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On 16th November, the Henry Jackson Society hosted ‘The Middle East: Understanding the Turmoil’. The event was chaired by the MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman, and Dr Alan Mendoza, Executive Director of the Henry Jackson Society. The speakers were General Yosef Kuperwasser, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, and Dr. Jacques Neriah, the former diplomatic and political adviser to the late Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin.
General Kuperwasser opened by explaining that the Middle East is going through a series of momentous events that impact not only the region but the world at large. He explained that there is a war raging between competing versions of Islam that has essentially divided the Muslim population between radicals and pragmatists. Radicals see Western culture as hedonistic and degenerate and long for the day when it ceases to be the dominant global narrative. Of this group approximately 5 to 10% are what the General labelled ultra-radicals who are currently actively pushing for this upheaval with violence. These ultra-radicals exist in both Sunni and Shia Islam. The remaining ‘realistic radicals’ agree that the West needs to be overthrown but differ in terms of timescale and methodology: they are happy to wait until the West is sufficiently weakened before striking.
The General went on to explain that the West has outsourced its security to these ‘realistic radicals’ through various concessions, the Iranian nuclear deal being a prime example of such a short-sighted move by Western powers. According to Kuperwasser Iran will have a nuclear arsenal within 10-15 years as a result of the deal, with the ability to acquire weapons after 5 years and the ability to develop long range missile technology after 8 years. The dominance of radical Islam in Iran combined with their ability to deliver nuclear capabilities is an issue that is of great concern to Israel. The General then went on to explain that radical Islamist dominance throughout the region has made it very difficult for pragmatic Muslims who are faced with the choice to either leave the region, radicalise themselves or develop new relationships with other nations who are actively dealing with the threat such as Israel.
General Kuperwasser finished by explaining that the threat to Israel had become far more fluid in recent times. The Palestinian resistance, frustrated by the overshadowing of their cause by wider global events, have returned to violence in order to attract attention back to the region. Kuperwasser explained that, for the Palestinians, Popular Resistance means the use of violence without the use of firearms, making their attacks unpredictable and therefore harder to prevent.
In closing, both General Kuperwasser and Dr Neriah agreed that in order for the West to successfully counter the threat of radical Islam in the Middle East, it must first recognise that such a threat exists. Kuperwasser went on to elaborate that the U.K was one of the only Western nations to begin to understand the nature and gravity of the threat facing them. Following this, both speakers emphasised that Intelligence must be greatly improved and Western powers must work with pragmatic Muslims who are left in the region in order to reach a peaceful resolution in both Palestine and the Middle East.