Tag: Saudi Arabia


Erdoğan: Ideological But Not Suicidal: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Dec. 7, 2018— Is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a devout ideologue or a pragmatist?

Erdogan is Deepening his Involvement in Sudan: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 9, 2018 — Pursuing its strategic goals in Sudan, Turkey is turning to the economy.

US Senate Resolution on Saudi Arabia Could Change Middle East Dynamics: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Dec. 9, 2018— A six-page draft US Senate resolution does more than portray Saudi policy as detrimental to US interests, which is striking in and of itself.

Standing With Saudi Arabia: Tony Badran, Tablet, Dec. 2, 2018— This week the Senate will vote on and likely pass a resolution of disapproval calling for the United States to cease activities related to the Yemen war.

On Topic Links 

Turkey Sides with Hamas on U.N. Resolution Condemning Rocket Attacks: John Rossomando, IPT News, Dec 5, 2018

Anti-Semitism: The Fast Track in Turkey to a Government Career?: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 4, 2018

Senate to Vote on Withdrawing U.S. Support to Saudis in Yemen War: Natalie Andrews, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9, 2018

World Chess Contest Moved from Saudi Arabia After Two Israelis Complain of Ban: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Dec. 3, 2018



Burak Bekdil                                

BESA, Dec. 7, 2018

Is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a devout ideologue or a pragmatist? The answer is both. Perhaps a more relevant question is: When is he a devout ideologue and when a pragmatist? In late 2010, at the peak of the diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel after the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, a senior Israeli diplomat asked this author: “Is there a way to push Erdoğan from blind (anti-Zionist) ideology to rationalism so that we can normalize our relations?” My answer was, “Costs… If a crisis costs him economically, then politically, he will switch from ideology to reason.” A comment on that conclusion made by a friend of the diplomat explains why Ankara and Jerusalem have had erratic but deeply hostile relations since 2009: “Israel is a powerful country but not big enough to make Turkey pay a price for its antagonism.” After a theoretical normalization of diplomatic ties in December 2016, Turkey and Israel once again downgraded their diplomatic missions in May 2018.

In 2009, then-PM Erdoğan (or his Islamist/ideologue self) boldly challenged Beijing when more than 100 Muslim Uighurs were killed in clashes with China’s security forces. This was at a time when Turkey’s economy was performing spectacularly and posting high growth rates year after year. Championing his “leader of the umma” persona, Erdoğan called the deaths of Uighur Muslims “a genocide.”

Today, with Turkey’s economy badly ailing over record-high inflation and interest rates and the national currency having lost a third of its value against major western currencies since the beginning of the year, a much different Erdoğan is on display: Not a word against Beijing from the “leader of the umma” in the face of a crackdown in which China has forcibly put hundreds of thousands of devout ethnic Uighurs in “rehabilitation camps.” Erdoğan has also rejected relocating Uighur militants fighting in northern Syria into camps on Turkish soil. Why Erdoğan’s reasonable self all of a sudden instead of his ideological self, which champions the Uighur cause? Simple: He needs loans, investment, and more trade with China.

In September and October 2015, Turkey started to complain of airspace violations by Russian military aircraft along its border with Syria. It announced that it had changed the rules of engagement with foreign aircraft violating Turkish airspace: Such (Russian) aircraft would be shot down. In November of that year, the Turkish military did indeed shoot down a Russian Su-24, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace. Then-PM Ahmet Davutoğlu announced that the same rules of engagement would be applied if there were further violations. Erdoğan boldly demanded of the Russians, “What business do you have in Syria? You don’t even have a border with Syria.”

An angry Vladimir Putin immediately installed Russian air defense systems in northern Syria in a not-so-subtle move to threaten Turkish military aircraft flying over Syrian skies. The Turkish military had to stop flights in Syrian airspace. Putin also announced scores of punishing economic sanctions on Turkey and Turkish companies doing multi-billion dollar businesses in Russia. The sanctions included bans on Turkish exports and a travel ban that quickly hurt Turkey’s tourist industry. More threateningly, Putin said the Russian sanctions could include “military retaliation,” reminding the Turks of their less-than-glorious military past with pre-Soviet Russia.

It took a mere six months for Erdoğan to move from demanding an apology from Moscow to personally apologizing to Putin. In June 2016, Turkey and Russia “normalized” their frozen diplomatic ties. Since then, Ankara has committed to acquiring the Russian-made S-400 air and anti-missile defense system despite warnings from its NATO allies, and will become the first NATO member state to deploy that system on its soil. Erdoğan has said Turkey would also consider buying the S-500 system now under development. Non-military trade normalized too, and flocks of Russian tourists have arrived at Turkey’s Mediterranean resorts.

More importantly, Turkey has radically moved from “what business do you have in Syria” to allying with Russia in Syria. The two countries, along with Iran, are partners in the Astana process. Moscow orchestrates every strategic move in northern Syria, and Ankara simply complies with its dictates.

Enter America. In the first half of 2018, Ankara and Washington went through their worst diplomatic crisis in decades over several major disputes. Turkey claimed that America was harboring its most wanted terrorist, Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric in self-exile in Pennsylvania accused of being the mastermind behind a failed coup against Erdoğan in July 2016. Also, a senior Turkish government banker was in a US prison, with his bank a potential target of billions of dollars in US sanctions for violating the Iran sanctions. In addition, Ankara accused Washington of equipping what it calls “Kurdish terrorists” east of the Euphrates in northern Syria. America views them as allies in its fight against ISIS.

The US responded to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 system by threatening to suspend delivery of the next generation F-35 fighter to Turkey. Washington also sanctioned two Turkish ministers and doubled its tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum. Ankara retaliated by sanctioning two US secretaries. At the heart of the matter was an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, held in a Turkish prison on charges of espionage and terrorism. “As long as I am in power,” Erdoğan once roared, “that spy (Brunson) will never be set free.”

Then came the reversal. The Turkish lira lost more than 40% of its value in eight months. In what traders called the Brunson effect, the markets went into a meltdown. Turkish bond yields rose to record highs and recession loomed, with huge conglomerates knocking on banks’ doors demanding debt restructuring. Several large-scale companies announced bankruptcy. In October, “the spy who would never be set free” was released, flew to America, and posed for the cameras with President Trump. Markets sighed with relief, and the lira is now trading at its highest point since August. On Nov. 2, Ankara and Washington bilaterally dropped sanctions against each other’s ministers.

Erdoğan can be offensive and confrontational, in keeping with his neo-Ottoman ideology. But he is not suicidal. He knows that an economic crisis can quickly turn into a political crisis that could cost him his closely guarded power, and he will change his tune accordingly.



ERDOGAN IS DEEPENING HIS INVOLVEMENT IN SUDAN                                        

Zvi Mazel                                                    

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 9, 2018

Pursuing its strategic goals in Sudan, Turkey is turning to the economy. On November 29, Turkish Agriculture and Forests Minister Bekir Pakdemirli told Sudanese daily Al Shuruk that his country and Sudan had established a joint agricultural and livestock company; its offices, he said, had opened in Khartoum a few days earlier.

TIGEM, the general directorate of agricultural enterprises of Turkey, holds 80% of its shares and Sudan 20%. According to the minister, as a pilot project the company will lease 12,500 hectares to Turkish companies in the private sector out of the 780,000 hectares Sudan agreed to lease to Turkey for a period of 99 years when president Erdogan visited the country in 2017. These vast tracts of land are spread across five districts. The purpose of the pilot project is to study culture and export feasibility. According to the minister, it is to help develop Sudanese agriculture while providing Turkey with agricultural produce that cannot be grown locally because of the climate. That produce will not be taxed. The company was established following the Turkish-Sudanese agricultural agreement signed in 2014, which aimed at developing Sudanese agricultural potential in order to produce foodstuffs.

This public and important development demonstrates the common and long-range determination of both countries to consolidate their relationship. During Erdogan’s December 2017 visit, Sudan had agreed to lease the Suakin Island to Turkey for an indeterminate period. Turkey is to build a port, develop agriculture and restore the citadel, which had been for centuries the seat of the Ottoman Governor. The island is situated in the Red Sea opposite the Saudi port of Jedda.

President Erdogan is using Sudan to establish a foothold on the Red Sea to further is grand design of making Turkey a regional power and perhaps giving it back the glory of the Ottoman Empire, a policy he started implementing as soon as he was in power. He first came to Khartoum in 2006, when he was head of government and relations between the two countries kept getting warmer. Ankara provided much-needed economic relief when the United Stated imposed sanctions on Khartoum and in the past decade Turkish companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Sudan.

But it was during his December 2017 visit that the Turkish president set the seal on the special relationship between the two countries. Arriving with an impressive delegation of ministers and industrialists, he signed no fewer than 12 economic cooperation agreements for a total of $650 million. A high committee for strategic consultations was established. Another agreement dealt with security cooperation, but no details were published; what is known is that the commanders in chief of Turkey, Sudan and that of Qatar (who “happened” to come to Khartoum during the visit) met for unspecified meetings. A few days later the ministers of defense of those three countries arrived in Khartoum; they joined president Omar el Bashar for the inauguration of a textile factory that will manufacture uniforms for their armies as well as for neighboring African countries.

In March 2018, the Sudanese finance minister signed with Soma, a leading Turkish construction firm, a contract for the establishment of Khartoum’s new airport at a cost of $1.5 billion. In June of the same year, the joint Turkish-Sudanese businessmen committee met in Ankara with the participation of the finance and economic ministers of both countries, who signed a reciprocal agreement to promote trade with the ambitious goal of reaching exchanges of $2b. During the two preceding years, trade volume was barely $500m. a year, with Turkish exports making up 90% of the total.

There are important international aspects to their cooperation as well. Because of its closer ties to Turkey, Khartoum reduced significantly its participation in the Saudi-led Arab coalition against the Houthis in Yemen. At the same time, it developed its ties with Qatar, whose investments in Sudan reached $3.5b. in 2017.  But Turkey sees beyond Sudan. It set up a military base in Somalia. Inaugurated in October 2017, it is intended “to train the Somalian army.” The year before it had set up a similar base in Qatar and later dispatched reinforcements to bolster the small kingdom engaged in a confrontation with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, fearing an invasion by the latter.

What the three countries involved in the Turkish alliance – Sudan, Somalia and Qatar – have in common is that they are ruled by Islamic parties close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey, itself a strong supporter of the Brotherhood, took advantage of that fact to enhance its the strategic importance in the Red Sea area. It has now a political basis through its allies and a military presence through its outposts in Somalia and the Sudani port city of Suakin and could therefore threaten freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. As things stand today, it has no reason to do so, but it has demonstrated that it should be taken into consideration even far from its own borders.

This is a state of affairs that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, are unhappy with, but cannot tackle at this point because they are embroiled in other conflicts. Saudi Arabia is focused on the threat of Iran and on the long-drawn Yemen war against the Houthis; Egypt has not yet quelled the Sinai insurgency and is trying to implement much-needed economic reforms. They are not ready for a confrontation with Turkey. Nevertheless, Cairo fears a deterioration of its own relations with Sudan, since it needs the help of that country in its efforts to preserve its share of the Nile waters, threatened both by claims of other African countries and by the massive “Renaissance” dam being built by Ethiopia on one of the tributaries of the Blue Nile. Though Riyadh and Cairo are so far behaving with circumspection, there is a very real potential for a regional flare-up that would speedily expand to the whole Middle East.





Dr. James M. Dorsey                                 

BESA, Dec. 9, 2018

A six-page draft US Senate resolution does more than portray Saudi policy as detrimental to US interests, which is striking in and of itself. It also identifies Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman as “complicit” in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, holds him accountable for the devastating war in Yemen that has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, and blames him for the failure to end the 17-month-old Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar as well as the jailing and torture of Saudi dissidents and activists.

The resolution confronts not only Prince Muhammad’s policies but also, by implication, those of his closest ally, UAE Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed. The UAE was the first country that Saudi leader visited after the Khashoggi killing. By in effect challenging the position of king-in-waiting Prince Muhammad, the resolution raises the question whether some of his closest allies, including the UAE crown prince, will in future want to be identified that closely with him.

Moreover, by demanding the release of activist Raif bin Muhammad Badawi (better known as Raif Badawi) and women’s rights activists, the resolution further the challenges fundamentals of Prince Muhammad’s iron-fisted repression of his critics, the extent of his proposed social reforms as part of his drive to diversify and streamline the Saudi economy, and the kingdom’s human rights record.

Badawi, a 34-year-old blogger whose website is entitled Free Saudi Liberals, was barred from travel and had his assets frozen in 2009, was arrested in 2012, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam. His sister, Samar Badawi, a women’s rights activist, was detained earlier this year. His wife and children have been granted asylum and citizenship in Canada. A diplomatic row that stunned many erupted in August when Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador after the foreign ministry in Ottawa tweeted a demand that Ms. Badawi and other activists be released.

Prince Muhammad and Saudi Arabia, even prior to introduction of the Senate resolution, are discovering that the Khashoggi killing weakened the kingdom internationally and made it more vulnerable to pressure. Talks in Sweden between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Houthi rebels to end the war are the most immediate consequence of the kingdom’s changing position. Another is the Senate resolution, which is unprecedented in the scope and harshness of its criticism of a long-standing ally. While the resolution is likely to spark initial anger among some of Prince’s Muhammad’s allies, it could, if adopted and/or implemented, persuade some – like UAE Crown Prince Muhammad – to rethink their fundamental strategies.

The relationship between the two Muhammads constituted a cornerstone of the UAE leader’s strategy to achieve his political, foreign policy, and defense goals. These include projecting the Emirates as a guiding light of cutting-edge Arab and Muslim modernity; ensuring that the Middle East fits the crown prince’s autocratic, anti-Islamist mold; and enabling the UAE, described by US defense secretary Jim Mattis as “Little Sparta,” to punch above its weight politically, diplomatically, and militarily. To compensate for the Emirates’ small size, Prince Muhammad opted to pursue his goals in part by working through the Saudi royal court. In leaked emails, UAE ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba, a close associate of Prince Muhammad, said of the Saudi crown prince that “I don’t think we’ll ever see a more pragmatic leader in that country.”…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Tony Badran                                            

Tablet, Dec. 2, 2018

This week the Senate will vote on and likely pass a resolution of disapproval calling for the United States to cease activities related to the Yemen war. The resolution is essentially a call to cut off Saudi Arabia, which, in turn, would signal that the United States does not care if Iran, the other party in the conflict, were to emerge on top in Yemen—an outcome that carries direct consequences for the global economy. Some senators who supported moving the resolution forward have cited the killing of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi, which suggests, as one senator who opposes the resolution put it, that the Yemen issue is being tied to the broader issue of the relationship with Saudi Arabia. All of this is a display of strategic recklessness. In contrast, President Donald Trump’s statement two weeks ago titled “Standing with Saudi Arabia” was an example of strategic clarity. It bears revisiting for a closer read.

The president’s statement was followed by a torrent of criticism and outrage. What struck the sourest note for the president’s critics was his injection of colloquial language into a formal statement on foreign policy. For critics of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, the style of Trump’s statement amplified the repulsive crudeness of its substance. It offended their sense not just of what American foreign policy ought to be, but also about how it ought to be presented to the public.

Unsurprisingly, the criticism of D.C. foreign policy experts misses the point entirely. What they found crude and distasteful is precisely what made the president’s statement so powerful. The furious objections to both the content and the style of Trump’s statement point up the ways in which the foreign policy establishment has often used high-flown language about morality and ethics to cloak a series of failures in logical reasoning about the American interest, to say nothing of the negative impact of their preferences on the far-away places where they’re applied.

The opening two lines—“America First!”; “The world is a very dangerous place!”—establish the document as indubitably the president’s own. This stamp of Trumpness is critical to establish the statement’s credibility with its intended audiences, which may or may not include America’s Trump-hating foreign policy elite. While the president may enjoy sticking his thumb in his enemies’ eye, his key audiences here are Americans who share his America-centered approach to foreign policy, who can be found on both the right and the left these days, as well as foreign leaders, who must calculate whether they can rely on the United States as an ally and what being America’s enemy might cost. To both groups, Trump’s opening language makes a clear point: What follows are the words and beliefs of the American president himself.

President Trump is selling his foreign policy directly to the American people, rather than talking over their heads. This is, to be sure, a different way of playing the foreign policy game, one that Harry Truman might recognize but more recent presidents, of both parties, might not. There is no hidden pitch, masked with supposedly sophisticated lingo or flowery rhetoric that can then be spun by an echo chamber of political and media operatives, who will use their highly credentialed expertise to assure Americans that the money we send to Iran actually belongs to Iran, so we aren’t actually sending them money, or that the Iranians have no intention of building nuclear weapons, which is why making a deal with them right now on Iran’s own terms is a matter of urgent national importance. Or, assuring Americans and the world that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and is planning to use them, which is why America needs to invade Iraq, where it will then use its occupation forces to attempt to turn the country into a democratic model for the entire Middle East…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic Links

Turkey Sides with Hamas on U.N. Resolution Condemning Rocket Attacks: John Rossomando, IPT News, Dec 5, 2018—NATO ally Turkey plans to oppose an American-sponsored draft resolution at the United Nations condemning Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions. A vote on the resolution is scheduled for Thursday.

Anti-Semitism: The Fast Track in Turkey to a Government Career?: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 4, 2018—As the Islamist government of Turkey grows increasingly authoritarian, religious minorities in the country seem to be the most targeted and affected group. The concerns of Turkey’s Jewish community were addressed recently by Mois Gabay, a columnist for the country’s Jewish weekly, Şalom, in an article entitled, “What Kind of Turkey Are We Living In?”

Senate to Vote on Withdrawing U.S. Support to Saudis in Yemen War: Natalie Andrews, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9, 2018—The U.S. Senate this week is set to vote on a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen, an effort to punish Riyadh for the killing of a Saudi Arabian journalist.

World Chess Contest Moved from Saudi Arabia After Two Israelis Complain of Ban: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Dec. 3, 2018—The governing body for international chess confirmed Monday that an upcoming tournament that was to be held for the second year in Saudi Arabia has been relocated to Russia because of the kingdom’s policies, which exclude some eligible players.


Trump Doesn’t Know History, but He Knows Iran: Jonathan S. Tobin, JNS, Nov. 13, 2018 — Donald Trump got just about the welcome he should have expected when he showed up to take part in the commemorations of the centennial of the end of World War I this past weekend.

The Implications of Sanctions for the Iranian Oil Market: Dr. Doron Itzchakov, BESA, Nov. 25, 2018— On November 5, the Trump government imposed wide-ranging sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to bring about a change in the revolutionary regime’s radical orientation.

How Trump Could — and Should — Get Tough on the Saudis: Elliott Abrams, New York Post, Nov. 22, 2018— As a card-carrying neoconservative, I am usually a critic of realpolitik.

The Midterm was a Huge Win for Trump’s Mideast Policy: Dr. Aviel Sheyin-Stevens, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 18, 2018— Donald Trump’s supporters take him seriously but not literally; whereas, Democrats and their media acolytes, along with Never Trump Republicans, take him literally but not seriously.

On Topic Links

Trump’s Iran Sanctions Could Work: Micha’el Tanchum, Foreign Policy, Nov. 20, 2018

Trump’s Clever Policies Against Iran: Media Line, Nov. 18, 2018

Khashoggi’s Revenge: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 24, 2018

Donald Trump’s High-Wire Act on the Global Stage: Derek Burney, Globe & Mail, Oct. 25, 2018


TRUMP DOESN’T KNOW HISTORY, BUT HE KNOWS IRAN                                                Jonathan S. Tobin                                                                                             

JNS, Nov. 13, 2018

Donald Trump got just about the welcome he should have expected when he showed up to take part in the commemorations of the centennial of the end of World War I this past weekend. The international media excoriated him for skipping one of the memorial services due to bad weather (he attended another such service the following day, despite the rain) and then was subjected to a stern lecture by his host, French President Emmanuel Macron, during another one of the ceremonies.

Trump is being portrayed as unequal to the high-minded leaders of France and Germany, whose current close relations underscore the importance of learning the lessons of history. But while the president seemed out of step with the spirit of the 1918 centennial, on the key challenge currently facing the international community, it is his European critics who are ignoring history and acting selfishly.

There was little doubt who or what Macron was talking about when he spoke of the dangers of “nationalism,” drawing a stark contrast between those who view themselves as “nationalists” and those who view themselves as “patriots.” Speaking at the Arc de Triomphe, Macron told the assembled leaders of Europe: “Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism by saying: ‘Our interest first. Who cares about the others?’”

While Macron’s distinction between nationalism and patriotism is sheer sophistry, it was a message that went over very well for those who fear for the future. His critics think Trump’s “America First” foreign policy and lack of enthusiasm for the NATO alliance, as well as his much publicized interest in better relations with Russia, are tearing apart the post-World War II order that has kept the peace in Europe. Trump’s critics — Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel being the most prominent of them — believe that his emphasis on nationalism is encouraging right-wing governments in Eastern Europe to follow his lead and think less about what’s good for the continent as a whole and more about what’s in it for them.

Set in the context of the effort to recall how unbridled nationalism helped set in motion the catastrophe of the war that tore Europe apart from 1914 to 1918, it sounds like a searing indictment of the president. In that way, Trump’s own condemnation of those who value globalism or pay little attention to the impact of the global economy on local interests is viewed as not merely a narrow and chauvinistic approach to the world, but also a willingness to ignore threats to democracy that can only be met by collective action. Indeed, the whole point of NATO was to ensure that a third European war would not follow the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945, as well as to defend small nations against the predatory ambitions of the Soviet Union and its reboot under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Russia isn’t the only threat the West faces, and that’s why the Franco-German love-fest at Trump’s expense isn’t quite as principled as the president’s critics claim it to be. Leaving aside the natural resentment many in Europe feel about the high-handed and undemocratic way that the European Union thwarts the efforts of individual nations to decide their own fates, Macron’s sermon is actually deeply hypocritical. Far from exemplifying the principle that the West must think about what is good for all, France and Germany are actually doing the opposite when it comes to Iran.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal horrified Macron and Merkel. They are particularly angry about America’s re-imposition of sanctions on the Tehran regime and the Trump administration’s efforts to force the Europeans to go along with his decision. The Europeans see this as the worst example of policies that undermine the Western alliance. But in fact it’s the Europeans who are behaving selfishly.

Trump understands that the Iran deal must be renegotiated because the pact that President Barack Obama proclaimed as solving the nuclear threat is fatally flawed. The deal not only enriched and empowered the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, but its sunset clause ensures that Iran will eventually get a bomb anyway. Rather than joining with him to act to correct this problem and restrain Iranian adventurism — including a mass slaughter in Syria, a bloody war in Yemen, and a standing threat to the security of Sunni Arab nations and Israel — the Europeans prefer to keep doing business with Tehran.

And rather than submit to American leadership on an issue that threatens not merely the Middle East but a European continent that would be in range of Iranian missiles, Macron and Merkel have been exploring options that would allow them to separate entirely from the US economy. They are bluffing about that. But their insistence on vetoing any Western stand against Iran is a dangerous form of appeasement that gives the lie to their claims of learning the lessons of history.

Europe’s wars were caused by the indifference of democracies to the need to stop aggressors before they posed a mortal threat to the world. The greatest tragedies of the 20th century happened because the appeasers — and those who just wanted to make a profit by dealing with rogue regimes — had their way until it was too late to avert catastrophe.

Trump may not be much of a student of history, but he appears to know that much. That’s why he’s right about Iran, and why Macron and Merkel are wrong. All the lectures about nationalism won’t change the fact that on Iran, it is they who are acting in their nation’s selfish interest and Trump who is speaking for the good of the international community. One hundred years after the end of the Great War, that’s a history lesson that can’t be erased by the applause France and Germany are getting from Trump’s critics.




Dr. Doron Itzchakov

BESA, Nov. 25, 2018

On November 5, the Trump government imposed wide-ranging sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran in order to bring about a change in the revolutionary regime’s radical orientation. This round of sanctions places severe restrictions on a wide range of corporations, financial and commercial entities, organizations, and private individuals both in Iran and abroad. The focus of the sanctions is the Iranian energy market, with an emphasis on oil exports, which is the country’s main source of income. The assumption is that constraining Iran’s oil revenues will significantly harm its economic stability and thus force it to change course and return to the negotiating table, this time under new conditions.

On November 2, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration’s purpose was to deprive the regime of the revenues with which it spreads death and destruction around the world. However, this goal is inconsistent with the decision to grant temporary exemptions to eight countries, including China and India – Iran’s two biggest oil consumers. The eight countries that have been temporarily exempted are Italy, Turkey, Greece, Taiwan, China, India, South Korea, and Japan. This decision reflects a desire to avoid a shake-up in world oil prices and a pragmatic approach that allows room for maneuver for countries that are not ready or able to immediately stop their purchases of Iranian oil. The decision also reflects the administration’s “carrot and stick” approach, which it employs to maintain balance in the international arena and to obtain the cooperation of weightier countries such as China, India, and Turkey.

A day before the sanctions were imposed, the Islamic Republic marked the 39th anniversary of the takeover of the American embassy in Tehran. During the demonstrations, which were punctuated by chants of hatred against the US and Israel, the government attempted to convey that Iran will be able to withstand the sanctions. Notwithstanding that show of belligerence, it is perfectly clear that the establishment grasps the ramifications of the sanctions for the Iranian economy, indicators of which have been visible ever since Trump announced the departure of the US from the nuclear agreement. Moreover, the economic turmoil caused by the sanctions imposed on Iran during the Obama administration is still engraved in the Iranian collective memory, though at that time, its oil exports did not fall below 1 million barrels per day.

At the time of writing, Iranian oil exports are estimated at 1.6 million barrels per day, but in the 10 months since the beginning of the year (January-October), the daily average was about 2 million barrels. This is due to export volumes of 2.1 to 2.6 million barrels per day between February and July of this year. Bloomberg data on the world oil market show that in 2017, Iran ranked sixth in the world, with an income of about $40 billion. If Iran’s decision-makers can manage to maintain an average export of 1.2 million barrels per day, they will be able to cope with the threat to the sector. Therefore, the decision to allow the eight countries, particularly China and India, to continue to purchase Iranian oil for the time being is a boon to the Iranian side.

The Americans’ “stick and carrot” policy of imposing sanctions but granting a temporary exemption to eight Iranian customers is being interpreted by Tehran as a sign of weakness and a victory for its own foreign policy. While Trump succeeded at bringing the ruler of North Korea to the negotiating table, the Iranian arena is different. The leadership in Tehran hopes that Trump will not win another term, and is willing to tighten the country’s belt until the next US elections. It should also be remembered that in effect, the revolutionary regime has been under American sanctions since the time of its inception; hence its perception that it can overcome the burden of sanctions.

China, the world’s largest oil consumer, is a key element in the Iranian regime’s ability to withstand sanctions. According to OPEC, China’s crude oil consumption will reach 13 million barrels per day by the end of 2019. Beijing purchases the largest share of the Iranian oil market, making it a vitally important ally. Moreover, Beijing and Tehran have joint ventures in many fields, including commercial, security, and geopolitical areas.

The inclusion of China and India, which collectively account for about 65% of Iranian oil exports, on Washington’s list of exemptions is inconsistent with Mike Pompeo’s statement that Washington’s goal is to paralyze Iranian oil exports. In September, the volume of aggregate purchases by China and India stood at about 1.05 million barrels a day out of a total of 1.6 million. It appears, therefore, that despite the decline in the volume of Iranian oil exports, the volume of exports has not yet fallen to the critical level of fewer than 800,000 barrels a day since the date of publication of the resolution on the return of sanctions.

As part of Iran’s bid to preserve its oil revenues, a wide range of purchase proposals, ranging from barter transactions to cash-based payments, have been proposed to circumvent the limitations on the banking system. Tehran recently announced that it was going to sell a million barrels of oil on the energy exchange in an effort to open the oil market to private investors. Of the million barrels, 280,000 were sold. While that result did not meet Tehran’s expectations, it will maintain the trend even at the cost of a significant reduction in oil prices…

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




Elliott Abrams

New York Post, Nov. 22, 2018

As a card-carrying neoconservative, I am usually a critic of realpolitik. But in judging the Trump administration’s response to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, I find myself thinking that more realpolitik would lead to better policy. Here’s what I mean. The president has made two statements, both of which refuse to break with Saudi Arabia or its crown prince: his formal White House statement and his comments to reporters. Both constitute a kind of realpolitik.

The formal statement begins this way: “The world is a very dangerous place!” In both statements, the president notes the advantages that accrue to the United States from our relationship with the Saudis, principally the arms sales to the kingdom, its investments in the United States, its help in keeping oil prices down and its assistance against terrorism and against Iran more generally.

As to Iran, the president said: “We also need a counterbalance. And Israel needs help also. If we abandon Saudi Arabia, it would be a terrible mistake.” The problem with this analysis is not that it is wrong, but that it posits only two options: abandoning Saudi Arabia or embracing it. A tougher realpolitik approach would promote a third option: Use this moment to push the Saudis to do some things we think they need to do.

Some examples: Patch up their dispute with Canada. More important, patch up their dispute with Qatar and get the Gulf Cooperation Council working again. Rationalize their own government by appointing empowered ministers, instead of having the crown prince in charge of all domestic, economic, defense and foreign-policy aspects of their government. And take some steps on human rights. The president was asked about the last point: “Are you basically telling us, Mr. President, that human rights are too expensive?” Trump replied “No, I’m not saying that at all.” But there is no evidence the United States is pressing the Saudis on that issue.

Now compare the putative master of realpolitik, Richard Nixon. After the massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Nixon — then a private citizen — wrote to the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. Nixon took a tough-minded pose, writing, “I have always believed that a nation’s policy must not be affected by soft-headed friendship, but only by hard-headed reality.” He reaffirmed his belief that US-China relations were of “great benefit to both our countries strategically.” And he had “hard-headed” advice for Deng: “It is imperative that steps be taken now to return China to its rightful place as a civilized member of the world community. It would be a tragedy if China continues to be seen as a repressive throwback to a dark age of the past.”

What steps? Release the physicist and dissident Fang Lizhi. Second, “provide amnesty for those who demonstrated peacefully . . . particularly students.” Third, take some steps providing reassurance about the future of Hong Kong. Two months later, in June 1990, Fang Lizhi and his family were allowed to leave China, and a group of dissidents was released. Perhaps Nixon’s advice, couched not as humanitarian pressure but cold political realism, had an effect.

That is what seems to me missing from recent administration policy on Saudi Arabia. Nixon did not presume that the choices were all or nothing, to embrace China or to break with it. Similarly, if the Trump administration view is that we should not break with Saudi Arabia (a view I share), then the next step is not to embrace Saudi Arabia but rather do what Nixon did: Specify to the Saudis what they need to do so that they will not be seen as “a repressive throwback to a dark age of the past.”

Send the Saudi foreign minister to fix things with Canada. Figure out a way to release the blogger Raif Badawi and the Saudi women’s-rights protesters who appear to have been badly abused since their arrests. Reunite the Gulf Cooperation Council. In his public statements, the president did not do that. Neither did Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in his remarks. Realpolitik policy is missing: how we will use this moment to press the Saudis to do some things we need them to do, in our national interest.

The exception is Trump’s approach to Yemen. Since the Khashoggi killing, the Trump administration has taken a far tougher public stance demanding steps aimed at ending the war there, and it has stopped US aerial refueling of Saudi jets. Now, neither the president nor the secretary is obliged to lay out American demands in public. We must hope the Trump administration is trying in private to exact a price for the public support it is giving the US–Saudi relationship.




Dr. Aviel Sheyin-Stevens                                     

Arutz Sheva, Nov. 18, 2018

Donald Trump’s supporters take him seriously but not literally; whereas, Democrats and their media acolytes, along with Never Trump Republicans, take him literally but not seriously. Before the midterm election, Trump intimated he could win the election and outperform previous presidents who generally lost seats in their first midterm election; however, he also acknowledged that Democrats may win the House. Now, many claim he lost the election. Although the Democratic Party won the House, Trump won the election.

What President Trump achieved by his net gain of Senate seats in the midterm was unprecedented for a Republican. He has also essentially eliminated the Never Trump section of the Republican Party. Since the beginning of his administration, Never Trump Republicans refused to accept his leadership of their party and therefore use every opportunity to undermine him. He has also essentially eliminated the Never Trump section of the Republican Party. The late Senator John McCain blocked Trump’s efforts to repeal Obamacare with his dramatic late-night Senate vote in 2017. McCain’s dramatic, decisive vote against Republicans’ effort to repeal Obamacare was widely perceived as motivated by personal revenge against Trump, because Trump succeeded where he failed. McCain had been in favor of repealing Obamacare, until Trump was elected and wanted it repealed.

Senator Bob Corker, the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, undermined Trump’s foreign policies and cast aspersions on the president’s judgment. His actions subverted the credibility of Trump’s foreign policy strategies and empowered Democrats and others to delegitimize Trump’s leadership. In contrast; however, Corker worked heartily with Barack Obama. Corker assisted in securing Obama’s catastrophic Iran nuclear deal. Corker agreed not to treat the deal as a treaty that would have required the support of two thirds of the Senate for ratification, and passed a special law for it that upturned the US Constitution. Rather than requiring a two-thirds majority for ratification, the law required two thirds of the Senate to disapprove the deal to prevent its implementation.

Before the midterm election, Never Trump Senators held the balance of power in the Senate, but not anymore. They would mostly be replaced by pro-Trump people, like Senator-elect Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee who is replacing Corker. Many months ahead of the midterm election, Republican voters kept telling pollsters that the number one issue facing the country was immigration. Meanwhile, they considered tax reform as one of the least pressing issues. Nevertheless, House Republicans surrendered on Trump’s immigration plans to push Paul Ryan’s ‘Tax Reform 2.0’ plan.

House Republicans who spurned running for reelection also contributed to the Democratic takeover of the House. Generally, House incumbents have little trouble holding onto their seats. Since 1964, their reelection rates have consistently been over 80% and often in the high 90s. In this midterm, 39 incumbent Never-Trump House Republicans, many in leadership positions including House Speaker Paul Ryan, chose to retire. Rhe departure of key Never Trump Republicans from the House could make the Republican minority caucus to be more unified than they were as the majority. Thus, they could act more capably as a minority than they were as a fractured majority. Approaching the 2020 election, the Republican Party would be far more coherent ideologically and unified behind Trump’s leadership than it has been for the past two years.

As for the Democrats, fanatically anti-Israel, pro-Hamas candidates Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib won their House races when they ran in safe districts. However, anti-Israel Scott Wallace and Leslie Cockburn who ran in Republican-leaning districts in Pennsylvania and Virginia, respectively, lost their races, whereas moderate Democrats won races in Republican leaning states…

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



On Topic Links

Trump’s Iran Sanctions Could Work: Micha’el Tanchum, Foreign Policy, Nov. 20, 2018—Those who doubt that U.S. President Donald Trump’s Iran sanctions will hit their target should reconsider. It is true that their immediate impact on Iran’s oil export revenues will likely be minimal.

Trump’s Clever Policies Against Iran: Media Line, Nov. 18, 2018—On the morning of November 5, renewed US sanctions against Iran kicked in and Tehran’s hope for a last-minute miracle that would save it from economic meltdown vanished.

Khashoggi’s Revenge: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Nov. 24, 2018—According to Reuters, a group consisting of members of the Saudi royal family plans to replace the son of reigning King Salman, Mohammad, with his uncle, the king’s brother, 76 year old Ahmed bin Abed Al-Aziz.

Donald Trump’s High-Wire Act on the Global Stage: Derek Burney, Globe & Mail, Oct. 25, 2018—U.S. President Donald Trump is taking Teddy Roosevelt’s maxim – “Speak softly and carry a big stick” – and putting it into a higher gear. He talks loudly while brandishing a heavy stick on the world stage.


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]





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]          





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]




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]



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.



Khashoggi Disliked Israel, But His Brutal Murder Puts Jerusalem in Tough Spot: Raphael Ahren, Times of Israel, Oct. 23, 2018— Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered in Istanbul earlier this month, was not fond of Israel, to say the least.

What the Khashoggi Murder Means for the Middle East: James M. Dorsey, Algemeiner, Oct. 24, 2018— The death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul threatens to upend the fault lines across the Middle East, and severely disrupt the US-Saudi alliance that holds together many of those fault lines.

Egypt’s War on the Muslim Brotherhood: Dima Abumaria, The Media Line, October 18, 2018— Egyptian police released the 25-year-old son of former president Mohammed Morsi Wednesday after he spent less than 24 hours in detention on charges of joining an outlawed organization and publishing “fake news.”

Rumors Stoke Islamist Attacks on Egyptian Copts: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Oct. 9, 2018— Islamists and jihadists in Egypt have targeted the Egyptian Coptic minorities for decades with bombings and mob attacks on Coptic churches, businesses and homes.

On Topic Links

Canada Can’t Just Avoid the Regimes it Doesn’t Agree With, like Saudi Arabia: Dennis Horak, National Post, Oct. 24, 2018

The Ugly Terror Truth About Jamal Khashoggi: Daniel Greenfield, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 17, 2018

The Kingdom and the Power: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Oct. 20, 2018

Egyptian Christians, at Home and Abroad: Lofty Basta, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 26, 2018


                                        KHASHOGGI DISLIKED ISRAEL,

          BUT HIS BRUTAL MURDER PUTS JERUSALEM IN TOUGH SPOT                                                                                    Raphael Ahren

Times of Israel, Oct. 23, 2018

Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi journalist who was brutally murdered in Istanbul earlier this month, was not fond of Israel, to say the least. “The Jews are without history in Palestine. Therefore, they invented the Wailing Wall, which is a Mamluk structure,” he tweeted in 2015. Khashoggi also opposed Saudi Arabia’s covert cooperation with Israel, arguing that Riyadh did not need it and that any ties with the Jewish state would unnecessarily tarnish his country’s reputation in the wider Arab world, according to Professor Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on Saudi Arabia at Bar-Ilan University who knew Khashoggi well.

“He wasn’t a friend of Israel, but he had no problems meeting with and speaking to Israelis,” recalled Teitelbaum, who last saw the slain writer last year, when they had coffee on the sidelines of a conference on the Middle East in Washington.

In one of his last public appearances, Khashoggi, who had ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, confirmed that Riyadh had grown closer to Jerusalem. But he added that the kingdom had “backtracked on some of the more recent pro-Israeli positions it has taken,” according to Middle East Monitor, which hosted him at a conference in London less than a week before he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he met his death.

Khashoggi’s cruel murder, and the regime’s amateurish attempts to cover it up, have caused immeasurable damage to the international prestige of Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The fact that the US and other Western countries are considering punishing Riyadh — Germany has already frozen scheduled deliveries of arms to the kingdom — casts a deep shadow not only over Israel’s clandestine relationship with the kingdom but also over international efforts to keep Iran in check.

For one thing, American and Israeli leaders hoped that MBS — as the crown prince is known — and his ostensible pro-Israel disposition could help force the Palestinians into concessions necessary for peace. Furthermore, the erosion of Riyadh’s international standing may negatively affect its role as one of the main regional powers standing up to Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons and other belligerent behavior. Mutual enmity toward Tehran, it is worth noting, brought Israel and Saudi Arabia closer in the first place.

“Israel is in a very difficult situation,” said Dan Shapiro, a former US ambassador to Israel. “It wants and needs Saudi Arabia to be a reliable anchor of this regional coalition to confront Iranian aggression, and it’s faced with a reality that the current Saudi leadership has been proven unable to fulfill that role.” No other Arab country could replace Saudi Arabia in the region’s anti-Iran coalition, but MBS has proven to be “extremely reckless, impulsive and untrustworthy,” added Shapiro, who today is a fellow at the Institute for National Security in Tel Aviv.

Khashoggi’s gruesome murder and the ongoing lies about it are only the last in series of bad decisions made by the crown prince, Shapiro said, which include bombing Yemen without concern for civilian casualties, imposing a siege on Qatar, detaining Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri, picking a fight with Canada over a Tweet about human rights, and rounding up dissidents. MBS “frequently acts on limited knowledge and poor judgment,” and the various scandals he has dragged his country into weaken the kingdom and undermine its relationship with its allies, Shapiro charged.

The US should not sever its relationship with the kingdom, as it plays a vital role in America’s efforts to rein in Iran, he said. However, “until there is a change of Saudi leadership, or at least a change in the style of Saudi leadership, the country’s ability to play that role is significantly weakened.” It remains to be seen how US President Donald Trump reacts as more and more details about Khashoggi’s killing come to light, though he seems determined not let the affair get in the way of what he said was $450 billion worth of Saudi investments. “But we’re going to get to the bottom of it,” he vowed Monday.

For Israel, the situation is somewhat trickier. On the one hand, it does not want to see Riyadh’s position in the region diminished in favor of Tehran, or Ankara. (Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is believed by some to be seeing the Khashoggi murder as an opportunity to replace Saudi Arabia as the leader of the Sunni Islamic world.) On the other hand, Israel should be careful not be regarded as Riyadh’s mouthpiece in the US and Europe, several analysts interviewed for this article warned.

“It would have significant negative reputational impact on Israel to be seen as the defender and as the explainer and as the advocate on of MBS after this brutal performance, which was followed by several weeks of lying — which actually still continues — about what happened in Istanbul,” Shapiro said. Rather, all that’s left for Jerusalem to do is quiet diplomacy in a bid to try sustain “whatever can be sustained” regarding security cooperation with Saudi Arabia, he added. But there can be no doubt that the Khashoggi affair “has weakened a central pillar of Israel’s strategic concept in the Middle East in a way that Israel can’t do very much to repair it. That’s the damage in having such an unreliable Saudi leadership as we currently unfortunately have.”…

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



          WHAT THE KHASHOGGI MURDER MEANS FOR THE MIDDLE EAST                                                                     James M. Dorsey                                                                                                                                      Algemeiner, Oct. 24, 2018

The death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the premises of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul threatens to upend the fault lines across the Middle East, and severely disrupt the US-Saudi alliance that holds together many of those fault lines.

An investigation into Khashoggi’s fate mandated by members of the US Congress and a possible meeting between President Donald Trump and the journalist’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, could result in a US and European embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which would also impact the kingdom’s brutal proxy war with Iran in Yemen, portray Saudi Arabia as a rogue state, and call into question US and Saudi allegations that Iran is the Middle East’s main state supporter of terrorism.

Those allegations were a key reason for the US withdrawal — with the backing of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel — from the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear program, and for the re-imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Tehran. An investigation into the role of the Saudi leadership in the death of Khashoggi would also undermine the 15-month-old economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar, a country that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, and Bahrain accuse of supporting terrorism.

Furthermore, a condemnation and sanctioning of Saudi Arabia by the international community would complicate China’s and Russia’s efforts to avoid being sucked into the Saudi-Iranian rivalry. Those two countries will be at a crossroads if the Saudi government is proven to be responsible for Khashoggi’s death and the issue of sanctions is subsequently brought before the UN Security Council.

So far, both Russia and China have managed to maintain close ties to Riyadh despite their efforts to defeat US sanctions against Iran, and Russia’s alliance with Iran on behalf of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. A significantly weakened Saudi Arabia would also undermine Arab cover provided by the kingdom for Trump’s efforts to impose a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that would favor Israel at the expense of the Palestinians. Finally, a conclusive determination that Saudi Arabia was responsible for Khashoggi’s death would likely spark renewed debate about the wisdom of the international community’s support for Arab autocracy, which has proven unashamedly brutal in its violation of human rights and disregard for international law and conventions.

Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has suffered significant damage to his reputation, raising the question of his viability if Saudi Arabia is condemned internationally. This raises the follow-up question of the stability of the kingdom, which is a key tenant of US, Chinese, and Russian Middle East policy. The damage suffered by Prince Muhammad embarrasses UAE Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed, who, together with his aides and representatives in world capitals, has worked hard to project his Saudi counterpart as the kingdom’s future.

Saudi Arabia did itself few favors by initially flatly rejecting any responsibility for Khashoggi’s disappearance; asserting that claims that it was involved were fabrications by Turkey, Qatar, and the Muslim Brotherhood; seeking to defame Khashoggi’s fiancée and supporters; and refusing to fully cooperate with Turkish investigators. Saudi reluctance to cooperate, as well as the US investigation and Ms. Cengiz’s possible meeting with Trump, complicate apparent Turkish efforts to find a resolution of the escalating crisis that would allow Saudi Arabia to save face and salvage Turkey’s economic relationship with the kingdom.

Turkey, despite deep policy differences with Saudi Arabia over Qatar, Iran, and the Muslim Brotherhood, has so far refrained from releasing the evidence it claims it has proving that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents inside the consulate. The release of gruesome details of the killing by anonymous Turkish officials appears designed to pressure Saudi Arabia into complying with Turkey’s demands and efforts at managing the crisis. The death of Jamal Khashoggi is reshaping the political map of the Middle East. He paid a horrendous price for sparking the earthquake that is now rumbling across the region.



EGYPT’S WAR ON THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD                                                                        Dima Abumaria

                                                The Media Line, October 18, 2018

Egyptian police released the 25-year-old son of former president Mohammed Morsi Wednesday after he spent less than 24 hours in detention on charges of joining an outlawed organization and publishing “fake news.” Abdullah Morsi Mohammed Morsi, a graduate business student, posted a bail of 5,000 Egyptian pounds [about $280] according to a statement by Attorney General Nabil Sadek. “The Attorney General decided to release Abdullah until further investigations take place into the charges against him,” said Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maqsoud, a member of Morsi’s defense team.

Abdullah frequently posts updates on social media about his father’s condition at the Tora maximum security prison, about eight miles south of downtown Cairo, as the family seeks more visitation rights and better health care for the jailed Brotherhood leader. The London-based Arabi21 website published an interview with Abdullah just days before his arrest detailing the conditions of the family’s September visit at the prison.

Morsi is challenging a death sentence and 48 years in jail for five separate cases including espionage for Hamas, Hezbollah and Qatar as well as insulting Egypt’s judiciary. The charge of joining a terrorist group refers to the Muslim Brotherhood, which was outlawed in 2013. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, an Egyptian general who then became president, led a coalition to remove the elder Morsi from the presidential palace.

Egypt has been plagued by a violent insurgency since Sisi replaced Morsi. Egyptian officials have viewed the terrorist wave as part of a revenge campaign for the Brotherhood’s ousting. Since 2013, the Egyptian army has also waged a fierce counter-terrorism operation against a Sinai-based Islamic State-affiliated group. It has seen an upsurge in attacks on the Coptic Christian community, as well as security personnel and senior officials in the Nile Valley. Last month, Sisi emphasized the need for a “global war” against terrorism during his address at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“There is no doubt that the Arab region is one of the most vulnerable to the dangers of nation-state disintegration, and the ensuing creation of a fertile environment for terrorism and exacerbation of sectarian conflicts,” Sisi declared at the UN. Cairo has been working to contain Islamists throughout Egypt, making no distinction between their political and armed wings. “Anyone who has anything to do with the Islamic movement can expect to be questioned and other times detained based on their activity within the movement,” an Egyptian political observer close to the Sisi administration told The Media Line.

“Mohammed Morsi supported and promoted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and beyond—especially in Syria by urging Muslims join a jihad against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Sisi ended that and is cleaning up the mess caused by Islamist political groups in Egypt,” the analyst added.

Ibrahim Haj Ibrahim, who heads the Political Science department at Birzeit University in Ramallah, believes the anti-terror rhetoric in Cairo is a core component of a Saudi-led effort, which includes Egypt and the UAE, to gain support for the ongoing boycott of Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief state backer in the region. “Saudi Arabia doesn’t want any other regional power, but itself,” Ibrahim told The Media Line. “Riyadh is doing the best it can to put the Muslim Brotherhood in the category of terrorism.”




Hany Ghoraba

IPT News, Oct. 9, 2018

Islamists and jihadists in Egypt have targeted the Egyptian Coptic minorities for decades with bombings and mob attacks on Coptic churches, businesses and homes. Many are sanctioned by fatwas from radical clerics, Salafist preachers and Muslim Brotherhood muftis.

The latest attack took place Sept. 1 in Dimshaw, a village in southern Egypt’s Minya governorate. A mob of nearly 1,000 Islamists and Muslim radicals attacked Christians who gathered in a home to pray. Several homes reportedly were looted and set on fire. The mob claimed that the Christians didn’t have a license, and a rumor spread that they are on the verge of building a new church. A Minya court released 21 of the 25 people arrested in the attack. Copts often take a passive approach to such crises. “Copts, by nature and by belief, are by far more accepting of death, fate, and all tragedies that befall them,” said Egyptian writer and political analyst Azza Sedky. “When one of them dies, they believe he or she has gone to a ‘better place.’ Acceptance is key.”

The 1956 Suez crisis generated xenophobia toward foreigners, driving many out of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood stepped up activities around that time and “began to play [its] tricks and the antagonism [against religious minorities] intensified, especially in rural areas,” she said. Spreading rumors is a long-standing tactic for the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1947, for example, a Cairo police officer tried to stop an unlicensed Brotherhood political march. The protesters then spread a rumor that the officer tore a copy of the Quran, which triggered a riot in which he was killed. Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna blamed the slain police officer for not acting prudently.

A rumor spread by the Muslim Brotherhood in 1952 claimed that Copts in Suez were colluding with British occupation forces to kill Muslims. As a result, a mob stormed the city and burned several Copts alive, later throwing their bodies into a church which was then burned down. The “Suez Massacre” marked the beginning of a long series of assaults and killings of Copts based on rumors spread by Brotherhood and other Islamists. Rumors spread by Islamists claimed that Copts were importing arms from Israel and storing them in churches.

Since the June 2013 Revolution, Egypt’s Christians have been blamed for Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, with Islamists leaders vowing that Christians will pay the price. They carried through on those threats in August 2013, immediately after the Egyptian army wiped out the Brotherhood’s Rabaa armed encampment. Islamists torched 66 Coptic owned buildings, including 49 churches.

Major attacks against Copts continued. A December 2016 bombing at Cairo’s St. Mark Church during Sunday Mass killed 29 people and injured 48 others. A twin bombing four months later targeted a Palm Sunday service the St. Mark Church in Alexandria and St. George Church in the Nile Delta City of Tanta north of Cairo. At least 45 people were killed and 126 injured. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi immediately ordered that the targeted churches be rebuilt or repaired, sending a message that the government will protect its citizens. Nevertheless, that message has not yet led to stricter enforcement of laws on assailants and radicals who incite violence.

A new church building law aimed at helping Copts may actually create harm, said Mohamed Abu Hamed, the deputy head of the Egyptian Parliament’s “Solidarity Committee,” which is designated to introduce laws and recommendations for social justice. The law should have applied to all places of worship, he said, but covers only church construction.

Attacks on Copts have decreased in recent years after efforts to round up Islamist leaders, and Egyptian police raids on terrorist cells. Copts, however, still represent a top target for Islamists who don’t believe that this minority should have the same rights and freedom to worship. The latest attack on Christians in Minya may indicate a return to a pattern of attacking Copts during prayers services. In July 2015, radicals attacked a house designated to the Copts as a church. Salafi radicals stoned those gathered, but fled when security forces arrived. They came back and threw Molotov cocktails at the gathered Copts.

For decades, local authorities approved “customary reconciliations” to resolve disputes, including those between Muslims and Christians. Community leaders, heads of families, tribe leaders and local authority figures meet to try to resolve conflicts without going to court. But they don’t always produce just outcomes, Abu Hamed said.

“Despite the existence of an old judicial system that dates back to the times of the pharaohs, authorities still utilize the so called ‘customary reconciliations’ instead of applying the laws which is a blatant breach of the constitution and rule of law. What makes it worse is that these meetings are attended by security authorities, political leaders and governors among others,” he said. “Some authority figures believe these meetings create a sort of equilibrium, or it provides them with political and social leverage. The second reason is they believe it is the easier way to contain matters in face of the Salafist groups and radicals.” On a similar note, Coptic Bishop Macarius rejected all forms of unofficial reconciliation.

Conditions for Copts are improving despite these troubles, Sedky said, noting that “Sisi was the first president to attend mass on Christmas Eve in Egypt,” a groundbreaking action countering Salafists who tell Egyptians not to shake hands with Copts. “However, as [with] everything else,” she said, “it will take generations to overcome an ingrained hatred that was left to flourish for years.”

The current atmosphere is still ripe for the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists to spew their poisonous ideologies, lies and rumors, Abu Hamed said. He blames a tepid effort from Al Azhar – Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution – to reform religious curriculum; a significant Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi presence in key positions within state religious institutions; and Muslim Brotherhood control of mosques which spread hateful ideology despite a state ban…

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



On Topic Links

Canada Can’t Just Avoid the Regimes it Doesn’t Agree With, like Saudi Arabia: Dennis Horak, National Post, Oct. 24, 2018—As the Trudeau government undertakes its announced review of Saudi-Canada relations, it needs to look past the recent horrific news and find an approach that aims to be truly effective by advancing legitimate Canadian interests along with its values.

The Ugly Terror Truth About Jamal Khashoggi: Daniel Greenfield, Breaking Israel News, Oct. 17, 2018—In high school, Jamal Khashoggi had a good friend. His name was Osama bin Laden. “We were hoping to establish an Islamic state anywhere,” Khashoggi reminisced about their time together in the Muslim Brotherhood. “We believed that the first one would lead to another, and that would have a domino effect which could reverse the history of mankind.”

The Kingdom and the Power: Elliott Abrams, Weekly Standard, Oct. 20, 2018—While the details of Jamal Khashoggi’s death have not fully emerged, we know the essentials. He died at the hands of Saudi agents in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and the decision to kidnap or kill him must have been taken at the top of the Saudi political structure. Whether crown prince Mohammed bin Salman asked “will no one rid me of this meddlesome journalist” or specified the methods to be used, he is responsible for Khashoggi’s death.

Egyptian Christians, at Home and Abroad: Lofty Basta, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 26, 2018—Copts (Egyptian Christians) living in Egypt or in adoptive countries have common attributes – they are peace-loving, belong to strong large families with low divorce rates, have a lower mean age than the rest of civilized world, respect their elderly, value education and work, are always willing to help those in need, are courteous and use respectful non-obscene language.



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




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.





                                       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.]





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.



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.



In Saudi-Canada Standoff, Riyadh Should Stand Down: Jonathan Schanzer & Varsha Koduvayur, New York Post, Aug. 9, 2018— The last time Canada undertook an act of aggression was in 1999, when it declared war on the United States — in the comedic universe of “South Park,” that is.

Saudi Arabia’s Global Ambitions Leave No Room for Meddling: Father Raymond J. de Souza, National Post, Aug. 9, 2018 — The diplomatic fight between Saudi Arabia and Canada bears watching, and not for the astonishing novelty that anyone could really take offence at our prime minister, whose prime directive is generally not to give offence.

Saudi Arabia and Israel: Know Thine Enemy: Dr. Edy Cohen, BESA, July 20, 2018— Saudi Arabia and Israel do not maintain official relations, but by the time Crown Prince Abdullah published the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, bilateral ties between the two countries had already been established behind the scenes.

‘Unite with the Devil’: Yemen War Binds US, Allies, Al-Qaida: Maggie Michael and Trish Wilson and Lee Keath, Washington Times, Aug. 7, 2018— Again and again over the past two years, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has claimed it won decisive victories that drove al-Qaida militants from their strongholds across Yemen and shattered their ability to attack the West.

On Topic Links

Why Has Canada Spent Billions of Dollars Buying Saudi Arabian Oil?: Tristin Hopper, National Post, Aug. 8, 2018

Good Riddance to Our Ties with Saudi Arabia: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Aug. 7, 2018

Saudi Arabia Cuts Exports to Canada Over Raif Badawi: Daniel Bordman, Post Millenial, Aug. 6, 2018

US Withdrawal From Iran Deal Helping Wind Down Yemen War, Officials Say: Hollie McKay, Fox News, Aug. 7, 2018   



Jonathan Schanzer & Varsha Koduvayur

New York Post, Aug. 9, 2018

The last time Canada undertook an act of aggression was in 1999, when it declared war on the United States — in the comedic universe of “South Park,” that is. But few were laughing Monday when Saudi Arabia shockingly cut ties with Canada and enacted severe punitive measures against Ottawa.

Riyadh’s gripe? A Canadian Foreign Ministry tweet criticizing the kingdom’s arrests of several human-rights activists. After new arrests last week, the total number of detained activists is now 18. In retaliation for what it described as Canadian meddling, Riyadh divested from its Canadian assets, froze new trade and investment, halted flights to the Great White North and recalled Saudi doctors and students from Canadian hospitals and universities.

The kingdom called Canada’s response an “unacceptable affront” and a direct violation of its sovereignty. That’s a valid, diplomatic response. But every other measure is utterly disproportionate. Riyadh’s actions undercut its recent unprecedented progress. Women finally got behind the wheel of their cars in June — legally. Movie theaters opened. Western visitors have lined up. The once-dreaded religious police have been effectively declawed. And many regulatory changes have been implemented to open up the Saudi economy for foreign investment.

Mohammed bin Salman, the energetic crown prince helming this vast metamorphosis, has articulated his vision to put the kingdom on the right track. He vowed to roll back fundamentalist Islam and return the kingdom to a “tolerant, moderate Islam” — unprecedented words from a Saudi leader, given the kingdom’s historical role in spreading Wahhabism. Saudi reform could have enormously positive consequences for the region. Which is why MbS, as he’s known, should be lauded every time he takes a step in the right direction, and why legitimate criticism is important, too.

Of course, the Saudis don’t always take criticism well. In 2015, Riyadh temporarily recalled its envoy to Sweden after the latter criticized human-rights violations, and last November it recalled its ambassador to Germany after its foreign minister protested Riyadh’s meddling in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia even blacklisted some German companies as a result.

Such moves may play well in Saudi Arabia, but may not have much of an impact in the current fracas. Riyadh is Canada’s 17th-largest trade partner, and total trade last year amounted to $3 billion. That may sound like a lot, but compared to the $673.9 billion that Canada traded with the US in 2017, that’s a drop in the bucket for Ottawa. Saudi institutions shed their Canadian asset holdings, but these divestments will likewise be small. Similarly, the Saudi decision to halt wheat and barley imports from Canada will not have a severe effect given that the kingdom had already been importing less in recent years.

Pulling Saudi students and doctors from universities and hospitals could have more of an impact: In 2017, Saudis made up about 2 percent of Canada’s international students. Yet yanking them from their studies undercuts the kingdom’s goal of creating a knowledge economy more than it will affect Canadian universities’ bottom lines. Whether this holdout lasts for a semester, a year or longer, it’ll deprive the kingdom of the talent and knowhow that it needs to increase private-sector employment.

Neither is Canada likely to feel much of a pinch from the drop in 75,000 to 80,000 barrels of Saudi crude that it imports per day. That’s less than 10 percent of Ottawa’s total oil imports and a gap that could be plugged by the US. But for Riyadh, that’s a loss of $2.48 billion. Perhaps that’s why the Saudi energy minister put out a quick message that this diplomatic spat will “not, in any way, impact Saudi Aramco’s relations” with Canadian customers. More concerning for Ottawa would be an $11 billion arms deal to supply the Saudis with light-armored vehicles, which it doesn’t want to lose.

But whatever pain Saudi Arabia ultimately inflicts on Canada, the kingdom may get the worst of it. Western institutional investors, actors that avoid risk whenever they can, are undoubtedly spooked. Foreign investment in Saudi Arabia had already plummeted to a 14-year low after last year’s opaque anti-corruption purge that put a number of high-profile Saudis under house arrest. Riyadh certainly has a right to contest Canada’s statements. But it must find a way to climb down from this senseless escalation. And in the process, it wouldn’t hurt to reassure its supporters that it remains committed to reform, not to mention human rights.                                                             Contents



Father Raymond J. de Souza

                                                National Post, Aug. 9, 2018

The diplomatic fight between Saudi Arabia and Canada bears watching, and not for the astonishing novelty that anyone could really take offence at our prime minister, whose prime directive is generally not to give offence. His Indian tour was ridiculed precisely because he was too aggressively ingratiating.

It bears watching because it is an indication of a possible new configuration in the geopolitics of Islam. One hundred years ago, the end of the Great War effectively meant the demise of the Ottoman Empire, which had been the geopolitical expression of Islam for centuries. Since then, global Islam has sought different political expressions, the various developments of which have been a major factor in international relations.

So whatever may be at the heart of the completely unexpected fight between Saudi Arabia and Canada, it cannot be an offensive tweet from our foreign affairs ministry which, in the age of Trump, is not even in the minor leagues when it comes to offensive tweets. Somehow, Saudi Arabia’s ruler, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, has decided that he needs to have a fight with someone even as he presents himself at home and abroad as a reformer who is out to change traditional Saudi ways.

MBS, as he and his admirers style him, is the next generation in a state that is really a family business, and not a very good one at that. His grandfather — Abdulaziz al Saud — was the founder of Saudi Arabia, and his father — Salman — is the current king, the last of the seven brothers who inherited the throne from their father. Salman has given MBS the scope to rule now as crown prince, and in future as king. In the massive Saudi royal family, with its hundreds of descendants of Abdulaziz, MBS was not the obvious successor, but was named that last year by Salman. He has been taking the kingdom and the world by storm ever since.

The House of Saud has ruled Saudi Arabia for a century by using the country’s massive oil wealth for two purposes. Spread around the family, it keeps dynastic struggles in check, as everyone has a stake in the ongoing chokehold they maintain on the country’s resources. And spread around the population in generous public benefits, it suppresses thoughts of revolution. But both the family and the country have grown too large for indefinite high living off oil alone, so the country’s economy must become more dynamic and diversified. Hence the new economic vision and reforms of MBS.

The other element keeping the House of Saud in business has been a pact with Wahhabi religious authorities. If the latter do not challenge the former’s legitimacy as the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” as the king of Saudi Arabia is styled, in exchange the royal family will permit extreme Wahhabi mores to prevail in Saudi Arabia and be funded abroad. That’s why women weren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia until just six weeks ago, and why extremist madrassas are funded the world over.

That pact though prevents Saudi Arabia from leading the Islamic world. The majority of Muslims, who are Sunni, would prefer to see Saudi Arabia eclipse Iran, a Shia power, but from Egypt to Indonesia there is little appetite to elevate Wahhabism in Islam’s geopolitical leadership. So MBS is seeking both economic and social reform, which means less money to buy alliances and less power for the religious authorities. Hence he has trumpeted around the world his decision to allow women to drive. But all reform generates opposition, which MBS has dealt with by deposing rivals and imprisoning dissenters, including resorts to violence and torture.

Will MBS pull off his plan to make Saudi Arabia the new centre of global Islam? He has sought to reconfigure the politics of the Gulf States, and is open to alliances with Israel to contain Iran. When Obama was president, he went to Cairo in his first visit to the Muslim world. Trump made Saudi Arabia his first foreign visit to any country, the first of a three-part religious journey, completed later with visits to Jerusalem and Rome.

So there is an openness abroad to the rise of Saudi Arabia, both in economic and strategic relations. But friends abroad may embolden rivals at home. MBS needs their investment and diplomatic support, but not their meddling, from his point of view, in the security of his regime. Hence the decision to escalate this contrived fight with Canada. MBS wants a more dynamic, moderate Saudi Arabia to be the heir to Ottoman-era influence, an alternative to the militancy of Iran or the failed pan-Arab nationalism of the 1960s. But he wants on it on his own terms.                         Contents



                                                         Dr. Edy Cohen

                                                                        BESA, July 20, 2018

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not maintain official relations, but by the time Crown Prince Abdullah published the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, bilateral ties between the two countries had already been established behind the scenes. In 2015, ties increased and some were even made formal as a result of the joint effort by both countries against the Iranian nuclear program. Saudis visited Israel and there were reports that the late Mossad chief Meir Dagan visited Saudi Arabia to coordinate on the Iran issue. Over the past two years, ties have reportedly reached new highs, with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman allegedly holding a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

If there was once talk of a moderate Sunni alliance against Iran, this term has lost all meaning in the last two years. The Middle East is now divided into two camps: one made up of Turkey, Qatar, Iran, and Sudan, and the other made up of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt. The latter camp, which has the support of the US and Israel, imposed the boycott on Qatar  over its growing ties to Iran and Turkey.

There can be no doubt that the growing ties between Riyadh and Jerusalem are a result of the hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Tehran is aggressive in its attacks on Riyadh, including in the cyber arena. In 2012, a cyberattack on Saudi Arabia’s national petroleum and gas company Aramco caused unprecedented damage, partially wiping or in some cases completely destroying some 35,000 of its computers. There have also been reports of Iranian hackers breaking into the bank accounts of Saudi princes to reveal how much money they have at their disposal.

Faced with these threats, Riyadh established the National Cyber Security Authority to fight Iran and the hackers. In 2017, the authority was tasked with an additional goal – inciting the Arab world against Qatar. Abdullah adviser Saud bin Abdullah al-Qahtani is responsible for the unit, which, according to assessments, employs some 4,000 people.

The National Cyber Security Authority’s Twitter account has 400,000 followers. Employees operate online under false identities, and their job is to create hashtags that trend online. Their brief is to moderate and control public opinion and to vilify Qatar and its leaders. The agency’s Twitter account tweets daily, mostly against Qatar and Iran. It uses anti-Semitic terminology, referring to Qatar as “Qatariel,” a portmanteau of Qatar and Israel, and claiming the Al-Jazeera network “belongs to the Israeli Mossad.”

“The deal of the century” is a Qatari scheme to sell Palestine to the “Zionist entity,” one tweet reads, while another alleges that the “Zionist” Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the father of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, is scheming to divide the Arab states to fulfill the dreams of the “Zionist entity” and Iran. In another tweet, the authority alleges Qatar is “trying to destroy the Arab world to serve the enemies of the Muslim world: Israel and Iran.” These statements penetrate deep into the Arab consciousness and increase their existing hatred towards Jews and Israel.

The Saudis are thus playing a double game. Behind the scenes, they send the Israelis the message that Tehran is a common enemy and goad it to fight Iran and Hezbollah. At home, however, they say that the enemy is first and foremost the State of Israel, followed by Iran. Their formula is clear: covert ties with Israel coupled with overt hostility to the Jewish state to satisfy the people, a majority of whom hate Israel.

The Saudi double game is sadly familiar. It is reminiscent of the Egyptian model under Egyptian Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Hosni Mubarak: dozens of anti-Semitic articles were published on a daily basis, but the Israeli audience was not exposed to the phenomenon and the politicians closed their eyes. In the two-and-a-half decades since the onset of the Oslo “peace process,” successive Israeli governments have similarly turned a deaf ear to the vitriolic Palestinian incitement that has indoctrinated the residents of the West Bank and Gaza with implacable hatred for Israel and helped pave the road for the BDS movement. Jerusalem must not accept anti-Israel incitement, and that is also true where Saudi Arabia is concerned. Incitement translates into action, and that action comes at a deadly price.




Maggie Michael and Trish Wilson and Lee Keath

Washington Times, Aug. 7, 2018

Again and again over the past two years, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has claimed it won decisive victories that drove al-Qaida militants from their strongholds across Yemen and shattered their ability to attack the West. Here’s what the victors did not disclose: many of their conquests came without firing a shot.

That’s because the coalition cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself. These compromises and alliances have allowed al-Qaida militants to survive to fight another day – and risk strengthening the most dangerous branch of the terror network that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes.

The deals uncovered by the AP reflect the contradictory interests of the two wars being waged simultaneously in this southwestern corner of the Arabian Peninsula. In one conflict, the U.S. is working with its Arab allies – particularly the United Arab Emirates – with the aim of eliminating the branch of extremists known as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. But the larger mission is to win the civil war against the Houthis, Iranian-backed Shiite rebels. And in that fight, al-Qaida militants are effectively on the same side as the Saudi-led coalition – and, by extension, the United States.

“Elements of the U.S. military are clearly aware that much of what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that,” said Michael Horton, a fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. analysis group that tracks terrorism. “However, supporting the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against what the U.S. views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP and even stabilizing Yemen,” Horton said.

The AP’s findings are based on reporting in Yemen and interviews with two dozen officials, including Yemeni security officers, militia commanders, tribal mediators and four members of al-Qaida’s branch. All but a few of those sources spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals. Emirati-backed factions, like most armed groups in Yemen, have been accused of abducting or killing their critics. Coalition-backed militias actively recruit al-Qaida militants, or those who were recently members, because they’re considered exceptional fighters, the AP found. The coalition forces are comprised of a dizzying mix of militias, factions, tribal warlords and tribes with very local interests. And AQAP militants are intertwined with many of them.

One Yemeni commander who was put on the U.S. terrorism list for al-Qaida ties last year continues to receive money from the UAE to run his militia, his own aide told the AP. Another commander, recently granted $12 million for his fighting force by Yemen’s president, has a known al-Qaida figure as his closest aide. In one case, a tribal mediator who brokered a deal between the Emiratis and al-Qaida even gave the extremists a farewell dinner. Horton said much of the war on al-Qaida by the UAE and its allied militias is a “farce.” “It is now almost impossible to untangle who is AQAP and who is not since so many deals and alliances have been made,” he said.

The U.S. has sent billions of dollars in weapons to the coalition to fight the Iran-backed Houthis. U.S. advisers also give the coalition intelligence used in targeting on-the-ground adversaries in Yemen, and American jets provide air-to-air refueling for coalition war planes. The U.S. does not fund the coalition, however, and there is no evidence that American money went to AQAP militants. The U.S. is aware of an al-Qaida presence among the anti-Houthi ranks, a senior American official told reporters in Cairo earlier this year. Because coalition members back militias with hard-line Islamic commanders, “it’s very, very easy for al-Qaida to insinuate itself into the mix,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity under the terms of the briefing.

More recently, the Pentagon vigorously denied any complicity with al-Qaida militants. “Since the beginning of 2017, we have conducted more than 140 strikes to remove key AQAP leaders and disrupt its ability to use ungoverned spaces to recruit, train and plan operations against the U.S. and our partners across the region,” Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, wrote in an email to the AP. An Emirati government spokesman did not reply to questions from the AP.

But on Monday, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that the UAE-backed counter-terrorism strategy is working. He said it had “removed” thousands of militants and deprived them of safe havens. AQAP is “at its weakest since 2012,” he wrote, adding that the UAE and its allies “have all lost troops in the fight.” Coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki on Monday said the AP’s findings were “incorrect” and “not based on convincing facts and evidence.” “The coalition is waging a war on terrorist organizations in Yemen, like al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and the Houthi militia,” he said. “It continues to carry our joint operations with its friends and brothers to dismantle these groups’ capabilities.”

The coalition began fighting in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overran the north, including the capital, Sanaa. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are determined to stop what they consider a move by their nemesis, Iran, to take over Yemen, and their professed aim is to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Al-Qaida is leveraging the chaos to its advantage.

“The United States is certainly in a bind in Yemen,” said Katherine Zimmerman, a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “It doesn’t make sense that the United States has identified al-Qaida as a threat, but that we have common interests inside of Yemen and that, in some places, it looks like we’re looking the other way.” Within this complicated conflict, al-Qaida says its numbers – which U.S. officials have estimated at 6,000 to 8,000 members – are rising…

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



On Topic Links

Why Has Canada Spent Billions of Dollars Buying Saudi Arabian Oil?: Tristin Hopper, National Post, Aug. 8, 2018—As Saudi Arabia aggressively severs ties with Canada, the two countries’ trade relationship hangs in the balance. On one hand, Canada will lose out on Saudi foreign students, military contracts and sales of wheat and grain. On the other, Saudi Arabia will lose the billions of dollars it earns every year by selling oil to Canada.

Good Riddance to Our Ties with Saudi Arabia: Tarek Fatah, Toronto Sun, Aug. 7, 2018—Most Canadians were taken aback by the hostile reaction of Saudi Arabia towards Canada after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland issued statements late last week calling on Riyadh to release imprisoned Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, whose wife, Ensaf Haider, and three children are Canadian citizens.

Saudi Arabia Cuts Exports to Canada Over Raif Badawi: Daniel Bordman, Post Millenial, Aug. 6, 2018—Many of us have been waiting around for Justin Trudeau’s administration to finally take a moral stand on the international stage.  Justin Trudeau has always shown a knack for lecturing countries with complete gender equality on their need for even more gender equality.  However, his first real foray into morality isn’t going so well.

US Withdrawal From Iran Deal Helping Wind Down Yemen War, Officials Say: Hollie McKay, Fox News, Aug. 7, 2018    —Despite Tehran’s repeated denials of arming Shiite Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen, government and military officials insist President Trump’s withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear deal has had an immediate impact in helping bring the four-year conflict at least a step toward closure.







The First Saudi-Iranian War Will Be an Even Fight: Afshon Ostovar, Foreign Policy, May 7, 2018— Since 2011, first in Syria and then in Yemen, proxy forces of Iran and Saudi Arabi have been in constant, brutal competition.

Natural Gas: An Underrated Driver of Saudi Hostility Towards Iran and Qatar: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Apr. 25, 2018— With signatories to the Paris Climate Accord moving towards bans on gasoline- and diesel-driven vehicles within decades and renewable energy technology advancing by leaps and bounds, natural gas has taken on a new significance.

The Saudi Revolution: Yoel Guzansky, INSS, Apr. 22, 2018 — Saudi Arabia is in the midst of revolutionary processes that aim to change the economic and social fabric in this conservative kingdom.

Houthis, Hezbollah and Hamas: Israel and Saudi Arabia Face Similar Threats: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2018— Patriot missiles blazed skyward in an epic display over Saudi Arabia around midnight on Sunday, as Saudi air defenses intercepted seven missiles fired from Yemen over Riyadh.

On Topic Links

Saudi Moderation? Prince Muhammad Is on Shaky Ground: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Apr. 12, 2018

Saudi Arabia, Vatican Reportedly Agree to Build Christian Churches in the Kingdom: Caleb Parke, Fox News, May 5, 2018

The Strange Saga of a Pro-Saudi Tabloid in America’s Heartland: New York Post, Apr. 24, 2018

Iran’s Brutal War in Yemen Threatens the Entire Middle East: Mosaic, Apr. 30, 2018



Afshon Ostovar

Foreign Policy, May 7, 2018

Since 2011, first in Syria and then in Yemen, proxy forces of Iran and Saudi Arabi have been in constant, brutal competition. Both sides seem to have concluded that a direct war isn’t in their interest, with neither having ever directly attacked the other. But there has always been a risk of escalation — and that risk will heighten dramatically on Tuesday if President Donald Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, as seems likely. That could lead to an increase in military provocations by Iran in the region, and embolden any Saudi response.

It’s far easier to assess the likelihood of direct conflict between Tehran and Riyadh, however, than to predict a winner. The outcome of the first Saudi-Iranian war would ultimately depend on the shape it ended up taking.

The two countries differ markedly in the size and capabilities of their forces. Iran has the larger military, with two forces — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Artesh regular military — composed of complementary air, naval, and land branches. The Artesh has an estimated 350,000 active-duty soldiers and controls most of Iran’s more sophisticated conventional capabilities, especially in the air and maritime domains. By comparison, the IRGC, with an estimated force of 125,000, has maintained a focus on asymmetric warfare but also oversees Iran’s growing unmanned aerial vehicle fleet and strategic ballistic missile programs. Additionally, through its special forces division, known as the Quds Force, the IRGC commands Iran’s foreign military operations and relations with client allies, such as in Syria and Iraq.

Since the 1980s, intermittent sanctions and political pressure from the United States have severely degraded Iran’s ability to procure military technology and weapons from other countries, which has made some of its military capabilities relatively outmoded and weak. Iran’s defense spending (around $12.3 billion in 2016) is modest compared with Saudi Arabia’s as one of the top defense budgets in the world ($63.7 billion in 2016 and $69.4 billion in 2017), and its defense technology generally falls well below that of other regional states. Iran’s air forces fly dated platforms, such as F-5 and F-14 Tomcat variants, which have been updated domestically from aircraft inherited from the pre-revolution Pahlavi state, but struggle with intermittent inoperability. Similarly, Iran’s mechanized armor is mostly a hodgepodge of pre-1979 U.S. stock (such as the M60A1) and older Soviet tanks (such as the T-72S) procured from Russia during the 1990s.

Unable to update its military capabilities, Iran has instead invested in other areas, especially ballistic missiles, to provide a competitive edge with its neighbors. Its ground-to-ground ballistic missile variants, such as the Zolfaghar (435-mile range) and Shahab-3 (994-mile range), could potentially target strategic infrastructure and population centers well within Saudi territory. Those ranges and the large stockpile Iran has amassed have made ballistic missiles Iran’s core strategic deterrent. Iran showcased that capability in June 2017 when it fired six Zolfaghar missiles at Islamic State-held territory near the Syrian city of Deir Ezzor, some 435 miles from the launch points in western Iran. Beyond that hard deterrent, the IRGC’s investments have concentrated on developing less expensive platforms that can challenge adversaries through asymmetrical tactics. Foremost in this regard is the IRGC Navy’s large fleet of fast attack crafts, which includes various types of small speed boats that can be armed with 107 mm rockets, heavy machine guns, and anti-ship cruise missiles, or loaded with explosives and used in kamikaze-style strikes. These boats, along with its large stockpile of naval mines, are the IRGC’s primary offensive tool against maritime adversaries in the maritime domain.

The Saudi military is smaller but better armed. Saudi Arabia’s primary military land, air, naval, and missile forces fall under the command of its Ministry of Defense. Combined with auxiliary forces in the Saudi Arabian National Guard, Royal Guard, and the Ministry of Interior’s border defense force, the Saudi military is estimated to have around 250,000 active-duty personnel. Its chief strengths lie in airpower and air defense. The Royal Saudi Air Force possesses several squadrons of F-15C/D Eagle and F-15 Strike Eagle fighters, along with three squadrons of Tornado multirole aircraft, and 72 Eurofighter Typhoon attack aircraft. The Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces have similarly impressive capabilities, focused mainly on U.S.-supplied Patriot missile batteries concentrated around critical infrastructure, military bases, and population centers. Saudi Arabia also has a small but perhaps growing stockpile of ballistic missiles. Its Strategic Missile Force is believed to possess dozens of aging liquid-fueled Chinese DF-3 medium-range missiles (2,485- to 3,100-mile range) and possibly some solid-fueled DF-21 medium-range missiles (1,050-mile range) as well…

Much of Iran’s military know-how was developed during the nearly eight-year Iran-Iraq War, where it fought against a technologically superior adversary with far greater international backing. If the Iran-Iraq War taught Iran’s armed forces how to survive and make limited gains through asymmetrical tactics, the post-2011 experience of the IRGC and its client allies (such as Lebanese Hezbollah and various Iraqi militias) in the Syrian, Iraqi, and Yemeni conflicts has helped it develop further in terms of command and control, integrated operations, and ground offenses. Although Iran and its clients have been inseparable from the ground successes in both Syria and Iraq, those advances have been paved by foreign air power (by the United States in Iraq and Russia in Syria). Without the support of such air power, it is doubtful that Iranian-led forces would have made any serious gains against Syria’s rebels or the Islamic State. Further, they have relied on artillery bombardments, which essentially flattened the adversarial-held population centers before they were retaken.

The Saudis have comparatively less combat experience. In 1991, Saudi and Kuwaiti forces struggled to defeat an Iraqi tank column that had occupied the Saudi town of Khafji. They ultimately prevailed with U.S. support, but the battle exposed the inexperience of the Saudi military. In a precursor to the current conflict in Yemen, Saudi forces intervened across the southern border in 2009 in support of the Yemeni government’s war against the Houthis. The Saudi campaign, which included Jordanian and perhaps Moroccan troops, lasted only a few months and concentrated on the bombing of Houthi positions near the border. Despite retaking some strategic high ground along the border, the aerial campaign had only a small impact on the overall ground war. That limited track record clearly did not prepare the Saudis for the current war in Yemen. But the longer the current war continues, the more experience the Saudi military will gain…

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




Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, Apr. 25, 2018

With signatories to the Paris Climate Accord moving towards bans on gasoline- and diesel-driven vehicles within decades and renewable energy technology advancing by leaps and bounds, natural gas has taken on a new significance. These global energy trends are hastening in an era in which oil will significantly diminish in importance and natural gas, according to energy scholar Sergei Paltsev, will fill gaps in the provision of renewable energy that await technological advances.

Saudi Arabia’s problem is that Iran and Qatar have gas reserves it does not. That is one reason why renewables figure prominently in Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s Vision 2030 reform program – not only to prepare Saudi Arabia economically for a post-oil future, but also to secure its continued geopolitical significance. Prince Muhammad, like his counterpart in the United Arab Emirates, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed, hopes the kingdom will have an advantage in the generation of solar energy given that the sun hovers higher over his country than over Europe and other parts of the world and that it has less interference from clouds.

As a result, natural gas is a factor in mounting tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Some analysts say it is a driver of the Saudi-UAE-led, ten-month-old diplomatic and economic boycott of Qatar. In what could constitute a serious escalation of hostilities, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen threatened recently to retaliate against Iran in response to missile attacks on the kingdom by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

“Perhaps, the Saudi elite knows all too well that the basis of its power is hollowing out rapidly as a result of the global climate response and anticipated dwindling of conventional oil. The stakes could never have been higher,” said international relations scholar David Crieckmans in a recently published volume on the geopolitics of renewables. Contributing to the same volume, Thijs van de Graaf, another international relations scholar, suggested that of all the Middle Eastern oil producers, Saudi Arabia might have the most to lose.

There is a certain irony to this state of affairs. Crippling sanctions severely hampered Iran’s oil production and only began to be lifted following the 2015 international agreement that curbed that country’s nuclear program. Yet US threats to withdraw from the accord and potentially reimpose sanctions may work in Iran’s favor in the transition to a post-oil world. “Iran…has a lot of advantages. It has a much broader economic base, a longer tradition of trading, and lower fertility rates… The country’s oil production is much under its potential due to years of sanctions. This might in the long run turn out to be an advantage as these economies prepare themselves for a post-oil age,” Van der Graaf said. Add to that the fact that it is likely to be gas supplies from Iran and Turkmenistan, two Caspian Sea states, rather than Saudi oil that will determine which way the future Eurasian energy architecture tilts: towards China, the world’s third largest LNG importer; or towards Europe.

“Iran, within five years, will likely have 24.6 billion cubic meters of natural gas available for annual piped gas exports beyond its current supply commitments. Not enough to supply all major markets, Tehran will face a crucial geopolitical choice for the destination of its piped exports. Iran will be able to export piped gas to two of the following three markets: European Union (EU)/Turkey via the Southern Gas Corridor centering on the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), India via an Iran-Oman-India pipeline, or China via either Turkmenistan or Pakistan. The degree to which the system of energy relationships in Eurasia will be more oriented toward the European Union or China will depend on the extent to which each secures Caspian piped gas exports through pipeline infrastructure directed to its respective markets,” energy scholar Micha’el Tanchum argued.

In other words, the existential threat Iran poses to Saudi Arabia goes far beyond the fact that the Islamic Republic challenges Saudi monarchical rule by offering an alternative, albeit flawed, form of Islamic governance that incorporates a degree of popular sovereignty. It involves competition in which Iran can leverage assets Saudi Arabia does not have, leaving the kingdom dependent on containment that at best postpones issues rather than accommodates solutions. It also means that the antagonists’ regional proxy wars in Yemen and elsewhere are unlikely to remove the fundamental issues that drive the Saudi-Iranian rivalry and translate into destabilizing short-term policies.

Hardliners, including US President Donald Trump’s newly appointed national security advisor, John Bolton, and nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, may be proponents of regime change in Iran, but the question remains whether that would truly alleviate Saudi fears (which are shared by Israel). If successful, it would eliminate the Islamic governance challenge, but it would do nothing to alter the reality of a changing energy landscape. Barbara Slavin, an Iran expert at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, cautions that a possible US withdrawal next month from the nuclear agreement with Iran does not necessarily mean either the demise of the accord or a re-imposition of a crippling sanctions regime.

“Twenty years ago, Congress passed similar secondary sanctions – the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act – threatening penalties against foreign companies investing in Iran’s oil and gas sector,” Slavin noted. “Europe cried foul and the sanctions were never implemented. That could well be the outcome in May,” when Trump will have to decide whether the US remains a party to the accord.



Yoel Guzansky

INSS, Apr. 22, 2018

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of revolutionary processes that aim to change the economic and social fabric in this conservative kingdom. In contrast to the bottom-up Arab revolutions that took place over the past decade, the Saudi revolution is guided top-down by Crown Prince and acting ruler Mohammad bin Salman from his palace in Riyadh. The 32-year-old prince is also trying to impose change to the house of Saud itself: a switch from collective rule by the different branches of the family, which created a system of checks and balances, to what more and more appears to be the autocratic rule of bin Salman himself. Opponents of bin Salman, whether by choice or circumstance, including people in the media, religious figures, businessmen, and even princes have been dismissed, arrested, or dispossessed in the name of the struggle against corruption in a process that has thus far lacked transparency.

“You have a body that has cancer everywhere, the cancer of corruption…[and] we have developed a case of oil addiction in Saudi Arabia,” bin Salman declared. On his recent visit to Europe and the United States, he strove to give Saudi Arabia the image of a dynamic, young, and innovative kingdom that is also more tolerant and egalitarian. At the same time, the kingdom is spending large amounts of money on lobbyists and public relations firms, and aiding think tanks in the United States in order to improve its image. Many in the West have indeed been quick to hail bin Salman’s stature as a reformer. Some of them compared him to Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey. Some of those who know him, however, have reportedly said that he was modeling himself after figures like Chinese President Xi Jinping. Will bin Salman adopt a model of political repression combined with economic openness, similar to the Chinese pattern? It is certainly possible, although an attempt to lead Saudi Arabia in this direction is likely to encounter quite a few challenges.

The need for comprehensive reform in Saudi Arabia, as urged by the International Monetary Fund in the late twentieth century, is not disputed. The Saudi revolutionary vision, which was devised by international consultation firms, was presented in April 2016 under the title “Vision 2030.” This vision focused above all on an effort to diversify the kingdom’s sources of revenue away from oil. New taxes were imposed as part of the reforms, including VAT, and subsidies for electricity, water, and fuel were reduced. The price of fuel was doubled in early 2018. As of now, the kingdom is successfully financing its budget deficit, projected to reach $52 billion this year, by depleting its currency reserves and selling bonds. Through these measures it raised $40 billion in 2016-2017, and seeks to raise $30 billion more in 2018. The effort to raise $100 billion through a wave of arrests in November 2017 in the name of the war on corruption appears to have failed, with estimates of the amount gained being far less.

Two years after the program was launched, unemployment is still high and growth negligible. Seventy percent of the kingdom’s citizens are under 30, and in this age group, which ostensibly supports bin Salman, unemployment is estimated at 30 percent. Furthermore, the timetable and very feasibility of an overseas public issue of shares in Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, for the purpose of paying for the reform is questionable. This IPO has a greater chance of occurring on the local Saudi stock exchange as a way of avoiding economic and legal obstacles. In order to help households cope with the rising cost of living and prevent potential unrest, the royal house has launched the “Citizen’s Account” Program for those eligible in the lower middle class (about 10 million citizens). Foreign workers, who make up a third of the kingdom’s residents, are not eligible for this program, which has prompted many of them, especially among the blue collar workers, to return to their countries of origin, although Saudi citizens are in no hurry to take their places. More highly skilled workers are also leaving, primarily because of high taxes and costs…

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






Seth J. Frantzman                                                          

Jerusalem Post, Mar. 26, 2018


Patriot missiles blazed skyward in an epic display over Saudi Arabia around midnight on (March 25), as Saudi air defenses intercepted seven missiles fired from Yemen over Riyadh. The attack was the largest of its kind since Houthi rebels in Yemen began using ballistic missiles to target Saudi Arabia in response to a wide-ranging campaign by the kingdom and its Arab coalition allies.

A spokesman for the coalition condemned the “aggressive and hostile action by the Iran-backed Houthi group.” Spokesman Turki al-Malki said it shows the Iranian regime “continues to support the armed group with military capabilities.” Patriot missile batteries deployed around the capital fired salvos to stop the attack. An Egyptian resident was killed and two were injured during the attack. Saudi Arabian media reported he died from shrapnel, however, video appeared to show one Patriot missile malfunctioning and slamming into a residential neighborhood. The man’s name was given as Abdelmontale Ahmed Hussein Ali, from Upper Egypt.

The Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed they had targeted airports in Jizan, Najran and Abha as well as Riyadh in response to Saudi Arabia’s operations in Yemen. The Houthis have increased their use of ballistic missiles recently. According to Arabic language Masirah TV, the ballistic missiles fired at the kingdom were of the Badr type the Houthis possess. Riyadh is almost 1,300 km. from Yemen.

By the end of 2016, the Houthis had fired 34 ballistic missiles at the kingdom, according to an article in Jane’s by Jeremy Binnie. Iran has allegedly been involved in aiding the rebels to extend their missile capability, but it is not clear how the missiles have been supplied to the Houthis. In November 2017, they attempted to hit Riyadh for the first time. In December, at Bolling Air Force Base, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley displayed pieces from a Houthi ballistic missile and accused Iran of supplying the Yemenis with them.

Saudi Arabia’s use of Patriot missiles came just one hour after Israel’s Iron Dome system had also been activated near the border of Gaza. This symbolizes the increasingly similar threats the two countries face. On March 23, a spokesman for the Houthis had said that the rebels were ready to fight Israel alongside Hezbollah. “We would have fought in the past if Yemen shared a border with Israel. God willing, we will be able to fight in the future.”

According to a translation by David Daoud, one day earlier, Houthi leader Abdel Malek al-Houthi had said if Israel got involved in a new war in Lebanon, the “tribes of Yemen” would come to fight Israel. he missile war comes as Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has been conducting a major visit to the United States. The US State Department strongly condemned the missile launches against Riyadh.

With Iran deal critic and hardliner John Bolton taking over as national security advisor in April, the Saudi’s constant reference to the Iran threat will play into his hands to be tough on Tehran. The missiles fired at Riyadh were therefore a much larger message to Washington, and perhaps to Israel as well.


On Topic Links

Saudi Moderation? Prince Muhammad Is on Shaky Ground: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Apr. 12, 2018—No doubt, Prince Muhammad’s recent reforms have benefitted women and created social opportunity with the introduction of modern forms of entertainment, including the opening this month of Saudi Arabia’s first cinema as well as concerts, theater, and dance performances. Anecdotal evidence testifies to the popularity of these moves, certainly among urban youth.

Saudi Arabia, Vatican Reportedly Agree to Build Christian Churches in the Kingdom: Caleb Parke, Fox News, May 5, 2018—Saudi Arabia reportedly agreed to a historic deal with the Vatican to build Christian churches in the Kingdom, a potentially stunning development for the country that’s home to Islam’s holiest site, Middle Eastern media is reporting. The move would continue the nation’s effort to transition to a “moderate Islam.”

The Strange Saga of a Pro-Saudi Tabloid in America’s Heartland: New York Post, Apr. 24, 2018—It landed with a thud on newsstands at Walmart and rural supermarkets last month: Ninety-seven fawning pages saluting Saudi Arabia, whose ambitious crown prince was soon to arrive in the US on a PR blitz to transform his country’s image.

Iran’s Brutal War in Yemen Threatens the Entire Middle East: Mosaic, Apr. 30, 2018—During Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearings, Senator Rand Paul voiced objections—shared by a handful of other senators and congressmen—to U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which is fighting alongside local forces to defeat the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.


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

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

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

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

On Topic Links

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

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

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

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



Rick Ekstein

Globe and Mail, Apr. 17, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Lee Smith

Tablet, Apr. 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Dr. James M. Dorsey

                BESA, Mar. 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Kobi Michael and Yoel Guzansky

Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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



On Topic Links

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

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

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

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


Our Fair Weathered Saudi Friend: Caroline Glick, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 8, 2018— Have we entered a new period of sweetness and light with our Arab neighbors?

Saudi Arabia Can Win Islam’s War of Ideas: John Hannah, Foreign Policy, Mar. 15, 2018— When U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the White House later this month, there will be no shortage of urgent issues to discuss

The Saudi Arabia-Middle East Studies Love Affair Is Over: A.J. Caschetta, New English Review, March 19, 2018— There’s a new political order taking shape in the Middle East, and it’s shaking up the academic order that has dominated Middle East studies for over three decades.

The Qatar Opposition: Avoiding the Hariri Miscalculation: Irina Tsukerman, BESA, Mar. 12, 2018— Lebanese PM Saad Hariri’s tendered his resignation while he was in Riyadh, purportedly under pressure from the Saudi government.


On Topic Links

Saudi Crown Prince Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist, Talks up Future Ties: Times of Israel, Apr. 2, 2018

What a Crown Prince Wants: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 25, 2018

Saudi Arabia Signals Ambition for $80 Oil Price: Javier Blas, Bloomberg, Apr. 10, 2018

Qatar’s farewell to the GCC?: Stasa Salacanin, Alarby, Mar. 25, 2018




Caroline Glick

Jerusalem Post, Apr. 8, 2018

Have we entered a new period of sweetness and light with our Arab neighbors? On Monday The Atlantic published an interview the magazine’s editor Jeffrey Goldberg conducted with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. Hours after its publication, the responses began pouring in.

The basic line, repeated by all major newspapers, is that the Saudi crown prince recognized Israel’s right to exist. Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt gushed about it on his Twitter feed. Referring to the interview as “amazing,” Greenblatt wrote that “all should watch [Muhammad bin Salman]. He is far from perfect [and] there is a long road ahead, but in a region long dominated by hateful despots, [the prince] envisions a very different future for Muslims, Jews, Christians and all in the Middle East.” Other commentators were even more exhilarated.

Are the prince’s fans correct? Is his ascendance to the Saudi crown the harbinger of a reformation of Islam and the beginning of a new era in Islamic relations with the Jews and the world as a whole? Not really. Most of the reports on the interview have focused on the prince’s remarks in which he ostensibly recognized Israel’s right to exist. But did he actually recognize Israel’s right to exist? Did he distinguish himself from all the other Arab leaders who to date have recognized that Israel exists but not admitted it has a right to exist? Let’s check the text.

Goldberg asked the prince, “Do you believe the Jewish people have a right to a nation-state in at least part of their ancestral homeland?” Muhammad replied, “I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land. But we have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to have normal relations.” Does this mean that he recognized Israel’s right to exist in the Land of Israel? Maybe. Maybe not.

Where is the Israelis’ “own land”? In Jerusalem? In New York? Goldberg tried to find out. He asked, “You have no religious-based objection to the existence of Israel?” Muhammad responded, “We have religious concerns about the fate of the holy mosque in Jerusalem and about the rights of the Palestinian people. This is what we have. We don’t have any objection against any other people.” In other words, it certainly appears that the prince has a religious-based objection to the existence of Israel. Sort of.

As Dr. Harold Rhode, a recently retired adviser on Islamic Affairs in the Office of the US Secretary of Defense explains, during much of his conversation with Goldberg, Muhammad engaged in the Islamic practice of “taqiyya,” or dissimulation for the benefit of Islam. According to the Koran, Muslims are permitted to lie about Islam to advance the faith. This conclusion is easily reached when considering his responses to other questions, which like his answer regarding Israel, were deliberately imprecise. Goldberg asked Muhammad simple direct questions and he responded with answers that were either misleading or open to multiple interpretations.

Consider their discussion of Wahhabism. Since Saudi Arabia was established 85 years ago, it has been governed under Wahhabist Islam. Wahhabism, a school of Islam founded in the 18th century by the radical Islamic scholar Ibn Abdel el-Wahhab, views itself as the only legitimate version of Islam. Wahhabism calls for the abrogation of all novel interpretations of Islam. It aspires to Islamic global dominion. And upholds jihad. Since at least 1979, the Saudis have invested billions of petrodollars in spreading Wahhabist Islam throughout the world. But when Goldberg asked Muhammad about those petrodollars, the crown prince acted like he didn’t know what Goldberg was talking about. “This Wahhabism, please define it for us. We’re not familiar with it. We don’t know about it,” Muhammad said innocently.

Goldberg responded with amazement, “What do you mean you don’t know about it?” Unmoved, he responded, “What is Wahhabism?” Goldberg replied, “You’re the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. You know what Wahhabism is.” Muhammad countered, “No one can define this Wahhabism.” He then proceeded to deny any connection with the creed of Saudi Arabia while boldly and entirely dishonestly presenting the kingdom as a paragon of religious tolerance where all forms of Islam, including Shi’ite Islam, are treated equally.

Another statement from Muhammad that generated significant interest was his claim that there is no Islamic religious duty to propagate Islam in the non-Islamic world today. In his words, “Today in non-Muslim countries, every human being has the right to choose his or her belief. Religious books can be bought in every country. The message is delivered. Now it is no longer a duty for us to fight for the propagation of Islam.”

While Muhammad’s statement is refreshingly straightforward, its meaning is less so. He made his statement as a way of arguing that the calls for jihad and the establishment of a caliphate by the Muslim Brotherhood are un-Islamic. Certainly, it would be significant if the Saudis stopped funding the radical mosques they founded worldwide. It would be even more significant if he said that his regime is ordering the mosques the Saudis established throughout the world to preach peaceful coexistence with the non-Islamic world and to reject jihad. But he said nothing of the sort. Moreover, it is hard to take his claims seriously since he then went on to deny any familiarity with Wahhabism, the creed that has ruled his kingdom for four generations…

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




John Hannah

Foreign Policy, Mar. 15, 2018


…Nearly two decades after 9/11, America’s greatest failure in the war on terrorism has almost certainly been its inability to delegitimize the extremist ideas fueling groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The United States has killed tens of thousands of fighters, disrupted revenue streams, and shuttered social media accounts. What it hasn’t done effectively is discredit the hate-filled doctrine that continues to draw a steady stream of recruits to the terrorist cause — leaving it to confront this unsettling reality: By an order of magnitude, al Qaeda in 2018 enjoys a larger presence in more countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia than it did the day the Twin Towers were felled.

It hasn’t been for lack of trying. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama understood that we wouldn’t be able to just kill our way out of the conflict with radical Islamists. Each devoted considerable resources to what’s been called the “battle for hearts and minds.” Whether through programs to promote democracy or counter violent extremism, both administrations made ample efforts to dissuade Muslims around the world from the path of murderous jihad — but to little avail.

What’s consistently been missing from America’s strategy have been powerful partners in the Muslim world who can reliably be counted on to speak out authoritatively on matters of Islamic theology in ways that the United States simply can’t. That’s where Saudi Arabia comes in. It’s the birthplace of Islam and host to the faith’s two holiest mosques. Combined with abundant oil wealth, these assets bestow on the Saudis a measure of soft power influence unrivaled in the Muslim world.

Unfortunately, for decades that power was wielded largely for ill. In an effort to counter the threat of Iran’s 1979 Shiite revolution, and burnish their legitimacy at home with powerful religious conservatives, Saudi rulers plowed billions of dollars annually into spreading the kingdom’s extremely harsh version of Islam — aka Wahhabism — around the world. Saudi funds built mosques and schools on every continent. They trained radical clerics and teachers to staff them. They distributed editions of the Koran and school textbooks heavily skewed toward messages of hatred against anyone — including other Muslims — who failed to toe the line of Wahhabi orthodoxy. In this way, millions of young believers from Mali to Malaysia, from Belgium to Bangladesh, have had their idea of what it means to be a good Muslim insidiously shaped by a narrative that systematically dehumanized the “other” — creating a large pool of potential recruits who inevitably had a heightened susceptibility to the siren song of jihadism.

Enter the enormous promise of Mohammed bin Salman. For months, the crown prince and his closest advisors have relentlessly hammered the theme that Saudi Arabia’s modernization requires an embrace of “moderate Islam.” He’s slammed the extremist ideology that the kingdom did so much to empower after the Iranian revolution and acknowledges that “the problem spread all over the world.” He’s vowed that “now is the time to get rid of it” and declared that “we won’t waste 30 years of our life combating extremist thoughts, we will destroy them now and immediately.”

It’s not just talk, either. At home, the powers of the kingdom’s notorious religious police have been scaled back. Prominent hard-line clerics have been jailed. On the all-important issue of female empowerment, the pace of change has been breathtaking. Women can now open businesses without the approval of a male guardian. They’re being allowed to enter the military for the first time and attend sporting and cultural events. This summer, the ban on women driving will disappear.

Now, the U.S. imperative should be pressing Mohammed bin Salman to take his campaign for moderate Islam on the road. His willingness to “destroy” the monster of global jihadism that the kingdom helped create needs to be turned into a concrete action plan. To their credit, the Saudis have already invested heavily in a center focused on countering extremism in cyberspace. Trump should press to make the ideological battle an institutionalized feature of the U.S.-Saudi dialogue. A bilateral working group should quietly be established to develop a strategy that can be jointly monitored. More than a decade ago, the U.S. Treasury did something similar to help the Saudis get on top of their terror finance problem, and by all accounts the collaboration has produced significant results.

There should be multiple elements to such an effort, but some immediate tasks come to mind. First, school textbooks. The Saudis promised to eliminate the hate-filled passages a decade ago. Progress has slowly been made, but the job’s still not done. Mohammed bin Salman should order it finished — this year. Behind the scenes, U.S. experts should provide verification. Second, working with trusted partners in indigenous communities known for their religious moderation, the Saudis should conduct a thorough audit of the global network of mosques, schools, and charitable organizations that they’ve backed with an eye toward weeding out radical staff and content. Third, initiate a worldwide buyback of Saudi-distributed mistranslations of the Quran and other religious materials notorious for propagating extremist narratives.

On the Saudi side, the effort could be well led by a Mohammed bin Salman ally, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, the new head of the powerful Muslim World League — an organization once at the forefront of exporting Wahhabism. Mohammed bin Issa has already taken extraordinary steps such as visiting a French synagogue and issuing an unprecedented letter condemning Holocaust denial. A masterstroke would be taking on an independent advisor in the mold of Farah Pandith, a Muslim-American woman of Indian descent who served for five years as the U.S. representative to Muslim communities. In that job, she traveled to 80 countries, witnessing firsthand Wahhabism’s destructive impact at a local level. While a fierce critic of the Saudi legacy, Pandith also understands the opportunity that Mohammed bin Salman presents and the imperative of converting it into concrete, positive change on the ground…

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




A.J. Caschetta

New English Review, March 19, 2018


There’s a new political order taking shape in the Middle East, and it’s shaking up the academic order that has dominated Middle East studies for over three decades. With Iran, Qatar, Turkey, and what’s left of Assad’s Syria on one side, and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt, and Israel on the other, academics are finding new enemies and new allies. Saudi Arabia, once an important ally and benefactor of Middle East specialists, suddenly finds itself subjected to the contempt usually reserved for Israel.Mohammed Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince.

Under the old order, the field of Middle East studies benefitted enormously from what Israeli diplomat Dore Gold calls Saudi Arabia’s “massive campaign to bring Wahhabi Islam to the world.” In 1976, Saudi Arabia made its first donation to an American university: one million dollars to the University of Southern California. Since then, Saudi kings, princes, and oil tycoons have gone in search of cooperative institutions and scholars to lend the imprimatur of a respected university to their “activist philanthropy.” Universities were given millions of dollars, while individuals benefitted from the trickle-down effect with ample funding for conferences, academic publishing houses, and jobs. This greatly amplified professors’ bias against Israel while pandering to Saudi sensibilities, helping to normalize reactionary Islam.

Now, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), Saudi Arabia has undertaken an impressive series of reforms, and yet he has become academia’s newest target.  But it’s not only the Saudis under attack; the left is turning on its own. For instance, last November when famed liberal columnist Thomas Friedman wrote in the New York Times that “The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is Saudi Arabia,” he found himself smeared a week later in an open letterto the Times by seven “Senior Middle East Scholars.” The scholars labeled Friedman the prince’s dupe and denounced his article as propaganda, suggesting in dictatorial fashion that he be “investigated and perhaps even suspended for writing it.”

In rhetoric that recalls the left’s treatment of Israeli leaders, MbS was described as “the mastermind of an illegal war that has devastated the lives of millions, and today borders on genocide.” The real Arab Spring, they insisted, “was an attempt by young people . . . to democratize their political systems,” and Friedman’s misapplication of the phrase shows that he “is divorced from reality.” Granted, any Saudi reform package deserves a healthy dose of skepticism, and the Vision 2030 program is no exception, but MbS has already made progress unimaginable a few years ago.

One would think these efforts would be encouraged, but instead MbS was scolded: “while a Saudi woman might soon be able to drive, bin Salman has shown no willingness to clamp down on Saudi funding of many of the most extreme religious forces in the Muslim world.” It’s gratifying to witness academics who are willing to acknowledge “extreme forces in the Muslim world,” much less “clamp down” on its funding, but where have they been? The repressive nature of previous Saudi royals has never been a secret, so why the frantic outburst over a prince who might actually diminish repression?

One component of the field’s new hostility is its support for Saudi Arabia’s nemesis, Iran. Many influential academics are convinced there are moderate forces within the Iranian regime that should be respected, and they continue to support the JCPOA, Obama’s ineffective nuclear deal.

Another factor is the chill in Saudi-Qatari relations. Many Middle East studies specialists, including three of the “senior scholars” who want Friedman fired, write for Al-Jazeera, an organ of the state-owned Qatar Media Corporation that welcomes an anti-Saudi outlook. Perhaps the luster of an Al-Jazeera article on one’s radical chic resume will be diminished with the recent bipartisan congressional call for an investigation into the network…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]                 





Irina Tsukerman

BESA, Mar. 12, 2018


Lebanese PM Saad Hariri’s tendered his resignation while he was in Riyadh, purportedly under pressure from the Saudi government. Shortly after his return to Lebanon, he then withdrew his resignation and awkwardly tried to claim that it had been done for dramatic effect. This non-resignation drew concern, if not outright mockery – not because it took place under duress, but because it failed so spectacularly. Now, Hariri, in an effort to mitigate the damage done to the public image of all the parties involved, is taking his first trip to the kingdom since these events.

The thrust of the original story is that Hariri was invited to Saudi Arabia and there was induced to resign. Some speculated that he was being held hostage until he agreed, though all parties denied these rumors. Regardless, the apparent purpose of the move was to send a signal to Hezbollah, the Islamist terrorist organization and Iranian proxy that now controls most of the Lebanese government and institutions. Many Christians residing in Lebanon have chosen to align themselves with Hezbollah, which likewise enjoys popular support among the Shiite citizens of the country. The power play failed for a straightforward reason: as Hezbollah largely controls the government, it doesn’t much matter whether Hariri or someone else is in place. Anyone who is neither Hezbollah nor its ally is essentially a powerless puppet in Lebanon.

Why the Saudis ever thought that Hariri carried sufficient weight to shift the political direction in Lebanon is the real enigma here. The operation also plainly lacked finesse and drew the kind of international attention, speculation, conspiracy theories, and outrage that were almost certain to backfire on its originators. Although the Saudis and the UAE have assisted Lebanon with the issue of displaced Syrians, by 2016, the kingdom had cut billions of dollars in humanitarian aid to Lebanon, allowing Tehran to move in even further.

By November 2017, it had become clear that the Saudis view Hezbollah (and the remnants of the Lebanese government, which has been subsumed into the organization) as an aggressor state in cahoots with Iran, Qatar, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Nor are they wrong. The aggressive strategy of countering Iranian proxies and allies makes sense. However, the execution of this operation could have enjoyed greater success had the Saudis 1) not alienated much of their popular support through the punitive cuts in humanitarian aid; and 2) differentiated between Hezbollah and its facilitators and regular people who, in many cases, have ended up supporting the organization for lack of any better alternatives.

However, despite the harsh criticism levied at Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman over this episode, it was no more than a bump in the road, and the line of reasoning behind it was essentially correct. The Lebanese leadership opposed to Hezbollah cannot go along to get along; it enables the worst practices of the organization and thus betrays its constituents.

The Saudis should not be discouraged by the vocal reactions of the international community, but rather refine their approach in Lebanon and try to reengage with a combination of hard and soft power after taking some time to plan out the next steps. Those steps are not hard to define. Riyadh can surely recommit to providing assistance, but this time restructure its efforts to bypass the enemy-led government and corrupt institutions. It can focus instead on education and skills training, encourage entrepreneurship, and direct grassroots humanitarian relief, as well as diversify its proactive partnerships…

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




On Topic Links

Saudi Crown Prince Recognizes Israel’s Right to Exist, Talks up Future Ties: Times of Israel, Apr. 2, 2018—Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in an interview published Monday, recognized Israel’s right to exist and extolled the prospect of future diplomatic relations between his kingdom and the Jewish state.

What a Crown Prince Wants: Jonathan Spyer, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 25, 2018—Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud is here to rebrand. If all goes well, his visit to the US this week will wow Americans with Saudi Arabia’s new progressivism, increase US investment in the Saudi economy, and align the US and Saudi strategies in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia Signals Ambition for $80 Oil Price: Javier Blas, Bloomberg, Apr. 10, 2018—Saudi Arabia wants to get oil prices near $80 a barrel to pay for the government’s crowded policy agenda and support the valuation of state energy giant Aramco before an initial public offering.

Qatar’s farewell to the GCC?: Stasa Salacanin, Alarby, Mar. 25, 2018—Last June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain took an unprecedented action against a fellow GCC member, cutting all political, diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar. The GCC trio – joined by Egypt – accused Doha of endangering regional stability by allegedly supporting terrorist organisation and other Islamist movements, along with forging cordial relations with their arch-foe Iran.



Trump in the Middle East: Note Who Curses America, and Who Blesses It: Yoram Hazony, National Review, Jan. 23, 2018— President Donald Trump has promised that in the Middle East under his presidency, “there are many things that can happen now that would never have happened before.”

Why Arabs and Muslims Will Not Accept Israel as the Jewish State: Mordechai Kedar, Algemeiner, Jan. 19, 2018— Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital aroused massive outrage in the Arab and Islamic world.

Iranian Protests Reveal Leadership Fault Lines in the Muslim World: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Jan. 16, 2018— The responses by major Sunni Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa to the recent anti-government protests in Iran demonstrated that none of the contenders for regional dominance and leadership, which include Turkey and Egypt, were willing to follow the Saudi lead.

Quest for Arab Democracy: David Pryce-Jones, National Review, Dec. 31, 2017— One day in December 2010, a policewoman in a small and rather humdrum town in Tunisia slapped the face of Mohamed Bouazizi.


On Topic Links


US Allies Should Back President Trump: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, Jan. 28, 2018

Trump’s Mideast Plan: Take it or Leave it: Alex Fishman, Ynet, Jan. 24, 2018

Arab Regimes Terrified by Israel's Freedoms: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 16, 2018

‘The Middle East and World War III – Why No Peace?’: Alan Baker, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 1, 2018





Yoram Hazony

National Review, Jan. 23, 2018


President Donald Trump has promised that in the Middle East under his presidency, “there are many things that can happen now that would never have happened before.” Two speeches of the last ten days offer dramatic confirmation of the emerging reconfiguration of America’s relationship with Israel and the Middle East under his leadership.


In a two-hour speech before the Council of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) last week, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, denounced the British, Dutch, French, and Americans for having conspired, ever since the 1650s, to create a Jewish colonial outpost that would “erase the Palestinians from Palestine.” As Abbas tells it, all this reached a climax on the eve of World War I, when the West realized that it was on the verge of collapse and that the Islamic world was “poised to inherit European civilization.” To put an end to this threat, the Western nations went about carving up the Muslim world so that it would be forever “divided, backward, and engulfed in infighting.” As for the United States, it has been “playing games” of this sort ever since then, importing, for example, the disastrous Arab Spring into Middle East.


Abbas summed up by demanding an apology and reparations from Britain for the Balfour Declaration and denying that the United States can serve as a mediator in the Mideast. Finally, he went to the trouble of cursing both President Trump and the U.S. Congress: Yehrab beitak (“May your house be razed”), he said. I have been following the speeches of the PLO and its supporters in the Arab world for 30 years. Nothing here is new. These are the same things that Yasser Arafat, Abbas, and the mainline PLO leadership have always believed. It is a worldview that reflects an abiding hatred for the West, blaming Christians and Jews not only for the founding of Israel but for every calamity that has befallen the Muslim and Arab world for centuries.


What should be one’s policy toward an organization committed to such an ideology? One option is to sympathize with the shame and outrage to which the PLO gives voice, and to try to mitigate it with grants of territory, authority, prestige, and large-scale ongoing funding. American administrations have pursued this option, seeking to make a peace partner out of the PLO, since President Ronald Reagan announced a dialogue with it in December 1988. Israel, too, has pursued this option, since 1993. But in the ensuing 30 years of talk, the only major agreements signed have been those the PLO leadership could find a way to fit into its narrative: Agreements such as the 1993 Oslo Accords, which could be portrayed as inflicting a bitter defeat on Israel and the West — and as a step on the road to ultimate triumph.


President Trump, Vice President Pence, and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley are pioneering an alternative policy, which can be summed up in Haley’s words: “We’re not going to pay to be abused.” If players like the PLO, North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran (hopefully, Turkey gets added to this list soon) want to cultivate a civilizational hatred of America, double-talking while they give aid to global terrorism and conjure diplomatic scandals at the U.N. — well, then they don’t get to be allies.


What this looks like was already on display when Trump became the first serving U.S. president to visit the kotel (the Western Wall) in Jerusalem in May, shredding the longstanding diplomatic taboo against making it look as though the holiest site in Judaism is in fact part of the State of Israel. Since then, Trump and Haley have taken on UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, which regularly disseminate the PLO’s view of history and current affairs. The Trump administration has cut in half America’s massive financial support of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), an organization whose purpose is to maintain generations of unabsorbed descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees, inculcating them in Abbas-style grievances against Israel and the West.


Mike Pence’s address on Monday to Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, continued this trajectory. But he also responded to Abbas’s history lesson with some tasteful but potent narrative-weaving of his own. In addition to the traditional script pointing to the shared interests of the United States and Israel as democracies, Pence emphasized that it was significant to him as an American that “our founders turned to the Hebrew Bible for direction” in establishing their country and that Israel’s story “inspired my forebears to create . . . a new birth of freedom.” He returned repeatedly to the way in which the story of the Jewish people holding fast to God’s promise to return them to their land “shows the power of faith.” Pence even said the traditional Jewish shehehianu blessing (in Hebrew!), thanking God for bringing us to see this day in which the Jewish people have been restored to their land…

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






Mordechai Kedar

Algemeiner, Jan. 19, 2018


Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital aroused massive outrage in the Arab and Islamic world. This was for two main reasons — one religious and one nationalist. The religious reason is rooted in Islam’s conception of itself as a faith whose mission is to bring both Judaism and Christianity to an end, and inherit all that was once Jewish or Christian: land, places of worship, and people. In Islam’s worldview, Palestine in its entirety belongs to Muslims alone, because both Jews and Christians betrayed Allah when they refused to become followers of the prophet Muhammad. Their punishment is … expulsion from their lands and the forfeiture of all rights to them.


Throughout the history of Islam, Muslims turned churches into mosques, including the Great Mosque of Ramle, the Bani Omaya Mosque in Damascus, the Hagia Sofia of Istanbul, and many Spanish churches. The reason is their belief that Christianity, like Judaism, is nullified by Islam, making churches unnecessary. According to Islamic tenets, the prophets revered by these obsolete religions are Muslims. These include Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Aaron. And according to Islam, King Solomon built a mosque, not a Temple, in Jerusalem. (The 1,500-year gap between the king’s reign and the birth of Islam is irrelevant to true believers.)


Jews and Christians can be protected under Muslim rule by becoming subservient to Islam in what is known as dhimmi status, which means that they are legally deprived of many rights, including the right to own land and bear arms. Dhimmis are forced to pay a head tax (jyzia) and are to be kept in a downtrodden state, as is mandated by the Koran. In Islam’s view, Jews are not a nation but a collection of religious communities to be found in various countries: a Jew in Poland is a “Pole of the Mosaic religion” and a Jew in Morocco is a “Moroccan Arab of the Mosaic religion.”


Suddenly, towards the end of the 19th century, everything changed. Jews began coming to Palestine in ever-growing numbers. The Zionists “invented” a new nation — the “Jewish people” — and decided that a certain part of the House of Islam was their homeland, known as Eretz Israel. They built communities and a protective fighting force even though, as dhimmis, they were not supposed to be allowed to bear arms and were subjected to Islam’s protection. In 1948, the Jews actually declared a state, despite the fact that they did not deserve sovereignty. Then, in 1967, they “conquered” the West Bank and East Jerusalem.


Jews now attempt to pray on the Temple Mount, suggesting that Judaism has returned to being an active, living and even dynamic religion. This brings the very raison d’être of Islam into question. After all, Islam came into the world in order to make Judaism obsolete. Muslims loyal to their religion and aware of this danger cannot possibly accept the existence of a Jewish state, not even a tiny one on the Tel Aviv coast. To them, Israel as the state of the Jewish people is a theological threat to Islam and only secondarily, a national, political, judicial or territorial threat.


President Trump’s acknowledgement of Israel’s existence by recognizing Jerusalem as its capital was a double whammy for Islam: Trump, a Christian, had granted recognition to the Jews. The outraged Muslim world thought this must be a Christo-Judaic plot against Islam. Trump’s declaration reminded them (along with several Jews) of the November 1917 Balfour Declaration, about which the Arabs continue to rail at the world: “You made the promises of non-owners to those who did not have the right to be given those promises.”


In the weeks following Trump’s declaration, Muslims all over the world expressed their fury at the seal of approval granted the Jewish state — despite its very existence being opposed to that of Islam. Leaders and ordinary citizens, men and women, took to the streets to demonstrate their inability to live with the fact that the most prominent Christian head of state had recognized the capital chosen by the Jewish nation, and, by extension, its right to its own land.


The disturbances in Wadi Ara, in central Israel — rioters attempted to block the main road and damaged a public bus — were another manifestation of Muslim fury. The location is not surprising, because the Wadi Ara area includes the city of Umm al-Fahm, where the main concentration of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement, headed by the infamous Raed Salah, is to be found. The Northern Branch has been declared illegal, along with some of the smaller organizations it has fostered, resulting in its members having no lawful way to express their fury at the existence of the state of Israel. With little alternative, they act in the public space as individuals without an organizational identity…

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







Dr. James M. Dorsey

BESA, Jan. 16, 2018


The responses by major Sunni Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa to the recent anti-government protests in Iran demonstrated that none of the contenders for regional dominance and leadership, which include Turkey and Egypt, were willing to follow the Saudi lead. In fact, the responses appeared to confirm that regional leadership was more likely to be shared among Turkey, Egypt, and Iran than decided in the debilitating power struggle between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic, a struggle that has wreaked havoc across the region and which the Kingdom is losing.


Uncharacteristically, Saudi Arabia under the rule of King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, has refrained from commenting on the protests. The kingdom has also been silent in the walk-up to US President Donald J. Trump’s decision on what to do about American adherence to the 2015 international nuclear agreement with Iran.


While Saudi media, oblivious to the potential for dissent in the kingdom, gloated about the exploding discontent in Iran, Saudi leaders stayed quiet in a bid to avoid providing Iranian leaders with a pretext to blame external forces for the unrest. (That did not stop Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other Iranian leaders from laying the blame at the doors of Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US).


Similarly, Saudi Arabia, whose regional prominence is to a significant extent dependent on American, if not international, containment of Iran, stayed on the sidelines as Trump deliberated undermining the agreement that for almost three years has severely restricted Iran’s nuclear program and halted the Islamic Republic’s ambition of becoming a nuclear power any time soon. While the Saudis would welcome any tightening of the screws on Iran, they have come to see the agreement as not only preventing Iran (at least for now) from developing a military nuclear capability but also as avoiding a regional nuclear arms race in which Turkey and Egypt as well as, potentially, the United Arab Emirates would take part.


The agreement gives the kingdom an opportunity to set up building blocks for a future military nuclear capability, if deemed necessary. Trump’s apparent willingness to ease restrictions on Saudi enrichment of uranium as part of his bid to ensure that US companies play a key role in the development of Saudi Arabia’s nuclear energy sector facilitates the Saudi strategy. In contrast to the Saudis, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was vocal in his support for the Iranian government and called Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to express his solidarity. Egypt, like Saudi Arabia, has not commented on the protests but has studiously avoided being sucked into the Saudi-Iranian rivalry, including its multiple proxy battles in Yemen and elsewhere.


The various responses to the Iranian protests reveal more than simply differences of evaluation of those events. They show the fault lines of two, if not three, major alliances that are emerging among the contenders for regional leadership in the Middle East and North Africa and adjacent regions like the Horn of Africa. They also highlight Saudi Arabia’s inability to garner overwhelming support for its ambitions and/or efforts to achieve them. Those efforts include the kingdom’s declaration of an economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar; its military intervention in Yemen; and its failed attempt to force the resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.


Turkey has effectively sought to counter Saudi moves not only by forging close ties to the Islamic Republic despite their differences over Syria, but also by supporting Qatar with a military base in the Gulf state. It has also kept up a supply of food and other goods into Qatar, the flow of which had been interrupted by the Saudi-led boycott. Turkey has established a military training facility in Somalia and is discussing creating a base in Djibouti, the Horn of Africa’s rent-a-military base country par excellence (it contains foreign military facilities operated by France, the US, Saudi Arabia, China, and Japan). Turkey also recently signed a $650 million agreement with Sudan to rebuild a decaying Ottoman port city and construct a naval dock to maintain civilian and military vessels on the African country’s Red Sea coast. Saudi Arabia sees the Turkish moves as an effort to encircle it.


Turkey, to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia and its closest regional ally, the UAE, as well as Egypt, has supported the Muslim Brotherhood as well as other strands of political Islam. Egypt recently launched an investigation into embarrassing leaks from alleged intelligence officers that were broadcast on the Brotherhood’s Istanbul-based Mekameleen TV station and published in The New York Times. Egypt has denied the accuracy of the leaks. If Saudi Arabia, backed by the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel (as an unacknowledged partner) constitutes one bloc, Turkey forms another that could include the region’s third pole, Iran. Egypt, conscious of its past as the Arab world’s undisputed leader, may not yet be able to carve out a distinct leadership role for itself, but it is working hard to keep the door open.


Underlying the jockeying for regional dominance is a stark reality. Turkey, Iran, and Egypt have, to varying degrees, crucial assets that Saudi Arabia lacks: large populations, huge domestic markets, battle-hardened militaries, resources, and a deep sense of identity rooted in an imperial past and/or a sense of thousands of years of history. Saudi Arabia has its status as custodian of Islam’s most holy cities and financial muscle. In the long run, those are unlikely to prove sufficient.





David Pryce-Jones

National Review, Dec. 31, 2017


One day in December 2010, a policewoman in a small and rather humdrum town in Tunisia slapped the face of Mohamed Bouazizi. The dispute was over his permit to be selling fruit and vegetables off a barrow. The injustice that he encountered, and the humiliation, drove the poor man to take his life. Just as a butterfly fluttering its wings is supposed to cause a cascade of faraway atmospheric effects, this suicide set off a movement of protest and solidarity in one Arab country after another. The monarchies and republics in which Arabs live are, in reality, dictatorships, and the time had apparently arrived for them to reform and take their place in what was supposed to be an emerging worldwide democratic order.


What became known as the Arab Spring did not live up to these expectations; far from it. Since 2010, Arab countries have suffered civil war, coups, terrorism, invasion by foreign powers, genocide, the sale of women in slave markets, the ruin of historic cities and monuments, the death of civilians by the hundreds of thousands, and the flight of refugees in their millions. The rise of the Islamic State, self-described as a caliphate, redesigned the boundaries of Syria and Iraq, countries that may not be reconstituted for a very long time, if ever. Islamist volunteers in this misappropriated territory murdered, beheaded, crucified, or tortured to death, often in public, whomever they pleased. Libya, Yemen, and Lebanon are also states in varying stages of collapse. A whole civilization seems to be coming apart.


The proper human response to such calamity is that something ought to be done about it. Elliott Abrams takes it for granted in Realism and Democracy that the United States can and should come to the rescue. His career has given him authority to comment on matters of power politics. In the Reagan administration, he was assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs (1981–85) and assistant secretary for inter-American affairs (1985–89); he later served as President George W. Bush’s adviser for global democracy strategy (2005–09). His sympathies are very wide, his quotations from the academic literature are numerous and apt, and his prose is almost miraculously jargon-free.


His introductory chapter, almost a hundred pages long, is a kind of handbook to the mindsets of American policymakers concerning the Middle East in recent decades. The U.S. approach during the Cold War was perhaps an unfair great-power exercise but at least it kept the peace after its fashion. The most frequent cause of a clash during that era was some independent but rash manipulation on the part of one of the superpowers’ clients. The superpowers’ balancing of laissez-faire and a tight fist was usually enough to keep major clients such as Turkey and Iran, and even Arab-nationalist dictators, on the straight and narrow path of cooperation with them. Those times are over. In the absence of the external pressures of the Cold War, former clients are now in a position to pursue their own ambitions, forming alliances and enmities without regard for Western interests. Military intervention in Afghanistan, Libya, and elsewhere so far has only sustained or increased the level of instability. The sole alternative is to make a moralizing speech, but if the decision not to intervene militarily has already been taken, this is pointlessly sanctimonious.


Put simply, what Realism and Democracy is asking is whether the United States should deal with the present free-for-all in the role of policeman or of paramedic. Abrams takes his lead from President Reagan, once his boss, who was convinced that whatever Arabs might do or say, basically they want the same freedom as Americans, and they are able to acquire it, too. In this view, freedom is the function of democracy, and democracy in turn is the function of human rights. In the course of his career, Abrams also met and admired the like-minded senators Scoop Jackson and Daniel Moynihan and, last but not least, George W. Bush, the president who did his best to give freedom to Iraqis. Proud to be an unreconstructed Reaganite, Abrams further awards himself the title of neo-con…

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




On Topic Links


US Allies Should Back President Trump: Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA, Jan. 28, 2018—It is not the business of allies to meddle in the domestic affairs of the US, and certainly not to take a position in domestic controversies over the performance of its leaders and politicians. It is the role of the vibrant democratic process in the US to handle such matters.

Trump’s Mideast Plan: Take it or Leave it: Alex Fishman, Ynet, Jan. 24, 2018—Knowing Donald Trump, he won’t give anyone an early warning. He’ll just deliver a festive speech and present his “ultimate deal” for the Middle East. There won’t be long negotiations with the two parties, and he won’t convene a conference, like American presidents have done in the past. He’ll simply present everyone with a fact: This is the deal. Take it or leave it.

Arab Regimes Terrified by Israel's Freedoms: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 16, 2018—Fifty years have passed since many Arab countries were humiliated by Israel in 1967 in a war the Arabs started, with the explicit goal of destroying the Jewish State and throwing the Jews into the Mediterranean Sea. Today, Israel has solid diplomatic relations with two of these countries — Jordan to Egypt — while Saudi officials speak with their Israeli security counterparts about the Iranian threat.

‘The Middle East and World War III – Why No Peace?’: Alan Baker, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 1, 2018—In what is a very ambitious and aspiring work, dramatically titled The Middle East and World War III – Why No Peace?, Dr. Michael Calvo, Sorbonne educated and a graduate of New York University, an expert in international law and comparative jurisprudence, takes on the complex, unique and evidently intractable Middle East conflict.