Canadian Institute for Jewish Research
L'institut Canadien de Recherches sur le Judaisme
Strength of Israel will not lie

Tag: Arab Spring

NORTH AFRICAN ISLAMIST “ENCLAVES OF TERROR” EMERGING AFTER FAILED “ARAB SPRING”

A Bloodbath for Christians, No Response from Egypt: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 11, 2018— On November 2, heavily armed Islamic terrorists ambushed and massacred Christians returning home after visiting the ancient St. Samuel Monastery in Minya, Egypt.

Libya in Chaos: Where To?: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar and Col. (res.) Dr. Dan Gottlieb, BESA, Sept. 30, 2018— On August 15, 2018, Tripoli’s Appeals Court sentenced 45 convicts to death by firing squad for opening fire on August 21, 2011 on residents abandoning Tripoli while it was falling into the hands of anti-government insurgents.

Tunisian Ennahda’s ‘Secret Apparatus’ Draws Comparisons to Brotherhood Origins: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Nov. 9, 2018— A lawsuit accusing Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement of plotting the assassination of two political opponents poses the most serious challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group since its 1981 inception.

The Open Secret of Israeli-Moroccan Business is Growing: Sebastian Shehadi, Middle East Eye, Nov. 5, 2018— “Secret” Israeli-Moroccan business is increasingly visible, despite the North African country sharing no official relations with Israel and growing calls in Morocco against “economic normalisation”.

On Topic Links

Egyptian Sentenced to Death in Killing of Christian Doctor: New York Times, Nov. 17, 2018

Turkey Stabilizing Libya? Think Again.: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 22, 2018

Why Do Terrorist Organizations Use Women As Suicide Bombers?: Nikita Malik, Forbes, Nov. 2, 2018

The Jews of the North Africa under Muslim Rule: Ruthie Blum, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 14, 2018

 

A BLOODBATH FOR CHRISTIANS, NO RESPONSE FROM EGYPT                                    Raymond Ibrahim                                                                                                                             

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 11, 2018

On November 2, heavily armed Islamic terrorists ambushed and massacred Christians returning home after visiting the ancient St. Samuel Monastery in Minya, Egypt. Seven pilgrims — including a 12-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy — were shot to death. More than 20 were left injured with bullet wounds or shards of broken glass from the buses’ windows. “I pray for the victims, pilgrims killed just because they were Christian,” said Pope Francis after the attack. Pictures posted on social media reveal “bodies soaked in blood and distorted faces of men and women.” In one video posted, a man can be heard crying, “The gunshot got you in the head, my boy!” and repeating, “What a loss!”

After the first and largest bus had passed the ambush point, the terrorists emerged in black 4x4s and opened fire with automatic weapons on the second bus; six pilgrims were injured, including a small child. Fortunately, the bus driver managed to escape and speed away, at which point the terrorists fired on the third and smallest bus as it approached. After the driver was killed, they surrounded the stalled minibus and opened fire on all sides. The bus carried 20 people — 14 adults and six children — all from one extended family who had visited the monastery to baptize two of the children.

The terrorists first opened the hatchback and looked to see who was still alive. They then shot all the men in the head and all the women and children in the ankles or legs. One of the female survivors who was shot in the legs recalls, in a video, only that an explosion of gunfire suddenly opened on all sides of their bus; by the time she could register what was happening, she saw pieces of her brother-in-law’s brain splattered on her lap.

Another woman, after realizing that her husband and daughter had been killed, begged the jihadis to kill her, too. They said, “No, you stay and suffer over your husband and daughter.” Then they shot her in the ankles so she could not move away. In a separate report, another survivor said the terrorists told her, “We will kill the men and children and leave you to live the rest of your lives in misery.” Virtually all of the survivors have “had a nervous breakdown of what they have seen and they are in the hospital.”

Coptic Bishop Anba Makarios of Minya confirmed that “The pilgrims were killed in such a savage and sadistic way, as if they were enemy combatants, when they were just simple Christians come to get a blessing from a monastery.” Reactions among Egypt’s Christians echoed those from earlier incidents. “Oh God, these children were students in my school!” wept one local teacher. “I can’t imagine they are dead now!”

The day after the attack, the Egyptian government created more questions than answers. It announced that it had killed 19 terrorists believed to be complicit in the November 2 attack. As one report noted: “With the suspects now dead, it is impossible to confirm whether they were indeed involved in Friday’s attack. Fear continues to permeate the Christian community in Egypt.” Another report stated that government photos of the purported slain terrorists “appear staged in a manner which mirrors past examples of Egyptian security forces executing suspected terrorists.”

The attack was a virtual duplicate of another that occurred on May 26, 2017. Islamist gunmen ambushed buses full of Christians returning from the same monastery. Twenty-eight Christians — ten of whom were children, including two girls, aged two and four — were massacred. According to accounts based on eyewitness testimonies, the terrorists had ordered the passengers to exit the bus in groups: “… as each pilgrim came off the bus they were asked to renounce their Christian faith and profess belief in Islam, but all of them — even the children — refused. Each was killed in cold blood with a gunshot to the head or the throat.”

Discussing the recent massacre with Bishop Makarios, a television interviewer said, “this is a duplicate of the same event and same place that happened a year and five months ago — how can this be? What does it mean?” Makarios replied, “Honestly, those best positioned to answer this question are the state authorities…. I add my voice to yours and ask the same questions.” “That the same attack occurred in the same place only means that, despite all the talk, protecting Egypt’s Christian minority is not on the government’s agenda,” Magdi Khalil, Egyptian political analyst and editor of the Egyptian weekly Watani International, told Gatestone by phone.

Despite Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s many conciliatory and brotherly words to the nation’s Christian minorities, they have suffered more under his rule than any Egyptian leader of the modern era, partially because ISIS arose during his term. In December 2017, a gunman killed 10 worshippers inside a church in Helwan. One year earlier, 29 Christians were killed during twin attacks on churches. On Palm Sunday in April 2017, a suicide bombing of two churches killed nearly 50 people and injured more than a hundred.

While it may be understandable that Sisi cannot eliminate terrorism entirely, there is evidence that the government itself participates in the persecution of Egypt’s Christians. According to the World Watch List (2018), Egyptian “officials at any level from local to national” are “strongly responsible” for the “oppression” of Egypt’s Christians. “Government officials,” the report adds, “also act as drivers of persecution through their failure to vindicate the rights of Christians and also through their discriminatory acts which violate the fundamental rights of Christians.”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                

 

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LIBYA IN CHAOS: WHERE TO?

Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Mordechai Kedar and Col. (res.) Dr. Dan Gottlieb

BESA, Sept. 30, 2018

On August 15, 2018, Tripoli’s Appeals Court sentenced 45 convicts to death by firing squad for opening fire on August 21, 2011 on residents abandoning Tripoli while it was falling into the hands of anti-government insurgents. The 45 are all ex-members of Muammar Qaddafi’s security forces.

On the same day, August 15, 2018, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Mahmoud Werfalli, a senior commander in the Libya National Army (LNA). According to the indictment, Werfalli “appears to be directly responsible for the killing of, in total, 33 persons in Benghazi or surrounding areas, between on or before 3 June 2016 and on or around 17 July 2017, either by personally killing them or by ordering their execution.” Armed groups have been executing civilians in Libya with almost complete impunity ever since the toppling of Qaddafi’s government in 2011.

As of 2018, after the demise of ISIS in Libya due to its defeats at both Sirte and Benghazi (an unknown number of currently inactive ex-ISIS fighters remain in Bani Walid and south of Sirte), the country remains divided between two governments: 1) the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, which is backed by the UN and headed by Fayez Sirraj; and 2) the Benghazi government, which is based on Libya’s national army, headed by General Khalifa Haftar, and backed by some Arab governments (Egypt, the UAE).

Oil plays a dominant role in the competition between the two rival governments. The UN and its affiliate in Libya, UNSMIL (UN Support Mission in Libya), arranged for Libya’s oil to be re-exported through the Tripoli-based National Oil Corporation, oil exports being the main pillar of Libya’s exports. In the last year of Qaddafi’s government, 1.6 million barrels of oil per day were exported. Oil exports were heavily slashed due to the conflict in Libya, but by the end of 2017, they had regained a level of 1.2 million barrels per day.

But through an understanding between the Haftar government and the UAE, 850,000 barrels per day are exported directly by the Benghazi government through UAE companies based in the Benghazi part of the country. (In 2017, the UN accused the UAE of supplying military equipment to Haftar’s forces in violation of an international arms embargo.) In June 2018, the Ras Lanuf and Sidra oil fields were seized by Haftar’s forces and their production taken away from the national oil company of Tripoli. As a consequence, oil exports from the ports of Zweitina and Harija were stopped.

An attempt in July 2018, supported by the UN, to reconcile the two rival governments failed over Haftar’s demand that he remain chief commander of the united army. The conflict continues. The consequences of all this are detrimental to the chances of finding any reconciliation between the two governments in Libya. The state is divided, and there are no prospects of a solution in the foreseeable future.

The chaotic situation enables the emergence of enclaves of terror, inspired by the ideology of ISIS and al-Qaeda. The world should make sure that Libya does not turn into another pre-2001 Afghanistan-like state on the doorstep of Europe. Since there is almost no power on the ground in Libya with which the EU can come to an agreement to stop the influx of illegal migrants from the sub-Saharan states through Libya to Europe, this migration route will probably continue to be a gateway for many more thousands of Africans into Europe. The consequences for the EU are complex and difficult.

The question that Europe, the US, Canada, and the UN should deal with is this: in what situation will the world intervene in Libya once again to contain the domestic chaos before it spills out to other parts of the world? The sooner this question is answered, the better.

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TUNISIAN ENNAHDA’S ‘SECRET APPARATUS’

DRAWS COMPARISONS TO BROTHERHOOD ORIGINS                                                               Hany Ghoraba

IPT News, Nov. 9, 2018

A lawsuit accusing Tunisia’s Ennahda Movement of plotting the assassination of two political opponents poses the most serious challenge to the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group since its 1981 inception. Mohamed Brahmi and Chokri Belaid were killed in separate 2013 shootings involving the same gun. Both men opposed the Ennahda Movement, which was in power at the time. Investigators blamed a jihadist cell and identified a 30-year-old French weapons smuggler as one of the killers. Subsequent investigations by attorneys for the dead men uncovered a massive amount of evidence which was presented to the Tunisian prosecutors. They opened a formal investigation into Ennahda’s secret apparatus on Oct. 10. The attorneys gave the same evidence to a Tunisian military court, which deals with terrorism and national security. The lawsuit alleges the murder plots were hatched by Ennahda’s secret security apparatus, which the attorneys claim was created by the Egyptian Brotherhood.

Described as an Arab Spring success, Tunisia has made social and economic reforms that collide with Islamist desires represented by the Ennahda Movement. In September, Tunisia’s secular incumbent President Beji Caid Essebsi dissolved an alliance with Ennahda .

The attorneys who brought the suit provided Tunisian authorities with evidence implicating Ennahda in the assassinations, said attorney Ridha Raddaoui. That includes a document titled “Motorcycle Fighting skills,” which was found in Interior Ministry archives. It details the training methods for assassinations using motorcycles, which were used in Brahmi’s and Belaid’s murders.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood introduced this type of training in the 1940s as part of its own “Secret Apparatus.” According to the Brotherhood literature, it was formed to execute military operations and train Egyptian citizens militarily to defend against foreign invasions. However, it wasn’t long before it was turned into a political tool of assassinations and terrorism. The assassinations targeted high profile Egyptian officials, including Prime Minister Mahmoud Al Noqrashy Pasha in 1948.

Interior Ministry documents show that Ennahda set up a similar apparatus based on a Muslim Brotherhood proposal, Raddaoui told a press conference. One document released as part of the lawsuit includes communication between Mustafa Khadr, chief of Ennahda’s secret apparatus, and the Brotherhood in Egypt. The contents of those conversations have not been released. Two unnamed Egyptian MB officials came to Tunisia posing as agricultural experts to help Ennahda set up the apparatus, Raddaoui said. He also accused Khadr of planting two Tunisian spies inside the American embassy in Tunisia.

Ennahda’s spy network allegedly wiretapped civilians, celebrities and key political and judicial figures, tape recordings released by Tunisian lawyer and radio presenter Dalia Ben Mbarek indicate. In one tape, Khadr is heard claiming that the head of the Tunis court is in working to serve the Ennahda apparatus’ agenda. Khadr, the alleged leader of Ennahda’s secret apparatus, is a former Tunisian officer who was dishonorably discharged from the army. He is serving eight years in prison for hiding evidence and documents related to the murders of Brahmi and Belaid . The lawsuit alleges that Khadr has direct ties to Ennahda founder Rachid Ghannouchi and Nourerddine Bhiri, who was justice minister from 2011-2013.

Tunisian MP Mongi Al Rahoui, who is part of the group that filed the lawsuit, also accused Khadr of having ties to al-Hakim, the alleged assassin. Al-Hakim confessed in a 2016 interview with ISIS’s magazine Dabiq to killing Brahmi. He said he had hoped the killing would “facilitate the brothers’ movements and so that we would be able to bring in weapons and liberate our brothers from prisons,” and had targeted Brahmi because he worked for the “apostate” government. Al-Hakim was killed in a November 2016 U.S. airstrike targeting ISIS in Syria. “Ennahda has connections to known terrorists including Abu Ayyad al-Tunsi, Boubaker al-Hakim and Samy al-Awadi,” Al Rahoui said.

A separate lawsuit, filed in June, claims that between 2011-14, the Ennahda-dominated government helped facilitate travel to Syria for jihadists hoping to fight with ISIS. More than 6,000 ISIS terrorists came from Tunisia, constituting the largest number of fighters from a single nationality. “We presented the documents [showing Ennahda’s secret apparatus] to all Tunisian journalists, researchers and even Tunisian Intelligence” to prove their authenticity, said Salah Al Dawodi, one of the lawyers involved in the lawsuit. They include archived messages, audio and video recordings and other intercepted communication involving Ennahda officials. That evidence has been presented to Tunisian courts, he said.

“The Tunisian Ennahda Movement is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Egyptian MP Mohamed Abu Hamed, “and therefore adopts all the same mechanisms, strategies and ideologies adopted by the mother group. That including the establishment of a secret armed apparatus or a military wing.” This was created to hurt Ennahda’s foes ” through assassinations and violence,” Abu Hamed said. He fears a sharp escalation in violence if the military court rules against Ennahda, comparing it to the violent Muslim Brotherhood reaction after it was forced from power in 2013.

“Al-Ennahda is now cornered and all the political players demand that it should be prosecuted for its crimes in Tunisia,” said Tunisian Salvation Front leader Monder Guerfach, who is circulating a petition in the country calling for Ennahda to be banned. The Ennahda movement’s fate is in the hands of Tunisian the military court.

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THE OPEN SECRET OF ISRAELI-MOROCCAN BUSINESS IS GROWING         

Sebastian Shehadi                                              

Middle East Eye, Nov. 5, 2018

“Secret” Israeli-Moroccan business is increasingly visible, despite the North African country sharing no official relations with Israel and growing calls in Morocco against “economic normalisation”. Recent statistical discrepancies are a good start. Although Morocco’s official trade data has never made mention of Israel whatsoever, Israeli records shows $37m worth of commerce with Morocco in 2017, according to data released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) this year.

This means that, out of Israel’s 22 African trading partners, Morocco is among the four top nations from which it imports, and ninth in terms of exports, according to CBS. However, with $149m worth of trade between 2014 and 2017, this partnership is not new.

More unusual is Israel’s first overt foreign investment into the Arab world, with Israeli agricultural technology giant Netafim setting up a $2.9m subsidiary in Morocco last year, thereby creating 17 jobs, according to fDi Markets, a Financial Times data service that has monitored crossborder greenfield investment worldwide since 2003. Greenfield investment is when a company builds its operations in a foreign country from the ground up. This development may fit into broader regional trends. Arab-Israeli relations are improving, for one, due to a growing alliance against Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Oman is a good example of these warming relations.

Netafim’s investment is the most visible example of the longstanding and “clandestine” economic ties between Israel and Morocco, two countries that have shared historically warm ties compared to other Arab-Israeli relations. However, public opposition in Morocco against normalisation with Israel keeps these ties under wraps.

For example, in 2016, government ministers denied any trade or investment links with Israel. Mohamed Abbou, then the head of foreign trade at the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Investment and the Digital Economy, told parliament: “Morocco has no commercial relations with this entity [Israel] . . . and is keen to fight the entry of all Israeli goods to Morocco.” “The government has never granted any license for anyone to import dates or any other Israeli products,” he added. This is despite the fact that Israel’s Netafim has operated in Morocco since at least 1994 through an affiliate, Regafim. Today, under its own name, its Moroccan Facebook page currently has more than 26,000 likes.

Founded on an Israeli kibbutz in 1965, Netafim is the global leader in drip-irrigation systems, a technology that it pioneered. According to its website, it has 4,300 employees and provides equipment and services to customers in more than 110 countries. In February, the company sold 80 percent of its shares to Mexichem, a Mexican petrochemicals group, for $1.5bn. Kibbutz Hatzerim retains 20 percent and Netafim remains headquartered in Israel.

“The opening of the new subsidiary [in Morocco] is part of growth in the market and our desire to improve the quality of our service and our assistance to our customers and partners in Morocco,” Shavit Dahan, Netafim’s director for North and West Africa, told the French-Israeli Chamber of Commerce. The company declined further requests to comment on its investment in Morocco.

The unabashed visibility of Netafim’s investment is unusual since most Israeli-Moroccan trade appears to be conducted secretly. “However, [economic relations] are often hard to [prove] as trade and investment deals are either kept quiet or routed through intermediaries,” said Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, an expert on Moroccan-Israeli relations at Tel Aviv University.

The French-Israeli Chamber of Commerce noted last year that “many Moroccan and Israeli companies are resorting to increasingly complex commercial channels… The Israeli media regularly reports the signing of trade agreements, financial transactions or co-operation programmes with government authorities or the private sector… The most visible Israeli-Moroccan experience is that of Netafim”…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Egyptian Sentenced to Death in Killing of Christian Doctor: New York Times, Nov. 17, 2018—An Egyptian man accused of supporting the Islamic State was sentenced to death on Saturday in the fatal stabbing of an 82-year-old Christian doctor in Cairo.

Turkey Stabilizing Libya? Think Again.: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 22, 2018—Turkey was miffed. A Turkish delegation, including Vice President Fuat Oktay, stormed out of a recent two-day international conference in Palermo, Italy, held to deal with the crisis in Libya, on the grounds that it was not included in an unofficial meeting.

Why Do Terrorist Organizations Use Women As Suicide Bombers?: Nikita Malik, Forbes, Nov. 2, 2018—The news earlier this week that a woman in Tunis blew herself up in front of a shopping center came as a shock to many. This is the first attack in the Tunisian capital since 2015. While the attack has yet to be claimed, instability in bordering Libya remains a concern, as do claims by authorities that Islamic State and Al Qaeda continue to recruit extremists in Tunisia.

The Jews of the North Africa under Muslim Rule: Ruthie Blum, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 14, 2018—Exile in the Maghreb, co-authored by the great historian David G. Littman and Paul B. Fenton, is an ambitious tome contradicting the myth of how breezy it was for Jews to live in their homelands in the Middle East and North Africa when they came under Muslim rule.

ISRAEL IS THE “VANGUARD OF FREEDOM” IN CHAOTIC MIDDLE EAST

Jihadism, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the “Frontier States”: Dr. Spyridon N. Litsas, BESA, Oct. 8, 2018— Many analysts, in their eagerness to trace the origins of the radicalization of Islam, look to the rise of the theocratic Shiite regime in Iran in 1979 as the starting point.

The Logic Behind Iranian Moves in the Middle East: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 5, 2018— The effort by the US and its allies to contain and ultimately roll back the gains made by Iran in the region over the last half decade is currently taking shape, and is set to form the central strategic process in the Middle East in the period now opening up.

Who is Fighting Iran’s Expansion? Who is Stopping ISIS?: Giulio Meotti, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 15, 2018— The effort by the US and its allies to contain and ultimately roll back the gains made by Iran in the region over the last half decade is currently taking shape, and is set to form the central strategic process in the Middle East in the period now opening up…

Middle Eastern Interventions in Africa: Tehran’s Extensive Soft Power: Hassan Dai, Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2018 — Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made enormous efforts to export its revolution around the world.

On Topic Links

Peace, Equality, Plurality – Just Not in the Middle East (Video): Jewish Press, Oct. 22, 2018

Iran Strike’s Message to Region: “Borders Don’t Matter”: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 01, 2018

The Next War in the Middle East: Vivian Bercovici, Commentary, Oct. 5, 2018

There’s a War Going on out There: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 6, 2018

 

                             JIHADISM, THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN,

                                        AND THE “FRONTIER STATES”                                                                           Dr. Spyridon N. Litsas

BESA, Oct. 8, 2018

Many analysts, in their eagerness to trace the origins of the radicalization of Islam, look to the rise of the theocratic Shiite regime in Iran in 1979 as the starting point. Others focus on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, or the predominantly Muslim region of Bosnia Herzegovina during the Yugoslav civil war. Still others who are more theoretically inclined go back to the first decades of the 20th century to examine the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, a blended creed that accommodates both a profound anti-colonial stance and a pronounced Salafism. Some go back to the 18th century’s austere enactments of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, or even further back to the reactionary utterances of Ibn Taymiyyah in the second half of the 13th century and the first half of the 14th.

None of these approaches is wrong, but they all disregard a basic feature of Islam that has accompanied it since its early days. Islam is a religion based on oxymorons. This can be clearly seen in the matter of violence and its relationship with religious practice. Jihad, the great issue relating to the use of violence within the context of Islamic religious practice, does not exist in a theoretical vacuum but has a direct link with all four fundamental schools of Islamic jurisprudence: the Hanafi, the Maliki, the Shafi’i, and the Hanbali. According to all four, the world is divided into two spheres: Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam), where the faith has established itself; and Dar al-Harb (the House of War), where it is incumbent on Muslims to fight non-believers in order to establish the rule of Islam. As the prophet Muhammad famously asserted in his farewell address: “I was ordered to fight all men until they say, ‘There is no god but Allah.’”

It can be argued that Islam is not a religion of violence but rather a religion that understands its utility for the promotion of its revolutionary essence according to Martin Wight’s international theory. This conceptual utility of violence, which lies deep in the doctrinal core of Islam, is the driving force behind its continual radicalization. Islam, especially its majority Sunni branch, has never ceased to turn to radicalism every time it seems necessary.

But if radicalization is not new to Islam, what is different about today? Why do jihadist groups seem not only exceptionally powerful but also so resourceful at finding new means of spreading terror and death among their enemies?

The main difference between the past and the present regarding the radicalization process within Islam is technology – specifically, the existence of the internet. Images of terror and indirect methods of primitive psychological warfare, mainly targeting western societies, can be easily viewed in western homes. The 21st century is not the era of Islamic radicalization but the era during which jihadist Islam acquired the ability to promote and broadcast its messages of primitive hate and raw nihilism to millions.

The highly advanced technological means available to jihadist Islam offer it the opportunity to make contact with even wider audiences through the “dark web.” This further boosts the number of people who can be reached. Technology is changing everything in the War on Terror. This is the first time in human history that the global community of Muslims, the umma, has taken on a specific form and shape in the digital dimension. This represents a threat maximizer because jihadist groups now have numerous channels of communication through which they can organize actions and recruit members.

In J.J. Grygiel and A. Wess Mitchell’s latest work on US foreign policy, they show that it is necessary for Washington to form a new grand strategy that gives greater importance to its frontier state allies. Israel is on this list due to its key role in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. Another pivotal state, Greece, is not included. This is an oversight, as Greece is essential to efficiently tackling jihadist Islam today. The strong ties between Athens, Jerusalem, and Nicosia go well beyond the promotion of open communication links in the field of energy. The strategic triangle, and especially the close cooperation between Athens and Jerusalem, can help the rest of the western world obstruct jihadists as they attempt to target western states.

How do Athens and Jerusalem help in this regard? By establishing a network of flow control of refugees now that Turkey seems unable and unwilling to do so. Jihadists make use of the continuous flow of refugees into Greece through the Aegean corridor in order to gain access to the West; By putting preemptive military operations into action from Greek, Israeli, and Cypriot ground against human smugglers acting in the Eastern Mediterranean. Greek military naval capacity combined with the Israeli military air force can transform the Eastern Mediterranean into a region relatively immune to external jihadist action; Israel is a tech leader while Greece has a large soft power capacity. This combination can lead to the creation of a political narrative that can counter the power formula of jihadist Islam in the Eastern Mediterranean.

For all of these to be implemented and to influence developments in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and southeastern Europe, the US will have to maintain its open support of Israel. The decision by the White House to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem was a political gesture of great importance in this direction. So too should Washington attribute the status of frontier state to Greece.

The radicalization of Islam will continue as a new generation of Takfirism, a hybrid form of nihilism and ultra-religious fanaticism, is growing in Libya, Syria, and the Sahel. The strategic importance of Israel and Greece as the last frontiers before the stormy Muslim archipelago – considering as well the Russian and Chinese poles of influence – reveals the embryonic capabilities the two states possess as the two major western actors in the region.

The world is changing fast, with numerous state and non-state actors openly challenging the post-WWII sociopolitical and economic system. A fundamental strategic restructuring of the western world is greatly important during this period. The Eastern Mediterranean, with its upgraded geostrategic value, will be a key venue for both challenges and opportunities in the decades to come.

Greece and Israel both have important roles to play as western frontier states. The coming period will be characterized by challenges all along the periphery lines between the western and the Muslim worlds. This will not be a confirmation of the Clash of Civilizations of S.P. Huntington, because jihadist groups target Muslim states as well, but a recognition that a new era has arrived with frontier states having more responsibilities to strengthen collective security than before.

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          THE LOGIC BEHIND IRANIAN MOVES IN THE MIDDLE EAST                                                            Jonathan Spyer                                                                                                                            Jerusalem Post, Oct. 5, 2018

The effort by the US and its allies to contain and ultimately roll back the gains made by Iran in the region over the last half decade is currently taking shape, and is set to form the central strategic process in the Middle East in the period now opening up.

New sanctions on the export of Iranian oil are due to be implemented from November 4. Israel’s campaign against Iranian entrenchment in Syria is the most important current file on the table of the defense establishment. The US appears set now to maintain its assets and its allies in Syria as part of the emergent strategy to counter Iran. In Iraq, the contest between Iran-associated forces and those associated with the US is the core dynamic in the country, with the independent power on the ground of the Iran-associated Shia militias the central factor. In Yemen, the battle of attrition between the Iran-supported Ansar Allah (Houthis) and the Saudi and UAE-led coalition is continuing, with limited but significant gains by the latter.

Iran’s response is also becoming clear. At the present time, Tehran’s ballistic missile capabilities appear to be the preferred instrument for Tehran to express its defiance. Notably, for the moment at least, Iran appears to be erring on the side of caution in its choice of targets. This phase is unlikely to last, however, assuming the US is serious in its intentions. In the early hours of Monday, October 1, the Fars News Agency, associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reported that the IRGC had fired a number of Zulfiqar and Qiyam ballistic missiles at targets east of the Euphrates River in Syria. The strike came in response to an attack on an IRGC parade in Iran’s Arab-majority Khuzestan province on September 22.

According to Fars, the missiles fired were decorated with slogans including “Death to America,” “Death to Israel,” and “Death to Al Saud.”

It is noteworthy, however, that the missiles were not directed at any of the aforementioned enemies of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rather, the IRGC targeted the Hajin pocket, a small enclave east of the Euphrates still held by Islamic State. This was in response to a claim of responsibility by ISIS for the September 22 attack. (A somewhat more credible claim was made by the Ahwaziya, or Ahvaz national resistance, an Arab separatist group in Khuzestan.) Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani later tried to frame the attack as a response to American threats, because of the close proximity of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to the area targeted.

Similarly, on September 8, the IRGC fired seven Fateh-110 short-range missiles at a base maintained by the PDKI (Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan) in the city of Koya in eastern Iraq. The PDKI is engaged in an insurgency against the IRGC and the Iranian regime, centered on the Kurdistan Province of western Iran. Eleven people were killed in the attack. In both these cases, Tehran chose to make its demonstrations of strength against the very weakest of the forces opposed to it (in the case of Islamic State, a force indeed mainly engaged against the enemies of Iran). Shamkhani’s bluster after the fact tends to draw attention to this, rather than detract from it.

By contrast, when Iran wishes to act against or threaten the interests of any of the powerful states whose names were written on the missiles fired at ISIS in Hajin, it takes care to do so in ways that avoid attribution. Thus, the Lebanese Hezbollah organization, in military terms a direct tributary of the IRGC, is the force entrusted with the missile array facing Israel.

When ballistic missiles are fired at Riyadh from Yemen, the act is claimed by the Houthis, and the missiles are identified as “Burkan 1” and “Burkan 2” missiles, developed in Yemen. These missiles are considered by the US State Department and senior US officers to be Iranian in origin, possibly the Qiam 1 or Shihab 2 system with minor modifications. Certainly, the Houthis, a lightly armed north Yemeni tribal militia, did not acquire the knowledge required to operate ballistic missiles locally. There is evidence to suggest that Lebanese Hezbollah operatives are engaged by Iran in Yemen to carry out these launches.

In Iraq, according to a Reuters report in August, the IRGC has begun to transfer ballistic missiles to its militia proxies in that country, presumably with the intention of using these against Israeli or US personnel. So Iran acts through deniable proxies in its wars against powerful states, but acts directly only against small and marginal non-state paramilitary groups. The purpose, of course, is to enable the Iranian state to avoid retribution, while gaining benefit from the acts of the militias.

THIS PRACTICE has proven effective in recent years, though it projects weakness as much as strength. It is of use only for as long as Iran’s enemies are willing to participate in the fiction of separation between the IRGC and its client militias. At a certain point, if the US and its allies are serious about rolling back Iran from its regional gains, the question will arise as to whether success in this endeavor can coexist with the tacit agreement to maintain this fiction.

In Israel’s case, the decision to cease adherence to this convention was taken earlier this year, when Israeli aircraft began openly targeting Iranian facilities in Syria. For the US, such a decision is likely to emerge, if it emerges, as a result of the dynamics set in motion by the decision to challenge Iran’s advances…

 [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

   

WHO IS FIGHTING IRAN’S EXPANSION? WHO IS STOPPING ISIS?                                                     Giulio Meotti

                                                Arutz Sheva, Oct. 15, 2018

Over the weekend, in front of 140 journalists from 40 countries, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a great speech: “Who is fighting the Iranian takeover of Syria? Israel is doing it. Who is fighting ISIS? In the last three years, Israel stopped 40 terror attacks by ISIS world wide. Israel is the vanguard of freedom in the heart of the Middle East. Without Israel, radical Islam would have overrun the Middle East. Israel is the only country in the Middle East where the Christian community thrives and grows”.

Netanyahu said the most explosive truths about Israel in its relations with the civilized world.  Only Israel today is able to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons, in the Middle East (twice Israel bombed and stopped an Arab-Islamic atomic bomb). Only Israel is able to combat radical Islamic ideology.

Israel belongs to a small group of countries – the United States, the UK and Canada among them – that have never suffered intervals of non-democratic regimes. Only Israel is able to promote the capitalistic economic development of the region. Only Israel is able to expand the values of the West in the region, competing with those of radical Islam. Israel is one of only two Western democracies that constantly face an adverse environment since its creation (the other one is South Korea). Israel is older than more than half of the democracies and belongs to a small group of countries – the United States, the UK and Canada among them – that have never suffered intervals of non-democratic regimes. France has been less democratic than Israel, to mention one country.

If Israel were to disappear, Iran would extend its totalitarian hegemony throughout the entire Middle East to the Mediterranean and would humiliate the West by reducing and controlling oil production. If the Islamist groups like ISIS have not yet been able to seize the power in Jordan by toppling the Hashemite Kingdom, it is only thanks to the presence of the Israeli army at the border. If Israel were to succumb, the whole world and Western civilization would fall into chaos (who will prevent the fall of Sinai to Jihadists?). A Jihadist takeover of Jerusalem would give to the Islamists a victory like the fall of Christian Constantinople in 1453. If Israel were to succumb, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia would all fall to the Jihadists or the Iranian ayatollahs.

We have been close to this destabilization in recent years, with the taking of power by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and deaths and chaos in its streets, the killing of the American ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya, the rise of Isis in the Mediterranean coasts, the Syrian civil war, the birth of Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, the construction of an Islamic State over a third of the Iraqi territory. Israel is the only Western buffer against an Islamist tsunami that would overrun Europe. The West should think of Israel not only as the Jewish State or in terms of the failed “peace process” in the Middle East, but as a Western outpost under siege. If Israel falls it is as if Vienna had fallen in 1683, when the Muslims were rejected at its doors and Europe was saved. The philosopher Leo Strauss called Israel “the only outpost of the West in the East”.

Unfortunately, the West, by undermining Israel, has become more vulnerable, it has not understood that that small Jewish state is an indispensable part of the West, that the millions of Israeli Jews who persist in inhabiting this world despite the Holocaust and the wars are the personification of the best values of our civilization.                                                      Contents

   

MIDDLE EASTERN INTERVENTIONS IN AFRICA:

TEHRAN’S EXTENSIVE SOFT POWER

Hassan Dai

Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2018

Since its establishment in 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has made enormous efforts to export its revolution around the world. Iranian diplomats, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and subordinate organs have spread Shiite doctrine and engaged in direct subversion, terrorism, and organized crime such as drug smuggling.

Dai-al-Quds.jpg Iran-sponsored al-Quds Day rally in Yola, Nigeria, 2017. Iran’s Al-Mustafa International University is responsible for exporting Tehran’s revolutionary ideology. The university’s goal is to spread anti-American ideology and to “liberate Palestine” and “eradicate Israel.” Yet while Tehran’s exertions in the Middle East, Central Asia, and even Latin America have received widespread international exposure, Iranian efforts in Africa have attracted scant attention though the Islamist regime has invested substantial resources to expand its soft power and influence across the continent. So much so that it is arguable that Tehran is reshaping African Islam and the continent’s politics.

While Iran’s primary target for the export of its revolution has been the Middle East, Africa has also been seen as a strategically important region for several reasons. Nearly 45 percent of the continent’s 1.2 billion persons are Muslim, and Tehran recognizes that the lack of influence there presents a serious handicap to its quest to dominate the Islamic world. Gaining popular support within the Muslim communities could also influence the policies of African governments toward Iran. Furthermore, Africa’s Shiite communities have been a source of financial support for Tehran’s Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon. At the same time, a strong presence on the continent provides Iran with a network and routes for logistical support to radical groups in the Middle East.

To win the hearts and minds of African Muslims, the Iranian regime and its institutions organize conferences, conduct religious and political events, work with local partners, and run more than one hundred Islamic centers, schools, seminaries, and mosques in more than thirty African countries with thousands of students, clerics and missionaries. In addition, Tehran has offered financial and economic incentives to African governments and used two of its charities, the Iranian Red Crescent and the Imam Khomeini Relief Committee, to provide a wide range of free social and health services in several African countries.

The two main organizations spearheading this quest for soft power are the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization, which operates through cultural attachés at Iranian embassies, and the Al-Mustafa International University, which trains foreign clerics and missionaries around the world. These and other organizations disseminate Tehran’s fundamentalist ideology and generate grassroots support for its foreign policy, its position in the Islamic world, and its quest to dominate the Middle East. They also provide the regime with a recruiting pool for the IRGC’s Quds Force and other Iranian institutions responsible for terrorism or military activities abroad.

Indeed, over the last several years, various African governments have arrested Iranian terrorist suspects, dismantled pro-Tehran networks, and seized Iranian weapons shipments to radical groups in the Middle East. In February 2018, for instance, two Lebanese citizens were arrested in South Africa and charged with illegally buying digital components used in drones and sending them to Hezbollah…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents 

On Topic Links

Peace, Equality, Plurality – Just Not in the Middle East (Video): Jewish Press, Oct. 22, 2018

Iran Strike’s Message to Region: “Borders Don’t Matter”: Seth Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Oct. 01, 2018—On September 22, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps fired six ballistic missiles at areas in Syria “east of the Euphrates” in retaliation for an attack on them in Ahvaz.

The Next War in the Middle East: Vivian Bercovici, Commentary, Oct. 5, 2018—Everyone says they don’t want war, but the fourth armed conflict since 2006 between Hamas and Israel may be imminent.

There’s a War Going on out There: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Sept. 6, 2018—Wars are raging in various parts of the Middle East, although there is a tendency not to call the conflicts by that name because of the fear conjured up by the word.

ARAB WORLD CONTINUES TO DETERIORATE EIGHT YEARS AFTER “ARAB SPRING”

A Message to the Pope: Peace in the Middle East Cannot Be Built With Platitudes: Abraham Cooper & Yitzchok Adlerstein, JNS, July 17, 2018 — Save the date. On February 13, 2019, an Israeli-built unmanned spacecraft is expected to land on the moon…

The End of the Democratic Dream: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 13, 2018 — Most Western countries yearn for the day that democracy is established in the Arab and Islamic world.

What are the American and Israeli Challenges in the Middle East Now?: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, June 20, 2018— People who think they know what will happen in the Middle East this summer are either prophetic or simply fooling themselves.

Greece and the Eastern Mediterranean Alliance: John M. Nomikos, BESA, July 17, 2018— Concrete steps over the past three years have set the foundations of an Eastern Mediterranean Alliance (EMA) comprising Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.

On Topic Links

Israel’s Ultimate Battle: Right to Exist: Michael Oren, Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2018

A Sliver of Good News for Israel from the Trump–Putin Summit: Mosaic, July 24, 2018

Is Southern Syria Heading For ‘Lebanonization’?: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, July 12, 2018

The US in Eurasia: New Challenges: Emil Avdaliani, BESA, July 24, 2018

 

A MESSAGE TO THE POPE: PEACE IN THE

MIDDLE EAST CANNOT BE BUILT WITH PLATITUDES

Abraham Cooper & Yitzchok Adlerstein

JNS, July 17, 2018

 

Pope Francis, arguably the world’s most influential religious leader, offered platitudes in his prescription for peace in the strife-torn Middle East. The pope recently spoke to a convocation of Christian clergy from the region. Because so many calamities are playing out there simultaneously, it was not always apparent to which disaster he was referring when he declared, “Let there be an end to using the Middle East for gains that have nothing to do with the Middle East.”

Who did he mean? The Ayatollahs, Putin, Trump, Erdoğan? “You cannot speak of peace while you are secretly racing to stockpile new arms. This is a most serious responsibility weighing on the conscience of nations, especially the most powerful,” he said. Secretly stockpiling? The only Middle East country secretly stockpiling weapons is Iran. And it is unlikely that the pope wished to further inflame a regime that actively persecutes Christians and Baha’i.

Could he have been referring to Western powers? Is he suggesting unilateral disarmament of NATO or even perhaps the United States? We too pray for the fulfillment of Isaiah’s vision of beating swords into plowshares, but until the Messiah shows up, it’s unlikely that the evil-doers would follow suit. Does not the Church, to its credit, teach about the diabolical power of evil, and that until a time of universal redemption arrives, evil must be resisted and contained?

Concerning one part of the Middle East, the pope left little room for doubt: “No more occupying territories and thus tearing people apart!” He could have meant the Turkish occupation of a good chunk of Cyprus or even the Chinese occupation of Tibet. From another reference to “walls,” however, it seems that he meant the Jewish State of Israel. Could he really have said something so simplistic? Has he not noticed that the Palestinians have indeed been torn apart by the deadly power struggle between Hamas terrorists in Gaza and the kleptomaniacs of the Palestinian Authority? Does he need a refresher course in history to remind him that before anyone could spell “occupation,” Arab armies promised to eradicate Israel in a bloodbath of unseen proportions?

The worst line: “Truces maintained by walls and displays of power will not lead to peace, but only the concrete desire to listen and to engage in dialogue.” If only there were a truce. But since the return of the Jewish people to its homeland of thousands of years by acclamation of the world community in 1947, there have been no truces; indeed, Israel has not enjoyed one day of quiet without its neighbors planning her demise. More importantly, walls may be unsightly and disruptive, but they work. Vatican City is surrounded by walls. Walls keep the crowds away from the pope when he blesses them in St. Peter’s Square. After Mehmet Ali Ağca tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981, the would-be assassin spent 29 years in a prison cell. It had walls. And a locked door.

In the case of Israel, the wall that Francis detests has kept suicide bombers out of shopping malls and Christian holy places. In an imperfect world, walls are a necessity. The pope has not yet proposed an alternative.

Pundits think that the Church has lost so many adherents in the West because it is too restrictive about behavior and too demanding about belief in dogma. But many people would stay the course if they received satisfying answers to questions about meaning and purpose, and practical advice on how to live a more elevated life. Religion fails when it gets mired in scandal or offers empty slogans. “Peace in our time!” “Workers of the world, unite!” Make love, not war!” (These prove that one-liners often make matters worse.) When religious leaders offer nothing but platitudes instead of practical ideas that can work, many of the faithful tune out or just check out altogether.

What’s a pontiff to do? Stick to basics. The word “peace” in the Hebrew Bible (shalom) relates to the word shalem or “whole,” “complete.” It suggests that peace will never come to the world until people are truly fulfilled and self-actualized. That is where Francis’ own personal example could be so effective. No one will ever feel let down by learning from Francis to live more simply and humbly, and to delight in being able to help those in need. His contribution, alongside other religious leaders, should be instructing more people how to become shalem, one by one, and therefore capable of peace.

With millions of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim lives in the Middle East hanging in the balance, what’s wrong with admitting that bringing peace to that region may be above even the pope’s pay scale? Sometimes, Your Holiness, “silence is golden.” Sometimes, that response will resonate with the faithful. It is certainly a better strategy than articulating simplistic and inaccurate formulas.

 

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 THE END OF THE DEMOCRATIC DREAM

                                                         Dr. Mordechai Kedar

                                                               Arutz Sheva, July 13, 2018

 

Most Western countries yearn for the day that democracy is established in the Arab and Islamic world. Democracy means freedom to vote, a legitimate regime, human rights, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, the rule of law, equality among citizens, free press and all the other wonderful characteristics that make it fulfilling and desirable to live in the West.  To Western eyes, democracy is the only way to run an organized, sustainable and respectable state.

When the “Arab Spring” broke out towards the end of 2010, many Western observers thought they saw the buds of democracy beginning to flower at Cairo’s Tahrir Square, soon to make the Middle Eastern deserts bloom, while butterflies born during the Tunisian youth march fluttered above the cruel political systems of the region’s countries. And when the Muslim Brotherhood began to rule Egypt in the middle of 2012, democratically, of course, the democracy seers called Turkey an Islamic democracy, not at all a bad thing.

Eight years have passed since then and what has become clear is that ruling dictators were definitely deposed – either entirely or partially – in five Arab states (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria) but that what took their place can hardly be called democracy. Instead, there are a variety of dictatorships: ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Al Sisi in Egypt, terror in Libya, war in Lebanon and total destruction in Syria. Turkey, the mother of Islamic democracy, has become an Ottoman Erdogan-style Sultanate, a goal achieved, of course, by democratic means.

In the Arab world when the call to separate religion and state was sounded (in Egyptian Arab socialism, the Syrian and Iraqi Baath party), religion became a means to create even more despotism, not a way to advance democratic fairness.

While governability deteriorates in the Arab world, Iranian interference becomes more and more pervasive,  entering the Arab states by way of ever-widening holes in their shaky social structure. Iran sends its militias to these countries to set up strongholds for future use, and in every place reached by Iran, the wars become crueler and harder to bring to an end. The enormous sums of US cash money – over 100 billion dollars –  that Obama gave the Iranians funded boiling oil feeding the fires of the Middle East. Now Iran demands 300 million Euro from Germany. To what purpose?

The Arab public is not blind, nor is it deaf or stupid. It understands full well what is happening, and the ensuing despair all over the Middle East about the possibility of finding a solution to the region’s woes through nice, desirable European solutions such as democracy, is the reason for the waves of migrants to Europe.

In previous articles written over the past few years, I described the difficulty in adapting a solution that reflects European culture to the Middle East’s problems. The culture gap is simply too large and too deep. Elaph, the first and largest independent daily online newspaper in the Arab world, recently ran a survey whose results were very worrying. They bear out my claim that democracy is not applicable in this region.  The survey is brought below almost in its entirety, as published in Elaph by Khian Alajeri, with my additions in parentheses.

“When elections result in a handicapped child! The Arab majority says No, No! And does not believe in democratic fairness in our land.” Elaph asked its readers: “Do you believe democratic equitability can exist in Arab states? ” An overwhelming majority answered in the negative. This is, to all intents, in opposition to the Arab Spring which destroyed countries, exiled their residents and spawned handicapped children who do not believe in democracy.

Once the spark of new Arab revolutions was lit by the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia, and signs of an Arab Spring were seen on the horizon after a long winter of dictatorship, a large proportion of Arabs were informed about the proposed democratic changes – without the use of jaded expressions such as “the needs of the period” and the usual war-against-Israel excuse for shutting mouths and postponing democracy.

The winds, however, blew in a direction unacceptable to the Arab junior fleet which yearned for a pluralistic political society, for freedom of opinion, for enhanced social and economic development based on ending the regime’s monopolies, war economy and state of emergency that went from temporary to permanent while the volatile regimes stabilized…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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WHAT ARE THE AMERICAN AND ISRAELI

CHALLENGES IN THE MIDDLE EAST NOW?

Eric R. Mandel

Jerusalem Post, June 20, 2018

People who think they know what will happen in the Middle East this summer are either prophetic or simply fooling themselves. Western analysis has been inaccurate so many times that the forecasts seem more akin to throwing darts. From the unanticipated Iranian Revolution of 1979, to the unexpected Arab Spring, all analysts should be humbled by the past before speculating about the future. The situations this summer in Israel, Gaza, Syria, Iraq, etc. all could change at a moment’s notice.

When ISIS inevitably strikes in Europe or America this summer, America needs to resist being blinded by the horrific images of a terrorist attack and losing sight of the Pentagon’s new national defense strategy, which prioritizes “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism (as) the primary concern in US national security.” Iran’s rise in the Levant was a direct consequence of the previous strategy of prioritizing the defeat of ISIS over Iranian expansionism in Syria and Iraq.

America should be very concerned about the outcome that may emerge later this summer as a result of the recent Iraqi election, with the formation of a philo-Iranian parliament. The Iranian-controlled Hadi Al Amiri’s Fatah Alliance, which includes radical groups like Asaib Ahl al-Haq, has tentatively joined together with American nemesis Moqtad Al Sadr (Saeroon list) and his anti American platform.

Can America figure out a way this summer to encourage the Iraqi Arab Shi’ites to remain more independent from their Iranian non-Arab Persian Shi’ite co-religionists? Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the most important Iraqi Arab religious figure, has been against Iranian influence in Iraq. Can Secretary of State Mike Pompeo find any economic or other leverage to work against further Iranian encroachment? Interests create strange bedfellows in this region.

This is really an uphill task. Even the currently more pro-American Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi felt compelled to legalize incorporation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard-controlled Popular Mobilization Unit Hashd al-Shaabi militia into the Iraqi Army, in essence, a permanent Iranian military presence within Iraq.

As for Syria, America must make it clear to all parties this summer that American interests demand that its forces remain within Syria not only until ISIS is defeated, but until all Iranian, PMU and Hezbollah forces and bases have left Syria. Hopefully, Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton can convince US President Donald Trump of this necessity.

IF THERE is war this summer in Israel’s North, calling it the “Third Lebanon War” would be a misnomer. It will be a regional war involving Syria, Lebanon, Iran and possibly Turkey, Iraq, Russia and Jordan. Israel needs to continue its preparation for the new challenges it faces since the last Lebanon war of 2006, with the possibility of massive tunnels, advanced GPS-guided long-range missiles, and Hezbollah chemical weapons inherited from Syria. One of the most crucial questions for the summer, as it affects every player in the region, is who will succeed ailing Iranian religious leader Ayatollah Khomenai? Will it be Ebrahim Raisi, another hardliner who this year stood on the Israeli-Lebanese border and said, “Soon we will witness the liberation of Jerusalem”?

American interests in the Mediterranean are complicated by the combination of Israel’s new relationship with Cyprus and Greece at the expense of NATO ally Turkey over access to Israel’s Mediterranean gas fields. Add the newly upgraded Russian naval base in Syria and Hezbollah threats against Israeli gas fields, and the next war could begin at sea. This summer, proactive diplomacy should be explored to lessen the possibility of this being the catalyst for the next war. Will there be war this summer in Israel? It may not take much to set off the Northern front with Lebanon and Syria, with Hezbollah and Popular Mobilization Unit soldiers reportedly putting on Syrian regime uniforms and moving to within a few kilometers from the Israeli Golan border. Israel and America seek to avoid hostilities for as long as possible, but Iran is continually testing Israeli red lines in deconfliction zones, so miscalculations could spiral out of control.

Whether we like it or not, Russia has been made a player, with its American-sanctioned deescalation zones in Syria. Russia’s interest is stability in Syria to solidify its gains, especially its warm-weather port in Latakia. It is said that Russia is not a natural ally of Iran. Is there a way for America and Israel to leverage that natural division?…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]            Contents

   

GREECE AND THE EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN ALLIANCE

John M. Nomikos

BESA, July 17, 2018

Concrete steps over the past three years have set the foundations of an Eastern Mediterranean Alliance (EMA) comprising Israel, Greece, and Cyprus. The convergence of the three nations is the natural outcome of close democratic similarities and a joint desire for stability and progress in a region tormented by perennial Middle East strife, radical Islamism, and the morphing of Turkey into a fundamentalist Islamic autocracy.

The EMA is emerging at a time of increasing global instability. American retrenchment from traditional postwar strategic arrangements, the resurgence of Russia, a troubled EU, the illegal migration crisis, China’s rise as a global power, and much else leave little room for complacency.

Israel, Greece, and the Republic of Cyprus are the only Eastern Mediterranean actors that are firm democracies. As such, they do not only see a common interest in promoting peace, security, and environmental stability in the region, but also seek to promote strong economic bonds following the discovery of rich hydrocarbon deposits in their respective Exclusive Economic Zones.

While each of the EMA partners faces individual challenges, all three are united against the regional spoiler and strutting Islamic “superpower” of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey. The Turkish president misses no opportunity to vow that Ankara will “take what is rightfully hers” – and is just a step away from declaring the international treaties that settled Turkey’s fate after WWI null and void.

From the Greek perspective, the EMA initiative is indispensable. Greece’s sovereign debt crisis and its bankruptcy in 2010 put its relationship with the northern EU members under severe strain. At present, Athens faces the unpalatable prospect of long-term foreign fiscal “monitoring” and significant limitations placed upon its economic policies. Because present and future Greek governments must function while in the vise of EU “monitoring,” Athens seeks to promote alternative bilateral and multilateral initiatives outside the narrow Brussels-dominated space – and the EMA fits this bill perfectly.

Greece’s most pressing strategic concern is Ankara’s expressed purpose of “re-Turkifying” space once in Ottoman possession. Erdoğan’s incursion into Syria, his plans for militarily “stabilizing” northern Iraq, his expanding subversive and Islamicizing activities in the Balkans, and the daily violations by Turkey of Greek sovereign air and sea space leave little hope for a peaceful future. Greece also faces an impasse with the philo-Turkism of many of its “allies” despite waning Turkish fortunes in Europe and Ankara’s dead-in-the-water application to join the EU.

Thus, the EMA has emerged as the most strategically significant anchor of Greek security and economic progress. The discovery of hydrocarbons in Israeli and Cypriot waters has literally put the EMA on the map, stimulating strong interest in the politics, economics, and security of the region from the US and Russia as well as from countries that had been neutral towards the Eastern Mediterranean. Athens needs to tread a delicate path vis-à-vis Jerusalem and Cairo, the latter of which is gravitating towards the tripartite EMA. Both Israel and Egypt are involved in ongoing disputes in the Middle East, a factor that traditionally “pro-Arab” Greece will need to handle with political and diplomatic finesse.

In any case, recent EMA summit meetings have concluded with optimistic declarations of purpose stressing the developing geopolitical cooperation of Jerusalem, Athens, and Nicosia. Central to these positive developments is the planned construction of the EastMed pipeline, which will bypass Turkey, despite increased cost, and thus enhance security in the Eastern Mediterranean by removing Turkey’s control over the EMA centerpiece.

Erdoğan’s electoral victory on June 24, 2018 strengthened his sultanic and Islamist aspirations and gives added urgency to the promotion of the EMA strategic project. A stronger Erdoğan means a faster transition for Turkey to Islamic fundamentalism. This in turn threatens to bring radical Islam to Europe’s doorstep while exponentially increasing the danger posed by Turkey to the EMA partners. With Erdoğan confirming, with every passing day, his rejection and condemnation of Western values, his hatred for the Jewish state, and his elevation of fundamentalist Islamism as the driving force behind the neo-Ottoman Türkiye, there is little room for compromise with Turkey’s emerging Islamic republic.

In the final analysis, it is not the EMA’s purpose to resolve the issue of Turkey, which is the thorniest security problem for the Western alliance in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East. The EMA’s core mission is to promote and secure the collective interests of its partners, to encourage the primacy of international law over irredentist and aggressive policies irrespective of their source, and to create and strengthen a superstructure of economic initiatives of irrefutable strategic value to Europe and the US. In the meantime, as Federiga Bingi of Johns Hopkins put it, “Europe and NATO cannot afford to be checkmated by Erdoğan.” They should act accordingly.

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Israel’s Ultimate Battle: Right to Exist: Michael Oren, Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2018—Asked why his forces killed thousands of innocent Arab civilians, the military spokesman replied, “When you have an enemy that uses noncombatants as collateral damage, it is difficult to completely avoid any casualties.”

A Sliver of Good News for Israel from the Trump–Putin Summit: Mosaic, July 24, 2018—A week before the U.S.–Russia meeting in Helsinki, Benjamin Netanyahu traveled to Moscow to meet with Vladimir Putin in an attempt to secure some guarantees for Israel in southern Syria, and later reported the terms they had settled upon to Donald Trump.

Is Southern Syria Heading For ‘Lebanonization’?: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, July 12, 2018—The raid on the T4 base at Tiyas in southern Syria this week was, according to global media reports, the third such action by Israeli air power against this facility in the course of 2018.

The US in Eurasia: New Challenges: Emil Avdaliani, BESA, July 24, 2018—From WWII through the breakup of the Soviet Union, the US shared world dominance with its major competitor in Moscow. Despite the numerous local conflicts that took place during those 40 or so years, the two powers’ relatively equal strength gave the world geopolitical stability.

 

ISRAELI-SUNNI COOPERATION FUELED BY IRAN’S GROWING REGIONAL INFLUENCE

Israel’s Search for Peace May Pass Through the Gulf: Rick Ekstein, Globe and Mail, Apr. 17, 2018— Twenty-five years ago, when I started doing business in the Persian Gulf, no one could have reasonably imagined the warming of relations now unfolding between Israel and a number of key regional players.

The Secret to Successful Arab Modernization is to Stop Hating Israel: Lee Smith, Tablet, Apr. 4, 2018 — In the middle of Mohammed bin Salman’s two-week trip across America seeking investment and advice…

The Middle East’s Nuclear Technology Clock Is Ticking: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Mar. 20, 2018— Concerns about a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race are being fueled by uncertainty over the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement…

The Dangers of Failing Middle East States: Kobi Michael and Yoel Guzansky, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2018 — In an address to a prominent British think tank, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently argued that before establishing a Palestinian state…

On Topic Links

Business Ties to Arab World Skyrocketing, Says Venture Capitalist Margalit: Max Schindler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 22, 2018

The Future of Israel Looks Good: Efraim Inbar, JISS, Apr. 18, 2018

An Emerging Arab-Israeli Thaw: James S. Robbins, National Interest, Apr. 3, 2018

Russia’s Aim in Mid East: Bloody the Nose of Uncle Sam (Podcast): Elliot Friedland, Clarion Project, Apr. 11, 2018

 

ISRAEL’S SEARCH FOR PEACE MAY PASS THROUGH THE GULF

Rick Ekstein

Globe and Mail, Apr. 17, 2018

Twenty-five years ago, when I started doing business in the Persian Gulf, no one could have reasonably imagined the warming of relations now unfolding between Israel and a number of key regional players. The signs of progress may not make headlines, which are generally reserved for the worst news from the region, but they are important and clearly present, if you know where to look.

To cite just one example, analysts took notice of Air India’s historic announcement that it will operate a direct route between Tel Aviv and Delhi over Saudi airspace – an act that was previously denied by the Gulf state. Across the region, leaders once hostile to Israel are increasingly viewing Israelis as valuable trade, technology, and security partners.

It’s widely observed that these unlikely friendships are rooted in mutual concern toward Iran’s growing influence in the region, seen in the Shia theocracy’s massive expenditure of forces and funds in terror groups across the Middle East. Today, Iran’s aggressive agenda spans much of the map. The regime is bankrolling Hezbollah missiles in Lebanon and Hamas missiles in Gaza. It is arming a brutal insurgency in Yemen. It is building a permanent military presence in Syria, armed with advanced weaponry. This is to say nothing of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, which generate as much – if not more – fear in Riyadh and the Gulf as it does in Tel Aviv.

While the context may be one of regional anxiety, the resulting Israeli-Sunni co-operation offers optimism for those who seek an accord between Israel and its neighbours. It may yet foreshadow a comprehensive peace that Israelis have always sought – with mixed success – for their children.

Polling data over the years consistently shows most Israelis support significant concessions for the sake of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Since the state’s establishment – 70 years ago this spring – Israeli leaders have been willing to share the land with their Arab neighbours in two states for two peoples, as envisioned by the UN’s 1947 partition plan.

Since the Oslo Accords, Israelis have offered multiple far-reaching peace proposals, made major concessions, relinquished extensive tracts of land and withdrawn forces in an effort to enable progress towards peace. Tragically, the Palestinian leadership is wracked with dysfunction. Palestinians are currently split between a Gaza-based “government” under Hamas that rejects Israel’s very right to exist and a West Bank Palestinian Authority that has lost the confidence of its people and has boycotted negotiations for years.

I use the term “mixed success” because the failure of Palestinian leaders has not prevented exceptional progress with neighbouring Sunni states. The peace treaties Israel signed with both Egypt (1979) and Jordan (1994) prove that peace and co-operation are possible. These agreements survived the devastating effects of the Arab Spring, which engulfed the Middle East in chaos. They have also enabled Israelis to share their tremendous knowledge, technology, and resources (now including natural gas) with their neighbours – especially Jordan.

Indeed, a region wracked by socioeconomic, environmental, and security challenges needs more co-operation with innovators in Israel, the so-called “startup nation.” This sentiment is reflected in my personal experience. Many of the friends I made across the Arab world have always held Israel in great esteem and had no problems working with me, a Jewish businessman from Toronto and a strong supporter of Israel.

The Gulf states seem to be quietly recognizing that those who refuse to let go of bitter historic grievances are, tragically, captive to the past. Many Sunni government and business leaders understand that those who fantasize that Israel will disappear – the likes of Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas – are as self-deluded as they are self-defeating. To the contrary, Israelis recognize that their future is inseparable from the future of the region, which is one reason why Israel is committed to the security, prosperity and progress of its neighbours.

Nothing is a given in the Middle East. As Israeli leaders – including current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – have repeatedly shown, historic rivals can mend old wounds and build a better future for the next generation. In the face of shared threats, there is a historic opportunity for Sunni leaders to forge a new relationship with Israelis. To build upon current momentum, regional players should urge the Palestinian leadership to end its boycott of negotiations with Israelis and seek a peace accord based on two states for two peoples.

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THE SECRET TO SUCCESSFUL ARAB

MODERNIZATION IS TO STOP HATING ISRAEL

Lee Smith

Tablet, Apr. 4, 2018

In the middle of Mohammed bin Salman’s two-week trip across America seeking investment and advice, from tech innovators in Palo Alto to New York rabbis, for his blueprint for his country’s future, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia made news—maybe history. In an interview with the Atlantic Magazine’s Jeffrey Goldberg published Monday, the man known as MBS said that he personally recognized the legitimacy of Zionism. “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” said the Saudi royal. “I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.”

In 1919, Emir Faisal, ruler of the Kingdom of Hejaz, signed a famous agreement with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann recognizing a Jewish State in a future Arab sphere of influence that would be free of Ottoman and Western colonial rule. Yet ever since MBS’s grandfather Ibn Saud founded the modern Saudi kingdom in 1932, Riyadh has opposed a Jewish state in the Middle East. Some of MBS’s predecessors were more active than others in their opposition. In the early 2000s, for instance, Riyadh covered much of Hamas’ budget and supported other extremist groups committed to the destruction of Israel.

There have also been peace overtures, like the initiative that MBS’s uncle Abdullah, then Crown Prince himself and later King, made public in a February, 17, 2002 Thomas Friedman column. Abdullah’s proposal offered Israel “full normalization of relations” in exchange for withdrawal from “all the occupied lands.” But MBS’s statement leapfrogs Abdullah’s initiative. He has validated the central tenet of Zionism—the Jews have a right to their own land. In the Middle East.

Now when he gets back to Riyadh, the Crown Prince should move for open and normal relations—not because of Israel or the Palestinians or Muslims more generally, or for the sake of world peace, but for his own people. Perhaps it’s because the 32-year-old Arab leader has already broken so many taboos that reports of this history-making statement have been muted. It’s certainly gotten less attention than when MBS detained some 200 officials for several months starting in November. Among those held at the Ritz in a huge corruption purge were several princes, including Waleed bin Talal, one of the world’s wealthiest men. That is, MBS was calling his own family, the royal family, to account.

While many commentators argued the corruption purge was simply cover for a power grab, MBS is already the power behind the throne he is destined to inherit from his father, the 82-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The real point was that in jailing his own blood, MBS showed that no one is above the law. The royal family, the custodians of Islam’s two holy shrines in Mecca and Medina, is not itself sacred. Rather, it’s an imperfect institution that should be held accountable, like everyone else.

Thus MBS established the precedent by which he too will be judged by those he leads—men as well as women, whom he seeks to make a full part of this conservative country’s society and economy. According to sources in the region, MBS has further pushed against tradition, though much less publicly, in urging religious officials to reform certain Islamic texts that preach violence and hostility to non-Muslims. He told Thomas Friedman in November that the kingdom is not “reinterpreting” Islam but “restoring” it to its origins. On MBS’s reading, it all started to go wrong in 1979, when armed extremists took over the grand mosque in Mecca, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and the Islamic Revolution took root in Iran.

If Middle East and Islam experts tend to roll their eyes with talk of a pre-1979 Saudi Arabia that sounds a little like Sweden, the reality is that he’s written a new foundation story for the vast majority of a population born after 1979. Another thing Saudi youth don’t remember is the last full-on Arab Israeli war in 1973, or the economic embargo MBS’s uncles imposed on the US for supporting Israel. His grand reform project, known as Vision 2030, is a clear warning to his countrymen that Saudi Arabia can no longer exist on oil receipts alone. Nor, as his statement on Israel shows, can Riyadh allow its foreign policy to be held hostage by other regional actors

The Saudis have been embroiled in a regional squabble with their Gulf Cooperation Council neighbor Qatar for close to a year now. Riyadh has imposed an embargo on Doha until it stops promoting and funding extremists, interfering with Saudi’s internal politics, and flirting with Iran. The Saudi effort is ham-fisted, but MBS wants his neighbors in line to counter the Iranian threat. The Palestinians represent a more dangerous breach than Qatar.

The Hamas-fueled protests—attacks —on the Gaza border are partly intended to deflect attention as the Trump administration prepares for the possibility of withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in mid-May. Iran’s strategy is to sow divisions in the US alliance system by highlighting Saudi Arabia’s budding, albeit quiet, relationship with the Palestinians’ adversary, Israel. If in sending children to the border Hamas is trying to force the Saudis to choose between the Palestinians and Israel, MBS deflected the issue Monday, explaining that both have rights…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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   THE MIDDLE EAST’S NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY CLOCK IS TICKING     

Dr. James M. Dorsey

                BESA, Mar. 20, 2018

Concerns about a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race are being fueled by uncertainty over the future of Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement, a seeming US willingness to weaken its strict export safeguards in pursuit of economic advantage, and a willingness by suppliers such as Russia and China to ignore risks involved in weaker controls.

The Trump administration was mulling a loosening of controls to facilitate a possible deal with Saudi Arabia as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged President Trump, in a recent address to a powerful Israeli lobby group in Washington, to scrap the Iranian nuclear deal unless the Islamic Republic agrees to further military restrictions and makes additional political concessions. Israel has an undeclared nuclear arsenal of its own and fears that the technological clock is working against its long-standing military advantage.

The US has signaled that it may be willing to accede to Saudi demands in a bid to ensure that US companies, with Westinghouse in the lead, have a stake in the kingdom’s plan to build 16 reactors by 2032 that would have 17.6 gigawatts (GW) of nuclear capacity. In putting forward demands for parity with Iran by getting the right to controlled enrichment of uranium and the reprocessing of spent fuel into plutonium, potential building blocks for nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia is backing away from a 2009 memorandum of understanding with the US in which it pledged to acquire nuclear fuel from international markets.

“The trouble with flexibility regarding these critical technologies is that it leaves the door open to production of nuclear explosives,” warned nuclear experts Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski in an article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. While Israeli opinion is divided on how the US should respond to Saudi demands, Trump’s and Netanyahu’s opposition to the Iranian nuclear accord has already produced results that would serve Saudi interests.

European signatories to the agreement are pressuring Iran to engage in negotiations to limit its ballistic missile program and drop its support for groups like Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels in Iran. Iran has rejected any renegotiation but has kept the door open to discussions about a supplementary agreement. Saudi Arabia has suggested it may accept tight US controls if Iran agrees to a toughening of its agreement with the international community.

The Trump administration recently allowed high-tech US exports to Iran that could boost international oversight of the nuclear deal. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan signed a waiver that allows a Maryland-based company to export broadband networks, satellite dishes, and wireless equipment to Iran for stations that monitor nuclear explosions in real time.

Iranian resistance to a renegotiation is enhanced by the fact that Europe and even the Trump administration admit that Hezbollah, despite having been designated a terrorist organization by the US, is an undeniable political force in Lebanon. “We…have to recognize the reality that (Hezbollah) are also part of the political process in Lebanon,” former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on the eve of a visit to Beirut. A US willingness to go easy on demands that Saudi Arabia adhere to tough safeguards enshrined in US export control laws, widely viewed as the gold standard, would open a Pandora’s Box.

The United Arab Emirates, the Arab nation closest to inaugurating its first nuclear reactor, has already said it would no longer be bound by the safeguards it agreed to a decade ago if others in the region are granted a more liberal regime. So would countries, like Egypt and Jordan, that are negotiating contracts with non-US companies for the construction of nuclear reactors. A US retreat from safeguards in the case of Saudi Arabia could add a nuclear dimension to the already full-fledged arms race in the Middle East.

The Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) cautioned last year in a report that the Iranian nuclear agreement had “not eliminated the kingdom’s desire for nuclear weapons capabilities and even nuclear weapons… There is little reason to doubt that Saudi Arabia will more actively seek nuclear weapons capabilities, motivated by its concerns about the ending of the (Iranian agreement’s) major nuclear limitations starting after year 10 of the deal or sooner if the deal fails.”

Rather than embarking on a covert program, the report predicted that Saudi Arabia would, for now, focus on building up its civilian nuclear infrastructure as well as a robust nuclear engineering and scientific workforce. This would allow the kingdom to take command of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle at some point in the future. Saudi Arabia has in recent years significantly expanded graduate programs at its five nuclear research centers…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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THE DANGERS OF FAILING MIDDLE EAST STATES

Kobi Michael and Yoel Guzansky

Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2018

In an address to a prominent British think tank, Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently argued that before establishing a Palestinian state, it would be necessary to internalize what had happened in the broader Middle East during the past few years—a reference to the collapsing regional order and the attendant proliferation of failed states. “It’s time,” he said, “we reassessed whether the modern model we have of sovereignty, and unfettered sovereignty, is applicable everywhere in the world.”

Netanyahu expressed a wider and deepening concern over the long-term consequences of the on-going Arab upheavals, euphorically misdiagnosed at their onset as the “Arab Spring.” These upheavals have toppled a number of established regimes and destabilized several states at a horrific human and material cost. But they also have called into question the century-long Arab system based on territorial nation-states by accelerating processes and undercurrents that have long been in operation, turning many of these entities into failed states. By most accepted measures, the Palestinian Authority is also a failed entity. Would a Palestinian state fare any better?

According to the U.N.’s definition, “failed states” are political entities that demonstrate little or no ability to provide their citizens with basic security. Such states suffer from at least three key failings: a weak government that lacks legitimacy and does not enjoy a monopoly on the means of violence; extreme political and societal fragmentation; and severe economic weakness. To these can be added the lack of correlation between nation and state, especially when various national or ethnic groups aspire to independence or view themselves as belonging to a neighboring state. This phenomenon is particularly salient in the contemporary Middle East where the post-World War I agreements partitioned the defunct Ottoman Empire into artificial states that grouped together diverse ethnic groups, rival religions, and, in some cases, speakers of different languages.

American political scientist William Zartman argues that, in most cases, the process of state failure is gradual and prolonged, rather than sudden, as in a coup d’état or revolt. He notes that states that suffer from internal disintegration (primarily because of identity politics—religious, ethnic, etc.) and simultaneously are characterized by weak or non-functioning institutions are liable to become failed states. In such states, failure intensifies in a kind of vicious circle. The weakness of the state’s institutions reinforces the fragmentation, which in turn further weakens the institutions and their legitimacy.

The last two decades show that most of today’s active conflicts, including international terrorism, emanate from failed states, which either cannot control the spillover of domestic turmoil beyond their borders or deliberately seek to export it in an attempt to reduce the threat at home. In other words, crises that develop in failed states also harm their surroundings: They are the biggest generators of humanitarian crises, displaced people, and refugees; they endanger regime stability in neighboring states; they enable access to sophisticated weapons stolen from collapsing military facilities, and they constitute fertile soil for the advent of extremist and terror groups. In the context of the Middle East, they encourage subversive activities among Muslim com-munities in Western countries in a way that might destabilize those countries’ social order…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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On Topic Links

Business Ties to Arab World Skyrocketing, Says Venture Capitalist Margalit: Max Schindler, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 22, 2018—As Israel marked Independence Day, the country was benefiting from ever-growing business ties with the Arab world, according to one Israeli executive who has helped paved the way for the budding rapprochement.

The Future of Israel Looks Good: Efraim Inbar, JISS, Apr. 18, 2018—At 70, Israel stands strong, yet debates about its health persist. The radical Israeli Left seems most concerned about the country’s future, arguing that there is great urgency in solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; otherwise, Israel is doomed. The Left contends that Israel’s democratic character, its international legitimacy, and its ability to withstand protracted conflict all are threatened by the ongoing stalemate.

An Emerging Arab-Israeli Thaw: James S. Robbins, National Interest, Apr. 3, 2018—A tectonic shift is taking place in Middle East politics. We may be on the verge of seeing a historic normalization of relations between Israel and several major Arab states. And it is all thanks to Iran.

Russia’s Aim in Mid East: Bloody the Nose of Uncle Sam (Podcast): Elliot Friedland, Clarion Project, Apr. 11, 2018—To the detriment of the U.S., Russia seems to be dominating much of what is going on in the Middle East right now – especially on the Syrian front. Why? And how does it affect America? Listen to the following podcast in which Clarion Project’s Elliot Friedland presents four answers.

AS ARTIFICIAL BORDERS ARE CHALLENGED, REGIONAL DISORDER SPREADS, AND IMPLICATIONS FOR ISRAEL ARE NEGATIVE

  We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

Chaos in Middle East could last for ‘at least a decade,’ expert tells ‘Post’: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, April 22, 2015 — Saudi rhetoric about Yemen ‘fits logic of sectarian hatred,’ says another • Clerics in kingdom are inciting against Houthis, calling them ‘rats.’

Would New Borders Mean Less Conflict in the Middle East?: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 10, 2015— The region is living with the combustible legacy of states artificially carved from the remains of the Ottoman Empire.

The Middle East Turmoil and Israel's Security: Efraim Inbar, Middle East Forum, April 13, 2015— The Middle East is in great turmoil. The statist order that underpinned the region for a century has collapsed.

Toward a Regional Escalation?: Yoni Ben Menachem, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, May 4, 2015 — On April 28 the Syrian defense minister, General Fahad Jassim al-Freij, made a surprise visit to Tehran where, with the backdrop of the escalating battles in Syria and the weakening of Bashar Assad’s regime, he met with his Iranian counterpart.

 

On Topic Links

 

Yemen could come to regret a messy divorce: Faisal Al Yafai, The National, May 4, 2015

Why Islam Needs a Reformation: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wall Street Journal,  March 20, 2015

The Libyan Quagmire: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, March 25, 2015

         

CHAOS IN MIDDLE EAST COULD LAST FOR 'AT LEAST A DECADE,'

EXPERT TELLS 'POST'

Ariel Ben Solomon

                                                            Jerusalem Post, April 22, 2015

 

The breakdown of states throughout the Middle East since the outbreak of the Arab Spring has led the people in the region to fall back on primordial attachments, enhancing the power of sectarianism, tribalism, and Islamism, experts told The Jerusalem Post.

 

Various forces are seeking to fill the vacuum amidst the chaos, including a rising Shi’ite Iran and its allies, Sunni jihadist groups and Arab states.

 

The Iranian-Shi’ite battle being played out in the region has often been characterized by each side accusing the other of extremism or terrorism, but much of the underlying feud appears to be sectarian.

 

Shmuel Bar, a senior research fellow at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Research at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, said we are witnessing the failure of the nation-state in the Middle East, and people are reverting back to families and tribes.

 

Asked if the Sunni-Shi’ite reference is the best way to describe what is occurring in the region, Bar responded that it is part of it, but it is also linked to two other frames of reference: the “retribalization” of the Middle East and the conflict between Iran and the Arabs.

 

“The former is expressed in the breakdown of the nation-state and the reversion of communities to a primordial frame of reference – the tribe and the sectarian community – to provide the security that the state can no longer provide.”

 

“The latter is a deeply rooted conflict in the region that was subdued as long as Iran – and its Arab Shi’ite proxies – did not seem to be predominant and victorious,” he said.

 

Bar added that the success of Iran in spreading its hegemony throughout the Arab world through Shi’ite proxies – Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon – is viewed by the Sunni Arabs as an existential threat to Sunni predominance.

 

“As long as the Shi’ites were a docile, quiet minority and accepted their status, they could be tolerated,” he said, “But once they are seen as tools in the hands of Iranian hegemony, the anti-Shi’ite ideology of the Wahhabi movement morphs into the even more extremist phenomenon of Islamic State.”

 

The fact that the United States is now seen as having “flipped” from support of the Sunni countries to support of Iranian hegemony exacerbates the sense of existential danger, said Bar, noting that the US toppled Saddam Hussein, a Sunni, and brought a pro-Iranian Shi’ite regime to power.

 

The US could have also worked to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad, but it decided to reconcile with his continuing massacre of Sunni Syrians, he said, and is sending a message of willingness to change its position on Hezbollah. These are all seen as signs of that “flip,” continued Bar.

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]               

 

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WOULD NEW BORDERS MEAN LESS CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST?

Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 10, 2015

 

Shortly after the end of World War I, the French and British prime ministers took a break from the hard business of redrawing the map of Europe to discuss the easier matter of where frontiers would run in the newly conquered Middle East.

 

Two years earlier, in 1916, the two allies had agreed on their respective zones of influence in a secret pact—known as the Sykes-Picot agreement—for divvying up the region. But now the Ottoman Empire lay defeated, and the United Kingdom, having done most of the fighting against the Turks, felt that it had earned a juicier reward.

 

“Tell me what you want,” France’s Georges Clemenceau said to Britain’s David Lloyd George as they strolled in the French embassy in London.

 

“I want Mosul,” the British prime minister replied.

 

“You shall have it. Anything else?” Clemenceau asked.

 

In a few seconds, it was done. The huge Ottoman imperial province of Mosul, home to Sunni Arabs and Kurds and to plentiful oil, ended up as part of the newly created country of Iraq, not the newly created country of Syria.

 

The Ottomans ran a multilingual, multireligious empire, ruled by a sultan who also bore the title of caliph—commander of all the world’s Muslims. Having joined the losing side in the Great War, however, the Ottomans saw their empire summarily dismantled by European statesmen who knew little about the region’s people, geography and customs.

 

The resulting Middle Eastern states were often artificial creations, sometimes with implausibly straight lines for borders. They have kept going since then, by and large, remaining within their colonial-era frontiers despite repeated attempts at pan-Arab unification.

 

The built-in imbalances in some of these newly carved-out states—particularly Syria and Iraq—spawned brutal dictatorships that succeeded for decades in suppressing restive majorities and perpetuating the rule of minority groups.

 

But now it may all be coming to an end. Syria and Iraq have effectively ceased to function as states. Large parts of both countries lie beyond central government control, and the very meaning of Syrian and Iraqi nationhood has been hollowed out by the dominance of sectarian and ethnic identities.

 

The rise of Islamic State is the direct result of this meltdown. The Sunni extremist group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has proclaimed himself the new caliph and vowed to erase the shame of the “Sykes-Picot conspiracy.” After his men surged from their stronghold in Syria last summer and captured Mosul, now one of Iraq’s largest cities, he promised to destroy the old borders. In that offensive, one of the first actions taken by ISIS (as his group is also known) was to blow up the customs checkpoints between Syria and Iraq.

 

“What we are witnessing is the demise of the post-Ottoman order, the demise of the legitimate states,” says Francis Ricciardone, a former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and Egypt who is now at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. “ISIS is a piece of that, and it is filling in a vacuum of the collapse of that order.”

 

In the mayhem now engulfing the Middle East, it is mostly the countries created a century ago by European colonialists that are coming apart. In the region’s more “natural” nations, a much stronger sense of shared history and tradition has, so far, prevented a similar implosion.

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]   

 

Contents

THE MIDDLE EAST TURMOIL AND ISRAEL'S SECURITY

Efraim Inbar

Middle East Forum, April 13, 2015

 

The Middle East is in great turmoil. The statist order that underpinned the region for a century has collapsed. Several states have lost their monopoly over the use of force and are no longer able to provide law and order. This is especially true of Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, and Syria. Even Egypt, the only historic Arab state, has had difficulties effectively enforcing its sovereignty over its territory.

 

Many of the militias challenging these state entities have a radical Islamist ideology, reflecting the rise in appeal of political Islam in the Arab world. In contrast to the leaders of these states, who are inefficient and corrupt, the Islamists actually deliver services to the people and have a reputation for being brutal but honest. However, the likes of Al Qaida in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or the so called Islamic State (IS) are hardly the proper agents for modernizing their environments and their popularity dooms the Arab world to continuous ignorance and poverty.

 

For this and other reasons, Israel will need to remain vigilant in the years ahead.

 

The decline of the Arab world has been paralleled by the rise of non-Arab Muslim powers – Turkey and Iran. Both countries fare better on development indices and display nowadays an ambitious foreign policy fueled by imperial and Islamist impulses. Under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his 'zero problems' approach to foreign policy, Turkey has gradually distanced itself from the West. In 2003, for example, Ankara rejected the United States' request to open a "northern front" against Iraqi forces. More recently, Turkey has opposed sanctions levied by the United Nations and the West against Russia and Iran.

 

For its part, Iran has successfully advanced its nuclear program despite the displeasure of the international community. Comparatively, recent developments in the Middle East and beyond have also allowed Tehran to establish a 'Shiite Crescent' stretching from Tehran to the eastern Mediterranean. This has provided Iran with countless opportunities to project power into the Middle East and Balkans, much to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia and others. Indeed, the successes of Iranian Shiite proxies in Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sanaa underscore the Tehran quest for hegemony in the Middle East.

 

By contrast, US influence around the Middle East appears to be in decline, primarily as a result of the Obama administration's foreign policy outlook. Correcting Washington's overextension in the Islamic world is indeed necessary, but insensitivity to the concerns of its allies such as Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia is destructive to the regional balance of power.

 

In this respect, Washington's efforts to strike a deal with Iran that basically legitimizes its nuclear breakout status and awards Tehran the role of the regional policeman will be viewed by Cairo, Riyadh and Jerusalem as a colossal strategic mistake. The inevitable result will be further nuclear proliferation as none of these countries are likely to want to stay behind in uranium enrichment capabilities. Moreover, the regional instability could lead to more bloodshed. Relying on a radical and revisionist regime in Tehran to provide stability is the height of strategic folly.

 

The implications of the Middle East's ongoing turmoil for Israel's security are mixed. Like Iran and Turkey, a democratic and politically stable Israel is also a rising non-Arab power and a player in the regional balance of power. The power differential between Israel's national might and its neighbors has further increased, given that it has managed to prosper economically and develop a high-tech powerful military.

 

In addition, the strong armies of Iraq and Syria have disappeared, decreasing the chances for a large-scale conventional encounter with Israel. Moreover, the pro-Western Sunni states such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia see Israel as an ally against a rising Iran, as well as against radical Islamist movements. This also comes at a time when the United States is viewed in many quarters as a less dependable ally.

 

By contrast, low intensity challenges might intensify. The domestic problems plaguing weakened Arab states make them increasingly susceptible to radical Islam and more prone to terrorist violence. As their leaders lose their grip over state territory and borders become more porous, armed groups and terrorists gain greater freedom of action. Moreover, as weakened states lose control over their security apparatus, national arsenals of conventional (and non-conventional) arms become increasingly vulnerable, which may result in the emergence of increasingly well-armed, politically dissatisfied groups that seek to harm Israel. For example, following the fall of Gaddafi, Libyan SA-7 anti-air missiles and anti-tank RPGs have reached Hamas in Gaza. The IS even fights with American weapons captured from the Iraqi army.

 

Similarly, in the event of the Assad regime collapsing, Syria's advanced arsenal of conventional weapons could easily end up in the hands of Hizballah or other radical elements. This, in turn, raises the prospect of an emboldened Hizballah and Hamas – both of whom are Iranian proxies located along Israel's borders – renewing their campaigns of violence. In recent years, the fallout from the Arab Spring has helped to detract attention away from the Palestinian issue. In addition, the Palestinian Authority's (PA) ability to harm Israel in order to reignite international interest is also very limited. As a result, a weak PA has come under increasing pressure from the popular Hamas. A Palestinian strategic miscalculation, leading to the eruption of another round of violence, is a possibility that Israel cannot ignore. Nevertheless, so far Israel has been successful in containing the threats from sub-state groups and in limiting their potential damage.

           

The emergence of an uncertain and unstable strategic environment is conducive to strategic surprises. Israeli intelligence is challenged by a plethora of new actors and leaders whose modus operandi is far from clear. Israel has a large and sophisticated intelligence apparatus. Yet it is not immune to surprises. Therefore, it would be wise to prepare for worst-case scenarios, rather than succumb to rosy assessments.

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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TOWARD A REGIONAL ESCALATION?

Yoni Ben Menachem

Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, May 4, 2015

 

On April 28 the Syrian defense minister, General Fahad Jassim al-Freij, made a surprise visit to Tehran where, with the backdrop of the escalating battles in Syria and the weakening of Bashar Assad’s regime, he met with his Iranian counterpart.

 

In a joint press conference in Tehran, the two emphasized that “Syria and Iran, and the resistance axis, will not allow the enemies to achieve their goals in the region, and Iran supports Syria unstintingly in its strategic relations with it.”

 

Iran is very concerned about the situation in Syria. The military assistance it gives the Assad regime for its war against the rebels has turned out to be insufficient. Nor has Hizbullah’s role in fighting alongside the Syrian army stopped the rebels’ progress toward Damascus and the city of Latakia on the northern Syrian coast.

 

The rebels have formed a coalition of several organizations, including the Islamic State under the name Jish Fatah, which has scored successes on the battlefield. They have conquered the Idlib province and effectively cut off the capital, Damascus, from the city of Aleppo. They have also taken control of the town of Jisr al–Shughur on the Idlib-Latakia route, and on April 20, 2014 fierce battles were waged in the Latakia area, which is considered one of the strongholds of the Alawite regime.

 

And in the southern Daraa region, rebels managed to seize the Nasib border crossing, which has served as a free trade area between Jordan and Syria.

 

If the rebels’ advance toward Damascus from the east and north continues, Iran will not be able to stand aside; it will have to intervene even more significantly in the battles. It is in this context that one should see the Syrian defense minister’s visit to Tehran. Iran is determined to do all it can to save Bashar Assad’s regime.

 

According to various sources, Qatar has been able to persuade the new Saudi king, Salman bin Abdulaziz, to halt his alliance with Egypt and the United Arab Emirates against the Muslim Brotherhood and, instead, forge a new triangle with Turkey and Qatar that will strongly support the Islamist rebels’ coalition against the Assad regime.

 

In Yemen, despite Saudi Arabia’s announcement on April 21, 2015 that it was stopping the aerial bombing, the battles continue.

 

Iran has no intention of giving in, and the Houthi rebels exploited the halt in the bombing to try and make military gains. Over the weekend there were also clashes along Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia.

 

Saudi Arabia announced that the Houthi rebels had attacked across the Yemeni border and that the Saudi army had killed dozens of their fighters.

 

The tension with Iran exists in both the naval and aerial domains.

 

After Saudi Arabia announced it was stopping the aerial bombings in Yemen, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif declared a new Iranian naval strategy called the “broader Persian Gulf strategy.”

 

On May 1, the official Iranian news agency IRNA, citing Iranian naval commander General Habib Allah Siyari, reported the Iranian navy plans to dispatch its fleet’s ships on July 11 to the area of the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait.

 

 “Much of the conflict in the Middle East is the result of insecurity of contrived states,” says Husain Haqqani, an author and a former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. “Contrived states need state ideologies to make up for lack of history and often flex muscles against their own people or against neighbors to consolidate their identity.”

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

Contents

                                                                                     

 

On Topic

 

Yemen could come to regret a messy divorce: Faisal Al Yafai, The National, May 4, 2015 – In the south of Yemen today, every outsider is a northerner. The red star on a blue border, part of the old South Yemen flag, can be seen everywhere.

Why Islam Needs a Reformation: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wall Street Journal,  March 20, 2015 – “Islam’s borders are bloody,” wrote the late political scientist Samuel Huntington in 1996, “and so are its innards.” Nearly 20 years later, Huntington looks more right than ever before.

The Libyan Quagmire: Col. (ret.) Dr. Jacques Neriah, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, March 25, 2015 – Arab civil wars seem to follow a pre-designed pattern. Once the conflict in a particular Arab country bursts open, the country splits into two areas (sometimes more), with separate capitals and separate ethnicities.

‘ARAB FALL’ : AS CHAOS ENGULFS LIBYA, EGYPT & UAE SEND AIRSTRIKES; MEANWHILE, TUNISIAN JIHADIS FLOCK TO IRAQ & SYRIA

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 

 

Contents:

 

Meanwhile, in Libya …: Olivier Guitta, National Post, Sept. 4, 2014— While much of the world’s focus currently is on ISIS’ reign of Islamist terror in the Iraqi territory it has conquered, another fire is burning 3,000 km away, in Libya.

The UAE and Egypt’s New Frontier in Libya: Ellen Laipson, National Interest, Sept. 3, 2014

Tunisia Fears Attacks by Citizens Flocking to Jihad: Carlotta Gall, New York Times, Aug. 5, 2014  — The jihadi video out of Syria shows a line of prisoners bound and kneeling in a courtyard surrounded by dozens of civilians and armed men in a noisy hubbub.

The Mistaken Tragedy of the Arabs: Hussain Abdul-Hussain, Now, July 15, 2014  — “A thousand years ago, the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo took turns to race ahead of the Western world,” wrote The Economist in an article that went viral in Arab circles.

 

On Topic Links

 

Islamist Militants Party in Pool at US Embassy Compound in Libya: Chris Perez, New York Post, Aug. 31, 2014

U.S. Can’t Retreat and Still Call the Shots: Max Boot, Commentary, Aug. 26, 2014

The UAE and Egypt’s New Frontier in Libya: Ellen Laipson, National Interest, Sept. 3, 2014

What Now for Israel?: Elliott Abrams, Mosaic, Sept. 2014

Surviving in an Even Worse Neighborhood: Israel and Growing Mideast Chaos: Louis René Beres, Jerusalem Post, July 7, 2014

 

MEANWHILE, IN LIBYA …                                               

Olivier Guitta                                                                               

National Post, Sept. 4, 2014

 

While much of the world’s focus currently is on ISIS’ reign of Islamist terror in the Iraqi territory it has conquered, another fire is burning 3,000 km away, in Libya. Having intervened in 2011 to depose Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, NATO powers now have a responsibility to provide what next-door Niger’s authorities have termed “after-sales service.” Libya is set to become a source of terrorism for all of Africa and beyond. And recent events in Libya continue to tilt the balance in the jihadists’ favour: Tripoli’s airport, for instance, now is mostly in the hands of Islamists. Two air raids against Tripoli in August are believed to have been the work of a joint UAE-Egypt operation. That Arab nations have become involved in this way is not surprising: Egypt’s leadership, in particular, repeatedly has warned about the Islamist threat in Northern Africa.

 

Algeria, another concerned Libyan neighbour, is believed to have its own operations underway on Libyan soil — involving as many as 5,000 soldiers tasked with rooting out jihadis. Morocco and Tunisia also are on a high state of alert. This is the result of an alleged CIA warning to the effect that jihadis are planning to use planes missing in Libya to fly into buildings or strategic sites in these countries in a local repeat of the September 11 attacks (whose anniversary is next week). These planes could be used against tall buildings such as the Twin Centre, paired 28-storey skyscrapers in Casablanca that eerily mirror New York’s Twin Towers in miniature. Almost all of this generally has been ignored by the Western media, which has been focused primarily on events in Ukraine, Iraq, Israel, Gaza and Syria.

 

The most impressive counter-terrorism deployment has taken place in Morocco, where tens of thousands of soldiers reportedly have been mobilized around the country to tackle this specific threat. Anti-aircraft batteries in Casablanca, Marrakesh, Tangiers and other strategic locations have been deployed to shoot down any incoming plane controlled by terrorists. (Algeria has deployed the same type of batteries along its borders with Libya and Tunisia.) One needs only be reminded of the deadly 2013 terrorist attack led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar against Algeria’s Tigantourine gas facility to understand the scale of Algeria’s concern. As the Egypt-UAE air strikes indicate, the region’s more stable governments are not going to sit by idly while dark clouds gather.

 

The larger question is how Libya — seen just three years ago as a model for light-footprint Western military intervention — could become one of the world’s most dangerous places. The country arguably has the largest stockpile of loose weapons in the world, most of which have fallen into the hands of terror groups such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitun (which controls large swathes of territory in the south of the country), Ansar al-Sharia in the east, and the Dawn of Libya (which has taken control of the U.S. Embassy grounds). The situation is so dangerous and chaotic that it may soon invite a new Western intervention. It’s too late to prevent Libya from becoming a failed state — but at least some good may come of efforts to keep the threat contained within Libya’s own borders.

 

The only Western country that seems to have grasped the Libyan time bomb is France. President François Hollande stated a few days ago that Libya was his gravest international concern. His government is seeking an international diplomatic solution to the security situation. But if that does not work out, do not be surprised if France intervenes militarily — even if it must act alone, as it did in Mali in 2013.

 

Contents

THE UAE AND EGYPT’S NEW FRONTIER IN LIBYA

Ellen Laipson    

 National Interest, Sept. 3, 2014

 

The surprising news that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have carried out airstrikes against various Islamist rebels in Libya is yet another example of the scope and extent of change in the Middle East. It reminds us that many of the time-tested assumptions about how states behave have to be checked and challenged. The fact of military activism by two important Arab states is on some levels a positive development, but introduces some new practical and political variables.

 

Egypt and the UAE have been crystal clear about how they view the rapidly expanding threat from Islamic extremists in the region in general. The emergence of General, now President, Sisi in Cairo has reassured Gulf Arab leaders that the destabilizing effects of the Arab spring can be reversed. They want to reestablish state control and see forces for law and order prevail over extremist groups that have exploited the post-authoritarian moment in several Arabs states. In the Libyan case, they presumably acted to reverse the chaos and confusion of competing armed groups and a very weak central government, and to support General Khalifa Haftar, who is leading anti-Islamist factions as an independent actor, not on behalf of the Libyan state. This has led to speculation that Egypt and their purported military ally, the UAE, would like to see General Haftar in power to tame the centrifugal forces and restore some semblance of order in Libya.

 

If more information confirms the action by the UAE from Egyptian bases, the development represents a shift in tactics if not strategy that will yet again change power balances in the region. It reveals first and foremost how profoundly threatened some key Arab states feel by the rise of Al Qaeda, its affiliates and the even more extreme and lethal Islamic State. Secondly, it shows how the threat environment and increased military capacity has led the UAE and potentially other Gulf states to act independently of their key security partners, principally the United States.

 

Early signals from senior U.S. officials suggest that this show of independence has not been appreciated. But there’s a question about whether the United States was really blindsided, and whether some action in Libya was not in fact desired, even if publicly disavowed. The UAE had contributed to the coalition that ousted Muammar Qaddafi, so the return of its fighter planes to Libyan airspace reflects a genuine commitment and priority of Abu Dhabi’s rulers. There’s no guarantee that air support to the offensive by General Haftar will achieve its intended purpose, and control of the Tripoli airport remains in rebel hands. But there should be no doubt that the UAE and Egypt have a strategic interest in stabilizing Libya, and appear more willing to take risks to achieve it than Western donors who have been strangely passive as Libya unravels.

 

The United States has also urged regional states to take more responsibility for conflict management and resolution. It is a core tenet of the so-called Obama doctrine globally. This demonstration of regional ownership and leadership, therefore, in theory comports with U.S. goals. But it also raises concerns and introduces new uncertainties at a dangerous and volatile moment in the region. Most defense experts would not see the UAE and Egypt as able to sustain operations over an extended period of time, should their initial action fail to achieve desired outcomes, as occurred when EU states led the campaign to oust Qaddafi and ran into supply problems. They would also see a reluctance to coordinate with other interested and engaged parties as a serious weakness that could exacerbate regional tensions. It is possible that NATO countries nearby or other GCC states would be willing to provide support, but a political process to explore options is required, under NATO’s Mediterranean protocols or more ad hoc arrangements, if need be.

 

More information will appear in the coming days, but this latest surprise from the region is a sign of the times. The Middle East is more chaotic, with sustained violence and conflict in nearly a half-dozen states. At the same time, the rising middle powers of the region, including the financially dynamic countries of the Gulf, the UAE in particular, are increasingly willing to take matters into their own hands. For Washington, this is potentially a salutary development, but it also reveals the transition from a U.S.-led regional-security arrangement to something beyond U.S. control.

 

Contents
 

TUNISIA FEARS ATTACKS BY CITIZENS FLOCKING TO JIHAD

Carlotta Gall

New York Times, Aug. 5, 2014

 

The jihadi video out of Syria shows a line of prisoners bound and kneeling in a courtyard surrounded by dozens of civilians and armed men in a noisy hubbub. One man in fatigues paces around, jabbing his arms as he issues orders. Eventually, a burly fighter in loose, dark clothes shoots each of the half-dozen prisoners in the back of the head. Though a black balaclava obscured the face of the man giving orders, investigators were able to identify him by the neck brace he was wearing and passed his name to the police in his home country: Tunisia.

 

While Western governments have been keeping a close eye on the possible radicalization of their own citizens, the greater threat by far, analysts warn, is for Arab countries like Tunisia, in transition from autocracy and struggling to deal with incipient terrorism. For a country of only 11 million people, Tunisia has supplied a disproportionate number of fighters to the Islamist cause in Iraq and Syria. At least 12,000 foreigners have joined Islamist groups in Syria to fight against the government of President Bashar al-Assad, and as many as 3,000 of them are Tunisians, the Soufan Group, a New York-based organization that conducts security analysis, said in a report released in June. The great majority of the foreign fighters in Syria are from Arab countries — only a fifth come from Western countries — and most have now joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an extremist Islamist group, the report says.

 

The man in the neck brace is a striking example of the threat. He is known as Abu Jihad and is a member of the military police of ISIS, an enforcer in an organization notorious for its propensity for violence. The Spanish counterterrorism police have photos of him, showing a man around 30 years old, wearing a pakul, a traditional wool cap worn in Afghanistan, and posing by a jeep with “ISIS military police” painted on the hood. Eventually, Tunisian security officials fear, he will return to Tunisia determined to pursue the same goals there that he fought for in Syria and Iraq as a member of ISIS.

 

In the first act of the Arab Spring, Tunisians rose up against police brutality and the stifling corruption of the government of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, forcing him to flee. At first, the country seemed to be making a successful transition from authoritarianism, introducing a multiparty democracy, but deep political divisions soon threatened to tear the country apart. An Islamist party, Ennahda, won elections and formed a coalition government, and secular and left-wing parties campaigned bitterly against it. They accused the government of being soft on Islamist militancy and allowing Islamic extremists to take over mosques and intimidate people with vigilante groups.

 

Tunisians have been drawn to jihad since the 1980s, when the international jihad movement was formed in opposition to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. One of the leading figures has been Seifallah Ben Hussein, better known as Abu Iyadh, a veteran of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, who trained and fought there into the late 1980s. By the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, he had become one of the top 10 or 12 lieutenants to leaders of Al Qaeda. It was Abu Iyadh who supplied the two Tunisian suicide bombers who assassinated a renowned Afghan commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud, two days before the Sept. 11 attacks in order to remove the greatest obstacle to Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Abu Iyadh fought alongside Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001, before they both escaped through the mountains to Pakistan. He later made his way to Turkey, where he was arrested in 2003, extradited to Tunisia and imprisoned by the Ben Ali government, which was rigidly anti-Islamist. He was released along with thousands of other Islamist and political prisoners under an amnesty after the revolution in 2011.

 

Commentators at first suggested that the democratic ideals of the Arab Spring had dealt a perhaps fatal blow to Al Qaeda and the entire jihad movement, but that was premature. As soon as he emerged from prison, Abu Iyadh founded the movement Ansar al-Shariah in Tunisia in April 2011. Within a year, he had drawn 30,000 to 40,000 youthful followers. His movement, with its emphasis on religion, charitable work in the community and supporting jihad in foreign lands, appealed to Tunisians suddenly freed from dictatorship and forced secularity. Abu Iyadh was a Che Guevara figure to them, said Fabio Merone, a doctoral student studying the movement.

 

But his opposition to democracy and his belief in violence as a tactic soon re-emerged. Three days after the attack on the United States Mission in Benghazi, Libya, he staged a similar action against the United States Embassy compound in Tunis, burning 100 cars in the parking lot and looting the American school next to the embassy. After two left-wing politicians were assassinated by Abu Iyadh’s followers, Ansar al-Shariah was declared a terrorist organization. That was in August 2013. Since then Abu Iyadh has been on the run, and now the police say he is in Libya. Many of his followers have been rounded up and imprisoned in a police crackdown. The influential ideologues of the movement — among them Khattab Idriss, who runs a mosque in the town of Sidi Bouzid, and Seifeddine Rais, the charismatic young spokesman of Ansar al-Shariah — have evaded arrest but fallen silent. Their followers are buckling under the heavy hand of the Tunisian police.

 

Families in the working-class neighborhood of Dawhar Hisher in the capital, Tunis, complain of house raids, phones being tapped and the arrest of relatives of suspects. Members of Ansar al-Shariah say that they are harassed by the police and government officials and that they cannot find jobs, or even a ride on intercity buses, because of their long beards. Some say they shaved their beards after warnings from the police. Others have left the country for military training camps in Libya and, after that, for Syria. Of the several thousand who have been fighting in Syria, about 400 have returned. Most of them, trying to recover from the experience, are more “traumatized” than anything, according to one Western official. The fear, however, is that some pose dangers. “You learn to kill,” said one Spanish investigator. “That’s what you get from radicalization, and they enhance that in the training camps. It’s the cruelty of the act that distorts.”

 

Contents

THE MISTAKEN TRAGEDY OF THE ARABS                                    

Hussain Abdul-Hussain                                                                                  

Now, July 15, 2014

                       

“A thousand years ago, the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo took turns to race ahead of the Western world,” wrote The Economist in an article that went viral in Arab circles. “Yet today the Arabs are in a wretched state,” it added. The piece then refutes the arguments that explain the Arab decline: Arabs were not the only ones affected by imperialism, and Islam is the majority creed in some prosperous non-Arab states. What The Economist missed, however, is that Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo are only part of the story. During Ottoman times, cities in the Levant and Arabia were under direct Ottoman control and autonomous tribal territories were under nominal rule.  

 

The most commonly accepted historical narrative argues that Great Britain merged three Turkish vilayets – Baghdad, Basra and Mosul – to create modern day Iraq. A quick reexamination of this narrative proves it flawed. In 1917, Britain printed a brief guide to the history of Arab Ottoman territories. “Beyond the immediate vicinity of the towns, which are few in number, Mesopotamia is a tribal country,” it read. The making of Iraq, and the region, is much more complicated than the simplistic story of Sykes-Picot. Dulaim, the western province the Baathists renamed Anbar in 1968 to undermine the influence of the Sunni Dulaim tribe, was autonomous, nominally pledging allegiance to the Ottoman sultan, an arrangement similar to that in Mount Lebanon and other tribal areas. In Iraq’s Kut Province, now Wasit, the Shiite tribe of Rabiah gave the British a pounding. It took British forces two years to conquer the area.  

 

After the Ottomans, Iraq’s new rulers, the Hashemites, courted the tribes and gave them vast autonomy, which they enshrined in the constitution. Viceroy Abdul-Ilah, a Sunni, even married a Shiite woman from Rabiah in an effort to boost the monarchy’s position. Gertrude Bell, the famous British diplomat credited with creating Iraq, had instructions to create a secure route connecting Basra’s oil fields in southern Iraq to Haifa’s port in northern Palestine, both under the British mandate. This required the integration of several tribal territories into Iraq, including Muntafiq, Diwaniyah, Karbala, Dulaim and the Northern Desert. The British created Transjordan and put it under another Hashemite to link Iraq and Palestine. Bell and T.E. Lawrence were successful in winning over many tribes in the territories they needed to annex, but they could not possibly integrate all of them.  

 

One of the expanding tribal powers at the time was the Najdi Abdul-Aziz Ibn Saud, whose Annazah tribe defeated its rival Shammar, whose land extended from northern Arabia to Kurdistan, through the Syrian Badia. In the tribal code of that time, when a tribe was defeated, it joined the victor and conceded its land. When Ibn Saud wanted to annex Shammar land, he clashed with the colonials. Eventually, Ibn Saud relinquished the land, but kept the people. He made members of the tribes that had pledged allegiance to him Saudi nationals, who remain loyal to the Saudi monarchy to this day, even if they live in Syria or Iraq. If you ever wondered what Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Assi and Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Yawar (both of whom are pro-Saudi) have in common, consider that both men come from the Shammar al-Jarba (as opposed to the Shiite Shammar al-Toga). Also hailing from Shammar is the mother of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

 

The overlap in maps between Ibn Saud and the colonials created two regions: one based on kinship and loyalty in the old tradition of Arab tribalism and the other based on Sykes-Picot and the interests of the colonials and their Arab urbanite protégés. Like the Ottomans before them, the French and the British tried to urbanize Arab tribal regions by connecting them to cities and transforming their economies from subsistence to capitalism. These efforts backfired and the tribes revolted, especially the Druze in southern Syria. Eventually, a connection was established and, instead of urbanization, the tribes flocked to the cities, first forming belts of poverty and then replacing the cosmopolitan leadership and lifestyle with tribal code and tradition, including endless bloody feuds. The oil boom and the colossal revenues that resulted gave the new tribal rulers immense power.  

 

The Arabs are not in a wretched state – they are in a tribal state, and they are doing what they have been doing since time immemorial: conquering each other, demanding allegiance, and living in a state of perpetual war. The only difference now is that the Arabs are feuding in cities, and on TV and social media instead of in the desert.  

 

The cities, once connected to the center of a prosperous and modern Ottoman Empire, have been changed irrevocably. The majority of Arab urbanites have left the Arab world, many in exile, and they are the ones who read The Economist’s article and shared it. They are the ones who lament past glory, real or imagined, and assign blame for losing it. Unless they, and the world, understand the nature, history and expansion of the tribal Arab world, they will fail to understand what went wrong.

 

On Topic

 

Islamist Militants Party in Pool at US Embassy Compound in Libya: Chris Perez, New York Post, Aug. 31, 2014—They’re jihadists gone wild! Hootin’ and hollerin’ Islamic militants partied like it was spring break in Cancun on Sunday after invading a US Embassy annex in Libya.

U.S. Can’t Retreat and Still Call the Shots: Max Boot, Commentary, Aug. 26, 2014—Want to know what happens when the U.S. retreats from a leadership role in the Middle East?

The UAE and Egypt’s New Frontier in Libya: Ellen Laipson, National Interest, Sept. 3, 2014—The surprising news that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have carried out airstrikes against various Islamist rebels in Libya is yet another example of the scope and extent of change in the Middle East.

What Now for Israel?: Elliott Abrams, Mosaic, Sept. 2014 —“The status quo is unsustainable,” President Obama said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict soon after taking office in 2009.

Surviving in an Even Worse Neighborhood: Israel and Growing Mideast Chaos: Louis René Beres, Jerusalem Post, July 7, 2014 —Just when it seemed that matters for Israel couldn't possibly get any worse, "ordinary" security challenges are being augmented by still more complex strategic threats.

 

                      

                

                            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Contents:         

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ARAB WINTER: AS ISLAMISM, SECTARIAN VIOLENCE, AND A HATRED OF ISRAEL CHARACTERIZE THE M.E., TUNISIA STRUGGLES WITH THE NEW REALITIES OF AN ARAB WORLD IN CRISIS

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The Sick Middle East: Daniel Pipes, Washington Times, Jan. 23, 2014— The recent fall of Fallujah to an al Qaeda-linked group provides an unwelcome reminder of the American resources and lives devoted from 2004 to 2007 to control the city — all that effort expended and nothing to show for it.

Crisis in Arab Civilization: Leon De Winter, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 17, 2014 — There has never been such a thing as the “Arab Spring”; a true Arab spring can only develop when the Arabs start developing civil societies.

Will Tunisia Defy Arab Spring Pessimism?: Michael Rubin, Commentary, Feb. 17, 2014—Many writers at Commentary cautiously welcomed the Arab Spring, myself included, even with a dose of caution about what might happen should the Muslim Brotherhood hijack the popular uprising that caught them as much as the regimes against which they plotted by surprise.

Do ‘Syria,’ ‘Iraq’ and ‘Lebanon’ Still Exist?: Jonathan Spyer, The Tower, Feb., 2014 — For almost a century, the Middle East has been defined by the nation-states that emerged following the Allied victory in World War I and the end of the colonial era.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Arab Spring Killed the Left’s Foreign Policy: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Jan. 27, 2014

In Tunisia, It’s Shoot First, Ask Questions Later: Asma Ghribi, Foreign Policy, Feb. 17, 2014

Tunisian B-Boys’ Biggest Battle: Keeping Youths From Extremism: Carlotta Gall, New York Times, Feb. 17, 2014

 

THE SICK MIDDLE EAST

Daniel Pipes                                                            

Washington Times, Jan. 23, 2014

 

The recent fall of Fallujah to an al Qaeda-linked group provides an unwelcome reminder of the American resources and lives devoted from 2004 to 2007 to control the city — all that effort expended and nothing to show for it. Similarly, outlays of hundreds of billions of dollars to modernize Afghanistan did not stop its reversion to public stoning as a punishment for adultery. These two examples point to a larger conclusion: Maladies run so deep in the Middle East (minus remarkable Israel) that outside powers cannot remedy them.

 

Here’s a fast summary: Water is running out. A dam going up on the Blue Nile in Ethiopia threatens to substantially cut Egypt’s main water supply by devastating amounts for years. Syria and Iraq suffer from water crises because the Euphrates and Tigris rivers are drying up. The narcotic qat plant absorbs so much of Yemen’s limited water supplies that Sana’a may be the first modern capital city to be abandoned because of drought. Crazy wheat-growing schemes in Saudi Arabia depleted aquifers. On the flip side, the poorly constructed Mosul Dam in Iraq could collapse, drowning half a million immediately and then leave many more stranded without electricity or food.

Sewage runs rampant in Gaza. Many countries suffer from electrical blackouts, especially in the oppressive summer heat that routinely reaches 120 degrees.

People are also running out. After experiencing a huge and disruptive youth bulge, the region’s birthrate is collapsing. Iran, for example, has undergone the steepest population decline of any country ever recorded, going from 6.6 births per woman in 1977 to 1.6 births in 2012, thus creating what one analyst calls an “apocalyptic panic,” fueling government aggression. Poor schools, repressive governments and archaic social mores ensure abysmal rates of economic growth. Starvation haunts Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

 

Vast reserves of oil and gas have distorted nearly every aspect of life. Miniature medieval-style monarchies such as Qatar become surreal world powers playing at war in Libya and Syria, indifferent to the lives they break, as a vast underclass of oppressed foreign workers toils away and a princess deploys the largest budget for art purchases in human history. The privileged can indulge their cruel impulses, protected by connections and money. Sex tourism flourishes in poor countries such as India. Efforts at democracy and political participation either wither, as in Egypt, or elevate fanatics, who intelligently disguise their purposes, as in Turkey. Efforts to overthrow greedy tyrants lead either to yet-worse ideological tyrants (as in Iran in 1979) or to anarchy (as in Libya and Yemen). One commonly roots for both sides to lose. The rule of law remains a Fata Morgana.

 

Islamism, currently the most dynamic and threatening political ideology, is summed up by a morbid Hamas declaration to Israelis: “We love death more than you love life.” Polygyny, burqas, genital mutilation and honor killing make Middle Eastern women the world’s most oppressed. Middle Eastern life suffers from acute biases — often official — based on religion, sect, ethnicity, tribe, skin color, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, citizenship, work and disability. Slavery remains a scourge. Conspiracy theories, political zealotry, resentment, repression, anarchy and aggression rule the region’s politics. Modern notions of the individual remain weak in societies where primordial bonds of family, tribe and clan remain dominant.

 

The Middle East uniquely suffers from an urge to snuff out whole countries. Israel is the best-known potential victim, but Kuwait actually disappeared for a half-year, while Lebanon, Jordan and Bahrain could be swallowed up at any time. Middle Eastern states spend outsized amounts of their wealth on intelligence services and their militaries, creating redundant forces to check each other. They venture abroad to buy tank, ship and airplane baubles. They devote inordinate resources to chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, and the platforms to deliver them. Even terrorist groups such as al Qaeda plot to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Cutting-edge methods of terrorism are developed in the Middle East.

 

Economic and political failure creates large bodies of refugees. Afghans have made up the world’s largest refugee population since the 1980s, but Syrians now threaten to overtake them, bringing poverty and chaos to their lands of refuge. Desperate souls attempt to leave the region altogether for Western countries, with more than a few dying along the way, and those who make it bring their region’s maladies to such orderly countries as Sweden and Australia. Nineteenth-century diplomats dubbed the Ottoman Empire “the sick man of Europe.” Now I nominate the whole Middle East as the “sick man of the world.” The region’s hatreds, extremism, violence and despotism will require many decades to remedy. While this process takes place, the outside world is best advised not to focus on helping the Middle East — a hopeless task — but on protecting itself from the region’s manifold threats, from Middle East respiratory syndrome and harems to megaterrorism and electromagnetic pulse.                                                                                      

 

[Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and a CIJR Academic Fellow.]
 

                                                                       

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CRISIS IN ARAB CIVILIZATION                                            

Leon De Winter   

Jerusalem Post, Feb. 17, 2014

 

There has never been such a thing as the “Arab Spring”; a true Arab spring can only develop when the Arabs start developing civil societies. But until now the value systems of ethnicity and tribalism, which fit organically within the value system of Islam, have been crippling obstacles to the development of such Arab civil societies, societies in which politicians peacefully transfer power to the newly elected. Because of the lack of independent civil institutions which neutrally guarantee the continuation of the state, the only effective way of running an Arab nation-state is by dictatorship. The sense of loyalty to the state is weak compared to the sense of loyalty to the tribe and the religion. Corruption and tribalism always appear as twins. Therefore, expectations that a Palestinian state-to-be would function as Denmark is a cruel illusion. Only the introduction of the basic elements of a vital civil society can force a dramatic change in the Arab world, which is struggling with existential questions.

In order to find their place among the great nations of the world, the various tribes, ethnicities and peoples of the Arab and Islamic world have to find a way to overcome the traditions which have been part of their survival strategies – with often amazing success – since the seventh century. In a globalizing world these deeply ingrained traditions and value systems have outlived themselves. The process of decay started about 200 years ago, after Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt, and took a structural downwards turn with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Various solutions have been tested to prevent the Arab-Islamic way of life from imploding, from pan-Arabism to extreme religiosity. In the present world, which demands radical levels of individuality, equality between the sexes, personal autonomy, creativity, the ability to question authority and to do research and development without the limitations of religion or self-censorship, the tested Arab and Islamic value systems have proven to be impotent. The Arab nations cannot participate in the great adventure of human progress but are being crippled by paralyzing cultural traditions.

The cruel violence among ethnic and tribal brothers in Syria is indicative for the depth of the crisis in that civilization. No coalition of warriors can open the way to the creation of an open civil society. The identities of the groups are being defined by ethnicity and/or religious affiliation. If a coalition of warriors would be able to defeat the other coalitions, a new dictatorship will be created – and this new dictatorship can only equal the old one since there is no prospect of successfully suppressing the traditional value systems while introducing those of liberal open societies. This is a bitter dilemma for the ruling classes running Arab dictatorships: giving up complete control over the security forces and media to freely elected politicians, the initial conditions for a civil society, leads automatically to unleashing the extremist powers which would immediately overthrow the ruling classes – in other words: giving up control is a form of suicide. In order to legitimize their hold on power, dictatorships by definition need antagonists.

The ideal enemy is Israel, the land of the Jews, who have been ridiculed by the Arabs since the very beginning of the Islamic religion. The obsession with Israel (which rules over a relatively small group of Arabs whose educational and medical situation is relatively better than those in most Arab countries and creates higher life expectancies than Turkey) is not restricted to the ruling and media classes. Israel has to be destroyed, otherwise some of the core tenets of the Islamic religious revelation as described in the Koran will be proven to be false – which is impossible since the Koran is Allah’s book which has been devised before time existed. According to Islamic theology, Jews have refused Mohammed’s message and therefore are condemned to live within precisely defined limitations as a second-class people. It is impossible to accept a state run by Jews on soil considered to be part of the Islamic Arab cultural heritage – land which has been Islamic will be Islamic for ever. The issue is tiny in size (Israel is about the size of New Jersey), but enormous in meaning. Within the context of Islamic tradition, the existence of Israel is the denial of the truth of Mohammed’s acts and sayings.

In civil society, by its nature, church and state are separated – civil society can only be a secular society in which religious sensibilities belong to personal habits and preferences. But Islam, which can be considered the universal and mostly monotheistic translation of tribal values, is an essential aspect of the Arabs’ identity. And because they lack the sense, and the institutions to carry it, of being individuals in a civil society, the culture of the Arabs is paralyzed in its own existential crisis, which is being fed with hatred of Israel, the ultimate “other,” the dynamic and prosperous and mighty denial of Islam’s truth and claim on the holy territory of Palestine.

World powers try to find an understanding with the non-Arab Islamic nation of Iran – which shows the same deficiencies as the Arab nations. Its religiously legitimized dictatorship cannot be but obsessed by Israel, which by its very existence is an actual denial of the Islamic message. The Iranian dictators can only function as protagonists focused on antagonists – they have to operate as warriors because they serve a universal religious message (“the world will be Islamic because of the truth of Islam”) which needs to be proven true in the real world. And the proof in the real world lies in the destruction of Israel. Muslims can only liberate themselves from their cultural paralysis when they start accepting Israel’s existence. That means that they have to re-interpret Mohammed’s message. A peace treaty with non-Arab Iran will be an empty gesture as long as Iran doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist. The dilemma is: it cannot do that since by recognizing Israel, Iran would betray Mohammed’s message. Destroying Israel is the ultimate consequence of Iran’s religious tenets and of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which is defining the direction of world history as a movement towards global Islam and the victory over world Jewry. No peace treaty can soften that ambition. The political, religious and military leadership of Iran legitimizes its hold on power by the pledge to execute Allah’s will. So peace can only be established by a re-interpretation of Allah’s will as expressed in the Koran and the Hadith.

Nobody knows if that is possible. Still, Western nations should strictly keep on demanding the recognition of Israel; the only way to an Islamic reformation, and the road to Arab civil societies, lies in the re-interpretation of Mohammed’s legacy. An Arab nation that can…live with Israel will automatically put in motion a cultural and religious reformation. Recognition of Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is the only hope for the Arabs and Muslims to join the rest of mankind in healing the world.

 

                                                                                                 

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WILL TUNISIA DEFY ARAB SPRING PESSIMISM?                           

Michael Rubin                                                                

Commentary, Feb. 17, 2014

 

Many writers at Commentary cautiously welcomed the Arab Spring, myself included, even with a dose of caution about what might happen should the Muslim Brotherhood hijack the popular uprising that caught them as much as the regimes against which they plotted by surprise. It was not long before the Arab Spring turned chilly. The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates rose to dominate Egypt and Tunisia. Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria descended into violence. While some analysts pointed out that the monarchies—Bahrain excepted—showed particular resilience amidst the winds of the Arab Spring, this might have less to do with fundamentals and could instead have been sheer dumb luck. Jordan, for example, remains highly susceptible to an uprising that could challenge if not unseat the regime. Stability in Saudi Arabia remains far from assured.

 

The fundamental problem has been that both governments and opposition movements have embraced the rhetoric of democracy, but not its spirit. Opposition groups like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt have looked at the Arab Spring as an opportunity to seize power and replicate the same dictatorship against which they once fought.

 

The exception, of course, has been Tunisia. Ennahda, an Islamist party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, won a plurality in elections to form the government which would oversee drafting of a new constitution but, against the backdrop of popular discord with its conservatism, it agreed to step down last month in favor of a caretaker government rather than seek to dominate as have Islamist parties elsewhere in the Middle East. Today, polls show that 70 percent of Tunisians believe their country is heading in the right direction, a sharp uptick since only 15 percent believed it was before Ennahda agreed to step down.

 

Tunisia isn’t out of the woods yet. Oussama Romdhani, a former communications minister under the Ben Ali government, yet a figure widely respected as a self-made and honest man despite his association with the previous regime, has a must-read column in Al-Arabiya assessing the current state of Tunisian politics and the dangers which lurk ahead. Every post-Arab Spring government, even the best intentioned, has had to confront unrealistic expectations of supporters and the conspiracy theories of critics. Still, rather than give into America’s new isolation trend, it is important to support Tunisia as it moves forward, because if one Arab state can navigate Arab Spring turbulence into a more tranquil future, then it can become a model for others who otherwise might teeter between Islamist dictatorship or regression to more secular authoritarianism.

 

                                                                                                 

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DO ‘SYRIA,’ ‘IRAQ’ AND ‘LEBANON’ STILL EXIST?                      

 

Jonathan Spyer                                        

The Tower, Feb. 2014

 

For almost a century, the Middle East has been defined by the nation-states that emerged following the Allied victory in World War I and the end of the colonial era. Since then, strategic analyses of the region have concentrated on the relations between these states, and diplomatic efforts have generally attempted to maintain their stability and the integrity of their borders. As a result, the current map of the Middle East has remained largely unchanged over more than nine decades. But this is no longer the case. The old maps no longer reflect the reality on the ground, and the region is now defined not by rivalry between nation-states, but by sectarian divisions that are spilling across the old borders and rendering them irrelevant. Today, there is a single sectarian war underway across the Middle East, one that threatens to engulf the entire region.

 

This war has a number of fronts, some more intense and active than others, but it is everywhere defined by sectarian conflict, especially the divide between Sunni and Shia Muslims. It is most intense in the area encompassing the current states of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon; but has also spread further afield—to Bahrain, northern Yemen, and to some degree Kuwait and eastern Saudi Arabia. The core power on the Shia side is the Islamic Republic of Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror and founding patron of Hezbollah, which until 9/11 held had killed more Americans than any terror group in the world. The Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Maliki government and assorted Shia militias in Iraq, the Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are all allies or proxies of the Islamic Republic, which is capable of rendering substantial assistance to its friends through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), a powerful military and economic force that possesses substantial expertise and experience in building proxy organizations and engaging in political and paramilitary warfare.

 

On the Sunni side, the dominant power is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which after 9/11 has been wary of Tehran, but also has struggled against the Islamists of Al Qaeda. Its allies include various groups among the Syrian rebels, the March 14 movement in Lebanon, the military regime in Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, and sometimes Turkey. The Saudis, however, are at something of a disadvantage. They possess no parallel to the IRGC, and have problematic relations with the extreme Sunni jihadists of al-Qaeda, who have played a prominent role in the fighting on all three major fronts. How did this situation come about? Is there evidence of a clear linkage between the various forces on the respective sides? Why is this conflict so extreme in certain countries—like Syria and Iraq—where it appears to be leading to the breakup of these states? How dangerous are these changes for the West? Focusing on the areas of most intense conflict—Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon—can help us answer these questions.

 

This war is a result of the confluence of a number of circumstances. First, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are all home to a host of different sectarian and ethnic communities. The stark divisions that exist in these societies have never been resolved. In Syria and Iraq, they were suppressed for decades by brutal dictatorial regimes. The Assad regime in Syria and Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq were family dictatorships based on minority sectarian communities—the Alawis in Syria and the Arab Sunnis in Iraq—while claiming to rule in the name of pan-Arab nationalism. In service of this ideology, the Syrian and Iraqi regimes ruthlessly put down ethnic and sectarian separatism in all its forms; in particular, Shia Islamism in Iraq, Sunni Islamism in Syria, and the Kurdish national movement in both countries. All were treated without mercy. Lebanon, by contrast, is a far weaker state, which was ruled by a power-sharing arrangement between ethnic and religious groups that collapsed into civil war in 1975. The issues underlying that war were never resolved; instead, between 1990 and 2005 the Syrian army presence in Lebanon ended all discussion of basic issues of national identity.

 

Over the last decade, the once ironclad structures of dictatorship and suppression that kept ethnic and sectarian tensions from erupting have weakened or disappeared. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq destroyed the Saddam Hussein regime. A sectarian Shia government, based on the Shia Arab majority and conditionally accepted by the Kurds, took its place. In Syria, a brutal civil war has severely curtailed the power of the Assad regime, which now rules only about 40 percent of the country’s territory. The Sunni Arab majority and the Kurdish minority have carved out autonomous sectarian enclaves in the 60 percent that remains. Western hopes that a non-sectarian identity would take hold in the areas formerly ruled by Saddam and the Assads have proved persistent but illusory. Remarks about Iraq made by then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice in 2004 sum up these hopes and the tendency to self-delusion that often accompanies them. “What has been impressive to me so far,” Rice said, “is that Iraqis—whether Kurds or Shia or Sunni or the many other ethnic groups in Iraq—have demonstrated that they really want to live as one in a unified Iraq…. I think particularly the Kurds have shown a propensity to want to bridge differences that were historic differences in many ways that were fueled by Saddam Hussein and his regime… What I have found interesting and I think important is the degree to which the leaders of the Shia and Kurdish and Sunni communities have continually expressed their desires to live in a unified Iraq.”

 

This faith is shared by the Obama Administration, and as a result, it has continued to support the Shia-dominated government in Iraq, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It sees Maliki’s opposition to Sunni insurgents in western Anbar province as an elected government’s opposition to extremist rebels. This fails to take into account the sectarian nature of the Maliki government itself and the discriminatory policies he has pursued against the Sunnis of western Iraq…                                

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]   

                                                                          

The Arab Spring Killed the Left’s Foreign Policy: Daniel Greenfield, Frontpage, Jan. 27, 2014 —Three years later, no one talks about the Arab Spring.

In Tunisia, It’s Shoot First, Ask Questions Later: Asma Ghribi, Foreign Policy, Feb. 17, 2014 —Tunisia's nascent democracy is facing a difficult yet painfully familiar conundrum: How to fight "terrorism" without encroaching upon human rights and going back to the draconian practices of the former oppressive regime.

Tunisian B-Boys’ Biggest Battle: Keeping Youths From Extremism: Carlotta Gall, New York Times, Feb. 17, 2014 —The youth center in this small provincial town is brimming with energy on a Saturday morning.

 

 

 

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ON BALANCE, FAILED “ARAB SPRING” GOOD FOR ISRAEL– BUT TRAGIC FOR LIBERALS, CHRISTIANS, AND WOMEN

We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Rob Coles, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, PO Box 175, Station  H, Montreal QC H3G 2K7 – Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284; E-mail: rob@isranet.org

 

 

 Contents:         

 

Rider on the Storm: Danny Danon, Foreign Policy, Nov. 27, 2013 — Less than two years ago, much of the world believed that a new dawn of hope was cracking in the Middle East.

How the Arab Spring Survived 2013: Noah Feldman, Bloomberg, Dec. 18, 2013 — The news that Tunisia’s competing political factions have broken months of logjam and appointed a technocrat as interim prime minister sets the stage for a year-end review of the events that have followed the Arab Spring.

Women Are the Real Victims of the Arab Spring: Abigail R. Esman, Algemeiner, Dec. 23, 2013 —  The Arab Spring, with the rising tide of hope for democracy and change it ushered in, has turned to autumn. For women it has become an Arab Winter, dark and cold and growing more perilous by the day.

Prince Charles Speaks Up for Persecuted Christians: Majid Rafizadeh, Frontpage, Dec. 20, 2013— Dubbed by the media as an “Arab Spring” or “Arab Awakening,” these events in the Middle East must be reexamined, as they more closely represent a “Tragedy for Minorities” rather than the democratic rebirth that the former names seem to describe.

 

On Topic Links

 

Tunisia’s Reawakening: Editorial Board, New York Times, Dec. 18, 2013

South Sudan’s Growing Conflict Reflects Rivalry Between President and His Former Deputy: Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Dec. 22., 2013

Iraq is Still Bleeding 10 Years After Saddam Hussein's Capture: Colin Freeman, Telegraph, Dec. 12, 2013

Benghazi Suicide Bombing: Is Libya al Qaeda’s New Hotbed?: Jamie Dettmer, The Daily Beast, Dec. 22, 2013

Yemen Under Attack: Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, Besa Center, Dec. 12, 2013

Coptic Christians Fear Continued Turmoil, New Constitution in Egypt: Ray Hanania, Arab Daily News, Dec. 16, 2013

A Prayer For the Middle East’s Christians: Prince Charles, National Post, Dec. 20, 2013

 

 

RIDER ON THE STORM                                                                          Danny Danon                                          

Foreign Policy, Nov. 27, 2013

 

Less than two years ago, much of the world believed that a new dawn of hope was cracking in the Middle East. The voice of the people, the aspirations of youth and democracy were marching together to cast out old dictatorships. Many naively believed that freedom was about to triumph over entrenched authoritarianism. It is abundantly clear today that such earnest hopes were uniformly and regrettably misplaced. There is no better reminder of this than the dangerous agreement signed in Geneva by Iran and the world powers that comprise the P5+1 on Nov. 23. As we approach 2014, the Middle East is now on the brink of a new nuclear arms race between the region's Shiite and Sunni forces. The voices of liberal democracy, meanwhile, have been quashed by screaming jet fighters, deadly poison gas, and menacing religious fratricide.

 

Israelis believe that the age of prophecy is long gone. Yet one need not aspire to be a prophet to draw one remarkable insight that is as unlikely as the Arab Spring itself: Israel is strategically stronger today than it was before this season of upheaval commenced. At the same time, the instability surrounding us serves as a warning that we should not rush into artificially induced and potentially dangerous diplomatic processes in an attempt to alter the existing geopolitical landscape in the Middle East. Now is the time to sit tight, closely observe, and analyze unfolding events — all the while remaining vigilantly on guard against new and unforeseen dangers to the Jewish state. We need to look no farther than to Israel's actual borders — in every direction — for this point to be made.

 

Let's start with Egypt, the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel. The Egyptian military's rejection of Muslim Brotherhood control has been a near-lethal blow to the Islamist organization's stolid allies in Gaza, Hamas. The current Egyptian government is doing what its predecessor did not: locating and effectively destroying as many as 150 smuggling tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza — tunnels that were used to transport weapons and contraband — and moving to end radical Muslim control of large chunks of Gaza. As a result, the boundary between Gaza and Egypt is no longer a leaking sieve for unchecked terrorist travels. Even countries that are technically at war with Israel recognize how the balance of power is shifting in the region. Recent news reports have detailed how Saudi Arabia is furious about the Obama administration's latest actions in the Middle East — especially the recent agreement with Iran — leading to a rapprochement of sorts with Israel. Saudi Arabia now believes that tension between Sunni and Shiite powers has, to a degree, supplanted regional enmity that has historically been directed at Israel. Although one won't read it in the Saudi press anytime soon, millions of people in the Gulf — supported by many minorities including Kurds, Christians, Druse, Sufis, and Baluchis, among others — are quietly banking on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's promise not to allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. This is especially true in light of the recent nuclear accord with Iran.

 

Even the Syrian crisis has improved Israel's strategic position in the region. While we pray for a speedy and peaceful end to the bloodshed, Israel is fully committed to remaining outside the civil war. This is not our fight. We will continue, however, to act to ensure that "game changing" weapons do not fall in to the hands of anyone who threatens the state of Israel. One result of the conflict is indisputable: a weakened President Bashar al-Assad and the disruption of the line of strategic hegemony running directly from Iran through Syria to Lebanon is a boon to Israeli security. That disruption seems beyond reversal, no matter what might occur in the future. Finally, the situation in Lebanon has shifted as well. The paramilitary group Hezbollah has dispatched many of its fighters to Syria, bogging down men and logistics while at the same time reigniting strong opposition from other Lebanese who want no part in Syria's mayhem. While there is danger that Hezbollah is using the Syrian civil war to train for future battle against Israel, it is even more significant that the so-called Party of God has been attacked with bombs in Lebanon, seen its supply line from Teheran constricted, and had weapons shipments mysteriously destroyed on the ground. Even the European Union has belatedly labeled it the terrorist organization it is.

 

The Arab Spring has seen the threat posed by all of Israel's traditional, state-based foes either fully eliminated or significantly diminished. On the one hand, this means that, in the short-term at least, citizens of Israel can sleep more soundly at night. On the other hand, the challenge remains to identify the next danger on the horizon in the Middle East. As I like to remind my colleagues, our region is extremely fluid. When I was a member of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, we held a meeting the day before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was forced to resign. Not a single expert in the room predicted that this monumental shift was going to take place in 24 hours. We must closely observe the volatile situation in the Middle East with this in mind. Israel might be in a better strategic position to face the historical challenges that undoubtedly face us in the coming years, but events can be hard to predict in this part of the world. As a result, we must remain ever-vigilant to protect the people of Israel.

 

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HOW THE ARAB SPRING SURVIVED 2013         

Noah Feldman           

Bloomberg, Dec. 18, 2013

                                                           

The news that Tunisia’s competing political factions have broken months of logjam and appointed a technocrat as interim prime minister sets the stage for a year-end review of the events that have followed the Arab Spring. Keeping up the seasonal metaphor, one could say Tunisia offers a hint of Indian summer in what is otherwise a chilly autumn. The Tunisian economy is shaky, the public is frustrated, and two prominent leftists have been assassinated by Salafists. Yet democracy is still functioning, and a multiparty deal facilitating completion of a new constitution is within reach. While Tunisia has followed a slow, unsteady constitutional process, Libya hasn’t really gotten started. It’s in a holding pattern, with a site for constitutional negotiations chosen but no delegates elected and ethnic minorities threatening a boycott. Egypt, meanwhile has been the focus of altogether too much action. The third new constitution in three years has just been drafted, this time by military authorities who seem to have sidelined democracy for good. Depressing as this is, the situation in Syria — full-blown civil war with no end in sight — is worse.

 

What do these developments teach us about how democracy forms and how democratic countries like the U.S. can encourage it? The first lesson is that no two countries are alike. Even the three contiguous North African states that saw dictators fall amid popular dissent over several months in 2011 have followed strikingly different trajectories. The forces that brought down Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi were similar. But when it came to rebuilding, differences were more salient. Islamists won elections in all three places, yet they have been distinct from one another. Tunisia’s Ennahda Party has compromised with secularists and incorporated them into a governing coalition. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood did neither and fell in a military coup. Libya’s elected leaders are Islamist in orientation but so far lack a cohesive party organization, rendering the government largely inert. In Syria, democratic Islamists are both allied with and opposed to radical jihadis, which is what happens when the field of play is war rather than politics.

 

The second lesson is that deal-making is the single most important skill for a political class seeking democratic stability. Tunisia’s new leaders had relatively little experience running anything, but the political culture of consensus in Tunisia meant that all sides aspire to agreement. Actually reaching a deal can be agonizing, but at least the haggling is intended to get to yes. In Qaddafi’s Libya, decisions were simply imposed from above, so no one today feels much pressure to struggle for consensus. In Egypt, where political Islamism was born, the regime had always treated the Muslim Brothers as an existential threat. So for secularists, it was natural to think there could be no compromise with the Islamists even after they were elected. This led many secularists to support their ouster even when it so obviously meant a return to military dictatorship. The Alawite minority that has long ruled Syria always considered the idea of compromise with the Sunni majority tantamount to suicide. These days, Sunnis tend not to argue the point. As a result, prospects for a negotiated solution seem vanishingly small. Neither side can even produce a credible picture of what a negotiated solution would look like. Outsiders talk about an imposed peace with cantons for different communities that would make Lebanon look like a model of coexistence.

 

A final lesson is that external states can make a difference, for better or worse. France has encouraged democracy in Tunisia for the most part by declining to put a thumb on the scales in favor of either secularists or Islamists. With no one from the outside telling the Islamists they couldn’t draft an Islamic constitution, internal protests were heard more clearly, and the Islamists dropped Shariah from their constitutional wish list. Luckily for Tunisia, the U.S., with almost no interest in the country, has played essentially no role in its political debates…

 

The ambivalence of democratic states toward the disaster in Syria has been even more destructive. Unable to decide which is worse, an Iranian backed regime or a potentially Salafist one, the world’s democracies have essentially embraced war without end. With the competing parties having deepened their animosity through extended bloodshed, it’s clear no result will be democratic. The overarching lesson of the last year is that bringing down regimes is much easier than building new, democratic ones. The next time established democracies face a democratic opening in a previously autocratic region, they shouldn’t blithely expect success to come naturally. Rather, they should actively provide incentives for success and consequences for failure.                                                                                  

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WOMEN ARE THE REAL VICTIMS

OF THE ARAB SPRING                                                     

Abigail R. Esman

Algemeiner, Dec. 23, 2013

 

The Arab Spring, with the rising tide of hope for democracy and change it ushered in, has turned to autumn. For women it has become an Arab Winter, dark and cold and growing more perilous by the day. And nowhere is the situation worse than it is in the country where hopes for democracy and freedom were the highest: Egypt. Such are the findings of a new Thomson Reuters Foundation poll, which showed that women are worse off today in all the “Arab Spring” countries than they were previously. Moreover, throughout the Arab region, violence against women, sexual abuse, and political oppression remain generally the worst in the world. These findings are tragic, not only for what they reveal about the plight of women in the region, but for what they tell us about the future of the “Arab Spring” countries. “Despite hopes that women would be one [sic] of the prime beneficiaries of the Arab Spring,” note the Reuters report’s authors, “they have instead been some of the biggest losers, as the revolts have brought conflict, instability, displacement and a rise in Islamist groups in many parts of the region.”…

 

Egypt’s numbers are the most telling, however, exposing not just the rise in power of Islamic fundamentalist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, but how very inevitable this result was from the start – and certainly once Hosni Mubarak was displaced. This, after all, is the country where a shocking 91 percent of all women are victims of genital mutilation, a practice clearly endemic (especially in rural areas) even under Mubarak’s so-called secular reign. Since the rise of Islamist factions, however, the situation has become even grimmer, the poll indicates, with rising rates of trafficking and forced marriage. “There are whole villages on the outskirts of Cairo and elsewhere where the bulk of economic activity is based on trafficking in women and forced marriages,” Zahra Radwan, Middle East and North Africa Program officer for the Global Fund for Women, told Reuters. That outcome might have been expected, given the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood-led government that followed Mubarak’s fall. It was the Brotherhood that opposed a UN declaration on women’s rights that would allow women to travel and use contraception, arguing that such a move, which “contradicts established principles of Islam,” would essentially destroy society. (Russia, Iran, and the Vatican also opposed the measure.)

 

How bad are things in Egypt and Iraq? As No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, they are worse, evidently, even than Saudi Arabia, which is notorious for its abysmal record in its treatment of women. That ranking alone is shocking: but it also provides an insight for Westerners into the undercurrent and power of Islamic fundamentalism and Islamism in those Arab Spring countries, and the decreasing likelihood that democracy will take hold in the next decade. In fact, not only do these two countries pose greater threats to women’s lives than even Somalia and Sudan, but the poll finds that the Saudis are beginning to make small strides towards opening doors to women. Saudi women, for instance, will have the right to vote in municipal elections for the first time in 2015; they recently were granted the right to practice law; and thanks to forceful activism, the right to drive may also soon be within their reach.

 

Indeed, listed as the survey’s third worst country for women, Saudi Arabia scored “better than many other Arab states when it came to access to education and healthcare, reproductive rights and gender violence,” according to the poll’s authors. But even more important was their observation that thousands of younger Saudis who had traveled abroad were returning “with very different ideas about their relative places in the world.” Contrast this development with Syria, which follows Saudi Arabia as the fourth worst country for Arab women. Here, too, Westerners once hoped for a new, democratic, progressive state to rise in place of Bashar al-Assad’s cruel dictatorship. “Many Syrian women worry about the influence of militant Islamists who have taken control of some rebel-held areas,” Reuters reports. Young girls in refugee camps also suffer, the researchers found, where even 12-year-olds have been forced into marriage. The report also describes a “spike in honor killings” in Syria, rising to about 300 a year, though it is unclear whether that number is a significant change from previous years. A 2007 article in the Christian Science Monitor put the number at 200 to 300 annually. In Libya, too, where the world once held so much hope for a free and democratic future, women now face kidnappings along with random arrest, rape, and physical abuse, Reuters found. It is worth noting, however, that the physical abuse numbers may result from a rise in the reporting of such events, rather than from an increase in incidents.

 

The sad thing is that much of this violence could have been anticipated – and at least in part prevented. Certainly it was naïve to believe that the majority of the women who fought for Mubarak’s removal were any more westernized than the majority of the men. With an illiteracy rate of 35 percent (45 percent of women), in a country where two-thirds of women between the ages of 15-49 support the practice of genital mutilation, the proverbial writing was clearly on the wall. But far more disturbing is the picture that this paints for the future, particularly with a new Egyptian constitution that, for all its lip service to democracy, holds sharia law supreme. If Saudi women are advancing, it is thanks to a new willingness by their government to support (western) education. But such opportunities may be lost to Egypt’s women, and increasingly, to their sisters in Syria, Lebanon, Libya, and even the Palestinian Territories (which scored a miserable 15 out of 22 in the Thomson Reuters study). The inevitable result will not only be a deterioration of women’s rights in these countries, but too, a growing Islamic conservatism as the curtains surrounding the windows to the West – and to the Enlightenment – begin to close. As they do, the threats will continue to grow stronger, not just to Egyptian women’s lives, but to our own.

                                                                                   

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PRINCE CHARLES SPEAKS UP FOR PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS                                                     

Majid Rafizadeh

Frontpage, Dec. 20, 2013

 

Dubbed by the media as an “Arab Spring” or “Arab Awakening,” these events in the Middle East must be reexamined, as they more closely represent a “Tragedy for Minorities” rather than the democratic rebirth that the former names seem to describe. This campaign to persecute minorities— particularly Christians in Muslim countries that have gone through uprisings or revolution like Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Libya, and Yemen— have increased in the Middle East. Currently, Islamist parties are ruling the state, or are operating separately from the government, to implement their ideology throughout the region, serving their materialistic and political goals. The number of Christian is shrinking significantly in the predominantly Muslim societies of the region, to almost a mere 4 percent of the population. Even though Christianity was born in this region, many Christians who see these nations as their homeland are being forced to leave. This raises the question as to whether the Islamist agenda is to wipe out all the minorities in this region, making an Islamic world with Christians disappearing, leaving a unified Muslim region under the rule of Allah, and gaining geopolitical and materialistic interests.

 

The situation is so tragic that even political figures and Western governments that attempt to be very cautious about their comments on Islam were not capable of denying the severity of the situation any longer. This week, Prince Charles emphasized that the campaign of persecution by extremist Muslims and fundamentalist Islamists is leading to the disappearance of Christianity in the Middle East. According to The Blaze, Prince Charles stated, “It seems to me that we cannot ignore the fact that Christians in the Middle East are increasingly being deliberately targeted by fundamentalist Islamist militants.”  The British royal also made these remarks and comments to various religious leaders. The intensity of the kidnappings, murders, and persecutions of minorities, particularly Christians, is higher in countries such as Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. Prince Charles also added in The Telegraph that, “Christianity was literally born in the Middle East and we must not forget our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters in Christ. … Yet today the Middle East and North Africa has the lowest concentration of Christians in the world – just 4 percent of the population, and it is clear that the Christian population has dropped dramatically over the last century and is falling still further.”

 

In addition, the Prince of Wales stated that several strategies and tactics such as “intimidation, false accusation and organized persecution” are being utilized in a systematic campaign to force out the Christians, creating an exodus of Christians and other minorities from the region, according to The Telegraph. Furthermore, he warned that in case this systematic persecution by Islamists, extremists, and fundamentalists in Muslim societies did not halt, then “we [will] all lose something immensely and irreplaceably precious when such a rich tradition dating back 2,000 years begins to disappear.” In such cases, when minorities like the Christians and Jewish people of the Middle East are forced out of their homes, their belongings are oftentimes confiscated by Islamists groups (or the state) and distributed among themselves. When I used to live in Syria, in a neighborhood which used to be called Share Alyahood (Jewish Street), many of the houses of the Jewish people— who were forced into exile and out of the country— were being used by the government forces. The owners were not allowed to return to their homeland.

 

Repeated rapes, instances of torture, kidnappings, and the slaughter of Christians are only some of the methods used by the rising Islamists in the Middle East to force Christians out, frightening them or forcing them into Islamic conversion. But why is there such hatred towards Christians in the region? The persecution of Christians is not implemented because they are part of any militant or political group, or because they are attempting to overthrow the ruling party. The persecution is conducted because of their faith, due to their personal beliefs and religious practices. Several polls have shown that Middle East and particularly the predominantly Muslim societies are the worst places for Christians to live, as these countries are where the most severe persecution takes place towards Christians…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link –ed.]

 

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On Topic

 

Tunisia’s Reawakening: Editorial Board, New York Times, Dec. 18, 2013— Three years ago, a 26-year-old fruit vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself ablaze in the central Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid after being shaken down and humiliated by corrupt local officials, setting off an outpouring of anger across the Arab world against tyrannical regimes.

South Sudan’s Growing Conflict Reflects Rivalry Between President and His Former Deputy: Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post, Dec. 22., 2013 — They were an unlikely pair to lead the world’s newest nation — from different tribal groups and different regions, having taken vastly different paths to power.

Iraq is Still Bleeding 10 Years After Saddam Hussein's Capture: Colin Freeman, Telegraph, Dec. 12, 2013— Ten years after the capture of Saddam Hussein, Iraq is at risk of becoming a failed state again as al-Qaeda reclaims vast swathes of the country.

Benghazi Suicide Bombing: Is Libya al Qaeda’s New Hotbed?: Jamie Dettmer, The Daily Beast, Dec. 22, 2013— A suicide bomber detonated a truck loaded with explosives at an army base 30 miles from the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Sunday morning, killing six soldiers and prompting fears that al Qaeda is now set to exploit the political and militia-related turmoil plaguing Libya.

Yemen Under Attack: Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, Besa Center, Dec. 12, 2013 — The Republic of Yemen’s demographic and social structure, tribal divisions, perpetual civil wars, and lack of effective central government are taking the country down the path towards failure.

Coptic Christians Fear Continued Turmoil, New Constitution in Egypt: Ray Hanania, Arab Daily News, Dec. 16, 2013 — Arab Spring is a deceptive label created by western leftists as a misnomer for the Islamic revival in Arab countries.

A Prayer For the Middle East’s Christians: Prince Charles, National Post, Dec. 20, 2013— I have for some time now been deeply troubled by the growing difficulties faced by Christian communities in various parts of the Middle East.

                                                                                           

On Topic

 

 

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AS ARAB SPRING TURNS TO FALL, ALGERIA WARILY WATCHES TUNISIA AND LIBYA, WHILE MONARCHY KEEPS PEACE IN MOROCCO

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Tunisia on the Brink: Michael J. Totten, World Affairs,  July 29, 2013—Last week an assassin took out left-wing opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi with a 9mm pistol. Ballistics reports indicate the killer used the exact same weapon to murder another opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, last winter. And this week Al Qaeda-linked terrorists dug in on Mount Chambi killed at least eight Tunisian soldiers.

 

A Critical Time for Algeria: Emily Boulter, Real Clear World,  July 17, 2013—Over a two-month period Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika vanished from the country's political scene. He was reported to have suffered a mild stroke and travelled to France in order to receive medical care.

 

The Monarchy Model: Shadi Hamid, Slate, July 1, 2011—The lesson Arab autocrats seemed to learn from Egypt and Tunisia was almost the exact opposite of what democracy advocates were hoping for. Instead of using less force, leaders across the region have been using more of it, reaching unusual levels of brutality.

 

Tunisia's Jews: The road to Djerba: The Economist, May 1, 2013—For centuries, the tiny Tunisian island of Djerba played host to thousands of Jews on an annual pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'omer. Muslims, eager to share the festivities, joined in too.

 

On Topic Links

 

The Arab Spring Was a Cry for Capitalism: Hernando de Soto, The Spectator, July 13, 2013

Tunisia's Dark Turn: Joshua Muravchik, Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2013

Is Morocco the Model for Arab Democracy?: Michael J. Totten, The Tower, Aug. 2013

 

 

TUNISIA ON THE BRINK

Michael J. Totten

World Affairs,  July 29, 2013

 

Last week an assassin took out left-wing opposition leader Mohammed Brahmi with a 9mm pistol. Ballistics reports indicate the killer used the exact same weapon to murder another opposition leader, Chokri Belaid, last winter. And this week Al Qaeda-linked terrorists dug in on Mount Chambi killed at least eight Tunisian soldiers.

 

Ennahda, the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, is taking the heat. While they aren’t being fingered as directly responsible, they’re being blamed all the same because they dominate the government and they’ve gone easy on the extremists this past year and have sometimes even colluded with them. Thousands of furious demonstrators converged on parliament this week, yelling, “the people want the fall of the assassins.” Police officers repelled them with tear gas. Prime Minister Ali Larayedh refuses to step down and is blasting the demonstrators as “anarchists.”

 

Unlike in Egypt, the Islamists won less than half the vote in the election. Tunisians are stuck with them anyway, though, because secularists split their votes among dozens of parties and the Islamists walked away with a plurality. And though they were forced into a coalition with liberal and secular parties, they still got to choose the prime minister.

 

Ennahda is described as “moderate” in almost every single article published by wire agency hacks, but the only reason it’s relatively moderate is because it’s forced to share power. Tunisia’s Islamists conceded to building a civil state instead of an Islamic state because they face massive resistance and they don’t have enough seats in the parliament to do anything else. Since the police and the army are loyal to the country and not the party, that’s that. If Ennahda had won a majority and had the strength to muscle everything through, we would be looking at a different Tunisia—an Egypt in the Maghreb.

 

But Tunisia is much more liberal, secular, prosperous, and politically developed than Egypt. Both countries have problems that look similar on the surface, but the difference between the two is enormous. Tunis looks and feels more like France than like Cairo. The northern part of the country, where most people live, is more culturally similar to Europe than anywhere else in the Arab world outside of Beirut, which is almost half Christian.

 

In Egypt’s parliamentary election in winter of 2011, the Salafists—the ideological brethren of Osama bin Laden—won a shocking 28 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, the Salafist party is still banned in Tunisia, even with Ennahda in the government. It’s a marginal movement that scares the hell out of just about everyone, not just on ideological grounds, but also because it’s responsible for a spree of violent incidents since the Ben Ali government fell, including setting fire to an American school and threatening to kill all the Jews.

 

Algerian Salafists killed tens thousands of people during the 1990s. Most Americans haven’t heard word one about that horror show, but Tunisians won’t forget it any time soon. Algeria is next door. The border between the two in the Tunisian Sahara is unmarked and wide open. The Salafist Movement for Preaching and Combat is still active on the Algerian side, and terrorists are trickling into the country. The Al Qaeda attack near Mount Chambi this week was the most lethal against Tunisian security officials in decades. I drove to the top of that mountain two years ago. It’s the tallest in the country and from the top you can see into Algeria. The entire south side is a national park, and it’s lovely. But today it’s a terrorist nest. You go there, you die.

 

Ennahda and the Salafists ostensibly hate each other, but they have things in common ideologically, and they have an on-again off-again modus vivendi that’s no longer a secret. Last year someone leaked a video showing Rached Ghannouchi, Ennahda’s leader, delivering a speech to Salafist youth leaders. He winked and nudged and not-so subtly suggested they were on the same side, and he got busted. “I tell our young Salafists to be patient,” he said. “Why hurry? Take your time to consolidate what you have gained.” That video set the country on fire. The average Tunisian should have known Ennahda was little more than the “good cop” next to the Salafist “bad cop,” but at least they know it now, and it’s one of the reasons Ennahda’s popularity has cratered….

 

Tunisia is mellow, even pacifist, compared with Algeria. The army is smaller than Egypt’s, and it is not—or at least it has not been—a political player. So I don’t expect a full-blown Algerian-style insurgency or an Egyptian-style military coup. Nor is a Tiananmen Square-style massacre in the cards. Tunisia is not a police state, and Ennahda admits it’s afraid of the army. But tensions are rising, the situation is volatile, the country is more dangerous now than even a week ago, and the region is always surprising. Keep an eye out because even the “moderate” Islamists empowered by the Arab Spring are back on their heels. They thought they owned the future, but they do not.

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A CRITICAL TIME FOR ALGERIA

Emily Boulter

Real Clear World,  July 17, 2013

 

Over a two-month period Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika vanished from the country's political scene. He was reported to have suffered a mild stroke and travelled to France in order to receive medical care. His absence sparked rumors that the 76-year-old president had either passed way or was in a coma. There were widespread calls among opposition parties that Article 88 of the constitution should be invoked. However on June 12, 2013 news footage appeared showing Bouteflika in the French hospital of Val-de-Grace discussing plans for the next cabinet meeting with Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and Chief of Staff Ahmed Gaid Salah. On July 16, the president returned home to Algeria and it is reported that he will enjoy a "period of rest and recovery".

 

There is relief from many quarters that a power vacuum has been averted until next year's presidential elections in April. The consensus is that Bouteflika will not run for a fourth term, even though he introduced an amendment in 2008 removing limits on presidential terms. For the moment there are no likely successors, but possible candidates include Prime Minister Sellal, former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia and even former President Liamine Zeroual. Next year's candidates will have to gain the backing of Algeria's military and intelligence elite and undoubtedly they will need the support of Mohamed "Tewfiq" Mediene, the director of Algeria's intelligence service the DRS. Mediene is considered to be one of the most powerful men in Algeria and it is often said that the DRS truly holds the reins of power in the country.

 

This year Algeria has needed the aid of a decisive leadership, since it has been marred by a number of crises. On January 16, militants from the al-Qaeda splinter group Al Mulathameen or the Signed-In-Blood Battalion, led by the Algerian-born Mokhtar Belmokhtar attacked the remote gas plant of Tiguentourine near the municipality of In Amenas. The facility is a joint operation controlled by Algeria's national oil company Sonatrach, BP and Statoil. It produces two percent of Europe's gas imports. On the day of the attack, militants dressed in military uniforms singled out foreign nationals and some were forced to wear explosives around their necks. A day later, Algerian Special Forces, under the direction of the head of the Directorate for Internal Security, General Athman 'Bachir' Tartag, launched an offensive to remove the militants. At the end of a four-day siege, at least 38 workers and 29 militants had been killed….

 

Algeria is facing a tide of problems from beyond its borders and given that 98 percent of Algeria's export earnings come from oil and gas, it is critical that Algeria's government works to eliminate the threat of similar attacks in the future. Due to France's intervention in northern Mali in January, there has been a considerable movement of militant activity towards southern Libya and also into the area of Jebel Chambi on the Algerian-Tunisian border. The Tunisian military has been working to crack down on al-Qaeda operatives in this region. Given the nature of this threat, both countries have formed a military-security liaison and coordination committee to share information on terrorist activities. Since May at least 6000 Algerian troops have been posted along the border with Tunisia. On June 10, Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci said, "the borders with Tunisia and Libya are well secured, thanks to co-ordination with the two countries' governments". During this year's holy month of Ramadan, Algerian security forces have been on high alert due to fears of terrorist attacks. Security has been stepped up at mosques, public venues and at the country's beaches.

 

This year Algeria's Ministry of Defence has asked for a budget of $10.3 billion in order to face growing security challenges. The elusive militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who French intelligence call the "uncatchable" was thought to have been killed by Chadian forces in Mali, but it turned out not to be true. On May 23 he directed a suicide attack against a military base and a uranium mine in Niger, which killed 25 people. Algerian anti-terror forces have spent over five years trying to persuade Belmokhtar to surrender, but to no avail. The Algerian government's determination to lend its support to its neighbors, such as Mali and Niger has also raised the likelihood that al-Qaeda and its offshoots will continue to target Algeria through its porous southern borders. The country is already embroiled in a serious hostage crisis, which began in April 2012 when seven Algerian diplomats were captured in the northern Malian town of Gao by members of the radical Islamist group, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)….

 

In the wake of January's attack Algeria has been under pressure to attract and maintain foreign investment into the country. Foreign companies are limited to a maximum 49 percent stake in investments, as they are obliged to have a local partner. Algeria's national oil and gas company Sonatrach is given majority ownership of projects. Often foreign companies are reluctant to invest due to past allegations of corruption within the company, as well as a lack of fiscal incentives offered by the government. This is particularly noticeable during licensing rounds….

 

Algeria's relations with GCC members are giving it reasons to be optimistic. For instance, trade between Algeria and the UAE has been growing at 60 percent annually from 2005. UAE's state investment agency Mubadala launched a power plant in the Berber-speaking town of Tipaza in 2009, adding 20 percent to the country's energy supply. Algeria and Qatar have also signed a number of partnership agreements covering areas such as industry, mining, oil and gas. The former Emir of Qatar visited Algeria in January and both countries agreed to the construction of a steel plant, which will have a production capacity of 10 million tonnes of steel per year. Saudi-Algerian relations have also been improving. In November, Algerian diplomats celebrated the country's national day with Saudi officials in Jeddah and Saudi investors have also shown interest in purchasing Algerian farmland. On June 19, the 6th Algerian-Omani Joint Committee was opened and Algeria's foreign minister said the meeting would "help enhance our economic cooperation and open promising prospects for greater coordination and complementarity and for strengthening brotherly ties and cooperation".

 

Even though Algeria has foreign reserves worth $200 billion, the country is still suffering under the burden of social inequality. Although the IMF has indicated that unemployment is expected to fall to 9.3 percent in 2013, many consider this number to be skewed in light of realities on the ground. Algeria has seen a spate of protests over unemployment. Earlier this year, there were clashes in the southern town of Ouargla, over unemployment and the lack of housing. Youth unemployment is far greater than the national average and many young men or harragas, meaning "those who burn", try year after year to cross the Mediterranean illegally looking for a better life in Europe.

 

After the start of the Arab Spring, the Algerian government agreed to lift the state of emergency, offer generous social handouts, low interest loans and cheap housing. Algeria's banks have announced they will finance a $15 billion housing project to complete 250,000 homes by the end of next year. However the Algerian government has committed itself to two major housing construction programmes to construct 1.2 million and 2 million homes since 2005, but both have fallen short of their targets. Nevertheless the government is aware that as soon as tensions start to rise, it can use its resources to placate the population. Recently, an Algerian medical student told foreign journalists: "There is oil here, and every time the people aren't happy the government gives them money".

President Bouteflika will probably stick to this policy until the end of his term in office, and will not play an active role in public, which has been the case since his re-election in 2009. If we are to see a dramatic shift in Algeria's domestic policies, then we will most likely have to wait for his successor. Given that Algeria's neighbors are currently in the midst of enormous political and social upheaval, it is probable that Algerians will want a managed transition, especially in light of the country's brutal civil war. Even so, the departure of Bouteflika from politics will mark a new age for Algerian history, as he is one of the last remaining leaders from its time of independence.

 

Contents
 

 

THE MONARCHY MODEL

Shadi Hamid

Slate, July 1, 2011

 

The lesson Arab autocrats seemed to learn from Egypt and Tunisia was almost the exact opposite of what democracy advocates were hoping for. Instead of using less force, leaders across the region have been using more of it, reaching unusual levels of brutality. Shocking reports of mass rape and torture have emerged in Syria and Libya, where thousands have been killed. In Bahrain, a close U.S. ally and home of the Navy's Fifth Fleet, thousands have been arrested or dismissed from their jobs. Indeed, the "Arab spring" has turned into what political scientist Gregory Gause colorfully calls the "winter of Arab discontent."

 

In a season of growing disillusion—and disastrous televised speeches—the king of Morocco's June 17 national address stood out. It wasn't a great speech, and it fell well short of protesters' demands. But it was a substantive engagement with the opposition. The 47-year-old monarch did not demean his own people or place the blame on foreign conspirators. Instead, he announced a new constitution—one that has the potential to reshape the country's politics. While retaining effective veto power over major decisions, he pledged to empower elected institutions. The prime minister, drawn from the ranks of the largest party in parliament, would have the authority to appoint and fire ministers, as well as to dissolve parliament.

 

Morocco is offering the rest of the Arab world a different "model." And it is one that other monarchs will be watching closely. It is not a model of true democratic transition toward British-style "constitutional monarchy," as Moroccan Prime Minister Abbas al-Fasi recently claimed. There is little evidence to suggest King Mohammed VI is ready to merely reign and not rule. The Moroccan monarchy has a long history of failing to deliver on its promises of reform.

 

But this is precisely its appeal: To preserve power, you sometimes have to give some of it up. We can call this the "pre-emptive" model of reform. Here, autocrats take protests seriously. They announce big, high-profile reforms—whether it's moving toward elected governments or re-jigged constitutions. They release political prisoners and appoint real commissions that come up with real recommendations. They give people hope by using all the right buzzwords: change, democracy, reform, institutions, accountability. In doing so, this time around, the Moroccan regime has managed to seize the initiative and steal some momentum from the Feb. 20 protest movement—the loose coalition of leftists, liberals, and Islamists that has brought tens of thousands of Moroccans out into the streets. With a resounding "yes" vote in the July 1 constitutional referendum, the monarchy will be able to say that the mass of Moroccans stand behind the crown, further underlining regime legitimacy in a time of uncertainty.

 

Pre-emption is a strategy particularly suited to popular monarchies with reserves of historic and religious legitimacy. As the late King Hassan, Mohammed's father, once said, "I will never be put into an equation." The region's monarchs—in stark contrast to the presidents—stand above the fray, acting as umpires rather than partisans. As attractive as such a model may be for embattled autocrats, it is not revolution-proof. Once changes are set in motion, they are difficult to control. With more political space, opposition groups will be in a better position to build support and mobilize their followers. They may be more emboldened to challenge the king directly.…

 

In Europe, kings and queens were once dominant. But with gradually empowered parliaments, elected officials and notables began to assert themselves at the expense of monarchs. These contests for power became pitched battles. Many of them, unfolding over decades, were punctuated by instability and bloodshed—with Russia's October Revolution and the "Terror" of the French Revolution as only the most prominent examples. More recently, too, the peaceful transformation of monarchies has been a rare event. But just because it rarely happened in the past does not necessarily mean it won't happen in the future.

 

Prospects for reform in Morocco will depend not just on the king and his generous devolving of power but also on other forces in society that will fight for greater freedom and democracy, eventually turning to challenge the king on his own turf. For now, though, such a scenario is difficult to envision. Morocco's established political parties are careful, timid, and overly deferential to the king. As it stands, then, Morocco's pre-emptive model of reform seems good for autocrats, perhaps less so for those who wish to oppose them.

 

Contents

 

 

TUNISIA'S JEWS: THE ROAD TO DJERBA

The Economist, May 1, 2013

 

For centuries, the tiny Tunisian island of Djerba played host to thousands of Jews on an annual pilgrimage to the Ghriba synagogue in celebration of the Jewish holiday of Lag Ba'omer. Muslims, eager to share the festivities, joined in too. Pilgrims sang songs as they made their way through the streets towards the synagogue, the oldest in Africa. Locals sold almonds and deep-fried savoury pastries called brik.

 

Tunisia’s two-thousand-year-old Jewish community, which numbered 100,000 when the country gained independence from France in 1956, has now dwindled to around 1,600. Years of emigration, and a suicide bomb attack on the synagogue in 2002 which killed 21 people, have dampened the annual affair. In 2011 it was cancelled for security reasons, following the jasmine revolution which ousted the then-president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The occasion drew a few hundred foreign pilgrims last year; but this time the organisers, and Tunisia’s tourism ministry, were determined to stage a revival.

 

In fact, attendance was only slightly up on last year. Most of those on the three-day pilgrimage, which concluded on April 28th, were locals—Jews (and some Muslims) from Djerba or nearby Zarzis on the mainland. Jewish émigrés, nostalgic for the home country, came mainly from France, but also Canada and Israel. The French ambassador, François Gouyette, made a surprise visit. Surrounded by twitchy bodyguards, he joined the pilgrims’ procession and declared that French tourists should not hesitate to visit the country.

 

Amid a struggling economy, Tunisia’s government, led by the Islamist Nahda party, was especially keen to show tourists, as well as friendly foreign governments with oil interests in the region, that it has the security situation under control—particularly in the wake of last week’s car bomb attack on the French embassy in Tripoli, the capital of neighbouring Libya. The daunting level of security provided by the government for what in the event were just a few hundred pilgrims, was designed to demonstrate its commitment to defending Tunisian Jews' rights to operate as a community, despite the fact that the country’s proposed new constitution makes no reference to minority rights. The pilgrims, meanwhile, proudly displayed their Tunisian patriotism, waving flags and singing the national anthem.

 

Most Tunisian Jews say they continue to feel at home here. Yet they remain, to some extent, hostage to international relations. Though the proposed constitution does not mention minority rights, it does refer to Tunisia’s opposition to all forms of racial discrimination “especially Zionism”. Graffiti scrawled on the wall of the tourism ministry in Tunis, the capital, in reaction to the Jewish pilgrims’ arrival, reminded passers-by that Palestinians are still waiting for their “right of return”. Djerbans, proud of their island’s historical diversity, are well aware that their Mediterranean-style convivencia, is, like jasmine, a fragile bloom.

Contents

 

The Arab Spring Was a Cry for Capitalism: Hernando de Soto, The Spectator, July 13, 2013—Two years ago, the West thought it recognised what was happening in the Arab world: people wanted democracy, and were having revolutions to make that point. Now, recent events in Egypt have left many open-mouthed. Why should the generals be welcomed back? `

 

Tunisia's Dark Turn: Joshua Muravchik, Los Angeles Times, July 16, 2013—While Egypt's revolution devolves into chaos, Tunisia's democratic transition, which until now has been the most promising of any in the Arab world, is also in jeopardy. A bill being pushed by Islamists and their allies in National Constituent Assembly called the "law for the protection of the revolution" seems in reality designed to protect the ruling Islamist party, Nahda, from having to face real competition in the next elections.

 

Is Morocco the Model for Arab Democracy?: Michael J. Totten, The Tower, Aug. 2013—At the Western reaches of the Arab world, one nation has embarked on a path of incremental progress. Can liberty come without revolution? The Arab Spring is leaving chaos in its wake. Islamization, renewed state repression, and the threat of starvation led to a military coup after the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. 

 

 

Visit CIJR’s Bi-Weekly Webzine: Israzine.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Chairman, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org

THE ARAB SPRING COUNTRIES TWO YEARS ON – TUNISIA, EGYPT, LIBYA, YEMEN – ALL IN CHAOS

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Contents:                          

 

(Please Note: articles may have been shortened in the interest of space. Please click link for the complete article – Ed.)

 

Tunisia is no Longer a Revolutionary Poster-Child: Rachel Shabi, The Guardian, Feb. 7, 2013Amid the shock and grief at a terrible murder, there is an angry accusation. When forthright opposition leader Chokri Belaid was gunned down in broad daylight outside his home in Tunis, furious protesters marched on the offices around the country of the ruling Ennahda party.

 

Post-Mubarak Egypt: Utopia Turns Sour: Roi Kais, Ynet News, Feb. 11, 2013Egypt is celebrating the two-year anniversary of toppled President Hosni Mubarak – with a protest against current President Mohamed Morsi. On that same revolutionary Friday, two years back, the citizens of the land of the Nile celebrated the dramatic announcement made by then-Vice President Omar Suleiman, that Mubarak is handing the reins over to the Supreme Military Council.

 

Rise of Radical Muslim Groups in Libya: Daniel Wagner & Giorgio Cafiero, Real Clear World, Jan. 23, 2013It would be an understatement to say that the National Transition Council (NTC) has failed to govern Libya effectively since the fall of Gaddafi. The majority of territory outside Tripoli has fallen under the control of armed militias that have refused to disarm.

On Topic Links

 

 

A Sea Change in the Muslim World: David Ignatius, Real Clear Politics, Feb. 10, 2013
Fertility, Faith, and the Decline of Islam: Strategic Implications: David Goldman. PJMedia, Feb. 11, 2013

To Avoid Chaos, Tunisia Needs Stability Before Democracy: Wafa Ben Hassine, The Globe and Mail, Feb. 11, 2013

The Jihadis of Yemen: Robert F. Worth, New York Review of Books, Dec. 6, 2012

Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring: Robert F. Worth, New York Times, Jan. 19, 2013

Tunisian President's Party Quits Coalition Government: Bouazza Ben Bouazza, Globe and Mail, Feb. 10, 2013

 

 

 

TUNISIA IS NO LONGER A REVOLUTIONARY POSTER-CHILD

Rachel Shabi

The Guardian, Feb. 7, 2013

 

Amid the shock and grief at a terrible murder, there is an angry accusation. When forthright opposition leader Chokri Belaid was gunned down in broad daylight outside his home in Tunis, furious protesters marched on the offices around the country of the ruling Ennahda party. Belaid's brother, Abdel Majid, accused the Islamist party – which dominates the three-way coalition government – of the murder. Ennahda has denounced the assassination. Chillingly, Belaid, a secularist and vocal critic of Ennahda, warned of the rise of political violence when he appeared on Tunisian TV the night before he was killed.

 

Jalila Hedhli-Peugnet, president of the NGO Think Ahead for Tunisia, reflected the prevailing sentiment on Wednesday when she told France 24 that Belaid "was not assassinated under the dictatorship of Ben Ali, now he is assassinated under the democracy of Ennahda". If the government didn't kill him, she said, it also didn't protect him from such a tragedy.

 

Tension has been building, then, within a revolution that is too often billed a success story. Tunisia has not suffered the level of turmoil and violence of Egypt, or the agonising death and displacement of Syria, and so it appears to be handling the transition from dictatorship to democracy well. Other post-uprising countries look to Tunisia as both inspiration and weathervane. But Tunisians themselves bemoan their role as revolutionary poster-child as it can lead to the outside world ignoring or dismissing the very real problems there.

 

One such problem is the escalating political violence in Tunisia in the past year. A report just released by Human Rights Watch cites attacks on activists, journalists, intellectual and political figures – all the incidents apparently "motivated by a religious agenda".

 

Others have worried that the perpetrators of attacks on secular figures are not pursued rigorously by the coalition, thereby encouraging more of them. There's concern that Ennahda has failed to act on verbal and physical attacks (for instance against a TV station, intellectuals and an art gallery last year) by the ultra-religious Salafi movement. And opposition groups, the General Labour Union and campaigners, including the Centre for Press Freedom, have voiced mounting concern at the Leagues for the Protection of the Revolution – neighbourhood protection groups claiming to fight corruption and old regime remnants. The opposition views them as Ennahda enforcers (though the party has dismissed claims of any affiliation with the leagues), and some Tunisians suspect them of being behind the murder of Belaid. Belaid is reported to have described the leagues as "Ennahda-backed goon squads that attacked opposition rallies".

 

When Lofti Naqdh, a co-ordinator with Nida Tounes, a new opposition party, died after violent political clashes with one of these leagues in Tataouine last October, the ministry of interior said he had suffered a heart attack. But Al-Jazeera reports that a new autopsy, requested by Naqdh's family, last week confirmed that he was the victim of fatal beatings, with the head of one of these league local branches implicated in the killing.

 

Last month Amnesty warned that Tunisia's latest draft constitution, albeit an improvement on previous versions, is still ambiguous on issues such as gender equality, freedom of expression and judicial independence.

 

It's possible that any post-revolutionary party, once in power, would face the same accusations over missed deadlines for political progress, lack of justice, and a surge in youth unemployment. But in Tunisia this is compounded by the fact that, while most accept the democratic process that created an Islamist-heavy government, there's a worry that Islamists don't really do the sort of power-sharing required in post-revolutionary periods.

 

Amid calls for a general strike tomorrow and French schools in Tunisia closing because of continuing unrest, Ennahda's prime minister, Hamdi Jebali, pledged to form an interim cabinet of technocrats to prevent an impending political crisis. The idea was to finally agree a constitution and hold elections in June. Then Ennahda's leadership announced that Jebali had spoken out of turn and rejected his plan.

 

But this is not a time for power politics; it is a time for consensus. If Ennahda doesn't get it right now, it won't just risk losing the forthcoming election – it could lose Tunisia's revolution too.

 

Rachel Shabi is the author of Not the Enemy: Israel's Jews from Arab Lands

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POST-MUBARAK EGYPT: UTOPIA TURNS SOUR

Roi Kais

Ynet News, Feb. 11, 2013

 

Egypt is celebrating the two-year anniversary of toppled President Hosni Mubarak – with a protest against current President Mohamed Morsi. On that same revolutionary Friday, two years back, the citizens of the land of the Nile celebrated the dramatic announcement made by then-Vice President Omar Suleiman, that Mubarak is handing the reins over to the Supreme Military Council.

 

A resident of Alexandria told Ynet on Monday that "there was a feeling of utopia then, it was amazing and tomorrow is a sad day." The country's main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, never misses an opportunity to hit the streets and called upon Egypt's citizens to protest on Tuesday against Morsi in Tahrir Square and near Morsi's presidential palace.

 

Reasons for protesting are abundant – fatal clashes in the streets, a financial crisis, a controversial constitution and Morsi's multitudinous decision-makings. April 6, the group which led the anti-Mubarak uprising and the secular oppositional movement, declared that Tuesday's "activities are being held to demand Morsi's fall and to commit the latter alongside Prime Minister Hisham Kandil and Interior Minister General Mohammed Ibrahim to trial for the recent murder of protesters."

 

Two separate processions are expected to march towards Tahrir Square, leaving from two Cairo mosques and two more are expected to begin at two other mosques and end at the presidential palace.

Tension fills the Egyptian capital and cautionary measures are being taken for fear of violent riots, as seen in the past weeks. All this is at the backdrop of the threats made by the underground, oppositional group Black Bloc to storm the palace. The latter has already been defined by the Egyptian court as a "terrorist organization."

 

In the northern city of Alexandria, the secular opposition has called for demonstrations on Tuesday under the banner "nothing has changed aside from Mubarak being replaced by Morsi." The anniversary of Mubarak's fall is expected to yield anti-Morsi shows of strength in various nationwide districts.

 

In a conversation with Ynet, a resident of Alexandria who chose to remain anonymous, recalled the historic day, "Two years ago I was at Tahrir Square when Mubarak was ousted, and it was utopia. It was unbelievable. The nation suddenly felt powerful. Everyone danced and sang patriotic songs. It was amazing – and tomorrow is a sad day."

 

"Two years have lapsed and nothing has changed. On the contrary, it seems as if things are worse. When I go to stores or bus stations, people tell me that it was better under Mubarak. The Muslim Brotherhood are amateurs and they have been proven as such. At least Mubarak was economically and militarily experienced."

 

The most central of the nation's worriment stems from the economic state of affairs. "People aren't working, businesses are closing, inflation is high and the government is doing nothing about it. When the prime minister was at the World Economic Forum in Davos recentlly and protests were simultaneously being held in the country, he said that Egypt's economy is going in the right direction. What is he talking about?"

 

Morsi's political leadership is also being harshly criticized. "Before he became president, he declared that there won't be anymore emergency laws and recently declared a state of emergency in three cities. But the citizens there ignored his orders and went out and opened their stores and coffee houses. The army remained outside of the picture. That just proves how weak Morsi is."

 

"Unfortunately, the solution is that the military will take the reins. If Morsi and the government continue conducting themselves in this poor manner, the army will intervene. It will take time until Morsi falls and it will be ugly, but in my opinion there is no chance he will finish his term."

 

Meanwhile, the Egyptian opposition is preparing for April's parliamentary elections and continues to demand the amendment of the constitution and  institution of a national salvation government. Some of its factions are demanding the removal of Morsi from the government in light of what they call, "exaggerated violence" by security forces during recent demonstrations. Thus, it seems that on Tuesday, two years after the fact, we will re-hear the calls heard in the country's squares back then, "The nation wants to topple the government."

 

Top of Page

 

 

RISE OF RADICAL MUSLIM GROUPS IN LIBYA

Daniel Wagner & Giorgio Cafiero

Real Clear World, Jan. 23, 2013

 

It would be an understatement to say that the National Transition Council (NTC) has failed to govern Libya effectively since the fall of Gaddafi. The majority of territory outside Tripoli has fallen under the control of armed militias that have refused to disarm. Violent campaigns along tribal and ideological lines have been waged by Libyans determined to settle old scores and influence the ongoing political transition. Libya's armed Islamists are well positioned to shape the course of events. This year the NTC will be challenged to integrate the Islamists into the national political system, yet failure to do so will likely result in marginalized militants playing the spoiler. If current events in Algeria and Mali are an indication of what the future holds for Libya, Islamists may be expected to wage armed attacks against their opponents and western targets, which can only further damage Libya's investment climate.

 

Although the majority of Libya's Islamists supported the 2011 uprising, they hold a diverse set of political views and are divided by tactics. The Libyan Muslim Brotherhood (LMB), National Front for Salvation of Libya (NFSL), Islamic Rally Movement (IRM), and Libyan Islamic Movement for Change (LIMC) have all expressed an interest in non-violence and participatory democracy. Last June the LMB's political wing — the Justice and Construction Party (JCP) — participated in the election for the General National Congress, winning 17 of 80 seats. The LIMC, previously a guerilla jihadist group in the 1990s, renounced violence several years before the uprising and consented to the NTC's authority in 2011, reflecting a willingness to share power with non-Islamists. However, these groups' long-term political agendas and commitment to democracy have been questioned by analysts who suggest that their acceptance of electoral democracy is a tactic to gain power and fend off Western criticism during the transition period.

 

By contrast, other Libyan Islamists reject democratic practices and actively promote violent jihad. The Salafist Ansar al-Sharia (AaS, or Protectors of Islamic Law) is one of the most heavily armed factions in Libya and adheres to an extremist ideology not unlike the Taliban in Afghanistan, Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, or Ansar Dine in Mali. Believing democratic elections are "un-Islamic", the organization vows to remain armed until a strict version of sharia law is implemented across Libya. Based in Benghazi and Derna, AaS is a product of the uprising and believes that it owns the revolution as a result of resisting the regime before the NATO no-fly zone was imposed. In June the group attempted to assassinate the British Ambassador and during late August, it made international headlines after bulldozing ancient Sufi shrines in Tripoli and Zlitan. The September 11 attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi were carried out by the AaS, according to Libyan President El-Megarif.

 

AaS is heavily armed with anti-aircraft weaponry and automatic weapons, and numbers up to 5,000, but the group has gained legitimacy among a variety of non-militant groups within Libya, particularly after it assumed responsibility for guarding one of Benghazi's main hospitals last year, which was previously forced to operate under the threat of violence. While the NTC must eventually tackle groups like AaS, in the short-term it is forced to rely on autonomous armed battalions such as the AaS to ensure security, while seeking the longer-term objective of either disarming them or bringing them into a national military.

 

The vast majority of Libyans reject the type of extremism posed by AaS. Last July, Libyan voters expressed a preference for secular parties — even over the moderate Muslim Brotherhood. Whereas the Egyptian and Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood secured the greatest number of seats in their respective elections, nearly half of the seats reserved for political parties in Libya's General National Congress were carried by Mahmoud Jibril's liberal coalition, and the JCP received less than one quarter. Following AaS's actions in Benghazi and the Sufi tombs, widespread demonstrations were held to protest the group's brand of Islamism and violent tactics. Public opinion will therefore hamper AaS's ability to implement its ultra-conservative agenda, but given Libya's current power vacuum, hard power carries more weight among a portion of the electorate than democratic principles. Assuming that AaS continues to be heavily armed and highly disciplined, and that the factionalism that currently defines Libya's political landscape continues, AaS and similar groups are positioned to maintain the power they have acquired since 2011, implying that compromise will not be a dominant part of the political lexicon in the near term.

 

Numerous countries that trade with and invest in Libya have an interest in seeing the country become a functional democracy and achieve stability. As Africa's top oil producer and fourth biggest natural gas producer, Libya has held substantial leverage with countries in the region that lack indigenous natural resources. While during the uprising oil and gas exports naturally tumbled, production has nearly returned to pre-uprising levels. So while Libya's traditional oil and gas importers are hopeful about the future, if extremists were to assume power, it is reasonable to expect these countries to turn elsewhere for their energy supplies.

 

Prior to the uprising, Libya was Italy's number three supplier of natural gas, meeting approximately 10 percent of the country's demand. At that time, Italy was Libya's top importer of crude oil, with nearly a quarter of Italy's total oil consumption coming from Libya. The only pipeline from Libya to Europe is the Greenstream pipeline, which transfers natural gas to Italy as part of the Western Libyan Gas Project – a 50/50 joint venture between the Libyan state-owned National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Italian energy firm Eni. At its peak, eight billion cubic meters of natural gas were exported from Libya to mainland Europe via the pipeline. Acts of sabotage against this pipeline would severely impact Italy's ability to rely on Libyan gas, compelling Rome to become increasingly dependent on Russian gas – something no western European country desires.

 

Spain is also a major stakeholder in Libya's future. Prior to the uprising, Spain imported 13 percent of its oil from Libya. Following the outbreak of the uprising 2011, the Spanish government introduced measures to reduce national oil consumption. Like Italy, Spain's economy remains fragile; increased energy costs resulting from an interruption of Libyan supplies would only add to the nation's economic ills. Madrid therefore has much to lose from greater instability in Libya. Increased turmoil, or a rise in militarism in Libya, would likely result in an influx of immigrants from Libya to Europe. Given the poor state of the EU's economy and the rise of the anti-Muslim Right in Europe, a rise in North African refugees would not be well received and could contribute to greater economic strain and the propensity for social unrest, which would have an impact far beyond Spain.

 

The rise of militant factions in Libya could also have a host of negative implications for North Africa. As the Tunisian government addresses its own violent Salafi extremists, the rise of the AaS in Libya could embolden Tunisia's ultra-conservative Islamic militants to increase their own activity. And as has already been proven as a result of the Libyan jihadists' contribution to the Algerian gas plant hostage tragedy, much of North Africa is already being impacted.

 

None of this bodes well for the decades-long effort to create a Arab Maghreb Union, resolve the lingering dispute over the Western Sahara, or increase foreign direct investment in the region. The high levels of mistrust and paranoia between Libya's armed tribes further undermines the prospects for building a unified state in Libya. This is not welcome news for Libya in the longer term, those countries dependent on it for energy, or other countries in the region that either have a jihadist presence or are failed states.

 

Top of Page

 

 

 

 

A Sea Change in the Muslim World: David Ignatius, Real Clear Politics, Feb. 10, 2013Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don't mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a "sea change" is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a "flight from marriage" among Arab women.

 

Fertility, Faith, and the Decline of Islam: Strategic Implications: David Goldman. PJMedia, Feb. 11, 2013The liberal establishment has finally taken note of the elephant in the Muslim parlor, namely the closing of the Muslim womb. A year after the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt reported the precipitous fall in Muslim fertility in a widely commented paper, and seven years after I reported the trend and its strategic implications at Asia Times, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius reports wide-eyed on Eberstadt’s findings.

 

To Avoid Chaos, Tunisia Needs Stability Before Democracy: Wafa Ben Hassine, The Globe and Mail, Feb. 11, 2013In the truest sense, Tunisia is living the very painful birth pangs of a democracy. The assassination last week of Chokri Belaid, the secular opposition leader, has shaken the country to its very core, and has accentuated a deepening political crisis in Tunisia's Islamist-led coalition government.

 

The Jihadis of Yemen: Robert F. Worth, New York Review of Books, Dec. 6, 2012A more complex Yemen was briefly visible on Western TV screens during the spring of 2011, when a diverse protest movement gathered against Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s longtime ruler. It seemed for a moment that he would join Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in sudden and ignominious retirement. But Saleh was too clever, and the nascent revolution quickly collapsed into a muddle that left no one happy.

 

Jihadists’ Surge in North Africa Reveals Grim Side of Arab Spring: Robert F. Worth, New York Times, Jan. 19, 2013As the uprising closed in around him, the Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi warned that if he fell, chaos and holy war would overtake North Africa. “Bin Laden’s people would come to impose ransoms by land and sea,” he told reporters. “We will go back to the time of Redbeard, of pirates, of Ottomans imposing ransoms on boats.”

 

Tunisian President's Party Quits Coalition Government: Bouazza Ben Bouazza, Globe and Mail, Feb. 10, 2013Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki’s secular party is quitting the coalition government in anger at the dominant Islamist party’s handling of the country’s worst political crisis since it unleashed the Arab Spring uprisings two years ago.

 

 

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CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing is available by e-mail.
Please urge colleagues, friends, and family to visit our website for more information on our ISRANET series.
To join our distribution list, or to unsubscribe, visit us at http://www.isranet.org/.

The ISRANET Daily Briefing is a service of CIJR. We hope that you find it useful and that you will support it and our pro-Israel educational work by forwarding a minimum $90.00 tax-deductible contribution [please send a cheque or VISA/MasterCard information to CIJR (see cover page for address)]. All donations include a membership-subscription to our respected quarterly ISRAFAX print magazine, which will be mailed to your home.

CIJR’s ISRANET Daily Briefing attempts to convey a wide variety of opinions on Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world for its readers’ educational and research purposes. Reprinted articles and documents express the opinions of their authors, and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.

 

 

Ber Lazarus, Publications Editor, Canadian Institute for Jewish ResearchL'institut Canadien de recherches sur le Judaïsme, www.isranet.org

Tel: (514) 486-5544 – Fax:(514) 486-8284 ; ber@isranet.org