The Arab Voice August 24, 2019
Broken Iranian wings
By Ibrahim al-Zayadi
Al-Arab, London, August 17
After four decades of Iranian meddling in its neighbors’ affairs, we can now confidently say – based on historical evidence – that Tehran’s actions amount to real war crimes. Sadly, however, the international community has refused to punish Iran. Indeed, the majority of countries who proudly claim to fight terrorism have left Iran unscathed, dealing with the mullahs opportunistically – by embracing them when there is a financial interest and reprimanding them when there isn’t.
No city or village in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan, nor some is East Asia, Europe, and Central America have been spared the evils of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Iran’s strength stems from two main sources. The first is its weaponry, whether these were inherited from the Shah’s regime or later obtained from North Korea, Russia and China. The second is the parties, organizations and militias that have been formed by the Iranian regime and used to spread its influence to neighboring countries. These include sleeper cells and proxy mercenaries, which are moved from time to time in accordance with the needs and circumstances of the regime. Thankfully, this status quo, which lasted for some four decades, began to change slowly thanks to US President Donald Trump and his decision to confront Iran. Now, the mullahs face two problems. Their use of battleships, aircraft carriers and intercontinental missiles and satellites have effectively rendered the mullahs’ physical weapons ineffective. Second, Iran’s armed wings in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen can no longer do anything of real military value in support of the regime due to a lack of funding and arms. As for the dormant cells of the regime, their dismantling, one after another, is well under way.
Similarly, international travel has become one of the most difficult things for anyone suspected of association with the Iranian regime. To put it more clearly, all of these Iranian proxies are like flies trapped in a glass bottle, seen by others but unable to hurt anyone but themselves.
They will eventually get burnt out and lose their wings.
IDLIB – WHERE TO FROM HERE?
By Riad Naasan Agha
Al-Etihad, UAE, August 17
In Idlib, the last rebel-held Syrian province, nearly four million citizens are trapped, with many fleeing the shelling and destruction that previously forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes throughout the country. Some residents of Idlib might have preferred to avoid the destruction that surrounds them, but the Russians did not keep their promises and turned their backs against the Syrian people.
Had the Syrian regime presented a clear vision for the future of Syria and engaged the people in direct, genuine dialogue aimed at stopping the fighting, then maybe the bloodshed could have been prevented. But the regime’s insistence on crushing the opposition using military force has only exacerbated the war, threatening to make it last for a few more decades.
A senior Syrian official once asked me, “Why do the people of Idlib hate us?” I said, “Maybe because you never gave them any opportunity for a better future.” Idlib has been deprived of any economic opportunities for several decades, even though more than 93% of its youth hold university degrees. Had it not been for the labor migration to Greece and Cyprus, as well as to some Gulf countries, the people of Idlib would not have been able to find sources of livelihood. What is important is that I do not know what is the plan of Al-Nusra Front, and whether it will succeed in defeating Russia, Iran, and Damascus.
I regret the suffering of the inhabitants of villages and small towns destroyed by hundreds of thousands of raids and bombs. While they are recovering from one massacre after another, the whole world stands idly by, watching. Meanwhile, the Astana peace process is clearly aimed at enabling the Syrian regime to retake Idlib by military force. But the truth is that people prefer to die than to surrender.
The real question, therefore, is whether there is a sincere international initiative that brings life to the Geneva negotiations, opens a new page for the Syrian people, and shelters millions of Syrians from a major humanitarian disaster that is about to happen.
Riyad Nassan Agha is a former minister of culture of Syria. He served as Syria’s ambassador to Oman and the United Arab Emirates. He holds a PhD. degree in philosophy from the University of Damascus.
YEMENI SEPARATISTS AND THE JEDDAH CONFERENCE
By Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
Asharq al-Awsat, London, August 19
Last week, we found ourselves facing another serious crisis in the region – perhaps one that could ignite fighting in Yemen for at least 10 more years. Thankfully, at this wonderful moment we see that this was avoided by prudence on all sides. Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council (STC) announced its willingness to join a conference in Saudi Arabia to discuss the future of Yemen.
Everyone is going to Jeddah to seek durable solutions. The STC has retreated from its takeover of Yemeni government institutions and issued statements confirming its acceptance of Yemen’s legitimacy as enshrined by the United Nations. Indeed, the STC reassured the Saudis, relieved the UAE of great embarrassment and, more importantly, saved itself and its people, the citizens of the South, and the entire region from more bloodshed.
But the debate, of course, will not stop. I have read articles by Dr. Mohammed al-Rumaihi and Dr. Saad al-Ajmi on the dispute. In short, they believe that the independence of southern Yemen is the best solution. Even educated Saudis believe that the Saudi interest is to carve out two or three Yemeni states, and not one united Yemen.
This is especially true since the experience of dealing with a unified Yemen ruled by the regime of the late president Ali Abdullah Saleh was difficult and harmful for Saudi Arabia. But it is dangerous to tamper with the political entities of states. I tell Dr. al-Rumaihi and Dr. al-Ajmi, these two esteemed Kuwaiti intellectuals, that delegitimizing and dismantling a state recognized by the UN threatens all countries in the region, including Kuwait itself. Accepting illegal separation is exactly the same as illegal annexation!
I am never against the right of southerners who want a separate state or the establishment of a southern republic, but they must achieve it by legitimate means, either by reaching understandings with the Yemeni state when its institutions return to functioning, or through the UN. We can spend the coming days talking about past mistakes, but this would be futile.
None of us truly believe that the southerners can reach a consensus on who should be their leader, let alone on the name of their hypothetical state, its government structure, and its laws. Instead, there are political strongmen with various allegiances fighting over the ability to lead the southerners in their quest for sovereignty. We can only hope that the parties meeting in Jeddah will engage in serious conversation about the nature of their relations with the central Yemeni state, leaving the talk of separation for the future, or assuming control of the narrative through the appropriate international legal channels.
Abd al-Rahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla.
“Your Pens Should Be Broken” Journalist Jailed for Social Media Posts
(Journalist’s name withheld)
Charged with national security crimes for his social media posts, journalist Masoud Kazemi has been sentenced to 4.5 years in prison, of which he must serve two years (subject to appeal), his lawyer announced on June 2, 2019.
During his trial, presiding Judge Mohammad Moghiseh told Kazemi, “you people have no right to breath; your hands should be crushed; you should be blown up with gunpowder poured into your mouth; your pens should be broken,” a source with detailed knowledge of Kazemi’s case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on May 29, 2019.
Kazemi’s lawyer filed a complaint against Judge Moghiseh for his display of bias in Kazemi’s case but the former magazine editor has not been granted a case review.
“The revolutionary court sentenced my client to two years in prison for [the charges of] ‘publishing falsehoods,” two years in prison for “insulting the supreme leader” and another six months in prison for “insulting other officials”,” Kazemi’s attorney Ali Mojtahedzadeh told the state-funded Islamic Republic News Agency on June 2, 2019.
“In addition… the court banned my client from media activities for two years,” he added.
Under Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, Kazemi, the former editor-in-chief of the Sedaye Parsi (Persian Voice) political magazine, must serve no more than the maximum punishment for the charge that carries the heaviest sentence in cases involving multiple convictions—meaning to two years.
Kazemi, who has worked at major reformist newspapers in Iran including Ghanoon and Shargh, was arrested on November 6, 2018, for tweeting about alleged corruption at the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade, and questioning President Hassan Rouhani’s presidential adviser Hesamoddin Ashena about the murders of Iranian dissidents in the late 1990s when Ashena was deputy intelligence minister.
He was released on bail five days later but was unable to return to his job, leaving his family in severe financial hardship.
Judge Moghiseh is known in Iran for sentencing peaceful detainees including journalists, activists, and dissidents to lengthy prison terms in politically sensitive cases.
According to testimonies cited by Justice for Iran, an organization that has documented the executions of thousands of political prisoners in Iran in the 1980s, Moghiseh also played a significant role in the torture and persecution of political prisoners in Gohardasht, Evin, and Ghezelhesar prisons during that time.