Qatar’s Support of Islamists Leads to Global Terrorism: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017— Should Israel join the status-quo Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia in their pressure campaign against terrorism-supporting Qatar, which is promoting Islamist revolutionary movements across the region, including in Israel?
Qatar's Comeuppance a Long Time Coming: Raymond Stock, The Diplomatist, July 2017— Jutting into the Persian Gulf like lower Michigan minus its thumb, the super-rich peninsular nation of Qatar has long been a problem—one that has now brought the region to the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict.
The Cost of Supporting Israel Has Never Been Lower: Elliot Kaufman, National Review, July 17, 2017— In Oslo, the Tony Award–winning play set in the early 1990s, a Palestinian negotiator makes a powerful claim to his Israeli counterpart: “Until you make peace with us,” he says, “you’ll never be accepted by your neighbours.”
Living in the Real World Means Doing Business with Bad Guys Like the Saudi Regime: Editorial, National Post, Aug. 4, 2017 — It isn’t terribly surprising to learn that Canadian-made military vehicles are apparently being used against civilians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Joining Arab States, Israel Says it Plans to Ban Al-Jazeera: National Post, Aug. 6, 2017
Latest Developments in Saudi Arabia Chart a Course for Israeli Ties With Arab World: Sean Savage, JNS, July 3, 2017
Qatar and the Saudis – Getting Ready for the Next Round: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 10, 2017
Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Calls for End to Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Aug. 1, 2017
Ariel Ben Solomon
Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017
Should Israel join the status-quo Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia in their pressure campaign against terrorism-supporting Qatar, which is promoting Islamist revolutionary movements across the region, including in Israel? Israel took a step in this direction on Wednesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Facebook that he will seek to remove Qatar’s pan-Arab media channel Al Jazeera from the country for inciting violence in Jerusalem.
Also on Wednesday, US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) stated in congressional testimony, “Qatar has been known to be a permissive environment for terror financing reportedly funding US designated foreign terrorist organizations such as Hamas as well as several extremist groups operating in Syria.” The congresswomen went on point out that all Gulf states have had problems with facilitating terrorism, but that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are dealing with the issue at a “faster rate.” Not so in Qatar.
In a study by David Andrew Weinberg that was published in January by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) titled “Qatar and Terror Finance: Part II: Private Funders of [al-Qaida] in Syria,” he wrote: “Based on these cases, there is no persuasive proof that Qatar has stopped letting certain terror financiers off the hook…Indeed, it is impossible to identify even a single specific instance of Qatar charging, convicting, and jailing a US- or UN-designated individual,” said the report.
Qatar is a principal funder of Hamas – both in Gaza and in the West Bank. For example, Israel could lobby the US and European governments to up the pressure on Qatar, so that it withdraws support for radical groups, preachers and the radical Islamist content promoted on its popular pan-Arab Al Jazeera media channel, which is broadcast in hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arab living rooms.
By joining with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, which already cut ties with Qatar, Israel would be able to further align its national interest with these countries, and particularly in opposition to Iran, the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. Israel could also join the lobbying effort to get Qatar to break off its relations with Iran, with which it shares the largest offshore gas field in the world, known as the North Dome/ South Pars.
Qatar hedges its position with Iran because it fears that its relatively small population of 250,000 citizens and over 2 million people total (and lackluster military prowess), would place it at risk from the regional power of nearly 83 million that is located just a hop across the Persian Gulf. Qatar has invited Turkey, another supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, to deploy its troops there, to deter Saudi Arabia and other neighbors. Additionally, Qatar feels protected because it hosts the Al Udeid military base, the largest US base in the Middle East.
However, the Trump administration has hinted that it could easily be moved to another Arab country. “If we ever had to leave, we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it,” US President Donald Trump said in an interview with CBN News this month. This coalition of Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, along with Israel and the US, could work to counter the Brotherhood brand of Islamism globally – by cutting off its funding and incitement on media platforms – and this starts with Qatar.
The US has tremendous leverage over Qatar not only because of the base, but also because it could put pressure on the country through the international financial banking system Washington controls. Qatar and prominent financiers residing there back the Muslim Brotherhood movement, its Palestinian offshoot Hamas and allegedly also jihadi groups al-Qaida and Islamic State. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, has served as the ideological gateway for more radical Islamist offshoots such as Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida and Islamic State, which strike out against regional governments and the West.
As John Hannah at FDD, a former official in the George W. Bush White House, stated at a conference in May: “It’s no coincidence, Muslim Brotherhood has been the gateway drug for violent Islamists the world over.” However, all Islamist groups have the ultimate goal to strive for global power, they just go about it with varying degrees of violence and pragmatism…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
The Diplomatist, July 2017
Jutting into the Persian Gulf like lower Michigan minus its thumb, the super-rich peninsular nation of Qatar has long been a problem—one that has now brought the region to the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict.
Seen for decades as a more liberal extension of the arch-conservative Saudi Kingdom, since the mid-1990s Qatar has striven to maintain that façade, even as it aided and funded the global jihad, both directly indirectly, and grew dangerously close with an ever-more strident and aggressive Iran. As the tensions built, erupted, subsided and built again during this time, it finally took a US administration willing to back up and rally the countries that Qatar's actions have threatened—primarily the very states that have moved against it now—to bring matters to a head.
The result has been a lengthening physical and diplomatic embargo on Qatar that could lead to war, or perhaps impede the war to kill the Islamic State (IS). In either case it would leave a lasting rift among four of the six states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and lands far beyond them. Begun by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain, later joined by Chad, Libya, the Maldives, Niger and Yemen, this was a crisis, sadly, whose time had come.
While much has been made of the reaction to a May 23 report by Qatar's state news agency (improbably) praising both Iran and Israel and predicting a short term in office for Trump, it does not appear to have been the real trigger for the incident. Qatar claims it was hacked, dismissing the disputed posting as "fake news." CNN reported on June 7 that US intelligence believes it was the work of unnamed Russians, though the FBI is now on the case.
Yet the real kicker was clearly the $1 billion Qatar paid in April to free a group of 26 of its nationals kidnapped by the Iran-linked Shi'ite militia Kita'eb Hizbollah while hunting in Iraq in December 2015. Freed in the same deal were 50 Islamists seized by other jihadis in Syria, as reported in The Financial Times on June 5—thus both "Iranian security officials" and an al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliate, al-Nusra Front, apparently received the cash. Worse, the deal was evidently done behind the back of the Baghdad government led by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi—who is trying to rein in the brutal Shi'ite militias while fighting ISIS. Al-Abadi announced in April that Iraq had confiscated "millions of dollars" in suitcases from Qatari planes on its territory, says the FT.
Meanwhile, Iyad Allawi, Iraq's secular Shi'ite vice president, quoted by Reuters at a Cairo news conference June 19, accused Qatar of seeking to divide Iraq "into a Sunni region in exchange for a Shi'ite region…It is time we spoke honestly and made things clear (to the Qataris) so that we can reach some results," Allawi insisted. "After that confrontation, comes reconciliation," he stated–without saying how.
Qatar has not always behaved this way. I served as Head of the Academic Section under the Cultural Attaché of the State of Qatar, part of the Qatari embassy in the US, from 1986-90, advising students on university scholarship from Doha in North America. The Qataris with whom I worked and met at the time were generally conservative, but kind-hearted, forward-looking and not fanatical—hence it is hard indeed to personally advocate action against their country.
The trouble began with the overthrow of the old emir, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, by his son, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in 1995. Sheikh Hamad pushed for a more modern, constitutional, somewhat more egalitarian government at home (primarily for its roughly 300,000 citizens, rather than its 2,000,000-plus, often virtually enslaved foreign workers)—while apostasy from Islam, adultery and homosexuality remain capital crimes.
He also allowed the creation of Al Jazeera television, hailed by many as a voice of open democracy—though its Arabic arm has mainly carried a mixture of Islamist and other anti-Western propaganda with agitation against other Arab regimes (along with often vociferous debate programs), and has had ties to AQ behind the scenes. (The network's more secular-left leaning English-language service has won many fans in the West, who do not grasp or would even rationalize the radicalism of the Arabic version seen in the Middle East.)
Stunningly, Al Jazeera's former bureau chief in Cairo, Canadian-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, jailed for 438 days in Egypt for allegedly colluding with efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to overthrow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in 2014, has recently filed a lawsuit in British Columbia against his former employers. Eli Lake of Bloomberg News wrote on June 23 that Fahmy accuses Al Jazeera of deliberately serving the MB and of being "a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence" and "a voice for terrorists," something he says he learned from Islamists in Cairo's infamous Tora Prison, who told him how they had cooperated closely with the network…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
National Review, July 17, 2017
In Oslo, the Tony Award–winning play set in the early 1990s, a Palestinian negotiator makes a powerful claim to his Israeli counterpart: “Until you make peace with us,” he says, “you’ll never be accepted by your neighbours.” But that’s just not true any more for Israel — with major implications for American foreign policy. Allying with Israel no longer risks losing the Arabs to the Soviet camp or risks the wrath of OPEC. In fact, U.S. support for Israel no longer alienates Arab governments at all. In a surprising twist of fate, Arab states now tend to view Israel as a crucial partner in their more important standoff against Iran. These nations do not have the luxury of worrying about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict right now. The rise of Iran, its nuclear program, and its proxies are far more pressing.
All of this means that American support for Israel has never been less costly — and has never made more sense — than it does now. As Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, declared in February, “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” Even the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon, has noticed that “these days Israel is [no longer] officially considered the Arab League’s enemy.”
When Israel and Hezbollah agree about something, it’s probably true. Take Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Gulf state. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini used to call Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi leaders a “band of heretics,” and the Wahhabis feel more or less the same about Iran’s Shia majority. Moreover, both nations struggle for power in the region. Especially since the rapid ascent of Mohammed bin Salman, the hawkish new Saudi crown prince, Saudi Arabia has worried about Iran’s efforts to expand its control over Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It worries even more about the Iranian nuclear program.
On all of these issues, Israel is a key ally. It was Israel, after all, that pushed for a better nuclear deal, that delayed Iran’s nuclear program with cyberwarfare and targeted assassinations, that fights Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it is Israel that destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. Furthermore, reports have suggested that Israel is providing the Saudis with crucial intelligence on Iran, ISIS, and Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen and Syria. Relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have not yet been normalized, but they are no longer frigid. Last summer, a Saudi general met a former Israeli diplomat at the Council on Foreign Relations. The two shook hands and smiled before flashing cameras. If that had happened just a few years ago, the general could have expected to find himself out of a job or worse.
Another meeting joined Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal with a retired Israeli major general. Remarkably, Prince Faisal spoke of “cooperation between Arab countries and Israel in meeting the threats, wherever they come from — whether it is Iran or any other source.” Ahmed Asiri, the kingdom’s deputy intelligence chief, acknowledged in February that “we have the same enemy, the same threat . . . and we are both close allies of the Americans.” Numerous reports support these statements; senior Israeli and Saudi officials have supposedly been secretly meeting for at least the past six years.
The Saudis still want Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, but protracted negotiations will not get in the way of security cooperation. After all, if you believe that “Iran is on a rampage” in order to “reestablish the Persian Empire,” as the Saudi foreign minister told Politico, you start looking to untraditional allies. You might even try convincing your people that Israel isn’t so bad. As early as last summer, the tightly controlled Saudi media began criticizing anti-Semitism repeatedly. Saudi TV no longer fixates on “Israeli aggression.” Now the new buzzword is “Persian aggression.” A column in the Saudi daily Al Riyadh argued that there was no reason to “unjustifiably demonise” Israel. These things do not happen by accident in Saudi Arabia. Saudi leadership is preparing their people for better relations with Israel. Saudi propaganda and the reality of the Middle East — Iran is advancing while Israel is not — have steadily combined to get the message across to regular Saudis. A recent poll found that only 18 percent of Saudis view Israel as their principal enemy, good enough for just third place, while 22 percent pointed to ISIS and 53 percent chose Iran.
The good news for Israel, however, is not limited to Saudi Arabia. Israeli officials have reportedly made multiple secret trips to the United Arab Emirates, where Israel has opened its first diplomatic mission. Almost bizarrely, the UAE’s foreign minister recently went so far as to slam Al Jazeera for its anti-Semitic coverage. Who knew they cared? Jordan, fearing Iran, ISIS, and the spillover from Syria, has also found reason to turn to Israel. Israeli intelligence now helps keep Jordan safe, and a new agreement ensures that Israeli natural gas keeps it prosperous. Their peace treaty, signed in 1994, goes unchallenged…
[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]
National Post, Aug. 4, 2017
It isn’t terribly surprising to learn that Canadian-made military vehicles are apparently being used against civilians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The decision by the former Conservative government to sell Saudi Arabia light armoured vehicles — infantry carriers armed with machine guns, anti-tank cannons and missiles and light automatic cannons — was controversial at the time for this very reason. Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is appalling. Its oppression of its own people at home (including the entire female population) is a matter of record. International rights groups have also slammed the Saudi military’s conduct in combat during the ongoing intervention in Yemen’s civil war, with reports of air strikes that have not only killed civilians, but seemed to have no apparent military objective. Collateral damage is bad enough; deliberately bombarding civilian areas is a war crime.
None of this was unknown or unforeseeable when Canada agreed to sell the Saudis military equipment. But the Conservatives first, then the Liberals (who stood by the arms sales after the 2015 election), were clearly seduced by the amount of cash on offer: at least $15 billion for 900 light armoured vehicles from London, Ont.’s, General Dynamics, and a series of smaller contracts with other Canadian firms for other items of military kit. And while it was the giant General Dynamics contract that attracted all the attention, it is a smaller contract, to Terradyne, a firm north of Toronto, that has thrust this issue back into the spotlight.
Video footage has recently emerged that appears to show Canadian-made Terradyne Gurkha vehicles — similar to an American Hummer-style vehicle — being used in a security operation against Saudi civilians, specifically, members of the Shiite Muslim religious minority in a restive province of the kingdom. This isn’t surprising, given the monarchy’s horrific record of abusing its own civilians, particularly its small Shiite minority. But it does put Ottawa in an awkward position. Both the Conservatives and Liberals had insisted that they had been given Saudi assurances that our weapons would not be used against civilians; if they were, we could suspend further sales.
We have that right. Canada’s export rules, flagging restrictions on defence sales to countries with “poor human-rights records,” even point in that direction. But as appalling as the Saudi regime can be, there are other Canadian interests involved here that Ottawa has a duty to also consider. Saudi Arabia is not an ally, per se, but it is a security partner. Given the multiple overlapping disasters currently unfolding in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is a country we need on our side. Geopolitics is an unavoidably ugly business and the reality that these kinds of arrangements are necessary is the reason why.
We would prefer to live in a world where we could have our armoured cake and sell it, too. If it was possible to sustain our large and growing armaments industry entirely on the back of sales to The Netherlands and New Zealand, we could content ourselves on providing everything our Dutch and Kiwi allies need to annihilate a Russian tank division or two, and for a tidy profit. Though we often roll our eyes at the horrible habit all Canadian governments tend to fall into of using military procurement projects to develop or sustain a domestic armaments industry, we do acknowledge the strategic value of our military having domestic supplies for advanced weaponry. Exporting those arms abroad helps offset the simple reality that the Canadian Armed Forces are themselves not large enough to sustain the kind of industry we have developed here. Exports are essential to sustain these jobs and capabilities.
While this whole affair stinks, consider the alternative: Canada doesn’t sell to Saudi Arabia, our economy suffers, our own domestic military production capabilities suffer (or die); meanwhile, Saudi Arabia sinks its vast cash reserves into buying someone else’s weapons and carries on as ever. Canada can keep its hands more or less clean, or it can sustain an arms-export industry that provides important economic and security benefits to our own country. If it’s possible to do both at once, we’ve yet to figure out how.
Canadians are not used to pondering geopolitics in these terms. We prefer to view the world as neatly divided into good and bad. Two generations of relative peace, along with our peacekeeping myths, have sheltered us from the realities of a frequently violent world. But there is nothing new about doing business with governments we find odious because it serves a greater good. Saudi Arabia, for all its offences, has proved to be a fundamental Middle East partner in combating the Islamic State and containing Iran’s belligerent ambitions and regional warmongering. Given the grave new stakes at play in the Middle East, even Israel has recognized the need of working alongside the Saudis.
It’s always possible that this sort engagement will help bring Saudi Arabia further into the fold of Western liberal democracy, just as some Canadians believe that our deepening friendship with China can moderate that inhumane regime. We’re skeptical on both counts. But in the meantime we must deal with, and make deals in, the world as it is, with all its imperfections.
Joining Arab States, Israel Says it Plans to Ban Al-Jazeera: National Post, Aug. 6, 2017 —Israel said Sunday it plans to ban Qatar’s flagship Al-Jazeera news network from operating in the country over allegations it incites violence, joining Arab nations that have shut down the broadcaster amid a separate political dispute.
Latest Developments in Saudi Arabia Chart a Course for Israeli Ties With Arab World: Sean Savage, JNS, July 3, 2017—Building off the last few years of rumors and reports regarding clandestine relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, mainly motivated by their shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and destabilizing regional activities, two recent developments highlight a potential route for Israel to firm up support within the Arab world.
Qatar and the Saudis – Getting Ready for the Next Round: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 10, 2017—Tensions are at an all time high between the four countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Emirates and Egypt – and Qatar, supported by the large, powerful forces of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Russia and Hezbollah. The four countries handed Qatar a list of 13 demands and an ultimatum: either carry them out to the letter or else. They have since retracted them.
Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Calls for End to Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Aug. 1, 2017—A former federal Liberal cabinet minister and human-rights lawyer says Saudi Arabia’s apparent deployment of Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens demonstrates why Canada should end all arms sales to the Islamic kingdom.