Tag: Qatar

SAUDIS & U.S. ALLIED AGAINST MUTUAL IRANIAN THREAT, DESPITE RIYADH’S ISLAMISM AND “ILLIBERALISM”

AS WE GO TO PRESS: ISRAEL, HAMAS REPORTEDLY AGREE TO CEASEFIRE — Israel and Hamas reportedly agreed to a ceasefire Tuesday after over 460 rockets were fired from Gaza to southern Israel. The ceasefire comes after close to 48-hours of escalated hostilities between Israel and Palestinian factions. The IDF said over 100 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. While the majority of others fell in open territory without causing damage or injuries, another 20 or so fell in the cities of Ashkelon, Sderot, and several other border vicinity communities. A 40 year-old man was killed Monday in Ashkelon after an apartment building sustained a direct hit by a rocket fired from Gaza. The rocket barrages came after a deadly IDF raid in the Gazan city of Khan Younis on Sunday killed an elite IDF officer and seven Hamas militants, including the battalion commander of Khan Younis. (Jerusalem Post, Nov. 13, 2018)

 

Muhammad Bin Salman: For Better or for Worse?: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Nov. 2, 2018— King Salman’s announcement that Prince Muhammad has been put in charge of reorganizing Saudi intelligence…

How Saudi ‘Donations’ to American Universities Whitewash Islam: Raymond Ibrahim, Breaking Israel News, Nov. 11, 2018— Why would the center of illiberalism, religious fanaticism, and misogyny ever sponsor the center of liberalism, secularism, and gender equality?

Massive Missile Attack on Israel after Qatar Funds Hamas: Bassam Tawil, Gatestone Institute, Nov. 13, 2018— Last week, as efforts were underway to achieve a new truce between Hamas and Israel, this author asked a legitimate and straightforward question: Can Hamas be trusted?

Opportunities Abound Should Israel and Gulf Nations Cooperate: Ellen R. Wald, Arab News, Nov. 2, 2018— Events in Oman and the UAE this past week give us an opportunity to consider anew the relationship between Gulf countries and Israel, and particularly the potential for rapprochement and cooperation through the prism of the aspirations of the citizenry.

On Topic Links

Some ‘Modernizer’: Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard, Nov. 2, 2018

The Unknown Turkish Refugee Crisis: Nikolaos Lampas, BESA, Nov. 1, 2018

Turkey Demands ‘Immediate End’ to Israeli Retaliatory Strikes: David Rosenberg, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 13, 2018

Militarization of Mediterranean Rises with Exploration Disputes: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Nov. 8, 2018 

                   

MUHAMMAD BIN SALMAN: FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE?                                                    

Dr. James M. Dorsey                                                           

BESA, Nov. 2, 2018

King Salman’s announcement that Prince Muhammad has been put in charge of reorganizing Saudi intelligence – at the same time that the kingdom admitted for the first time that journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been killed within the grounds of its Istanbul consulate – signaled that the crown prince’s wings are not being clipped, at least not yet, and not publicly.

With little prospect for a palace coup and a frail King Salman unlikely to resume full control of the levers of power, Prince Muhammad, viewed by many as reckless and impulsive, could emerge from the Khashoggi crisis – which has severely tarnished the kingdom’s image and strained relations with the US and Western powers – defiant rather than chastened by international condemnation over the journalist’s killing.

A pinned tweet by Saud Al-Qahtani, a close associate of Prince Muhammad who was among several recently fired senior officials, reads: “Some brothers blame me for what they view as harshness. But everything has its time, and talk these days requires such language.” While this could be Prince Muhammad’s motto, his domestic status and mettle are likely to be put to the test as the crisis unfolds. Ankara might leak further evidence of what happened to Khashoggi, or it might officially publish whatever proof it has.

Turkish leaks or officially announced evidence would likely fuel US Congressional and European parliamentary calls for sanctions, possibly including an arms embargo, against the kingdom. In a sharp rebuke, President Trump responded to Riyadh’s widely criticized official version of what happened to Khashoggi by saying that “obviously there’s been deception, and there’s been lies.”

A prominent Saudi commentator and close associate of Prince Muhammad, Turki Aldakhil, warned in advance of the Saudi admission that the kingdom would respond to Western sanctions by cozying up to Russia and China. This could certainly happen if Saudi Arabia is forced to seek alternatives to shield itself against possible sanctions. This does not, however, mean that Prince Muhammad would not brazenly attempt to engineer a situation in which the Trump administration has no choice but to fully reengage with the kingdom.

While pundits are suggesting that Trump’s Saudi-anchored Middle East strategy, which is focused on isolating Iran, crippling it economically with harsh sanctions, and potentially forcing a change of regime, is in jeopardy because of the damage Prince Muhammad’s international reputation has suffered, Tehran could in fact prove to be a window of opportunity for the crown prince. “The problem is that under MBS, Saudi Arabia has become an unreliable strategic partner whose every move seems to help rather than hinder Iran. Yemen intervention is both a humanitarian disaster and a low cost/high gain opportunity for Iran,” tweeted former US Middle East negotiator Martin Indyk, referring to Prince Muhammad by his initials.

“Trump needed to make clear he wouldn’t validate or protect him from Congressional reaction unless he took responsibility. It’s too late for that now. Therefore I fear he will neither step up [n]or grow up, the crisis will deepen and Iran will continue to reap the windfall,” Indyk said in another tweet. If this was an unintended consequence of Prince Muhammad’s overly assertive policy and crude and ill-fated attempts to put his stamp on the Middle East prior to the murder of Khashoggi, it may, in a twisted manner, serve his purpose.

To the degree that Prince Muhammad has had a thought-out grand strategy since his ascendancy in 2015, it was to ensure US support and Washington’s reengagement in what he saw as a common interest: projection of Saudi power at the expense of Iran. Speaking to The Economist in 2016, Prince Muhammad spelled out his vision of the global balance of power and where he believed Saudi interests lie. “The United States must realize that they are the number one in the world and they have to act like it,” the prince said. In an indication that he was determined to ensure US re-engagement in the Middle East, Prince Muhammad added: “We did not put enough efforts in order to get our point across. We believe that this will change in the future.”

Beyond the shared US-Saudi goal of clipping Iran’s wings, Prince Muhammad catered to President Trump’s priority of garnering economic advantage for the US and creating jobs. Trump’s assertion that he wants to safeguard $450 billion in deals with Riyadh as he contemplates possible punishment for the killing of Khashoggi is based on the crown prince’s dangling of opportunity…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]

 

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HOW SAUDI ‘DONATIONS’ TO AMERICAN

UNIVERSITIES WHITEWASH ISLAM                                                                             

Raymond Ibrahim

Breaking Israel News, Nov. 11, 2018

Why would the center of illiberalism, religious fanaticism, and misogyny ever sponsor the center of liberalism, secularism, and gender equality? This is the question that crops up when one considers the largesse that human-rights-abusing Saudi Arabia bestows on the leading universities — those putative bastions of progressive, free thinking — in the United States. According to a recent report in the Daily Caller, “elite U.S. universities took more than half a billion dollars from the country [Saudi Arabia] and its affiliates between 2011 and 2017. Saudi Arabian interests paid $614 million to U.S. universities over a six-year period, more than every country but Qatar and the United Kingdom.”

What would cause Saudi Arabia, which represents much that is regressive and barbarous — from having elite units dedicated to apprehending witches and warlocks, to legitimizing pedophilia — to become a leading financial supporter of America’s liberal arts? Certainly, it is not because the Saudis are randomly lavish with their money and award gifts to all and sundry. Reports often criticize citizens of the kingdom for being “stingy” and not spending on worthy and humanitarian causes.

“These gifts and contracts,” the report continues, “in some instances, are intended to influence students’ and faculty experts’ views on the kingdom.” While this explanation may make sense to Western sensibilities which tend to think only in terms of nation-states, in reality, Saudi Arabia is influencing “views” on Islam.  After all, the desert kingdom is modeled after the principles of Islam arguably more than any other Muslim nation in the world.  Saudi society and politics are virtually synonymous with Islamic society and politics—or, in a word, Sharia.

Much of this has to do with the desert nation’s unique place in Islam: Muhammad and Islam were born in what is today “Saudi Arabia,” making Peninsular Arabs the descendants of Islam’s first Muslims, who conquered much of the post-Roman Christian world in the seventh century, transforming it into the Muslim, Arab-speaking world…Their Saudi descendants are not “Wahhabis”—a strawman term created by Saudi funded Western academics—but dedicated Muslims.   Walking in the footsteps of their Arabian forefathers and prophet, they seek to empower and spread Islam. That is, after all, the widely believed reason why Allah bestowed so much oil wealth beneath their feet: for them to use it to resuscitate Islam’s “glorious” heritage and their role as leaders.

The importance of Islam to Saudi Arabia — and vice-versa — is well captured on the website of the Saudi embassy in Washington DC: For centuries the people of the Arabian Peninsula have possessed a strong identity based upon the tenets of Islam. Saudi Arabia… adheres to Islam, honors its Arab heritage and tradition, and presses vigorously forward in the service of Islam… The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the heartland of Islam, the birthplace of its history, the site of the two holy mosques and the focus of Islamic devotion and prayer. Saudi Arabia is committed to preserving the Islamic tradition in all areas of government and society….. The Holy Qur’an is the constitution of the Kingdom and Shari’ah (Islamic law) is the basis of the Saudi legal system.

That Saudi Arabia’s identity is “based upon the tenets of Islam; ” that it “presses vigorously forward in the service of Islam,” and that the “Qur’an is the constitution of the Kingdom, and Shari’ah (Islamic law) is the basis of the Saudi legal system” — should all make clear that the Saudi worldview is antithetical to the spirit of Western liberal education.

Capital punishment in the desert kingdom still takes place (as seen in this video of a hysterical woman being incrementally beheaded); child-marriage and slave-like conditions are rampant; “apostates” are persecuted and sometimes sentenced to death; churches and other non-Muslim houses of worship are strictly banned, and Christians quietly worshipping in their homes are regularly arrested, imprisoned and tortured. Saudi Arabia even has online a fatwa, an Islamic-sanctioned opinion — in Arabic only— entitled, “Duty to Hate Jews, Polytheists, and Other Infidels” (my translation here). It comes from the fatwa wing of the government, meaning it has the full weight of the government behind it. Written by Sheikh Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz (d. 1999), former grand mufti and highest religious authority in the government, it still appears on the website…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]          

 

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MASSIVE MISSILE ATTACK ON ISRAEL AFTER QATAR FUNDS HAMAS

Bassam Tawil

Gatestone Institute, Nov. 13, 2018

Last week, as efforts were underway to achieve a new truce between Hamas and Israel, this author asked a legitimate and straightforward question: Can Hamas be trusted? The conclusion was that a real truce between Israel and Hamas can be achieved only after the Palestinian jihadi terrorists are removed from power, and not rewarded for violence and threats. Days later, Hamas itself provided proof as to why it cannot be trusted with any deal, including a truce.

Since yesterday, Hamas and its allies in the Gaza Strip have been firing hundreds of rockets into Israel. The current barrage began hours after Hamas terrorists attacked Israeli commandos inside the Gaza Strip, killing an Israeli officer and moderately wounding a soldier. In response, the Israeli army killed seven terrorists, including a top Hamas military commander — Sheikh Nur Baraka.

The Israeli commando unit was not inside the Gaza Strip to kill or kidnap anyone. They were there as part of a routine covert operation to foil terrorist attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups. The commandos, all the same, were attacked by Hamas terrorists who did try to kill or kidnap some of them. The soldiers of the elite Israeli unit managed to return to Israel under the cover of Israeli airstrikes called in to aid their exfiltration.

What is clear is that it was Hamas, not Israel, that initiated the armed clash with the Israeli force. It was Hamas that attacked the Israeli soldiers, killed the officer, and then rushed to accuse Israel of launching a “new aggression” against the Gaza Strip. When the Israeli soldiers tried to defend themselves and killed seven terrorists with return fire, Hamas accused Israel of committing a “despicable crime” against Palestinians.

It is worth noting that the Hamas attack on the Israeli commandos came hours after a Qatari envoy left the Gaza Strip. The Qatari official, Mohammed El-Amadi, had arrived in the Gaza Strip last week carrying suitcases stuffed with $15 million in cash. The money was delivered to Hamas leaders so that they could pay salaries to thousands of their employees in the Gaza Strip. The Qatari financial grant was delivered to the Gaza Strip with Israel’s approval. The Qatari envoy even entered the Gaza Strip through Israel’s Erez border crossing.

Why did Israel facilitate the transfer of the Qatari cash to the Gaza Strip? Israel has been — and still is — trying to avoid an all-out war with Hamas. Israel is not afraid of Hamas. Israel simply does not want the Palestinian civilians living under Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip to pay another heavy price for the foolish acts of their leaders. Israel, in fact, has repeatedly expressed a desire to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians there.

In recent years, Israel has been actively working to support reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli measures include the upgrading of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza to more than 800 truckloads of building materials and other goods to enter Gaza on a daily basis, and facilitating the passage of more than 3.4 million tons of materials into Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. Earlier this year, Israel presented to the EU, US, UN, and the World Bank various projects that were approved by the Israeli government to develop infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, promote energy solutions and create employment opportunities for the Palestinians there.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended last week’s deal with Qatar by saying it was aimed at preventing a “humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip. Netanyahu said that he would do “whatever I can” to keep Israelis living in communities adjacent to the border with Gaza safe, while at the same time working to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Hamas took Qatar’s $15 million cash grant, paid its employees, and days later has resumed its terrorist attacks against Israel. This is Hamas’s way of saying thank you to the Qataris and Israelis who have been working hard to reach a truce in the Gaza Strip and avoid another war — one that is likely to cause more suffering to the two million Palestinians living there.

Hamas has clearly interpreted the goodwill gesture of Israel and Qatar as a sign of weakness. Hamas leaders have even gone on the record as saying that the $15 million grant was the “fruit” of the weekly violent riots that it has been organizing along the border with Israel since March. Shortly after the Qatari envoy delivered the grant to the Gaza Strip, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum used those very words: he boasted that the Palestinians were finally reaping the fruits of their violent protests along the Gaza-Israel border.

Hamas’s stance is reminiscent of its reaction to the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Then, Hamas and other Palestinians also interpreted the Israeli “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip — intended to give Gaza the chance to become a Singapore on the Mediterranean — as a sign of Israeli weakness and retreat. A few months later, Hamas even won the 2006 Palestinian parliamentary election — largely because it claimed that it had forced Israel to pull out of the Gaza Strip by conducting suicide bombings and rocket attacks. Hamas told Palestinians back then: vote for us because we drove the Jews out of the Gaza Strip through the armed struggle.

The renewed Hamas attacks on Israel serve as a reminder that the terrorist group is not interested in a real truce. Hamas wants millions of dollars paid to its employees so that it can continue to prepare for war with Israel while not having to worry about the welfare of its people. Qatar’s $15 million cash grant has failed to stop Hamas from launching hundreds of rockets into Israel. On the contrary, the money has only emboldened Hamas and increased its appetite to continue its jihad to eliminate Israel. All the money in the world will not convince Hamas to abandon its ideology or soften its position toward Israel…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]

 

Contents

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND SHOULD

ISRAEL AND GULF NATIONS COOPERATE                                                                 

Ellen R. Wald

 Arab News, Nov. 2, 2018

Events in Oman and the UAE this past week give us an opportunity to consider anew the relationship between Gulf countries and Israel, and particularly the potential for rapprochement and cooperation through the prism of the aspirations of the citizenry. The entire Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is preening for economic breakout — the promise that comes from an educated class and ambitious people. Gulf countries who choose to work with Israel could gain an advantage over those who do not. After all, Israel has the Middle East’s most dynamic economy, best higher education system and a cultural experience that aligns easily with the rest of the region.

In the last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman and an Israeli judo team competed in Abu Dhabi. The Israeli team celebrated the Jewish Sabbath in Abu Dhabi and, when two Israeli judokas won gold medals, the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, was played without incident. At the same time, Middle East events have reminded us all that we are foolish to deny the existence or sovereignty of another nation. We know that countries and populations need not approve of everything that happens in another country.

Egypt and Jordan have had peace and cooperation with Israel for 40 years and 24 years, respectively. Both Egypt and Jordan have benefited through the economic exchange most of all. Tourism from Israelis has been a success, and international visitors to Israel can now easily add side trips to Giza or Petra. There are other trade benefits as well. For instance, Israel supplies Egypt with natural gas, just as Israel would be a natural customer for Gulf region oil. Even now, Israel buys oil from Iraqi Kurds that is transported through Turkey. As Egypt, Jordan and other groups have benefited from relationships with Israel, Gulf countries could find even more opportunities.

Israel has the highest gross domestic product per capita in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, a G-20 country, has the largest economy in the region, and the Emirati economy is also slightly larger than Israel’s. However, according to the World Bank, Israel has the world’s 31st largest economy and the largest non-hydrocarbon economy in the Middle East. It is known globally for its tech industry. There was even a bestselling 2009 book about it called “Start-up Nation.” Israel is also a leader in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. By the start of this decade, Israel was the fourth-largest pharmaceutical exporter to the US, ahead of the UK, Canada, China and India. The partnership opportunities for Gulf businesses and engineers abound.

Israel is also home to several of the best universities in the Middle East, according to Times Higher Education. Israel has two universities listed in the top 250, four in the top 500, and six in the top 800. No other Middle Eastern country has as many universities so highly ranked. Moreover, in the last seven years the number of Arab (Palestinian) students at Israeli universities has grown by 78.5 percent, according to Israel’s Council for Higher Education. Today, 16.1 percent of students at Israeli universities are Arab (Palestinian), so the cooperation could be seamless. There is a great opportunity for the exchange of students and scholars in engineering, sciences, medicine and entrepreneurship…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link: Ed]

 

Contents

On Topic Links

Some ‘Modernizer’: Reuel Marc Gerecht, Weekly Standard, Nov. 2, 2018—The modernizing rulers of the Arab Middle East date from the early 19th century, with Muhammad Ali of Egypt, who forcibly indentured the peasants of the Nile valley to farm cash crops, and Ahmad Bey of Tunisia, who in 1846 became the first Muslim ruler to abolish slavery.

The Unknown Turkish Refugee Crisis: Nikolaos Lampas, BESA, Nov. 1, 2018—According to data from the Greek Asylum Service, over the past two years, the number of asylum applicants from Turkey has grown from 189 in 2016 to 2,463 in August 2018. This represents an increase of approximately 1,300%. Moreover, according to Eurostat, approximately 25,000 Turkish citizens applied for asylum in European countries between 2016 and 2017.

Turkey Demands ‘Immediate End’ to Israeli Retaliatory Strikes: David Rosenberg, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 13, 2018— The Turkish government demanded Israel end its air campaign in the Gaza Strip following a massive wave of rocket and mortar attacks from the Hamas-controlled coastal enclave.

Militarization of Mediterranean Rises with Exploration Disputes: Metin Gurcan, Al-Monitor, Nov. 8, 2018— Tensions are rising quickly in the eastern Mediterranean over sharing hydrocarbon reserves in the area.

 

DESPITE IMPROVING EGYPT-ISRAEL RELATIONS, MANY EGYPTIANS STILL HOSTILE TO JEWISH STATE

Four Decades After Camp David, Egyptians Still Chilly Toward Israel: Mona Salem & Aziz El Massassi, Times of Israel, Sept. 16, 2018 — Forty years after signing the Camp David Accords, Egypt and Israel live in uneasy peace, as cool diplomatic ties have failed to unfreeze other relations.

Help Egypt Help Israel On Middle East Peace: Kenneth Glueck, Breaking Defense, Sept. 14, 2018— Peace in the Middle East seems elusive as ever.

Trump’s Alliance Against Iran: Tom O’Connor, Newsweek, Sept. 25, 2018— While President Donald Trump condemned Iran in his address Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly, a small but influential group of countries gathered elsewhere in New York City in an attempt to rally support for an increasingly controversial cause among the international community.

Qatar is a Poor American Ally; Trump Should Leave its Airbase Upgrades Empty: Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner, Aug. 30, 2018 — President Trump should pick up the phone — or get on Twitter — and tell Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani that the U.S. won’t use expanded base facilities in Qatar and will consider relocating the U.S. military out of Qatar entirely.

On Topic Links

Islamists Smear Egyptian Actress for Removing Hijab: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Sept. 4, 2018

Fighting Terrorism, a Human Right: Mike Evans, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 28, 2018

Death as Punishment “for Disbelief”: Extremist Persecution of Christians, February 2018: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 9, 2018

Qatar and Turkey: Toxic Allies in the Gulf: Richard Miniter, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 28, 2018

 

                   FOUR DECADES AFTER CAMP DAVID,

                    EGYPTIANS STILL CHILLY TOWARD ISRAEL

Mona Salem & Aziz El Massassi

Times of Israel, Sept. 16, 2018

Forty years after signing the Camp David Accords, Egypt and Israel live in uneasy peace, as cool diplomatic ties have failed to unfreeze other relations. “There is still a psychological barrier between us and the Israeli people,” said Egyptian ex-lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Sadat, nephew of former president Anwar Sadat.

Mohammed Sadat proudly keeps a photo of his late uncle in his Cairo office. Egypt’s then head of state risked everything in making peace with Israel at the US presidential retreat Camp David on September 17, 1978. The accords, cemented by a peace treaty in 1979, saw regional powerhouse Egypt temporarily shunned by the rest of the Arab World. Sadat himself was assassinated on October 6, 1981. The late president “had great courage and a vision for the future”, his nephew said. But the peace, he said, “has always been cold.”

While many Egyptians welcome the absence of war, they remain hostile to Israel. “Egypt’s acceptance of full diplomatic and political normalization” has not translated into “a cultural or popular normalization,” said Mustafa Kamal Sayed, professor of political sciences at Cairo University. This uneasy but stable status quo is reflected on Cairo’s streets, where many put their antipathy towards Israel down to their neighbor’s policies towards the Palestinians. “The normalization failed to gain popular support because of events linked to Palestinians,” said bank worker Mohammed Oussam.

He said he could not forget Israel’s bombing of “schools and refugee camps” during Lebanon’s 1975 to 1990 civil war. “The Israelis have not adhered to the principles of peace with the Palestinians or the Arabs,” said another Mohammed. It’s a sentiment also shared by Islam Emam. “We speak of peace, of normalization — then they kill our brothers and take their land,” he said, referring to the Palestinians. He blames Israel’s government, rather than its citizens. “In the end, nobody truly chooses his government,” he said.

Enmity towards Israel often crystallizes over sporting events. Egyptian and Liverpool football maestro Mohamed Salah has been criticized at home for appearing in a Champions League match in Israel in 2013, when he played for Switzerland’s FC Basel. Salah said he did not make political decisions. Three years later, Egyptian judo Olympian Islam El Shehaby refused to shake hands with Israeli rival Or Sasson at the Rio Games — a gesture that embarrassed Egyptian authorities. Writer and Hebrew translator Nael el-Toukhy said any Egyptian who reaches out to Israelis faces intense pressure.

Israel is a hot topic for Egyptian talk shows, guaranteed to stoke the kind of high feelings seen in debates on gay rights. More than 65 percent of Egyptians alive today were not yet born when the Camp David Summit took place, according to official figures. But Egyptian public rejection of Israel is a constant. National politics is also affected, despite decades of formal diplomatic ties.

In March 2016, Egyptian lawmaker Tawfiq Okasha paid a high price for inviting Israel’s ambassador to dinner at his home. Accused of discussing issues linked to national security, he was ousted from parliament in a two-thirds majority vote. Even the country’s all-important tourism industry is a victim of “cold peace” — of the 3.9 million tourists who visited Israel in 2017, only 7,200 were from neighboring Egypt.

 

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HELP EGYPT HELP ISRAEL ON MIDDLE EAST PEACE

                                       Kenneth Glueck

Breaking Defense, Sept. 14, 2018

Peace in the Middle East seems elusive as ever. Yet, even as the future of its own commitments to the region remains uncertain, the United States has a decided interest to prevent conflict from spreading to its key ally, Israel. That requires supporting Egypt’s pivotal, intertwined roles of diplomatic mediator and counterterrorism partner in the region.

Currently, Gaza poses the greatest threat of rapid escalation on any of Israel’s borders. Sporadic violence has been ongoing since Hamas exploited protests in March to attack Israeli soldiers. Since then, the terrorist organization that rules Gaza has continued exploiting protests to charge the border, while also decimating the southern Israeli countryside with incendiary kites and balloons and repeatedly lobbing rockets into Israel. This violence must be halted before it spirals into another war. Any attempt at peace will require Egypt’s involvement. Indeed, Cairo already is mediating between the two sides and has engineered several short cease-fires. It can, and must, do more, with Washington’s support.

As part of its effort to secure peace, Cairo has sought to deter Hamas aggression and curb its military power. Since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007, Egypt has acted in parallel with Israel to enforce a blockade against the terrorist group. After successfully helping end the 2014 conflict, Egypt sought to isolate Hamas and prevent its rearmament, expanding its buffer zone along the Egypt-Gaza border and destroying more than 1,000 tunnels for smuggling weapons and money. At the same time, Cairo was committed to helping the people of Gaza suffering under Hamas rule, raising $4 billion from international donors for postwar reconstruction.

Given this successful record, U.S. policymakers should vocally endorse Egypt as a peace broker between Israel and Hamas and be prepared to support negotiations under its auspices. By the same token, the United States must support Egypt as a counterterrorism partner not only in Gaza but against ISIS in neighboring Sinai.

I traveled to Egypt recently as part of a delegation sponsored by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). We met with Egypt’s President Abdel el-Sisi, Defense Minister General Mohamed Ahmed Zaki and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. They emphasized Egypt’s critical role in maintaining and achieving regional stability and their readiness to continue that role. They also highlighted the importance of a strong bond with the United States and their desire to strengthen that bond.

Indeed, for decades Egypt has committed to fostering a broader Israel-Palestinian peace, including brokering ceasefires in recent conflicts between Israel and Hamas. Especially after the disastrous pro-Hamas policies of President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt under President Sisi has also played a crucial role in helping to isolate and pressure Hamas.

Egyptian mediation was critical to ending the 2014 Gaza War, one of the longest in Israeli history. Very early in that conflict, an Egyptian ceasefire proposal was accepted by both sides, with hostilities even being suspended temporarily, but ultimately Hamas reneged on the ceasefire. As American policymakers spent succeeding weeks criticizing Israel’s conduct, Cairo was busy working with Israeli and Palestinian officials on a long-term solution. Essentially an identical ceasefire deal ended the conflict in August, after seven weeks of further fighting. As an anonymous Israeli government official stated at the time, “Israel has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a complete and unlimited-in-time ceasefire.” That held for nearly four years, the longest period of peace on Israel’s southern border in decades.

Already, Egypt has shown it can seek a longer-term arrangement to exchange quiet for quiet in Gaza. As violence flared up this spring, pressure from Cairo helped convince Hamas to curb its deadly “peaceful protests.” When Hamas recently launched incendiary kites and balloons, Egypt’s ultimatum helped defuse tensions. Cairo has also helped deter Hamas by communicating Israel’s intent to escalate hostilities if Hamas continued firing on the IDF and into Israel.

Now, Egypt is diligently trying for an even more ambitious goal: negotiating a 5-plus-year ceasefire – including prisoner exchanges and reconstruction programs – and having the Palestinian Authority assume control of Gaza under Egyptian auspices. The efficacy of these Egyptian efforts can only be increased if both sides know Cairo enjoys Washington’s full confidence.

Egypt needs U.S. support for its attempts to build peace at home. Since the November 2017 mosque attack by ISIS in Sinai that killed over 300 civilians, Egypt has stepped up its own counterterrorism efforts. Success is critical to the security of Egypt’s 80 million citizens and for peace in Gaza; restoring order to Sinai will help compel Hamas to distance itself further from ISIS. The recent decision to authorize the release of $1.2 billion in US military assistance (Foreign Military Financing) is a step in the right direction toward ensuring peace. Often unappreciated, Egypt’s efforts to maintain regional stability and its commitment to countering Islamist extremism should be fully recognized and reinforced by American policymakers.                                                   Contents

   

                              TRUMP’S ALLIANCE AGAINST IRAN                                     

                                                            Tom O’Connor                                

                                                  Newsweek, Sept. 25, 2018

While President Donald Trump condemned Iran in his address Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly, a small but influential group of countries gathered elsewhere in New York City in an attempt to rally support for an increasingly controversial cause among the international community.

The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, the ambassadors of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates to Washington and the director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency were among those who spoke alongside two of President Donald Trump’s most senior officials at the 2018 United Against Nuclear Iran summit. These five U.S.-backed countries have accused Iran of interfering in their respective internal affairs and were among the few world powers to welcome Trump’s decision to unilaterally abandon a 2015 multinational deal by which Iran agreed to denuclearize in exchange for a lifting of sanctions.

At a time when traditional U.S. allies France, Germany and the U.K.–all of which also signed the nuclear deal–were working alongside China and Russia to counter U.S. sanctions against Iran, this Middle Eastern quintet has formed the core of foreign support for Trump’s hardline stance against the revolutionary Shiite Muslim power. UAE ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba said Tuesday that the Iranian threat was existential. “We have paid the price more than anyone else in our part of the world,” Otaiba said, sitting on a panel beside State Department director of policy planning Brian Hook and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir. “The Gulf countries, Israel and the countries in the immediate vicinity are the ones at immediate risk.”

While the four Arabian Peninsula states do not recognize or maintain relations with Israel, their mutual enmity for the leadership in Tehran has forged an informal coalition. Otaiba himself reportedly met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a chance encounter in Washington in May, during which both men discussed their country’s positions on Iran, according to the Associated Press.

Bahrain, a majority-Shiite Muslim island state ruled by a Sunni Muslim monarchy with close ties to neighboring Saudi Arabia, went so far as to publicly back Israel’s right to defend itself via a social media statement by its top diplomat in March. Having accused Iran of funding a Shiite Muslim insurgency in his country, Bahraini envoy to the U.S. Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa reaffirmed this statement on Tuesday. “Some of you might recall our foreign minister tweeted a few months ago and said that every country has the right to defend itself, including Israel,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution that ousted a CIA-reinstalled absolute monarchy, Iran’s growing presence in the region has created major concerns for Saudi Arabia and Israel. The staunch U.S. allies have been at odds since Israel’s 1948 creation, which prompted the mass displacement of Palestinians and a series of Arab-Israeli wars, but reports have suggested that two have become increasingly close in the face of a common foe, especially as Riyadh’s regional clout has fallen in Iran’s favor in countries such as Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

“This is a regime the only way one can deal with them is by pressuring them and by forcing them to change,” Jubeir told the conference Tuesday, accusing Tehran of sponsoring terrorism, cyber attacks, ethnic cleansing projects and of supporting a group of Zaidi Shiite Muslim rebels, known as Ansar Allah or the Houthi movement, which he said have fired up to 197 ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia. Jubeir left the event without taking questions and Israeli Mossad Director Yossi Cohen’s comments at the following panel were off the record.

As a Saudi-led coalition—which includes Bahrain and the UAE—bombs the Houthis in Yemen, Israeli warplanes blast alleged Iranian and pro-Iran positions fighting on behalf of resurgent government forces in Syria. Both Saudi Arabia and Israel have backed Syrian rebels attempting to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran and Russia. Israeli officials have called for Saudi Arabia and its regional allies to openly work together with their country against Iran. Last month, a report surfaced suggesting Saudi Arabia acquired the Iron Dome missile defense system, which Israel uses to block rocket attacks from Palestinian and Lebanese groups sponsored by Iran. The Israeli Defense Ministry reportedly denied the report.

While the true extent of their alignment remains the source of reports and speculation, Israel and Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iran postures have been emboldened by the Trump administration. The U.S. leader followed up his fiery debut at the U.N. General Assembly last year with another verbal assault on Tehran, calling it a “corrupt dictatorship” whose leaders “sow chaos, death, and disruption.” “They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations. Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond,” he said. “The Iranian people are rightly outraged that their leaders have embezzled billions of dollars from Iran’s treasury, seized valuable portions of the economy, and looted the religious endowments, all to line their own pockets and send their proxies to wage war.”

Iran has been keen to point out the perceived growing ties between the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia and dismissed their accusations, accusing them of conspiring to destabilize the country and the region. The Iranian position has been reinforced by its success in tackling the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) alongside Iraqi government forces backed by the U.S. and Syrian government forces opposed by Washington. In Syria, Iran-backed militias have deployed alongside Syria’s armed forces around Idlib, the final province under the control of an Islamist-led insurgency.

France, Germany and the U.K. have joined the U.S. in cautioning Syria and its Iranian and Russian allies from pursuing an all-out offensive in Idlib, but have split with the Trump administration on punishing Iran economically for its involvement in the Middle East and development of ballistic missiles. France, the EU, Germany and the U.K. have been deeply critical of the U.S. decision to leave the Iran deal, which came after the International Atomic Energy Agency affirmed Tehran’s adherence on multiple occasions and followed U.S. exits from other international agreements. A day before Trump’s U.N. address and the United Against Nuclear Iran conference, the foreign ministers of these transatlantic powers met with their Russian, Chinese and Iranian counterparts to discuss saving a nuclear deal that no longer protects the beleaguered Iranian economy from heavy U.S. sanctions…

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

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QATAR IS A POOR AMERICAN ALLY;

TRUMP SHOULD LEAVE ITS AIRBASE UPGRADES EMPTY

Tom Rogan

Washington Examiner, Aug. 30, 2018

President Trump should pick up the phone — or get on Twitter — and tell Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani that the U.S. won’t use expanded base facilities in Qatar and will consider relocating the U.S. military out of Qatar entirely. Unless, that is, Qatar realigns its foreign policy towards greater support for regional stability and counterterrorism.

The need for Trump’s action bears consideration in light of a Qatari government official’s announcement on Sunday that it intends to expand the Al-Udeid airbase. That base hosts the forward command elements for the Pentagon’s U.S. Central Command and has played an integral role in U.S. strike operations against Bashar Assad and the Islamic State. Yet, Qatar’s intent in constructing new facilities at Al-Udeid is about locking the U.S. into a long-term formal military presence in that nation. It’s all part of Qatar’s patronage policy of buying Western military equipment and thus buying Western political acquiescence to Qatar’s broader foreign policy.

But it’s time for this waltz to end. The simple problem is that Qatar continues to act in ways that are fundamentally counter to American interests. Take Qatar’s close friendship with Iran. Qatar is happy to support Iranian foreign policy interests against regional stability. Maintaining growing commercial ties with Iran, the Qatari government has also allowed the Iranian revolutionary guard-aligned hardliners to insulate their business interests from U.S. sanctions pressure. Other recent reports suggest that Qatar may be helping Iran to manipulate the outcome of ongoing government formation talks in Iraq (which would be very bad for America).

Still, the real measure of why Trump should challenge Qatar is its ongoing and outrageous support for Salafi-Jihadist terrorists. The divorce between Qatari words and actions here is defining. While the Qatari ambassador writes Washington Post op-eds attacking Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for their ( admittedly flawed) campaign in Yemen, his prime minister flirts with terrorist fundraisers in Doha. The ruling Al Thani family allows such conduct because of its own ardent ideological support for the most conservative strains of Sunni political Islam. More importantly, they do so in full awareness that the groups associated with these ideological movements are often defined by violent fanaticism and the pursuit of exclusionary societies that prejudice against other religious ( including Muslim) and social groups.

These activities run fundamentally counter to the national security interests of the United States. While Saudi Arabia and the UAE are imperfect allies, they are actively pursuing political reforms aligned with U.S. interests. Qatar absolutely is not doing this, and Trump should mark this divergence in developing policy. Fortunately, in this case at least, the Pentagon is bucking its usual penchant for filling up buildings without regard for cost or efficiency. In a statement a U.S. Navy press officer noted that “It is premature to discuss aspects of a potential base expansion at Al-Udeid air base in Qatar.” Good. If Qatar doesn’t change, the U.S. could always relocate its Al-Udeid operations to the UAE’s Al-Dhafra Air Base.

Contents

 

On Topic Links

Islamists Smear Egyptian Actress for Removing Hijab: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Sept. 4, 2018—She once was one of Egypt’s most popular actresses. Now, Hala Shiha has created a row by announcing she no longer will wear a hijab in public.

Fighting Terrorism, a Human Right: Mike Evans, Jerusalem Post, Aug. 28, 2018—President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of Egypt deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award, for saving Egypt from a human rights catastrophe.

Death as Punishment “for Disbelief”: Extremist Persecution of Christians, February 2018: Raymond Ibrahim, Gatestone Institute, Sept. 9, 2018—The jihadi assault on, and massacre of, Christians continued unabated throughout the Muslim word.

Qatar and Turkey: Toxic Allies in the Gulf: Richard Miniter, Gatestone Institute, Aug. 28, 2018—These days, America has more trouble with its allies than its enemies.

 

AS EGYPT SUCCESSFULLY FIGHTS ISLAMISTS, MOROCCANS PROTEST AGAINST CORRUPTION

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

 

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. 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.]

 

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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. 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.]

 

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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. 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.

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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. 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.]

Contents

 

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.

ISRAEL-SAUDI TIES EMERGED FROM DESIRE TO CONFRONT REGIONAL INSTABILITY

Israel and the Gulf: Samuel Ramani, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2017— On November 19, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that the Israeli government possessed covert diplomatic links with Saudi Arabia.

US-Saudi Nuclear Talks: A Middle East Barometer?: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Jan. 10, 2018— President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was perhaps most challenging for the Saudis…

Yemen’s Humanitarian Nightmare: Asher Orkaby, Foreign Affairs, Dec. 2017 — On February 20, 2015, as the residents of Sanaa prepared for evening prayers, Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi put on a woman’s niqab and slipped out the back door of his official residence, where a car was waiting for him.

Tiny, Wealthy Qatar Goes Its Own Way, and Pays for It: Declan Walsh, New York Times, Jan. 22, 2018— For the emir of Qatar, there has been little that money can’t buy.

 

On Topic Links

 

Arbor Day (Tu Bishvat) Guide for the Perplexed, 2018: Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Jan. 29, 2018

Yemen Separatists Capture Aden, Government Confined to Palace: Residents: New York Times, Jan. 30, 2018

A Changed Saudi Arabia (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Jan. 3, 2018

Like Israelis, Saudis Pin Their Hopes on Iranian Protestors: Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2018

 

                                            

                                    ISRAEL AND THE GULF

Samuel Ramani

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 26, 2017

 

On November 19, Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz announced that the Israeli government possessed covert diplomatic links with Saudi Arabia. As Israel’s economic and defense links with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries have been an open secret for years, Steinitz’s announcement was unsurprising. Nevertheless, his statement was symbolically significant as it broke the decades-long veil of secrecy surrounding the Israel-GCC partnership.

 

Many analysts have described the Israel-GCC partnership as a purely tactical alignment aimed at containing Iran and expanding Israel’s formal diplomatic recognition in the Arab world. This depiction mischaracterizes and understates the depth of the partnership. Israel established security and economic ties with the GCC bloc long before Iran emerged as a mutual threat, and this informal partnership will likely continue to strengthen even if Saudi Arabia and the UAE do not give Israel diplomatic recognition. The current Israel-GCC security partnership emerged from a common desire to confront sources of instability in the Middle East. The first major example of a joint Israel-GCC stabilization effort was Israel’s 1981 Operation Opera strike on Iraq’s nuclear facilities. This military strike was likely undertaken with Saudi Arabia’s tacit consent, as Israeli pilots flew over Saudi airspace to Iraq without active resistance from Riyadh.

 

Iran’s rising military assertiveness after the 2003 Iraq War and pursuit of a nuclear deterrent further entrenched the pro-stability agenda that binds Israel to Saudi Arabia. Despite denials from Israeli and Saudi officials, numerous reports pointed to an increase in Jerusalem-Riyadh intelligence cooperation during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s tenure as Iran’s president. This cooperation culminated in an alleged 2009 test of Saudi Arabia’s air defense capacity and a covert 2010 assessment of the ability of Israeli planes to pass safely through Saudi territory to Iran in the event of war.

 

Recent military activities like Israel’s joint air force drills with the UAE in March 2017 build directly on Ahmadinejad-era intelligence sharing, and highlight the persistence of the Israel-GCC stabilizing coalition. The Qatar crisis represents the natural extension of this coalition, as Israel and Saudi Arabia both regard Qatar’s financial support for Islamist groups as threatening to regional stability. Al Jazeera’s journalism license underscored Jerusalem’s solidarity with Saudi Arabia against Qatar. Israel and Saudi Arabia’s clandestine collaboration to undermine Qatar’s influence in the Middle East demonstrates that the stabilization role served by their alignment is likely to survive even if Iran eventually moderates its belligerent conduct.

 

The economic dimension of the Israel-GCC partnership has equally deep roots. During the 1990s, Israeli investors expressed interest in developing economic ties with GCC countries, due to their rapidly growing financial sectors and real estate markets. Pressure from Israeli investors and GCC business owners who were interested in gaining access to Israeli capital and technology resulted in the development of state-to-state trade relations. Israel’s landmark 1996 agreement to open trade offices in Oman and Qatar began this process. This agreement was followed by Saudi Arabia’s decision to legalize Israeli capital inflows in 2005.

 

Even though disagreements over the status of the Palestinian territories abruptly halted Israel’s outreach efforts to Oman and Qatar during the early 2000s, Israel’s informal trade relations with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have grown rapidly over the past decade. Through trade liberalization initiatives, Saudi Arabia has gained access to Israeli irrigation technology. The UAE’s fledgling renewable energy sector and real estate markets have also received substantial capital inflows from Israel. The development of person-to-person links between Israel and the GCC through trade initiatives has encouraged the development of informal defense sector cooperation. In 2016, Saudi Arabia began purchasing Israeli drones via South Africa. An October 2017 report revealed that the UAE has a long-standing partnership with Israeli businessman Metai Kokhafi, which has allowed Abu Dhabi to gain access to Iron Dome technology.

 

Despite these positive developments and Bahrain’s recent expression of support for Israel’s recognition, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are unlikely to establish formal ties with Israel. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir continues to deny the existence of informal cooperation between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Officially, Saudi diplomats also continue to adhere to the terms of the 2002 Abdullah Plan, which only allowed for the recognition of Israel if a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict was successfully implemented…

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

 

 

Contents

US-SAUDI NUCLEAR TALKS: A MIDDLE EAST BAROMETER?

Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, Jan. 10, 2017

 

President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was perhaps most challenging for the Saudis, who, as custodians of Islam’s two holiest cities, would have been expected to play a leading role in protecting the status of the city that is home to the faith’s third holiest site. Yet Saudi Arabia sent its foreign minister, Adel al Jubeir, to the summit of Islamic countries in Istanbul that recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine rather than the king, the crown prince, or another senior member of the ruling family.

 

The difficulty for the Saudis is not only their close cooperation with Israel, their willingness to hint in public at what was long a secret relationship, and their position as the closest friend the US has in the Arab world – a friend who reportedly was willing to endorse a US Israeli-Palestinian peace plan in the making that would fail to meet the minimum demanded by Palestinians and Arab public opinion.

 

With Trump backing Saudi efforts to counter Iranian influence in a swath of land stretching from Asia to the Atlantic coast of Africa despite mounting US criticism of the kingdom’s conduct of its military intervention in Yemen, Riyadh has a vested interest in maintaining its close ties to Washington. While Riyadh has been put in an awkward position by Trump’s declaration, international condemnation of the move has also increased Saudi leverage.

 

Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia as well as his transactional approach to foreign policy, which aims to further US business interests, holds out the promise of tipping the Middle East’s military balance of power in favor of the kingdom. In the president’s latest effort, his administration is weighing allowing Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium as part of a deal that would ensure that bids by Westinghouse Electric Co. and other US companies to build nuclear reactors in the kingdom are successful. Past US reluctance to endorse Saudi enrichment and reprocessing of uranium has put purveyors of US nuclear technology at a disadvantage.

 

Saudi Arabia agreed with the US in 2008 not to pursue enrichment and reprocessing but has since backed away from that pledge. “They wouldn’t commit, and it was a sticking point,” said Max Bergmann, a former special assistant to the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security. Testifying to Congress in November, Christopher Ford, the US National Security Council’s senior director for weapons of mass destruction and counterproliferation, refused to commit the Trump administration to the US restrictions. The restrictions are “not a legal requirement. It is a desired outcome,” Ford said. He added that the 2015 international agreement with Iran, which severely restricts the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program for at least a decade, made it more difficult for the US to insist on limiting other countries’ enrichment capabilities.

 

Saudi Arabia plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors by 2030 at a cost of an estimated $100 billion. Officially, Saudi Arabia sees nuclear power as a way of freeing up more oil for export in a country that has witnessed dramatic increases in domestic consumption, as well as contributing to the diversification of its economy. It would also enhance the kingdom’s efforts to ensure parity with Iran in terms of its ability to enrich uranium and its quest to be the Middle East’s long-term, dominant power. Saudi Arabia has large uranium deposits of its own. In preparation for requesting bids for its nuclear program, Saudi Arabia in October asked the US, France, South Korea, Russia, and China for preliminary information. In recent years, the kingdom has concluded a  number of nuclear-related understandings not only with the US but with China, France, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, and Argentina.

 

Trump’s apparent willingness to ease US restrictions services his campaign promise to revive and revitalize America’s nuclear industry and meet competition from Russia and China. Saudi contracts are crucial for Westinghouse, a nuclear technology pioneer whose expertise is used in more than half the world’s nuclear power plants. Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in March because of delays in two US projects. A deal that would lift US restrictions in return for acquiring US technology could enmesh Saudi Arabia in bitter domestic political battles in Washington revolving around alleged Russian interference in the US presidential election. Controversial Trump campaign aide and short-lived national security advisor Michael Flynn sought to convince Israel to accept the kingdom’s nuclear program as part of his efforts to promote Russian nuclear interests in the Middle East.

 

Trump’s willingness, against the backdrop of uncertainty about his readiness to uphold US adherence to the 2015 agreement with Iran, could unleash an arms race in the Middle East and North Africa. Trump recently refused to certify to Congress that Iran was compliant with the agreement. Dropping restrictions on Saudi enrichment could not only fuel the Saudi-Iranian rivalry that has wreaked havoc across the region, but also encourage other recipients of US nuclear technology to demand similar rights. The United Arab Emirates and Egypt have accepted restrictions on enrichment in their nuclear deals with US companies as long as those limitations were imposed on all countries in the Middle East…                   

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

 

 

Contents

YEMEN’S HUMANITARIAN NIGHTMARE

Asher Orkaby

Foreign Affairs, Dec. 2017

 

On February 20, 2015, as the residents of Sanaa prepared for evening prayers, Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi put on a woman’s niqab and slipped out the back door of his official residence, where a car was waiting for him. For a month, Houthi rebels, who had taken Sanaa in late 2014, had been holding him under house arrest. By the time the guards noticed that he was gone, Hadi had reached the relative safety of the southern port of Aden. A month later, as Houthi forces advanced south, he fled again, this time to Riyadh, where he called on Saudi Arabia to intervene in Yemen’s civil war.

 

Within days, a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states began a campaign of air strikes against Houthi targets that rapidly became a siege of the entire country. Cut off from imports, and under a ceaseless Saudi bombardment, Yemen has turned into one of the worst humanitarian crises of modern times. Seven million Yemenis live in areas that are close to famine, nearly two million children are suffering from acute malnutrition, and an outbreak of cholera has infected over 600,000 people.

 

The conflict in Yemen is often described as an outgrowth of the Shiite-Sunni rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as Iran has supplied weapons and military advisers to the Houthis. But this misunderstands both the origins of the war and the reason why Saudi Arabia intervened. The war is not about regional interests; it is a continuation of a long-standing conflict between the Yemeni government and marginalized northern tribes, which escalated thanks to a gradual decline in the legitimacy and competence of the central government in Sanaa. And Saudi Arabia intervened not to counter Iranian expansionism but to secure its southern border against the Houthi threat. As a result, only an internal Yemeni political settlement can end the war, although Saudi Arabia, the United States, and international humanitarian organizations can do much to improve the situation in the meantime.

 

The modern state of Yemen was born in 1962, when revolutionaries, many of whom had absorbed contemporary ideas of nationalism at foreign universities, deposed Imam Muhammad al-Badr and created the Yemen Arab Republic, or North Yemen. For the next 40 years, the foreign-educated elite who had sparked the revolution occupied some of the most important positions in the new republic, serving as presidents, prime ministers, cabinet ministers, and chief executives. They based their legitimacy on the roles they had played during the revolution and its aftermath, achieving an almost mythic status in the national imagination. The revolution also transformed the rest of Yemeni society. It empowered Yemen’s growing urban population and ended the dominance of those families—known as “sayyids”—who could trace their lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad. And it sent Yemen’s northern tribes, which had supported the deposed Badr, into the political wilderness. Shut off from government funding, their region stagnated and their problems festered.

 

After North and South Yemen unified, in 1990, discrimination against the northern tribes gave rise to a protest movement in the north, led in part by the Houthi family, one of the most prominent sayyid dynasties in northern Yemen. Then, in 2004, during early clashes between northern tribes and the government, the Yemeni military killed Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, one of the leaders of the movement. His death marked the beginning of the northern tribes’ armed insurgency and gave the rebels their name. For the next seven years, sporadic fighting continued, with neither side gaining a meaningful advantage.

 

At the same time as the government was fighting the Houthis in the north, its authority in the rest of the country was fading. The greatest challenge for a revolutionary state is maintaining its legitimacy after the founders have died, and half a century after the revolution, few of Yemen’s original leaders remained. In June 2011, Abdul Aziz Abdul Ghani, one of the last of the revolutionary generation, was mortally wounded in an assassination attempt on the country’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, during popular protests that had paralyzed Sanaa. Both sides of the political divide paused the hostilities to mourn. But from that point on, the Yemeni state created by the revolution effectively disappeared.

 

The passing of Yemen’s revolutionary generation created not only a crisis of national identity but also one of governance. Once, Yemeni students who had obtained degrees abroad took pride in returning home as future leaders. But over the last ten years, much of the educated elite has left the country, citing worsening government corruption and ineptitude and a lack of domestic employment opportunities. Political appointments are now granted on the basis of tribal membership rather than training or experience, and technocrats have gradually given way to the beneficiaries of nepotism.

 

As the central government’s legitimacy declined over the last decade, a political void opened. Beginning in 2009, extremist groups, including al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, emerged to fill the gap. But it was the northern Houthi movement, already organized and opposed to the central government, that was positioned to take the fullest advantage of the derelict republic.

 

The Houthis’ chance came in early 2011, when revolts in places such as Egypt and Tunisia inspired months of mass protests against the corrupt, autocratic government in Sanaa. That February, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, a northern rebel leader, declared his support for the antigovernment demonstrations and sent thousands of his followers to join the rallies in the capital. Some of the most powerful images of the uprising were those of tribesmen in traditional robes demonstrating alongside members of the urban youth movement. Fifty years earlier, these two groups had fought each other for control of Yemen; in 2011, they marched together against a common enemy, Saleh…

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

 

 

Contents

 

TINY, WEALTHY QATAR GOES ITS OWN WAY, AND PAYS FOR IT

Declan Walsh

New York Times, Jan. 22, 2018

 

For the emir of Qatar, there has been little that money can’t buy. As a teenager he dreamed of becoming the Boris Becker of the Arab world, so his parents flew the German tennis star to Qatar to give their son lessons. A lifelong sports fanatic, he later bought a French soccer team, Paris Saint-Germain, which last summer paid $263 million for a Brazilian striker — the highest transfer fee in the history of the game. He helped bring the 2022 World Cup to Qatar at an estimated cost of $200 billion, a major coup for a country that had never qualified for the tournament.

 

Now at age 37, the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, has run into a problem that money alone cannot solve. Since June, tiny Qatar has been the target of a punishing air and sea boycott led by its largest neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Overnight, airplanes and cargo ships bound for Qatar were forced to change course, diplomatic ties were severed and Qatar’s only land border, a 40-mile stretch of desert with Saudi Arabia, slammed shut.

 

Not even animals were spared. Around 12,000 Qatari camels, peacefully grazing on Saudi land, were expelled, causing a stampede at the border. Qatar’s foes accuse it of financing terrorism, cozying up to Iran and harboring fugitive dissidents. They detest Al Jazeera, Qatar’s rambunctious and highly influential satellite network. And — although few say it openly — they appear intent on ousting Qatar’s young leader, Tamim, from his throne. Tamim denies the accusations, and chalks up the animosity to simple jealousy. “They don’t like our independence,” he said in an interview in New York in September. “They see it as a threat.”

 

The boycott turned out to be the first strike of a sweeping campaign by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, that has electrified the Middle East. Obsessed with remaking his hidebound country and curbing the regional ambitions of its nemesis, Iran, the young, hard-charging Saudi has imprisoned hundreds of rivals at a five-star hotel in Riyadh, strong-armed the prime minister of Lebanon in a failed stab at Iran and stepped up his devastating war in Yemen.

 

The Saudi prince has shaped the Trump administration’s approach to the Middle East and his endeavors could have far-reaching consequences, potentially driving up energy prices, upending Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts and raising the chances of war with Iran. The Qatar dispute is perhaps the least understood piece of the action, but it has a particularly nasty edge. In September, at a normally soporific meeting of the Arab League in Cairo, Saudi and Qatari diplomats exchanged barbed epithets like “rabid dog” and heated accusations of treachery and even cruelty to camels. “When I speak, you shut up!” yelled Qatar’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi. “No, you are the one who should shut up!” his Saudi counterpart shouted back.

 

The highly personalized rancor has the unmistakable air of a family feud. Qataris, Saudis and Emiratis stem from the same nomadic tribes, share the same religion and eat the same food. So their dispute has shades of quarreling cousins, albeit ones armed with billions of dollars and American warplanes. The crisis took an alarming turn last week when the Emirates accused Qatar’s warplanes of harassing two Emirati passenger airliners as they crossed the Gulf. Untrue, said Qatar, which fired back with its own accusation that Emirati warplanes had already breached its airspace twice.

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

 

Contents

On Topic Links

 

Arbor Day (Tu Bishvat) Guide for the Perplexed, 2018: Yoram Ettinger, Ettinger Report, Jan. 29, 2018— 1. Judaism stipulates four New Years, one of them is the New Year for the trees, Arbor Day, (Tu Bishvat in Hebrew), the 15th day of the month of Shvat (January 31, 2018). The zodiac of Shvat is Aquarius – the water carrier (bucket in Hebrew). Tu Bishvat highlights the rejuvenation and blooming of trees and the Jewish people. According to Rashi, the leading Jewish Biblical commentator, this date was determined because most of the winter rains are over by Tu Bishvat, sap starts to rise and fruit begins to ripen.  Israel’s Legislature, the Knesset, was established on Tu Bishvat, 1949.

Yemen Separatists Capture Aden, Government Confined to Palace: Residents: New York Times, Jan. 30, 2018—Southern Yemeni separatists took control of the port city of Aden after two days of fighting, residents said on Tuesday, confining the internationally recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to the presidential palace.

A Changed Saudi Arabia (Video): Amb. Dore Gold, JCPA, Jan. 3, 2018—I get asked all the time, “You wrote a book, we seem to remember, about Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the rise of global terrorism after 9/11. Yet you are now associated with the effort of the State of Israel and others to bring Saudi Arabia into the tent and to create a kind of new relationship – perhaps a reconciliation – between the Jewish state and the Saudi Kingdom. How do you explain that? Isn’t that an inconsistency.”

Like Israelis, Saudis Pin Their Hopes on Iranian Protestors: Ben Lynfield, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 3, 2018—Tehran on Tuesday ratcheted up its accusations against Saudi Arabia for allegedly stoking the unrest in Iran and vowed there would be strong punishment against Riyadh. Meanwhile, Saudi media praised the protesters and voiced hope the unrest would force Iran to scale down its regional involvements in Lebanon, Yemen and Syria, which the Saudis view as a grave threat.

 

                                                              

 

 

PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS SUBSIDIZED BY “PAY-FOR-SLAY” STIPENDS AND GLORIFIED BY AL JAZEERA

Canadian Tax Dollars Shouldn't Subsidize Palestinian Terrorists: Casey Babb, National Post, Aug. 1, 2017 — On July 21, a Palestinian terrorist entered the home of a Jewish family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish and killed Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya, 46, and son Elad, 36.

How to Sell a Suicide-Bomber Subsidy to Congress: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Aug. 1, 2017— Husam Zomlot does not have an easy job. He is the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative in Donald Trump's Washington.

On Terror Payments, Use Taylor Force Act to Call the Palestinians’ Bluff: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Aug. 1, 2017 — The US Congress is just doing what it always does: pandering to the “Israel Lobby.”

Al Jazeera: The Terrorist Propaganda Network: John Rossomando, IPT News, Aug. 4, 2017Al Jazeera's support for terrorism goes far beyond on-air cheerleading.

 

On Topic Links

 

How Terrorists Use Foreign Aid to Fund Terror: Doug Lamborn and Elazar Stern, Washington Times, Aug. 1, 2017

Sophisticated Australian Airplane Bombing Plot a Warning To the West: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, Aug. 3, 2017

Amid New US Sanctions, How Much of Iran’s Nuclear Deal Relief Funds Terrorism?: Ariel Ben Solomon, JNS, Aug. 8, 2017

India-US Counterterrorism Cooperation: The Way Forward: Vinay Kaura, BESA, August 8, 2017

 

 

CANADIAN TAX DOLLARS SHOULDN'T

SUBSIDIZE PALESTINIAN TERRORISTS

Casey Babb

National Post, Aug. 1, 2017

 

On July 21, a Palestinian terrorist entered the home of a Jewish family in the West Bank settlement of Halamish and killed Yosef Salomon, 70, his daughter Chaya, 46, and son Elad, 36. As a result of his attack, the assailant, 19-year-old Omar al-Abed will now be paid more than U.S.$3,120 a month by the Palestinian government.

 

Learning of this egregious arrangement will likely shock and sicken many of you. But for Israelis, these “pay-for-slay” stipends are nothing new. The Palestinian government has made terrorism the most lucrative job in the West Bank. If the international community continues to turn a blind eye to Palestinian terror payments and the role international aid plays in fuelling this cycle of violence, the conflict will only get worse.

 

For over 50 years, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) have been making financial payments to Palestinian terrorists, prisoners and their families. It was in 1965 when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat established the Society for the Care of the Families of Martyrs (SAMED) that these payments started, at least in any official capacity. Originally called the Palestine Mujahidin and Martyrs Fund in 1964, the fund was created to provide financial compensation for families of deceased terrorists, as well as maimed or captured terrorists. In 1965-1966, it was transferred over from Fatah to the PLO, and renamed SAMED. According to Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, within 15 years of its establishment, this fund was providing pension payments and social assistance payments to more than 20,000 Palestinian families.

 

Today, the PA is responsible for administering the disbursement of these funds, which are funnelled through the National Palestinian Fund (NPF). The NPF, along with the Institute for Care for the Families of Martyrs, co-ordinates these payments to prisoners, released convicts and deceased terrorists. Embedded in actual Palestinian law, financial support for prisoners and the families of martyrs is rooted in Laws No. 14 and No. 19 of 2004, and Law No. 1 of 2013. Described as “a fighting sector and an integral part of the weave of Arab Palestinian society,” these laws guarantee “the financial rights of the prisoner and his family.” They specifically state that the PA must provide prisoners with a monthly allowance throughout the entirety of their incarceration, as well as salaries and/or jobs upon their release.

 

To put the $3,120 dollar payment to al-Abed in perspective, consider that the minimum wage in the Palestinian territories is approximately US$397 a month, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS). Furthermore, nearly 40 per cent of employees in the private sector earn less than the minimum wage in the Palestinian territories. The PCBS also states that, in 2016, nearly 20 per cent of West Bank employees in the private sector earned an average of US$292.

 

According to a new study by the Institute for Contemporary Affairs, the official 2017 PA Budget has committed to increase the salaries of imprisoned and released terrorists by 13 per cent to U.S.$154.4 million dollars. Moreover, the money allocated for the families of those “martyred” in the conflict against Zionism is set to be approximately US$192 million dollars, or about four to five per cent higher than 2016 figures. All in all, the total PA expenditures set aside in 2017 to pay terrorists and/or their families is set to be in the range of U.S.$344-$346 million. Shockingly, this figure amounts to 49.6 per cent percent of all foreign aid slated to be received by the Palestinian government in 2017.

 

If you’re wondering where the PLO is getting all of their money, experts such as Yigal Carmon, founder of the Middle East Media Research Institute and Yossi Kuperwasser, Project Director on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, suggest it’s coming primarily from international aid — including aid from Canada. Of particular concern is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Many, including Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch, have stated that UNRWA has direct ties to the Islamic terrorist organization Hamas. While the UNRWA lost Government of Canada funding in 2010, following allegations of the organization being connected to Hamas, the Liberal Government announced in November 2016 it would restore funding to UNRWA to the tune of $25 million Canadian dollars. The United States is also a major supporter of the Palestinian Authority. It is abhorrent to think that any money from North America governments might be rewarding terrorism, yet it’s hard to conclude otherwise.

 

The compensation of terrorists is deeply immoral and incomprehensible in and of itself. But it is most problematic because it undermines peace. In addition to directly violating the 1995 Oslo Peace Accords, paying terrorists incentivizes terrorism, which cyclically fuels conflict, erodes Israeli support for peace talks, and further entrenches Palestinian intolerance and extremism. The international community owes it to Israelis, Palestinians, the Salomon family, and the countless other victims of Palestinian violence and terrorism to raise awareness of Palestinian policies to pay terrorists. If we don’t, only time will tell how many more will suffer.                           

                                                                       

Contents

HOW TO SELL A SUICIDE-BOMBER SUBSIDY TO CONGRESS

Eli Lake

Bloomberg, Aug. 1, 2017

 

Husam Zomlot does not have an easy job. He is the Palestinian Liberation Organization's representative in Donald Trump's Washington. And despite Trump's early promise to seek the ultimate deal to bring peace to the Holy Land, his administration is focused on more pressing matters. Zomlot's biggest problem these days is a piece of legislation named for Taylor Force, a former U.S. army officer who was stabbed to death in 2016 when he was in Tel Aviv on tour with his fellow Vanderbilt University graduate students.

 

When Republican Senator Lindsey Graham learned that the family of the murderer would be receiving a lifetime stipend as part of a Palestinian program to pay the families of so-called martyrs and inmates in Israeli prisons, he drafted legislation to end U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority until the payments ended. The bill is now winding its way through the legislative process and, in some form, will likely end up on the president's desk. While the Trump administration has yet to take a position on it, Zomlot has had the unlucky task of defending the martyr payments to Congress.

 

In an interview last week, he gave me his argument for why the Palestinian Authority has budgeted more than $300 million for its next fiscal year to pay the families of terrorists and other prisoners. "This is a program that is used…for the victims of the occupation," he said. "It's a program to give the families a dignified life, they are provided for, so they and their kids can lead a different future." He said the money goes to pay for laptop computers and college tuition for children who otherwise would be facing a bleak future, and families who may have their homes razed by the Israelis as punishment for spawning a terrorist.

 

Zomlot says this gives no incentive for terrorism. Indeed, he assured me that some graduates of "the program" include high-ranking Palestinian security officials that have cooperated with the Israel Defense Forces. (The PLO has administered these martyr payments in some form since 1965.) What's more, he said, if the Palestinian Authority doesn't pay the families of prisoners, more radical groups likely will fill the void. All of this raises an obvious question. If the Palestinian Authority wants to give poor children laptops and college tuition, why not just do that? Why create a special allowance for only the children and families of Palestinians who kill Jews?

 

And here Zomlot gets to the heart of the matter. "Many of the U.S. officials and lawmakers judge us as if we are in a post-conflict scenario, as we have to behave like a social welfare state, we are not," he told me. "This is a conflict situation." Indeed it is. One needs no further proof of this than the clashes in the last two weeks over Israeli security measures at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem after three Israeli Arabs launched a shooting spree from the compound that hosts the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest site in Islam. Add to this the occupation itself. Palestinians living in the West Bank accused of crimes are given Israeli military trials and almost always convicted. Many of those prisoners have committed ghoulish acts, but many have not, Zomlot said. In this respect, he believes Congress should increase the aid it doles out to the Palestinian Authority, because despite all of this, the Palestinian security forces have helped keep order in the West Bank.  

 

And that is true. But it's also true that the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has in recent years encouraged a resistance to the occupation that is measured in Jewish blood. His Palestinian Authority honors murderers by naming streets and parks after them. When Israel released violent prisoners in 2013 as an inducement to restart peace negotiations, there were official celebrations in Gaza and the West Bank. Two of those released, the cousins Mohammed and Hosni Sawalha, were arrested as teenagers after they entered a bus and began stabbing commuters. Another releasee was Al-Haaj Othman Amar Mustafa, who along with two other assailants posed for a picture outside of the settlement of Ariel with Frederick Steven Rosenfeld, a U.S. Marine who had emigrated to Israel. They confessed to stabbing Rosenfeld and leaving him for dead.

 

When these prisoners were released in 2013, Abbas personally met them and kissed them on the cheek. "We congratulate ourselves and our families for our brothers who left the darkness of the prisons for the light of the sun of freedom," Abbas said at the time. Abbas probably has to say things like this in order to survive. Palestinians have been celebrating such "martyrs" for decades. To speak honestly about Mustafa and the Sawalhas would be seen as betrayal. But Graham and his supporters are under no such constraints. They see Mustafa and the Sawalhas for what they are: murderers.     

                                                           

                                                           

Contents

ON TERROR PAYMENTS, USE TAYLOR FORCE

ACT TO CALL THE PALESTINIANS’ BLUFF

          Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                    

JNS, Aug. 1, 2017

 

The US Congress is just doing what it always does: pandering to the “Israel Lobby.” That’s how the foreign policy establishment and some on the left regard the bipartisan support for the Taylor Force Act, a bill named after a non-Jewish US Army veteran who was killed in a Palestinian terror attack last year. The legislation would cut off American aid for the Palestinian Authority (PA), unless the PA stops funding terrorism. The bill passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 3 in a 17-4 vote, with all of the committee’s Republicans, and six of its 10 Democrats supporting the measure.

 

The notion that the US would halt aid to the PA merely because it doesn’t want to be morally complicit in a “pay for slay” scheme strikes some on the left as lacking sympathy for the Palestinians, as well as self-defeating — since ending the funding might lead to the collapse of the PA. Their assumption is that PA President Mahmoud Abbas means what he says when he and his Fatah Party threaten to disband their Ramallah-based government if the foreign money that keeps it afloat is cut off. This would force Israel to re-assume full control over all of the disputed territories, which most Israelis think would be a disaster.

 

Stopping the terror payments may also be impossible for Abbas, because doing so would contradict the basic narrative of Palestinian history — in which violence against the Jews is viewed as self-defense, and a heroic act of resistance that is deserving of praise. Asking Abbas to take such a step would be tantamount to requesting that he commit suicide. So why do it? The answer is that those demanding a halt to funding the PA are not merely venting their outrage at the Palestinians. They are also pointing the way toward the only possible path to peace.

 

In just the last four years, the PA has spent more than $1.1 billion on salaries for terrorists and pensions for their families. In the next fiscal year, The PA will spend half of all the foreign aid that it receives on this effort. The PA has created a set of financial incentives that not only give Palestinians a reason to commit terror, but embolden their belief that only by shedding Israeli blood, will they ensure that their families are provided with enough money to live comfortably.

 

Those who rationalize the continuation of the current aid to the PA point to the security cooperation that the PA offers to Israel as proof that the Jewish state has a partner for peace. But while this cooperation has value, it has two main purposes: making sure that Abbas’s Hamas rivals don’t gain a foothold in the disputed territories, and ensuring the safety of the Fatah leadership against attacks from the Islamists. Thus, when the PA threatens to halt security cooperation, as it did during the recent controversy over the Temple Mount, the biggest potential loser from such an action would be Fatah, not Israel.

 

That’s why the talk of a PA collapse that Abbas and his apologists continue to invoke is a bluff. Fatah’s survival depends on its ability to use foreign donations to fund its corrupt practices in the disputed territories. The Palestinian faction’s obstruction of economic development or any measures that might end the corruption that enriches its leaders has created a situation in which much of the Palestinian population in the territories depends on fake jobs that Fatah gives out in exchange for support. Thus, while it is true that ending funding for Palestinian terror would be deeply unpopular and might boost Hamas, it would also be the end of Fatah.

 

We also shouldn’t accept the notion that there is any moral equivalence between anger about Western donations rewarding Palestinians who slaughter Jews, and Palestinian anger about settlements. Even if you accept the dubious argument that settlements are the real obstacle to peace — if you think that building a new house in a place Palestinians think should be free of Jews is just as bad as killing people — then all you are doing is making a case that peace between two peoples with such different moral codes is clearly impossible.

 

That’s why it is imperative that the West force Abbas to choose between giving up power, and giving up the gruesome terror-funding scheme. Far from obstructing the chances for peace, as some on the left claim, compelling the Palestinians to reject a culture of violence is the only hope for the resolution to the conflict. No matter where your political sympathies lie, it’s time to realize that opposing the Taylor Force Act undermines any hope for peace.                            

 

Contents

AL JAZEERA: THE TERRORIST PROPAGANDA NETWORK

                             John Rossomando

                                                  IPT News, Aug. 4, 2017

 

Al Jazeera's support for terrorism goes far beyond on-air cheerleading. Many of its employees have actively supported al-Qaida, Hamas and other terrorist groups. Concerns over the network's consistent pro-terrorist positions prompted several Gulf States to demand that Qatar shut it down in June.

 

Sheikh Said Bin Ahmed Al-Thani, director of Qatar's government information office, called such demands "a condescending view [that] demonstrates contempt for the intelligence and judgment of the people of the Middle East, who overwhelmingly choose to get their news from Al Jazeera rather than from their state-run broadcasters," Al-Thani wrote in Newsweek. But a week earlier, United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash detailed Al Jazeera's connections to terrorists and terror incitement in a letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Al Jazeera violates a 2005 U.N. Security Council resolution that called on member states to counter "incitement of terrorist acts motivated by extremism," Gargash charged.

 

The network has given a platform to terrorists like Osama bin Laden, Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Mohammed Deif, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah and others, Gargash wrote. "These have not simply been topical interviews of the kind that other channels might run; Jazeera has presented opportunities for terrorist groups to threaten, recruit and incite without challenge or restraint," Gargash wrote.

 

Al Jazeera took credit for the wave of Arab Spring revolutions in early 2011. Network host Mehdi Hasan noted in a December 2011 column that Al Jazeera gave a regional voice to the irate Tunisian protesters who ousted their dictator that they would not have otherwise had. Faisal Al-Qassem, host of Al Jazeera's show "The Opposite Direction," boasted that television, not the Internet or Facebook, was responsible for the revolutions. Al Jazeera's influence during the Arab Spring and the subsequent revolutions is a factor in the effort by Qatar's Gulf neighbors to clip its wings.

 

Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi used his widely viewed Al Jazeera a program to incite the masses against their dictators. "We salute the [Tunisian] people, which has taught the Arab and Islamic peoples … the following lesson: Do not despair, and do not fear the tyrants, and more feeble the than a spider-web. They quickly collapse in the face of the power of steadfast and resolute peoples," Qaradawi said in a Jan. 16, 2011 Al Jazeera broadcast. "The tyrants never listen and never heed advice, until they are toppled."

 

He likewise called on former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down on his program later that month. "There is no staying longer, Mubarak, I advise you (to learn) the lesson of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali," Qaradawi said referencing Tunisia's toppled dictator. A month later, Qaradawi issued a fatwa calling for the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Libya still has not recovered from the toppling of Gaddafi in 2011. Qaradawi urged the overthrow of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad after demonstrations began in Syria that March, sparking the ongoing Syrian civil war.

 

Even before the Arab Spring, Al Jazeera acted as a platform for violent terrorists. Qaradawi's endorsement of suicide bombings aired on Al Jazeera. The network also glorified a female Palestinian suicide bomber whose 2003 attack killed 19 people at an Arab-owned restaurant in Haifa as a "martyr." It also broadcast a 2006 speech by al-Qaida leader Abdel Majid al-Zindani at a pro-Hamas conference in Yemen, even though the United States and United Nations already had designated him as a terrorist. Proceeds from the conference benefited Hamas. Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and the widow of slain Hamas leader Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi also attended.

 

"What is our duty towards this righteous jihad-fighting people, the vanguard of this nation? What is our duty? What is our obligation? " al-Zindani asked. "The Hamas government is the Palestinian people's government today. It is the jihad-fighting, steadfast, resolute government of Palestine. "I don't have it in my pocket right now, but I am making a pledge, and as you know, I keep my promises. So I'm donating 200,000 riyals. What about you? What will you donate? Go ahead."

 

Al Jazeera is not just another news organization like CNN, Fox News or the BBC, Qatari intelligence whistle-blower Ali al-Dahnim told Egypt's Al-Bawaba newspaper in April. Qatar's state security bureau both finances and operates Al Jazeera, he claimed. -"By and large, its [Al Jazeera] news content comes under the sway of security officials, rendering it as a mouthpiece for Qatar's security and intelligence apparatus," Al-Dahnim said on Egyptian television. "Not to mention its free publicity to hardened terrorists such as Osama bin Laden who used to use Al Jazeera as an outlet to disseminate his terror messages to the world."

 

Al Jazeera English likewise pushes the Qatari government's favored narratives, such as exaggerating the global importance of its emir. Its short-lived affiliate, Al Jazeera America (AJAM), aired pro-Palestinian propaganda. During the 2014 Gaza crisis, AJAM host Wajahat Ali pushed Hamas' talking points about the territory's population density without a single reference to how the terrorist group used mosques and civilian buildings to launch rockets. "I think it is simply providing one side of a story. It doesn't rise to Soviet propaganda, but it certainly is propaganda for one side," Temple University journalism professor Christopher Harper told the Investigative Project on Terrorism in 2014….

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

 

                                                                       

Contents

On Topic Links

 

How Terrorists Use Foreign Aid to Fund Terror: Doug Lamborn and Elazar Stern, Washington Times, Aug. 1, 2017—On July 14, three Arab citizens of Israel entered Jerusalem’s Temple Mount armed to attack. They shot and killed two Israeli police officers — Hayil Satawi, 30, and Kamil Dhanaan, 22, members of the Israeli Druze community. The terrorists were shot and killed. Their families will receive monthly reward checks from the Palestinian Authority for the rest of their lives.

Sophisticated Australian Airplane Bombing Plot a Warning To the West: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, Aug. 3, 2017—Australia's arrest Saturday of four men suspected of plotting a terrorist attack on a commercial airliner signals more than a resurgent terror threat to airplanes. Because the alleged weapon involved smuggling explosives and poison gasses in a standard kitchen utensil – a meat grinder or mincer – it demonstrates, too, the rapidly increasing sophistication of these plots and the development of new means of attack.

Amid New US Sanctions, How Much of Iran’s Nuclear Deal Relief Funds Terrorism?: Ariel Ben Solomon, JNS, Aug. 8, 2017—As the Trump administration ramps up sanctions against Iran, how much of Iran’s sanctions relief from the nuclear deal of 2015 is funding the Islamic Republic’s support for sectarian conflict and terrorism across the Middle East?

India-US Counterterrorism Cooperation: The Way Forward: Vinay Kaura, BESA, August 8, 2017 —State visits are a good indicator of the strength of bilateral relations, in terms of the hospitality bestowed on the visiting leader and the deals reached. According to these criteria, Indian PM Narendra Modi’s June visit to the US was successful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ISRAEL, ALIGNING WITH SUNNI STATES AGAINST QATAR, PLANS TO SHUTTER AL JAZEERA

 

Qatar’s Support of Islamists Leads to Global Terrorism: Ariel Ben Solomon, Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017— Should Israel join the status-quo Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia in their pressure campaign against terrorism-supporting Qatar, which is promoting Islamist revolutionary movements across the region, including in Israel?

Qatar's Comeuppance a Long Time Coming: Raymond Stock, The Diplomatist, July 2017— Jutting into the Persian Gulf like lower Michigan minus its thumb, the super-rich peninsular nation of Qatar has long been a problem—one that has now brought the region to the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict.

The Cost of Supporting Israel Has Never Been Lower: Elliot Kaufman, National Review, July 17, 2017— In Oslo, the Tony Award–winning play set in the early 1990s, a Palestinian negotiator makes a powerful claim to his Israeli counterpart: “Until you make peace with us,” he says, “you’ll never be accepted by your neighbours.”

Living in the Real World Means Doing Business with Bad Guys Like the Saudi Regime: Editorial, National Post, Aug. 4, 2017 — It isn’t terribly surprising to learn that Canadian-made military vehicles are apparently being used against civilians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 

On Topic Links

 

Joining Arab States, Israel Says it Plans to Ban Al-Jazeera: National Post, Aug. 6, 2017

Latest Developments in Saudi Arabia Chart a Course for Israeli Ties With Arab World: Sean Savage, JNS, July 3, 2017

Qatar and the Saudis – Getting Ready for the Next Round: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 10, 2017

Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Calls for End to Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Aug. 1, 2017

 

 

QATAR’S SUPPORT OF ISLAMISTS LEADS TO GLOBAL TERRORISM

Ariel Ben Solomon

Jerusalem Post, August 1, 2017

 

Should Israel join the status-quo Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia in their pressure campaign against terrorism-supporting Qatar, which is promoting Islamist revolutionary movements across the region, including in Israel? Israel took a step in this direction on Wednesday as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on Facebook that he will seek to remove Qatar’s pan-Arab media channel Al Jazeera from the country for inciting violence in Jerusalem.

Also on Wednesday, US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Florida) stated in congressional testimony, “Qatar has been known to be a permissive environment for terror financing reportedly funding US designated foreign terrorist organizations such as Hamas as well as several extremist groups operating in Syria.” The congresswomen went on point out that all Gulf states have had problems with facilitating terrorism, but that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are dealing with the issue at a “faster rate.” Not so in Qatar.

 

In a study by David Andrew Weinberg that was published in January by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) titled “Qatar and Terror Finance: Part II: Private Funders of [al-Qaida] in Syria,” he wrote: “Based on these cases, there is no persuasive proof that Qatar has stopped letting certain terror financiers off the hook…Indeed, it is impossible to identify even a single specific instance of Qatar charging, convicting, and jailing a US- or UN-designated individual,” said the report.

 

Qatar is a principal funder of Hamas – both in Gaza and in the West Bank.  For example, Israel could lobby the US and European governments to up the pressure on Qatar, so that it withdraws support for radical groups, preachers and the radical Islamist content promoted on its popular pan-Arab Al Jazeera media channel, which is broadcast in hundreds of thousands of Israeli Arab living rooms.

 

By joining with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain, which already cut ties with Qatar, Israel would be able to further align its national interest with these countries, and particularly in opposition to Iran, the leading sponsor of terrorism in the world. Israel could also join the lobbying effort to get Qatar to break off its relations with Iran, with which it shares the largest offshore gas field in the world, known as the North Dome/ South Pars.

 

Qatar hedges its position with Iran because it fears that its relatively small population of 250,000 citizens and over 2 million people total (and lackluster military prowess), would place it at risk from the regional power of nearly 83 million that is located just a hop across the Persian Gulf. Qatar has invited Turkey, another supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, to deploy its troops there, to deter Saudi Arabia and other neighbors. Additionally, Qatar feels protected because it hosts the Al Udeid military base, the largest US base in the Middle East.

 

However, the Trump administration has hinted that it could easily be moved to another Arab country. “If we ever had to leave, we would have 10 countries willing to build us another one, believe me, and they will pay for it,” US President Donald Trump said in an interview with CBN News this month. This coalition of Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt, along with Israel and the US, could work to counter the Brotherhood brand of Islamism globally – by cutting off its funding and incitement on media platforms – and this starts with Qatar.

 

The US has tremendous leverage over Qatar not only because of the base, but also because it could put pressure on the country through the international financial banking system Washington controls. Qatar and prominent financiers residing there back the Muslim Brotherhood movement, its Palestinian offshoot Hamas and allegedly also jihadi groups al-Qaida and Islamic State. The Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928 by Hassan al-Banna, has served as the ideological gateway for more radical Islamist offshoots such as Islamic Jihad, al-Qaida and Islamic State, which strike out against regional governments and the West.

 

As John Hannah at FDD, a former official in the George W. Bush White House, stated at a conference in May: “It’s no coincidence, Muslim Brotherhood has been the gateway drug for violent Islamists the world over.” However, all Islamist groups have the ultimate goal to strive for global power, they just go about it with varying degrees of violence and pragmatism…

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

 

 

Contents

QATAR'S COMEUPPANCE A LONG TIME COMING

Raymond Stock

    The Diplomatist, July 2017

 

Jutting into the Persian Gulf like lower Michigan minus its thumb, the super-rich peninsular nation of Qatar has long been a problem—one that has now brought the region to the brink of a potentially catastrophic conflict.

 

Seen for decades as a more liberal extension of the arch-conservative Saudi Kingdom, since the mid-1990s Qatar has striven to maintain that façade, even as it aided and funded the global jihad, both directly indirectly, and grew dangerously close with an ever-more strident and aggressive Iran. As the tensions built, erupted, subsided and built again during this time, it finally took a US administration willing to back up and rally the countries that Qatar's actions have threatened—primarily the very states that have moved against it now—to bring matters to a head.

 

The result has been a lengthening physical and diplomatic embargo on Qatar that could lead to war, or perhaps impede the war to kill the Islamic State (IS). In either case it would leave a lasting rift among four of the six states in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and lands far beyond them. Begun by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain, later joined by Chad, Libya, the Maldives, Niger and Yemen, this was a crisis, sadly, whose time had come.

 

While much has been made of the reaction to a May 23 report by Qatar's state news agency (improbably) praising both Iran and Israel and predicting a short term in office for Trump, it does not appear to have been the real trigger for the incident. Qatar claims it was hacked, dismissing the disputed posting as "fake news." CNN reported on June 7 that US intelligence believes it was the work of unnamed Russians, though the FBI is now on the case.

 

Yet the real kicker was clearly the $1 billion Qatar paid in April to free a group of 26 of its nationals kidnapped by the Iran-linked Shi'ite militia Kita'eb Hizbollah while hunting in Iraq in December 2015. Freed in the same deal were 50 Islamists seized by other jihadis in Syria, as reported in The Financial Times on June 5—thus both "Iranian security officials" and an al-Qaeda (AQ) affiliate, al-Nusra Front, apparently received the cash. Worse, the deal was evidently done behind the back of the Baghdad government led by Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi—who is trying to rein in the brutal Shi'ite militias while fighting ISIS. Al-Abadi announced in April that Iraq had confiscated "millions of dollars" in suitcases from Qatari planes on its territory, says the FT.

 

Meanwhile, Iyad Allawi, Iraq's secular Shi'ite vice president, quoted by Reuters at a Cairo news conference June 19, accused Qatar of seeking to divide Iraq "into a Sunni region in exchange for a Shi'ite region…It is time we spoke honestly and made things clear (to the Qataris) so that we can reach some results," Allawi insisted. "After that confrontation, comes reconciliation," he stated–without saying how.

 

Qatar has not always behaved this way. I served as Head of the Academic Section under the Cultural Attaché of the State of Qatar, part of the Qatari embassy in the US, from 1986-90, advising students on university scholarship from Doha in North America. The Qataris with whom I worked and met at the time were generally conservative, but kind-hearted, forward-looking and not fanatical—hence it is hard indeed to personally advocate action against their country.

 

The trouble began with the overthrow of the old emir, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, by his son, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in 1995. Sheikh Hamad pushed for a more modern, constitutional, somewhat more egalitarian government at home (primarily for its roughly 300,000 citizens, rather than its 2,000,000-plus, often virtually enslaved foreign workers)—while apostasy from Islam, adultery and homosexuality remain capital crimes.

 

He also allowed the creation of Al Jazeera television, hailed by many as a voice of open democracy—though its Arabic arm has mainly carried a mixture of Islamist and other anti-Western propaganda with agitation against other Arab regimes (along with often vociferous debate programs), and has had ties to AQ behind the scenes. (The network's more secular-left leaning English-language service has won many fans in the West, who do not grasp or would even rationalize the radicalism of the Arabic version seen in the Middle East.)

 

Stunningly, Al Jazeera's former bureau chief in Cairo, Canadian-Egyptian citizen Mohamed Fahmy, jailed for 438 days in Egypt for allegedly colluding with efforts by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) to overthrow Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi in 2014, has recently filed a lawsuit in British Columbia against his former employers. Eli Lake of Bloomberg News wrote on June 23 that Fahmy accuses Al Jazeera of deliberately serving the MB and of being "a mouthpiece for Qatari intelligence" and "a voice for terrorists," something he says he learned from Islamists in Cairo's infamous Tora Prison, who told him how they had cooperated closely with the network…

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

 

 

Contents

THE COST OF SUPPORTING ISRAEL HAS NEVER BEEN LOWER

                             Elliot Kaufman

                                                  National Review, July 17, 2017

 

In Oslo, the Tony Award–winning play set in the early 1990s, a Palestinian negotiator makes a powerful claim to his Israeli counterpart: “Until you make peace with us,” he says, “you’ll never be accepted by your neighbours.” But that’s just not true any more for Israel — with major implications for American foreign policy. Allying with Israel no longer risks losing the Arabs to the Soviet camp or risks the wrath of OPEC. In fact, U.S. support for Israel no longer alienates Arab governments at all. In a surprising twist of fate, Arab states now tend to view Israel as a crucial partner in their more important standoff against Iran. These nations do not have the luxury of worrying about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict right now. The rise of Iran, its nuclear program, and its proxies are far more pressing.

 

All of this means that American support for Israel has never been less costly — and has never made more sense — than it does now. As Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel, declared in February, “for the first time in my lifetime, and for the first time in the life of my country, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy, but, increasingly, as an ally.” Even the leader of Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy in Lebanon, has noticed that “these days Israel is [no longer] officially considered the Arab League’s enemy.”

 

When Israel and Hezbollah agree about something, it’s probably true. Take Saudi Arabia, the most powerful Gulf state. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini used to call Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi leaders a “band of heretics,” and the Wahhabis feel more or less the same about Iran’s Shia majority. Moreover, both nations struggle for power in the region. Especially since the rapid ascent of Mohammed bin Salman, the hawkish new Saudi crown prince, Saudi Arabia has worried about Iran’s efforts to expand its control over Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It worries even more about the Iranian nuclear program.

 

On all of these issues, Israel is a key ally. It was Israel, after all, that pushed for a better nuclear deal, that delayed Iran’s nuclear program with cyberwarfare and targeted assassinations, that fights Hezbollah in Lebanon, and it is Israel that destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. Furthermore, reports have suggested that Israel is providing the Saudis with crucial intelligence on Iran, ISIS, and Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen and Syria. Relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia have not yet been normalized, but they are no longer frigid. Last summer, a Saudi general met a former Israeli diplomat at the Council on Foreign Relations. The two shook hands and smiled before flashing cameras. If that had happened just a few years ago, the general could have expected to find himself out of a job or worse.

 

Another meeting joined Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal with a retired Israeli major general. Remarkably, Prince Faisal spoke of “cooperation between Arab countries and Israel in meeting the threats, wherever they come from — whether it is Iran or any other source.” Ahmed Asiri, the kingdom’s deputy intelligence chief, acknowledged in February that “we have the same enemy, the same threat . . . and we are both close allies of the Americans.” Numerous reports support these statements; senior Israeli and Saudi officials have supposedly been secretly meeting for at least the past six years.

 

The Saudis still want Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, but protracted negotiations will not get in the way of security cooperation. After all, if you believe that “Iran is on a rampage” in order to “reestablish the Persian Empire,” as the Saudi foreign minister told Politico, you start looking to untraditional allies. You might even try convincing your people that Israel isn’t so bad. As early as last summer, the tightly controlled Saudi media began criticizing anti-Semitism repeatedly. Saudi TV no longer fixates on “Israeli aggression.” Now the new buzzword is “Persian aggression.” A column in the Saudi daily Al Riyadh argued that there was no reason to “unjustifiably demonise” Israel. These things do not happen by accident in Saudi Arabia. Saudi leadership is preparing their people for better relations with Israel. Saudi propaganda and the reality of the Middle East — Iran is advancing while Israel is not — have steadily combined to get the message across to regular Saudis. A recent poll found that only 18 percent of Saudis view Israel as their principal enemy, good enough for just third place, while 22 percent pointed to ISIS and 53 percent chose Iran.

 

The good news for Israel, however, is not limited to Saudi Arabia. Israeli officials have reportedly made multiple secret trips to the United Arab Emirates, where Israel has opened its first diplomatic mission. Almost bizarrely, the UAE’s foreign minister recently went so far as to slam Al Jazeera for its anti-Semitic coverage. Who knew they cared? Jordan, fearing Iran, ISIS, and the spillover from Syria, has also found reason to turn to Israel. Israeli intelligence now helps keep Jordan safe, and a new agreement ensures that Israeli natural gas keeps it prosperous. Their peace treaty, signed in 1994, goes unchallenged…

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

 

                                                                       

Contents

LIVING IN THE REAL WORLD MEANS DOING

BUSINESS WITH BAD GUYS LIKE THE SAUDI REGIME                                                                           

Editorial                                                                                                                        

National Post, Aug. 4, 2017

 

It isn’t terribly surprising to learn that Canadian-made military vehicles are apparently being used against civilians by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The decision by the former Conservative government to sell Saudi Arabia light armoured vehicles — infantry carriers armed with machine guns, anti-tank cannons and missiles and light automatic cannons — was controversial at the time for this very reason. Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is appalling. Its oppression of its own people at home (including the entire female population) is a matter of record. International rights groups have also slammed the Saudi military’s conduct in combat during the ongoing intervention in Yemen’s civil war, with reports of air strikes that have not only killed civilians, but seemed to have no apparent military objective. Collateral damage is bad enough; deliberately bombarding civilian areas is a war crime.

 

None of this was unknown or unforeseeable when Canada agreed to sell the Saudis military equipment. But the Conservatives first, then the Liberals (who stood by the arms sales after the 2015 election), were clearly seduced by the amount of cash on offer: at least $15 billion for 900 light armoured vehicles from London, Ont.’s, General Dynamics, and a series of smaller contracts with other Canadian firms for other items of military kit. And while it was the giant General Dynamics contract that attracted all the attention, it is a smaller contract, to Terradyne, a firm north of Toronto, that has thrust this issue back into the spotlight.

 

Video footage has recently emerged that appears to show Canadian-made Terradyne Gurkha vehicles — similar to an American Hummer-style vehicle — being used in a security operation against Saudi civilians, specifically, members of the Shiite Muslim religious minority in a restive province of the kingdom. This isn’t surprising, given the monarchy’s horrific record of abusing its own civilians, particularly its small Shiite minority. But it does put Ottawa in an awkward position. Both the Conservatives and Liberals had insisted that they had been given Saudi assurances that our weapons would not be used against civilians; if they were, we could suspend further sales.

 

We have that right. Canada’s export rules, flagging restrictions on defence sales to countries with “poor human-rights records,” even point in that direction. But as appalling as the Saudi regime can be, there are other Canadian interests involved here that Ottawa has a duty to also consider. Saudi Arabia is not an ally, per se, but it is a security partner. Given the multiple overlapping disasters currently unfolding in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia is a country we need on our side. Geopolitics is an unavoidably ugly business and the reality that these kinds of arrangements are necessary is the reason why.

 

We would prefer to live in a world where we could have our armoured cake and sell it, too. If it was possible to sustain our large and growing armaments industry entirely on the back of sales to The Netherlands and New Zealand, we could content ourselves on providing everything our Dutch and Kiwi allies need to annihilate a Russian tank division or two, and for a tidy profit. Though we often roll our eyes at the horrible habit all Canadian governments tend to fall into of using military procurement projects to develop or sustain a domestic armaments industry, we do acknowledge the strategic value of our military having domestic supplies for advanced weaponry. Exporting those arms abroad helps offset the simple reality that the Canadian Armed Forces are themselves not large enough to sustain the kind of industry we have developed here. Exports are essential to sustain these jobs and capabilities.

 

While this whole affair stinks, consider the alternative: Canada doesn’t sell to Saudi Arabia, our economy suffers, our own domestic military production capabilities suffer (or die); meanwhile, Saudi Arabia sinks its vast cash reserves into buying someone else’s weapons and carries on as ever. Canada can keep its hands more or less clean, or it can sustain an arms-export industry that provides important economic and security benefits to our own country. If it’s possible to do both at once, we’ve yet to figure out how.

 

Canadians are not used to pondering geopolitics in these terms. We prefer to view the world as neatly divided into good and bad. Two generations of relative peace, along with our peacekeeping myths, have sheltered us from the realities of a frequently violent world. But there is nothing new about doing business with governments we find odious because it serves a greater good. Saudi Arabia, for all its offences, has proved to be a fundamental Middle East partner in combating the Islamic State and containing Iran’s belligerent ambitions and regional warmongering. Given the grave new stakes at play in the Middle East, even Israel has recognized the need of working alongside the Saudis.

 

It’s always possible that this sort engagement will help bring Saudi Arabia further into the fold of Western liberal democracy, just as some Canadians believe that our deepening friendship with China can moderate that inhumane regime. We’re skeptical on both counts. But in the meantime we must deal with, and make deals in, the world as it is, with all its imperfections.

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Joining Arab States, Israel Says it Plans to Ban Al-Jazeera: National Post, Aug. 6, 2017 —Israel said Sunday it plans to ban Qatar’s flagship Al-Jazeera news network from operating in the country over allegations it incites violence, joining Arab nations that have shut down the broadcaster amid a separate political dispute.

Latest Developments in Saudi Arabia Chart a Course for Israeli Ties With Arab World: Sean Savage, JNS, July 3, 2017—Building off the last few years of rumors and reports regarding clandestine relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, mainly motivated by their shared concerns over Iran’s nuclear program and destabilizing regional activities, two recent developments highlight a potential route for Israel to firm up support within the Arab world.

Qatar and the Saudis – Getting Ready for the Next Round: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, July 10, 2017—Tensions are at an all time high between the four countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Emirates and Egypt – and Qatar, supported by the large, powerful forces of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Russia and Hezbollah. The four countries handed Qatar a list of 13 demands and an ultimatum: either carry them out to the letter or else. They have since retracted them.

Former Liberal Cabinet Minister Calls for End to Canadian Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia: Steven Chase, Globe & Mail, Aug. 1, 2017—A former federal Liberal cabinet minister and human-rights lawyer says Saudi Arabia’s apparent deployment of Canadian-made combat vehicles against Saudi citizens demonstrates why Canada should end all arms sales to the Islamic kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“NEO-OTTOMAN” TURKEY SUPPORTS QATAR IN GULF CRISIS & TRIES TO GAIN FOOTHOLD IN JERUSALEM

Turkey’s Failed Grand Design for the Middle East: Burak Bekdil, BESA, June 16, 2017— In many ways, the recent crisis between Qatar and its Gulf and other Muslim “friends” marked, among other things, the last nail in the coffin of Turkey’s “grand Middle Eastern design”.

A New Ottoman Empire?: Nadav Shragai, Israel Hayom, June 23, 2017— Four years after the Ottoman Empire faded away and withdrew from the land of Israel, the man who wrote the words to Turkey's national anthem — Mehmet Akif Ersoy — tried to hoist his country's flag.

Turkey's Elite Get Lenient Treatment in Post-Coup Probes: Sibel Hurtas, Al-Monitor, June 22, 2017 — Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the abortive coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Turkey, Where Are Your Jews?: Uzay Bulut, Arutz Sheva, Apr. 12, 2017 — The Turkish newspaper Milliyet published a news report on March 20 entitled “Synagogues from the era of Byzantium are about to disappear forever!”

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkish Takeover in Jerusalem: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, June 2, 2017

Turkey Rolls the Dice by Supporting Qatar in Its Feud With Saudi Arabia: Iyad Dakka, World Politics Review, June 19, 2017

Perspectives on Turkey’s 2017 Presidential Referendum: Ödül Celep, Rubin Center, June, 2017

Soft Sharia in Turkey: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 18, 2017

 

 

TURKEY’S FAILED GRAND DESIGN FOR THE MIDDLE EAST                                                            

Burak Bekdil

           BESA, June 16, 2017

 

In many ways, the recent crisis between Qatar and its Gulf and other Muslim “friends” marked, among other things, the last nail in the coffin of Turkey’s “grand Middle Eastern design”. Once again, Turkey’s leaders were trapped by their own ideological shallowness into betting on a losing horse.

 

Very important Turks in dark suits saw the start of the Arab Spring as a golden opportunity to realize their neo-Ottoman ambitions. In Tunisia, their Islamist brothers in arms, the Ennahdha Party, would come to power and annihilate the “secular infidels”. Rachid Gannouchi, Ennahdha’s chief ideologue, never hid his admiration for Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stealth Islamization by popular vote.

 

Erdoğan received one rock-star welcome after another on his visits to Beirut and Egypt. He failed, however, to detect that Lebanese Muslims’ devotion to him was merely praise for his outspoken hatred of Israel. He also failed to predict the turn of political events in Egypt, investing all his political resources in the Muslim Brotherhood. In Iraq, he calculated that with some western backing, he could end the Shiite rule in Baghdad and build a Sunni regime instead. In Gaza, Hamas was, and still is, Erdoğan’s ideological next of kin.

 

In Syria, the non-Sunni [Nusayri] president, Bashar al-Assad, is Erdoğan’s worst regional nemesis. Erdoğan’s expectation, it appears, was that Assad would be toppled and replaced by a coalition of Sunni jihadists. Eventually, a pro-Sunni belt in the Middle East would take shape, totally subservient to the emerging Turkish empire and to its emerging caliph, Erdoğan. Such was Erdoğan’s grand design for the region. Qatar was not simply the “lubricant” of Turkey’s fragile economy but also Erdoğan’s main ideological partner.

 

The story is not progressing according to that script, however. Hezbollah in Lebanon decided Erdoğan was simply “too Sunni” for their tastes, notwithstanding his virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric and ideology. In Tunisia, Ennahdha, to Erdoğan’s disappointment, signed a historic compromise with the country’s secular bloc instead of fighting to annihilate it. The Brotherhood in Egypt lost not only power but also legitimacy as international pressure mounted in recognition of the group’s links with violence. In Baghdad, the rulers are still Shiite and controlled by Tehran. In Syria, Assad remains in power, backed by Iran and Russia, and Erdoğan’s jihadist comrades are almost entirely devoid of strategic importance. Moreover, an emerging Kurdish belt in northern Syria has become a Turkish nightmare. Hamas, like the Brotherhood, is getting squeezed day by day, both regionally and internationally. Erdoğan’s ambition to end the naval blockade of Gaza is already a long-forgotten promise. And now Qatar is in trouble, along with Erdoğan himself.

 

It is not just Erdoğan’s other friends in the Gulf and the Muslim world that are now strangling Qatar through a punishing isolation. Erdoğan must also contend with US President Donald Trump, who declared that Qatar – Turkey’s staunchest ally – “had been a high-level sponsor of terrorism.” Erdoğan, still a firm believer in ideology as foreign policy, is not getting any closer to reality. Immediately after the Gulf and other Muslim sanctions were placed on Qatar, the Turkish president signed two treaties with the Gulf state: one to send troops to a joint Turkish-Qatari military base in Qatar, and the other to provide Turkish training for Qatari gendarmerie units. Turkey, along with Iran, also quickly moved to send food stocks to Qatar in an attempt to ease the sanctions.

 

Erdoğan said the sanctions were wrong; that Ankara would continue to improve its already good relations with Doha; and that “we will never abandon our Qatari brothers.” With a caliph’s self-confidence, he ordered that the crisis be resolved before the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan (i.e., the end of June). As to Qatar’s connection to terror, what connection? Erdoğan says he has never seen Qatar supporting terrorism. This declaration is reminiscent of his past statement that “I went to Sudan and did not see any genocide there,” made in support of his “good friend” Omar Bashir, who was wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide.

 

The cast of the Gulf drama reveals ideological kinships. As part of their anti-Qatar campaign, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt accused 59 individuals and 12 charity organizations of terror links. One of the accused is Yousef al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. Who is Qaradawi? In 2004, Qaradawi said, “There is no dialogue between us [Jews and Muslims] except by the sword and the rifle.” In 2005, he issued a fatwa permitting the killing of Jewish fetuses. And in 2013, when millions of secular Turks took to the streets to protest Erdoğan’s Islamist policies, Qaradawi rushed to Erdoğan’s aid by declaring that the “Turkish protesters were acting against Allah’s will.”

 

Once again, Erdoğan’s Turkey stands on the wrong corner at the wrong moment. Some of his men fear Turkey may be next in line for international sanctions for standing in solidarity with what Washington views as a high-level sponsor of terror. This may be unlikely, but Erdoğan is ignoring two potential dangers. First, he is operating on the flawed assumption that business as usual will resume no matter how the Gulf crisis ends, and that the Turkish-Qatari alliance will be up and running according to the same ideals. Second, he believes the West is too weak to sanction Turkey either politically or economically, so it has little to fear on that front.

 

He is wrong on both counts. Doha may not be the same place after the Gulf Arabs find a way out of their crisis. A less Turkey-friendly Qatar may well emerge. Turkey’s two staunchest ideological allies, the Brotherhood and Hamas, will likely be further pruned in their own corners of the Arab world, with non-Arab Turkey possibly remaining their only vocal supporter. And the impending “slap” Ankara is ignoring may come not from Washington but from Erdoğan’s Muslim friends in the Gulf. Shortly before the Qatar campaign, Turkey’s defense bureaucracy was curious as to why the Saudis kept delaying a ceremony for a $2 billion contract for the sale of four Turkish frigates to the Kingdom in what would have become Turkey’s largest-ever single defense industry export. Now they have an idea why. That deal, if scrapped, may be just one of the starters on a rich menu.

 

 

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A NEW OTTOMAN EMPIRE?

Nadav Shragai

Israel Hayom, June 23, 2017

 

Four years after the Ottoman Empire faded away and withdrew from the land of Israel, the man who wrote the words to Turkey's national anthem — Mehmet Akif Ersoy — tried to hoist his country's flag. He slipped a line into the anthem to which the Turks still cling. Arusi describes the flag "waving like the shining sky" and praises it: "Oh coy crescent do not frown, for I am ready to sacrifice myself for you! … If you frown, our blood shed for you will not be worthy." But it's doubtful whether back in 1921 even Ersoy believed that less than 100 years later, flags bearing Turkey's moon and star would once again wave over the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount — and under the rule of a Jewish state, no less.

 

Turkey once again wants to gain a foothold and influence in Jerusalem. It is investing a lot of money to gain its objective. The Turkish national and cultural awakening in the Israeli capital, which is keenly felt by the residents of east Jerusalem, has the backing of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who sees himself as the patron of the Muslim Brotherhood and the man who will reinstate the Ottoman Empire and become the father of the Ottoman caliphate that will one day return — even to Jerusalem.

 

Turkey is scattering vast sums around east Jerusalem and on the Temple Mount to acquire a foothold and influence here. Erdogan's loyal partners in this "holy" act are the members of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, led by Sheikh Raed Salah, which rejects the legitimacy of Israel and which has now been outlawed; and Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti of Jerusalem, one of the most extreme figures in Islam who has decreed suicide bombings legitimate and expressed hope that the U.S. and Britain be destroyed. Sabri is currently the head preacher at Al-Aqsa mosque…

 

It turns out that the Turkish money is flowing into Jerusalem via a number of entities, the most important of which is TIKA, an aid organization funded mostly by the Turkish government that sends enormous amounts of money to some 140 countries. Since 2011, TIKA has been headed by Dr. Serder Cam, who formerly served as chief of Erdogan's parliamentary staff. Members of the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center recently discovered that between 2004, when TIKA first established a branch office in Ramallah, and 2014, it invested millions of dollars in no fewer than 63 projects in Jerusalem…

 

At the request of the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Youth and Sport, TIKA has also invested in the construction of a sports stadium in the A-Tur neighborhood on the way to the Mount of Olives; in refurbishing the archive of Ottoman and Muslim documents on the Temple Mount; in acquiring a water tank for the benefit of worshippers on the Mount; in rebuilding the Muslim cemetery at the foot of the eastern wall of the Temple Mount, near the Golden Gate; in funding archaeological salvage excavations on the Street of the Chain in the Old City; and plenty of other community and religious projects.

 

Turkey's trusted allies in Jerusalem — mainly the Muslim Brotherhood, who maintain ties to the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement — frequently fly Turkish flags on the Temple Mount and along the way to it. TIKA has also printed hundreds of thousands of copies of an informational booklet in three languages (Turkish, Arabic and English) about the 76 Muslim historical sites and buildings in the Al-Aqsa compound. The booklet launch was a festive ceremony attended by members of the Muslim Waqf and representatives of the Turks and the Palestinians.

 

The crown jewel of Turkey's activity in Jerusalem was replacing the faded old crescent on top of the Dome of the Rock with a shiny new golden crescent donated by the government of Turkey. It was a Turkish association that provided part of the funding for the buses that in recent years have picked up operatives from the Murabitun and Murabitat fundamentalist groups from Palestinian villages in the Triangle region and shuttled them to the Temple Mount, where they spent years instigating riots and unrest until their organizations were outlawed and banned from the Mount.

 

The Turkish obsession with Al-Aqsa and the Temple Mount is both consistent and methodical. Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, a researcher on Turkey from the Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, mentions that for years, the Turks sent regular delegations to inspect events involving the archaeological excavations around Mughrabi Bridge and the Western Wall tunnels. "Mehmet Gormez, chairman of the Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, is the one who two years ago on Al-Qadr Eve directed the prayer on the Temple Mount, and under Gormez, Jerusalem became a station on the Hajj route [the holy journey to Mecca]. In other words, on the way to Mecca, [Muslims] pray at Al-Aqsa, and only then proceed to Jordan, and from there to Saudi Arabia," Yanarocak explains.

 

The researcher also notes that the backdrop of the official TV station of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate now includes an image of Al-Aqsa mosque alongside the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. "Turkish schoolbooks are including Al-Aqsa and Jerusalem more and more, too," Yanarocak observes. A reminder: Only a few weeks ago, despite the reconciliation agreement between Israel and Turkey and the supposed end to the Mavi Marmara crisis Erdogan spoke at an international forum of Waqf charities for Al-Quds, the Muslim name for Jerusalem. He called Israeli rule over Jerusalem "an insult" and called on his people and on Muslims worldwide "to protect Jerusalem's Muslim identity" and ascend the Temple Mount.

 

Erdogan took that same opportunity to attack Israel's muezzin bill, which was intended to limit noise from Muslim calls to prayer, and threatened: "We will not allow the muezzin on Al-Aqsa to be silenced. … Any stone that is moved in the city could be significant." He also complained that "only" 26,000 Turks visit Jerusalem each year and added that "although that is a larger number than any other Muslim state, it's much lower than the hundreds of thousands of Americans, Russians and French [who visit]." Indeed, thanks to Erdogan, Muslim tourism to Jerusalem is changing. Today, it is mainly religious groups who visit Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, then leave.

 

Yanarocak explains that Erdogan "believes he is the leader of the moderate Sunni world, and he takes every opportunity to stress that he is the descendant of the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Jerusalem for hundreds of years, the heir to Salah a-Din and Suleiman the Magnificent. He defines the Turks as the grandchildren of those two and aspires to restore Islamic rule and the [Turkish] empire to Jerusalem."…

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

 

 

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TURKEY, WHERE ARE YOUR JEWS?

Uzay Bulut

Arutz Sheva, Apr. 12, 2017

 

The Turkish newspaper Milliyet published a news report on March 20 entitled “Synagogues from the era of Byzantium are about to disappear forever!” “Among the historical and cultural heritage of Istanbul that is on the verge of extinction are Byzantine synagogues which belong to the Turkish Jewish community,” said the report. “Most of the historic synagogues which numbered in dozens in the early 20th century are located in the Balat and Hasköy areas. Many run the risk of disappearing forever”.

 

“A lot of historic monuments belonging to the Jewish community and built during the Byzantine era are in ruins,” said Mois Gabay, a columnist for the Jewish weekly Salom, and a professional tourist guide. Gabay added that Turkish Jews who lived in the region of Golden Horn, also known by its Turkish name as Haliç "left Turkey a long time ago”.  When there are no more Jewish congregants, it becomes almost impossible to preserve synagogues.

 

Jews in Turkey are mostly known for being the descendants of the immigrants who moved to the Ottoman Empire after being expelled from Spain. However, Jews have been living in Asia Minor since antiquity. Professor Franklin Hugh Adler explains: “Jews, in fact, had inhabited this land long before the birth of Mohammed and the Islamic conquests of the seventh and eighth centuries, or for that matter, the arrival and conquests of the Turks, beginning in the eleventh century. On the eve of the birth of Islam, most of world Jewry lived under Byzantine or Persian rule in the lands of the Mediterranean basin.

 

“At the beginning of the Turkish Republic, in 1923, the Jewish population was 81,454. In Istanbul alone there were 47,035 Jews, roughly thirteen percent of a city that then numbered 373,124.” Today, there are fewer than 15,000 Jews in Turkey, whose entire population is almost 80 million. What happened? Since 1923, when the Turkish Republic was established, Jews have been exposed to systematic discrimination and campaigns of forced Turkification and Islamization. With the Law of Family Names accepted in 1934, Jews as well as other non-Muslim and non-Turkish citizens had to change their names and surnames and adopt Turkish sounding names. The 1934 Turkish Resettlement Law resulted not only in the forced assimilation of non-Turks, but also in their forced displacement. Jews who had lived in Eastern Thrace were forcibly sent to Istanbul. The last of the Jewish “Alliance Israélite Schools” was shut down by the Turkish government in 1937.

 

Jews were deprived of their freedom of movement at least three times: in 1923, 1925 and 1927. During the Holocaust, Turkey opened its doors to very few Jewish and political refugees and even took measures to prevent Jewish immigration in 1937. During the Ottoman Empire, Jews had been allowed to engage in Zionist activities — activities that support the reestablishment of the Jewish homeland in the historic Land of Israel — but during the rule of the new republic, these activities were banned.

 

Hate speech in the Turkish media against Jews has also been a serious and continued problem for decades. For example, in the one-party regime of the CHP (Republican People’s Party) government between the years 1923 and 1945, “The Turkish satirical magazines were full of caricatures of the ‘Jewish merchant’: dirty, materialistic, afraid of water, hook nosed, a black marketer, an opportunist, and utterly unable to speak Turkish without a comical Jewish accent; in short, a similar figure to Jewish types encountered in Nazi iconography,” writes Rifat N. Bali, the leading scholar of Turkish Jewry…

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

 

                                                                                   

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TURKEY'S ELITE GET LENIENT TREATMENT IN POST-COUP PROBES

Sibel Hurtas

Al-Monitor, June 22, 2017

 

Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the abortive coup attempt on July 15, 2016. During this period, 150,000 people have been arrested and 50,000 remain behind bars, including journalists, academics, students, public servants and even shopkeepers. Absent from this long list of alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based cleric accused of masterminding the putsch, are political figures who made no secret of their sympathy for Gulen in the past. This has long stirred controversy and sparked accusations that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is protecting its own.

 

In September 2016, two months after the coup attempt, the arrest of businessman Omer Kavurmaci — the son-in-law of Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas — led many to believe that the operations would extend to political quarters, since the Topbas family’s sympathy for Gulen was no secret. The expectations, however, did not materialize. Moreover, the judiciary made a surprise decision in May 2017 to release Kavurmaci while pending trial, on the grounds he suffers from epilepsy and sleep apnea.

 

Then, in June 2017, the authorities arrested Ekrem Yeter, the son-in-law of AKP co-founder Bulent Arinc. An associate professor in medicine, Yeter was among hundreds of academics expelled from universities through legislative decrees that the government used to its advantage under the state of emergency. Yeter became a suspect because the health association that he chaired was shut down after the coup attempt for alleged affiliation with the Gulen community, which the government has since rebranded as the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organization.

 

Yeter reportedly testified that he had joined the health association after his father-in-law advised him to contribute to the association. He testified that AKP heavyweights such as Labor Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu and Agriculture Minister Faruk Celik had attended the health association’s events. Given the zeal with which prosecutors pursue alleged Gulen sympathizers, one would have expected that a testimony providing fresh names would lead to an expanded investigation. But this did not happen. Moreover, Yeter walked free after a few days in jail when a court ruled he had a permanent residence and therefore he could report to the police regularly and was not a flight risk. The release of the two men was seen as special treatment, leading social media users to coin the term “sons-in-law law,” which politicians and journalists were quick to adopt. Pro-government columnist Abdulkadir Selvi, for instance, wrote, “Along with criminal law, civil law, commercial law and international law, there is now a new bunch — 'sons-in-law law.'"

 

The contrast between the treatment of different suspects was inescapable. The evidence prosecutors have against the sons-in-law and the evidence used to imprison journalists is beyond comparison. Kavurmaci, for instance, stands accused of financially supporting Gulen even after the coup attempt. Yeter is accused of implementing Gulenist projects via ministries and medical faculties. Cumhuriyet and Al-Monitor columnist Kadri Gursel, meanwhile, has been in jail since November 2016 for alleged links with Gulenists, the supposed evidence for which is telephone records showing that individuals who downloaded the ByLock application — the alleged secret communication channel used by Gulenists — had called or texted the journalist. Moreover, the bulk of those calls and text messages remained unanswered. The charges against other Cumhuriyet writers and journalists still in jail are of a similar nature.

 

“More than 150 journalists remain in jail, including some with a lifelong record of opposing [the Gulenists], while the sons-in-law walk free,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), at a June 13 CHP meeting in parliament. In a sarcastic tone, he added that perhaps “mothers are to blame because they have failed to find the right fathers-in-law for their sons.”…

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

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Turkish Takeover in Jerusalem: David M. Weinberg, Israel Hayom, June 2, 2017 —The fireworks and fanfare of the Jerusalem liberation jubilee have shoved under the radar a blockbuster expose about the unruly situation in east Jerusalem. Alarm bells should be ringing about the nefarious intensifying involvement of Erdogan's Turkey and other radical Islamist groups in Jerusalem political and social affairs.

Turkey Rolls the Dice by Supporting Qatar in Its Feud With Saudi Arabia: Iyad Dakka, World Politics Review, June 19, 2017—Like the rest of the world, Turkey was blindsided by the sudden decision by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to cut all diplomatic, trade and transportation ties with Qatar earlier this month.

Perspectives on Turkey’s 2017 Presidential Referendum: Ödül Celep, Rubin Center, June, 2017—The April 16, 2017, presidential referendum has created an unprecedented sociopolitical division in Turkey. The referendum has led to odd unions between former foes. It has also brought a variety of diverse political groups into one block, particularly the “no” block.

Soft Sharia in Turkey: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 18, 2017—The good news about Turkish justice is that despite 15 years of not-so-creeping Islamization, court verdicts do not yet sentence wrongdoers to public lashing, stoning, amputations or public hangings in main city squares.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MIDDLE EAST: CONFRONTATION BETWEEN U.S. AND IRAN IN SYRIA INTENSIFIES

The Great Muslim Civil War — and Us: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, June 22, 2017— This week marks six months since the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which classifies Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 line, including in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, as illegal.

Welcome to the Shia Corridor: Ben Cohen, JNS, June 23, 2017 — If you haven’t encountered the term “Shia corridor” yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the US and Iran in Syria intensifies.

A Rare Consensus: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2017— After speaking with foreign policy experts and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle last week, there was a rare consensus that we shouldn’t harbor any illusions about our strategic Arab alliances in the Middle East.

Prospects for a Near East Treaty Organization: Jose V. Ciprut, BESA, June 10, 2017— US President Donald Trump’s “pilgrimage” to Riyadh, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Rome was carefully choreographed.

 

On Topic Links

 

Arab States Issue Ultimatum to Qatar: Rick Moran, American Thinker, June 24, 2016

President Trump’s Arab Alliance Is a Mirage: Antony J. Blinken, New York Times, June 19, 2017

US Strategy and Israel’s Stake in Eastern Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, June 23, 2017

Resistance Axis Forces Directly Threaten U.S.: We Are On The Brink Of War On Syria-Iraq Border: N. Mozes, MEMRI, June 14, 2017

 

 

 

THE GREAT MUSLIM CIVIL WAR — AND US                                                            

Charles Krauthammer

                                       Washington Post, June 22, 2017

 

The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter-bomber. Iran launches missiles into eastern Syria. Russia threatens to attack coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates. What is going on? It might appear a mindless mess, but the outlines are clear. The great Muslim civil war, centered in Syria, is approaching its post-Islamic State phase. It’s the end of the beginning. The parties are maneuvering to shape what comes next. It’s Europe, 1945, when the war was still raging against Nazi Germany, but everyone already knew the outcome. The maneuvering was largely between the approaching victors — the Soviet Union and the Western democracies — to determine postwar boundaries and spheres of influence.

So it is today in Syria. Everyone knows that the Islamic State is finished. Not that it will disappear as an ideology, insurgency and source of continuing terrorism both in the region and the West. But it will disappear as an independent, organized, territorial entity in the heart of the Middle East. It is being squeezed out of existence. Its hold on Mosul, its last major redoubt in Iraq, is nearly gone. Raqqa, its stronghold in Syria and de facto capital, is next. When it falls — it is already surrounded on three sides — the caliphate dies.

 

Much of the fighting today is about who inherits. Take the Syrian jet the United States shot down. It had been attacking a pro-Western Kurdish and Arab force (the Syrian Democratic Forces) not far from Islamic State territory. Why? Because the Bashar al-Assad regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, having gained the upper hand on the non-jihadist rebels in the Syrian heartland (most notably in Aleppo), feels secure enough to set its sights on eastern Syria. If it hopes to restore its authority over the whole country, it will need to control Raqqa and surrounding Islamic State areas. But the forces near Raqqa are pro-Western and anti-regime. Hence the Syrian fighter-bomber attack.

 

Hence the U.S. shoot-down. We are protecting our friends. Hence the Russian threats to now target U.S. planes. The Russians are protecting their friends. On the same day as the shoot-down, Iran launched six surface-to-surface missiles into Syrian territory controlled by the Islamic State. Why? Ostensibly to punish the jihadists for terrorist attacks two weeks ago inside Iran.  Perhaps. But one obvious objective was to demonstrate to Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Arabs the considerable reach of both Iran’s arms and territorial ambitions.

 

For Iran, Syria is the key, the central theater of a Shiite-Sunni war for regional hegemony. Iran (which is non-Arab) leads the Shiite side, attended by its Arab auxiliaries — Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shiite militias in Iraq and the highly penetrated government of Iraq, and Assad’s Alawite regime. (Alawites being a non-Sunni sect, often associated with Shiism.) Taken together, they comprise a vast arc — the Shiite Crescent — stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean. If consolidated, it gives the Persians a Mediterranean reach they have not had in 2,300 years. This alliance operates under the patronage and protection of Russia, which supplies the Iranian-allied side with cash, weapons and, since 2015, air cover from its new bases in Syria.

 

Arrayed on the other side of the great Muslim civil war are the Sunnis, moderate and Western-allied, led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan — with their Great Power patron, the United States, now (post-Obama) back in action. At stake is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent. It’s already underway. As the Islamic State is driven out of Mosul, Iranian-controlled militias are taking over crucial roads and other strategic assets in western Iraq. Next target: eastern Syria (Raqqa and environs). Imagine the scenario: a unified Syria under Assad, the ever more pliant client of Iran and Russia; Hezbollah, tip of the Iranian spear, dominant in Lebanon; Iran, the regional arbiter; and Russia, with its Syrian bases, the outside hegemon.

 

Our preferred outcome is radically different: a loosely federated Syria, partitioned and cantonized, in which Assad might be left in charge of an Alawite rump.  The Iranian-Russian strategy is a nightmare for the entire Sunni Middle East. And for us too. The Pentagon seems bent on preventing it. Hence the cruise missile attack for crossing the chemical red line. Hence the recent fighter-bomber shoot-down. A reasonable U.S. strategy, given the alternatives. But not without risk. Which is why we need a national debate before we commit too deeply. Perhaps we might squeeze one in amid the national obsession with every James Comey memo-to-self?

 

 

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WELCOME TO THE SHIA CORRIDOR

Ben Cohen

JNS, June 23, 2017

 

If you haven’t encountered the term “Shia corridor” yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the US and Iran in Syria intensifies. What was initially a sideshow to the main battle against Islamic State in Syria is fast becoming the main focus of attention. In recent weeks, the US has shot down at least two Iranian armed drones over Syria. A Syrian regime bomber jet supposedly attacking Islamic State positions near Raqqa was also downed, after it ventured too close to positions held by US-allied forces. Armed skirmishes have been reported between US-allied forces and Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias. The Russians — allied with Iran in supporting the tyrant Bashar al-Assad in Damascus — are also part of this dangerous equation, going so far as to declare that Moscow’s generals will treat US-led coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria as “potential targets.”

 

What does Iran hope to achieve here? To start with, it’s important to note that the international legitimacy the mullahs have enjoyed since the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 is starting to fragment. The US Senate this month voted to slap new sanctions on Iran for its violations outside the terms of the nuclear deal, such as its use of ballistic missiles and its support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such political moves invariably have a significant economic impact, which is why Western banks continue to advise caution towards companies tempted to invest in Iran.

 

None of this fretting is of much consequence to the overtly revolutionary wings of the Iranian regime, most obviously the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is built to retain its enormous power with or without sanctions in place. But the eclipse of the Obama administration’s engagement strategy with Iran highlights once again that it is institutions like the IRGC, much more than one or another foreign minister sounding reasonable and eloquent, that define the nature of power and influence in the Islamic Republic.

 

This is where the “Shia corridor” comes in. Iran’s goal to become the dominant power in the Islamic world involves more than religious or ideological influence. It requires the boots of Iran and its proxies on the ground — as demonstrated already in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It requires that Iran has easy, uninterrupted access to all those parts of the region where it exercises political control.

 

On one level, the idea of a Shia corridor seems a little fantastical. Almost 2,000 miles separate Tehran from the Mediterranean coast to its far west. The road between the two points is distinguished by rough terrain and the presence of numerous militias along the route, many of them belonging to Sunni Islamist factions hostile to Iran. In addition to heavy defenses on the ground, the corridor would need effective aerial warning systems, given Israel’s demonstrated willingness to bomb weapons shipments between Iran and its allies in Syria and Lebanon. Can a country with an ailing economy like Iran’s, that is now facing an increasingly hostile administration in Washington, DC, really carve out such a corridor unopposed?

 

The point, for now at least, is Iran is doing precisely that — assisted by the lack of a defined US policy towards not just the Iranian nuclear program, but its entire regional role; the absence of any appetite among the Europeans for a confrontation with Tehran; and the unprecedented support coming from Iran’s traditional foe, Russia, thanks to President Vladimir Putin’s benevolence. In other words, Iran will face obstacles to its contiguous territorial path only if its adversaries — not just America, but also Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia, among others — are willing to place them there.

 

Does the advance of the corridor so far warrant such concern? At the end of May, a few correspondents in the region, among them the Israeli journalist Seth Frantzman and the American reporter Dexter Filkins, reported that Iranian-backed militias had seized a cluster of villages along the Syrian-Iraqi border, thereby securing an encumbered road link between the IRGC in Tehran and its client in Damascus. “The development is potentially momentous,” Filkins wrote in the New Yorker, “because, for the first time, it would bind together, by a single land route, a string of Iranian allies, including Hezbollah, in Lebanon; the Assad regime, in Syria; and the Iranian-dominated government in Iraq. Those allies form what is often referred to as the Shiite Crescent, an Iranian sphere of influence in an area otherwise dominated by Sunni Muslims.”

 

While those same Sunni Muslims are divided between those who see the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran as their main enemy, and those who accord that distinction to Israel and the US, Iran is presenting a unified Shia revolutionary stance towards the outside world. Iran has allies all the way from Lebanon to Bahrain, and Iran is their unmistakable leader. When looked at on the map, this status conveys the possibility of an Iranian empire that Tehran’s actions in the field seek only to reinforce.

 

The consequences for Israel of a Shia corridor are, needless to say, acute. Since the war in Lebanon in the mid-1980s, Israel has been acutely aware of Iran’s ability to wage direct war on its territory, through the missile barrages of its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon. The existence of a land corridor will transform Iran’s capacity in this regard, perhaps to the point where a land-based war launched against Israel from Syria and Lebanon could be as perilous as a nuclear attack.

 

For some time now, it has been an established fact that Hezbollah has increased its number of missiles pointed at Israel by a factor of 10, with newer and deadlier models now in operation — despite the existence of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed in 2006, which demands that Hezbollah disarm entirely. A land corridor would make any attempt to enforce this resolution a much harder task. As always, Israel is prepared for the worst. But how it responds will depend, more than anything else, on how the Trump administration copes with the reality that America is once again locked in combat with its adversaries.

                                                                                   

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A RARE CONSENSUS

Eric R. Mandel

Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2017

 

After speaking with foreign policy experts and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle last week, there was a rare consensus that we shouldn’t harbor any illusions about our strategic Arab alliances in the Middle East. US President Donald Trump’s realignment back to our Sunni Gulf “allies” makes sense on the surface, as we share the goal of curbing Iran’s obsession to dominate the region.

 

But if we ally ourselves with them, will the Saudi and Gulf States stop supporting radical Sunni jihadists? Will the new Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman be a reformer and a transformative king moving Saudi Arabia into modernity, or will he be reckless and adventurous, creating instability in the region? Don’t forget how hopeful it seemed to many, including Hillary Clinton and secretary of state John Kerry, that the London-trained ophthalmologist Bashar Assad would bring enlightened reform to Syria. It is inaccurate to analyze the region and our choices exclusively in terms of the Sunni-Shi’ite divide. An equally essential filter to understand the conflicting realities is to separate those nation-states who support political Islamism and those who don’t, e.g. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Egypt.

 

Political Islamists, whose goal is a worldwide caliphate, have both Shi’ite and Sunni adherents. They may pursue that goal by conquest or terrorism, as do Islamic State (Sunni) and Iran (Shi’ite), or they may create adherents by providing food, shelter and schooling to disadvantaged Islamic populations. The Muslim Brotherhood (Sunni) subscribes to both strategies, which misled the Obama administration into advocating for the MB as a moderating force within political Islamism, ignoring their actions and words, such as “jihad is our way,” and “dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

 

Aligning exclusively with either side of these divides, whether Sunnis vs. Shi’ites, or political Islamists and their enablers (Iran/Turkey/Muslim Brotherhood/ Qatar) vs. Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Kuwait/UAE is problematic at best. America must balance bad or worse choices to achieve its strategic goals. The choices are not always clear or satisfying, as there are befuddling realignments between and within the multi-dimensional divides.

 

In the world of political Islam, the lines of Sunni and Shi’ite blur: Shi’ite political Islamist Iran supports Sunni political Islamist Hamas, the progeny of the Sunni political Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Shi’ite political Islamist Hezbollah and Sunni political Islamist Hamas have been meeting and coordinating their actions, with the shared goal of the destruction of the State of Israel. Another player with shifting allegiances within the political Islamist world is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who turned his nation from the only secular Sunni democracy in the Middle East into a political Islamist state, threatening American interests.

 

Regarding the “status quo” Sunni Wahhabi monarchies embraced by President Trump, Elliot Abrams expresses a post-9/11 view in The National Review that “Wahhabi Islam is at least a gateway drug for extremism…Saudi preachers, mosques, and schools teach…moderate versions of Islam are impure and must be replaced by the only true version.” Let us be clear: there is little commonality of values between America and Saudi Arabia. Ambassador Aaron David Miller referred to Arab nations like Saudi Arabia as tribes with flags. Saudi Arabia is a family owned nation-state run by the descendants of the 19th wife of the clan’s founder, Ibn Saud.

 

So are the Saudis any less supportive of sources of terrorism than in the past? In some ways yes, but they have miles to go, as they still look the other way as wealthy private Saudi citizens continue to give major backing to radical Sunni jihadist actors. Yet their rhetoric toward Israel has moved from hostile to conciliatory. The government-controlled Al Riyadh said recently that “there is no reason for Arabs to unjustifiably demonize Israel,” according to the UK Spectator.

 

Democrats I met with in Congress emphasized a point Antony Blinken, president Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state, made in The New York Times. “Saudi-exported, ultra-conservative Wahhabism, which breeds intolerance around the world, is no less dangerous to Western interests than Iran’s support for radicalism, regional meddling and expansionism.” Perhaps, but in the Middle East world of bad and worse choices, Iran clearly falls on the more dangerous side for American interests. Blinken’s equivalence is more about not undermining president Obama’s foreign policy legacy, the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA). Ever since president Obama allowed the Iranian nuclear agreement to supersede American interests in reining in Iranian hegemony, the Sunni world lost faith in American resolve to both protect them and thwart Iranian expansionism.

 

Complicating this picture are the Gulf monarchies Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, which support Sunni jihadists and claim to be against Iranian interests. They are genuinely worried about the dangers of the rise of political Islamism supported by Qatar, which threatens their totalitarian dynasties. At the same time, they paradoxically funnel money for their supposed enemy Iran through their secretive banking systems. But what motivates all the Gulf States is their fear of Iran; so helping the Iranian regime may simply be a form of appeasement.

 

Every one of these Gulf nations with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia wants American bases on their soil as a deterrent to Iranian territorial aspirations. The UAE vs. Qatar crisis is also be about getting an American base in Abu Dhabi, rather than exclusively the stated goal of stopping Qatari support for terrorism, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Jazeera and Hezbollah. Going forward, American interests will be advanced if the United States fosters normalization of Sunni-Israeli relations, reins in Iranian hegemonic ambitions and restrains Gulf State support for Sunni jihadists Aligning with peoples and nations that do not share Western values but do advance our interests is the filter and context to understand our choices in 2017 and beyond.

 

 

Contents

PROSPECTS FOR A NEAR EAST TREATY ORGANIZATION

Jose V. Ciprut

BESA, June 10, 2017

 

US President Donald Trump’s “pilgrimage” to Riyadh, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Rome was carefully choreographed. This first foreign trip by a novice president turned out to be a masterstroke. The trip achieved several critical objectives. Mr. Trump wished to create a semblance of unity with allies who had come to question the strength of their respective relationships with the US. He designated a common enemy by suggesting that ancient hatreds can no longer be afforded, and by urging that strategic realignments grounded on a region-wide alliance are not only desirable but feasible. This ambitious agenda eschewed detailed specifics, relying on strict adherence to prepared scripts.

 

By going to Riyadh first, Trump conveyed the impression that he considers the Saudis a top priority. This tacit statement, made before a global audience, so flattered the Saudis that a page replete with historic disappointments was promptly turned. By insisting on visiting the Western Wall without Israeli escort; by discouraging a performance by a Palestinian Christian youth band eager to display its Palestinian national insignia at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; by avoiding the Knesset; and by electing to meet the aging president of the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem rather than Ramallah, the US president made clear that, at this stage, he would not allow politicized symbolism to cast doubt on his stylized impartiality. His speeches in Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem were consistent in their cordiality.

 

The flash visits to the Western Wall, Bethlehem, and Yad Vashem took place even as Britain was mourning the Manchester bombing and a “Day of Rage” was in full swing on the West Bank. The US president called for compassion across the region just as yet another knife-wielding Palestinian Arab had to be neutralized in Netanya. His intercessions were hence timely, conveying a sense of urgency.

 

Trump convincingly remarked that not only those who commit violent crimes, but also those who incite to violence by rewarding criminality in the name of a higher cause ought once and for all to cease and desist. By neither outlining nor so much as alluding to a new road map, and by unequivocally leaving the matter to the parties to debate, he reserved a role for the US as even-handed facilitator. Trump’s administration seems determined not to propose, let alone impose, any ends, means, methods, or style. This fresh approach, with its focus on “the collective need for realistic security-mindedness”, permits all the regional stakeholders to expand their thinking. That thinking could include one particularly intriguing alternate future. It is possible to imagine a wholesale security redesign for the region – one that would include Israel, as well as an autonomous Palestinian entity thriving in peace and prosperity alongside it. This scenario would be conceivable only after the enemy factions agree as one to live in constructive acquiescence to the existence of the Jewish democratic State of Israel.

 

Over the past fifty years, new realities have swept the Middle East. Nasser’s pan-Arabism and the Muslim Brotherhood’s pan-Islamism both failed (although their remodeled ideals are currently being approached through other means by the 57-member Organization of Islamic States). Egypt has been won over by the West. Both Jordan and Egypt have sustained a cold peace with Israel. The “Arab Spring” has led to sporadic implosions that in turn spawned several failed states. Syria has been internally destroyed. Yemen is in agony. Iran has developed an appetite for regional hegemony, with recourse to militias abroad. Iraq and Libya have yet to experience a semblance of stability. Afghans, Chechens, and many other dissatisfied Muslims are fighting for their respective brands of fundamentalism, often engaging in zero-sum games with their own coreligionists. Lebanon remains in its apparently eternal existential dilemma. An increasingly Islamist Turkey has developed its own ambitions across the region by means that have polarized its population. African nations bordering on the Red Sea continue to experience internal unrest. Cyprus has yet to be reunified, and the Kurds’ destiny in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria is still undetermined…

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

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Arab States Issue Ultimatum to Qatar: Rick Moran, American Thinker, June 24, 2016—The crisis in the Gulf over Qatar's ties to terrorism and Iran took an even more serious turn as Arab states issued an ultimatum to Doha demanding that it close the propaganda media outlet Al Jazeera, cut ties with Iran, remove a Turkish military base, and pay reparations. Qatar is not expected to comply with any of these demands.

President Trump’s Arab Alliance Is a Mirage: Antony J. Blinken, New York Times, June 19, 2017—Tweeting first and asking questions later is not a good way to make policy — especially in the Middle East. In a recent salvo, President Donald J. Trump took credit for a decision by one set of American partners — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — to sever relations with another, Qatar.

US Strategy and Israel’s Stake in Eastern Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, June 23, 2017—The downing on June 18 of a Syrian Air Force SU-22 by a US Navy F-18 Super Hornet over the skies of northern Syria sharply raises the stakes in the emergent standoff in the country. This standoff is no longer between local militias, nor between regional powers. Rather, through interlocking lines of support, it places the United States in direct opposition to Russia.

Resistance Axis Forces Directly Threaten U.S.: We Are On The Brink Of War On Syria-Iraq Border: N. Mozes, MEMRI, June 14, 2017—On June 9, 2017, forces of the resistance axis, which is headed by Iran and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, reached the Syria-Iraq border. This is an important accomplishment of these forces vis-à-vis the U.S. and its allies, and it not only boosts the morale of the resistance but it is key in the continued struggle over the future of Syria and the balance of power in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

MIDDLE EAST: CONFRONTATION BETWEEN U.S. AND IRAN IN SYRIA INTENSIFIES

The Great Muslim Civil War — and Us: Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, June 22, 2017— This week marks six months since the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334, which classifies Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 line, including in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, as illegal.

Welcome to the Shia Corridor: Ben Cohen, JNS, June 23, 2017 — If you haven’t encountered the term “Shia corridor” yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the US and Iran in Syria intensifies.

A Rare Consensus: Eric R. Mandel, Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2017— After speaking with foreign policy experts and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle last week, there was a rare consensus that we shouldn’t harbor any illusions about our strategic Arab alliances in the Middle East.

Prospects for a Near East Treaty Organization: Jose V. Ciprut, BESA, June 10, 2017— US President Donald Trump’s “pilgrimage” to Riyadh, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Rome was carefully choreographed.

 

On Topic Links

 

Arab States Issue Ultimatum to Qatar: Rick Moran, American Thinker, June 24, 2016

President Trump’s Arab Alliance Is a Mirage: Antony J. Blinken, New York Times, June 19, 2017

US Strategy and Israel’s Stake in Eastern Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, June 23, 2017

Resistance Axis Forces Directly Threaten U.S.: We Are On The Brink Of War On Syria-Iraq Border: N. Mozes, MEMRI, June 14, 2017

 

 

 

THE GREAT MUSLIM CIVIL WAR — AND US                                                            

Charles Krauthammer

                                       Washington Post, June 22, 2017

 

The U.S. shoots down a Syrian fighter-bomber. Iran launches missiles into eastern Syria. Russia threatens to attack coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates. What is going on? It might appear a mindless mess, but the outlines are clear. The great Muslim civil war, centered in Syria, is approaching its post-Islamic State phase. It’s the end of the beginning. The parties are maneuvering to shape what comes next. It’s Europe, 1945, when the war was still raging against Nazi Germany, but everyone already knew the outcome. The maneuvering was largely between the approaching victors — the Soviet Union and the Western democracies — to determine postwar boundaries and spheres of influence.

So it is today in Syria. Everyone knows that the Islamic State is finished. Not that it will disappear as an ideology, insurgency and source of continuing terrorism both in the region and the West. But it will disappear as an independent, organized, territorial entity in the heart of the Middle East. It is being squeezed out of existence. Its hold on Mosul, its last major redoubt in Iraq, is nearly gone. Raqqa, its stronghold in Syria and de facto capital, is next. When it falls — it is already surrounded on three sides — the caliphate dies.

 

Much of the fighting today is about who inherits. Take the Syrian jet the United States shot down. It had been attacking a pro-Western Kurdish and Arab force (the Syrian Democratic Forces) not far from Islamic State territory. Why? Because the Bashar al-Assad regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, having gained the upper hand on the non-jihadist rebels in the Syrian heartland (most notably in Aleppo), feels secure enough to set its sights on eastern Syria. If it hopes to restore its authority over the whole country, it will need to control Raqqa and surrounding Islamic State areas. But the forces near Raqqa are pro-Western and anti-regime. Hence the Syrian fighter-bomber attack.

 

Hence the U.S. shoot-down. We are protecting our friends. Hence the Russian threats to now target U.S. planes. The Russians are protecting their friends. On the same day as the shoot-down, Iran launched six surface-to-surface missiles into Syrian territory controlled by the Islamic State. Why? Ostensibly to punish the jihadists for terrorist attacks two weeks ago inside Iran.  Perhaps. But one obvious objective was to demonstrate to Saudi Arabia and the other Sunni Arabs the considerable reach of both Iran’s arms and territorial ambitions.

 

For Iran, Syria is the key, the central theater of a Shiite-Sunni war for regional hegemony. Iran (which is non-Arab) leads the Shiite side, attended by its Arab auxiliaries — Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Shiite militias in Iraq and the highly penetrated government of Iraq, and Assad’s Alawite regime. (Alawites being a non-Sunni sect, often associated with Shiism.) Taken together, they comprise a vast arc — the Shiite Crescent — stretching from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean. If consolidated, it gives the Persians a Mediterranean reach they have not had in 2,300 years. This alliance operates under the patronage and protection of Russia, which supplies the Iranian-allied side with cash, weapons and, since 2015, air cover from its new bases in Syria.

 

Arrayed on the other side of the great Muslim civil war are the Sunnis, moderate and Western-allied, led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan — with their Great Power patron, the United States, now (post-Obama) back in action. At stake is consolidation of the Shiite Crescent. It’s already underway. As the Islamic State is driven out of Mosul, Iranian-controlled militias are taking over crucial roads and other strategic assets in western Iraq. Next target: eastern Syria (Raqqa and environs). Imagine the scenario: a unified Syria under Assad, the ever more pliant client of Iran and Russia; Hezbollah, tip of the Iranian spear, dominant in Lebanon; Iran, the regional arbiter; and Russia, with its Syrian bases, the outside hegemon.

 

Our preferred outcome is radically different: a loosely federated Syria, partitioned and cantonized, in which Assad might be left in charge of an Alawite rump.  The Iranian-Russian strategy is a nightmare for the entire Sunni Middle East. And for us too. The Pentagon seems bent on preventing it. Hence the cruise missile attack for crossing the chemical red line. Hence the recent fighter-bomber shoot-down. A reasonable U.S. strategy, given the alternatives. But not without risk. Which is why we need a national debate before we commit too deeply. Perhaps we might squeeze one in amid the national obsession with every James Comey memo-to-self?

 

 

Contents  

             

WELCOME TO THE SHIA CORRIDOR

Ben Cohen

JNS, June 23, 2017

 

If you haven’t encountered the term “Shia corridor” yet, chances are that you will in the coming weeks, particularly if the ongoing confrontation between the US and Iran in Syria intensifies. What was initially a sideshow to the main battle against Islamic State in Syria is fast becoming the main focus of attention. In recent weeks, the US has shot down at least two Iranian armed drones over Syria. A Syrian regime bomber jet supposedly attacking Islamic State positions near Raqqa was also downed, after it ventured too close to positions held by US-allied forces. Armed skirmishes have been reported between US-allied forces and Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias. The Russians — allied with Iran in supporting the tyrant Bashar al-Assad in Damascus — are also part of this dangerous equation, going so far as to declare that Moscow’s generals will treat US-led coalition aircraft flying west of the Euphrates River in Syria as “potential targets.”

 

What does Iran hope to achieve here? To start with, it’s important to note that the international legitimacy the mullahs have enjoyed since the Iran nuclear deal of 2015 is starting to fragment. The US Senate this month voted to slap new sanctions on Iran for its violations outside the terms of the nuclear deal, such as its use of ballistic missiles and its support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such political moves invariably have a significant economic impact, which is why Western banks continue to advise caution towards companies tempted to invest in Iran.

 

None of this fretting is of much consequence to the overtly revolutionary wings of the Iranian regime, most obviously the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which is built to retain its enormous power with or without sanctions in place. But the eclipse of the Obama administration’s engagement strategy with Iran highlights once again that it is institutions like the IRGC, much more than one or another foreign minister sounding reasonable and eloquent, that define the nature of power and influence in the Islamic Republic.

 

This is where the “Shia corridor” comes in. Iran’s goal to become the dominant power in the Islamic world involves more than religious or ideological influence. It requires the boots of Iran and its proxies on the ground — as demonstrated already in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. It requires that Iran has easy, uninterrupted access to all those parts of the region where it exercises political control.

 

On one level, the idea of a Shia corridor seems a little fantastical. Almost 2,000 miles separate Tehran from the Mediterranean coast to its far west. The road between the two points is distinguished by rough terrain and the presence of numerous militias along the route, many of them belonging to Sunni Islamist factions hostile to Iran. In addition to heavy defenses on the ground, the corridor would need effective aerial warning systems, given Israel’s demonstrated willingness to bomb weapons shipments between Iran and its allies in Syria and Lebanon. Can a country with an ailing economy like Iran’s, that is now facing an increasingly hostile administration in Washington, DC, really carve out such a corridor unopposed?

 

The point, for now at least, is Iran is doing precisely that — assisted by the lack of a defined US policy towards not just the Iranian nuclear program, but its entire regional role; the absence of any appetite among the Europeans for a confrontation with Tehran; and the unprecedented support coming from Iran’s traditional foe, Russia, thanks to President Vladimir Putin’s benevolence. In other words, Iran will face obstacles to its contiguous territorial path only if its adversaries — not just America, but also Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia, among others — are willing to place them there.

 

Does the advance of the corridor so far warrant such concern? At the end of May, a few correspondents in the region, among them the Israeli journalist Seth Frantzman and the American reporter Dexter Filkins, reported that Iranian-backed militias had seized a cluster of villages along the Syrian-Iraqi border, thereby securing an encumbered road link between the IRGC in Tehran and its client in Damascus. “The development is potentially momentous,” Filkins wrote in the New Yorker, “because, for the first time, it would bind together, by a single land route, a string of Iranian allies, including Hezbollah, in Lebanon; the Assad regime, in Syria; and the Iranian-dominated government in Iraq. Those allies form what is often referred to as the Shiite Crescent, an Iranian sphere of influence in an area otherwise dominated by Sunni Muslims.”

 

While those same Sunni Muslims are divided between those who see the Muslim Brotherhood or Iran as their main enemy, and those who accord that distinction to Israel and the US, Iran is presenting a unified Shia revolutionary stance towards the outside world. Iran has allies all the way from Lebanon to Bahrain, and Iran is their unmistakable leader. When looked at on the map, this status conveys the possibility of an Iranian empire that Tehran’s actions in the field seek only to reinforce.

 

The consequences for Israel of a Shia corridor are, needless to say, acute. Since the war in Lebanon in the mid-1980s, Israel has been acutely aware of Iran’s ability to wage direct war on its territory, through the missile barrages of its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon. The existence of a land corridor will transform Iran’s capacity in this regard, perhaps to the point where a land-based war launched against Israel from Syria and Lebanon could be as perilous as a nuclear attack.

 

For some time now, it has been an established fact that Hezbollah has increased its number of missiles pointed at Israel by a factor of 10, with newer and deadlier models now in operation — despite the existence of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, passed in 2006, which demands that Hezbollah disarm entirely. A land corridor would make any attempt to enforce this resolution a much harder task. As always, Israel is prepared for the worst. But how it responds will depend, more than anything else, on how the Trump administration copes with the reality that America is once again locked in combat with its adversaries.

                                                                                   

Contents  

                                          

A RARE CONSENSUS

Eric R. Mandel

Jerusalem Post, June 25, 2017

 

After speaking with foreign policy experts and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle last week, there was a rare consensus that we shouldn’t harbor any illusions about our strategic Arab alliances in the Middle East. US President Donald Trump’s realignment back to our Sunni Gulf “allies” makes sense on the surface, as we share the goal of curbing Iran’s obsession to dominate the region.

 

But if we ally ourselves with them, will the Saudi and Gulf States stop supporting radical Sunni jihadists? Will the new Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman be a reformer and a transformative king moving Saudi Arabia into modernity, or will he be reckless and adventurous, creating instability in the region? Don’t forget how hopeful it seemed to many, including Hillary Clinton and secretary of state John Kerry, that the London-trained ophthalmologist Bashar Assad would bring enlightened reform to Syria. It is inaccurate to analyze the region and our choices exclusively in terms of the Sunni-Shi’ite divide. An equally essential filter to understand the conflicting realities is to separate those nation-states who support political Islamism and those who don’t, e.g. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Egypt.

 

Political Islamists, whose goal is a worldwide caliphate, have both Shi’ite and Sunni adherents. They may pursue that goal by conquest or terrorism, as do Islamic State (Sunni) and Iran (Shi’ite), or they may create adherents by providing food, shelter and schooling to disadvantaged Islamic populations. The Muslim Brotherhood (Sunni) subscribes to both strategies, which misled the Obama administration into advocating for the MB as a moderating force within political Islamism, ignoring their actions and words, such as “jihad is our way,” and “dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

 

Aligning exclusively with either side of these divides, whether Sunnis vs. Shi’ites, or political Islamists and their enablers (Iran/Turkey/Muslim Brotherhood/ Qatar) vs. Egypt/Saudi Arabia/Kuwait/UAE is problematic at best. America must balance bad or worse choices to achieve its strategic goals. The choices are not always clear or satisfying, as there are befuddling realignments between and within the multi-dimensional divides.

 

In the world of political Islam, the lines of Sunni and Shi’ite blur: Shi’ite political Islamist Iran supports Sunni political Islamist Hamas, the progeny of the Sunni political Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Shi’ite political Islamist Hezbollah and Sunni political Islamist Hamas have been meeting and coordinating their actions, with the shared goal of the destruction of the State of Israel. Another player with shifting allegiances within the political Islamist world is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who turned his nation from the only secular Sunni democracy in the Middle East into a political Islamist state, threatening American interests.

 

Regarding the “status quo” Sunni Wahhabi monarchies embraced by President Trump, Elliot Abrams expresses a post-9/11 view in The National Review that “Wahhabi Islam is at least a gateway drug for extremism…Saudi preachers, mosques, and schools teach…moderate versions of Islam are impure and must be replaced by the only true version.” Let us be clear: there is little commonality of values between America and Saudi Arabia. Ambassador Aaron David Miller referred to Arab nations like Saudi Arabia as tribes with flags. Saudi Arabia is a family owned nation-state run by the descendants of the 19th wife of the clan’s founder, Ibn Saud.

 

So are the Saudis any less supportive of sources of terrorism than in the past? In some ways yes, but they have miles to go, as they still look the other way as wealthy private Saudi citizens continue to give major backing to radical Sunni jihadist actors. Yet their rhetoric toward Israel has moved from hostile to conciliatory. The government-controlled Al Riyadh said recently that “there is no reason for Arabs to unjustifiably demonize Israel,” according to the UK Spectator.

 

Democrats I met with in Congress emphasized a point Antony Blinken, president Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state, made in The New York Times. “Saudi-exported, ultra-conservative Wahhabism, which breeds intolerance around the world, is no less dangerous to Western interests than Iran’s support for radicalism, regional meddling and expansionism.” Perhaps, but in the Middle East world of bad and worse choices, Iran clearly falls on the more dangerous side for American interests. Blinken’s equivalence is more about not undermining president Obama’s foreign policy legacy, the Iran nuclear agreement (JCPOA). Ever since president Obama allowed the Iranian nuclear agreement to supersede American interests in reining in Iranian hegemony, the Sunni world lost faith in American resolve to both protect them and thwart Iranian expansionism.

 

Complicating this picture are the Gulf monarchies Bahrain, Oman and the UAE, which support Sunni jihadists and claim to be against Iranian interests. They are genuinely worried about the dangers of the rise of political Islamism supported by Qatar, which threatens their totalitarian dynasties. At the same time, they paradoxically funnel money for their supposed enemy Iran through their secretive banking systems. But what motivates all the Gulf States is their fear of Iran; so helping the Iranian regime may simply be a form of appeasement.

 

Every one of these Gulf nations with the possible exception of Saudi Arabia wants American bases on their soil as a deterrent to Iranian territorial aspirations. The UAE vs. Qatar crisis is also be about getting an American base in Abu Dhabi, rather than exclusively the stated goal of stopping Qatari support for terrorism, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Jazeera and Hezbollah. Going forward, American interests will be advanced if the United States fosters normalization of Sunni-Israeli relations, reins in Iranian hegemonic ambitions and restrains Gulf State support for Sunni jihadists Aligning with peoples and nations that do not share Western values but do advance our interests is the filter and context to understand our choices in 2017 and beyond.

 

 

Contents

PROSPECTS FOR A NEAR EAST TREATY ORGANIZATION

Jose V. Ciprut

BESA, June 10, 2017

 

US President Donald Trump’s “pilgrimage” to Riyadh, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Rome was carefully choreographed. This first foreign trip by a novice president turned out to be a masterstroke. The trip achieved several critical objectives. Mr. Trump wished to create a semblance of unity with allies who had come to question the strength of their respective relationships with the US. He designated a common enemy by suggesting that ancient hatreds can no longer be afforded, and by urging that strategic realignments grounded on a region-wide alliance are not only desirable but feasible. This ambitious agenda eschewed detailed specifics, relying on strict adherence to prepared scripts.

 

By going to Riyadh first, Trump conveyed the impression that he considers the Saudis a top priority. This tacit statement, made before a global audience, so flattered the Saudis that a page replete with historic disappointments was promptly turned. By insisting on visiting the Western Wall without Israeli escort; by discouraging a performance by a Palestinian Christian youth band eager to display its Palestinian national insignia at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; by avoiding the Knesset; and by electing to meet the aging president of the Palestinian Authority in Bethlehem rather than Ramallah, the US president made clear that, at this stage, he would not allow politicized symbolism to cast doubt on his stylized impartiality. His speeches in Riyadh, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem were consistent in their cordiality.

 

The flash visits to the Western Wall, Bethlehem, and Yad Vashem took place even as Britain was mourning the Manchester bombing and a “Day of Rage” was in full swing on the West Bank. The US president called for compassion across the region just as yet another knife-wielding Palestinian Arab had to be neutralized in Netanya. His intercessions were hence timely, conveying a sense of urgency.

 

Trump convincingly remarked that not only those who commit violent crimes, but also those who incite to violence by rewarding criminality in the name of a higher cause ought once and for all to cease and desist. By neither outlining nor so much as alluding to a new road map, and by unequivocally leaving the matter to the parties to debate, he reserved a role for the US as even-handed facilitator. Trump’s administration seems determined not to propose, let alone impose, any ends, means, methods, or style. This fresh approach, with its focus on “the collective need for realistic security-mindedness”, permits all the regional stakeholders to expand their thinking. That thinking could include one particularly intriguing alternate future. It is possible to imagine a wholesale security redesign for the region – one that would include Israel, as well as an autonomous Palestinian entity thriving in peace and prosperity alongside it. This scenario would be conceivable only after the enemy factions agree as one to live in constructive acquiescence to the existence of the Jewish democratic State of Israel.

 

Over the past fifty years, new realities have swept the Middle East. Nasser’s pan-Arabism and the Muslim Brotherhood’s pan-Islamism both failed (although their remodeled ideals are currently being approached through other means by the 57-member Organization of Islamic States). Egypt has been won over by the West. Both Jordan and Egypt have sustained a cold peace with Israel. The “Arab Spring” has led to sporadic implosions that in turn spawned several failed states. Syria has been internally destroyed. Yemen is in agony. Iran has developed an appetite for regional hegemony, with recourse to militias abroad. Iraq and Libya have yet to experience a semblance of stability. Afghans, Chechens, and many other dissatisfied Muslims are fighting for their respective brands of fundamentalism, often engaging in zero-sum games with their own coreligionists. Lebanon remains in its apparently eternal existential dilemma. An increasingly Islamist Turkey has developed its own ambitions across the region by means that have polarized its population. African nations bordering on the Red Sea continue to experience internal unrest. Cyprus has yet to be reunified, and the Kurds’ destiny in Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria is still undetermined…

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

 

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Arab States Issue Ultimatum to Qatar: Rick Moran, American Thinker, June 24, 2016—The crisis in the Gulf over Qatar's ties to terrorism and Iran took an even more serious turn as Arab states issued an ultimatum to Doha demanding that it close the propaganda media outlet Al Jazeera, cut ties with Iran, remove a Turkish military base, and pay reparations. Qatar is not expected to comply with any of these demands.

President Trump’s Arab Alliance Is a Mirage: Antony J. Blinken, New York Times, June 19, 2017—Tweeting first and asking questions later is not a good way to make policy — especially in the Middle East. In a recent salvo, President Donald J. Trump took credit for a decision by one set of American partners — Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates — to sever relations with another, Qatar.

US Strategy and Israel’s Stake in Eastern Syria: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, June 23, 2017—The downing on June 18 of a Syrian Air Force SU-22 by a US Navy F-18 Super Hornet over the skies of northern Syria sharply raises the stakes in the emergent standoff in the country. This standoff is no longer between local militias, nor between regional powers. Rather, through interlocking lines of support, it places the United States in direct opposition to Russia.

Resistance Axis Forces Directly Threaten U.S.: We Are On The Brink Of War On Syria-Iraq Border: N. Mozes, MEMRI, June 14, 2017—On June 9, 2017, forces of the resistance axis, which is headed by Iran and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, reached the Syria-Iraq border. This is an important accomplishment of these forces vis-à-vis the U.S. and its allies, and it not only boosts the morale of the resistance but it is key in the continued struggle over the future of Syria and the balance of power in the region.

 

 

 

 

 

GULF CRISIS: ARAB STATES CUT DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH QATAR OVER TERROR FUNDING & AL JAZEERA

Of Tribes and Terrorism: Lee Smith, Weekly Standard, June, 2017— Last week, several Arab states, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, put Qatar on notice.

Qatar, Trump and Double Games: Caroline B. Glick, Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2017 — US President Donald Trump has been attacked by his ubiquitous critics for his apparent about-face on the crisis surrounding Qatar.

How Can Canada Pretend that Saudi Arabia is an Honourable, Peaceful Country?: Robert Fulford, National Post, May 12, 2017 — If you believe the official word from Ottawa it appears Saudi Arabia and Canada are on good terms.

Saudi Arabia's 'Lavish' Gift to Indonesia: Radical Islam: Mohshin Habib, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 29, 2017 — Accompanied by a 1,500-strong entourage, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz arrived in Indonesia on March 1 for a nine-day gala tour.

 

On Topic Links

 

Gregg Roman on the Rift Between Qatar and the Arab Gulf States (Video): I24News, June 6, 2017

The “Game of Camps” Revisited: Why Qatar? Why Now?: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, June 12, 2017

Qatar's Increasing Isolation in the Arab World: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, June 10, 2017

Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World: Stephen Kinzer, Boston Globe, June 11, 2017

 

 

OF TRIBES AND TERRORISM

Lee Smith

Weekly Standard, June, 2017

 

Last week, several Arab states, including Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, put Qatar on notice. They removed their diplomats from Doha, closed airspace and ports to Qatari vessels, expelled Qatari nationals, and prohibited their own nationals from visiting the country. Among other key demands, Qatar's Arab opponents want the emirate to stop backing Islamic extremists, Sunni and Shia, and shut down hostile press outlets, including Doha's jewel, Al Jazeera.

 

Reports suggest the breaking point was Doha's decision to send nearly $1 billion to rescue a hunting party held captive in Iraq—a ransom paid to Iran and to Sunni extremists, both of whom the Arab states consider threats to their national security. The ransom may be the proximate cause of the crisis, but tension has been brewing for some time.

 

The key players are the Emiratis and Saudis, the two major powers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), of which Qatar is also a member. Bahrain is effectively a Saudi province and Egypt, while contemptuous of Qatar, is incapable of projecting much power without the financial support of its Emirati patrons. In 2014, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE removed their diplomats to protest Qatar's interference in their internal affairs. That crisis was partly precipitated when Qatar backed Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government while the others supported General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's coup.

 

Regional experts explain that the conflict goes back further still: "2014 was just a culmination of problems that were brewing for 20 years," says Mohammed al-Yahya, a Saudi analyst close to the government in Riyadh and a fellow at the Atlantic Council. "Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani [who ruled Qatar until 2013; his son rules now] overthrew his father in a coup in 1995. The Saudis disapproved. It's not part of the culture of the GCC states to overthrow monarchs in coups like this. And Sheikh Hamad had a lot of animosity toward Saudi Arabia, Qatari posture shifted 180 degrees after the coup."

 

Indeed, that was the central purpose of Al Jazeera—to serve as an instrument with which Hamad attacked his larger and richer Gulf neighbor. Internationally, the satellite network is known for its anti-American posture. After 9/11, it was virtually Osama bin Laden's bulletin board, posting videos the al Qaeda leader sent to the network through couriers. During the U.S.-led coalition's invasion of Iraq, Al Jazeera openly sided with the remnants of Saddam Hussein's forces as they targeted American troops and allies.

 

From Doha's vantage point, though, beating up on the Americans was just another way to target Washington's local client, Saudi Arabia. The Qataris have no real problem with the United States—they host Al Udeid, the biggest American military base in the Middle East and CENTCOM's headquarters in the region. But that's the Qatar way, play both sides—making nice with the Americans and the people who want to kill Americans, Sunnis as well as Shiites, is just another day at the office in Doha. Similarly, Qatar shares with Iran the world's largest natural gas field, South Pars, the source of nearly all its revenue, so it's cozy with Tehran even as its GCC allies see Iran as threat.

 

The hope, says al-Yahya, "was that things would be different under the new emir, Tamim bin Hamad al Thani, whom Hamad appointed after he abdicated in 2013. But to Riyadh, these hopes turned out to be misplaced." Indeed, many assume that the father is still running the show. "Tamim is so weak," said another Saudi analyst who requested anonymity. The same source explained that Qatar's former prime minister, Hamad Bin Jassim al-Thani, spent last week on Capitol Hill to lobby Congress after President Donald Trump identified Qatar as a source of terrorism in yet another ill-advised tweet. The Qataris have a powerful ally in the Pentagon—Al Udeid Air Base is a key installation from which the United States runs operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other regional hotspots. No one wants the Americans to leave Al Udeid—except the Emiratis…

 

It's perhaps useful to see the current crisis in a wider aperture, since it goes back way beyond the last 20 years. Many of the Gulf's ruling families are from the same region on the Arabian Peninsula and have been bickering with or actively fighting each other for a very long time. Rival clans that became energy-rich monarchies are playing out their feuds on a very large stage now for several reasons. First, with the region embroiled in conflict from Libya to Syria to Yemen, the stakes are high. Second, both Qatar and the UAE exercise a considerable amount of influence in Washington, largely but not exclusively through the money they donate to think tanks. But most crucially, the president of the United States inserted himself in the middle of it.

 

Trump's visit to Riyadh was a success, it was the aftermath that was a problem. While there, he enlisted the support of Arab and Muslim leaders in the fight against terrorism. From the perspective of the Saudis and others, Trump's promise to forswear interference in their societies marked a welcome change from the last two administrations—and was likely read by them as a green light to sort out local affairs, starting with Qatar. His tweet two weeks after his visit confirmed that. "During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar—look!"

 

"Obama protected Doha," the Saudi analyst explained. "He used them to keep the Saudis off balance, but now that he's gone the Qataris lost their defender." The point is not that Trump should likewise shield an adventurist Doha but that it's probably not prudent to widen the natural rift in the GCC, an institution designed to project American power in the Persian Gulf. Further, when you have problems with an ally, scream at them in private, rather than chide them in front of the world.

 

If the Emiratis had a specific goal in mind, hosting a major U.S. base, the Saudis aimed to show the Americans that they can be helpful. "The Saudis wanted to get the GCC in line to take on Iran," says Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. "They wanted to show the Trump administration that they are part of the solution, an American partner against all the destabilizing stuff in the region, whether that's Iran or Sunni extremism." What the Saudis don't need is an argument over who funds terror, says Lebanese political analyst Elie Fawaz. "Once they open that can of worms, they'll get dragged into it. The pro-Iranian camp attacked them for backing terrorism to win support from the Obama administration, and now the Qataris will get into it."

 

The reality is that there are plenty of problematic actors in the GCC, including the Emiratis, who do business with Iran and have sheltered figures from the Syrian regime that the Saudis and Qataris oppose. "The Arabs are divided," says Fawaz, "but there isn't much wisdom in opening up another front in a destabilized region." Mohamed al-Yahya, the analyst close to the Saudi government, agrees. "The Saudis want a unified GCC. The point is not to bring Qatar to its knees, but to get it back on track to join in pushing a unified GCC agenda. No one wants this to continue." Trump later walked back his tweet and in a phone call with the Qatari emir offered to mediate the crisis, even if it takes a White House meeting. What's most important, however, is that the administration doesn't let local players, whether that's Qatar or the UAE or Saudi Arabia, set American priorities. Intra-Arab conflict should not distract the administration from keeping regional partners focused on the two key issues on the U.S. agenda— stopping Iran and crushing ISIS.                                                 

 

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QATAR, TRUMP AND DOUBLE GAMES                                                                                                        

Caroline B. Glick                                                                                                                        

Jerusalem Post, June 8, 2017

 

US President Donald Trump has been attacked by his ubiquitous critics for his apparent about-face on the crisis surrounding Qatar. In a Twitter post on Tuesday, Trump sided firmly with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the other Sunni states that cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and instituted an air and land blockade of the sheikhdom on Monday. On Wednesday, Trump said that he hopes to mediate the dispute, more or less parroting the lines adopted by the State Department and the Pentagon which his Twitter posts disputed the day before.

 

To understand the apparent turnaround and why it is both understandable and probably not an about-face, it is important to understand the forces at play and the stakes involved in the Sunni Arab world’s showdown with Doha. Arguably, Qatar’s role in undermining the stability of the Islamic world has been second only to Iran’s. Beginning in the 1995, after the Pars gas field was discovered and quickly rendered Qatar the wealthiest state in the world, the Qatari regime set about undermining the Sunni regimes of the Arab world by among other things, waging a propaganda war against them and against their US ally and by massively funding terrorism.

 

The Qatari regime established Al Jazeera in 1996. Despite its frequent denials, the regime has kept tight control on Al Jazeera’s messaging. That messaging has been unchanging since the network’s founding. The pan-Arab satellite station which reaches hundreds of millions of households in the region and worldwide, opposes the US’s allies in the Sunni Arab world. It supports the Muslim Brotherhood and every terrorist group spawned by it. It supports Iran and Hezbollah. Al Jazeera is viciously anti-Israel and anti-Jewish. It serves as a propaganda arm not only of al-Qaida and Hezbollah but of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and any other group that attacks the US, Israel, Europe and other Western targets.

 

Al Jazeera’s reporters have accompanied Hamas and Taliban forces in their wars against Israel and the US. After Israel released Hezbollah arch-terrorist Samir Kuntar from prison in exchange for the bodies of two IDF reservists, Al Jazeera’s Beirut bureau hosted an on-air party in his honor. Al Jazeera was at the forefront of the propaganda campaign inciting against then-Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2012. Its operations were widely credited with inciting their overthrow and installing in their places regimes controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood and other jihadist groups.

 

As for the Qatari regime itself, it has massively financed jihadist groups for more than 20 years. Qatar is a major bankroller not only of al-Qaida and Hamas but of militias associated with ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In a State Department cable from 2009 published by WikiLeaks, US diplomats referred to Qatar as the largest funder of terrorism in the world. According to the Financial Times, the straw that broke the camel’s back for the Saudis and their allies was their discovery that in April, Qatar paid Iran, its Iraqi militias and al-Qaida forces in Syria up to a billion dollars to free members of the royal family held captive in southern Iraq and 50 terrorists held captive in Syria.

 

Given Qatar’s destabilizing and pernicious role in the region and worldwide in everything related to terrorism funding and incitement, Trump’s statement on Tuesday in support of the Sunnis against Qatar was entirely reasonable. What can the US do other than stand by its allies as they seek to coerce Qatar to end its destabilizing and dangerous practices? The case for supporting the Saudis, Egyptians, the UAE and the others against Qatar becomes all the more overwhelming given their demands. The Sunnis are demanding that Qatar ditch its strategic alliance with Iran. They demand that Qatar end its financial support for terrorist groups and they demand that Qatar expel terrorists from its territory. If Qatar is forced to abide by these demands, its abandonment of Iran in particular will constitute the single largest blow the regime in Tehran has absorbed in recent memory. Among other things, Qatar serves as Iran’s banker and diplomatic proxy.

 

If the story began and ended here, then Trump’s anti-Qatari stance would have been the obvious and only move. Unfortunately, the situation is not at all simple. First there is the problem of Doha’s relations with key Americans and American institutions. Ahead of the 2016 US elections, WikiLeaks published documents which disclosed that the emir of Qatar presented Bill Clinton with a $1 million check for the Clinton Foundation as a gift for his 65th birthday. During Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, Qatar reportedly contributed some $6m. to the Clinton Foundation. Clinton, for her part, was deeply supportive of the regime and of Al Jazeera. For instance, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2011, Clinton praised Al Jazeera for its leading role in fomenting and expanding the protests in Egypt that brought down Mubarak. Clinton wasn’t the only one that Qatar singled out for generosity. Since the 1990s, Qatar has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in US universities. Six major US universities have campuses in Doha…

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

                                                                                   

 

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HOW CAN CANADA PRETEND THAT SAUDI ARABIA

IS AN HONOURABLE, PEACEFUL COUNTRY?

Robert Fulford

National Post, May 12, 2017

 

If you believe the official word from Ottawa it appears Saudi Arabia and Canada are on good terms. A Canadian government website, dealing with trade, takes care to assert that we share with the Saudis “many peace and security issues, including energy security, humanitarian affairs (including refugees), and counter-terrorism.” It also says admiringly that “The Saudi government plays an important role in promoting regional peace and stability.”

 

No wonder Canada seems willing to sell military vehicles and other products to Saudi Arabia. It sounds like a friendly government we should enjoy dealing with. Not democratic, of course, but sort of on the right side, at least sometimes. On the other hand, UN Watch, an independent monitoring service, this week sent out a bulletin headed “UN holds lavish NGO forum in Saudi Arabia while rights activists languish in prison.” It seems that the Saudis, with support from a Saudi foundation headed by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi minister of defence, generously hosted a large global gathering of non-government organizations on the subject of Youth and their Social Impact. It was staged in the luxury of the Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh (which advertises Distinguished Fine Dining and All-Men’s Spa) — even as, UN Watch went on, “young bloggers and human rights activists like Raif Badawi languish in prison for the crime of advocating freedom in Saudi Arabia.”

 

The name “Raif Badawi” was placed near the top of the bulletin because UN Watch knows it’s the name most likely to upset Saudi officialdom. In fact, to many people the treatment of Badawi damns Saudi Arabia as irredeemably evil. Saudi law gives the state the right to ban any organization the government opposes, on grounds that it violates “Islamic Sharia” or public manners or national unity. Individuals committing such crimes, even if they are otherwise peaceful, get long prison sentences. Many activists are currently in jail for advocating human rights reforms. And Raif Badawi? The more you know about Saudi Arabia, the worse it appears. Once you digest the stifling and humiliating rules governing women, and perhaps even consider them routine, you may begin to wonder how the Saudis treat men. And then you come across Raif Badawi and everything grows darker still.

 

He’s a young Saudi Arabian writer, the creator of the website Free Saudi Liberals. He was arrested in 2012 for insulting Islam through electronic channels and charged as well with apostasy, the abandonment or breach of faith (though he says he’s still a Muslim). He’s not respectful of the grand institutions of the country. He’s referred, for instance, to Al-Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University as “a den for terrorists.” Even worse, he believes in secular government — “Secularism is the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the Third World and into the First World,” he says. “Look at what happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They promoted enlightenment, creativity and rebellion. States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear.”

 

Badawi apparently lives his life by words he quotes from Albert Camus: “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” He was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in 2013, then re-sentenced in 2014 to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison plus a fine. The lashes were to be carried out over 20 weeks. The first 50 were administered on January 9, 2015 — in front of a mosque while hundreds of spectators shouted “Allahu Akbar.” The succeeding lashes are indefinitely postponed, apparently because of his health. He’s known to have hypertension and his condition has worsened since the flogging began. His wife, who lives with their three children in exile in Canada, predicts that he won’t be able to survive more lashes.  Still, that part of his sentence hangs over him, capable of being invoked at the pleasure of his jailers…                                                                                  

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

 

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SAUDI ARABIA'S 'LAVISH' GIFT TO INDONESIA: RADICAL ISLAM

Mohshin Habib

Gatestone Institute, Apr. 29, 2017

 

Accompanied by a 1,500-strong entourage, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz arrived in Indonesia on March 1 for a nine-day gala tour. He was welcomed warmly not only as the monarch of one of the world's richest countries, but as the custodian of Islam's two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

 

While appearing to be taking a holiday rather than embarking on an official state visit — the 81-year-old sovereign spent six days at a resort in Bali — the king had some serious business to attend to. In what was advertised as an effort to promote "social interaction" between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia — with His Majesty announcing a billion-dollar aid package, unlimited flights between the two countries and the allotment of 50,000 extra spots per year for Indonesian pilgrims to make the hajj to Mecca and Medina – it seems as if the real purpose of the trip was to promote and enhance Salafism, an extremist Sunni strain, in the world's largest Muslim country, frequently hailed in the West as an example of a moderate Islamic society.

 

Jakarta-based journalist Krithika Varagur, writing in The Atlantic on the second day of the king's visit, describes Saudi efforts in Indonesia: "Since 1980, Saudi Arabia has devoted millions of dollars to exporting its strict brand of Islam, Salafism, to historically tolerant and diverse Indonesia. It has built more than 150 mosques (albeit in a country that has about 800,000), a huge free university in Jakarta, and several Arabic language institutes; supplied more than 100 boarding schools with books and teachers (albeit in a country estimated to have between 13,000 and 30,000 boarding schools); brought in preachers and teachers; and disbursed thousands of scholarships for graduate study in Saudi Arabia."

 

This Saudi influence has taken a serious toll on Indonesia, 90% of whose 250 million people are Sunnis. Despite its pluralistic constitution, which says, "The state guarantees each and every citizen the freedom of religion and of worship in accordance with his religion and belief," Indonesia — which declared independence in 1945 — has grown increasingly intolerant towards Christians, Hindus and Shiite Muslims. Prior to Saudi Arabia's attempts to spread Salafism across the Muslim world, Indonesia did not have terrorist organizations such as Hamas Indonesia, Laskar Jihad, Hizbut Tahrir, Islamic Defenders Front and Jemmah Islamiyah, to name just a few.

 

Today, it is rife with these groups, which adhere strictly to Islamic sharia law, Saudi Arabia's binding legal system, and which promote it in educational institutions. Like al-Qaeda and ISIS, they deny women equal rights, believe in death by stoning for adulterers and hand amputation for thieves, and in executing homosexuals and "apostate" Muslims. The most recent example of the way in which this extremism has swept Indonesia took place a mere three weeks after the Saudi king wrapped up his trip. On March 31, at least 15,000 hard-line Islamist protesters took to the streets of Jakarta after Friday prayers, calling for the imprisonment of the capital city's Christian governor, who is on trial for "blaspheming the Quran."

 

This paled in comparison to the crowds — numbering about 200,000 at each violent rally — which flooded the city last November, December and February. The crowds were demanding that Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (known familiarly as Ashok) be jailed for telling a group of fishermen that, as they are fed lies about how the Quran forbids Muslims from being governed by a kafir, an infidel, he could understand why some of them might not have voted for him. If convicted, Ashok stands to serve up to five years in prison. Sadly, such a jail term is nothing, when one considers the Islamist prison that the country as a whole has become — courtesy of King Salman and his lavish "gifts."

 

Contents

 

On Topic Links

 

Gregg Roman on the Rift Between Qatar and the Arab Gulf States (Video): I24News, June 6, 2017—Middle East Forum Director Gregg Roman appeared on i24NEWS English to discuss the recent decision by Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf states to cut ties with neighboring Qatar.

The “Game of Camps” Revisited: Why Qatar? Why Now?: Col. (res.) Dr. Eran Lerman, BESA, June 12, 2017—Sheikh Tamim’s recent tweet urging a soft line towards Iran might be authentic (as the Saudis say) or a deliberate hoax (as the Qataris were quick to claim), but the subsequent onslaught against Qatar has little to do with Iran. Qatar is no Iranian proxy: in practice, the Qataris finance anti-Iranian forces in Syria and joined the anti-Houthi war in Yemen.

Qatar's Increasing Isolation in the Arab World: Jonathan Spyer, Jerusalem Post, June 10, 2017—The decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen to cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar is the latest step in the reemergence of a clearly defined US-led Sunni Arab bloc of states. The task of this alliance is to roll back Iranian influence and advancement in the region, and to battle against the forces of Sunni political Islam.

Saudi Arabia is Destabilizing the World: Stephen Kinzer, Boston Globe, June 11, 2017—Just a few months ago, the governor of Indonesia’s largest city, Jakarta, seemed headed for easy re-election despite the fact that he is a Christian in a mostly Muslim country. Suddenly everything went violently wrong.