developing nuclear capabilities of their own, which will greatly enhance tensions in the region.  The result: More nuclear proliferation and a greater likelihood of war.” 

The American Enterprise Institute says the Iran nuclear deal will help improve US/Saudi defense ties.  Although noting the Saudi Arabia is buying weapons from other nations, they note, “What then, is the significance of Saudi deals with France or Russia? In part, these are diplomatic efforts, a way of advancing partnerships while signaling displeasure with the Obama administration’s recent regional posture. With Moscow especially, the Saudi leadership may hope defense deals will buy Russian influence with Damascus or Tehran. Short of more significant diversification, however, it is not clear the Saudi moves signal credible realignment…From 2010-2014 Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest arms importer and the top arms buyer from the United States. Russian analysts bemoan that the US share of the Saudi arms market is close to eighty percent. Their complaints will likely continue, however. Saudi regional concerns coupled with defense needs in the post-nuclear deal future will likely mean increased Saudi defense spending, of which American defense firms will be the chief beneficiaries.”

The American Foreign Policy Council says that despite the agreement, Iran still has a covert path to nuclear weapons – a path that was trail blazed by North Korea.  Noting the long relationship between North Korea and Iran, they say, “As long ago as 1985, the two countries had already launched cooperative missile development, with Iran helping to underwrite North Korea’s production of 300-kilometer-range Scud-B missiles…Indeed, North Korea’s arsenal is the inspiration behind most of Iran’s ballistic-missile capabilities – including the Shahab 3 and Shahab 4, now in service, and its longer-range Shahab 5 and 6variants, currently in development. And the collaboration continues today; the two nations are believed to be jointly working on a nuclear-capable missile of intercontinental range. The Islamic Republic has also relied on the DPRK for help with its nuclear program. In recent years, North Korea is known to have assisted in fortifying a number of Iranian nuclear facilities against possible preemptive strikes…In a public sign of this collusion, a delegation of Iranian scientists was on hand during North Korea’s very public February 2013 nuclear test. The Iranian experts are believed to have paid tens of millions of dollars to the DPRK for a front-row seat to the successful detonation.”

The Washington Institute looks at the uncertain political situation in Turkey and who forms a government (Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP)).  In terms of Syria and ISIS, they note, “The four parties present the most diversity in terms of priorities regarding Syria and ISIS policy. The AKP’s priority will be ousting the Assad regime, and Turkey will remain distracted from fighting ISIS under future AKP governments. The CHP will take nearly the opposite stance when in government: deeply concerned over ISIS, the party could even seek to reach a modus vivendi with the Assad regime. The MHP will prioritize the Turkmens in Syria as its overarching Syria pol­icy objective, sometimes shadowing other objec­tives. Conversely, the HDP will prioritize the wel­fare of the Syrian Kurds, making this an overarching goal of its Syria policy, but also casting itself as ISIS’s archenemy.

The Cato Institute looks at the rise of individual freedom in Morocco.  It notes, “A strong secular and pro-individual freedom movement exists and has been able to score important tactical victories in recent years. The Moroccan movement for individual freedoms is rooted in the emergence of a local civil society during the 1990s—itself a consequence of the political liberalization process initiated by former King Hassan II. Less government control generated a wider space for social activism and freedom of expression. The emergence of an independent press has subsequently acted as an amplifier for liberal voices… To score more successes—including changes at the legal and constitutional levels—the movement needs to unify, engage in marketing and communication efforts, and most importantly adopt a unified agenda and strategy…the best course of action, it seems, consists in negotiating with the monarchy rather than confronting it, and progressively leading it to open up to individual freedoms through more liberal reinterpretations of Islam.”

The Institute for the Study of War looks at the death of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar and the rise of ISIS.  They conclude, “The ANSF appears unlikely to be able to maintain even current levels of stability. This was true even prior to the confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death. The prospect not of a unified insurgency, but of many insurgencies, is a considerable threat to the Afghan government’s ability to maintain security in the near future… Fragmentation within the Taliban network translates into gains for ISIS in both Afghanistan and globally. Ground fighters frustrated with the peace negotiations may choose to defect to ISIS in order to continue their jihad against the Afghan government, and possibly to become a part of the global ISIS caliphate. ISIS already has a strong foothold in Afghanistan, and will almost certainly grow in strength and influence in the wake of Mullah Omar’s death. An increased foothold in Afghanistan will constitute an expansion of ISIS’s global caliphate and provide ISIS with resources and recruits. ISIS has furthermore begun to absorb militant groups formerly allied to Mullah Omar outside of Afghanistan, and is therefore generating increasing momentum globally.”





Issues Cloud the Campaigns for the Top Republican and Democratic Candidates for President
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both have considerable baggage

Although polls show both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ahead in their race for their parties’ nominations, both are carrying considerable negative baggage that will likely sink their campaigns in the upcoming months.

The Status of the Race Now

Although real estate billionaire Donald Trump has been dismissed as unlikely to win the nomination by most of the political establishment, he has become the top Republican challenger and polls show that he has closed to within striking distance of beating Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president.  He is even ahead of Clinton in the critical swing state of Florida – a “must win” state if one wants to win the presidency.

Since announcing his campaign in late June, Trump has quickly leapt to the top of the Republican field, leading recent polls nationally, in early presidential selection states like Iowa and New Hampshire. However, these leads were dismissed by most political experts.

However, for the first time in a CNN poll, Trump’s gains among the Republican Party voters has boosted him enough to be competitive in the general election.

The poll finds Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump by just 6 points, a dramatic tightening since July.  He trailed Clinton by 16 points in a July poll, and narrowed that gap by boosting his standing among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (from 67% support in July to 79% now), men (from 46% in July to 53% now) and white voters (from 50% to 55%).

Trump is the one of four Republican candidates who have been matched against Clinton in CNN polling who have narrowed the Democratic frontrunner’s lead to a competitive race.  Clinton still leads all four Republican contenders polled, but the race is tightening.  She tops Trump and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by 6 points each among registered voters, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush by 9 points, and businesswoman Carly Fiorina by 10 points.

Clearly, this race will become more even more complicated in the coming months.  In fact, there is a good chance that neither Clinton nor Trump may last until the national conventions in a year.

Donald Trump

Those who know Donald Trump know that the brash New York billionaire knows how to attract media attention.  And, this is why he is leading many Republican challengers, who have more experience.

While many Republican Candidates have moderated their criticism, Trump has addressed issues like illegal immigration, which is a serious issue for GOP voters, but is not satisfactorily addressed by many of the other candidates.  The result is that many Republican voters, who feel that their interests aren’t represented in Washington, feel that Trump understands their concerns.

This is reflected in polls that show Trump is solidly in step with American voters on illegal immigration.  In a Rasmussen poll, among all likely voters, 51% favor building a wall on the border; 37% disagree, and 12% are not sure.  Eighty percent (80%) support the deportation of all illegal immigrants convicted of a felony; only 11% are opposed.  Just 34% favor Obama’s plan to protect up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation. Most voters continue to think instead that the United States is not aggressive enough in deporting those who are here illegally.

Although Trump doesn’t have any experience in government and has many views that are different from those of the majority of Republicans, his outspoken nature, especially on illegal immigration, has endeared himself with many GOP and independent voters.

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich explained that Trump can play by his own rules because, unlike the political establishment – he’s beholden to no one because he is using his own money and doesn’t need campaign contributions.  Gingrich called Trump the biggest “communicator of earned media, maybe in American political history.” He explained that Trump is free to be himself, and wherever he goes, the media will follow.

Trump has also been helped by the fact that many Republican candidates have refused to cross swords with him on controversial issues.  They have belittled him, which only makes the average GOP voter like him more.  Only one candidate, Senator Ted Cruz has sided with Trump, only to find that Trump manages to reap most of the publicity.

However, the ride at the top may end soon.  As noted earlier, Trump has a record that is an anathema to Republican votes.  He publically has bragged that he uses his money to influence politicians to help his real estate deals, he supported Hillary Clinton for president in 2008, and he has supported many Democratic candidates financially over the years.

And, as his campaign ramps up, many will find the details in his programs aren’t in line with Republican philosophy.

The end of Trump’s domination of the polls will happen when the other Republican candidates begin to focus on Trump’s deviations from conservatism and intensely engage them to upend his campaign. It is his positions, not his personality that makes him vulnerable.

That may be happening.  The Fox Business Network has learned that at least some of the campaigns are discussing an attack-ads blitz against Trump in the coming weeks, according to several financial executives who have direct ties to the various campaigns. These people tell Fox Business that the campaigns of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in particular are currently raising money with aims to hit Trump on various issues such as his controversial comments about immigration, as well as his record as a businessman, in these ads.

In the end, Trump has advocated enough Republican principles to keep conservatives listening but not enough to seal their support.  If the race remains one of Trump versus weak establishment moderates, Republican primary voters may just conclude that if the party is going to lose the general election, it might as well lose with the boldest candidate – Trump.

It’s also important to remember the number of Republican presidential candidates that held the lead for several weeks in 2011, only to fall out of favor when they were perceived as too weak to challenge Obama.

The challenge to Trump will not come from what is perceived as main stream republicans like Bush, Rubio, or Graham.  It will be up to a conservative candidate like Cruz, Paul, or Walker who can show that they are more in line with GOP issues and have a better chance of beating the Democratic nominee.  When that happens, Trump’s support will quickly melt.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton has been a potential candidate for president ever since her husband, President Clinton left the White House 15 years ago.  However, as was seen in 2008 and this year, she isn’t as strong a candidate as many Democrats hoped.

The strategy had been to serve as Obama’s Secretary of State for four years and then leave the administration in order to set up a presidential campaign.  The thought was that her experience as Secretary of State would burnish her credentials and make her the Democratic nominee and eventual president elect.

There were a few problems.  First, Hillary doesn’t have the political skills of her husband.  She doesn’t project warmth or compassion like her husband – characteristics that are critical in an American presidential campaign.  This shows in her campaign events, where the attendance is in the hundreds, while her primary challenger Senator Sanders has crowds in the thousands.

This lack of enthusiasm is frequently critical in primary elections, where only the energized voter shows up at the election booth.

The second problem is that Hillary Clinton is extremely isolated by her loyal staff.  Not only are they protective of her and inclined to not challenge her, they will not warn her when she be making a misstep.

Clinton’s secrecy and isolation is also being blamed as the reason for her missteps in her private email server, which was established in contravention of US law.  Clinton has been dogged by questions about her use of a private e-mail server while she served as U.S. Secretary of State, denying that the unsecure server was ever used to send or receive classified information.  The result is that it has become the biggest issue with her campaign with the vast majority of American voters (including Democrats) thinking she is lying about it and can’t be trusted.

An example was recently reported by the Politico.  “A reporter asked her if the questions were an indication that the email controversy isn’t going away, and will dog her campaign into next year.  Clinton turned around, her hands raised in the air in a shrug. “Nobody talked to me about it — other than you guys,” she said, and then exited with her top aides around her.”

Obviously, if none of her staff told her about it, her staff is doing her a serious disservice by isolating her.

There has been a price for this secrecy.  Clinton still holds an edge in the general election race despite a growing perception that by using a personal email account and server while serving as secretary of state she did something wrong.  About 56% say so in the new poll, up from 51% in March.  Only 39% now say she did not do anything wrong by using personal email.  Among Democrats, the share saying she did not do anything wrong has dipped from 71% in March to 63% now, and just 37% of independents say she did not do wrong by using the personal email system.

The issue is worrying many leading Democrats as reports say the FBI is starting a criminal investigation.  “I think if she intentionally misled or lied to the American people and did something that was clearly against the rules, and knowingly did it against the rules, if that is the ultimate conclusion, then I think she has disqualified herself,” Representative John Yarmuth (D., Ky.) told a local Kentucky political reporter.  Yarmuth endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential bid against Clinton. “I’m not saying she is more divisive,” he said at the time. “[But] she is less capable of bridging the gap in the country.”
This growing opposition to Clinton within the Democratic Party, in turn is fueling the campaigns of her Democratic opposition.  Clinton’s biggest challenger, Sanders, is gaining in the polls and enthusiasm.  A CNN poll released Wednesday has Sanders within 18 percentage points of Clinton in the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. This is the narrowest margin of any poll to date.

Clinton is also losing several “swing states” to her potential Republican opponents.  The most recent poll, released on Thursday, shows Clinton losing the critical state of Florida to Bush, Rubio, and Trump.  No recent presidential candidate has won the presidency without winning Florida.

Equally worrying for Clinton is that the poll shows that Vice President Biden can beat Trump in Florida.

Meanwhile, Clinton is stumbling badly in her appearances as she tries to brush off concerns about her email scandal.  On Wednesday, Ed Henry of Fox News, pressed Clinton for nearly five minutes, on the email issue.  Her responses were flip and evasive.

The lowest point came when, in response to Henry pressing her, on whether she had had the email drive wiped, she responded, “What? Like with a cloth or something?” she asked, then laughed. “I don’t know how it works digitally at all.”

The difference between Clinton and Trump are dramatic.  While Trump is disliked by the Republican establishment, he is bold and willing to take chances in his campaign for the nomination.  Meantime, Clinton, who is the favorite of the Democratic establishment, has engaged in a cautious campaign that focuses on not giving any opponent an opening.

The result is that several Democratic leaders are afraid that Clinton is a liability in a presidential election.  There are rumors going around that Vice President Biden is asking Clinton supporters about the depth of their support for the former First Lady and if they could support him.  There are also some who are asking Clinton Vice President Al Gore, if he might be willing to run.  Even the president of Starbucks, the coffee company has been approached to run.

While Clinton is trying to run a “safe” campaign that assumes that she will win the nomination, there are serious cracks appearing in her support.  At this time, the question is not if her support will collapse, as much as who can come in to rescue the Democratic Party.


Although Trump and Clinton both lead their respective parties, they both have serious flaws that could send them back home without the nomination.

Trump has connected with the voters and their concerns, but his brash style and previous Democratic leanings can defeat him, providing the other Republican candidates focus on his profound weaknesses and move right on illegal immigration.

Clinton’s secrecy and isolation are dramatic flaws that could end her campaign either before the Democratic convention or during the general election next year.  Her strength is the Democratic Party’s weakness – no one currently poses a serious challenge for the nomination.  Sanders, Gore, and Biden are old white males that will not appeal to the demographics of the party – leaving an un-energized voter base staying home on Election Day.

The fact is that if Clinton’s campaign implodes, the Democratic Party’s chances of retaining the White House implode too.

Meanwhile, the GOP has many attractive, qualified candidates that can fill in for Trump.

What that means is that while the GOP can discard Trump and retain a good chance of winning the White House, the Democratic Party has to face the realization that whether they stick with Clinton or not, they have a difficult road to winning the presidency next year.





Why the Iran ideal increases the risk of war

By Kim R. Holmes

Heritage Foundation

August 10, 2015

Let’s cut to the chase: Does the Iran deal make war more or less likely?  “No deal means a greater chance of more war in the Middle East,” President Obama says. His critics disagree. They think it will make war more likely. So which is it?  Let’s break it down.

First, the Iran agreement does not stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. It may slow it down, but in 15 years Tehran is free to do what it wants. For the region, the signal couldn’t be clearer. Iran is going nuclear, if not soon, then at least in 15 years.  Saudi Arabia and Turkey are not going to sit on their hands waiting to see what happens. They will prepare not only for the worst but also the inevitable: a nuclear Iran. It will be only a matter of time before they start developing nuclear capabilities of their own, which will greatly enhance tensions in the region.  The result: More nuclear proliferation and a greater likelihood of war.

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Islam and the Spread of Individual Freedoms: The Case of Morocco

By Ahmed Benchemsi

Cato Institute

August 20, 2015

Policy Analysis No. 778

Morocco is a “partly free” country according to Freedom House’s Freedom Index—it is a constitutional monarchy with a freely elected government. However, the North African country’s constitution makes clear that, whatever the outcome of free elections, the real and undisputed center of power is the royal palace. The legitimacy of the 12-century-old monarchy stems from divine right, as the king holds the title “Commander of the Faithful.” Not only is Islam the official religion of the State, but freedom of conscience is unknown, as virtually all Moroccan citizens are deemed Muslims by birth. All legislation pertaining to family matters and social interactions derive, directly or indirectly, from Islamic laws.  Yet despite this adverse environment, a strong secular and pro-individual freedom movement exists and has been able to score important tactical victories in recent years. The Moroccan movement for individual freedoms is rooted in the emergence of a local civil society during the 1990s—itself a consequence of the political liberalization process initiated by former King Hassan II. Less government control generated a wider space for social activism and freedom of expression. The emergence of an independent press has subsequently acted as an amplifier for liberal voices.

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The Iran Nuclear Agreement: Beyond Partisan Infighting: Mark II

By Anthony H. Cordesman

Center for Strategic and International Studies

August 19, 2015

American partisan ideological extremism is in full swing and on a bipartisan basis. It has been a little over a month since the signing of the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran on July 14th, and a month since the vote of the UN Security Council to accept it. As was all too predictable, it has become a partisan fight along party lines that owes as much to the coming Presidential election as the merits of the agreement.  It still seems likely that the end result will be an agreement where the Republican majority and swing Democrats lack the votes to override the President’s veto. At the same time, they have the votes to pass both constructive and spoiler legislation.  It is also clear that the agreement is complex, imperfect, almost certain to require negotiating efforts to fully define and clarify, and is likely to be a source of ongoing contention between Iran and the U.S. for years to come.

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Iran deal a boon for US-Saudi defense ties

By Tara Beeny

American Enterprise Institute

August 19, 2015

In the wake of the nuclear agreement with Iran, US-Saudi relations appeared on the rocks. But when it comes to defense spending, business has rarely looked better.  While Iran’s nuclear program may be a US and regional concern, Iran’s asymmetric and unconventional operations have long posed a more immediate threat to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states like Saudi Arabia. The focus on the nuclear file frustrated GCC states, which felt the United States downplayed or ignored conventional security issues.  Recently, Saudi authorities have signaled the Kingdom may diversify its arms suppliers by reaching out to France and Russia. Saudi Arabia signed for a $500 million delivery of French helicopters, and the Kingdom may purchase two French helicopter carriers. Still, the French deals are small given the scope of Saudi arms purchases. The $500 million French contract matches the cost to resupply ammunition for US-sourced equipment that Saudi Arabia already owns. And those contracts are nothing compared to the recently approved $5.4 billion sale of 600 PAC-3 missiles.

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North Korea: Iran’s Pathway To A Nuclear Weapon
By Ilan Berman
American Foreign Policy Council
August 13, 2015

The National Interest

A central plank of the Obama administration’s case for the nuclear deal just concluded by the P5+1 powers is that the agreement closes off “all pathways” by which the Iranian regime could acquire a nuclear capability, at least for the coming decade.  That, however, simply isn’t true. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the new nuclear bargain is officially called, only addresses the overt means by which Iran might go nuclear. A covert path to the bomb, entailing the procurement of materiel from foreign suppliers, still remains open to Iran, if it chooses to take that route.  If it does, the Islamic Republic will invariably look to Asia. That’s because over the past three decades, Iran and the Stalinist regime of the Kim dynasty in North Korea have erected a formidable alliance – the centerpiece of which is cooperation on nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities.

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The Death of Mullah Omar and the Rise of ISIS in Afghanistan

The Institute for the Study of War

August 18, 2015

The Afghan government announced the death of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar on July 29, 2015, and the Taliban confirmed the report the subsequent day. Widespread knowledge of Mullah Omar’s death will exacerbate existing fractures within the Taliban and accelerate a power grab among several prominent individuals who have fundamental disagreements over the objectives of the movement. This inflection could ultimately make permanent major divisions within the group. A unity shura, or council, is now arbitrating the leadership dispute. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has issued a video statement pledging allegiance to Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, who had been Mullah Omar’s de facto deputy and is the preferred choice of Pakistan. Zawahiri likely pledged in order to reinforce this candidate and to preclude AQ groups from pledging to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). ISIS will likely exploit these tensions to gain fighters and resources as it expands its presence and operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some Taliban elements such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have already pledged to ISIS. Both conditions will likely accelerate violence in Afghanistan, undermine prospects for a negotiated peace settlement, and create a competitive environment among jihadist groups in Afghanistan that will threaten its future security. U.S. policy makers must consider the likelihood of these deteriorating conditions and re-evaluate planned troop withdrawal timelines.

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Turkey’s Political Uncertainty: Implications of the June 2015 Parliamentary Elections

By Soner Cagaptay, Caitlin Stull and Mark Bhaskar

Washington Institute

August 2015

Research Notes 27

More than two months have passed since Turkey’s June 7 elections, in which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost a parliamentary majority it had held since 2002. Given the AKP’s inability to form a governing coalition, a new vote will likely be called for later this year. Until then, Turkey’s future will remain in limbo.  While the country waits, studying the results of the June vote on the provincial level offers insights into the wide-ranging factors affecting voter behavior, along with voter shifts among the four main parties: the AKP, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP). Further altering the political landscape has been the violent flare-up between the Turkish military and Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) forces and a recent agreement with the United States to take on ISIS.

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