Tag: Morocco


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.]                




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.




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.




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.]                



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.


Five Years After the Revolution: Is Egyptian President El-Sisi Winning the Battle?: Zvi Mazel, JNS, July 15, 2018 —Recent weeks have brought welcome news to Egypt.

Egypt’s Islamist Televangelists Lose Clout: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, July 9, 2018— They once captured the hearts and minds of millions of Egyptians, but Islamist televangelists are losing popularity.

The Moroccan Boycotts: A New Model for Protest?: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, June 22, 2018— In Jordan recently, fury at tax hikes followed the classic pattern of sustained public protest.

How Qatar’s Jewish Strategy Backfired: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2018— Six months ago, in January 2018, the world looked hopeful for Qatar.

On Topic Links

4 Years On, Egypt’s President Urges Patience Over Reforms: National Post, June 30, 2018

Egypt Tries To Reconcile ‘Coptic’ Churches To Non-Existence: Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum, June 16, 2018

Coal’s Coming Renaissance in the Middle East: Dmitriy Frolovskiy, Real Clear World, July 02, 2018

Many Egyptian Christians Feel Left Out of World Cup: Hamza Hendawi, National Post, June 22, 2018




Zvi Mazel

JNS, July 15, 2018

Recent weeks have brought welcome news to Egypt. The fight against Islamic terror appears to be going well, and social and economic reforms are beginning to get results, though the president’s high-handed rule has drawn critics. In a televised speech on June 30 to mark the fifth anniversary of the 2013 events that led to the downfall of the regime of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi stated that it had been the “right revolution,” as opposed to the January-February 2011 demonstrations that brought down former President Hosni Mubarak as part of the so-called Arab Spring.

Those demonstrations endangered political stability and personal safety, and led to the rise of terrorism and the collapse of the economy, he said, but he was successfully working at correcting those ills with the help of the security forces and the support of the people. The president claims he saved his country from the establishment of an Islamic dictatorship and restored stability, but it came at a steep price. Hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood were killed during violent protests. Nevertheless, he never lost sight of his goal of developing the economy and did not hesitate to tackle painful but necessary reforms.

Islamic terror in the Sinai Peninsula is still the main stumbling block after four years of fierce fighting against militants of the “Sinai district of the Islamic State.” Last February, the president launched Operation “Sinai 2018” to eradicate the organization and sent reinforcements to the detachments of his second and third army already there. Hundreds of terrorists were killed, communication and command posts destroyed, caches of explosives discovered, and hundreds of vehicles and motorcycles seized. This led to a drastic drop in terror activities, but did not eradicate the Islamic State.

El-Sisi cannot afford to dial down his troops whose continuous presence in the peninsula is a severe drain on the defense budget while preventing a return to normal life in the area. A five kilometer wide buffer zone has been established along the border to isolate Sinai from the Gaza Strip, and hundreds of families had to leave. A night curfew is in force in parts of northern Sinai, hampering the delivery of necessary goods and medicine to civilians. Schools and institutes of higher education were shut down to prevent terror attacks. Still, there has been a shift in the attitude of the mostly Bedouin population, traditionally suspicious of the central government, who are now joining the fight against jihadi militants following the deadly attack on the Rawda mosque last November that killed 311 men and women at prayer. Bedouin tribes are now cooperating with the army. Early this month, two high-ranking leaders of the Sinai district surrendered after a lengthy battle in the town of Rafah. This was apparently brokered by the Union of Sinai Tribes, which had called on the jihadis to surrender following their failures. Some of the strict security measures are now being lifted and some normalcy is returning to the region.

The Muslim Brotherhood remains a low-level threat. Five years after their ouster from power and the violent repression of their demonstrations, Muslim Brothers still refuse to accept their defeat and demand the release of ousted president Mohammed Morsi as a precondition to talks with the new regime. The events of 2011 propelled them to power after 80 long years during which they had twice been outlawed, their leaders executed, and their militants arrested by the thousands. In 2012, their first political party Freedom and Justice won the parliamentary elections and Morsi was elected president. Barely a year later the parliament was dissolved for technical reasons and Morsi was ousted and arrested following massive popular protests with millions of Egyptians taking to the streets with the support of the army led by el-Sisi, who was minister of defense at the time.

Today, the Brotherhood is in dire straits. It has been outlawed as a terror organization and thousands of its members arrested. Its political party and affiliate organizations were dissolved and all activity forbidden. Its offices and assets were seized, and a recent presidential decree allows the confiscation of the private assets of members who have been arrested and sentenced as soon as their sentence becomes final. Most of their leaders are in jail and face charges of treason and violence against citizens. Such is the case for former president Morsi, the supreme leader of the movement Mohamad mad Bad’ie and his deputies Khairat el Shater and Rashid el Bayomi, as well as other prominent personalities well-known in the Arab world. Morsi and Badi’e have already been sentenced to several life terms and even to death, but their appeals are still pending. Some low-ranking members try to generate a minimum of activities but are under close watch and their temporary offices are often shut down while they are arrested.

The few leaders who have managed to flee are seeking refuge in Turkey and Qatar, countries that support the Brotherhood. At this stage the organization has collapsed to all intents and purposes. Mahmoud Ezzat, one of the deputies of the supreme leader, avoided arrest and is reputedly hiding in Egypt, where he is attempting to assume the mantle of leader and keep the Brotherhood alive until better times without notable success because the chaotic situation has led to a de facto split in the movement. The younger generations looking for revenge found their leader in the person of Mohammad Kamal, one of the veterans who tried to reorganize Brotherhood institutions but failed and instead formed two violent groups: Liwa al Thawra (“Banner of the Revolution”) and Hism (“Decision”), which targeted security forces and public figures and carried out terrorist operations in Cairo and elsewhere on the Egyptian mainland. Kamal was killed in October 2016 in a police raid in Cairo, but the Hism group is still active.

The organization has trouble recruiting new members and is no longer able to launch protests as it did in 2015-2016. Attempts at reconciliation have failed because, though President el-Sisi is ready to talk, probably because he no longer sees the Brotherhood as an immediate threat, he refuses all preconditions such as releasing Morsi from jail. It would, however, be a mistake to dismiss a movement that has shown in the past remarkable recovery powers. Its ultimate goal, a return to the sources of Islam and the reestablishment of the caliphate, still exerts a powerful appeal in Egypt and other Arab countries where political parties affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood are having significant success.

The president is well aware that he will be judged on his economic and social achievements. There are already 100 million Egyptians, with one million being added every six months. At 3.3%, the birth rate remains high. A majority of the people earn less than $2 a day, which puts them below the poverty line as defined by the United Nations. Economic growth of 7% to 8% per year over several years would be needed to make up for the high birth rate and the damage caused to the economy by previous governments…

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





Hany Ghoraba

IPT News, July 9, 2018


They once captured the hearts and minds of millions of Egyptians, but Islamist televangelists are losing popularity. They started to lose credibility during the June 2013 revolution that drove the Muslim Brotherhood from power and in the subsequent terrorist attacks after Islamist President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster.

“The state of abandonment of the Salafi preachers and the Muslim Brotherhood … is very good and serves the interests of the Egyptian, Arab and Islamic societies,” said former Muslim Brotherhood member Sameh Eid. “The exposure of the ideas of these preachers and their great dependence on a heritage that is no longer suitable for the present time and place make them a rare and ridiculous material on the pages of the media.”

Fewer people are watching the Islamist televangelists shows, Islamist groups researcher and former Brotherhood member Tarek Abou Saad, so they now resort to using historical tales of Islam’s grandeur to try to draw an audience. Despite those efforts, televangelist ratings during Ramadan were the lowest since 2011.

Egyptian media traditionally offered two main types of televangelists – Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated and Salafist (Wahhabi). Brotherhood clerics in modern clothes advocate a gradual Islamization of society while infiltrating Egypt’s more affluent society. Salafists successfully appealed to working class and more impoverished sectors of society.

The televangelist movement in Egypt was initiated by Omar Abdel Kafi who became extremely famous among the affluent. The radical preacher issued fatwas prohibiting greeting Christians and urging boycotting Jews. Egyptian authorities took him off the air in 1994, forcing him to work in exile from the United Arab Emirates. He follows the path of both the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists. Recently, his anti-Semitic statements, describing Jews as “aiming to control all the world’s money and lands then controlling all international politics,” got him banned from delivering a speech in Canada in April.

The rise of Islamist televangelists was cancerous to the fiber of the Egyptian society and fueled radicalization during the past two decades. Views toward women, Christians, art and the West all grew more strident. The new wave of preachers was first introduced in 2002 through the Saudi-financed religious network “Iqra [Read] TV.” By 2007, Time magazine listed Amr Khaled as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, calling him a “rock star” and “a needed voice for moderation from within the Muslim world.”

Forbes Arabia also identified Amr Khaled as one of the richest Islamist preachers that year, estimating his income at $2.5 million. He introduced a new form of preaching – which he called “Visual Da’wa” – emphasizing appearance as a way to inspire more religious adherence. He urged girls to wear the hijab, which he called a “walking symbol of the faith.” “Wearing your hijab at the beach, even if surrounded by semi-naked girls,” he said, will lead to society becoming more religious. This is the way to fix society.”

Most of the new breed of televangelists didn’t study Islamic theology at Al Azhar University like traditional preachers. Instead, they present themselves as average people who found religion through personal experiences. For example, televangelist Moez Massoud said that he became closer to God after losing friends in an accident and then surviving a health scare. This approach has attracted a younger audience than traditional religious programs.

While many view the new televangelists as sincere God-fearing preachers, others see actors performing a role. Amr Khaled has been mocked for fake piety repeatedly on social media for actions like praying only for his followers while in Mecca, excluding other Muslims. “l believe they put on an act and use a special voice tone to convey their message to the audience,” said Egyptian actress Laila Ezz Al Arab…

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






Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, June 22, 2018

In Jordan recently, fury at tax hikes followed the classic pattern of sustained public protest. Protesters, in contrast to the calls for regime change that dominated the 2011 revolts, targeted the government’s austerity measures and efforts to broaden its revenue base. The protesters forced the resignation of Prime Minister Hani Mulki and the repeal of proposals for tax hikes that were being imposed to comply with conditions of a $723 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan to Jordan.

Austerity measures in Egypt linked to a $12 billion IMF loan also sparked protests in a country in which dissent is brutally repressed. Rare protests erupted last month after the government hiked Cairo’s metro fares by up to 250%. Now, with economists and analysts waiting to see how Egyptians respond to new austerity measures that include a 50% rise in gasoline prices (the third since Egypt floated its currency in 2016, with further hikes expected in July), Morocco may provide a more risk-free and effective model for future protest in one of the most repressive parts of the world.

An online boycott campaign fueled by anger at rising consumer prices that uses hashtags such as “let it curdle” and “let it rot” has spread like wildfire across Moroccan social media. A survey in late May by economic daily L’Economiste suggested that 57% of Moroccans were participating in the boycott of some of Morocco’s foremost oligopolies, which have close ties to the government.

The boycott of the likes of French dairy giant Danone, mineral water company Oulmes, and the country’s leading fuel distributor, Afriquia SMDC, is proving effective and difficult to counter. The boycott recently expanded to include the country’s fish markets. The boycott has already halved Danone’s sales. The company said it would post a 150 million Moroccan dirham ($15.9 million) loss for the first six months of this year, cut raw milk purchases by 30%, and reduce its number of short-term job contracts. Danone employees recently staged a sit-in that blamed both the boycott and the government for their predicament. Lahcen Daoudi, a Cabinet minister, resigned after participating in a sit-in organized by Danone workers.

The boycott has also affected the performance of energy companies. Shares of Total Maroc, the only listed fuel distributor, fell by almost 10% since the boycott began in April. The strength of the boycott, which was launched on Facebook pages that have since attracted some two million visitors, lies in the fact that it is difficult to identify who is driving it. No individual or group has publicly claimed ownership. The boycott’s effectiveness is enhanced by the selectiveness of its targets, which are described by angry consumers on social media as “thieves” and “bloodsuckers.”

Anonymity and the virtual character of the protest, in what could become a model elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa, has made it difficult for the government to crack down on its organizers.Yet even if the government identified the boycott’s organizers, it would be unable to impose its will on choices that consumers make daily. The boycott also levels the playing field, with even the poorest able to affect the performance of economic giants. In doing so, the boycott strategy counters region-wide frustration with the fact that protests have either failed to produce results or, in countries like Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Libya, have led to mayhem, increased repression, and civil war.

“While boycotts solve some of the problems of protest movements…they also create new challenges…. Diffuse structures … limit their ability to formulate clear demands, negotiate on the basis of these demands, respond to criticism of the movement and, eventually, end the boycott. Boycotts against domestic producers are likely to face criticism that they are hurting the economy and endangering the jobs of their compatriots working in the boycotted companies,” cautioned Max Gallien, a London School of Economics PhD candidate who studies the political economy of North Africa.

The Moroccan boycott grew out of months of daily protests in the country’s impoverished northern Rif region. The government tried to squash those protests with a carrot-and-stick approach that involved the arrest of hundreds. Underlying the boycott is a deep-seated resentment of the government’s incestuous relationship with business, which has led to its failure to ensure fair competition. Many believe this has eroded purchasing power among the rural poor and the urban middle class alike.

Afriquia is part of the Akwa group owned by Aziz Akhannouch, a Moroccan billionaire ranked by Forbes. Akhannouch also serves as agriculture minister, heads a political party, and is one of the kingdom’s most powerful politicians. Oulmes is headed by Miriem Bensalah Chekroun, the former president of Morocco’s confederation of enterprises, CGEM. “The goal of this boycott is to unite Moroccan people and speak with one voice against expensive prices, poverty, unemployment, injustice, corruption and despotism,” said one Facebook page that supports the boycott. This is a message and a methodology that could resonate across a swath of land stretching from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Gulf.




Seth J. Frantzman

Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2018

Six months ago, in January 2018, the world looked hopeful for Qatar. The small Gulf state had been blockaded by its neighbor Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh’s allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt broke relations. Qatar, which hosts a large US base, invested millions in a public relations effort in the US to counter its enemies. In the last days of January the US secretaries of state and defense sat with the Qatari leadership for a US-Qatar Strategic Dialogue confab. Doha seemed on the road to victory.

US President Donald Trump hosted Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in April. It seemed the PR effort was paying off. Qatar wanted Americans to see the emirate as an ally and a victim. It was fighting terrorism, it said, and it had changed its ways in terms of being a conduit for alleged terrorism finance to groups such as Hamas. In mid-January Alan Dershowitz, writing on The Hill website about his trip to Qatar, even wrote that it was becoming the “Israel of the Gulf states” and claimed that Qatari officials had told him Hamas leaders had left Doha. Dershowitz was one of a long list of pro-Israel Americans, including prominent Jews, who went to Qatar in the fall of 2017 and first months of 2018. Qatar carried out its outreach to US Jews through various channels, one of which was Nick Muzin, who had formerly worked with Sen. Ted Cruz and ran a firm called Stonington Strategies.

On June 6 Muzin wrote on Twitter that “Stonington Strategies is no longer representing the State of Qatar.” He said he had gone into the work to “foster peaceful dialogue in the Middle East” and to increase Qatar’s defense and economic ties to the US. Muzin’s break with the emirate coincided with the Zionist Organization of America condemning Qatar for its “giant step backward.” Mort Klein, head of ZOA, wrote on June 6 that he had traveled to Doha in January “to fight for Israel, America and the Jewish people.” But Qatar had “failed to do the right thing.”

A week later a man named Joseph Allaham filed paperwork with the US Department of Justice’s Foreign Agents Registration Act unit. He registered Lexington Strategies as working for the State of Qatar and noted that after doing initial work to promote the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, “the understanding was expanded to include relationship-building with the leadership in the Jewish community in the United States to better international relations.

Methods of performance included peaceful means of community engagement, charitable contributions and arranging meetings in the US and visits to Qatar.” Qatar had given a grant of $1.45 million, according to the document. In an email Allaham wrote that he is “proud of the work that Mort Klein has done and all the other Jewish leaders working in collaboration with the Emir and other members of the Qatari Royal Family.

Mr. Klein has made great strides for the American Jewish community and Israel. These accomplishments, some public and some will remain private- go far beyond what many other leaders of the Jewish community and state officials have achieved with Qatar.” The Allaham filing, disclosing his previous relationship, apparently marked the end of his work with Qatar. “I had planned for a while on announcing my resignation,” he wrote in a statement at MSNBC in the first week of June. He said it had nothing to do with “the Broidy case,” a lawsuit filed by Elliott Broidy against Qatar…

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



On Topic Links

4 Years On, Egypt’s President Urges Patience Over Reforms: National Post, June 30, 2018—Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi urged citizens on Saturday to further endure economic reforms and austerity measures, including a recent wave of steep price hikes on fuel, electricity and drinking water.

Egypt Tries To Reconcile ‘Coptic’ Churches To Non-Existence: Raymond Ibrahim, Middle East Forum, June 16, 2018—From attacks by Muslim mobs to closures by Muslim authorities, the lamentable plight of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt always follows a pattern, one that is unwaveringly only too typical.

Coal’s Coming Renaissance in the Middle East: Dmitriy Frolovskiy, Real Clear World, July 02, 2018—Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah el-Sissi faces little opposition as he begins his second term, but the former field marshal has an immediate challenge coming in just a few weeks’ time.

Many Egyptian Christians Feel Left Out of World Cup: Hamza Hendawi, National Post, June 22, 2018— Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years has captivated the soccer-crazy nation, with intense focus on the squad and the broader game.


Pompeo Raises the Price for Iran to Rejoin International Community: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, May 21, 2018 — If you ever wanted to know what the opposite of Barack Obama’s Iran strategy would look like, I recommend Mike Pompeo’s speech Monday at the Heritage Foundation.

Trump, Europe, and Iran: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, May 31, 2018 — When US President Donald Trump decertified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in October 2017, the EU thought a “solved” problem had returned to the agenda for no real reason.

Russia Constrains Iran: Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, June 3, 2018— In an astounding series of statements, Russia has made it clear that it expects all foreign forces to withdraw from Syria.

The US, Morocco and Iran’s North African Expansion: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, June 3, 2018— Iran’s response to President Donald Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, has been striking.

On Topic Links

The United States Finally Has an Aggressive Plan to Defang Iran: Ray Takeyh, Mark Dubowitz, Foreign Policy, May 21, 2018

The True Commander in Tweet: A.J. Caschetta, The Hill, May 19, 2018

Iran Lied to Get a Deal That We Can’t Enforce Anyway: Sheryl Saperia, National Post, May 8, 2018

The Mullahs and the Tale of a Betrayal: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, June 3, 2018





Eli Lake

Bloomberg, May 21, 2018


If you ever wanted to know what the opposite of Barack Obama’s Iran strategy would look like, I recommend Mike Pompeo’s speech…at the Heritage Foundation. In his first major address as secretary of state, Pompeo outlined a new strategy that overturns three key assumptions that underpinned the Iran policy of Obama and his top diplomat, John Kerry. These are: that America can live with Iranian regional aggression in exchange for temporary limits on its nuclear program; that the 2015 nuclear bargain expressed the will of the international community; and that Iran’s current elected leadership can moderate the country over time.

Let’s start with that first assumption. While past U.S. presidents sanctioned Iran for a variety of bad behavior — ranging from its sponsorship of terrorism to its human rights abuses — Obama by his second term offered to lift the most biting ones in exchange for nuclear concessions. Obama gave the regime a choice: your nukes or your economy. Pompeo on Monday said the old deal no longer applied. Under renewed sanctions, he said, Iran would be forced to make a different choice: “either fight to keep its economy off life support at home or keep squandering precious wealth on fights abroad. It will not have the resources to do both.”

This formulation flips Obama’s gamble on its head. Obama argued that for all of the instability Iran sowed in the Middle East, it was worth relaxing sanctions on Iran’s banking system and oil exports in exchange for limitations on its nuclear program.  Pompeo says that deal was a loser. “No more cost-free expansions of Iranian power,” Pompeo said. Speaking of the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, America’s top diplomat said he “has been playing with house money that has become blood money; wealth created by the West has fueled his campaign.”

Pompeo … also took aim at one of the more insidious elements of Obama’s diplomatic strategy, which was that the countries most effected by the change in U.S. policy toward Iran — Israel and America’s Arab allies — were not included in negotiations. The negotiators of the deal were the U.S., China, the European Union, Iran, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were briefed later about the talks. Now the Europeans, Russians and Chinese are part of a much larger group America wants to press the Iranians to change their ways. “I want the Australians, the Bahrainis, the Egyptians, the Indians, the Japanese, the Jordanians, the Kuwaitis, the Omanis, the Qataris, the Saudi Arabians, South Korea, the UAE, and many, many others worldwide to join in this effort against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said.

The secretary also made an explicit appeal to the Iranian people. “Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Republic, the revolution in Iran,” he said. “At this milestone, we have to ask: What has the Iranian Revolution given to the Iranian people?”    In a dig at Obama and Kerry, Pompeo called out Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, and foreign minister, Javad Zarif. Addressing the Iranian people, Pompeo said, “The West says, ‘Boy, if only they could control Ayatollah Khamenei and Qasem Soleimani then things would be great.’ Yet, Rouhani and Zarif are your elected leaders. Are they not the most responsible for your economic struggles? Are these two not responsible for wasting Iranian lives throughout the Middle East?”

Compare that with Obama’s and Kerry’s careful courting of Rouhani and Zarif. Even after Iran’s revolutionary guard corps detained and humiliated 10 U.S. sailors who drifted into Iranian territorial waters, Kerry made sure to thank Zarif for helping to get them released. After Rouhani won the 2013 presidential election, the Obama administration began relaxing sanctions designations months before the formal nuclear negotiations started. Pompeo’s appeals to the Iranian people stopped short of calling for regime change. The closest he came to that was saying, “We hope, indeed we expect, that the Iranian regime will come to its senses and support — not suppress — the aspirations of its own citizens.”

That said, Pompeo’s expectation about Iran’s treatment of its own people was not included in his list of 12 demands of the Iranian regime if they wish to rejoin the international community. Those demands covered a range of activities, from releasing U.S. citizens arrested in recent years to removing all personnel from Syria and allowing unfettered access to nuclear inspectors to military sites. If Iran complies, Pompeo said the Trump administration would support a treaty agreement (something Obama did not do) that would give Iran access to American markets and full diplomatic recognition.

As many commentators have already quipped, the chance of Iran meeting these conditions is zero. But that misses an important point. In his enthusiasm for a bargain with Iran, Obama was willing to normalize a nation that was aiding and abetting a horrific crime against the Syrian people, overthrowing the government in Yemen and undermining the elected one in Iraq. It arrested U.S. citizens even as its diplomats were negotiating the nuclear deal. It shipped missiles to terrorists in Lebanon aimed at Israel.

All of that was worth it, Obama and Kerry insisted, because Iran had agreed to place temporary limits on its nuclear program that would expire over the next 10 to 20 years. But the norms that separate rogue states from international citizens were weakened in the process. Pompeo on Monday took the first step in trying to restore them.



TRUMP, EUROPE, AND IRAN                                           

Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos

BESA, May 31, 2018


When US President Donald Trump decertified the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in October 2017, the EU thought a “solved” problem had returned to the agenda for no real reason. It almost immediately issued a statement calling the JCPOA “a key element of the nuclear non-proliferation global architecture and crucial for the security of the region” and encouraged the US to maintain it.

From a European perspective, though issues related to Iranian ballistic missiles as well as rising tensions in the region were matters of concern, they were to be addressed “outside the JCPOA.” In January 2018, following another speech by Trump on Iran that essentially issued an ultimatum to Europeans that they reconsider their approach, High Representative Federica Mogherini said: “The deal is working; it is delivering on its main goal, which means keeping the Iranian nuclear program in check and under close surveillance.”

Trump’s decision to end US participation in the “unacceptable” Iran deal, which took place on May 8, 2018, led Germany, France, and the UK to express “regret” and “concern.” The three countries, and the EU on the whole, seek to ensure that the structures of the JCPOA remain intact. On May 15, Mogherini met with the foreign ministers of France, Germany, the UK, and Iran to discuss the future of the deal and expressed confidence that it could stay in place despite the difficulty of the task. She is leading the effort to put complementary mechanisms and measures in place at both the EU level and the national level to protect the economic operators of European member states.

European trade and investment in Iran moved forward quickly following the signing of the JCPOA in 2015. In December 2016, Airbus, the French aerospace pioneer, signed a contract with Iran Air for 100 aircraft. In July 2017, energy colossus Total and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) agreed to collaborate on the development and production of phase 11 of South Pars, the world’s largest gas field. In August 2017, the German automobile group Volkswagen returned to the Iranian market after 17 years and began selling vehicles. In July 2017, Italian railway company Ferrovie dello Stato inked an accord with Iran Railways to build a high-speed railway between Qom and Arak. Also, Reuters revealed in September 2017 that London-based renewables developer Quercus Investment Partners Ltd. had plans to invest over half a billion euros in a solar power project in Iran.

The determination of European companies to access new markets is understandable, especially in view of Europe’s current anemic growth. To achieve this goal, they are pushing their respective governments to open up powerful channels such as chambers of commerce and other trade representations. The governments in question tend to sideline security risks for the sake of ephemeral economic benefits and the support of industries in national elections.

The long-term winner of this process is Tehran, which is exploiting European business fever to present itself as a normal international interlocutor – if not to legitimize its position as a normal nuclear power – and advance its geopolitical agenda in the Middle East. In turning a blind eye to the potential transformation of the region should Tehran achieve its hegemonic ambitions, the EU is postponing difficult foreign policy decisions. The clock cannot be turned back, however.

The EU-US disagreement on the JCPOA is placed by most within the general context of the deterioration of transatlantic relations following Trump’s election. The nuclear deal is not the only example of that deterioriation. Trump’s pressure on NATO European member states to increase their contributions to the defense budget, his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and his indifferent and at times scornful stance regarding the project of European integration all contribute to the hostility.

However, Trump’s tough stand on Iran has offered the EU a good opportunity to look beyond transatlantic relations and acknowledge Israeli and Sunni Arab security concerns. A November 2017 BESA online debate on “what happens next” after the JCPOA made the point that notwithstanding the ultimate fate of the deal, its flaws can now be more easily exposed. This is indeed beginning to happen. France, Germany, and Britain are taking some initial steps to restrain Iranian influence, though they disagree with Trump’s Iran policy.

After January, the US and the EU engaged in diplomatic talks to add new sanctions and “fix” the deal. These talks did not prevent Trump from announcing the US withdrawal, but they demonstrated that Europe would no longer ignore Tehran’s hegemonic drive. Following their February meeting in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British Prime Minister Theresa May expressed their readiness to take further appropriate measures to tackle issues “about Iran’s destabilizing activity in the Middle East.”…

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




Amb. Dore Gold

JCPA, June 3, 2018


In an astounding series of statements, Russia has made it clear that it expects all foreign forces to withdraw from Syria. Alexander Lavrentiev, President Putin’s envoy to Syria, specified on May 18, 2018, that all “foreign forces” meant those forces belonging to Iran, Turkey, the United States, and Hizbullah.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov added this week that only Syrian troops should have a presence on the country’s southern border, close to Jordan and Israel. Previously, Russia had been a party to the establishment of a “de-escalation zone” in southwestern Syria along with the United States and Jordan. Now, Russian policy was becoming more ambitious.  Lavrov added that a pullback of all non-Syrian forces from the de-escalation zone had to be fast.

The regime in Tehran got the message and issued a sharp rebuke of its Russian ally. The Iranians did not see their deployment in Syria as temporary. Five years ago, a leading religious figure associated with the Revolutionary Guards declared that Syria was the 35th province of Iran. Besides such ideological statements, on a practical level, Syria hosts the logistical network for Iranian resupply of its most critical Middle Eastern proxy force, Hizbullah, which has acquired significance beyond the struggle for Lebanon.

Over the years, Hizbullah has become involved in military operations in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and elsewhere. Without Syria, Iran’s ability to project power and influence in an assortment of Middle Eastern conflicts would be far more constrained. Syria has become pivotal for Tehran’s quest for a land corridor linking Iran’s western border to the Mediterranean. The fact that Iran was operating ten military bases in Syria made its presence appear to be anything but temporary.

Already in February 2018, the first public signs of discord between Russia and Iran became visible. At the Valdai Conference in Moscow, attended by both Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (and by this author), the Russian Foreign Minister articulated his strong differences with the Iranians over their pronouncements regarding Israel: “We have stated many times that we won’t accept the statements that Israel, as a Zionist state, should be destroyed and wiped off the map. I believe this is an absolutely wrong way to advance one’s own interests.”

Iran was hardly a perfect partner for Russia. True, some Russian specialists argued that Moscow’s problems with Islamic militancy emanated from the jihadists of Sunni Islam, but not from Shiite Islam, which had been dominant in Iran since the 16th century. But that was a superficial assessment. Iran was also backing Palestinian Sunni militants like Islamic Jihad and Hamas. This May, Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, told a pro-Hizbullah television channel that he had regular contacts with Tehran.

Iran was also supporting other Sunni organizations like the Taliban and the Haqqani network in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It harbored senior leaders from al-Qaeda. Indeed, when the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, sought a regional sanctuary after the fall of Afghanistan to the United States, he did not flee to Pakistan, but instead, he moved to Iran. There is no reason why Iran could not provide critical backing for Russia’s adversaries in the future.

But that was not the perception in Moscow when Russia gave its initial backing for the Iranian intervention in Syria. In the spring of 2015, Moscow noted that the security situation in Central Asia was deteriorating, as internal threats to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan were increasing. On top of all this, the Islamic State (IS) was making its debut in Afghanistan. An IS victory in Syria would have implications for the security of the Muslim-populated areas of Russia itself.

It was in this context that Russia dramatically increased arms shipments to its allies in Syria. It also coordinated with Iran the deployment of thousands of Shiite fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan under the command of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). That also meant the construction of an expanded military infrastructure on Syrian soil for this Shiite foreign legion. At the same time, Russia maintained and upgraded a naval base at the Syrian city of Tartus and an air facility at the Khmeimim Air Base near Latakia. Moscow also had access to other Syrian facilities as well.

What changed in Moscow? It appears that the Kremlin began to understand that Iran handicapped Russia’s ability to realize its interests in the Middle East. The Russians had secured many achievements with their Syrian policy since 2015. They had constructed a considerable military presence that included air and sea ports under their control in Syria. They had demonstrated across the Middle East that they were not prepared to sell out their client, President Bashar Assad, no matter how repugnant his military policies had become – including the repeated use of chemical weapons against his own civilian population. The Russians successfully converted their political reliability into a diplomatic asset, which the Arabs contrasted with the Obama administration’s poor treatment of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011. However, now Iran was putting Russia’s achievements at risk through a policy of escalation with Israel…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]  





Caroline Glick

Breaking Israel News, June 3, 2018


Iran’s response to President Donald Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, has been striking. Iran’s first response, issued by President Hassan Rouhani, was to issue a blanket rejection of Trump’s move.

On Wednesday, Iran revealed its strategy for dealing with the Trump administration. It expects the European Union (EU) to act as its proxy. Iran’s “Supreme Leader”Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a statement Wednesday in which he set out five demands for the EU to fulfill. If it fails to do so, he warned, Iran will resume its full nuclear operations.

First, Khamenei insisted that the EU “guarantee the total sales of Iran’s oil,” and so make up any losses Iran is set to incur due to U.S. sanctions. Second, he said that European banks “must guarantee business transactions with the Islamic Republic.” (If European banks fulfill this demand, they will be blacklisted and frozen out of the U.S. financial system.) Third, he demanded that the EU convince the UN Security Council to issue a resolution condemning America’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal. Fourth, the Iranian dictator demanded that the EU “stand firmly against U.S. sanctions on Iran.”

Finally, Khamenei said that while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted Monday that Iran’s nuclear program be dealt with in the context of its other malign behavior — including its ballistic missile program, its sponsorship of terrorism and its actions to assert hegemonic power across the Middle East through its proxies and directly — the Europeans “must guarantee [they] will not raise the issue of the Islamic Republic’s missiles and regional affairs.”

The first question that comes to mind when considering Khamenei’s list of demands is: What is he thinking? True, the Europeans strongly opposed Trump’s decision to abandon the nuclear deal, and they still don’t seem to have come to terms with it. But there can be no doubt that the U.S. is more important to the Europeans than Iran is. Not only has the U.S. military protected Europe since it liberated Western Europe from the Nazis in 1945, but the U.S. is also Europe’s biggest market.

For all of EU foreign affairs commissioner Federica Mogherini’s affection for Iran’s ayatollahs, at the end of the day, she is in no position to accept Khamenei’s demands. Still, Khamenei believes that he can bully the Europeans into submission. To understand why he thinks that is the case, it is worth considering the drama unfolding in Morocco. The Strait of Gibraltar separates Morocco from the southern tip of Europe. At its narrowest point, the strait is a mere 7.7 nautical miles wide. In 2017, illegal migration to Europe from Morocco and Algeria more than doubled.

According to the Frontex border agency, in 2016, 10,231 migrants entered Europe from North Africa. In 2017, the number rose to 22,900. Forty percent of the migrants were from Algeria and Morocco. The other sixty percent came from other African countries. As migrants stream across the Strait of Gibraltar to Spain, illegal migration from Libya to Italy is decreasing. On May 1, in a move that surprised many, the Moroccan government abruptly cut ties with Iran and placed the Iranian ambassador on the first flight out of the country…

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



On Topic Links

The United States Finally Has an Aggressive Plan to Defang Iran: Ray Takeyh, Mark Dubowitz, Foreign Policy, May 21, 2018—Ever since President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal earlier this month, the commentariat has been aghast at the lack of a new plan.

The True Commander in Tweet: A.J. Caschetta, The Hill, May 19, 2018—What do you call a belligerent world leader who uses social media to bully enemies and feed his narcissistic delusions of grandeur? In Iran they call him “Rahbar,” which means “Supreme Leader.” That’s right, when it comes to crude, threatening, grammatically-challenged Twitterspeak, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei beats President Donald Trump any day.

Iran Lied to Get a Deal That We Can’t Enforce Anyway: Sheryl Saperia, National Post, May 8, 2018 —Israel has just pulled off a spectacular covert mission to extract from a warehouse in southern Tehran 55,000 pages and 183 CDs of secret Iranian files detailing that country’s nuclear program.

The Mullahs and the Tale of a Betrayal: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, June 3, 2018—Iran’s response to President Donald Trump’s May 8 announcement that he was withdrawing the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, has been striking. Iran’s first response, issued by President Hassan Rouhani, was to issue a blanket rejection of Trump’s move.



We welcome your comments to this and any other CIJR publication. Please address your response to:  Ber Lazarus, 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:  ber@isranet.org



 Download an abbreviated version of today's Daily Briefing.


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




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.





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.





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.






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.



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. 



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Tunisia's Culture War: Salafists Run Amok
October of last year, Tunisia held national elections for a '
constituent assembly' – a legislative body mandated to
re-write the Tunisian constitution for the post-Ben Ali era.

Is the Much Celebrated Arab Spring Coming To An End?
The rising Islamist tide may recede sooner than expected
in the Arab world — if recent events in Morocco are any guide.

Echoes of Iraq: Yemen’s War Against  al-Qaeda Takes a Familiar Turn

Even amid the escalating suicide-bomb campaign across Yemen, the attack
on a wake in Jaar in southern Yemen’s Abyan province was particularly
grisly and premeditated…

On Topic Links


Rob Prince
Foreign Policy in Focus, July 25, 2012

October of last year, Tunisia held national elections for a 'constituent assembly' – a legislative body mandated to re-write the Tunisian constitution for the post-Ben Ali era. The Ennahda (Renaissance) Party, an Islamic Party cruelly and unfairly repressed for decades under the Ben Ali regime, gained 41% of the vote, the largest percentage of any political party participating.
While it claims to be in a coalition with two more secular parties – a fact which is technically accurate but politically empty – despite appearances to the contrary, Ennahda wields the power behind the scenes in the country, in a manner which is virtually undisputed. If the recent Ennahda congress, which drew 30,000 attendees, is an accurate measure, all indications are that, despite opposition, it will tighten its grip in the period ahead.
The other two political parties involved in the ruling coalition exist more on paper than in fact; unlike Ennahda that has a nationwide organization and its eyes and ears everywhere, the other two are essentially Tunis- (and a few other metropolitan areas) based. There is organized opposition to some of Ennahda's policies, especially its economic policies by the trade union federation, but apart from that and a few disparate elements, the opposition is weak, disorganized and with little influence. Ennahda runs the show.…
Despite rhetoric to the contrary and fine words about the Tunisia's Arab Spring, since October, the political atmosphere in the country has shifted markedly to the right as a new and hitherto marginal element in Tunisian society has raised what I can only describe as its ugly head: radical Islamic fundamentalism, or as it is also known, Salafism.
Salafism's base in Tunisian society in the past has been narrow to naught. That it should emerge with such force and unchecked violence is the result of a number of factors: the sufferings of Islamists in Ben Ali's prisons whose anger has been easily manipulated; some Tunisians trained by fundamentalist militants in Afghanistan and Iraq; some spill over from Libya; U.S. acquiescence.
More importantly though, Tunisian Salafism has been fueled by Saudi and Qatari funding and Ennahda tolerance for and defense of their actions. A great deal of money has been pouring into Tunisia, both formally (loans to the government) and informally through the mosques….The strings attached to Saudi and Qatari aid include opening up Tunisia's political space to Salafist elements to grow if not thrive uninhibited by any legal niceties.
And as both Saudi Arabia and Qatar are close and strategic allies to the United States, one can surmise that at the very least, the Obama Administration is aware of the Saudi-Qatari role and has either turned a blind eye to it, or more likely, has encouraged these developments.…It appears as long as the current Tunisian government adheres to U.S. neo-liberal economic guidelines – which it does – and generally supports regional security interests, which it has proven faithful to concerning current U.S. policy towards Libya and Syria, it is more than likely that the Obama Administration and any that might follow – minus a few weak protests – will turn a blind eye from the current Tunisian Islamist religious offensive.…
Ennahda, which fashions itself internationally as 'a moderate Islamic party' bares much responsibility for this current Salafist surge. They have failed to rein them in, something which would have been easy to do earlier on. Nor do they seem to want to. Their defense of Salafism is hollow and disingenuous, empty as an Egyptian Salafist imam's advice on satellite television. Ennahda speaks of defending Salafist free speech rights and thus says nothing about the repeated anti-Jewish slander (that has included calls of killing, removing Jews from the country). It claims TO be caught in the middle between Salafist excesses and 'secular fundamentalism'.
…[B]y focusing on cultural questions – what makes or doesn't make a good Muslim – rather than what makes or doesn't make a good citizen, Ennahda has shifted the national discussion away from Tunisia's economic crisis which has only worsened since Ben Ali departed the country so unceremoniously. Low wages, high unemployment levels, especially among the country's educated youth, combined with a regime with a reputation for rampant corruption, were among the key factors triggering the Tunisian Revolt.…
Although  Salafists now claim that the Arab Spring was a call to institute Shari'a, nowhere in the Arab World, certainly not in Tunisia, were these elements out on the streets, risking life and limb to overthrow the Ben Alis and Mubaraks of the Arab World. But in the aftermath of the historic events, with a little help from their Saudi and Qatari friends, Salafists have become quite active. There seems to be a division of labor between Ennahda and the Tunisian Salafists. Ennahda controls the levers of political power.

The Salafists have targeted the mosques, the media and the educational system for their special attention. If Ennahdha formally renounces basing the new Tunisian constitution on  Shari'a law, the Salafists informally and actively work with such a goal in mind, and they are not shy about admitting it. Far from it.
In Tunisia, Salafist rallies regularly include attacks against secularists, Islamic moderates and Jews; calls for shari'a law; and, where possible,  hoisting of the black banner of Salafist Islam to replace the Tunisian national flag. They have also desecrated Christian churches in Tunis. Their actions have long ago surpassed simply violent and bigoted speech.

It has included trashing media outlets, threatening journalists and cultural people, trying to 'take over' universities, attacking trade union offices, threatening women who refuse to be pressured to dress as the Salafists demand, burning down bars and liquor stores. It is not only an attack on diversity, on the place for the more secular elements within Tunisian society, it is also an offensive against the more moderate forms of Islam that have existed in the country for centuries.
None of this has been prosecuted by the Ennahda-dominated Tunisian government. The list goes on. Tunisia's Salafists have become nothing short of the brown shirts of the Tunisian Arab Spring, and their actions and strategies parallel similar Salafist campaigns in Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Syria. Their role is clear: reshape the country's tolerant cultural map with an increasingly narrow vision of an Islamic society; to freeze the Arab Spring social revolution dead in its tracks, to reverse the progress demanded by millions throughout the Arab world for social and economic justice.…(Top)


Richard Miniter
Forbes, July 19, 2012


The rising Islamist tide may recede sooner than expected in the Arab world — if recent events in Morocco are any guide.

Six months after a surprising win in that North African country’s first elections under its new constitution, the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (known as PJD) is in trouble with voters. Urban and rising middle-class Moroccans—the core of the PJD’s support—are questioning whether the ruling party can create jobs. These voters supported the more secular Socialist and Liberal parties in the 2007 elections, switched to the Islamists in 2011, and now seem to be returning home. Meanwhile, the PJD’s cultural policies have emboldened rival parties, business leaders and activists. Now they are fighting back and the Islamists are falling in public opinion polls.

Most Middle East analysts make two fundamental errors: They have a static perspective that simply extends the present into the future in a straight line, and they tend to focus on Egypt, where one-quarter of the Arab League lives, while ignoring the North African and Gulf states where important changes are underway.

The Muslim Brotherhood has been a strong force [in Egypt] since the end of colonial rule in the 1940s….This institutional force allows it to mobilize voters and win elections. The Brotherhood’s powerful and well-oiled political machine in Egypt lacks counterparts in many other Arab nations.

Elections can sweep Islamists to power, but they can also sweep them out when they fail to perform. This is precisely what happened in Iraq, when Mocter al-Sadr’s radical party failed to deliver on its promises when it controlled the Health and Education ministries. The party continued in the ruling coalition but its ministers were removed from governing in these vital areas, lest the coalition suffer a defeat in the next election cycle.

Now we are seeing both phenomena in Morocco. Arab Spring came there in February 2011, with massive but largely peaceful demonstrations. In a July 2011 referendum, a new Moroccan constitution established a constitutional monarchy, akin to that of Sweden or Great Britain. That constitution provided for an elected prime minister to lead the government and all ministries, while the king maintained his status as the country’s highest religious authority and commander of the armed forces.

Following the November 2011 elections, a new PJD-led government took power in January, ruling in a coalition based on a 27% parliamentary plurality. Both the king and the new Islamist government were tested by a skeptical public that watched to see whether the king would actually share power (he did) and whether the Islamists would govern as centrists as they promised (they haven’t yet).

Today the king of Morocco is more popular than ever. And the Islamists much less so. Even fringe Islamist elements, left out of the government, who have challenged the monarchy for decades have now altered their rhetoric. They have stopped campaigning against the king’s role as the nation’s religious authority and taken instead to criticizing the ruling Islamist PJD for its handling of domestic social issues.

While the system has gained credibility for empowering voters and been a quiet triumph for Arab democracy…the ruling PJD appears to have lost some credibility due to their poor performance on the economy.

Part of the reason may be the understandably high expectations of voters: unlike in Tunisia and Egypt, where Islamist movements were banned from the political process, in Morocco the monarchy has actively encouraged their participation over the past two decades. Moroccans felt that the PJD’s experience in political opposition would allow it to hit the ground running when governing as a majority bloc.

This optimistic view has faded. Even defenders of the Islamist government now admit that the PJD still hasn’t made the transition from a platitude-driven opposition party to a ruling party capable of making economic reforms.

Amid a global economic crisis and grave security concerns arising from Libya and other nations ringing the Sahara, elements of the PJD have focused on minor social issues that animate only their hard-core supporters, such as whether to allow the sale or consumption of alcohol, or which Moroccans should be described as “Zionists.” At times, moreover, PJD activism on these fronts appears to have taken precedence over the fostering of democratic freedoms, economic development, and anti-corruption measures—the items that won them the election just seven months ago.
Democratic freedoms were not advanced when some PJD members of parliament called for the censoring of 2M, the popular Moroccan television network, for broadcasting a documentary about Moroccan Jews emigrating to Israel. (The bigger and more worrying question—why does one of the Arab World’s oldest Jewish populations feel it must flee?) Islamist officials claimed that the network was “Zionist” for airing the program. Liberals responded that airing a historical documentary about Moroccan Jews was a legitimate choice and in keeping with Morocco’s tradition of tolerance toward Jews.
Indeed, King Muhammad V, the present king’s grandfather, memorably protected the Jewish population from the pro-Nazi Vichy government during World War II, and both his son and grandson have worked hard to support peace initiatives between Israelis and Palestinians. The PJD attack on the network backfired. The press and the public rallied to the network’s side. Suddenly the PJD was on the defensive.…
Meanwhile, the PJD-led government has not yet advanced a coherent strategy to fight corruption in Morocco. Much of the talk about corruption has been accusations of corrupt behavior leveled against particular political figures, who are coincidentally political rivals of the PJD. In a few cases, these accusations were retracted by the PJD after they proved unable to substantiate them.…
Before the Islamist government, some agencies were created to fight bribery and promote fair competitive practices — but they were not granted the legal mandate needed. That was supposed to be left to a new elected government. Many Moroccans hoped that the PJD would give these institutions the “teeth” they require, but so far nothing has happened. The Islamists seem uninterested in what was the biggest applause line of Arab Spring demonstrations this past year. Now their inaction is costing them precious political support.…
Among political parties, as well, factionalism is out of vogue and coalition building is in. For decades, Morocco’s liberal, socialist, and secular parties have been splintered — divided by personal differences in a low-stakes parliamentary game that only alienated voters. Today, a confluence of political streams are flowing together to form a pact to challenge the PJD with a no-confidence vote in parliament.…
…[T]he patience of the public is wearing thin. Every day, the Islamists have new opportunities to advance strategically shrewd policies to redress the country’s social and economic problems. So far, the party has passed up these opportunities and squandered time on 7th century priorities.
But the people have not passed up these opportunities. Fighting the Islamists seems to have galvanized large sections of Moroccan society and invigorated that nation’s nascent democracy. The Islamists—in  Morocco and across the Arab world—may be finding out that the Arab appetite for reform and economic growth is large, but the demand for theocratic restrictions much less so. Arabs want their own Switzerland, not their own Iran.…(Top)


Casey Coombs
Time World, August 10, 2012


Even amid the escalating suicide-bomb campaign across Yemen, the attack on a wake in Jaar in southern Yemen’s Abyan province was particularly grisly and premeditated, designed to inflict maximum damage. It took place on Aug. 4, at around 11 p.m., as some 150 neighbors and relatives gathered outside the home of local tribal sheik Abdulatif Sayed following the funeral of his close relative.

While they were grieving, a young al-Qaeda recruit from Jaar infiltrated the crowd, resting on a cooler he had brought with him. Then, according to several survivors, he detonated his suicide vest, and that blast ignited the cooler, which was packed with more explosives and metal ball bearings. Shrapnel killed some 50 guests, including the sheik’s two brothers.

However, the intended target, Sayed, survived. Al-Qaeda had particularly wanted to assassinate him. Sayed had defected from the terrorist organization three months earlier to head a growing force of anti-al-Qaeda tribal militias, also known as Popular Committees, sweeping the region.

If the tribal uprising against al-Qaeda sounds familiar, then you are hearing echoes of Iraq. Aysh Awas, director of Security and Strategic Studies at Sheba, a think tank in Sana‘a, says Ansar al-Shari‘a — the political front of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — is doing in Yemen what al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) did following the U.S. invasion in 2003: wage suicide-bomb-led jihad to derail the country’s nascent Washington-supported democracy and replace it with an Islamic state based on Shari‘a.

And just as anti-al-Qaeda, U.S.-backed tribal sheiks in Iraq banded together to secure their territory from AQI, Popular Committees are popping up across Yemen to combat the local franchise of the movement founded by the late Osama bin Laden. “In light of the recent attacks, it seems that anything is likely to happen, and the situation in Yemen may be turning into the Iraqi model,” Awas says.

Unlike Iraq, however, the tribal Popular Committees don’t seem to be getting the big boost that Iraq’s Sunni Awakening groups did. In the past couple of weeks, the suicide-bombing campaign has led local Popular Committees to abandon their patrols and refuse to return unless Yemen’s new government provides them with greater autonomy, salaries and other benefits enjoyed by government troops. But President Rabu Mansour Hadi, who succeeded Ali Abdullah Saleh earlier this year, is mired in a military-reform battle with the country’s top brass and unwilling or unable to act on those demands.

Amid the tumult of last year’s Arab Spring–related popular uprisings in Yemen, AQAP and Ansar al-Shari‘a seized Jaar and neighboring towns like Lawder along the Gulf of Aden. It took the government months — with the help of the Popular Committee militias — to take back Jaar and the AQAP-occupied towns.

But morale has broken down. Popular Committee fighters from Lawder have stopped cooperating with government soldiers in their pursuit of Ansar al-Shari‘a, claiming that it is their land and they are responsible for protecting it. “My men won’t continue to fight alongside the military. We have shown that we can handle Ansar al-Shari‘a ourselves, and we are prepared do it, but not for nothing,” says Popular Committee leader Ahmed Ashawi from Lawder. Ashawi argues that the tribesmen need to be accommodated soon, before their allegiance shifts to other power brokers in the region. The tension has fueled mutual distrust between the two groups, leading some government troops to return to Sana‘a.

Soldiers in the region took another blow on Aug. 6, when President Hadi placed Lawder’s Republican Guard brigade, along with more than a dozen others, under a new commander. The move was seen as part of Hadi’s attempt to tip the country’s balance of power toward himself and away from its top two military commanders: the former President’s son, Brigadier General Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, head of the elite Republican Guards; and his chief rival General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, who broke away from Saleh’s forces during last year’s uprisings, taking the First Armored Division with him. Hadi designated himself the head of the Presidential Protective Forces, which is made up of three Republican Guard brigades and one from the First Armored Division.

Ahmed al-Zurqa, an independent political analyst and AQAP expert, describes Hadi’s decree as a farsighted measure. “It’s an initial step toward rebuilding the military away from personal loyalties to make it capable of conducting the war against al-Qaeda without parties playing the al-Qaeda card as a weapon in their own conflicts,” he says. Both generals Saleh and Mohsen have been suspected of playing the al-Qaeda card to settle personal disputes and further political objectives.

Like other observers, al-Zurqa would rather the war against al-Qaeda not depend on tribal militias. “The role of the Popular Committees must be terminated or they must be incorporated within the security forces because at the moment, they are militias with independent loyalties. They may soon become a source of problems.” The long-term solution to Islamic extremism, according to Awas, would involve conducting a “smarter war based on intelligence and enforcing the state through public services, job opportunities, resettling conflict refugees and rebuilding what the war destroyed.”…(Top)